I found this retired old David Brown tractor from the early 1960s near Penrhyndeudraeth. It immediately brought to mind 'Cynddylan on a Tractor', a memorable early poem by one of my favourite poets, RS Thomas, perhaps a decade earlier. It begins:
Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
Many of my images captured in rural Wales have been inspired by Thomas' poems and his earliest work often commented on the emergence of mechanised farming in Wales. He pokes semi-anodyne condescension at Cynddylan the farming yokel for emancipating himself from being a slave of the soil to something Thomas considered far worse, a slave of the machine; his very own 'rage against the machine' born at least forty years before a certain popular American rock group.
When he was in his mid-80s, RS Thomas lived for a couple of years in same Welsh parish as I do and his legendary curmudgeonly manner did not wane with age. The first time he went to the local shop he complained that someone had spoken in English. Most fine days his gaunt frame could be seen slowly making its way up the hill past my house, stopping often to take in his surroundings. The first time I spoke to him was on one of these walks, thanking him for the poems in my all too obvious, non-native clumsy Welsh. He took one look at me as if I was a lunatic from Mars, let out a loud harrumph! and proceeded on his way, lest I ruin his walk more than I already had. Probably a good thing I didn't ask for his portrait. Though in hindsight, an opportunity sadly missed. He left the village and died a couple of years later.
Detail from Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona. Captured with an old manual focus Sigma 35-70mm f/2.8-4 Zoom Master, a lens I tended to use more and more infrequently as the years went by (and nowadays, never). It's far from a popular lens and generally gets a bad press. However, initially I found it to be quite acceptable. My copy is capable of returning very sharp images even wide open, provided the light is strong. It particularly suits ISO 100 and 200 films with saturated colours though, surprisingly to me, others have said that their colours turned out on the dull side. But - and this is a big but - the barrel distortion is really poor. I'm not talking expected normal wide-angle noticeable here, but ridiculously bad, especially visible in architectural shots with straight lines, that I eventually grew tired of the necessary post-processing to correct the verticals and retired it for good. This is one of the last images I captured with the lens and it's been skewed in Photoshop.