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View Full Version : Does "contemplative" best describe the LFer's state of mind?



Heroique
25-Sep-2015, 14:43
I keep coming across this claim about LF work Ė "it's contemplative," "it's meditative," "it's reflective..."

Like me, you probably notice the claim is related to psychological health or healing, or artistic well-being.

If you agree, donít be shy, please share what you're "contemplative" about and why.

The tree? The light? The weather? The great outdoors? The math? Your spouse and kids? Your bank account?

Iím also curious if this is the principal reason you're an LFer, or merely one reason.

Eric Woodbury
25-Sep-2015, 15:38
Who writes this stuff?

I can't tell you what it is, only what it's not. It's not this.

--ew--

Old-N-Feeble
25-Sep-2015, 15:50
Umm... like... I dunno... I can't make up my mind.

Michael R
25-Sep-2015, 16:13
Bunch of nonsense to me. I'm as careful and contemplative with 35mm as I am with 4x5.

gemsinger
25-Sep-2015, 16:44
Contemplative refers to imaging something in the mind and concentrating on the subject.

There's a lot to think about while composing, focusing, and correctly exposing a photo with a LF camera.

A hand held auto focus, auto exposing, camera removes the necessity to spend a lot of time contemplating on the shot.

Jac@stafford.net
25-Sep-2015, 16:50
Yah, I know a few LF mavens claim that the format encourages them to work slow.

I use it because I cannot work any faster.
.

ic-racer
25-Sep-2015, 16:54
I don't treat large format much different than the smaller formats. The main difference is presentation. LF enlarges bigger.

Old-N-Feeble
25-Sep-2015, 16:57
I don't treat large format much different than the smaller formats. The main difference is presentation. LF enlarges bigger.

I did that too... but after a few years I couldn't get through a 24 exposure roll in reasonable time... and the quality and control isn't what I wanted. So single sheets became my norm.

Heroique
25-Sep-2015, 17:01
Contemplative refers to imaging something in the mind and concentrating on the subject.

There's a lot to think about while composing, focusing, and correctly exposing a photo with a LF camera.

A hand held auto focus, auto exposing, camera removes the necessity to spend a lot of time contemplating on the shot.

Yes, I think this is a familiar view here. And what's more, often associated with remarks about the LFer's (purportedly) more involved relationship with the landscape, due in part to complex set-up techniques or time-heavy compositional methods, including casual or complex math work.

A related description would be "deliberative" – as in: LF calls for a more "deliberative" approach to photography. I've heard this claim around here more than a number of times, always in a positive sense, sometimes in a patronizing sense. My personal experience helps me understand this view, if not wholly agree with it.

* For comparison, an opposing LF approach would be, say, Weegee's, very spontaneous and handheld – not so deliberative or tripod-based.

gemsinger
25-Sep-2015, 19:16
Weegee (Arthur Felig) was using a hand held press camera, designed for capturing a photo quickly, thus eliminating most of the actions required of a view camera.

"f8 at 125th, and be there".

There are a lot more things to think about (contemplate) when setting up, focusing, and exposing a landscape shot with a view camera.

"Did you remember to close the shutter before removing the dark slide?"

"Did you remember to close down to the proper f stop?"

etc., etc.

BradS
25-Sep-2015, 20:29
I'm not really contemplative at all about anything having to do with photography. If I'm using a hand held camera, any handheld camera - including the 4x5 Crown Graphic, I am usually moving pretty quickly. If I set up the wood field camera on a tripod, then I'll take more time to make sure I don't get yet another photo of a polar bear in a snow storm....but, this is not contemplative - just careful...maybe meticulous.

Robert Opheim
25-Sep-2015, 23:07
Contemplative, meditative, reflective? The process of shooting large format is different - it is much more deliberate Heroique as you have mentioned. Finding or creating an image, setting up the camera, lights perhaps, reflectors, props etc. Waiting for the right light etc. I think that smaller formats allow for quicker found images. When I was in school studying photography one of my fellow students Bob Barci (who was one of the very early snowboard creators in the Everett / Seattle area ) commented on how small format and large format are a great mix. They allow the photographer to see differently / think differently.

Doremus Scudder
26-Sep-2015, 04:10
LF isn't contemplative per se; it's just slow! Couple that with difficulties working with very long lenses and close-up (compared to smaller formats) and you have a pretty comprehensive list of the limitations of the format. Advantages are movements, large negative that enlarges better, etc. These things determine what kind of subject matter LF is best suited for.

I don't do a lot of sports photography nor a lot of extreme close-up work with my LF camera. If I gravitated toward those things, I would choose a smaller format. For me, I want, and use, movements. I want the large negative and the associated tonality and lack of grain. The subjects that resonate with me don't require the flexibility and split-second reflexes that would lend themselves to smaller formats.

I don't think I'm "contemplative" when I'm working. I often find an image to photograph in a split second; it just jumps out and grabs me. It's just that it takes 10 minutes (or more!) to set up and capture the shot. Slow, but I wouldn't have it any other way; most of the photographs I make could not have been made on a smaller camera.

When I'm working, however, I often miss a shot because I can't get set up fast enough... A smaller camera might have helped in such cases, but then, I wouldn't have had my large negative, etc.

Another "side-effect" of having to work slow is the limitation that puts on the number of images we can make in a given time. That forces me, at least, to do a lot more "visualizing" and other mental work before I even decide to take the time and trouble set up. A lot of potential images are rejected for one reason or another as not acceptable during this process. With a smaller, easier-to-handle camera, I might have just shot and decided later whether the shot was worth keeping or not.

Since LF is so slow, and since I have fairly large bodies of work, I find that I won't bother to set up for a shot unless I think it has at least the potential of making an exceptional print. I don't think this is "contemplative" as much as it is a combination of "discriminating" (aka "choosy") and the time constraints (or laziness...) inherent to LF. I must admit to sometimes saying, "Why bother setting up for that? It not spectacular enough to warrant the trouble of unpacking my gear."

My contemplation and reflection comes when I'm NOT out photographing. I do spend time thinking about what I want to say with my work, how I want it to look, what larger ideas and emotions I wish to communicate. But that is "pre-programming" myself. When I'm working, I'm going through the world with an open and prepared mind, looking for a scene that resonates with my (by now, subconscious) desires. In that sense, I work fast, making snap decisions, using my instincts, exploring, changing viewpoints, composing, framing, rejecting, etc. until I find something I want to set up for.

Then begins the slow...

Best,

Doremus

Jmarmck
26-Sep-2015, 04:30
To each their own.

Me? Depends on the moment. I guess that means I act on my urges and not my brain. Such is life.

Ken Lee
26-Sep-2015, 05:30
Contemplation has many meanings. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemplation. In some traditions it means protracted thinking while in others it means going beyond thought altogether.

Perhaps what you are referring to is attention. Photographs can be made with great attention, whatever equipment we use and whether they are captured in an instant or after long preparation.

It has been said that Beethoven wrote and re-wrote his pieces, while Mozart often penned them directly as though taking dictation. Both composers are considered geniuses.

Hopefully our capacity for attention - the depth of our apprehension - improves with practice, whatever equipment we use.

Bruce Watson
26-Sep-2015, 08:22
I keep coming across this claim about LF work Ė "it's contemplative," "it's meditative," "it's reflective..."

Like me, you probably notice the claim is related to psychological health or healing, or artistic well-being.

If you agree, donít be shy, please share what you're "contemplative" about and why.

I suspect that what many are trying to describe by using words like "contemplative" and "reflective" is actually the psychological state of flow (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29).

While one can get to this state doing most any activity, some activities are better than others for inducing flow. And LF photography is one of those activities, at least for me.

Heroique
26-Sep-2015, 13:26
I enjoyed your link about "Flow," Bruce.

The LFer's feeling of full immersion in, energized focus on, and great enjoyment of the activity at hand.

Say, it also sounds like a great way to escape or distract oneself from any unpleasant thoughts or activities "back home." :)

David Lobato
26-Sep-2015, 14:01
If I am contemplative with LF, it's after the dark slide is re-inserted after an exposure and the camera has been packed into its case. Then I can relax and savor the moment.

Iluvmyviewcam
26-Sep-2015, 15:07
Op..on the surface yes.

But the LF people on this forum are some of the most agitated I've come across. Must be all the worries about having to buy their outdated film on eBay.

Mark Sawyer
26-Sep-2015, 15:37
I keep coming across this claim about LF work Ė "it's contemplative," "it's meditative," "it's reflective..."


I think those words better describe me while sitting on a toilet. Especially in terms of "psychological state of flow".

Heroique
26-Sep-2015, 15:53
Op..on the surface yes.

But the LF people on this forum are some of the most agitated I've come across. Must be all the worries about having to buy their outdated film on eBay.

"Agitated" -- also sounds like a state of mind caused by too much film and print processing.

Yet strangely, tank or tray agitation can also be a soothing, meditative darkroom process.

A repetitive mantra of sorts!

Old-N-Feeble
26-Sep-2015, 16:26
I think those words better describe me while sitting on a toilet. Especially in terms of "psychological state of flow".

Careful Mark... this could be considered 'crude' and may be deleted.

lecarp
26-Sep-2015, 20:59
I'll need some time to think about this. In a slow deliberate manner of coarse.

mdm
26-Sep-2015, 22:21
Decrepit.

jp
27-Sep-2015, 05:44
The flow thing almost fits except that it specifies immediate feedback as part of how it works.

lecarp
27-Sep-2015, 05:49
I'll need some time to think about this. In a slow deliberate manner of coarse.

Okay, I thought about it. If you are not working in a contemplative, slow and deliberate way you have a problem.
Your camera isn't big enough!

Robert Opheim
27-Sep-2015, 12:26
Heroique, Bruce, I think that the link that Bruce posted was most interesting. I used to have many conversations with a friend that was a musician, photographer, and artist. We often spoke about Art theories, and "being in the space." Which is what the article refers to. Photography does have elements of "being in the space" especially when image discovery/ conception is in play (perhaps pre-visualization too as I have heard it called in the zone system). For me a smaller format cameras have a different quality of "being in the space" than does large format on a tripod. Other art forms have different qualities of "being in the space. " Music improvisation is very "in the space" as is drawing, painting, writing. It is those left brain activities.

AtlantaTerry
27-Sep-2015, 13:36
I keep coming across this claim about LF work – "it's contemplative," "it's meditative," "it's reflective..."


Oh yeah? Try creating LF character portraits of actors on the set of a feature film while the assistant director is hollering for that actor to be in the next scene!
140207 140208 140209

Bruce Watson
28-Sep-2015, 07:31
The flow thing almost fits except that it specifies immediate feedback as part of how it works.

You don't think seeing the evolving composition on the ground glass is immediate feedback?

DrTang
28-Sep-2015, 07:56
are they referring to the process or the product?

because for me..the process is anything BUT complatative or meditative

it's more like hectic, scattered and frenzied

I am always amazed if ANYTHING show up when I crack the top open of the 3006


as for the product? who knows

jp
28-Sep-2015, 08:08
You don't think seeing the evolving composition on the ground glass is immediate feedback?

No, the composition is in my mind mostly based on what my eyes see and, for me, the ground glass is for focusing and verifying that what I see fits within the shape of the ground glass. Since I do a lot of soft focus, what is visually seen in the ground glass can vary greatly from the final product.

pdmoylan
28-Sep-2015, 18:04
I guess it would depend on how quickly I need to set up and how stressed I am to capture the light and establish a lens choice and composition. Setting movements can be tedious and perhaps interfere with the experience. In other words it may distract from immersing yourself in the process.

If contemplation is a methodical but thoughtful process of finding perfection in one image, time, wind, lighting and the usability of your equipment all have to be on your side. Overcast light might better contribute to the contemplative experience then trying to catch fleeting light, which is more akin to sport or competition.

So the more facile you are with your equipment (i.e. the less you have to think about the process), the easier one can meditate on the image.

PDM

Jac@stafford.net
3-Oct-2015, 14:24
I am as contemplative as possible when making a photograph, and given how profitable it has been reminds me of "A penny for your thoughts."

John Kasaian
8-Oct-2015, 09:46
i am as contemplative as possible when making a photograph, and given how profitable it has been reminds me of "a penny for your thoughts."

roflmao!

johnmsanderson
8-Oct-2015, 11:55
When working with 4x5 and 8x10, I spend more time visualizing (or "previsualizing" -- whatever term you want to use) and going through decisions of composition, camera placement, etc, prior to actually taking a picture. So, yes, for me it is in some way more contemplative.

To contrast, If I'm with my medium format camera I'm usually darting around looking at things through the viewfinder and taking more pictures.

johnmsanderson
8-Oct-2015, 11:56
I am as contemplative as possible when making a photograph, and given how profitable it has been reminds me of "A penny for your thoughts."

haha

Vaughn
8-Oct-2015, 12:42
I am working on being contemplative while looking at the light -- a LF camera is a good tool for recording that contemplation. Just got back from a couple weeks on Maui -- my Rolleiflex served as a good tool for doing that there, also...about dozen rolls worth. Would have been more, but I spent much time contemplating the light on the coral and fish using a mask and snorkel (also excellent tools!)