In my view the world wanders around looking at it’s feet, there are so many examples, looking but not seeing, listening but not hearing.

How many people do you know who walk around and look upward? My guess is very few, a few days ago whilst I was sat at my desk in the studio something told me to get up and go and look outside and this is what I saw.

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I was on my own in the street almost flat on my back on the steps of the studio looking up seeing something that nobody else was seeing, I was so excited, it is a very simple pleasure, and it relied on one thing….just keeping my eyes open.

Today a few days later I got in to the studio on a Saturday at 8 am and I was greeted with this (below) my jaw was on the floor, it was incredible. My studio building was lit in the morning sun and it was reflecting in the large windows of the Lace Mill opposite, the view was entirely dependent on the early morning light lighting my building but still leaving enough to depict the lace making loom, giving the connection between the two buildings. Some days images make themselves.

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I think it is also right to draw your attention to the beauty of Victorian architecture, a simple brick structure giving the foundations for a pattern, and that was not wasted on Victorian architects. The choice of bricks, the regularity of the structures and the added embellishing details produce some incredible buildings. For those who look but don’t see it is another redbrick building… but for those who have their eyes open it may just bring something exciting to add to your day.

I was lucky to be sat in a pub in the town talking to a local couple on Saturday night, and they told me of all sorts of local attractions, I’m sure I had known that Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding was born in Moffat, and I was aware there was a statue to him in the park, but it was not at the front of my mind.

When I was told if you turn right at the lights on the way out of the town you will find a full size replica Spitfire in a front garden I had to have a look, and wow, breathtaking!

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What else can I say – go have a look and please put some money in the tin by the to support RAF charities.

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Every time I want to break my journey to the Western or Northern Isles I stop at Moffat, I have been doing so for well over 10 yeas now. Moffat is in the heart of the ‘Scottish Lowlands’ it has all the beauty of the surrounding mountains but without the harshness of the raw rocks of the Highlands.

There is so much there in this spa town and the original spa can be easily found at the top of Well Road,

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Every year for the last 18 years there has been a vintage car rally in the town often at the weekend I have been staying there, it’s a 2 day event, the first day being a ‘Rally’ going round the town and local area the second day is a huge gathring of vehicles on a local show ground. This year rather than head home or off to ‘The Grey Mare’s Tail’ where you find Loch Skeen at the top – that is one of the most beautiful places I can think of anywhere, I went to the showground for day 2.

This year the rally was simply a pleasure, the worrying thing is that my parents owned some of the cars there, as did my aunt and other friends and relatives and I even went to school in a few!

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It was a wet morning initially, however the sun came out and whilst the cars looked pristine in the wet in the dry the chamois leathers came out many returned to concourse condition, I should add the value of many of these cars that were sitting in a muddy field is astronomical.

I want to mention of the destructive criminal behaviour of some on mainland Orkney that needs to be addressed. With the historic importance of the Orkneys as a military access to the UK mainland during wartime there are extensive remains of military buildings, many are decaying shells that were part of extensive complexes to protect the islands and prevent enemy access to the UK.

Many of these former military buildings are protected in law as monuments and any deliberate damage to them is a criminal act, there is also a series of Core Paths that give access to many parts of the island, the Orkney Island Council has established these paths due to their importance to the Island, these are also protected in law, and as I said damaging any of these or deliberate destruction is a criminal act.

If you go to Hoxa Head you will see one of these former military complexes (the Balfour Battery) and is one of the most impressive on the mainland, in addition there is a ‘Core Path’ that will take you there on foot.

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I was furious to see that someone who obviously has easy access to the land has deliberately removed complete a ‘kissing gate’ complete with its concrete base, replacing it with a barbed wire fence to close a Core Path. Immediately beside the kissing gate are a number of former military buildings that form part of the Balfour Battery complex the concrete roofs have been deliberately destroyed when I was there  the marks on what was left of the concrete roofs were still unweathered indicating that this was relativly recent.

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I mentioned that this would require someone to have easy access to the land, the reason for this is that to create this sort of deliberate damage and destruction would required access with a large excavator or other similar agricultural equipment.

In any part of the UK local authorities are hugely protective of their domains and whilst it may take some time they do enforce the existing legislation if only as a matter of process. In destroying the military buildings at Hoxa Head (that are protected as monuments) is in effect treating the history of the World War 2 and those who gave their lives for their Country with contempt and potentially with derision if no enforcement action by the appropriate authorities is not taken.

This is important for a number of reasons, firstly whoever is responsible for these acts should be held accountable,  secondly in doing this a clear signal needs to be seen to be sent to deter further damage,  and thirdly nobody should benefit from the criminal damage that  has taken place.

 

I can’t believe that it’s only 2 weeks since I was leaving the Orkneys having spent another fascinating week on the Island.

I got back to a very busy couple of weeks so it is only now that I am getting time to reflect on a what a good week it was. Having been on the mainland twice before I was getting to know my way around.

I was meeting the group I would be joining on the Saturday  evening for dinner and having got on the mainland mid morning I had lots of time to play with. I headed to Stromness that is a curious and attractive town with blue plaques on almost every other building and references to the maritime great and good going back to over hundreds of years. I had a relaxed day, but before going to Pentland House I wanted to go to both the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, it was the day before the Summer Solstice, just hours before the druids would be arriving so it was appropriate too.

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The Orkneys are a series of islands with a history that can be traced back over 5000 years, if you look back to my visit last year documented on this blog you will find more on this. What I primarily want to show you this year is my visit to Rousey and an impromptu visit to the Cairns Dig that we were fortunate to visit, thanks to one of our group knowing someone on the project. I had not given much thought to the archaeological process, in that it is in itself a destructive process, however everything is recorded in detail to answer and unlock the stories the remains carry.

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We visited Westray, Hoy and many sites of archaeological importance and other sites that are vitally important sea bird habitats, it was good to see the large numbers of Guillemot and Kittiwake chicks, and it would appear is that there is at least an increase in the number of sand eels that are a staple part of the diet of many auks.

Rousay is a small island  20 minutes by ferry from the mainland with a circular road around it, many of the cairns are only a short walk from the road, however some of the most breathtaking sites are a good walk from the road. Midhowe Broch and Midhowe Cairn are staggering, both are impressive structures. Midhowe Cairn one of the largest Stalled Cairns ever found with 24 stalls in a total of 12 chambers, it is now completely enclosed in large barn like building to preserve it. I did not expect to see the extent of the preservation that has taken place with large buildings and concrete structures preserving many of these cairns.

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I am still awestruck when standing in many of these places and trying to comprehend that 5000 years ago someone obviously stood in exactly the same place as I am standing.

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I’m a fan of Dot to Dot, I’ve seen some great bands there, Bastille, The 1975, Slaves and of course the superb Kyla la Grange, but in it’s 10th anniversary year it did not quite have the same edge, and from a feet on the ground perspective there also seemed to be fewer people.

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In the past there has been both width and depth in the tallent on stage, there seemed to be alot of local bands this year, I did wonder if everyone had cleared off to Radio 1’s Big Weekend, last year Indiana played both festivals missing out a Nottingham show and this year Laurel also did.

There were some talented people here and people who have had Radio 1 and BBC 6music airplay, but you had to go looking, and as one girl said to me ‘they all sound the same’ and she was 20+ years younger than me. There seemed to be a huge amount of synth driven pop with men dancing in near slow motion …….. either it is back on trend or I was just unlucky!

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But the Rescue Rooms lived up to their name, with 2 stages backing onto each other (separated by a door) I was able to go from band to band as they completed their sets. At one point I went from Tvvins to Amy Studt to Laurel to Daisy Victoria and Oscar to Tei Shi in quick succession, this was good, the energy of Tvvins was a breath of fresh air and Laurel – well I swear she’s a model I know pursuing her other skills. Oscar’s was a warm friendly and popular show, I think Tei Shi is good, you need to take the time to get into her work, she is doing something good, in a year she could be somewhere very interesting.

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Before that the first on my list of people to see was Joy Mumford who performed with one guitar, really stripped back, that was a good set and she has a great voice.

I did have a bit of inside knowledge, I saw RagnBone Man supporting Bastille and he was on the Rock City Basement stage in the slot before Saint Raymond headlined main venue next door. I know RagnBone Man’s set was the place to be, this guy is good very bluesy almost soul, a wonderful combination and he did not disappoint.

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Just to see what it was like I went next door to see Saint Raymond headline the festival, I was surprised I could still get in, more so that I could get a space on the balcony right at the front minutes before the gig started. He’s got something, but not what Bastille and The 1975 have who I’ve seen on the same stage, at comparable points in their careers.

I started out by saying it was good in parts, having listened back to some of the acts on Soundcloud, good in parts is fair, but it has been better and lets hope it is in 2016.

Well if the new Henry Moore that opened there a few weeks ago is anything to go by, it is!!  This exhibition rivals the Miro from a couple of seasons ago in terms of it’s breadth and quality and  must be one of the best shows about anywhere in the UK right now.

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I have always been fascinated by Moore’s work, ‘Back to a Land’ focuses on his large sculptures and looks to explain what he was interested in and how he arrived at the work he did.

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There are 3 galleries plus the extra room at the end (if you’ve been before you’ll know!) – you have to go in though gallery 1 and make the choice to then go in to 2 or 3. In my view they have got this bit of the show wrong. The key to unlocking Moore’s work is in gallery 2, find the drawings of pebbles and bones and the 2 mother and child sculptures separated by about 25 years and Moore’s thinking will neatly and tidily unfold for you and everything else will explain itself with a clarity. With this understanding everything else will be a delight – and it is a great show.

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There is very little of his work in the tunnels (a finished drawing and a preliminary drawing) that is a shame. What you must not miss are the drawings of Stonehenge from 1973-4, these are the most sensitive drawings of stone I have ever seen. The feeling for the stones, his feeling for stone and the feeling for people has given the stones a life that jumps off the walls, I have not seen anything like them they are breath taking, you almost know them as you know people you can name.

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In addition to the exhibition don’t forget that there are a number of pieces of Moore’s work in the permanent collection so there are more pieces to see than those in the current show.

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Today if you want to start a campaign or tell the world you take to social media, 70 years ago in a world where social media did not exist the story of the Battle of Britain was told in a huge lace tapestry.

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Today these tapestries are scattered across the Commonwealth, whilst the exact number seems to vary with every source you research, there are approximately 30 of the reported 38 originally made still in existence, they are mostly held in museums or private collections.

Everything about these panels is on a large scale, their size is 15ft (4.6m) x 56 inches (1.4m), they each contain 4,200 threads, and 25 miles (41.8km) miles of cotton. But what really strikes you is the many individual cameos of the events of the Battle of Britain making up the complete tapestry, be they dog fights, burning buildings, pilots bailing out, anti aircraft guns with search lights plus emblems representing all parts of the Commonwealth involved in a day that was a turning point in World War 2.

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To make the panels 40,000 punched cards were used to translate the pattern into the lace panels using jacquard machines, the machines used were destroyed once the panels were completed.

What today is done in video or on social media 70 years ago was done in lace – and this is very impressive and moving evidence of those events. The Mason Collection is one of few to have a pair of panels, and I was asked to shoot them both for publication, both panels needing to be sat beside each other on the page. Although both panels are in identical in their narrative they use different weights of cotton in their construction.

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The size of the panels, the level of detail and the fragility of the panels made this a substantial photographic challenge. I was well aware that the resolving power of a modern DSLR way exceeds old school 5×4 sheet film. In 2006 I photographed approximately 60 engineering systems panels from a Avro Vulcan B2 bomber using an 8 megapixel camera, this resolved lines of approximately 1mm on a 60 inch (1.5m) x 40 (1.01m) inch panel, I knew from years of shooting copy jobs with 5×4 film that film could never hold that level of detail even then.

At over 3 times the length of the Avro Vulcan Panels and with far finer detail using a 21 mega pixel camera much of the finest detail was held and was visible at thread level even when shot from a distance to get the whole 15ft (4.6m) panel in shot. It is worth considering what is being asked of a sensor to resolve these panels at this level of detail. The DSLR camera sensor used for this measured 36mmx24mm, compare this to 5×4 inch (125mmx100mm) copy film as used 20 years ago, to go one step further to compare 35mm film negative to a digital sensor both measuring 36x24mm and the power of the modern digital cameras is immediately clear.

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The technology is one thing, however what is way more important is the panels as objects with their impressive size and narrative that records and pay tribute to those from many nations and Air Forces who took part in the Battle of Britain.

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Most people look straight ahead at what’s coming next, occasionally looking up but rarely looking down. On Friday I was in London for meetings, however towards the end of the day I did get chance to go to Tate Modern to see the incredible show ‘Alibis’ by Sigmar Polke. It is a fascinating exhibition, I took about 3 hours to go round the 14 rooms, I could easily have taken 6 – there is so much there I came away having been overwhelmed by the scope and scale of this retrospective.

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There are a number of ways to get to Tate Modern, my usual route is to go to St. Pauls on the Central Line and walk over the Millennium Bridge. As I was walking I kept noticing little flashes of colour, and looking more closely I found numerous tiny artworks painted into the treads of the bridge. Some only 2-3 cm in length, a few are a bit larger possibly 5 or 6 cm and all in fantastic detail.

Next time you head over the Millennium Bridge don’t forget to look down you may be surprised at what you may see.

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This week I’m in Scotland in a small costal town called Largs, working during the day and off to the Commonwealth Fencing Championships 2014 in the evening.

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Yesterday was Men’s Epee and Women’s Sabre and to my amazement one of the British Women is a fencer I see occasionally at Chilwell, unfortunately she did not get to the last 8. Today was Mens Sabre and Women’s Foil and both were great to see.

Seeing any sport with the top athletes around is special and fencing is no different.

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The speed and skill of the fencers is incredible, but what is clear is that what goes on in a fencers head determines the outcome, the body language has been fascinating. Today one woman was clearly beaten by what was going on in her head not by her opponent, over the last 2 days what has struck me is how vital the mental game is.

It was not really my plan to shoot whilst I was here, but I would only regret it if I didn’t – well that’s what I tell myself! The day to day images I see of fencing are either crisp and pin sharp or black and white, thats just not me – so here are a few images of the fastest sport on earth shot with urgency, speed, power – and all the passion of winning!

 

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