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Thread: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

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  1. #1

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    How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    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

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    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.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  3. #3

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    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`s technique. I`m not talented enough...

  4. #4
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    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
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  5. #5

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

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  6. #6

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
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    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.

  7. #7

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    Quote Originally Posted by MaximumFu View Post
    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.

  8. #8

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
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    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.

  9. #9

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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    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 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.
    Last edited by faberryman; 6-Sep-2017 at 12:02.

  10. #10
    Hack Pawlowski6132's Avatar
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    Re: How many of you are self-taught (in LF)?

    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.

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