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...

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth

Day 4 - Falmouth.  Cornwall is the western gateway to the English Channel.  Because of this, our naval defences have always been focussed at key points like this.  Falmouth is on the top right corner of the Lizard peninsula and so any invading navies would have to pass by at some point.  This made Falmouth (and the surrounding area) strategically important.  King Henry VIII recognised this and constructed Pendennis Castle, which has a fantastic viewpoint over the whole river estuary and surrounding sea. Pendennis Castle is an English Heritage property, and they put in a great deal of effort to convey the history and importance of a place.  The focus here is twofold; the Tudor heritage, in terms of warfare and general life in that time, and the role of the Castle as a military barracks in both WW1 and WW2.


Kit inspection

Rolls Razor


There were plenty of subjects in the old garrison building to try out the Fuji x-pro1 and see how it handled detail.  Unfortunately because it was so close quarters, I had to stick on the 18mm glass, which is not as good as the amazing 35mm glass from Fuji.  Noise wasn't too bad (images above shot at ISO 640), and actually the Fuji produces quite a pleasing grain at higher ISO.  One thing I did notice in post is that the files do not stand up so well to sharpening, perhaps a hang-up related to the age of the body (I think it's about 6 years old now...).  It was really interesting and enjoyable to read about and see the items the soldiers were using and living with at the turn of last century.  There were lots of original items on display, and I for one really appreciated English Heritage's style of display, by not hiding them behind panes of glass.  They seemed to trust that people wandering around weren't idiots.  Refreshing.


Pendennis castle does a good job at transitioning between the time periods.  There's definitely an emphasis on 20th Century history, with an old outpost/radio office down at the bottom of the site (accessed through quite a long walk through some damp tunnels).  The binos and spotting scopes were still set up for use, and we actually spotted the modern Navy practicing a Sea King rescue!

Radio Post


OP lamp

I'm always drawn to odd details, items that show they had a use at some point, and this radio post was a goldmine for any photographer who likes looking at the fine details.  The Fuji did really well here, producing some lovely colours and tones.  Yes, the detail isn't quite as good as the Nikon D750, but with a 16MP APS-C sensor it was never going to!  As a small, powerful package which is compact enough to take anywhere, it does extremely well.

The other side to the castle is the Tudor influence.  Considering who built the place, Pendennis has the whole keep devoted to all things Tudory.  On the day we went, there was a jousting demonstration going on, which meant the place was packed and it wasn't so easy to get some clean shots of the horses, but it did lend itself to taking some candid shots.  I luckily spied a squire in costume and captured a nice moment of him taking a break.

Taking five

Castle gate

I can completely recommend Pendennis Castle to both photographers and general tourists.  This place allowed me to stretch my legs with my recent Fuji purchase, and it helped me see how fun the camera is.  Being able to wander around a busy location with a small kit, but still produce excellent quality in my images is a huge tick in the mirrorless box.