Monthly Archives: August 2012

Evening with Large Format Cameras (1) – Work without compensation

I went out shooting with oopoomoo (Samantha Chrysanthou and Darwin Wiggett) and Janice Meyers Foreman in May. We chose Cohcrane Ranche Historic site as a location. The rule of the photography outing was using only film cameras, especially large format or medium format cameras. Sam, Janice and I brought 4 by 5 large format cameras and Darwin shot with his Lenny, Linhof Technorama, which is medium format panorama camera. I think 6 frames can be shot with this camera. Actually Janice was large-format-camera virgin before this outing. Digital is convenient; we can take as many frames we want, and we can check results instantly. But I still use my 4 by 5 camera occasionally for some reasons, especially I like the “rituals” I have to follow by the time I release a shutter. Let me show you how Janice handled the rituals for her first time.

Shooting with 4×5 camera starts from assembling a camera. A steady tripod is essential. Janice’s tripod is like machine-gun stand.

Composing and focusing are usually done under dark-cloth. Photographers have to compose with the image projected on ground glass (upside down) and focus with a loupe.  You can easily imagine how difficult to compose an upside down image. One reason I still use a large format camera is I can utilize various bellows (or tilt and shift) techniques. I am sure some readers know about Canon TS lenses or Nikon PC lenses. Large format cameras are perfect tool to get the same effect since the primitive large format cameras allow more free movements of not only lens side but also film side. Please take a look my previuos post Panorama by 4×5 camera. Having said that, I guess tilt –shift lens for DSLR would be more practical in the digital age. I would recommend Darwin’s eBook “Tilt-Shift Lens” if you would like to know about the bellows techniques.

Now she is setting aperture and shutter speed after measuring exposure by a “lightmeter”. obviously, Ansel Adams did not know TTL or aperture priority. Then close the shutter.

Sheet film is kept in a film holder which is tightly shielded to prevent the film from exposing to light. She is inserting the film holder to film board of the camera. One advantage of the large format camera is you can choose any types of film at each shot. Janice tried Polaroid as a test shot.

Now remove a lid from the film holder. Now ready to expose the film.

Now she is releasing shutter. I use the lid of the film holder to make shade on the lens while exposing film. It works as lens hood.

Reinserting the lid to the film holder. The test shot is done.

While she was waiting for the Polaroid to be developed, she was snapping with her 5D Mk II. Hey, it was supposed to be film evening!

She was happy with result of the test shot. Now she is trying slide film. I did not capturing perfect moment but she was covering the lens with the lid and blocking direct sun light to the lens.

After 1 hour of struggle, her first 4×5 shot was done. 1 hour seems long but even I spend usually 15-20 min for one shot. So it is not so bad for the first time. It requires a lot of practices for sure. However, I actually like the primitive manner of the large format cameras. I don’t have to read a half-inch thick manual and memorize all functions. I do not have to worry about a compensation for auto functions.

Well, the sun quickly disappeared and I could take a couple of shots for that evening. I will post Janice’s and my results in the next blog post. Lastly, here is group shot at the end of the evening.

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