Levant Tin Mine

Industrial decay

Cornwall. The land of sunshine. Most of my Cornish memories are good ones; long, warm sunny days; lots of climbing on the sea cliffs with friends from Guildford Mountaineering Club; good beer and live music in the evenings at the First and Last or the Old Success.

For me, Cornwall is the very Western tip of the county, the area bounded by Penzance, Porthcurno, Porthgwarra, Lands End, Sennen Cove and St. Just. Rock climbing at Sennen, Chair ladder or Bosigran has given me a feel for the place! The fantastic rocky sea cliffs with coloured rocks, white sandy beaches and turquoise seas – a spectacular place. For all those reasons it’s a busy place in the summer months, but in the middle of Winter – much, much quieter 🙂

With a whole week available over the Christmas I knew I had to go somewhere. First thoughts were for Scotland but Scotland is a long, tiring drive on short winter days. Cornwall however, is but 3.5 hours away and an easy drive nowadays. Decision made. Off to Sennen Cove off I went.

Well, what can I say. The week wasn’t blessed by the best weather! In fact with the exception of Christmas day it was mostly windy (25 – 35 MPH) and cloudy but, fortunately, with very little rain. This made for some pretty dramatic waves crashing over the Sennen harbour breakwater but even well away from the sea the amount of moisture in the air was huge! Any exposed lens element quickly got a greasy, salty covering and cleaning Lee filters felt like a never ending task. In fact cleaning filters outside was almost impossible as the salty moisture pervaded everything. Back at the hotel it was noticeable how the tripod, camera, lenses, camera bag, me, everything really had a salty, sticky covering. Yuck! It was unpleasant!

The biggest challenge tho was probably the strong, gusty wind. I had my heaviest tripod and big 3-way tilt head but there was no keeping things steady when the wind blew. Judging the moment when the wind would back-off for just long enough became part of the day-to-day norm.

OK, so the weather wasn’t all bad. There were a couple of nice mornings, evenings and good light at other times. In fact there were a couple of days when the sun got under the clouds and provided the most dramatic of sights. But that’s a teaser for the next post! Herein I thought I’d share four photographs from the Levant tin mine, or what’s left of it, as it’s long since derelict. I’ve chosen a Film Noir styling to add that dark, grungy feel to the photographs.

My first visit was in an afternoon. I’d given up on photography in the morning and retreated to St. Ives to stay warm, dry and explore a little; it was Boxing day 2019. Parked just above the world’s only Cornish beam engine still operated by steam at its original site I sat in my truck buffeted by wind and rain hatching a plan for some dark, moody black and white photographs of the old mine structures. When the rain stopped it was about a half hour before sunset, the sky was blanketed in thick cloud and it was getting dark fast. I explored several different compositions but afterwards only one was acceptably sharp due to the blustery wind. But it was enough to give me hope that the idea was worthwhile and a return visit.

The next morning I was back in better conditions! Not quite so windy but still completely grey with a sea fog hanging over the land and obscuring distant structures. Believe me, it was better! Keeping the Lee filters clean was still a challenge; the sea fog condensed on everything but the game was on!

Photographing chimneys without a tilt and shift lens was interesting and some post capture work has been necessary to reduce converging verticals. For the most part this has worked but I’d recommend a tilt and shift lens for anyone thinking about doing something like this 😉

The photograph above is of a large doorway and, today, on its far side is a 15-foot drop to the ground below. Some safety minded person has decided to erect a modern steel bar across the doorway to stop people stepping through and falling to the ground below! In an edit of this image I removed the bar in post but, in the end, decided it’s retention helped emphasise the drop!

Apart from the buildings that house the Cornish Beam engine which is maintained by the National Trust, there isn’t much left on the surface of the mine today. I’ guess many of the old tunnels that extended significant distance out under the sea are probably now flooded and/or collapsed. It’s was an interesting site to explore and something that I think works best on moody days when the weather is not good for much else!


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