Sentinels

Sentinel 01 [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


A couple of weeks ago I returned back to Spurn Point in West Riding, Yorkshire as I wished to continued work along a particular part of the coastline that had suffered some heavy coastal erosion and capture a line of street lights that had caught my eye from an earlier visit. The street lights run along side a road that has now been consumed by the North Sea, the remaining street lights act as sentinels watching the encroaching sea, wishful guardians of a vulnerable coastline and it's inhabitants.



Sentinel 02 [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Sentinel 03 [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Sentinel 04 [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


There seems to be some kind of fatalism playing out along this stretch of coastline, to live on a coastline that has the highest costal erosion throughout Europe with an average erosion of up two meters per year, up to three miles of land has thought to have disappeared into the sea since Roman times. I do not know if this fatalism is born out of the bloody mindedness, a British character trait or that of the risk taker that seeks to gamble with their homes and worldly goods living next to the sea, to be at the extreme of our landscape, to live on the edge.


Retreat [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Retreat [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Being a native of the land locked midlands in the centre of England I made a mistake in reading the high tide timetable and arrived at Spurn Point as the tide turned, I had to work quick which is something you do not normally do with a 8x10 large format camera. The reason you do not stand about as the tide comes in is the beaches are narrow and are lined with a steep cliff face with few places to make a safe exit, when the tide comes in it reaches the cliff face, the beach becomes fully submerged below crashing waves. I managed to photograph most of the locations running in deep sand, framing shoots in minutes [no mediation or artful composition here only gut instinct] and moving onto the next shot as it was not worth being caught out by the tide and trapped so I will return again but this time as the tide recedes, trying to swim with a 8x10 camera did not appeal to me.


Boulder Clay [Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Before leaving spurn point I thought I have a play with my 4x5 camera and 300mm Nikkor M lens taking a couple of photographs of a wind farm 5 miles off shore in the North Sea as a reference photograph document the wider context of the place. Using this lens I would normally only close the aperture down to F45 to F60, this time I chose to experiment with closing down the aperture down to F90 so I could see the impact of refraction on the resulting photograph, next time I think I will close the lens all the way down to F128 as I kind of liked the results. There was the burring of the waves which was to be expected as by using a smaller aperture the length of the exposure was increased but there was also an softness to the image that is visually different to a blur or bokeh, there was a tenderness in the rendition of the sea scape that removed the factness of what a sharper image captures with a larger aperture as seen in the photographs below, the factness of the sea becomes more ethereal and ambiguous with refraction.


Wind Farm [North Sea, Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative (F90)


Wind Farm [North Sea, Spurned Point,West Riding], Ben Dolman 2015 - 8x10 Black & White Negative (F45)


After making a quick exit from the beach as the tide came in I decided to explore further along the  Holderness coastline travelling northwards to see if there where other suitable locations to explore the impact of coastal erosion on the landscape and the local community. As I journeyed northwards I kept on coming across signs informing me that the roads leading to or along side the coast were closed, at first I thought this was maintenance but after a while I decided to check out one of the closed roads as I have travelled 30 miles without seeing the coast line. I turned off the main road at Aldbrough and ventured to the coastline, after traveling through the village I came upon a small single tracked road lined with tiny small single-story bungalow houses that looked like they have been self built, cobbled together from items to hand, each one different from the next. At the end of the road one of the last in these small dwellings caught my eye, it had a fairy tale likeness to it, a ginger bread house, the frailness and vulnerability of the structure was further heightened as just a couple of yards up the roads there was concrete barrier blocking the road as it led to the sea covered in danger signs.

Now walking down the road I understood what 'road closed' meant here along the coastline, they meant there is 'no road' for it has been consumed by the sea. Getting closer and closer to the cliff edge I started feeling very uncomfortable as the cliff edge could fall into the sea at any time and this was only heightened by seeing large cracks on the road surface. You certainly get a sense of vertigo and couple with the fragility of the land that you are standing on as you hear the crashing waves below makes the heart quicken, you are most certainly at the edge of things in the most temporal of places.


Holderness Coastline,West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - Digital


Holderness Coastline,West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - Digital


Holderness Coastline,West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - Digital


Holderness Coastline,West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - Digital


Continuing up the coastline line I was greeted with UKIP general election posters, a garden full of signs proclaiming 'Jesus Saves' before entering Mappleton which offered the first route down to the shore line I have come across since leaving Spurn Point.  Before going down to the beach there is a viewing point at the top of the sea cliff and from this spot I could get a better understanding of the lay of the sea and land. 

The first thing that I noticed was the high cliff face stretching far into the distance, there were no easy access to the sea along this stretch of coast but also in turn no exit from the shore line. At high tide the narrow beach is completely covered as the waves smash directly into the bottom of the cliff face, there is no margin between sea and land, you do not want to be caught out by the high tide on this coastline. 

The next thing that I pondered was the composition of the cliffs, the seemed to be only mud which I later found out to be boulder clay deposited from the last ice age, the material just crumbles in your hands. The cliffs seem to be bleeding into the sea as you look out upon the water a see red brown like colour disperse out into the north sea. 

Descending to the beach there was piles of large rocks, this was the first sea defence I had seen along the coastline and they were placed here to protect the large village clinging to the coastline. Even though the sea defence looked new and robust looking at the sea crashing into the surrounding unprotected cliff faces it felt wishful.     


Holderness Coastline,West Riding, Ben Dolman 2015 - Digital



King Canute