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Ricicles and Bicycles

Image for article Ricicles and Bicycles

Ricicles and Bicycles.

As well as photographing rock climbing and landscapes one of the aims of the ‘Instanto Outdoors’ project was to reflect on contemporary activities that take place in the Lake District. Certain sports wouldn’t have existed when the Abrahams were producing their most well known work, while cycling was, mountain biking as we know it wasn’t. And wild swimming was more about - well swimming in a Lake as there were few other options !

The impetus to shoot outdooor swimming came about when I was contacted mid October by Helen Leonard, producer of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Open Country’ program. They were planning an episode based around ‘Wordsworth Country’ and were looking to interview people working in the Lakes on creative projects, especially those looking at the landscape and how it was used. Paul Kleian at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, who I had worked with on my Spots of Time project, had kindly passed my contact details on. Helen was keen to interview me as I was using the camera, and intended doing a piece about Ullswater Steamers so it was going to make sense to do something close to the Lake and preferably near Glencoyne Bay where William Wordsworth had been inspired to write ‘Daffodils’. As part of the core team who organises Kendal Mountain Festival I knew that my colleague Jenny Rice, festival graphic designer, and her husband Paul Scully, festival manager, were keen outdoor swimmers and often went for a dip in Windermere before work. So it seemed logical to invite them over to Ullswater for a late November early morning swim - and Helen really liked the idea. One thing she was keen to emphasis in the program was how visitors to the Lake District immersed themselves in the experience, as opposed to simply standing and passively taking in the view, like the early tourists would have done. It’s safe to assume that diving in to a cold lake is very much an immersive and sensory experience !

We’d planned to meet producer Helen Leonard and presenter Helen Mark at 8am in the Glencoyne Bay Car Park the 2 weeks after the mountain festival. The 29th November dawned frosty with a breeze picking up. It was certainly going to be a bracing and immersive experience for our swimmers Jenny and Paul.

After some introductions we got the camera set up as Helen M interviewed Jenny and Paul, then as they got changed in to swim wear it was my turn to describe the camera and process. Then it was time to compose the shots as our two brave souls shivered in bare feet on the frosty ground. Being interviewed while composing and finishing the set up broke my rhythm and routine to some extent, large format photography is all about having a ‘system’ but things went smoothly enough as I shot 3 ‘plates’ before the Ricicle and Scully sprinted in to the water and plunged in to whoops of delight or shock (delete as applicable).

Meanwhile producer Helen kept the sound running while Helen M described the scene. After a few invigorating strokes in the ice water our amphibious friends returned to dry land for a quick towel down and hot drink from a flask.


The two Helen’s then wrapped up the story before realising the time and hot footing it to catch the Ullswater steamer and do another interview, while we adjourned to a cafe in Glenridding for some warm food.

(Proof print of the image by project printer Pete Guest at Image Black and White darkroom )

The program was broadcast on Thursday 15th December and is still available on iPlayer / podcast / download.

After breakfast it was a drive round to Keswick to meet Cumbria Life writer Mary Ingham who was writing an article about the project for the January 2017 issue of the magazine. Then a catch up with gallery curator Sue MacKay regards some exhibition planning matters, before Phil Leigh who has been assisting me, and I headed round to Whinlatter to take another image.

Rough stuff cycling has been around for many years, well before the Rough Stuff Fellowship was founded in 1955. The Cycling Tourist Club (CTC), founded in 1878, would regularly praise moorland and valley roads for offering the cyclist peace and delight. But it wasn’t until the mid 1980’s that fat tired mountain bikes started to make a regular appearance on bridal ways and paths (legally or otherwise !)

Yours truly above Wasdale mid 1980's riding Peaugot 'Crazy Horse' mountain bike !

( Yours truly mountain biking in the Lake District mid 1980's on a Peaugot 'Crazy Horse' mountain bike )

By 2000 they were well established as a distinct branch of cycling. It made sense therefor to capture the sport as part of ‘Instanto Outdoors’. With the camera having no shutter an exposure of a second or so then the obvious solution was a portrait.

The Lake District has some great MTB routes and also a two Forestry Commission trail centres - Grizedale and Whinlatter, the latter being close to Keswick and where I’d arranged to meet friend and super keen MTBer Andy Smith. Before I could shoot though the film I’d shot in the morning had to be taken out of the dark slides and new film loaded. Obviously this has to be done in complete darkness so while I erected the portable darkroom Andy went for a blast round the ‘north trail’ - which it turned out was covered in hard packed drifted snow.

(Portable darkroom in the carpark at Whinlatter.)

Once ready we headed off to take an image, but before finding a bright logging road that would work we were questioned by Whinlatter staff as to what we were up to. All the big bags and heavy tripod made it look like we were a commercial film crew that would need a permit ! Eventually the camera set up and everything ready we exposed three sheets of film as Andy stood proudly next to his new steed.

As we returned to the carpark it began to get dusk, and having made the most of the day we headed south and for a bite to eat at the excellent Eagle and Child at Staveley.


The 'Instanto Outdoors' exhibition opens on 14th January 2017 at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery.



30 December 2016 by Henry Iddon

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