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Thread: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

  1. #1

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    Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    This post will briefly explain how I set up TRF Speed and Crown Graphics to focus at one fixed distance, much closer than factory cams will allow. I call it the "Big Shot" configuration because Polaroid once marketed a portrait camera which operated in a similar fashion.
    The technique did not originate with Polaroid, however, but was used by press photographers on Kalart RF equipped cameras before WWII.

    I cut a Big Shot cam for the TRF by "nosing off" the end of the cam at the near focus end. First I move the tripod-mounted camera in on a focus target while I watch the image on the ground glass. When I have the camera in focus for the desired head and shoulders composition, I lock everything down. At this distance, the Rf has gone beyond its range and the arm on the track no longer contacts the Rf plunger. Up in the mechanism, the cam follower rests on the low end of the cam and the RF image, if you looked, would indicate a distance much further away than that at which the camera is actually focused. I cammed my 150/5.6 Fujinon to focus at 27" from the lens board.

    Next, I remove the cam and start filing off a nose on the low end. I work slowly and carefully, frequently reinserting the cam to check my progress. When the RF images converge on the target, it's done! I place a witness mark on the track to line up with the infinity mark on the focus scale so I can quickly set up for Big Shot again whenever I want.

    This leaves only the problem of accurate viewfinder composition to be solved. Fortunately, Graflex has provided an excellent open frame finder, adjustable for parallax. It is very accurate for frame size with lenses of normal configuration (non-telephoto), but parallax compensation at the close focus Big Shot distance requires extra adjustment. Pull up the frame finder on the front standard fully as usual, but then push down the lower part of the frame to be flush with the top of the front standard. With my 150mm lens, if I then set the peep sight to 15 feet, I can make an accurate composition. The camera is focused, like the Polaroid Big Shot, while hand-held, by moving in and out from the subject while watching the RF image. Once focus is attained, be sure to have your subject look into the lens of the camera, and not into your eye on the peep sight. A well-calibrated optical range finder is the most accurate way to focus, so the lens can be used wide open with confidence that the subjects eyes will be sharp if that is where you focused.

    Attached is a scan of a full frame print from a 4X5 color negative. My model, Maria, and her dog Honeybear were illuminated late in the day by a Vivitar 285 with bounce card mounted on the hand-held camera. Like the old Polaroid Big Shot with its flash cubes, flash exposure is always the same because distance is always the same. The 285 with bounce card on full power manual gives me f11 on 100 ASA film.

    I have just finished setting up a superb 210/5.6 Fujinon W that I purchased from JimmyCreative here on the forum, and I will post results from that soon. 210mm looks like the longest lens that will be practical for Big Shot on the TRF, it is focused at 33" from the lens board.
    There are of course, many other uses for the Big Shot camera besides portrait photography.
    Neal
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails TRF Big Shot.JPG   Maria&Honeybear.jpg   Big Shot cams.JPG  

  2. #2
    aleatorist David R Munson's Avatar
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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Cool setup! I look forward to seeing more of what you do with it.

  3. #3

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Thanks Neal for the explanation! It reminds me of a few more steps I need to do to complete my TRF Speed. I wonder if anyone will try this with the Aero Ektar.

    How careful are you to keep the camera in the same position when moving from rangefinder to viewfinder? Also, when you file down the cam, how often do you check it against the rangefinder image? I imagine I'd accidentally over-file the nose.

    The versatility of these cameras constantly astonishes me.
    Peter Y.

  4. #4

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Peter,
    When cutting an accurate cam, sometimes it comes down to just one or two passes of a fine file at the end, so you have to check frequently. Here you are only cutting for one fixed distance on the nose, not working up the curve for the entire range. If you did take a little too much off by mistake, you can reposition the front standard to match up focus with the RF and then make your witness mark. I usually photograph at smaller stops, but I'll try some wide open stuff with the 210 in a few days. It's easy to maintain focus if you don't lean in or out when switching from RF to VF.

  5. #5

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    I just realised that if you don't mind switching out cams to do this Big Shot stuff, you can make a simple flat cam of the desired height very easily. I use the brass Midwest metal stock from the hobby shop. Take your cam in and select a piece the correct thickness and the approximate width you need. Cut your Bug Shot cam to the same length as your factory cam and notch out the bottom in the same area. For head and shoulders compositions with the 150mm lens, the flat cam height should be about 7mm, with the 210mm lens, about 9mm.

  6. #6

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    NEat, thanks for sharing. You mentioned people doing something similar with Kalarts back in the day. Can you expand on that? With careful effort, I have been able to get a Kalart Speed Graphic / Aero Ektar combo to focus down to minimum focus distance wide open accurately with the Kalart, which is about a 4ft distance. The Crown with Kalart and a 135 xenotar I have found to be accurate down to it's even shorter minimum focus distance, ~ 2-3ft wide open.

    -Ed

  7. #7

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Nice

    I went about it in a slightly different way -


    by actually using a Big Shot rangefinder I hacksawed off a Big Shot - and then modifying it to focus to about..oh..8 feet

    - I'm going to need to test what kind of lateral parallax there is...but since the frame in the rangefinder is for a smaller size film - I think it'll be accurate enough

    BTW...when you open up a Big Shot rangefinder, there are tiny screws used to adjust the mirrors, and these can be fiddled with to give you the focus distance you want - within reason I would think

    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    I first learned of this from WWII vet, photographer and technician John Simms. When I worked for a defence contractor in Hawaii in the 1970s he did some repair work for us. Simms had been on the Ploesti raid in 1943.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xZkZDqANPs
    He made several passes over the refinery in a designated camera plane, making stills with a K-20 and 16mm film with a B&H Eyemo. He would never get through an airport metal detector today, but he had a porfolio to die for. Many of the well-known Ploesti images are his. He worked in Hollywood for many years and retired to Hawaii.

    John told me that some press photographers would take off the 127 or 135 that the Kalart was matched to and mount something longer like a 162. When focused to H&S distance on a preset witness mark matching the RF, the Kalart would be disconnected and match up at around 3 ft. This way the camera could be set up to do a Big Shot.

    We were using the Polaroid film pack Big Shot at the time for quick "mug shots" and close ups. The Polaroid had a very nice combined range and viewfinder. It was quick and accurate to use.

  9. #9

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Dr. Trang,
    You are a bad boy with a hacksaw. Once I took the plastic lens off a Polaroid Big Shot and put a 135mm Raptar off a broken Grafic on it because I wanted X-Synch. Those little screws in the RF can be used to adjust focus and parralax, just go slowly.
    Neal

  10. #10

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    Re: Head and shoulders portraits with TRF Graphics

    Here's a first effort with the 210mm 5.6 Fujinon W set up for Big Shot on the 4X5 TRF Crown. Ilford HP5+ rated 400 in HC110B 5 min.@75*F. Lit with Vivitar 285 bounce card manual at f11 1/125. Hand-held. DOF quite shallow with the 210 this close, even at f11.Click image for larger version. 

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