Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It is located approximately 3 miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near to the village of Aldfield.
Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for 407 years becoming one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its dissolution in 1539 under the order of Henry VIII.
This is probably one the most famous images of Fountains Abbey and one of the most stunning parts of the ruins. This long span of vaulting, incredibly, survived intact when the Abbey was dissolved and began to be plundered for its stone.
It formed the roof of the Cellarium, the area where the monks ate, slept and socialised – though, when the monastery was in use, the area would have been partitioned and not the long, open space we see today.
Fountains Abbey Cellarium Photograph
On this particular day in September 2018, I decided that I wanted to make a photograph of the Fountains Abbey Cellarium in black and white and also on large format film.
Although this is a place I had never visited before, I knew from what I had seen that this was going to be challenging due to the extreme contrast of lighting. After setting up the camera, and spending a few moments taking light measurements, it was obvious that if I wanted to capture everything from the darkest shadows to the brightest light areas, I would need to pay extra attention to how I developed the film.
My choice of film for the above photographs was Ilford FP4 and in order to control the contrast range, I decided to use a developer which goes under the name of PyroCatHD. The benefit of using this type of developer is that through its staining characteristics, it manages to control the bright values with in the photograph extremely well.