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MaximumFu
6-Sep-2017, 10:46
First off, apologies if this is a less than optimal choice of forum. I scanned all the forum titles and, at least to me, there wasn't an obviously better choice of forum in which to post. Again, apologies to any mods who might be forced to move this post.

Basically, here is my situation - I have, for a couple of years, shot MF/enlarged MF negatives, but I have never done so with (for lack of a better word) much science. In other words, I never bothered to measure my personal film speed, instead favoring just half box speed. I never figured out what it took to make a proper proof, instead just making ad hoc test strips each time I went to print. It works, but it seems a bit sloppy and like you are always fighting against variables in your process, instead of controlling them as a matter of intent.

Fast forward a bit...I have long wanted to try LF and having found a mentor locally, I proceeded to acquire most of kit (8x10). The person I was relying on to be that mentor is now effectively unavailable, leaving me without anyone I know as a resource to help me through this journey, which begs my core question: how many of you taught yourself LF photography and, more generally, is it possible to be self-taught and to master some of the more demanding science behind the medium?

Some of you will scoff and say, "of course it is, for so long as you have the desire" - I realize that, in the abstract, given enough time and energy almost anyone can learn anything. That is not really what I am asking. I am asking, as a practical matter, with little to no guidance, other than from the internet, is it practical to basically go from zero knowledge about LF to being able to measure personal film speed, learn to develop LF negatives at home, etc.?

Another, admittedly somewhat unrelated question - the person on whom I was relying had a darkroom that I was set to use. Not having the darkroom poses an independent conundrum. Is it truly possible to do contact prints just using an overhead lamp? I am used to doing things like split-filter printing and am wondering what all the difference in look will be if I just contact print 8x10 using an overhead lamp.

Thanks in advance for any answers to my myriad of questions. And, obviously, if you live in the eastern half of MA or southern ME or NH and are looking for a mentee... ;)

-M

Vaughn
6-Sep-2017, 10:54
Basic answer is yes. You can teach yourself the basics thru books, videos and help from here.

To "master" any part of the process is a different story -- that just takes thought, time (a few decades) and work.

I have been photographing with LF for almost 40 years -- never tested film for "personal film speed". It would be a waste of time for me. It is important to some folks, though. I just kept notes and changed variables until I got the prints I wanted. I guess it will be as demanding as you want to make it.

One lamp will work fine.

faberryman
6-Sep-2017, 11:02
You might want to look into the Large Format Workshop (9/28-10/1) put on by Richard Ritter and David Speltz at Camera Commons (http://www.cameracommons.com/workshops.html) in Dover, NH. I went last year and thought it was very useful. Although I had some experience, the class was small and I got plenty of individual attention to clarify some things and focus on some of the finer points. Both Richard and David are knowledgeable and accessible. They'll get you started down the right path, and then it is just practice, practice, practice.

Camera Commons also has two fully equipped darkrooms to rent, and my guess is it is only about an hour away from you. You might want to think about developing at home using something like the Stearman Press SP-445 developing tank, which I recommend, and then visiting a darkroom when you have several negatives to print. I like 4x5 contact prints. I think they can be exquisite, but inevitably you will want to make some large prints.

As for "the more demanding science", you can make it as difficult as you want, but really need not do so. It is really pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it.

Pawlowski6132
6-Sep-2017, 11:06
YouTube is your friend!

Ilford makes 30cm x 30cm filters you can use for contact printing.

Forget film testing to start. Just use the recommended ISO.

I've found LF is easy to learn, difficult to master. Certainly difficult to master all aspects:

Camera movements
Print toning
Acquiring the right equipment for the right job
etc.

duff photographer
6-Sep-2017, 11:12
Yes, it is possible to teach yourself. The good thing about large format is it is very basic in concept and logical in process. While at times you may have to think more compared with automated 35mm for example, because everything is manual in LF, it is easier to remember and get into the rythym of using, as opposed to all those buttons and dials on 35mm DSLR's. Indeed, for me, large format was easier to learn than 35mm or medium format, it's just a slower more methodical process.

I'm self-taught, mostly from a few decent books, and very occasionally from the internet on specific points (be warned, the internet contains a lot of rubbish regarding large format although there are some good websites run by individuals that provide a basic run-down of operation including film processing).

There are a number of books that are very useful to have, and you'll only need to have two or three at most to ensure you have a working knowledge; some are out-of-print and scarce second-hand but some of these can be found as pdf's on the interweb if looked for in the right place, or browse the local library.

Regarding contact prints. Yes, it is essentially a very simple operation. You just need to take care in your procedures and use the correct (or rather suitable) tools (a 40 watt bulb as an overhead lamp will do the job, sort off, but there are much more appropriate light sources to use which are not expensive or difficult to acquire). People who regularly contact print will provide less vague info' than me.

David A. Goldfarb
6-Sep-2017, 11:32
I'm self-taught in LF. One of the major attractions of the zone system, is that it made it easier to learn photography from books, without having someone to tell you what a good negative looks like.

Joe O'Hara
6-Sep-2017, 11:49
Of course you can. In the early 19th century, all cameras were large format, contact prints (or daguerrotypes) were all there were, there
were no schools to go to, and there was hardly any dependable information in the public domain. Didn't slow them down too much.

Mastering movements is easy: Just look at the groundglass to see how they affect the image. You will quickly develop facility
with this, and may eventually find the limitations that most MF cameras have in this connection to be frustrating.

Modern materials are consistent and easy to use. You are unlikely to poison yourself or others with the silver-gelatin process.
Let your work be your teacher. Refinements and specializations can come later.

Needless to say there is lots of good information to be found in this Forum.

xkaes
6-Sep-2017, 11:51
I think of myself as 90% self-taught, but if you take away the books I've read and the college classes I've taken, I'm really only 10% self-taught. The books and classes point you in certain directions, but YOU have to do the actual work. So, am I self-taught if I've read a book? Got direction from a mentor/brother-in-law/Internet Forum? Took a class? Or D: All of the above?

As with many things in life you can choose from three paths -- easy, rough, or rugged. In photography, no matter which you prefer to try, you will get a million opinions on how to "travel" the road you have chosen. The best photography book I ever read was "Controls in Black & White Photography" by Richard Henry. He basically says, "Don't believe ANYTHING that anyone tells you. Test it yourself!" And that includes the words from the "Masters". His book shows you how to "test it yourself" -- and you can do that to whatever extent you want or can -- easy, rough, or rugged.

Michael R
6-Sep-2017, 12:02
I am asking, as a practical matter, with little to no guidance, other than from the internet, is it practical to basically go from zero knowledge about LF to being able to measure personal film speed, learn to develop LF negatives at home, etc.?

You can definitely learn LF camera work and darkroom work on your own. Most of it will come down to learning a few basics, a lot of practice, and solving specific problems along the way. It would help to use a good book on LF camera technique as a guide, and try not to feel overwhelmed at the beginning.

Generally speaking, I would use the internet sparingly when it comes to the darkroom side of things (film, processing, printing) because while there's some good info on the internet, there's also a lot of bad information. "Personal film speed" is an example of the latter (most books get it wrong too).


Another, admittedly somewhat unrelated question - the person on whom I was relying had a darkroom that I was set to use. Not having the darkroom poses an independent conundrum. Is it truly possible to do contact prints just using an overhead lamp? I am used to doing things like split-filter printing and am wondering what all the difference in look will be if I just contact print 8x10 using an overhead lamp.

Yes, you can contact print using an overhead lamp, however variable contrast techniques such as split filtering would be very difficult/clumsy to use with just an overhead lamp. I'm sure one could rig up some way of doing it, but you're way better off just getting an enlarger to use as a light source for 8x10 contact printing. Enlargers can be had for peanuts these days, and if you're only using it for contact printing you really only need a small one.

MaximumFu
6-Sep-2017, 12:18
..."Personal film speed" is an example of the latter (most books get it wrong too).

Can you elaborate? And apologies if I am playing a role in cargo-culting bad information on the internet. ::)

jose angel
6-Sep-2017, 12:38
Many (I bet most!) of us are self taught, at least in some subjects of photography. My father was a photographer, I learned the basics from him, but he never used a LF camera. I did it a time later. I learned with one of the bibles, the Stroebel`s "View Camera Technique". Another typical start is the reading of the Ansel Adams` trilogy.
About mastering... well, some do it better than others. After more than forty years inside a darkroom, I`m still far from Pablo Inirio (https://fstoppers.com/post-production/how-photos-were-edited-darkroom-days-2994)`s technique. I`m not talented enough...

xkaes
6-Sep-2017, 12:42
169401

MaximumFu
6-Sep-2017, 12:50
169401

This is precisely, 100% what concerns me. I have heard/seen this before, but I have never seen a real explanation of it - and I am concerned that if and when I do hear an explanation of it, it will involve enough technical information that I will simply need more than a book and the internet. Honestly not trying to be a complainer and am self-taught in a number of aspects of my life (including my career), but just mildly frustrated at having lost this resource that I was hoping to be able to rely upon...

Nodda Duma
6-Sep-2017, 12:54
I am learning LF by way of learning to make my own emulsion and coat glass plates. Glass plates seemed easier to coat than film (and that's kind of where folks started 140 years ago). My plates were initially 4x5 because large format cameras seemed more conducive to using the homemade emulsion coated plates, and I acquired a 4x5 format camera on ebay for $20. So that was my toe-in.

As part of emulsion making, I learned to test the equivalent ISO speed. Honestly, other than that and the peculiarities of the format-specific equipment, I've found Large Format to be a rather shallow learning curve. Emulsion making was much steeper relatively speaking, although in the grand scheme of things even that was not too difficult.

jose angel
6-Sep-2017, 12:58
"This is precisely, 100% what concerns me. I have heard/seen this before, but I have never seen a real explanation of it... "

It is film photography basics. You just need a darkroom, a bit of patience and a couple of good readings. Believe me, nothing else.

Leigh
6-Sep-2017, 12:59
I have been photographing with LF for almost 40 years -- never tested film for "personal film speed".I'm with Vaughn 110%.

I've been shooting LF almost 60 years, always at box speed.
If shadows have some particular detail of interest, I increase the exposure 1/2 or a full stop.

The folks who make film have waaaaay more equipment, time, and expertise than you can ever hope for.

The idea of "personal" film speed is a way to adjust for specific aspects of your processing methods.
That is certainly a valid concept. It requires absolutely consistent processing to be of value.

- Leigh

Ted R
6-Sep-2017, 13:19
I find it easy to learn from books, I can move along at my own speed. LF has been very well documented in print, and amazon provides a quick easy way to obtain good quality used books for very little money all you have to do is search and wait for the mailman :-)

jon.oman
6-Sep-2017, 13:46
I am self taught. Both from books and experience. I've been doing it for about 50 years. At first, there was no one available to teach me. I lived out in the country. So, I found books in the library, and read the data sheets that came with the film and chemistry. I too, mostly use the ISO that is printed on the box, and will adjust the exposure based on metering the shadows or highlights. Expose->develop->observe->adjust for the next time.....

jp
6-Sep-2017, 13:56
I've mostly been self taught with regard to LF... Youtube, websites, books, etc..
I had plenty of experience with B&W 35mm, so the darkroom basics were a given.
People even say I have my darkslides backwards with silver being exposed or empty.. Nobody taught me.. I decided what made sense and went to town with my labeler.

I have taken a couple workshops on subtopics of large format such as pictorialism.

If you wish to take a class or workshop to get up to speed quickly, it's probably money well spent. If you want to be a master of something, rather than good enough, that comes with time and evaluation of your mastery compared to other LF photographers which isn't a self-activity.

Tim Meisburger
6-Sep-2017, 14:06
I lived overseas, and taught myself LF, film development, and printing, through the internet and asking questions here. But that is hard. I think I could have learned more in one hour in a darkroom with someone that knew what they were doing than I could do in a year on my own. I still wish someone would take me under their wing as a protégé, but since I am almost 60, they would have to be a real geezer!:cool:

xkaes
6-Sep-2017, 14:07
This is precisely, 100% what concerns me. I have heard/seen this before, but I have never seen a real explanation of it - and I am concerned that if and when I do hear an explanation of it, it will involve enough technical information that I will simply need more than a book and the internet. Honestly not trying to be a complainer and am self-taught in a number of aspects of my life (including my career), but just mildly frustrated at having lost this resource that I was hoping to be able to rely upon...

As I said, you can choose to make it as simple or as involved as you want. You are at a crossroads, and I know it is difficult to decide which road to choose. But whatever you pick, you can always decide it is the wrong path, at any point -- and pick another one. It's not like Monty Hall on Let's Make a Deal.

Just think about it for a minute. If you are using film X, and process it with developer Y at dilution Z with agitation W and temperature V, you will get different results if you use developer A at dilution B with agitation C and temperature D. The differences might be small, or big -- depending on what small and big mean to you. You can avoid the whole issue and expose at the ISO on the box without any tests, or you can choose to be more selective and run a few simple tests, or you can be picky and run a lot of tests.

There's no right or wrong -- as there is with Monty Hall.

169402

Check out:

http://www.subclub.org/darkroom/henry1.htm

Jim Galli
6-Sep-2017, 15:13
Yes, completely self taught. I live in a tiny desert town in Central Nevada and the next LF practitioner is 100's of miles away. So I bought a basic outfit, an old Cambo, and read books and just had at it. We're talking Time Life Photography's old book, The Print, and The Camera, and also Fred Picker's book Zone VI Workshop. There's better books now but those got me going. Not too long after I started, the internet kicked in. People here and at APUG are pretty gracious about answering questions and trying to help. Jump on in, the water's fine. And don't get bogged down in all the techy stuff. Buy some film and chems and go make pictures. DO keep good notes though. Write everything down. Only change one variable at a time. Film is cheap. Cheap film is good.

consummate_fritterer
6-Sep-2017, 15:28
Self-taught was all which was available 40+ years ago where I learned it.

Peter Collins
6-Sep-2017, 17:26
To me, self-taught strongly implies learning completely on one's own. Imagine learning on the dark side of the moon. All alone. So, on the contrary, all of us--anyone who has read a photography book, talked to another photographer, gone to a workshop, been to You Tube U., etc.--is more likely on a 'directed research project.' Yes, assimilating information, sorting out what's not useful or applicable, confirming one's own workflow, and such, is a huge task, but it seems to me to be more like the experimental method and synthesis than 'self-taught.'

We stand on the shoulders of the photographers that are our elders, both living and dead.

Vaughn
6-Sep-2017, 17:35
That is how I generally look at it, too, Peter.

Selt-taught and self-made are two things that are as rare as hens' teeth in any society.

xkaes
6-Sep-2017, 17:45
To me, self-taught strongly implies learning completely on one's own.

I could not agree more. Whether someone gains knowledge from a book from the library, or by paying a professor to read the same book, it is NOT self-taught -- at least not in my way of thinking.

Jim Galli
6-Sep-2017, 18:09
No. I didn't invent large format photography. Someone else did. :rolleyes:

Rich14
6-Sep-2017, 19:50
Yes,

You absolutely can learn on your own. Before Ansel Adams wrote his series, The Camera, The Negative and The Print, everyone was self-taught by almost pure trial and error. With his books, you have a rational, systematic way to get a very firm grasp of every concept of the process.

Get his book, The Negative and read it several times. The first time through will be a little difficult. The second will be much easier. then follow his instructions in testing and determining film speed. Use one film. Any film. Get used to it.

Then go through The Print. These two guides will give you very firm foundations in very short order. It will not take you long. Everything you need to know about the basics of exposure and development of film and paper is in those treasures. of information.

His instructions will be a bit too restrictive for today's world, as his methods allow one to expose and develop negatives for the express purpose of printing to the limited capabilities of the photographic paper of his time. Now, not only is that material less restrictive, but if you want to adopt a partial digital work flow and scan your negatives that will give much more control and expand your parameters beyond those which photo paper provides.



Rich

Serge S
6-Sep-2017, 20:13
Good Advice
Yes, completely self taught. I live in a tiny desert town in Central Nevada and the next LF practitioner is 100's of miles away. So I bought a basic outfit, an old Cambo, and read books and just had at it. We're talking Time Life Photography's old book, The Print, and The Camera, and also Fred Picker's book Zone VI Workshop. There's better books now but those got me going. Not too long after I started, the internet kicked in. People here and at APUG are pretty gracious about answering questions and trying to help. Jump on in, the water's fine. And don't get bogged down in all the techy stuff. Buy some film and chems and go make pictures. DO keep good notes though. Write everything down. Only change one variable at a time. Film is cheap. Cheap film is good.

Leigh
6-Sep-2017, 21:17
The absolute over-riding concern with photography is consistency... repeatability... uniformity.

You really MUST do everything exactly the same way every time.
WHAT you do is not nearly as important as HOW you do it.

Cultivate repeatable habits and follow them religiously.
Keep accurate detailed notes of what you see and what you do.

Start with one film and one developer.
Use them until you absolutely KNOW what they do.

You'll be amazed how easy photography is if you follow those rules.

- Leigh

Merg Ross
6-Sep-2017, 21:58
And don't get bogged down in all the techy stuff. Buy some film and chems and go make pictures. DO keep good notes though. Write everything down. Only change one variable at a time.

Hi Jim, excellent advice.

Best,
Merg

BennehBoy
7-Sep-2017, 00:24
Self taught - mainly through reading the articles on this website.

The main thing to do is sort out a routine, this should incorporate all the little checks that prevent either not exposing the film, unintentionally exposing it, or getting the exposure wrong..

Non exhaustive list of examples follows:
* be sure that you've loaded your film correctly!
* make sure you have all of your required equipment when you go to shoot - finding out that you forgot a shutter release or light meter can be a bit annoying when you're many miles from home/the office.
* be sure that you've set up your gear correctly so that it's stable and unlikely to move during an exposure
* check light meter ISO setting
* check that you stop down after focusing
* check that your shutter speed is set correctly
* tap film holders to settle film before insertion into the back
* close the aperture before removing dark slides from holders
* check that appropriate filters are in place after composing/focusing/stopping down - eg colour correction (and correct exposure accordingly!!)
* double & triple checking exposure & reset as appropriate
* be certain to invert dark slides once you have an exposure (assuming your dark slides are black/white sided)
* fold the film holder hooks over the darkslides to prevent accidental darkslide removal/movement
* be sure to remove film holders from the back by firmly grasping the body of the holder and not the dark slide handles

It sounds like a lot to remember, but it becomes second nature soon enough.

Practice with empty holders until you feel you've got the routine down pat for you and your equipment.

Pere Casals
7-Sep-2017, 01:24
Self taught - mainly through reading the articles on this website...


Me also. Also thanks to this website.

I'm still a rookie LF photographer but I got here very advanced knowledge. I got very good advice, and key resources have been recommended to me by senior LF photographers with lots of field experience and wisdom. Thanks to all.

John Kasaian
7-Sep-2017, 06:36
Self taught, with the help of a few books---especially Steve Simmons Using The View Camera, and the Ansel Adams' trilogy along with Adams 40 Photographs.
Sadly, there's not a lot of opportunity or support for formal instruction any more. Buy a camera, kludge up dark room, order supplies and have at it :)

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 06:42
Reading a book(s) is NOT self-taught. You are learning from someone else -- even though they are not in the room with you. The author(s) is teaching you. Give credit where credit is due.

Here's an example of my LF self-teaching -- figuring out how to make a true, large format fisheye lens. I didn't read about it in a book, magazine, or Internet web page/forum. I did not learn how to do it from a friend, colleague, or professor. I figured it all out on my own. And it works:

169424

www.subclub.org/fujinon/gonefishin.pdf (http://www.subclub.org/fujinon/gonefishin.pdf)

Nodda Duma
7-Sep-2017, 07:04
Reading a book(s) is NOT self-taught. You are learning from someone else -- even though they are not in the room with you. Give credit where credit is due.

Here's an example of my LF self-teaching -- figuring out how to make a true, large format fisheye lens. I didn't read about it in a book, magazine, or Internet web page/forum. I did not learn how to do it from a friend, colleague, or professor. I figured it all out on my own. And it works:

169424

www.subclub.org/fujinon/gonefishin.pdf (http://www.subclub.org/fujinon/gonefishin.pdf)

But from my lens design perspective, you didn't actually make that lens ...merely repurposed the lens for large format.

I don't say that to discredit your work -- obviously you had to learn things as you adapted the optics, the results are great, and you rightfully take credit for it. I say this to point out that you consider your lens-work as "self-taught" in the same way other posters who have transferred knowledge via books consider themselves self-taught. In neither case did anyone start from scratch, and it's important to realize the distinct difference between "self-taught" and "starting from scratch". We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

Abraham Lincoln -- the epitome of a self-taught lawyer prior to his political career -- educated himself by reading and then putting what he read into practice.

I wouldn't discredit their "self-taught" status simply because they put into practice the information they learned in a book. After all, the book doesn't talk directly to the real and unique experiences that we all face when learning like an instructor would. There is always a learning curve to climb up to go from reading to practicing, and then of course experience is required to go from practice to mastery. Getting up that learning curve on your own definitely qualifies for "self taught."

jp
7-Sep-2017, 07:06
I don't think using books/websites/youtube/research isn't violating the concept of self-taught. I think of self-taught as not needing an instructor who covers a curriculum or otherwise organizes your educational experience. You can't learn much without other people being involved at some point.

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 07:25
Having read many books and taken many classes, the only difference, to me, is having a (non-self-taught) instructor in the classes. In both cases, I learned. In both cases I was taught, but in neither case was I self-taught.

Why not just say "I learned LF from books" or "I was taught LF in classes", etc.?

Pere Casals
7-Sep-2017, 07:31
Reading a book(s) is NOT self-taught. You are learning from someone else -- even though they are not in the room with you. Give credit where credit is due.


IMHO "Self Teaching" also includes reading books. "Self Teaching" is not having a teacher. In fact there are a lot of books intended for self teaching: "Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide", "Biology: A Self-Teaching Guide, 2nd edition" , "Chemistry: Concepts and Problems: A Self-Teaching Guide" ...

Your fisheye project involves self teaching, but it also goes beyond that scope, this is in the experimentation and technical creativity field. The 37 Fisheye misses the corners, but focusing near objects by bellows extension you get a larger circle, and from that you can extend DOF by stopping aperture... This is not about teaching because a teacher would say that Fisheyes are absent in LF photography. BTW, nice idea, I 'll test that with the P67 FE.

MaximumFu
7-Sep-2017, 07:40
With respect, it feels like some people actually understand what I meant when I used the phrase "self taught" but are deciding to (somewhat strangely) make an issue out of the use of the phrase. By "self-taught", I think most people understood that I meant "self-directed" learning using available resources such as books, forums such as these, YouTube, etc.

To me, the risk of self-directed learning comes from the fact that I am deciding what resources to use without knowing whether those resources are legitimate, etc.

DrTang
7-Sep-2017, 07:49
less easy now that there is no polaroid

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 08:09
So I'm NOT self-taught if I take a class, but I AM self-taught if I view the exact same class on a DVD/Internet connected computer. Seems like a self-serving distinction to me.

MaximumFu
7-Sep-2017, 08:16
So I'm NOT self-taught if I take a class, but I AM self-taught if I view the exact same class on a DVD/Internet connected computer. Seems like a self-serving distinction to me.

Honestly, I couldn't care any less about the distinction you are making and as I pointed out before, this literally has nothing to do with the thread in my mind and is nothing more than wordsmithing for I am not sure what sake or to what end.

So, you win...the distinction is self-serving and whatever else you want to call it. Can we move on, or is that not enough for you at this point?

Leigh
7-Sep-2017, 08:18
Reading a book(s) is NOT self-taught. You are learning from someone else -- even though they are not in the room with you. The author(s) is teaching you. Give credit where credit is due.

Here's an example of my LF self-teaching -- figuring out how to make a true, large format fisheye lens. I didn't read about it in a book, magazine, or Internet web page/forum. I did not learn how to do it from a friend, colleague, or professor. I figured it all out on my own. And it works:The problem with that is...

Your evaluation of "it works" is based solely on your own judgement.

It has no basis of validity.

- Leigh

Vaughn
7-Sep-2017, 08:19
You are correct, Max. It is a matter of semantics in most cases -- 'self-directed studies' would be more accurate than 'self-taught'...with perhaps a lot of "re-inventing the wheel", also. Of course one runs the risk of having an idiot as a teacher.

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 08:37
The problem with that is...

Your evaluation of "it works" is based solely on your own judgement.

It has no basis of validity.

- Leigh

The proof is in the pudding. I provided pictures in the article taken with the lens and camera. I don't know why anyone would say that is invalid evidence.

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 08:52
BTW, nice idea, I 'll test that with the P67 FE.

I assume you are referring to the Pentax 6X7 fisheye. The main obstacle will be adding a shutter, which is focal plane on the Pentax -- I think. The shutter on the Mamiya 37mm is in the lens.

Jim Noel
7-Sep-2017, 08:57
When I was 8 years old, in 1937, a friend of my father's who was a freelance news photographer bought a new Speed Graphic.I was the recipient of his old one. He took me to his home and showed me how to load holders, unload them, develop film in a tray, and contact print the negatives. I never had another instructor until i began enrolling in workshops while in my 60's.
So yes, I would say one can teach themself LF photography. My last 20 years of employment were as a teacher of LF photography at the local community college.
Along the way I read everything I could get my hands on. I hung around the best photo store in town and listened to the adults. I practiced over and over.
At 88 I still practice LF photography. I have downsized from my revered 7x17 to 5x12 because of weight.Other than tat, no changes.
I am pleased that more and more photographers are utilizing the assets of Orthochromatic (x-ray)film since that was the emulsion which I used for my first several years. It is cheap, adaptable,controllable and yields a beautiful negative.

faberryman
7-Sep-2017, 09:20
I could not agree more. Whether someone gains knowledge from a book from the library, or by paying a professor to read the same book, it is NOT self-taught -- at least not in my way of thinking.

So I'm NOT self-taught if I take a class, but I AM self-taught if I view the exact same class on a DVD/Internet connected computer. Seems like a self-serving distinction to me.
Would if it be a self-serving distinction if I said I was self-taught but, in actuality, I had read the manual. Where exactly do you draw the line? I expect that most people would consider themselves self-taught if they had received no formal instruction. If you prefer to say "self directed studies" instead of "self-taught" in those cases when, sometime in their life, a person may have read a magazine article or a web post on the subject, I guess that's okay, but it seems like a distinction without a practical difference, and therefore begs the question: why quibble?

mdarnton
7-Sep-2017, 09:46
I guess I qualify as self-taught, which I did by reading every photo magazine and photo book I could find over a period of about 20 years, in the 50s-70s. By the time I got my first job in a studio I was pretty well-read, and that first job cemented a lot of things that I'd read and hadn't done. I don't know how you would do that now, and it's certainly not the fast track, either, but I have repeated that process in other fields since then, several times. The key is to not be in a hurry. I've been working on the last binge for around 12 years now and am just starting to feel a bit informed in some specialized corners.

consummate_fritterer
7-Sep-2017, 09:52
I consider myself self-taught because I learned from books, magazine articles and shooting film... practice practice practice. I took a correspondence course (no internet back then) from (I think) the New York Institute of Photography but learned very little new through that process. There was no one who could directly offer me any advice of any sort. By the time I was sixteen and met with a couple of college professors I decided not to take any college photo courses because I knew more than the two professors I conversed with. I'm sure there were extremely knowledgeable professors but none available I could find here.

Graham Patterson
7-Sep-2017, 12:08
I am self-taught, though I also have an 'O' level in photography (the school supported it even though they did not teach it), and my geology studies included a module on technical photography (including exposing a sheet of 4x5!). Otherwise it has been a case of read, experiment, understand, apply.

My uncle, an artist, once observed that he could teach most people to paint. He couldn't teach them to see.

Sometimes seeing is better with larger cameras, and sometimes it isn't.

Drew Wiley
7-Sep-2017, 13:14
I have a diploma from the School of Hard Knocks. WHen you learn things the hard way, you don't easily forget them.

Pere Casals
7-Sep-2017, 14:01
I assume you are referring to the Pentax 6X7 fisheye. The main obstacle will be adding a shutter, which is focal plane on the Pentax -- I think. The shutter on the Mamiya 37mm is in the lens.

True... of the RB67 I use 9 glasses, including the 500mm, but I lack the Fishy... Still I can use a ND on the P67 Fisheye, or shooting slow dry plates, exposing with lens cap.

Anyway I can also use the RB 50mm that just misses the 45 corners at focus infinite, not a FE, but also a nice experiment...

xkaes
7-Sep-2017, 14:13
I have a diploma from the School of Hard Knocks. WHen you learn things the hard way, you don't easily forget them.

Or as Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac:
“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.”

DG 3313
7-Sep-2017, 17:35
Self-taught.....I went to books....not Brooks!

Vaughn
7-Sep-2017, 18:30
I guess I qualify as self-taught, which I did by reading every photo magazine and photo book I could find over a period of about 20 years, in the 50s-70s. By the time I got my first job in a studio I was pretty well-read, and that first job cemented a lot of things that I'd read and hadn't done...

I guess that qualifies as another way to learn -- on the job. It was how I learned to pack mules. One summer of working with someone who taught me what little he knew, then nine more summers continuing to learn how to pack (my teaches had names of Joe, George, Agnes, Buttermilk, Mike, Jack, etc) and also teaching new crew members how to pack. But I never felt I got up to the experience level that I'd call myself a mule packer. Just like I fought enough wildfires to say I did it, but do not call myself a fire-fighter.

I used a magazine article to learn carbon printing. So not really self-taught, but because I knew no one else making carbon prints and never had seen a carbon print in person (this was 1992), I did not know what they were 'suppose' to look like. It took a couple years to get prints I was (very) happy with. I took the process in a different direction than the few practioneers there were at the time, because I saw some possibilities and experimented in that direction. Most likely I was re-inventing the wheel, but I learned a lot about the process. But my point is that there is some value in exploring without a guide, getting lost, and figuring out for yourself what route to take. But it can be frustrating!

rfesk
8-Sep-2017, 10:35
Completely self taught.

Peter Lewin
8-Sep-2017, 11:52
Let's get past the semantics: what the OP is really asking is whether he needs a mentor or workshop, or can learn the methodology of LF on his own. I think the primary difference is time: a teacher or good workshop will let you get to where you are going faster, but your end destination is the same. I started by teaching myself via books (it was the pre-internet age) but once I was competent, I took a number of workshops, which I think helped quite a bit (and were very enjoyable as well). My workshop teachers (3 separate workshops) were Fred Picker for general view camera technique, Bill Abranowicz (George Tice's assistant at the time) for printing, and Sally Mann for inspiration. I still think one of the best instruction books is Picker's ZoneVI Workbook, which is admirably short and easy to follow. You have quite a few workshop/teacher options near where you live in New England. Personally, I might start by contacting Ken Lee (kenethleegallery.com); Ken is a member of this forum, and while I have never met him personally, he maintains a very useful tech section on his website, and I admire the work he posts regularly. I believe he will do one or two-day personalized instruction. So to recap, one can master the medium from books and the internet, but I believe working with a teacher shortens the learning curve significantly.

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Sep-2017, 13:11
I don't think one needs to have workshops or a mentor. It is nice if you can but not necessary. With the wealth of information on the web one can learn by themselves. Let's face it LF and ULF photography is really a solo gig. You have to be a self motivated person to go out and shoot on your own. If you hook up with others great but when it comes down to it it is your vision no one else.
I self educated myself in all aspects of my photography from medium format all the way through Ultra Large Format. From developing film, printing etc. I even went so far as to build my own cameras. One 8x10 and 5 ULF cameras along with learning carbon transfer printing mainly from reading online and taking one workshop with Vaughn to see how it was done. So good luck. It comes down to how serious you are and you can do it all yourself.

Tobias Key
8-Sep-2017, 13:31
I am self taught in LF although I did do a postgrad in photojournalism (all 35mm) many years ago. There is nothing inherently complicated in a large format camera, like any other format or shoot it's how complicated you feel you have to make it to get the results you want. Most of the time the only movement I use is a little rise or fall, and you can pick that up instantly. What is important in LF is good habits. Tightening everything down, being methodical in your film handling, and not trying to shoot everything wide open when you start out. Making sure that your equipment is well maintained and working to specification saves a lot of headaches too. Resign yourself to spending £100's if not £1000's on film and processing to get good. In large format the cheapest part is buying a camera!!

Winger
8-Sep-2017, 20:04
I'm self-taught in LF, but would love to take a class (mostly to learn how to better use movements). I've taken classes with 35mm and 120 and have a fairly decent grasp on film and printing. Having been a forensic chemist, I tend to be mostly methodical.

Vaughn
8-Sep-2017, 22:30
That brings up an important point. There are many learning styles and people will pick the one that works best for them. Mine was a bit unique. I must of had a bit of written instructions, the chemicals were set-up for me, but I had to figure most things out on my own when I made my first prints (employee darkroom at Grand Canyon National Park in 1977). But when I returned to college, I started taking a photo class a year until I graduated in 1981. I also volunteered as a darkroom assistant (we kept the darkroom open after classes and weekends) starting that first photo class. Helping others learn while one is also learning really speeds the process along! And having keys was great!

But to get the most out of a college-level photo class, especially when building a multi-year relationship with a teacher/mentor, one must be willing to give up some control and give it to one's teacher. It requires respect and trust in both directions. It can be a very remarkable thing.

But what made it nice for me was that I was not an art major (photo program was an art degree), but I developed a great relationship with the professors -- and frankly they did not care what my degree major was. I did not have to take any art history classes - just hang out with out photo students and other assistants, make art and all that fun stuff.

After graduating, I worked seasonally for the US Forest Service and for the next ten winters I took a one unit directed study class thru the Extended Education Dept of the college and volunteered in the darkroom. And having the keys was great! After the 10 years I was hired to run the darkroom and I did that for 24 years.

So after over 35 years of learning and working in a university atmosphere, I am a bit biased about its value. It is not for everybody, but for those who embrace it and squeeze the most out of the opportunity, it is an invaluable experience and incredible jump-start as an artist.

jnanian
9-Sep-2017, 04:48
except for a few bumps in the road i am self taught
and often i use a box camera, so thankfully i don't have
to know much besides pushing the button and developing the film/paper

MaximumFu
9-Sep-2017, 05:54
Thanks to all who have posted in this thread. You have all made good points, given me much to think about, but most importantly, instilled in me the confidence that this can be a successful journey.

xkaes
9-Sep-2017, 05:57
169509

MaximumFu
9-Sep-2017, 07:31
169509

I feel sure this is yet another dig at me and if I was a little smarter I would probably understand it.

I have no idea what I have done to cross you or why you insist on continuing to crap on me for what is seemingly just a word choice that you disapprove of. I am really, truly sorry for asking a question that I thought would better myself. I am sorry for trying to do my part to keep alive the tradition of analog photography.

But congratulations. You win. Life is way too short to deal with people like you who's seemingly only (self-appointed) job is to manufacture controversy with there otherwise is none and, in the process, to tell other people how wrong they are. I think I'll go back to APUG where the community is a little friendlier.

Graham Patterson
9-Sep-2017, 08:44
169509

It's like learning to drive - eventually it all gets subsumed into one process, and one forgets (unless one teaches it) the struggle and practice to get there.

xkaes
9-Sep-2017, 08:59
I feel sure this is yet another dig at me and if I was a little smarter I would probably understand it.

Believe me, I was not attacking you or anyone. We are ALL students here -- although some people may not prefer to apply that word to themselves.

Sometimes, I ask other members to define a term that they are using. Even the term "large format" means different things to different people -- just like the term "subminiature photography", or "student". And "self-taught" obviously means completely different things to different shutterbugs. That's fine with me, but sometimes it's difficult to have a discussion when people use the same term, but it doesn't mean the same thing around the table -- and no one defines what they are actually talking about. Some people dismiss it as "semantics". I call it just defining what is being discussed -- which, I admit, is not always easy.

So, I apologize if I have offended you -- or anyone. That was never my intent.

Bernice Loui
9-Sep-2017, 10:13
There are essentially two basic aspects of image-making.

*The technical-mechanical side.

*Artistic-Creative-Imagative side.

Being adept at both is part of the image making journey. How these abilities are acquired or developed does not really matter as the goal is to create an expressive image.

Much like learning to play a musical instrument, the instrument of choice requires much structured practice to master. This often involved uncounted hours of practicing scales and various exercises to increase one's skill with the instrument, form a close working relationship with the instrument and understanding it personality with quirks. This becomes the foundation for which the musical instrument is used to express. There are those who are born with an innate gift of musical ability, there are those who are born with an innate gift of visual expression. Others, can care less about musical or visual expression.

Once those foundational skills have been mastered, they are used to express one's personality upon the world. Instrument used for expression is relative and not always the limitation.

Image making can be learned by structured institutions by instructors or by individual motivation to learn, both can be equally effective if the individual has a goal of achievement to aim for, aka images that inspire.

IMO, once the basic technical aspects of film based image making has been gain, time and effort is better spent burning film and studying Art and being observant of Nature and the world. Be ever curious, strive to see small details other may not.

To learn means to change, change is a reality of the human condition and the world we share.



Bernice

Sal Santamaura
9-Sep-2017, 12:46
I started self taught, then thought it best to attend a week-long course taught by a well known large-format photographer near Seattle. It did not go well. He spent the whole week showing us HIS huge prints, and using words like "gifted", "artistic", and "talented". When he wasn't talking about himself he knocked other photographers including Ansel Adams, told us that the Zone System was incorrect, and well, that everything that we knew was incorrect. There was little actual instruction.

Add to that numerous verbal attacks on Christianity and politics that didn't agree with his Left Coast atheist liberal viewpoint. Oh, and while I was standing in the dining room I was attacked and my coat torn by his huge attack dog. At least I stuck it out all week. Other people left almost immediately as soon as he lambasted Christians.

My point is that courses can be a total disaster! Check out the instructor first.Perhaps you don't consider your anonymous "user name" sufficient protection to be explicit that it's Barnbaum you're attacking, thus the not-so-veiled reference. I'm not familiar with Bruce, but don't appreciate your using this forum to knock him. Involving politics and religion too is both off-putting and against the rules.

Please have the courage to name names (your own and those you're speaking ill of) and stay away from prohibited topics. Otherwise there's no way to know whether you're spreading fake news.

Dan O'Farrell
9-Sep-2017, 13:13
.... and stay away from prohibited topics. Otherwise there's no way to know whether you're spreading fake news.

Well said.
++

Jac@stafford.net
9-Sep-2017, 14:07
I am self-taught in everything I do in life including hobbies and professions: years as a metropolitan news photographer and thirty years of programming in diversified academic environments, and twenty-five years of building handmade motorcycles, cameras and a car, all in parallel of course.

Unfortunately I had a wretched teacher - myself, of course.

At least a few programs are still running, one motorcycle is well known, the car is in mothballs (poor moths).

.

brad martin
9-Sep-2017, 17:18
Add to that numerous verbal attacks on Christianity and politics that didn't agree with his Left Coast atheist liberal viewpoint. Oh, and while I was standing in the dining room I was attacked and my coat torn by his huge attack dog. At least I stuck it out all week. Other people left almost immediately as soon as he lambasted Christians.

My point is that courses can be a total disaster! Check out the instructor first.

If this was your workshop experience I'd say, thanks for the warning.

peter schrager
10-Sep-2017, 06:26
If this was your workshop experience I'd say, thanks for the warning.
Are you going to take someone else's verbage and constitute it as a bad experience...i judge people by their work...as in photographs...
You can learn from anyone; it's part of the lessons of life and if you close yourself off...well..you lose

xkaes
10-Sep-2017, 08:20
Good point. I had one college photography professor who was a great guy. The other one was a complete jerk. But, they both knew their stuff and I learned a lot from both. It's a baby and bathwater issue.

mdarnton
10-Sep-2017, 08:56
Since it's become "how you learned the art" rather than "self-taught, yes or no?" and about technology, I'll comment on how I self-taught myself. I copied, successively, all of the photographers that I admired, sometimes for several years. I think I went through a HCB period, a WE Smith period, and a few others. When I started LF a couple of years ago I was less strict about it and I started copying just the things I like about both Steichen and Karsh portraits. My objective in each case was to try to identify what made it possible for me to recognize their photos, and then do some of that, and then branch out from there.

You know, if you can do what some great photographer can do, that's a great start! That's how artists used to learn: by copying their teachers' work.

The one workshop I took, from David Vestal in the mid 1970s, was a huge success for me, but he was an exceptional teacher, as I also hear from others.

Dan Fromm
10-Sep-2017, 09:17
Self taught? Hardly. My first real camera was a Nikkormat FTN, bought in 1970. It came with a little pamphlet that explained the camera's controls and their effects on the results. It even had homework assignments. I did them. I still have the pamphlet, it is still a good starting point. After that, to learn more I went to the library. It had years of Modern Photography and Popular Photography. In those days both magazines ran educational articles on a two year cycle. They present solutions to many of my problems, showed how to accomplish many of the things I wanted to do. All this about technique and operating the camera.

For artistic vision, whatever that means, I was on my own. "I don't like this picture!" "Why not? What framing/angle/... would have made it better? Try again." And so it went.

Eventually I graduated from reading magazines to reading books. I used ideas taken from all of them to solve technical problems. For example, flash lighting for closeup work. Not really very original, I just applied ideas taken from magazines and books.

When I moved up in format, it was back to the books.

I've never had formal instruction or had the opportunity to receive photographic advice from a live person. Live people who can teach me what I need/want to know are thin on the ground. All of the instruction I've received was in writing. Self-taught? Me? Absolutely not.

Vaughn
10-Sep-2017, 09:49
...Self-taught? Me? Absolutely not.
Right on! No matter where we get the information from or what influences we may encounter, eventually we have to take all that info, digest it, and do something with it.

mdarnton
10-Sep-2017, 10:15
Not self-taught for some values of "self-taught" as a cynical programmer might say.

Cor
13-Sep-2017, 05:13
Learned LF as many posters above..to be frank: that is the easy part..now to make really interesting, moving, compelling etc. LF images (or using other film sizes)..that is the hard part..

Best,

Cor

Ps purely on the tools (camera, lens, film, paper etc.) I learned the most on this forum..take advantage of the vast knowledge and the kind people here !

xkaes
13-Sep-2017, 05:53
take advantage of the vast knowledge

Absolutely right -- just but as the Pharaohs, Czars, and Emperors had taste-testers, check it out yourself, FIRST.

Randy Moe
13-Sep-2017, 06:29
Learned everything I know right here. I never heard of LF or ULF before 2011. My forum join date.

Yet, I consider myself a novice after 6 years on this forum.

LFPF has endless data. I read a lot of old posts.

Last March I decided to sell my Chicago home of 14 years while the market was high. Sold in 2 weeks. I immediately got very sick. Much better now.

Last month moved to Shawnee National Forest and will build a new darkroom this winter.

LF is addictive and a wonderfully difficult hobby.

xkaes
13-Sep-2017, 07:04
And, all this time, I thought the Garden of the Gods was only in Colorado!

rbiemer
13-Sep-2017, 08:29
.

Fast forward a bit...I have long wanted to try LF and having found a mentor locally, I proceeded to acquire most of kit (8x10). The person I was relying on to be that mentor is now effectively unavailable, leaving me without anyone I know as a resource to help me through this journey, which begs my core question: how many of you taught yourself LF photography and, more generally, is it possible to be self-taught and to master some of the more demanding science behind the medium?


-M

I am certainly NOT self taught. I consider my path in photography more like "independent study" in that a looong time ago I had some direct instruction and have since relied on first books and magazines and now resources like this forum (and one other I'm also a member of).

Where I live there isn't much of a local community so I need places like this for information and examples. Until a few years ago, I did have one friend who was a serious pro--photojournalism mostly but he did a very few weddings and portraits--but he passed away. Frankly, I miss the friendship more than the photo stuff I had with him. And, what he did for me was more about pushing me a bit to get more serious about this hobby of mine and to shoot more than it was about instruction. "Practice, practice, practice." :)

That kind of face to face encouragement is tough to find for me where I live so I am grateful for fora such as this.

Rob

consummate_fritterer
13-Sep-2017, 11:46
I am certainly NOT self taught. I consider my path in photography more like "independent study" in that a looong time ago I had some direct instruction and have since relied on first books and magazines and now resources like this forum (and one other I'm also a member of).

Where I live there isn't much of a local community so I need places like this for information and examples. Until a few years ago, I did have one friend who was a serious pro--photojournalism mostly but he did a very few weddings and portraits--but he passed away. Frankly, I miss the friendship more than the photo stuff I had with him. And, what he did for me was more about pushing me a bit to get more serious about this hobby of mine and to shoot more than it was about instruction. "Practice, practice, practice." :)

That kind of face to face encouragement is tough to find for me where I live so I am grateful for fora such as this.

Rob

Ah yes... "independent study" (and practice) is a more accurate term for most of us.

xkaes
13-Sep-2017, 12:59
Ah yes... "independent study" (and practice) is a more accurate term for most of us.

And all this time, I thought "independent study" had something to do with co-eds. Boy, was I wrong!!!

rbiemer
13-Sep-2017, 13:02
And all this time, I thought "independent study" had something to do with co-eds. Boy, was I wrong!!!

Isn't that what dual-majors are for? ;)

Rob

Randy Moe
13-Sep-2017, 16:08
And, all this time, I thought the Garden of the Gods was only in Colorado!

Yes, at least 2.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=10685&actid=50

bloodhoundbob
13-Sep-2017, 16:37
Yes, at least 2.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=10685&actid=50

Amen, Randy. Although I love Colorado's version, the one in our backyard is pretty dang impressive.

Jim Jones
13-Sep-2017, 17:58
Almost a hundred years before Ansel Adams there were written instructions on using cameras. The manual for Daguerre's camera of 1839 was all some photographers had as a guide. John Towler's The Silver Sunbeam (1864) was perhaps the Way Beyond Monochrome of its day, although without the latter's fine illustrations. My first instructions came in a roll of 616 Verichrome. Encyclopedias were less practical. Then, in 1950, I left the farm for the Navy and discovered real photography through books, magazines, and a Univex Mercury II proudly owned by the smartest man in the boot camp company. Years of tinkering with radios and mechanical devices helped understand them all. By the time I could get any formal classroom training in photography I was already retired. Grad school was fine for learning the history and esthetics of photography, but not the technique. Now we have the internet. Learning photography is easier than ever. I still learn much in this forum, and occasionally in a few others. Some of the books I treasured long ago can be read online or downloaded. Samples of iconic photographs are also available, although usually poor substitutes for the real thing. One exception to that is the Library of Congress, a wonderful resource. Some of our congressmen and other politicians should use it more.