Last one standing

Three Trees, Ben Dolman 2018 - Digital [photograph 1]

Yesterday I returned to a location by the River Trent where I have done a series of photographs over the past 4 years that developed into a body of work called 'The Trespasser'. In the past the River Trent was referred to as the trespasser due to it's proneness to flooding the adjacent lands. When I first visited the location in December 2013 I came across a line of three trees along the riverbank, two of the trees had been badly damaged from a recent winter storm but all were standing. The first photograph below [photograph 2] is of the left tree. After this initial visit my intent was to return to the location and take a photograph of the line of trees with my 8x10 camera but in the meantime before my returned there were two further winter storms. Buring that winter the Atlantic Conveyor Belt brought a series storms to the UK in quick succession and the country suffered some of it's worst flooding in recent times. On my return the left tree had been completing blown down leaving just two trees [photograph 3]. Over the following year the farmer cut up the fallen tree leaving only a skeletal rump [photograph 4]. Three years later the right-hand tree has now been blown over whilst the left-hand tree felled four years ago is now spouting new branches from the old tree trunk [photograph 1]. My intention to return to photograph the central remaining tree with my 8x10 camera but I wonder if the remaining tree will be still standing by the time I return.

Three Trees (close-up shot), First Visit in December 2013 [photograph 2]

Three Trees (after the storm), Second Visit in January 2014 - 8x10 BW Neg [photograph 3]

Three Trees, 2015 - 8x10 BW Neg  [photograph 4]

Found Object

Found Object,  Ben Dolman 2017

smoking breaks 2017

Smoking Breaks, Ben Dolman 2017


Embankment, Ben Dolman 2017 - 2@4x5 Colour Negative Lateral Stitch

Embankment, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Colour Negative


Confluence, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Riverbank, Ben Dolman 2017 - Colour Negative 8x10

billa barra

Billa Barra, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Colour Negative


Ford, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Colour Negative

leaning tree

Leaning Tree- River Soar: Version One, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

Leaning Tree- River Soar: Version Two, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Ford, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Scrub, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Polarised, Ben Dolman 2017

Return to the eyot in the river soar

River Soar, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

River Soar, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

River Soar, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

Return to the wooded riverbank

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Confluence, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative

Confluence, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 BW Negative


Incinerator , Ben Dolman 2017 - Test Shot


River Soar, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Black & White Negative

Over the past month I have been working at a location close to home where I can go to at short notice when there is a break in the weather. The location is along the River Soar next to a large railway viaduct, what originally drew me to the place was it has public right of way, a right of way that takes you from town to countryside. The location is quite humble which I find appealing and it has taken quite a few visits to slowly get a feel and a sense of the place. What I find intriguing about the location is it is an island, an island in a river which I think is man made and the result of when the railway viaduct was built across the River Soar. To one side of the island is the River Soar and on the other side is an canal that confluence on both ends of the strip of land making the island or eyot. To access the island there are two bridges, one crosses the River Soar whilst the other crosses the canal. Due to the separation of the land from the adjoining pasture and the outskirts of an industrial estate nature has in the main been left alone with only traces of human use found in the pathways left by walkers through the scrubland dotted occasionally with dog shit.

Ford: Version-01, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Black & White Negative

Ford: Version-02, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Black & White Negative

Ford: Version-03, Ben Dolman 2017 - 8x10 Black & White Negative


Viaduct, Ben Dolman 2017

Return to the river bank

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2016 - 8x10 BW Negative

After a recent trip along the River Trent taking photographs of a wood on the opposite side of the river I decided to return when the leaves have fully fallen from the trees and see if a portrait ratio might render a more interesting view of the scene, to act as counter to the flow of the river.

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2016 - 8x10 BW Negative [Quadtone]

River Trent, Ben Dolman 2016 - 8x10 BW Negative [Quadtone]

When Black & White Needs Colour | Quadtone

Over the past month I have decided to rethink how I go about printing some my photographic work, my previous print output was on the right side of acceptable but I have been struggling to produce a decent print from a photograph I took last winter of a gully from my 'Mineral Line' project. The straight black and white print of the photograph seemed brittle and the contrast was too harsh, the photograph was of a difficult subject which had deep shadows contrasting against the irradiance of dried out plant stems against a backdrop of entangled branches. Normally contrast and brittleness is not an issue, by choosing a good quality rag paper and careful profiling of the printer I can control the tonal dynamics through either Lightroom or Photoshop but this photograph would not play ball, my usual neutral greyscale print output could not cope with the tonal dynamic range.

Quadtone Version

After much pondering I thought I would look at split toning to control the tonal contrast as used by traditional darkroom and high end book printers, I played around with duotone, tritone and quadtone and in the case of this photograph quadtone worked best for me as it gave me more control points across the tonal range. On screen the photograph may seem rather dull but when printed all the subtleties of the image are revealed, visually the print is more coherent, the addition of colour had given the greyscale tonal range more depth that just a straight black and white print.

Not all black and white photographs require a split tone, in most cases a neutral tone works for me both visually and technically by letting a particular paper do it's magic, sometimes just by using a warm paper like Museo Portfolio Rag or Harman's Gloss Baryta will do the job when married to a carefully profiled printer.

Greyscale Version

Technical Notes:

The photographic film used was Ilford's Delta 100 [8x10 sheet] and scanned on a Epson V850 printer. The scanned photograph was developed in Lightroom and the Quadtone applied in PhotoShop with additional adjustment curves. The quadtone was made up of admixture of black, warm and cool greys - no quick fix sepia split tone preset where allowed near the image.

The photograph was printed through Lightroom's print module on a HP Z3200 and Epson SC P9000 printer, both printers have had bespoke icc profiles made for the range of papers used in the tests. The papers tested so far are Museo Portfolio Rag, Hahnemuehle smooth photo rag, Breathing Color's Optica One which today made some rather nice prints on the HP z3200 printer, Optica One is slightly more brighter than the other rag papers I use and it seems to respond well to the quadtone, I might need to make a slightly different adjustment curves for the non OBA [optical brightening agents or fluorescents] papers.

Billa Barra | 8 x 10

Billa Barra, Ben Dolman 2016 : Black & White Negative - Landscape Version

During my first visit to Billa Barra a solitary tree caught my attention and I have recently returned to photograph it again on my 8x10 camera. After developing and scanning the film I think this subject may be developed further as the winter sets in and the landscape is stripped bare. I need to address the subject compositionally, at the moment it is presented as a specimen, central in the picture frame, slightly impersonal which is fine but I think or should I say I want to be a little bit more playful and see if I can reveal more from this location noting it history as an ancient burial site, quarry, landfill site before finally becoming a nature reserve. The tree as a metaphor for the human use or misuse of landscape has often been used by photographers, the photographer I tend to reference most on this take of photography is Robert Adams and I am looking to the publication of his Cottonwoods by Steidl early next year.

Billa Barra, Ben Dolman 2016 : Black & White Negative - Portrait Version

Return to Prior's Coppice

Prior's Coppice, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 Black & White Negative

Prior's Coppice, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 Black & White Negative

The Here and Now

The Here and Now, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 Black & White Negative

"If you are going to survive riding a bike you have to be totally concentrated on the here and now - everything observed of the here and now. You do not think about the past and future, you do not have memories, you do not have expectations except the immediate ones which are to be negotiated - and this concentration of the here and now is curiously calming - because whilst you are alive and moving, you notice what you are moving through and that is all that exists."

Quote from John Berger, The Art of Looking - TV Documentary. BBC. First Shown 6th November 2016

River Soar, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 Black & White Negative

Last night I sat down to watch a new TV documentary "The Art of Looking" featuring John Berger the reknowned art critic, during the programme there were worthy quotes every two minutes but one monologue stood out for me and it was about the 'here and now'. As I am getting older I tend to seek the here and now more and the past and the future less, the past tends to be filled with regret whilst the future is increasingly uncertain with thoughts of one's own mortality. In the here and now one is drawn to experience the moment, the very act of living and being which I guess is why I am drawn to photography, the medium that perhaps best captures the present moment.

Time to re-read "Understanding a Photograph" by John Berger

The Estate

The Estate, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 Black & White Negative

Billa Barra

Billa Barra, Ben Dolman 2016

England Viewed from Scotland - 8x10 Version

England Viewed from Scotland, Ben Dolman 2016 : 8x10 BW Negative

This photograph was a tricky shot, when I took the photograph I was not sure if it would work. I rose to a morning shrouded in a thick dense mist, visibility was poor but I decided this was the only day whilst I was in the Scottish borders before returning home that the light was workable, the forecast was sun for the rest of the week. The scene was due south and any direct sunlight would render the photograph useless through lens flare, I was using a Schneider 210mm XL lens which is a fish bowel of a lens and  near impossible to shield from direct sunlight. By the time I got down to the north bank of the River Tweed the mist was starting to clear and the sun was quickly coming into view, fortunately I had scouted the location a couple of days before and knew the best location and how I wanted to frame and compose the shot, within a couple of minutes the photograph was taken capturing the moment between mist and sunshine, land and water, and between countries.

The Unhealthy Season

The Unhealthy Season, Ben Dolman 2016

Whiteadder Water

Whiteadder Water, Ben Dolman 2016

Home of the Drawing Taliban

Home of the Drawing Taliban, Ben Dolman 2016

Hen Poo

Hen Poo, Ben Dolman 2016

Whilst walking by a lake called Hen Poo I came across a tree whose lower branches were perfectly cut, manicured just like a Japanese bonsai. Scratching my head at first I thought it was the work of a proud farmer with their hedge cutter, then after walking on a bit more I came across a group of cows eating trees.