The Photograph Explained Untitled, 2013 by Enrico Scotece
Photography refers to time, in any category, form, approach or style; it is the one thing we all share. It is not always kind to us but it does ultimately give us the photograph that we will create, visit, and re-visit. The large format camera is my preferred format for most things. I work with 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10. I am in the process of building a 20×24 film camera that can utilise 10×15 plates as well – more on that later! Of all cameras that I own and use it is my humble Graflex Graphic View that I use at least three or four times a week. It is the camera I am most comfortable with.
So you want to take your favourite LF camera in snow? I have spent considerable time in the Australian landscape in recent years (in between lecturing, running the studio, and working on a PhD!); here are a few things I have learned: You can’t know what is beneath snow. Your tripod has one leg extended only when walking. This is your depth ‘measure’. Everything takes twice as long. You carry more in weight due to fatigue or wet gear. You need to keep fluids up all the same. Protect your film holders. Your camera will be sprayed with ice. Every time you breathe something will fog up. Have fun trying to find somewhere to ‘sit’. And, as much as you may ‘love’ your favourite camera, don’t take a metal camera into a freezing landscape. I was not quite prepared for this photograph. I know I need to walk and experience my surroundings and I soon learned that walking through snow covered landscape with a large format camera becomes a slight challenge. It is foreign, you are not aware of the snow’s depth, let alone what is under it. One second all is great, concentration begins to build and just as you… you’re flat on your face with a mouth full of ice.
This photograph depicts my first experience photographing snow in the landscape with a large format camera. I have spent much time in the landscape, learning its idiosyncrasies, its temperament and its willingness to challenge your thoughts regarding the form it decides to present itself in. The lower you are the warmer it is. It is not to say that the weather is kind, some days approaching forty degrees celsius only to become a wind storm at night. Some nights you swear it was the end of the earth, wild gusts coming down from the peaks, howling and whistling their way to freedom. Morning settles and the landscape begins to take form again. I’m in the lowest bracket of what we can consider a ‘high’ altitude, 1600m. It is, apart from the wind, silent. In such a beautiful surrounding environment it can be quite tempting to not photograph at all. I walked for what seemed an eternity. It was now approaching the end of the day. I watched these trees for a long while, all the gaps and spaces in between. The light is subtle. The wind rolled the fog about in the background yet the trees remained still. The wind then changed direction slightly and fog begins to come towards me. Time to get a move on.
The photograph is fibre base silver print, approximately 10×12. The negative is a 4×5 inch negative. The film I used was Kodak 320TXP. The film was processed using Jobo Expert drum for 4×5. I use the Jobo for consistency when processing batches of film (since I’m not only processing my own film). I occasionally use Ilford HP5+. This decision is largely based on the format I’m using. The lens, a Rodenstock 150mm. By way of habit I tend to stop the lens right down (f/45 or so). This depends on how strong a present wind may be. I guess what I enjoy most about the resulting photograph is that the apparent drop off in depth of field is actually approaching fog and haze. The far peaks become part of the sky, like a small exchange of sorts.
You cannot chase an image through the landscape. Chasing extremes and pushing for a result of any kind is a misinterpretation of how that kind of activity (bias to ones emotions) evolves into a photograph we have no connection to. One has to be in the landscape and it’s the landscape that dictates what happens next. We have a great connection to the landscape but once we consider that which we decide to photograph we slowly realise that the make-up of that scene presents itself in the photograph, whether we see it or not. I guess it is a kind of manifestation that allows for realisation. Only then we are free.