Finding the last twenty percent

Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 Colour Negative Lateral Shift Stitch



Since completing my MA last year I feel I have come along way in my photographic practice but I still feel I am not fully there yet which I refer to as the missing twenty percent, a percentage in my practice and knowledge that I see as the final hurdle in mastering the medium of photography. This is going to be hardest part of my journey in learning to become a photographer through the camera lens as I develop a sense and purpose from the imagery that maybe of interest to others.

In this post there is a selection of 4x5 and 8x10 black & white and colour negatives that I have just recently process from late summer 2014 to winter 2015 which hopefully cover some of the ways I have been developing my photographic practice.

Technical

The first and perhaps the simplest thing I needed to address after my MA where some technical issues  that I did not have time to properly address whilst in the final year of my MA studies, these are small issues but nether-the-less slightly undermined the work.

The first issue was the hand made 8x10 large format camera I had built, it had light leaks from the film holder mechanism which is always the most problematical part of a view camera in devising a system that accommodates the viewing screen and the film holders in a light tight manner. This has now been fixed with the development and making of a new 8x10 camera that is simpler in design and more robust when working out in the field.

The next technical issue was refining my colour negative processing, I was not happy with my original chemistry so I have changed it to a separate bleach and fix solution which has improved the quality of the colour negatives. The current colour developer kit I now use is the Fuji C-41 kit which can make up 5 litres of solution, this chemistry coupled with my Jobo CPP2 rotary drum processor makes colour negative batch processing of 4x5 and 8x10 film a simple, repeatable and reliable process.

The final technical issues are in post, the scanning of the film and the best digital darkroom practices using Lightroom and PhotoShop to get the most out of the negative film for large format digital printing. With improved negatives the colour correction and tonal dynamics of the photographs are easier to refine, the scanner manages to acquire all the information in the film with little in the way of black or white clipping and the colours are within 10% of their correct white balance. I have been testing more papers for book making and large scale prints and I have been finding some cheap alternatives that do a rather good job. If I was a rich man I would only use Canson and Hahnemuhle papers but I am not so for quick proof prints and sample book making I have been using Marrutt's matt paper which is a quarter of the cost to my usual preferred fine art inkjet papers. The paper is very white and smooth which may be an issue for some folk but I find it on the right side of acceptable and excellent for colour prints which can have colour cast issues on some of the more natural non brightened rag papers. Another benefit of using Marrutt's matt paper is it is double sided making it ideal for book making, I am currently using Japanese and perfect binding at the moment but I shall explore wire binding so that the book lays flat and afford me a more experimental layout of the photographs without worrying about gutter issues.

Subject

Whilst sorting out the technical issues I have returned to a couple of locations to either re-photograph a scene I was not happy with or just to see how the place had changed over time since I last visited it. One subject I have just revisited is Spurn Point, West Riding in Yorkshire where the River Humber meets the North Sea. Since my last visit it has been subjected to harsh storms couple with high tides and there has been substantial erosion of the coast line. The cliffs are composed of clay and are highly vunerable to the sea and over the past year buildings and roads have been washed away. Along this particular area of the coast the road has been eroded away only leaving a trace of it's past presence in the strata of the cliff face and the now obsolescent street lights that once illuminated the roadway which in turn will be washed away in the future. The lamp post have become my main point of focus, they appear as markers in the landscape, abandoned guardians of the land set against a looming sky, their very presence metaphors for the spurned, the rejected and disowned.


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 Colour Negative


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 10x8 B&W Negative


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Colour and B&W Negative


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 B&W Negative


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 B&W Negative - Lateral Shift Diptych


Spurned : Spurn Point - West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 B&W Negative Lateral Shift Stitch


Late last summer I returned to one of my favourite muses along the banks of the River Trent, my MA was completed and I wanted to shoot some 8x10 colour film just as the landscape was about to change and enter Autumn. At the end of summer the greens in the landscape have lost there vibrance after long months under the sun, there is a melancholic sense of things, an over ripened and tiredness in the landscape that is very alluring which colour rather than black and white film felt right to capture this fail mood.

This winter I returned again to the same location to use the newly built 8x10 large format camera I completed last autumn to test for light leaks and usability in the field on a cold still winter's day and as you can see from the photographs their was no lights leaks and some of the exposures were for 10 seconds.


Trespasser, Ben Dolman 2014 8x10 Colour Negative


Trespasser, Ben Dolman 2014 8x10 Colour Negative


Trespasser, Ben Dolman 2015 8x10 Black and White Negative


Trespasser, Ben Dolman 2015 8x10 Black and White Negative


One project I want to undertake this year is to photograph the mountain terrain in north Wales and to photograph them in a different way to the usual and sometimes clichéd monumental depictions of mountains and instead perhaps reveal another side to this type of landscape. With this mind I decided to do a test day shoot in the Peak District which is not far from where I live before venturing onto Wales which will require a longer stay over to emerged myself in the landscape. When I set of for the trip the day was slightly overcast and the temperature about 4 degrees celsius, it was a pleasant winter's day. Upon entering the peak district I noticed snow on the ground and as elevation increased the temperature dropped below freezing, within a couple of miles I had entered a winter wonderland. The original intent for the trip was to scout for rock faces and I wanted to develop photographing rock strata or layers that I had just a Spurn Point on the North Sea Coast but I quickly realised that this would be a waste of time as everything was covered in snow. Putting my original idea to one side I decided to treat the day as an adventure and just enjoy the scenery which was stunning and awe inspiring and if I happened upon something of interest I would just photograph it, it was a day of chance and that was a delight.


Wonderland : Peak District, Ben Dolman 2015 8x10 Colour Negative


Wonderland : Peak District, Ben Dolman 2015 8x10 Black and White Negative


Wonderland : Peak District, Ben Dolman 2015 8x10 Black and White Negative


Over the past year I have been trying to capture a local scene, a waste land with a path way running through it made dog walkers and animals. It is a very mundane subject and it has little in defined composition or structure and this makes it very difficult to photograph and give form to the subject. If you have a simple defined subject such as a tree, car or figure the photograph automatically gains a focus of attention from which you can visually composed and structured at picture but when you are faced with just a mass of tangled greenery giving form to the image is hard especially in the summer months as seen in the last photographs from the selection. Over the winter the greenery slowly died down and chaos of nature abated in the scene, the landscape was striped bare and it's structure was revealed in the trees and scrubs but also the path winding its way through the landscape became more pronounced.


The Path, Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


The Path, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 Black & White Negative Lateral Shift Stitch


The Path, Ben Dolman 2014 - 4x5 Colour and Black & White Negative


The Path, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 Colour Negative Lateral Shift Stitch


The Path, Ben Dolman 2014 - 4x5 Colour and Black & White Negative


The Path, Ben Dolman 2014 - 10x8 Colour and Black & White Negative


The series of photographs below were originally only intended as technical exercises using a section of the A46 as subject which I have documented before but I decided up lift the photographs to keeps as I enjoyed the images as photographs in their own right. Basically I was refining my lateral shift technique to create panoramic images that had no distortion by pushing a 4x5 camera to it's limits. To get a perfect panoramic photograph one has to keep the camera parallel to the subject which makes a large format camera idea of this method of photography. I also tested different lens to see which gave the best image circle versus subject coverage. I have settled on a 180mm lens for this type of work, the 150mm lens image circle was to small and 210mm the lens was a bit too long for close up work and the image coverage for landscape work poor even through it had the largest image circle. In the first two photographs the film was loaded in landscape format and the lateral movements were made on the extreme right and left front of my Wista camera, the resulting images were made up of two photographs stitched together in PhotoShop. The last image is made from three photographs from the film loaded into the camera in the vertical format with the lateral shift positioned to the extreme right and left and also in the centre.


The Barrier, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 Colour Negative, Lateral Shift Two Negative Stitch


The Barrier, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 B&W Negative, Lateral Shift Two Negative Stitch


The Barrier, Ben Dolman 2015 - 4x5 B&W Negative, Lateral Shift Three Negative Stitch


The last two 8x10 colour negatives are from last autumn, the first photograph was taken on the voting day of the Scottish referendum for independence and wondering through the countryside this scene caught my eye noting the red velvet chairs that somehow seemed to represent the English state tossed into a funeral pryer, a pryer that was waiting to be set on fire, it's content turned to ash and blown away in the four winds. In the end the vote in the referendum went No to independent, the four nations remain in the United Kingdom but the past status quo has somehow forever changed. The second image is of the River Humber shot using a wide angle lens capturing both banks of the river, one side vivid green the other side lined with industry under an expansive sky, it is a photograph constructed from the linear planes which at first seem abstract in subject but being captured on 8x10 film reveal infinite detail of human and the natural world interacting with one another.


State of the Union, Ben Dolman 2014 - 8x10 Colour Negative

The Humber, Ben Dolman 2014 - 8x10 Colour Negative