When I was approached a number of weeks ago with an inquiry relating to the Trimble and its use in surveying, I replied with a factual answer giving details about the equipment I own; the Trimble GeoXH 6000, and the equipment I partly own along with John and Graham in G&J Surveys; the Leica GS15.
As the thread of emails continued I became more and more intrigued as the person making the inquiries passed me onto Isabella Palmer, who in time introduced me to an artist by the name of Daria Martin. When Daria was introduced to me, Isabella had already decided that she preferred the Trimble and that one person giving advice was plenty sufficient.
|Daria Martin - Artist and Director|
The thread of emails soon gave details to a life of conceptual art based on 16mm film making, with Daria being the Director of an upcoming film based around what is known as mirror-touch synaesthesia.
To say I was intrigued is an understatement.
Daria wanted to film on location in a mountain environment and I had been found via the Mapping Mountains blog, and as the blog fulfilled both the use of surveying equipment and it being used in a mountain environment, I was asked if I could participate as an advisor with the Trimble GeoXH 6000 being used in the film.
The chosen location was Snowdonia, this soon narrowed down to Snowdon itself with a prerequisite of snow, snow, snow being the order of the day.
As photographs appeared on social media with the higher Snowdonia peaks based in sunshine whilst smothered in snow, and all above a seemingly daily cloud inversion, I notified Isabella and Daria that if having snow was an important part of the film the chosen location was now in ideal conditions. They acted quickly and organised all necessary personnel to meet in Llanberis on Friday 13th February. Although the organisation had been excellent the high pressure system that had stabilised over the country for almost two weeks and which had consolidated the cold conditions had now edged eastward as a low pressure system and its rain band edged in. However, all was not lost and as we gathered in Llanberis on the Friday afternoon the low cloud over the higher peaks added a visual detachment to proceedings that for me, added a certain mystery and intrigue to the forthcoming weekend.
Who is Daria Martin and what is mirror-touch synaesthesia?
Daria Martin is a Professor with teaching interest at St John’s, and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford University. Her ‘Film Sensorium’ course explores the overlap between industrial and art filmmaking, including the sensory and conceptual possibilities opened by the medium. She has exhibited in the New Museum in New York, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Kunsthalle Zürich in Zurich and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. She received the Wellcome Trust Arts Award in 2008 and 2010, Philip Levhulme Prize in 2009 and the Leverhulme Network Award in 2012.
Mirror-touch synaesthesia is a recently diagnosed rare neurological condition, where people physically experience touches that have taken place outside of their body by other people, usually on inanimate objects. These experiences can be diverse and can include the sensation of a person’s touch on an object or the sensation of touch from something that is seen on screen.
For sufferers of mirror-touch synaesthesia large crowds can be overwhelming, whereas the opposite is true of large open spaces, and this is where a mountain environment with its space, openness and wilderness can help people who suffer with this rare neurological condition.
The bleakness of a Welsh winter with its drab greys and shielded mountain tops was prevalent as I drove to Llanberis. This drabness of landscape seen from a car was offset with the welcome I received from Jim and Eryl at the Plas Coch Guesthouse. This was my lodging for the weekend, and it is rather immaculate and tastefully stylised, the atmosphere being one of openness, friendliness and comfort. It is highly recommended for those wanting a relaxed stay in a town which is situated in the heart of the highest mountains in Wales.
|The Plas Coch guesthouse|
|My first base camp for the weekend|
Once I had been shown to my room I quickly headed out to the Y Gwynedd where Daria and her recording engineers were staying. As I wandered up the road I met Emma and Pete outside the Y Gwynedd as they pulled out a number of steel cases, all of which protected the cameras and lenses that were to be used on the shoot. Emma was the Director of Photography and Pete the Camera Assistant; they had driven from London that morning. We chatted as they carried their gear up the stairs to their rooms; they explained that Daria was going to be an hour later than expected due to delayed train connections.
As Emma and Pete sorted their gear I happily watched the steady drops of rain fall outside, puddles had formed on the tarmac and the warmth of watching such a scene from the comfort of being indoors gave a melancholy feeling to proceedings, one where I contentedly became almost hypnotised in thought, only succumbing to my surroundings to visit Emma and Pete and be impressed by the quantity of kit they had brought for the impending shoot.
Daria had come by train from London to Bangor, and then by taxi to Llanberis, accompanying her was Myles who’s role was as sole actor, also arriving with Daria was Kate and Zeno, Kate being the Nanny to Daria’s young son; Zeno.
After accustoming themselves to their surroundings and introductions having taken place we jumped in two cars and drove upto Pen y Pass. This had been decided to be our gateway to the higher Welsh wilderness where filming was to take place. We briefly examined the possibilities of the area up the Pyg Track, this path gives access toward Crib Goch but being enclosed with steep slopes in most directions it is restrictive for a diversity of film locations.
We then walked up the Miners Track, I knew this would give greater possibilities but I was aware of the weight and bulk of film gear that Emma and Pete had to carry, however Pete had said that he had completed the Three Peaks and although he was suffering with the remnants of tonsillitis he looked very capable of being able to cope with extended hours in a mountain environment.
|Heading up the Miners Track in late afternoon light|
As we walked up the Miners Track the late afternoon light gave a soothing feel to the surroundings with snow streaks appearing out of cloud cover with higher ridges out of view. The still waters of Llyn Teyrn reflected the higher rock buttresses with ice circling the inner part of the lake.
The Miners Track climbs at a steady gradient until after the waters of Llyn Llydaw are reached, once around this lake the track steepens until the high watered Cwm of Glaslyn, beyond are the zig zags leading to Bwlch Glas and the last climb upto Wales’ high point; Yr Wyddfa.
Ideally this late afternoon recce needed to find an environment that gave some diversity for filming and one that suited Daria’s sensory fulfilment, this would be dictated by Daria as Director with essential input also by Emma, the Director of Photography. All I hoped was that my memory of the area around Llyn Llydaw and the possibilities around that lake for filming had not been forgotten, as it had been many years since I had last walked up this route.
We stopped on the path above Llyn Teyrn and looked out at the continuing track as it climbed steadily up toward the horizon; we still had time to head further into the hills so we decided to press on. By now the weather had become steadfast with a cloud cap of murk over the higher hills but as we passed a small herd of feral goats munching their way through the landscape of Eryri, a thin slender thread of mist nestled against hillsides below the cloud cap; this gave a delicate, almost surreal element to the afternoon’s proceedings.
|Feral goats, often found grasing on the lower hillsides around Llyn Llydaw|
When we reached Llyn Llydaw Daria examined the land that we could see, as beyond the lake the lower grey snow streaked rock grew upwards into greyness of murk. We stopped in the area of the lake for a half hour or so and only started our descent when the first heavy rain drops fell, thankfully the expected heavy downpour never materialised, but gentle winter dampness pervaded.
|Above Llyn Llydaw|
Once at the cars we headed back to Llanberis where I had a quick wash, a change of clothes and joined Daria, Kate and Zeno for a meal in the Y Gwynedd, we were soon joined by Emma and Pete with the Sound Recordist; Jake, arriving later in the evening having had a six hour drive from London to join us. Myles had opted for a quiet night and didn’t join the festivities in the bar.
We arranged to meet at 7.30am the following morning and once my 6.50am scheduled breakfast had been savoured I thanked Jim and Eryl and joined the others at the Y Gwynedd. Emma and Pete headed off first to Pen y Pass, Daria and Myles accompanied me, with Jake following in his car. Prior to the previous evening it had been a long time since I had last parked at Pen y Pass and the ticket attendant seems to have now gone, being replaced by an automated pay and display machine. Our £10.00s were readily dispensed with and stickers laid on dashboards, and with all necessary kit packed and accounted for were headed up the Miners Track.
|Emma Dalsman - Director of Photography|
|Pete Lowden - Camera Assistant|
|Jake Whitelee - Sound Recordist|
|Myles Westman - Actor|
|On the way upto Llyn Llydaw|
|Myles and Jake with Moel Berfedd in the background|
|Llyn Llydaw nestles between the green lower hills and the grey rock somewhere up yonder|
|Base camp for the day, beside the Llydau Valve House|
|Emma and Pete sorting the camera gear|
|Preparing to shoot|
As the backdrop of Eryri with her soft coloured winter refinement of beige moor, grey slate hillside and a canopy of morning cloud enveloped us, the gentle sound of Myles’ voice sank out in kindly profusion of sound; motion and land, all seemed to merge into one. I had wondered how the singing element of what was to take place would work; it slowly took over, giving an enchanted enrichment to proceedings. It was surreal as well as harmonious with Myles singing numbered readings from imaginary surveys with heights and drops quoted, some of these taken from the blog by Daria, who had scripted the film to match the rhythmic echo of music which Jake; the sound recordist, was playing via an I-Pod to Myles who had a small ear piece, thus giving an added word rendition to a hauntingly surreal melody of music that occasionally crept out to be dissipated amongst the higher peaks of Eryri. I wonder if they had ever experienced the like of this before.
|Myles being filmed operating the Trimble GeoXH 6000|
|Crib Goch above the waters of Llyn Llydaw|
|Pete changing film canisters in the portable mini dark room|
|Emma filming Myles under Daria's direction|
After scene two had been shot they moved farther into the hills and looked at two other locations, during this time I started to examine my immediate surroundings in greater depth. This is something I’ve gotten used to when on long surveying trips with John and Graham when four hours of data is sometimes taken, amusement and conversation is then usually at a premium, I can do both quite easily, and long waits seem not to bother me. I find immersion in one’s surroundings to be beneficial and as Daria, Emma, Myles, Pete and Jake wandered ever higher I found conversation with a number of people who came my way, all were friendly and only too willing to pass the time of day and chat with me. However, two of the friendliest were Filip and Hannah; they were a wondrous couple as they uncannily matched with their beautiful smiles and joy of being together. But above all else their appearance was striking, with brightly coloured matching garments, I had to take there photo and they obliged with big happy smiles, and many thanks to both for giving permission for their photo to appear on my blog – thanks Filip and Hannah.
|Filip and Hannah|
We now headed back to where the first scene had been shot at the top of the 446m map heighted mound. Daria again wanted the Trimble assembled and once set-up Myles sang an accompaniment of lyrical words, some seemingly disconnected, others smoothly flowing and all being perfect toward the other, an endless eloquence of scene and sound. It was now making more sense to me; I am ever a person who enjoys experiencing out of the norm situations, and this situation was quickly fitting into an understandable element of motion coupled with sound mixed with landscape, all merged harmoniously as one, a flux of rhythmic tranquillity, a gentle forbearing of delicate portrayal, a silken thread pieced together by a conceptual mind, and a mind that seemed to view motion in a very different way, certainly from me at least, but a mind whose concepts bore fruition and one that explored meaning, and a mind that challenged the norm. One element fitted another, all blending and merging with Myles’ voice intrinsic as the soul piece. All quite wondrous, it pulled me in hook, line and sinker!
|Preparing to film|
|Myles singing heights, drops and words associated with landscape|
|Filming Myles with the bulk of Y Lliwedd as backdrop|
|By late afternoon the peaks were finally emerging|
|Filming the mountain backdrop|
|The Director's view|
|Reflections in Llyn Llydaw|
|Beside Llyn Llydaw with Crib Goch in the background|
|Filming Myles playing with the ice|
|Filming complete we headed back toward the Miners Track|
We left chatting our way down to the cars, a very fulfilling and interesting day on the hill, one of the like that I had not experienced before, but the ending was perfect as by the time we arrived back at Pen y Pass it was 6.45pm and dark, which added the final element to a most unusual but highly enjoyable day.