Monday, 9 June 2014

Kim Ayres - Photographing a Blacksmith

Earlier this year I was photographing Adam Booth as part of a project about the River Urr, which runs not too far from here. I was recruited by Davie who, along with a couple of others, is looking at the history and the people of the land surrounding the river.

Adam is an artist blacksmith with a forge in nearby Kirkpatrick Durham, where he heats, hammers and shapes metal into decorative, organic shapes. Some of his gates have become listed as soon as they have been installed. A warm and friendly guy, he talks with great enthusiasm about his passion for his work, and the alchemy of how the properties of metal change from completely solid to a clay-like malleability when exposed to the right level of heat.

I have to admit, there's something quite primal watching metal being thrust into blazing coals, glowing red and golden and hearing the sounds of it being hammered on an anvil. Trying to figure out how to photograph it, however, was not easy.

The fluorescent strip lights were designed for him to be able to see his tools, not to cast interesting shadows or create an atmospheric environment. But introducing more light would have its own problems - too much and the glow of the metal would be lost; not enough and the shutter speed would be too slow and everything would blur.

The solution was to have a slow shutter speed (about half a second) to allow the ambient glow to be felt, but also to use an off-camera flash to capture the action. The resulting effect was to freeze part of the image, but ghostly echoes sometimes followed any movement.

Below are a selection of images - feel free to click on any of them for slightly larger versions.

Kim Ayres

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