Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall

Day 5 - Geevor tin mine.  The weather picked up dramatically from the first few days (if you saw a previous post, we were engulfed by some murky weather), and we headed off to one of the best known tin mine museums in Cornwall.  Tin mining used to be a huge industry here, and the landscape is covered in old stacks and derelict shells of former mining outfits.  There is even a Poldark mine...Geevor tin mine is home to a fantastic wealth of information about mining, and you can even walk through a shallow mine shaft which is manned by people who used to work here.  Claustrophobic individuals might want to avoid that!  One of the best parts of the mine (especially for a photographer) are the buildings devoted to the workers themselves, where they came in in the morning, where they prepared for the long day in the dark, and where they cleaned up after a hard day mining tin.  I tried to capture the feel of the place in a photo story style, with a number of images trying to show the conditions they faced and the spirit they had while working here. At the bottom of this structure you could see the shaft this lift was using and how deep it was. Certainly not for the faint hearted.

This was part of the lift construction to transport miners and their equipment underground.

Next to this structure was the building complex for the miners.  You could see the company had tried to provide some home comforts for them considering the difficult working conditions, but it did seem quite bleak.  The whole area was called "the dry", purely because the miners would dry their overalls here, and have a shower to get clean and dry.  There was a very clear sense of hierarchy in the dry, with separate mess areas and shower areas for the bosses.  The more interesting part was the mass locker room for the "grunts" of the mine, the workers.  So much of their stuff had just been left when the mine was suddenly closed in 1986, and the museum has left many of these items, dust and all, to give a sense of what it was like.

Shirts, pants, socks, jackets, so many items were left behind.

The personality of the miners shone through. A few bikers' lockers were grouped together, showing a shared love of machinery.

Some of these men also seemed pretty good at riding, with some stickers from competitions they had entered.

Photographically this area was quite challenging.  The light was both low level and of varying quality, including a mixture of different light sources.  It took a little while to recognise the white balance that was needed (although granted, shooting in RAW meant this could be corrected in Lightroom).  Also, I had to open the lenses and shoot at a higher ISO - ISO is less of a problem with the Fuji X system as it produces pleasing film-like grain, but the wide aperture meant that I missed good focus sometimes.

Clocking in for the last time in '84.

The sense of humour of the miners was clear to see.

Alongside the items left by the workers were photographs of themselves, along with some stories of times in the mine.  It was eerie to read these in the quiet calm of the empty dry, especially with their property hung up around you.

Shower time in the Dry. This shower was for the normal shift workers. There was little privacy.

Abandoned tokens, for the abandoned possessions.

Mono conversions are fantastic with the files from the Fuji X-Pro1.  The RAW files have such nice tones directly out of the camera, it takes little work in Lightroom to bring out a little more contrast.  The more I use this camera, the more it seems the files take less work than with the Nikon D750.  The files don't react well to sharpening, but if you get it right when taking the image (i.e. minimising camera shake), you don't need to add sharpening in post-production as the files are that good.  Particularly with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 18mm f/2.

The workshop.

This was a nice break of routine for me, as it allowed me to consider a set of images to convey a sense of a place full of history.  Normally I'm more accustomed to finding the "one" image with landscapes, but I really enjoyed our day at the mine.  As I would relish the chance to photograph a wedding in the future, this kind of storytelling is great practice, except for the lack of people of course...