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  • Ashley Cochrane

Salisbury Plain Shoot Journal - 24th January 2021

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

We started at the tank washing grounds. This was a favourite shooting spot for my housemates as film students, and I was yet to visit this location, although they had told me a lot about it. Most of these places were set against a wonderful backdrop of the Salisbury Plains which made my minimalist style match perfectly with the abundance of strange and foreboding structures we came across. The tank washing ground featured a large pagoda type structure, presumably for a tank. Next to this sat three parallel walls which also seemed to be big enough to store tanks, with large water outlets for cleaning them. With the snowy fields as a backdrop and the strange architecture, I was in my element shooting freely and with relative ease. At this point in the project, I was without a DSLR having made the decision to sell my Fujifilm X-T100, I was still in the process of figuring out which camera to buy next. So, I was shooting on my Huawei P30 Pro once more for this specific shoot, but it had its benefits in these circumstances. Firstly, it was bitterly cold, so using a DSLR would have been frustrating at the best of times in these conditions, and secondly, I could have much more manoeuvrability with the camera which would prove to be very useful later.

After the tank washing grounds we headed to a new location further along the road. This place seemed to be an abandoned village at first, but then as we drew closer it was obvious this village had been erected with the specific purpose of training troops. The houses were made with cheap concrete with no fittings and there were blank bullet casings strewn across the place. Compositionally, this provided a new challenge in that we were now in an opening in dense woodland, providing a different shooting style to the wide plains at the tank washing facility. However, the trees were in neat rows which I was able to use to create some striking images with the leading lines of the tree rows. What stole my interest here were two identical houses which sat just outside of the rest of the complex, their rustic aesthetic composed against the snow gave them a Siberian Soviet vibe which really played into my minimalist context. I spent a great deal of time shooting these at a range of different angles to make sure I had the shot. There were also ‘Dragons Teeth’ here, a series of concrete pyramids which would have been placed across wide roads in wartime to halt enemy tank advances. There were also bunkers and hangars here which I shot, whether they were from war time, or more recent additions I do not know, obviously researching MoD training grounds is notoriously difficult due to the military secrecy acts.

We headed to location three, which was another set of hangars and an abandoned house, although it seemed this house was once used for accommodation but has now been repurposed by the military. We saw a couple of tanks drive past along the way and we also stopped at Pewsey Hill, where the mist was so intense you could barely see 10 metres in front. I took a few shots here in a Michael Kenna style, black trees against and all white background using the wintry conditions to this advantage. By this time, we were beginning to lose light, so we decided to head back, making a brief stop on an abandoned tank track to sledge down a hill. A brilliant shoot, I love shooting places that are new and exciting because I feel I capture that bewilderment when I am in awe of what I am shooting, admittedly it was nothing too exotic, but I love abandoned places and weird architecture, and this had it all and I absolutely loved shooting it all.

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