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Thread: How do you experience your GG?

  1. #1
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    How do you experience your GG?

    I have much cleaning and organizing of my home -- but for some reason I am drawn here to 'waste' time, but hopefully not yours.

    In the past month I have had 250+ people look through my various LF cameras, from the 100 yr-old 5x7 Eastman View No.2, to my first-big-trip new Chamonix 11x14. About 99% of them had never looked thru a LF camera before. A large proportion of them had no idea what they were looking at until it clicked for them that everything was upside-down. I got to the point where I waited to hear the slight gasp of recognition from under the darkcloth.

    One of the most interesting early moments of using a LF camera was when I came out from under the darkcloth and the world looked upside-down, just for a heartbeat. One of the two processes I print with reverses the final image (single transfer carbon), and I need to compose an image based on which process I will use (some negs can go both ways, the little devils!) I have grown accustom to mentally flipping the image on the GG differently depending on what the final print will be orientated.

    A lens throws an image that is upside-down and backwards. We view that image from the backside of the GG, so the image we are looking at is still upside-down, but not backwards...relative to how it would look as the print. To view it as a platinum print I just have to mentally rotate the GG image 180 degrees on the same plane (like a pinwheel). For carbon printing I mentally spin the image 180 degrees on it horizontal axis. My brain does it automatically, but it is interesting to observe how it all works.

    Anyone else have a personal way of working with the image on their GG? Perhaps I have spent too much time under the darkcloth this past month!
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  2. #2

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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    I like the question, and have this same issue when using an SLR, even though it's the right way around.

    I started very early, with RF cameras, at about 10, and was taught, not figuring it out on my own. What I was taught was to compose the shot in my eye without the camera, then use the camera finder to simply box in what I had already determined was the photo, not composing in the finder. I didn't get an SLR until 8 years later, but mainly used Leicas when I could all the time I was a serious photographer. When digital hit, I was sort of forced into SLRs, and found the GG disturbing, in that it made everything look good, even rotten compositions, and I found myself making a lot of compositional mistakes. I still use Leicas for film, and find that way of working much more comfortable.

    When I got back into LF for fun, I had a hard time with the GG, not because it was so lush, like an SLR, but because it was upside down. So I've gone back to my Leica strategy for that--I find and compose the picture, then I box it in on the ground glass, and I don't try to figure out what is going on in the camera, compositionally.

    The one thing I'm still having trouble with is that with 35mm I compose extremely tightly. With LF I'm still dealing with the worry that the subject is going to move and I won't be able to follow, so my portraits tend to be framed looser than I'd like, and where I was one of those people who NEVER cropped, I often have to do a bit now, not to balance the composition, but to chop off what I didn't want in the picture originally. I suppose I will get better with time.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  3. #3
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    I don't even realize the image is upside or flipped side to side. Until I have to adjust the camera then it requires some thought or back and forth. For example panning would mean I'd have to think like mdarnton; think about the reality rather than what's on the GG. This differs from a DSLR where you try to keep focus points on the object you are panning with.
    I mostly use the LF and MF ground glass to focus and see where the edges of the frame end up compared to what I mentally estimated, check focus again, and make the photo. If I can figure out what will be in the photo before raising my LF or MF camera I think that's ideal and part of the thoughtful process we associate with film use technique.. Of course it can be used with any camera.. It's also helpful for cell phone pix in bright daylight what you can't see the picture on the back of the phone in sunlight.

  4. #4

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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    The inverted image has always been such a great "conduit" for me...helping to wipe clean the slate of staid mental association and enhancing pure visual acuity. Also facilitates a feeling of "weightlessness" and symmetry with whatever is out there on the other side of the camera. When all is cooking along nicely the camera itself more or less disappears and becomes a window...and then I feel like I'm truly connecting/responding...am being guided by something much greater than myself...like I'm on some kind of "cosmic autopilot." Hate to sound corny...but there it is!

  5. #5

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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    Vaughan,

    Strangely enough, I have been spending less and less time under the darkcloth composing over the years, and now do all the real putting together of the image by eye and with the aid of a viewing frame. Then it's just a matter of selecting the lens that crops closest to what I want without cutting into the desired image borders, applying movements, finding near and far focus points, checking focus spread and setting final focus.

    By far, the most time spent working directly with the ground glass is applying camera movements, especially when I'm doing architectural work or cityscapes, for which the verticals and horizontal lines are important, or sometimes working to optimize focus spread by applying swings and tilts (which can take time for a tricky shot). I really don't "compose" the image on the ground glass at all; I know what I want before I even set up the tripod.

    I've been working with LF long enough now that the upside-down and reversed image doesn't bother me at all; it all seems intuitive now. What does trip me up a bit is when I occasionally grab the TLR and use it hand-held; I always seem to move left when I should go right. I suppose I'd get used to that quickly if I used it a lot, but it's really only once or twice a year.

    Best,

    Doremus

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    Great!

    I still spend a lot of time under the darkcloth. Since I show the rebate, and thus do no cropping, I spend a lot of time refining the edges and corners of the image on the GG -- it's much too fun for me not to do! I do not use a viewing frame, though I can see its advantages. I occasionally make "Ls" with my thumbs and index fingers to quickly check if my eyes are matching my lens selection (250mm or 300mm, and now 360mm, on 8x10). About 90% of the time I'll have the correct lens on the camera and have set up the tripod in the right spot. Pretty easy for the "Grand Landscape", a little more work required in tighter places (architecture or in the woods where an inch or two greatly changes the relationships of objects -- as in the 11x14 contact print below).

    I feel there is a lot of spontaneity in LF work. The spontaneity comes in the moment I reconize the exsistance of the image in front of me and make the decision to capture it on film -- it is just the follow-through of setting up the camera and exposing the film that takes the time.

    John -- totally understand where you are coming from! I was explaining to the park visitors that having the image upside down frees me from the 'subject' (and/or reality) and lets me concentrate on the image I am making.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails TwoReds11x14.jpg  
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #7

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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    I came through the usual progression - direct vision, SLR (35mm), TLR, then 5x4/8x10. Using the TLRs helped a lot to break the reality/composition dependency since I was using a waist level finder. I was no longer looking in the direction of what I saw.

    I usually have a good idea of where I need to be to frame what caught my interest, whatever format an camera type I am using. Optimizing the image on the ground glass using movements is easier with the inverted image. I am not sure if I am actually conscious of the change - I think I manipulate the inverted presentation but visualize the result the right way up.

    The human brain is remarkably adaptable.

  8. #8
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    The ground glass is a siren, calling me and beguiling me to while a way my time and not a small amount of my money on cameras, lenses and other assorted temptations. Under the dark cloth it is just her. And me.

    Seriously, I do find composition easier on the glass than not.

    And whoever said, "Bigger is better" was right!!

  9. #9
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    I could have a conversation with a layperson about LF photography for hours and never think to mention it; I don't really think of it at all.

  10. #10
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: How do you experience your GG?

    I have a GG on all my view cameras, but one-by-one I've put them into storage. I deeply appreciate those who effectively use perspective controls. I just cannot use a GG properly. (Hell, I can hardly walk now)

    So I have become a viewfinder and rangefinder enthusiast for MF to LF, and would like to learn of others similarly oriented.

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