FOG


Fog, Ben Dolman 2013


This post FOG continues on from my previous post THE FLOOD reviewing photographic film I have just developed from the different projects that I have been working on in the later part of the first year of my part time MA Photography course at Nottingham Trent University. The photographs are straight from the scanner and are a bit rough but it is good to see the film that has just been developed, I have been waiting for some time to see the results as I have to build up a batch of film for the colour processing as the chemistry has a short shelve life. There will be a couple more posts showing and discussing the work from the film that is being processed as it covers the last 4-6 months of work that I have done on medium and large format film cameras.



There seems to be two sides to the work I am doing on my MA, one is akin to slow food movement and that is my film photography, the other is fast and of the now and that is my digital photography, a digital workflow has become a necessity for the MA as I would have nothing to show to my supervisor for 4 months at a time if I only did film photography. The problem and the delight of film photography or should I say colour film photography is if you process it yourself which I do you need to build up a large batch of film as colour film chemistry has a very limited life span when mixed due to oxidation. The resulting processed film seems to have an ‘otherness’ for me as I never see it in the present, it is of the past, a trace and until it is developed I have no idea if there is an image on the film and if the photograph is any good. There is no instant feedback, I do not have a polaroid option, one cannot review a just taken photograph using film, there is no screen on the back of a film camera like the ones found on the back of a digital cameras that offer an instant review of the image with a histogram and if there is an error you can redo the photograph on the spot using different aperture, shutter speed, focal length or framing, digital allows capture and edit on the fly until one is satisfied. Film may seem at first more physical than digital, you can hold the media in your hands but the analogue seem less concrete than that of digital now as you have no idea if a subject has been captured or not, a strange paradox.

Digital photography for me feels like a documenter of events, if offers the instant capture of a sequence of things that provides a linear narrative whilst film due to it’s inherit fragility and complex process lends itself to the non-linear, films are processed at different times depending on the chemistry stock, technical errors such as images fogged, missing or marred can led to holes in the narrative, the unsurely nature of film media gives rise to the feeling of being indeterminate and can see why current fine art practice is drawn to it as there are elements of risk and unknowns. At the moment even though I enjoy the delights of film I find myself being drawn to the digital, not only for its instant feedback and of being in the now, I like its efficiency and technical indifference, this technical detachment is very appealing as it allows me to work in a photo-documentary manner, something I feel more drawn to though this may change later and I revert back to film. I have just purchase the Nikon D800e and it is giving me excellent results that are not far off 4x5 film in terms of resolution and dynamic range, things have moved so fast in the evolution of digital photography in the time I have been working in digital imaging over the past 12 years.

The first series of photographs were taken at the BP Chemical works between Paull and the outskirts of Hull. I originally went to Paull to do a series of shift photography tests using a large format view camera, the idea is to take two photographs of a scene with the lateral shift in the extreme position to the left and right and stitch the resulting photographs together in PhotoShop. This technique allows one to construct a high resolution image that has zero distortion as the images were produced from the same image plane. The only issue with this technique is you have to be very quick moving the shift mechanism and loading the dark slides as the light can change very quickly in the landscape and the two photographs may not be able to be stitched together as they can look very different from one another even over a very short period of time, a second is a long time in photography.

I arrived at Paull on a Sunday morning at about 9.00 am and the weather conditions were perfect, the illumination from a light but hazy sky was good and there was little wind. As I prepared my kit I heard the fog horn, weird I thought to myself as the sky is clear and then all of a sudden a thick blanket of fog arrived from the estuary and cross in front of me at about 5mph. Within a couple of minutes visibility was reduced to about 5 meters. Even the locals were surprised by the suddenness of event and they are use to foggy conditions living next to the estuary, one minute the scene is clear and the next minute blinded in a dense mist. At first I was a bit stumped what to do, I wondered about, I pondered when it would clear, I had a coffee, I had a cigarette, and I wondered about again. I then decided to try and photograph the fog, at first I tried with the large format camera but I had no reference to focus on, I then turned to my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder medium format camera, loaded it with 400 iso film, focus it to infinity and set off walking on top of the flood embankment trying to photograph the seemly nothingness that envelope me.

The fog was very different to that I have experience back home in the Midlands due to the surrounding water and flat horizon, the light transmitted through the fog had an ethereal quality, a light that was delicate yet forbidding at the same time. The resulting photographs may veer towards being a little bit too sweet on the tooth, but they seem to delight my eye, I guess every now and again a little of visual indulgence does you no harm, the emotive over the intellectual. The funny thing about these photographs is they do not convey what it was like to be actually there, after while working in the fog it became bloody miserable, it was just above freezing and due to the density of the fog I was dripping wet trying to keep the camera dry and the lens clear, sometimes you think to yourself the sublime my arse. The photographs may look superficially beautiful but it is superficial, in the distance is a dirty great big industrial complex, the landscape is highly engineered and shaped by man, the fog just a temporarily mask, an artifice.

After about an hour and half the fog disappeared as quick as it appeared and I set about doing the work I had intended doing a high definition panoramic stitch photograph of the refinery using the lateral shift capture method.



After the Fog: Refinery - Paull, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



After the Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog Clearing, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013



Fog, Ben Dolman 2013