Finkl steelworks

Growing up in the steel city of Sheffield, I was surrounded by the legacy of the industrial revolution. I remember hearing the wastelands that followed the decline of British industry described as romantic, and being perplexed by this at the time. However, I have come to appreciate the steelworks for what can best be described as their romance.

Shortly after I arrived in Chicago, I went on a group bicycle ride. Following the pack and not knowing where I was going, we travelled along an amazing street. Lined with large factory buildings it seemed like every few hundred metres an open doorway gave a glimpse of fire and molten metal. It took me a couple of years to rediscover the place, but when I did I was armed with my camera.

I have since returned a few times and I have posted pictures of the Finkl steelworks to my Flickr account. However, one evening in May of 2009 I happened to visit the area with my friend Tim, and my old Pentax P30 35 mm SLR camera. Two years after swapping this camera body for a shiny digital model I had fairly randomly thrown a roll of Kodak TMax ISO 400 film into the camera and brought it out with me on one of our regular evening photo walks.

The trouble with analog is that you can't just come home and look at what you have captured. There is an additional few steps involving chemistry and darkened rooms. Not being set up to do this at home, back when I shot film regularly this meant taking the film to a lab, and, me being the disorganised type that I am, I often would have a collection of exposed film languishing, waiting for me to get it processed.

This night in '09 was no different, except that I didn't actually finish the roll of film, so instead it languished in my camera for two years. Then, last week, a conversation with Tim on G+ led to me taking the P30 out once more, this time on a bike ride. The remaining seven frames on the film exposed, Tim generously offered to take the film to the lab the next time he was going. When he got the film back he also kindly scanned it for me, and now I have 26 files on my Mac that leave me wondering why I ever switched to digital. Will I switch back to film? No, but I hope to give the P30 a little more love in the coming months.

After that build up, the photos may be an anticlimax to some, but to me they have not only captured an image of Finkl, they have captured the feeling of the peering into these vast, dimly lit, grimy, dusty buildings on a warm spring night in Chicago.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC

Tall trees, originally uploaded by jatherton.

I got to head out with Tim again this morning. After a stop in Wilmette at the Bahá'í House of Worship and Gilson Park we went to the Dam No.1 Woods on the Des Plaines River. I'd visited here before in the winter and got some good shots so I was pleased to get to go back. Tim has been renting a Sigma 8–16 mm lens, and he was kind enough to let me try it out again. This lens definitely is great for certain situations and not so good for others—I think it suited the woods well. This shot was taken lying on my back in the middle of the trail. Fortunately there were very few folk around so there was no one to see me.

People always tell tales of the mob burying bodies in the woods at the Skokie lagoons on the Chicago River, and Tim and I were joking about finding bodies in the woods as were bushwhacking through the brush… on the way back to the car we found a knife stuck into a tree at the side of the trail! The scary thing was that neither of us had noticed this on our way past when we were walking the other way.