Don Quixote

Don Quixote

Evening. One day last week, after rain. I walked across the hill side and up to the top of Moel Eiddew to hear the wind blow unhindered and exorcise the fizz of the city in my head. On this low and unfrequented summit just south of the main bulk of Snowdonia I set up my camera and gazed for a few minutes at the rather other-worldly juxta-position of bleak moorland and modern technology. 

Standing by the wind farm, the breeze is made visible by the graceful spinning of the blades and the swoosh of their passage through the constantly moving air. I had never been so close before to one of these gigantic constructions that the first sight of them made me start. While I attempted to fathom the surprise I was feeling I came upon the realisation that I felt out of step: out of step with modernity, out of step with the mountains and in some kind of nomansland between the two.
Standing next to my hand-made, self-designed pinhole camera, before this display of albeit admirable technical wizardry, I felt like Don Quixote tilting madly at windmills. I imagined the electricity which was being generated before me being sent off through the national grid to its various uses: powering factories, streetlights, televison sets, sound systems, burglar alarms… 

This somewhat odd notion led me to reflect on some of my own values. A list sprang immediately to mind. I believe I value quality rather than quantity, silence over noise, the hand-made over the mass-produced, reflection over entertainment, challenge rather than convenience, simplicity over sophistication, the idiosyncratic rather than the conventional, slowness over speed. I might here be comparing digital and pinhole photography (though, explicitly, I am not) but the comparison is easy to draw. I realized too in that split-second that this beautiful, simple method of communciation was as much part of my way of seeing as the glasses on my face and that the insane nobility of Don Quixote is present in all of us who partake in these rather quirky, anachronistic photographic methods. 

Perhaps we will end up sane and broken like the Don, though I hope we don’t. In the meantime I will continue to preserve and revel in my enjoyment of unconventional and keep tilting at the windmills: crazy, particular but ecstatic.


  1. vicky Slater wrote:

    I agree with lots you’ve written here.
    It’s relentless, the push of commercialism I mean, I enjoy lots about it but I don’t think it makes anyone happier, maybe even unhappier because expectations get greater along with stress and dissatisfaction.

    Thanks for this post, I’ll slow down today at least.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  2. jpmanching wrote:

    Honestly, this picture is very nice! I was just wondering what camera and settings did you use to get this shot. Looking at this picture, it’s really magnificent.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  3. Mark Tweedie wrote:

    Hi and thanks for the comments. I used the camera I favour for most work, the Chilli Camera ( ) which is a 50mm wide angle on 4×5. There is nothing fancy about the settings, just a standard exposure onto paper negative of approx 60 seconds in the prevailing conditions.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Your list of the things you prefer; ‘challenge rather than convenience’ etc, was exactly in line with my own philosophy. I have always felt out of step with the world and the gap seems to be getting larger.
    I console myself with the thought that it is essential if one wants to be an artist. What must the gap have been like for Leornardo Da Vinci? a genius in amongst an ignorant society.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

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