Among the Ferns

SSA Photography (390 of 400)

These bracken ferns on the moors in Yorkshire are substantially shorter than those in the lake district; nevertheless, they nearly engulfed my wife, Anna, as she tried to follow the path cut between the fiddleheads that popped out from the skeletons of heather, long since overcome by the dark green ferns.  This photograph was taken at dusk outside of Haworth, England, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote.  Their stories were heavily   influenced by the moors and the hardy people who lived on them (especially Wuthering Heights).  Indeed, in this photograph, on the horizon to the left, there is a lone sycamore next to the barely perceptible ruins of a farmhouse (Top Withens), which is said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.  My mother-in-law grew up among the ferns on the moors, and she is closer to nature than anyone I have ever met.  Yorkshire does something indelible to a person.  The first time you walk over the top of a moor and look down into the Worth Valley at the train steaming along the tracks towards Leeds, you realize that you are in a living snapshot of a much simpler time.

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Etched

SSA Photography (392 of 400)

“Etch” comes to us from the German ätzen meaning “to eat” via the Dutch etsen.  Etching is the traditional process of using an acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a surface to create an intaglio (incised) design on the surface.  The word has been borrowed for human application, with it meaning something that is affixed permanently in one’s memory.  This photograph has elements of both meanings.  The breaks in the heather and scrub are beautiful, lasting reminders of what has come before.  The paths on the moors have been etched by the footfalls of generations of Yorkshiremen and, indeed, even us outsiders.  Likewise, the scenes captured along such paths, as if created by old masters, have been indelibly etched into my mind.

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Tempest

SSA Photography (387 of 400)

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
-Shakespeare, The Tempest
This photograph was taken on the moors outside of Haworth, England earlier this year.  It was cloudless until dusk, when shadows crept over the heather, and tempestuous clouds filled the sky.  The rock in the foreground is a landmark that can be seen for miles, and indeed it can be seen from the house which Anna’s grandfather built stone by stone from an old ostler house.  It is but a pinpoint on the horizon from the house, and we trekked miles up and down (and up again) through the heather and sheep until we reached it.  The views, as can be seen here, and in the gallery “The Moors” were breathtaking, and though I cursed Anna’s mother and uncle for taking us on such a hard-fought scramble up the moors, it was indeed worth it in the end.  And in the end, as the Bard said, “what’s past is prologue.”
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Remnant

SSA Photography (376 of 400)

I studied art history in high school and college, learning from incredible teachers and professors.  I went to museums and saw visiting collections, but I never stood in the middle of St. Peter’s square or under the arches of a gothic cathedral until 2006 when I stood in La Seu, visited Pompeii, and walked into the middle of the Piazza San Pietro, marveling at the history that surrounded me.  Yet something about Bolton Abbey, the skeleton of which I captured in this photograph, struck me more than even walking through the ancient streets of Pompeii.  Perhaps because I was older, I had a new appreciation for the feats of architecture.  Perhaps, too, it was because I was alone with my camera and my thoughts, not being bustled about by tour guides or other eager tourists.  Whatever the difference, Bolton Abbey was more majestic to me than even St. Peter’s.  It is a memory, a remnant of time gone by, of the monarchy, of the Reformation, and of the shifting sands of faith.  While other abbeys were deconstructed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and all that remains of them is rubble, Bolton Abbey remains – like a fossil, its bones bared and resolute.  When I stood in the nave, I placed my hand on a monolithic column, lingering for a moment and hoping to physically connect to the priory.  With the weathered stone pressed against my hand, I wondered how many generations had set their hands upon the stonework, and at that moment I felt truly connected to a continuum of time – those who had come before and those who would come after to admire the remnant as I had.

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Left Behind

SSA Photography (395 of 400)

This photograph was taken on the moors outside Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.  The two figures in the distance are my mother-in-law and her brother, who left my wife, Anna, and I to scramble up and down the moors in a vain attempt to keep them in our sight.  The “walk” (and I use this term loosely) was gorgeous in hindsight, as the pictures attest; however, during the trip (which I contend was on average 98% vertical), I thought my legs were going to give out at least three times.  Nevertheless, I made it, and that in and of itself was an accomplishment.  The photographs that I took were icing on the proverbial cake.

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Across the Way

SSA Photography (345 of 400)

This photograph was taken mid-morning from the top of the driveway of the home that my wife’s grandfather built stone by stone over decades from a ruined ostler’s barn that sat on a hill overlooking the home in which my mother-in-law grew up in West Yorkshire, England.  When the Worth Valley Railway was being built, many of the horses used to build the rails were kept in the ostler’s barn on the property, just a short walk to the eventual railway station in Oxenhope.  Anna’s grandfather was a fighter pilot in World War II, and later a textile mill owner, as well as a self-taught stone mason, who worked and kept adding to the home (nicknamed “Ostlerhouse”) quite literally until the day he died.

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Passage

SSA Photography (378 of 400)

This photograph was taken outside of Haworth, West Yorkshire, England during a walk about the moors.  The beautiful wall has been disassembled by hand in the middle to make a small passage for wanderers, like we were, to pass through.  Many, if not most of the walls were installed in the Victorian era as a result of the Inclosure Acts, which required landowners to enclose their land to stake a claim to it – a departure from the manorial, open field system, an antiquated remnant of the feudal system.  As with many of the sturdy walls in Yorkshire, this one has no mortar, but instead relies on the skill of the stonemason to create an edifice that has lasted and will last for many generations to come.  Notably absent from this picture are the two curious Swaledale sheep (the breed most often found on the moors) that accompanied us assiduously through these large, adjoining acres.

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