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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

20/04/22 - Over Silton

Date: 30TH March 2022

Reflecting on Wilderness

Location: Over Silton – North Yorkshire Moors

Collecting visuals and testing a new camera format

Once more I found myself journeying on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, and this time I was in Over Silton. As evidenced from the image beside this text, Over Silton is a short twenty-minute drive from my house. Although not far to go, I still believe even within short parameters I am still able to escape a part of the human world. Escaping (as you will read in an upcoming blog post shortly) is one of my practice goals, but alongside this aim, I was also wanting to test out a new camera format (full frame) and to bury a developed image of mine… the latter I will discuss later within this post.

The full frame camera was another borrow from the photographic store at work. I am not familiar with full frame cameras, but I wanted to test it out to see what imagery could be collected and produced. As with my research practice, I am always enthusiastic to try out and investigate different materials and products that will encourage practical outcomes that support my practice. The full frame was a Nikon D610 and at first thoughts it was bloody heavy to hold and carry around. I must say after some time with the camera, the weight does disappear, but I find it helpful being so heavy as I am in control of the hold when shooting. The purpose of the full frame is to have a much larger sensor than a standard DSLR. This helps with capturing imagery to a lifelike sharpness when working in low light settings. The camera also has a six frames per second continuous shooting range which is great for working within a fast past setting. As stated earlier, I just wanted to play around with this new ‘tool’ and to reflect on my image collection once home.

I pulled into Silton and weaved my way through the narrow country roads until I came across an inlet where I could park my car. As always, I left a note on my window ‘gone walking – making art, I will be back later (mob number)’. I always worry in case someone comes across my car and thinks it could be abandoned and then when I return, I find it towed away or something else dramatic. With my boots on and car stored, I found a small, tight, uphill (slide like) path that I decided to climb as it seemed to be an invite into the wooden area. It was slippy that is for sure, as I nearly ended on my backside within the first thirty seconds of my journey. I worked my way up (cautiously) and came into a mix of mossy rocks, woodland growth, and a horse, who was calmly stood grazing. I stopped and took in the initial stages of my landscape and accepted this privilege to be a part of this environment.

Moving through and on I was confronted with a fork in the road and an actual road it was. Not the tarmac kind, but this was access for someone and where it led, I did not know. I thought it would be best to take on the left side environment which was at my level and directly to me with forestry and then I would move onto the right side and head up the embankment after my initial exploration. The left side was beautifully composed via nature, with the forestry grown from the side of the hill, shooting high up into the sky with its rooftop entangled amongst one and other. What struck me at first was the colours of the landscape, rich greens, browns, yellows, and other dark tones all harmoniously complimented the environment. There was collaborative ecology of natural materials working together to form a live area that could be grow without any human interference and never be encountered. However, with a road next to it, I somehow do not believe that this beautiful landscape could be left un-encountered.

Walking through I began to pick up on little pockets of interest to me. A small hidden stream, where the little sound of running water could be heard but to see the stream was to follow the trace of sound. A beautifully twisted branch lay on the wet mossy grass, tightly twisted together, as if strangling its own self to form a series of stretched tree veins. The harsh, sharp rock boulders stood firm and strong, as if rooted into the side of the hill like muscular entities. Formations of moss covered the harsh rocks, which broke a part the harsh surface and instead portrayed a soft and peaceful rock face. Scattered about the boulders through either growth or natural movement, trees and their branches took up residency. They dominated the ocular field and only allowed small pockets of space to appear when surveying the landscape. Navigating such a varying area was exciting, as with every step I had to consider what I was connecting with and how that played a part in my journey. Do I place my hand on the rock and feel its texture or do I lean against a tree and use it as a place of rest? It could be said that I am considering how these natural objects ‘help’ me within that space, which is interesting because they are what they are and they serve no purpose for man, but we do see them as a service to us when in contact with them.

I brought a long with me an image of Guisborough forest, one that I took on the 31st of December 2021 using the medium format camera. My idea here was to take this image and bury it into a forest and so I decided on Silton as its place of burial. There is no connection between the two landscapes, only that they both locate themselves within the north Yorkshire Moors. The image itself probably did not need to be that of a forest but for the sake of this ‘piece’ I used this image. I was placing this image within this space so that in however many months or years I will plan to return and dig it back up. I want to create an act of performance which works within the parameters of re-engaging and/or re-encountering. I think with sometime passed, I will forget what the image will look like, I may even forget the image is there and not dig it up, but I can be certain that at some point I or someone else may encounter that image. What will nature do to that image, I cannot answer and therefore that image will adjust by decay, does that mean then the re-encounter is not a re-encounter but instead an encounter with something new? If so, how much change will occur that I will not have perceived the image as it is when I initially buried it? It is something that can be left unanswered because I do not know what to expect and due the length of duration of this act it is about allowing this act to transpire and be within nature.

I headed back out of the hillside forest and made my way back to the fork in the road. I decided to follow the ‘road’ along and up which in the end began to turn itself into just grass. It was a natural sign that this ‘road’ was no longer in use or had not been for some time. A clearing was visible, but no tyre marks or indentations were left, instead nature had reclaimed it. There was an air of loneliness whilst I walked in myself, I felt isolated on top of that hill and between each forest, somewhat solum but ok with myself being there. Following the ‘road’ I thought about whether this ‘road’ was leading me away from my known life and things were left behind me. At this point I did look back and I could see over the ridge some sign of humanity with a farmhouse in the very far distance. Quite cheesy in some sense, but their felt a natural presence within that movement along the ‘road’ and it is quite hard to describe a feeling that is so intermate and personal to oneself. I believe it is needed, an audience needs to experience that state of moving away from daily life and if I consider how I can make that happen through art, would it be possible to invite audiences to walk and journey away from their known and into an unknown? I am sure there would be many ethical considerations and risk assessments flying about, but it is as always something to consider.

Along the ‘road’ I came across a small stone wall, but a part of that wall seemed to be disturbed or maybe incomplete because an ‘entrance’ had appeared for the forest. Me the adventurous type had to climb over and crawl through. Immediately I was hit with that presence I have discussed on several occasions and in past blogs, that is the stillness. A forest seems to have this ability to mute any external factors outside of its parameters. It is a natural wall, if I am to relate to something so simple and for me it is in that sense a safe haven. I entered this forest and quietness occurs, a soft presence is felt and as I navigate my way through, small cracks of sound pop and movements of branches gently play-out. My footing is slow but absorbed by carpet like texture of the forest floor. I was able to move around and at times I had to duck under branches or push them a side to make sure I could continue through and into the forest. I took a moment to stop once again (as I did in the earlier stages of this journey) and just be present with my surroundings. I looked up and watched the grey cloudy sky above flood itself across the swaying tree tops. Nothing… only stillness occurred within that landscape, and although I state that the environment moved itself, there was that element of nothingness to be being there. Maybe ‘nothingness’ is the wrong word to describe this moment, perhaps it is a case of otherness and being in a state that is of something that cannot be transcribed. The forest is secular, it is not bound to any religious constructs but is in its own right a natural spiritualised being. Not only was the atmosphere having an effect on my being, but the colours were once again beautifully rich and varying in degree. It created a sense of aesthetic beauty that was harmonised throughout the forest landscape. Snow started to drift into the forest, gentle and at ease as if only to emphasise the state of stillness that continued to play out. I stood again and I watched the snow become a part of the natural ecology, working itself between and onto all forms of nature.

‘outside’ the sanctum of the forest, a stark contrast ‘hit’ me, a blizzard of cold wind and snow. Somewhat a surprise for this time of the year, but what made it interesting was the impact it had on my journey. There was the adventurous type in me saying continue and keep walking but the sensible me said told me to head back down in case this weather became a health hazard. I then decided on the sensible option, which was a shame in some sense, but I did not want to risk it.

This journey for me was one of many, it put me in a place of solace and gratitude as well as once again helping me connect with a natural environment. The environment and myself create a relationship of appreciation and that in turn is demonstrated through my emotional thoughts and considerations when I reflect upon my experience of being within such a landscape.

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