A Rainy Day in Saltaire – By John Fontana

I live in West Yorkshire and a mere half hour’s drive from the wonderful village of Saltaire with its glorious Victorian mill buildings and associated housing with railway, River Aire and Leeds Liverpool canal all passing through. It is a place frozen in time with its marvellous cobbled streets and back alleys and outbuildings.

Its founder was the philanthropist and wool industrialist Sir Titus Salt. Built in 1851, he moved his workers from five nearby mills in Bradford to enjoy unparalleled improvements in their quality of living, with houses furnished with tap water and bath-houses, a hospital, a children’s school, a gymnasium, a library and reading room, and leisure spaces.

Today the village has UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The impressive main mill building houses several shops selling books, artist materials and outdoor wear. There is a restaurant area and café, so that a day visit with camera is a joy.

Its art gallery regularly has exhibitions, currently showing monochrome images of Bradford over several decades by Ian Beesley, and especially supports the renowned painter David Hockney, born in Bradford. At present there is a display of his latest 295 ft long painting entitled ‘A Year in Normandie’ – read more here – along with many other paintings by him.

I have visited Saltaire many times, photographing its mill building, almshouses, United Reform Church, hospital and institute buildings, but also the areas encompassing the canal, railway, parks and local woodland.

These images are taken from a single day when I had deliberately decided to visit on a very wet day to take full advantage of the effect of rain on the cobbled surfaces and reflections from puddles. Although this raised challenges with my non-waterproofed cameras, the atmosphere I hoped to capture was, I felt, very appropriate to the subject.

Bins are everywhere these days and have become something of a fetish in my images!

I chose a recently acquired Olympus OM10 loaded with Ilford SFX film. With its extended sensitivity to red light. I was keen to compare the results of this film with those from my infra-red converted Sony Alpha 7 mirrorless camera, thinking the two to be complimentary, and so they proved to be.

Taken through the windscreen of my car while sheltering from the rain

This restaurant image was taken with a Thingyfy pinhole attached to the Sony on a coffee break to dry out a little.

The good thing about a project in Saltaire is that you are never far from a coffee.

The lady is descending the magnificently strong, spiral staircase that gives access to the various floors of the mill.

A plant arrangement in a mill shop window

Did Picasso get his Cubist approach from fragmented reflections?

View from the upper floor of the mill building

Maybe I can get a signal here?

For those wishing to know more about Saltaire, a huge amount of information is available here: https://saltairevillage.info/

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23 thoughts on “A Rainy Day in Saltaire – By John Fontana”

  1. Ooof John these pictures are brilliant! I love the atmosphere you’ve captured, especially the photos of the cobbles and the rain through your car window – reminds me of weekend visits to historic towns as a kid. I’ve never tried Ilford SFX and it looks interesting for this work. Good work getting inside for a coffee too – very important to stock up, check the equipment, and then get back out there!

  2. Lovely photos John.

    It’s good to see someone venturing out in less that perfect weather. It’s so easy to knock it on the head because there is no dramatic light.

    I’ve visited close to there loads of times on business but never managed to visit, shame on

    1. Thanks, Garth. No filters used with the SFX film. The images were two thirds taken on the infra red modified Sony Alpha 7 and the rest on SFX. Post processing was to achieve uniformity in the set but film and digital images were quite close in end result

  3. John, excellent images, they do render the feelings of one visiting the rainy streets. Just beautiful !

    What developer did you use for the SFX, and dilution, if I may ask? Thank you !

  4. Julian et al. One of the things I really struggle with in my photography is record keeping. I hunted down the negs for this project and although I have key worded them in Lightroom as SFX, I find them in fact to be taken using Rollei Retro 400 S, developed semi-stand in 510 Pyro. This relates to the images of leaves on a flagstone, truck reflections, view through a window and a bollard reflection. Sincere apologies for the misleading information.
    Back to Lightroom to correct my mistake!

    1. There you go, Gary:
      ILFORD SFX 200 is a medium speed black & white film with extended red sensitivity which makes it the perfect choice for infra-red style images.

      When used with a deep red filter, SFX 200 renders blue skies almost black and green vegetation almost white to create a stunning infra-red look to your shots.

      Unlike traditional infra-red materials, SFX 200 can be loaded in subdued light and is compatible with all normal black & white developers producing high quality negatives of moderate contrast.

      SFX 200 can also be used with other coloured filters such as yellow, orange or light red to produce equally dramatic special effects

  5. Alessandro Bellafiore

    Hi John, great pics! I really like the effect you go through the windscreen, very clever! Also very interesting the colour rendition of the plant in the window, I have yet to try a infrared/infrared-like film.

    1. Thanks, Andrew. I love pursuing projects based locally so that one can return again and again, feeling to get ever more intimate with the locale.

  6. Hi John. As an octogenarian Bradfordian now living on the other side of the world, I am really moved by your work here. There are touches of Bill Brandt’s Halifax images and generally a superb eye at work. Thank you.
    I use Rodinal exclusively, it is so economical – well you know what they say about Yorkshireman and money! So flexible too, with any dilution between 1:25 and 1:100 for different purposes and able to push and pull as needed. Stand is also a good standby I have used now and again when I want to be sure of getting something.
    Again, a great set.

    1. Lovely to hear from you, Tony, and thanks for your kind words. I was happy to deliver a slice of your home town to your home. Saltaire is for me very photogenic. I am close on an octogenarian myself. I have been using semi-stand myself, latterly with 510 pyro with good results.

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