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Thread: Suggestions for syllabus?

  1. #1

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Any suggestions as to what to cover in an Intro to Large Format course to be held in a five or six week adult education class setting(providing I can get the use of a High School darkroom?)

    I'm thinking of basics like loading film holders, developing sheet film, contact printing, reading a light meter and setting an f-stop. Depth of field and perspective. Landscape, portraiture(nope, I can't afford a figure model----though I'd probably break all existing enrollment records if I could!),architecture, & macro depending on the equipment available(probably a mix of Calumet c-400 series & Orbit monorails.) Just enough to hopefully inspire without becoming bogged down in technical matters(hey, its only five meetings!) I figure on using Steve Simmon's book for the text.

    Any thoughts? Or better yet, what experience "sold" you on Large Format, that I can repeat for the benefit of these students? Any videos you'd care to recommend like the PBS Ansel Adams or Edward Weston documentary?

    Thanks!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  2. #2

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    John,

    Be sure to stress metering technique including extension factors and reciprocity corrections. Most beginning LF students tend to overlook these aspects since it is generally not something they have to think about with smaller formats and built-in meters. If you can get them to produce a couple good exposures and have their first few negatives come out properly exposed and developed, you'll have them hooked and the rest will fall into place easily. Exposure is where I would put technical emphasis. Scheimplug (sp?), etc., can wait. You can explain movements by letting them see the effects on the groundglass without getting into a drawn out technical explanation of why it happens. In my experience with new LF photographers there also seems to be a fear of the bigger unfamiliar equipment. Get their hands all over every control and let them do a bunch of hands on exercises. You can't beat Polaroid for the instant feedback it provides in such a situation. I'd also get them working with some nice contact paper such as AZO or POP instead of messing with RC.

  3. #3
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    A Volkswagen van with paisley paint makes a great, traditional silly bus. ;-)

    My suggestion, John, would be to have materials ready for covering the basics - those areas where LF is substantially different than rollfilm and 35mm. That includes better metering technique (understanding what the meter is really telling you), camera mechanics (film loading, shutter controls, lens focal lengths, common errors, etc.), and basic movements for image geometry control. I'd avoid getting into too much complex theory with movements, but showing them how to use tilt to control keystoning and that sort of thing is important, I think. Mentioning Herr Schiempflug will allow you to include his name on a spelling test, but I'd avoid hinge theory in the general sessions.

    It's also a good idea to poll the class members on the first night - see what motivated them to take the class, and then adjust the materials to cover what they're interested in. My guess would be that the majority are interested first in the larger film area from an image quality perspective, and then basic movements for buildings, etc. But, polling them (and taking notes) will tell you for sure.

  4. #4

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Hi John,

    Ralph makes a good point, first determine why the class members have shown up and what their expectations might be. Also, if you can, think back to what initially excited you about large format. Keep the technical aspects to a minimum and perhaps, for such a short course, consider contact prints as the final result. Even in 4x5 they can be beautiful and the process of enlargement introduces another tier of technical expertise.

    Good to hear from you, hope you have been to the snow with your 5x7 this season. You surely can't use a lack of snow as an excuse!

    Regards,

    Merg

  5. #5

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Just three very general thoughts, John:

    First, stress the low-tech nature of a LF wooden camera. I earned my living for years with a huge Deardorff with no shutter. Just removed the old brown leather lens cap and counted to ten. This can be a marvelous revelation in a world where all children's toys now come with a 128-page operator's manual. (Remember the days when we could simply unwrap a toy and go play with it?)

    Second, stress the image quality. Make even an 8x10 print from a 35mm negative and pass it around with one from a LF negative. Many otherwise sophisticated people don't even know that 16x20 print paper is manufactured. People may be less likely to bother with the awkward aspects of LF if they are unaware of the image benefits.

    Lastly, I don't recommend figure models because as space-shots, their unreliability can be a real headache. But if you live near a college with an art program, be aware that the going hourly rate for art models is about the same as for Wal-Mart cashiers.

  6. #6

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Hi John,

    what sold me on larger formats - which led to large format - was the first time I had a 35mm neg printed to 16X20. It was the most awful thing in the universe. I suggest that you take the same shot with 35mm, MF and LF and have them all printed to 16X20 as a prop. It is a bit expensive but I think it would be useful if you were going to be teaching a lot of these courses. I would also recommend a section on the proper use of a shutter which would enclude setting the aperture, shutter speed, setting for focusing and setting for the shot. You could also include different types of shutters and their benefits. All of my shutters have been Press shutters and I have no idea how to use a standard shutter. I think the darkroom section should be a seperate course. Over five weeks there is plenty to learn on the use of the camera without having to do darkroom as well. If all of the students already use a darkroom in smaller formats you may get away with it but I still think it is a bad idea. Now that I am at my current skill level, I would love to take a darkroom course designed for LF.

    Edward

  7. #7

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions! There is a lot to think about here.

    Joe: You're right about metering being essential. I'm not(well I don't) have the time to get into the zone system or anything, but nailing a good exposure first time around works wonders for morale.

    Ralph: You've hit upon a very important consideration as to who my students will be and thier needs. I've been going on the assumption that they'll probably be retirees exploring a possible hobby, photographers who are curious about view cameras and haven't had the opportunity to play with one, or curious nature buffs inspired by Ansel Adam's big cameras. If I had a better idea of what my "target" was, I could make the class more revelant. Until I know for sure I'll stick with basics. Actually I don't feel confident teaching advanced techniques, since I'm still learning myself!

    Merg: I always appreciate you advice. I think what one of the big deals that got me hooked on LF was its simplicity in that with the 35 SLR I got "married" to a system. Canon or Nikon told me what I "needed" while all I really needed was minmal equipment (old equipment at that) and the curiousity to figure out the rest. That and big beautiful negatives rich with detail. If this class flies, I'll have to include a field trip to the Sierras---there should still be snow on the ground after this winter's snowfall! I was truly sorry to have to miss out on the Mare Island shoot!

    John: Good points. I'll have to make some comparative enlargements (including from digital) Another suggestion I found intrigueing was the use of wooden cameras, maybe 5x7s. It would certainly make for more dramatic contact prints at the expense of a modest materials fee---$14 for 5x7 as opposed to $8 for 4x5. I probably have close to enough 5x7 film holders from my own stash and I'd expect the cost of the cameras would be on par with the metal monorails. BTW, I was just at Wal-mart buying a bare root rosebush and I've been trying to imagine the cashier as a figure model...uhh....bad idea.

    Edward: Excellent suggestion about the enlargements. I think it would be well worth the expense. As far as minimizing time in the dark room I'd like to keep it to a minimum as well, though loading film holders and seeing prints magically appear under a safelight are important elements of the experience I'd like students to have. Besides using readyloads or polaroids would probably blow the budget:-(

    I'm grateful for any more advise or heads up on ideas I need to consider to make this a "go"

    Cheers!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Rethinking this in light of your responses. If I upped the materials fee to $40 we could shoot 8x10, attracting not only those interested in learning about LF, but also those interested in 8x10 format---I don't think even the University offers that experience. What do you think? How many students per camera could I have and still keep up the pace? With 4x5 I was thinking two students per camera. With 8x10----? Obviously there may be a shortage of cameras!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  9. #9

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Hi again, John

    Since your course is an "introduction" to large format, I suggest that you stay with your original concept of 4x5 cameras. As a tease for an advanced course you could pass around a few of your 8x10 contact prints; however, for the first session stick with 4x5.

    Regards,
    Merg

  10. #10

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    Suggestions for syllabus?

    Hello Merg,

    4x5 would sure make things easier---more cameras would be available (lots more!) and less costly. A far more realistic approach. Thanks!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

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