Firstly, let me say this – if you hadn’t heard – Ffordes has just been robbed. There’s plenty in the news about that however, what I want to tell you about is the indomitable spirit that the guys have in the Ffordes team. Alister met me and said: “It’s business as usual and we’re pushing through it.” Eager to hear about what I’m up to with large format analogue experiences, in collaboration with Keith Moss, he asks if I brought my Intrepid 10×8 camera. You can see the 10×8 set up in the background in the shot above.
Alister and I are holding a print of a 5×4 negative I shot with Dave last year in the World War II military oil-storage facility at Inchindown, near Invergordon, Scottish Highlands. This print is on display at Ffordes.
We selected Ilford HP5 Plus and went for 1600 ISO, f16 on the 90mm lens, which we left open for 30 minutes. What were we doing for that half hour? Well, whilst Dave had the somewhat easy job of walking in complete darkness, stopping at each concrete intersection to shoot off the flash gun left, ceiling, and right – I, on the other hand, had the very difficult job of saying helpful things like, “watch your feet”, “don’t trip”, “hurry up” and “where are you?” Then I found that I had to shout these things around 15 minutes into Dave’s walk. This didn’t really help me much as all I could hear is the immense echo hitting me right back. Dave’s flashes were getting smaller and smaller; thankfully he had taken two guns with him as he’d exhausted the batteries halfway down the 300 metre tank.
When Dave finally gave me the shout to close the shutter, that’s what I did, I’m good like that. Then, he turned his head torch on and came back to the start of the tank. “There’s a huge sump at the end of the tank Si, I nearly fell in,” said Dave. “Hmmmm, yep…what shall we do now?” I said.
We decided to extricate ourselves from the tank; this is done in very much a torpedo-style way, exactly the same way as the builders did in the construction phase. There are four apertures to each tank (six in total) all underneath many tonnes of concrete and earth in what is an incredible human-made military installation, constructed to keep the fuel oil safe for the fleet and bomb proof, thankfully never tested.
We had been in the tank for about 5 hours – setting up took a long time, trying to focus on something in darkness is a tad difficult. We didn’t take the easy route and lob the lens to infinity, we wanted to focus about a third of the way down. So I took a super bright flashlight, walked down, and Dave focused in. He could hardly see anything to focus on even with the flashlight.
The tanks are a really special place to be in, let alone shoot in. I’ve had the privilege to shoot a film crew and various musicians in there – it’s an amazing experience on so many levels. If you’re reading this and would like to go in, please get in touch with me.
There are a few more shots of the tanks below.
So – getting back to what I’m up to with Keith – COLLODION, in a word! On the 27th October Keith and I will be on the Isle of Skye delivering wet plate photography experiences – Dapper Dan the Darkroom Van will be there, so not only will you be able to shoot on the Intrepid cameras (if you don’t have your own), you’ll be able to see your shots developed and take them home with you!
We’ve pulled together some amazing products from around the globe, including darkcloths from Wanderer, cameras from Intrepid, cameras from Cameradactyl, plate holders from Chroma, chemicals, and film from Ilford. We’re hoping to see you there – book at Keith Moss Photography!
We will also be delivering some training courses at the Science and Research Centre at the University of the Highlands and Islands throughout the week beginning the 22nd October – this will be in Inverness – contact me for further details!