Photographers focus on waste and wildlife

Breakfast, by George Sudlow.
Breakfast, by George Sudlow.


On Tuesday, March 14 Morpeth Camera Club welcomed guest speaker Iain Duncan, a Northumberland-based professional photographer, who presented images of the changing coastline at Lynemouth Bay.

His Lynemouth Layerscapes talk was illustrated by images of waste deposited along the coast — a landscape being eroded by the tides and revealing items deposited over many years.

Whilst walking towards Cresswell, he began to notice the odd, but photogenic dunes, the textures and shapes, the layers of sediment and dead grass interspersed with plastic bags and relatively modern detritus.

This fascinated Iain, who began researching the area and discovered that this was where the Lynemouth and Ellington pits once dumped their waste. On a 1960’s map, Iain discovered that originally there was a golf course on the site, which explained the layer of grass. Over the years the area became a dumping ground for bricks, colliery belts, explosive bags, pipes, clothing, and even a plastic pedal car, all of which formed fascinating visual compositions.

Iain spoke of this to archivists at Woodhorn Museum and was awarded Heritage Lottery funding to explore further.

He discovered that the layers of grey strata were ash from the Alcan smelter that had been left in settling pools, and that after mining had finished, permission had been attained to deposit rubbish to settle the area before grassing over. He made it clear that permission had been obtained at the time.

Images included multi-coloured orange and blue eroded bricks, concrete smoothed by the sea and tumbles of multi-coloured fishing ropes. They were followed by interesting images of puddles, which when gently agitated formed extraordinary patterns and brought to the surface silky ivory and grey swirls originating from the ash, and rich red colours of clay and iron deposits.

Iain said he has to get “into the zone” to view the surroundings on a deeper level as there is so much to see.

He wanted to visually catalogue this area as he estimated that with coastal erosion within 12 years it will be washed away. He wanted people to have access to this study and be proud of their heritage.

The second part of Iain’s talk featured his work using photogravure, a method of etching an image onto a coated copper plate.

Using pre-war half and quarter plate cameras, he showed a wonderful selection of work — misty woodland, backlit skeletal trees at Slaley Wood, morning light in Borrowdale, ancient woodland in Crannock Woods, morning mist on the Tyne and the atmospheric Thornton Force, together with the antique effect textures of Steel Rigg, Hadrian’s Wall.

Iain explained that because one could control how much ink was used and removed, gentle and dramatic areas could be created, foliage is brought to life and ruins and stonework are enhanced, adding that photogravure was the only absolutely stable process of photography.

He concluded with his macro work. After explaining his kit of lenses and extensions, we saw photography of a simple agate keyring and a tumbled pebble. Exposed were vibrant ridges and valleys of colour, sparkling crystals and crushed fossils.

Throughout the evening Iain generously shared details of his techniques and provided a very memorable evening.

Chairman Glyn Trueman thanked Iain for a fascinating and inspiring presentation.

On Tuesday, March 21, the club welcomed David Ord, from Ryton Camera Club, to select the winners in this year’s Browell Trophy Natural History PDI competition.

Members had submitted a maximum of three digital images on natural history, the only criteria being that they should not be of pets, farm animals or captive animals.

David, who is not only a judge but Competition Secretary for Ryton, is well versed in what makes a good natural history photograph. He said the most important requirement is that it should be pin sharp in the right areas.

Among the images were colourful butterflies, a baby elephant protected by the herd, resting cheetahs, a brown hawker dragonfly, a nuthatch, squirrels, giant wood spider, pied avocet and a lemur.

David gave tips on ISO settings and shutter speeds to avoid softness, alternative cropping and composition, and added that while photographing insects is a challenge, sharp focus on eyes and antenna is paramount.

The evening continued with images of a red damsel fly, black wildebeest, leopard, a green shield bug, otters, mating gannets, puffins, teasels and wild flowers.

Highly commended were Common Seal by Glyn Trueman, Newly Emerged Burnett Moths also by Glyn, Cormorant Watching by Davy Bolam, and Toad Stools, Gummer How by Brian Morris.

Fifth place went to Davy Bolam for Female Pheasant in Habitat, and fourth was Zebras All In A Line by Myra Jackson.

David had problems placing the final three as they were all of such high quality.

Finally, third place was Guillemot Resting by Davy Bolam, second went to George Sudlow for King of the River, and the winner was Breakfast, again by George, with perfect lighting and timing, and great detail. George had caught the moment perfectly.

Chairman Glyn Trueman thanked David for his constructive comments and suggestions for improvement.