Stone People of the Moors

For those of you unfamiliar with them, cairns are man-made mounds of stone, often used to mark summits, or for ceremonial purposes. Countless numbers of these monuments dot landscapes all across the world. There is a beauty in these constructions of stone, for they are not held together by anything other than gravity.

Two Cairns, Skipton Moor, 01 (Flickr).jpg
Two Cairns, Skipton Moor, #01

On Skipton Moor stand several cairns, but the ones that interest me the most are these two. I’ve photographed them before, and having learned a lot in the last few months, I wanted to come up here and try again. This first shot shows them together, reduced to tiny figures in the lower-right of the frame. The glowing sunset sky forms a vast space above them, which, along with the curve of the landscape, draws the viewer’s eye down to these two stony figures. Every person who climbs to the top of this moor could quite easily knock these cairns down, and yet they remain standing. To many they are simply mounds of stone, but to me they embody timelessness far better than any of the wonders of the world.

Larger Cairn, Skipton Moor, 01 (Flickr).jpg
Larger Cairn, Skipton Moor, #01

This second image is of the larger of the two structures. I thought about numbering them #1 and #2, but that would be unfair, for despite the height disparity, they are equals. My anthropomorphising of these cairns is mostly humorous, but they do have a certain character. You can see the last of the sunlight reflected off the rocks of this cairn as it stands over its younger sibling and the landscape around it. In a way this is less like a landscape photograph, and more like a portrait, albeit with a model whose pose I cannot direct.

Smaller Cairn, Skipton Moor, 01 (Flickr).jpg
Smaller Cairn, Skipton Moor, #01

The third image is of the smaller cairn. I couldn’t decide whether or not to give a sense of scale when compared to the other one, but in the end I decided I wanted it to stand on its own. In other images you can compare the two and see that one is much smaller than the other, but here the little one is given a chance to stand free of its sibling’s shadow. In this image you can see the details of the rocks that make up this structure in a way that you can’t with the other portrait. You can see in great detail the way the sunlight falls on this stone creature’s skin, and the beautiful irregularities that are brought out by the sharp shadows. Like people, this creature’s imperfections are its source of beauty. At first I didn’t like this image – I thought it distorted the sense of scale between the cairns – but I’m warming to the intimacy of it now.

I don’t like praising my own photography. I struggle even to critique it. I feel that as the person behind the camera, I am far more biased than anyone else who might see these images. At the same time though, as the person behind the camera, I am the only person whose opinion really matters. I love sharing my photography with the world, and it warms my heart when I see others enjoying it, but primarily I do this for myself, and I always will. To be able to do that I have to learn to study my own work, as well as that of others.


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