Following the previous days trip to Loch Ullachie, I had decided I wanted to head back into the hills, with this in mind I decided I would visit either the Coyles of Muick, which I had gone to last december, and taken some nice images with the digital camera of the mist and the tree lines. Alternatively, I could head to Khantore, which is a hill that leads towards Lochnagar, through a forest.
I decided to go fro Khantore, as it would be a new area to visit for the project, and I was conscious that I would be using this for the exposition in December, and was reluctant to revisit the same place as the shoot for last years December exposition.
The other factor in my decision, was that I used to live in Khantore, about 22 years ago, and I am intrigued to see how the landscape differs from my memories, as well as to see if there has been many changes to the landscape in the intervening years.
As explained in the video, I was attempting to focus on the points raised in Martin Parr's talk at NESCol. His assertion that the only thing that matters is the connection between the photographer and the subject, is something that I wanted to contemplate further. I feel that there could be an approach in here, that is more instinctual for gauging whether or not to take an image. I don't know if this goes against my process of making images with the 4x5 or not.
The camera does force an economy of film on to me, due to the limited dark slides carried, and whilst I could carry a spare film box, and my film changing tent, the reality of the amount of equipment I am already taking with me does limit this option.
The decision then becomes, if I am making 6 negatives per excursion, does instinctual mean 'wasting' film on poorly thought out photographs, or could I approach it as a positive, with a seen that captures my interest becomes worthy of making a negative, regardless of the subject matter. That with this in mind, I have more confidence within my ability to judge an interesting scene, and follow up this conviction by making photographs in locations that prick me, along the lines of Roland Barthes' 'Punctum'.
I think that this becomes a positive approach, as it is moving away from the marketing approach in which I am taking images to display, and garner interest from others.
I have been discussing the need to set up an Instagram account for my imagery, and currently I am undecided upon the benefit of doing this. I feel that there is a lot of negativity associated with Social Media, and how people interact with it, particularly in the way in which photographers are posting images to harvest likes.
Martin Parr did advise that it is essential for photographers to be noticed, to have a presence on Instagram. I have two hesitations over this, firstly I think that there is a danger with any sharing platform, that the images created become an attempt to satisfy the viewers, rather than a personal choice. This could be very detrimental if I was to utilise the account, as I was planning, to document my progress with the MA. With opening the access to others to view and comment, I run the risk of moving the remit of the project to suit what would be more popular upon this platform, and lose sight of what the project means to me. Secondly, I feel that the methods that I wish to employ within my practice, do not necessarily transfer to such a platform. I still want to be producing predominantly darkroom and alternative process prints, despite these current images being scanned for digital printing, and the sizing format in which I am making my negatives (4x5 inch) do not necessarily fit within the format of display. I am hoping to print either larger scale, or perhaps the reverse, in more intimate prints, that have a tactile quality, which would not be relatable through a phone or tablet.
f22, 1/8 second, Fomapan 100, Fujinon 180mm lens with red filter and 0.6 Nd filter for sky.
This image was taken to be focused upon the larch trees in the midground, as well as the broken branch, unfortunately due to the contrast, these elements are not visible within the negative. I feel that this is a result of utilising the red filter (25a). the shadows have became silhouettes, which was not what I had been hoping to achieve. I may need to do further tests with the filters prior to using them again, and I have some literature that i can read up on to improve my understanding of the effects that they will provide.
I think that the main issue is that the negative is underexposed. this is evident due to the deep shadows, and the lack of pure white in the highlights. I think that the readings were accurate, I must not have compensated enough for utilising both the red filter and the 0.6 neutral density filter for the sky.
It would have been an interesting image if it had have turned out, as the layers of information I felt would work well, with the foreground interest, the strong contrast in the ground with the bright snow, and dark heather as well as a mirroring within the sky, with the bright areas of sun and the dark clouds.
There is a mark on the negative too, with a line evident in the sky, this could be digitally edited out, but would require careful brushwork with the negative to clean it up for darkroom printing.
f22, 1/2 second, Fomapan 100, Nikon 90mm Lens
This negative has worked well with the digital scan, the details look sharp, there is a range of tones with some contrast, and little in the way of marks or blemishes.
The 'punctum' in the scene for me water on the gorse bushes, and this seems to have came out well within the negative, it is subtle, but could be blown up to increase the impact. A higher contrast filter on the enlarger could bring this out further, and separate the gorse from some of the grass in the frame.
When editing the video, I realised that the image needed to be flipped (I have since rectified this), however the image changes when the flip is made. For some reason the other image felt a darker scene. I may need to print both versions and place them next to one another, to see if this is the case, or just that I am used to looking at this particular image in one way, only to change it.
This would be an interesting scene to view in weather with more snow, and again in summer. In its current guise, for me it is interesting due to the water on the gorse, but with the gorse dry, and more needles in the trees, this would take on a different look, that may transform the location.
f32, 7 seconds, Fomapan 100, Nikon 300mm lens
I had been conscious that in making the image I wanted to concentrate on a few key aspects, firstly I wanted to have a very sharp image, so I had stopped down an extra stop of aperture, to f32, and the results have been impressive. The lichen on the tree, the branches and the heather feel pin sharp to me, this would benefit a textured paper for the print, and a method of display which encourages tactile interaction.
The second aspect I wanted to concentrate upon, was the use of a lens to flatten the background, compressing the distance within the frame. I felt that this would benefit the feeling that the forest was surrounding the camera, and adding a slightly claustrophobic aspect. If I had opted for a 90mm lens this would be reversed, and although I would have an image with more trees in it, the perspective of distance between the trees would be greater, and it would would feel quite open.
I wanted the path to be snaking between the trees, unfortunately to my slight disappointment, the path isn't as obvious within the image, perhaps had I changed the angle I was taking the image at, I would have been able to make this more evident.
f22, 7 Seconds, Fomapan 100, Fujinon 180mm lens
This image hasn't been edited as yet, with the focus being on the tree line, I feel that the tree stump and broken snow that makes up the foreground, is too distracting due to the lack of focus. This alternative focus can sometimes work if there is a strong subject in focus, however I feel that the focus is too 'wide' (in effect being all bar the foreground) to work as selective focus. If I had have opened up the aperture, and approached this at f5.6 or f8, I could have kept the first tree or two in focus, let the foreground and the background blur, and the image may have worked.
f22, 1 seconds, Fomapan 100, Fujinon 180mm lens with 0.6nd graduated filter
The path was the focal point for me in this photo, I wanted to centre the frame around the snaking curve of the road. Due to the snow, there was some interest within the foreground, which due to its dominance of shadows, contrasts well with the relatively light sky.
The graduated filter brought down the sky to add some interest into it too, however there are some marks to the negative, that I am undecided upon whether or not they add to the feel of the image or not. I do think there is an addition that they bring, an element of the makers mark, that adds a some tell tale signs or inherent qualities that suggest the medium used. This is something that is often added in digitally through the use of film replicators, although there is a purist view that these marks are a sign of poor technique, I feel that there is more of an acceptance for these marks as adding an authenticity to the artwork, particularly when surrounded by technically pristine digital imagery, where every blemish is removed.
When printing in the darkroom I would look to add some a higher contrast filter to further enhance the path within the image. There could also be a case for cropping in slightly to give the image a more selective viewpoint.
f22, 1/2 second, Fomapan 100, Nikon 300mm lens
Due to the lines within the negative, I am unlikely to use this image. I feel that there is a careful consideration to be made to where these marks become dominant within the frame, or are an added quality that doesn't detract from the main image. I think this has tipped the scale.
The image hasn't been edited, mainly due to the framing, I feel that I made the wrong decision in opting for a landscape orientated negative, rather the height of the portrait frame would have been more suitable for the scene.
Despite my initial plan to visit the ruins, not having came to fruition (I now realise where I took the wrong path, it would have been a lot shorter a walk), I feel that the walk was a success. This partially comes from the point that I am now moving away from aiming to reach a certain destination within the walks, and photoshoots, and instead the experience of the area being the primary concern regardless of the location and where I end up.
I feel another aspect that was successful, was my conscious attempt to focus on taking the images of details that 'pricked' me. I found this particularly was encapsulated in the image of the water drops on the gorse bushes. Going forward this is something I look to practice further, and I think it is key in my enjoyment of the project, and getting the most from the experience.