View Full Version : Question about a specific subject and composition

10-Mar-2016, 02:56
Hi there, a question from a relative newcomer, about the visualization and practicability of a specific shot.


Here is a wide-angle shot I took on full-frame digitial a couple of years back, with Nikon D800E and Zeiss 21mm Distagon. The location is St. Blane's Church, Isle of Bute, Scotland, overlooking the Isle of Arran. I will be revisiting in August (annual family holiday).

Since I've now sold the Zeiss lens as I moved into LF territory, I'm wondering how feasible it would be to shoot this on large format (Linhof Technikardan S45).

The original shot was a complex, and not altogether satisfactory, one to process, being a blend of four focus-stacked shots at f/7.1 for depth of field, and one exposure blend to deal with the complex sky.

I can see two problems for large-format wide angle (my current wide-angle is a Nikkor SW75, with bag bellows): first, the balancing of the sky against the trees and foreground. Grads might work but I'm not certain; second, I'm wondering what movements or techniques (including selection of aperture) would be able to control the depth of field required to get the gravestone, plus everything else, in focus. Others may envisage other difficulties!
Thanks in advance,

Drew Bedo
10-Mar-2016, 06:16
Well, first off a bit of rear tilt will straighten out the slight convergence in the composition to make the trees stand straighter and eliminate the slight bowing in the resat of it. Keep in mind that I do have a visual impairment so it may just be ME.

Others will chime in on exposure options and subtlies of film processing. If the negative is scanned, you will have all the digital options available to you that were used in creating the original image. You might consider bracketing the scene for HDR ad focus stacking processing.

10-Mar-2016, 06:46
Nice work.

If it is not practical with LF, then use MF digital. If MF Digital is not practical, then use a smaller format. That is the hierarchy of formats for the LF devotee.

10-Mar-2016, 07:17

John Kasaian
10-Mar-2016, 07:23
That's a great scene to shoot with a LF camera!

10-Mar-2016, 09:24
A bit of swing/tilt, orange or maybe red filter + 2-stop GND, f/22 or maybe f/32, should work just fine. I definitely like the original compared to the suggested crop above, but maybe give a bit more on the right so as to get the whole headstone. The different aspect ratio though between the 35mm frame and 4x5 may make you reconsider the composition though, or just crop it to 3:2.

Jim Jones
10-Mar-2016, 09:36
Nice subject, captured and edited well. By framing a little higher, you'll have less of the foreground to get in focus. If you can move back a little, you won't have to tilt the camera up quite so much. The stone in the lower left anchors that corner of the composition, but the two stones in the distance could do that even better if you move back a little and to your right. This might give you enough DOF to avoid focus stacking. Also, consider a vertical composition if the sky cooperates.

10-Mar-2016, 13:00
You're all very kind. Lots of nice thoughts to contemplate!

Drew Wiley
10-Mar-2016, 13:49
If it were me I'd ignore grads and learn the basics of large format film itself. A basic orange filter should bring out the clouds without blocking up the shadows or
excessively darkening the grass. The correct film and development can easily handle those kinds of contrast ranges, and then to the finer controls in printing.
Practice swings and tilts with respect for controlling image plane focus. But having bigger film means less enlargement, so you can also use much smaller f-stops
to control depth of field as well. That foreground headstone can be handled by a bit of front swing. Once you've gotten accustomed to it, large format will reward all those subtle details and textures in the stone and foliage. Take your time and be patient with it. You're already off to a great start!

Michael Rosenberg
10-Mar-2016, 14:21
The 75mm Nikon should handle this scene fine. Do not use a ND grad as it will affect the tree definition. If you use a filter I would suggest a Yellow or a #16 (do one exposure with each). A deeper filter will make a more dramatic sky, but it will darken the foliage too much, and may make the exposure too long to get sharp details (I was in the Outer Hebrides and Isle of Skye this past October, and it is windy (see my web site)). The lichen on the stones will become more accentuated, and give more contrast (look sharper). You may use some very slight swing, but not much. With a 75 you don't have much anyway. If it were me, I would back awya from the foreground stone to allow for croping to get a better framing, and include the right edge of the stone. Be sure the foreground is in focus, and don't worry about the background - if it is not as sharp in the print your eye will compensate. Make sure the camera is level! Tilt is not necessary and will throw the top of the stone out of focus as well as the tree top.

Pay attention to tonal separation. For example, the right most stone and the tree, as well as the two stones in the background, are very close tonally and may not be distinct in the print. You may have to do an N+ expansion. Move around to see if you have the best composition before you set up the camera. Don't be afraid to experiment! Film is still the cheapest component of any photographic outing!


Drew Wiley
10-Mar-2016, 17:17
He's got a nice diagonal line, lining up the tops of all the grave stones. I'd be worried that something as radically wide as a 75 would shrink the distant stones and
background oak tree so much that the nature of the composition would change. But anytime one switches gear, there is inevitably going to be some rethinking of
the composition. And who knows what the sky will be like next round? The wind thing is a plague around here too. Doesn't stop me from using even very long
lenses, but does tempt my patience sometimes.

11-Mar-2016, 04:49
Great, thanks. Using different B&W filters instead of grads is an important consideration I hadn't thought about - makes B&W shooting more flexible than I had previously considered. Good ideas also about experimenting with compositions with the different aspect ratio.

Drew Bedo
11-Mar-2016, 05:55
DaveF: Will the final print be produced with traditional techniques and materials, or will the negative be scanned and the image processed for ink-jet printing?

11-Mar-2016, 08:49
Sadly, digitally scanned and printed. No prospect for a darkroom or even home-processing at this point.

Drew Bedo
11-Mar-2016, 11:15
That is the case for me as well.

Silver Lining: Sonce the negs will be scanned, you have access to many of the processing techniques available for images acquired through digital capture such as High Dynamic Range and focus stacking etc>

11-Mar-2016, 12:13
Front swing to get stone in focus, with decent f stop, 75 or 90mm lens on 4x5 would do this. Red/orange (or in between) filter would take care of skies. Rear rotation would help with falling horizon, rear tilt and slight swing might help with falling stones (sorry, it really bugs me) and get other corner of stone it, to help composition to be more stable.

Alternative is to make few shots of course, and merge planes.

Michael Rosenberg
11-Mar-2016, 12:55
The 75 mm lens is roughly equivalent to the 21 mm on full frame digital. When scanning negatives I use Vue Scan and use the automatic feature that allows for multiple scans that are integrated. This is an oversampling technique that reduces noise.Using this technique I can get scans on my 750M better than my Imacon 646.


11-Mar-2016, 14:16
The 75 mm lens is roughly equivalent to the 21 mm on full frame digital. When scanning negatives I use Vue Scan and use the automatic feature that allows for multiple scans that are integrated. This is an oversampling technique that reduces noise.Using this technique I can get scans on my 750M better than my Imacon 646.


Mike, sorry to impose.. but - which one of features you talking about?

11-Mar-2016, 15:59
since you are extremely adept at digital techniques
i would take one view for the clouds and one view for the stones
and maybe one view for the grass and blend them as you did with your digital camera
there really is no right or wrong way to make a photograph .. do what you need or like
and i am sure it will come out the way you like as well.

beautiful photograph by the way !

David Lobato
11-Mar-2016, 17:03
It has potential for a good composition. I suggest setting the camera up 30-40 cm above the grass. There looks to be a path coming from the left and a little bit higher view point would add an intersecting line to the tops of the head stones. More view of the sea might also show up. And here's hoping for favorable weather conditions again.

Film has a good ability to hold highlight detail which can be regained in scanning. Scan twice, one for shadows, and one for highlights. Show us your final result, I'd like to see it.

12-Mar-2016, 00:13
Sadly, digitally scanned and printed. No prospect for a darkroom or even home-processing at this point.

Why sadly? I moved from film to digital and back again, keeping the digital part in scanning the negative. Each time You make a radical move (film to digital or vice versa) it takes a large amount of time and effort to develop your own skills. For this I decided to stick to scanning until I feel comfortable enough with creating the negative. I experienced I will never reach perfection, but feeling comfortable with a medium and changing two at once seems too much, at least to me. Printing a negative in the traditional way is an art all by itself!

As to your image: a lot of comments have been given allready, not much to add but to the composition: the foreground, to me, has a doubtfull role: not being there as a prominent foreground, nor being there as a well balanced part of the picture. Personally I would have either used the stone at the right more as an image border in combination with more grass in the foreground, or used the stone in it's full stature with less foreground: depending on the message You have to tell. Difficult to say when You haven't been at the scenery.
Most important of all: keep your passion alive by trying the huge amount of possibilities. More then enough in restricting yourself in film to the negative-part only, leaving printing to the ink-jet procedure.

Great to see You move from a D800e to film. Keep us updated in your experiences, how irrelevant they may seem to You!

12-Mar-2016, 02:34
Thanks again for the comments.
The reason why I'd like to work with this one with a single exposure on film is because of the exposure blending: any movement in the trees causes havoc with the blending, meaning that I can't really print this image larger than this size because of the problems with the resolving and blending of the edges between sky and leaves: hence my interest in filtration.
Good thoughts about foreground. Regarding the stones and composition, they're all at different jaunty angles, and the camera was properly levelled when I took this shot. Originally the shot was slightly wider than this, the B&W result is a slight crop.
I haven't entirely given up on digital. I still have the D800E, an 85PC-E, 70-200f/4, and a couple of other macro lenses. But for LF I now have 75, 150 and 210 lenses.

7-Apr-2016, 13:56
Recently, I have been trying to take a close-up of a frangipane flower which is a velvety flower that is, in the main, a brilliant white with a rather striking yellow centre. My most recent photo used a blue filter to try to separate the yellow and white on B&W film because the first photos had almost absolute zero difference right across the flower. It registered as a white.

So I've been thinking that perhaps the only (best) way for this subject would be to shoot a colour film and then convert to B&W later.

Perhaps this precious scene might also be one where tonal relationships are better preserved and controlled in the digital post-processing stage ? In which case graduated ND filters might not be such a bad thing. It would then be a case of doing several exposures and stitching them as was done with the original photo if I'm not mistaken.

I agree with standing a little further back with a slightly longer lens (~90mm ?) and perhaps cropping too.



3-Oct-2017, 02:59
Well, over a year later and I have a result: the same scene, shot on a single sheet of Delta 100 5x4.
The sky was, on this occasion, much flatter than previously. I selected normal development with a Lee #16 yellow/orange filter (the lab developed the film so I had no control over that). The negative was still pretty flat, so quite a bit of post-processing with curves had to ensue, with a small amount of toning for the final result; not a bad result but perhaps some areas for improvement.
Anyway, I achieved what I wanted with movements: no messing about with DSLR focus bracketing.


St. Blane's Churchyard
Isle of Bute, Scotland

26th August 2017, about 8:30pm

Linhof Technikardan S45
Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5,
Ilford Delta 100, normal processing
Lee #16 Yellow/Orange filter
1/2" f/32
1 rear tilt back, 7 front tilt forward, 14mm rear rise
7mm front shift left, 4 front swing right

Digitized with D800E/85PC-E and Novoflex Castel-L, 4 frames stitched in CS6.

Peter De Smidt
3-Oct-2017, 06:32
Good job, Dave. I'm glad it worked out!

4-Oct-2017, 06:40
Thanks! As I say, not the best but given the opportunity did what I needed at the time.