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Thread: Stepping up or down .... ?

  1. #1

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    Stepping up or down .... ?

    After enjoying photography for 5 years (a bit 35mm RF, often 6x6 TLR and when possible 4x5) I am starting to feel a bit uncomfortable about it somehow and the "restructuring" need keeps rising.

    While I will definitely make change in the gear I use most (the TLR as nice as it is is often too slow and limited to 1 lens) - I probably get some 645 either RF or SLR, it is the LF part I do no know how to proceed.

    While I do enjoy shooting 4x5 (Tachi + 45, 125, 240, 400) I have realized that very most of the photos I have taken with it could have been done with MF camera (say 6x7 SLR) with less hassle and probably smaller rate of failure (convolution of composition, exposure and development). 3 weeks long trip to New Zealand was a big lesson.
    I tried doing just BW contact prints but found the 4x5 way too small for that, also hard to dodge/burn on such a small image. Enlarger was/is a bit too much of a stretch in my current conditions (space).

    So actually thoughts appeared of "stepping down" to 6x7 SLR of some kind or going the opposite route - stepping up to 7x11 or 5x12 (yes - I am attracted by those more rectangular formats for longer period) for contact prints exclusive and leave the more "ordinary" color/BW shots to MF (645, 6x7, whatever).

    Truth to be told - most probable reasons for all this is probably insufficient "commitment" to go deep enough and to master the process to my own satisfaction. Second is that the I feel a bit "suffocating" in the place where i live now (overpopulated north Germany a bit "without nature" with bad weather).
    To answer the first point I plan to commit myself to exclusive BW only with 1 or 2 lenses working on some particular subject/project - either in full 4x5 or exclusively 2x5 (half dark slide method).

    So actually only one question at the very end - did you ever find yourself in bit of a vacuum where you do not feel comfortable with your photography but do not know how to proceed? How do you face such a state of mind?
    Matus

  2. #2

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    Hey Matus,

    sure there are times like that. Sometimes I feel a bit of pressure put on by myself in those times, but in the end there is no need to feel pressure. I do my photography when I think it feels right. It's one of the advantages of doing photography for the love of it, not for money. So far, taking a little break and looking what I've done so far kept me going again.

    For me, there is a similar question of the workflow that keeps me back a lot. I have no proper darkroom (I'm using a photo club, which is limiting), I'm "not quite in love" with modern color print materials, scans on the screen aren't all the hype in the long run either. So sometimes I'm thinking "what am I doing this for?" Currently I'm thinking about alternative processes with digital negatives, but I've yet a lot to read up and learn about that, even to decide if it would work for me.

    The one picture I've seen from you (the snow scene from the Jura) I found to be very, very good. Sure, using a large format camera for this could be taken as anachronistic. But working that way is part of the game. Also you have the perfection of the result as another part of it all. As a picture viewer, I'd prefere you to keep on with large format.

    If you should take up bigger formats, I don't know. If it works for you, why not? Can't say anything about your preference of almost-square formats, the one thing I saw was more panoramic than square :-)

  3. #3
    Youngin Daniel Stone's Avatar
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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    my personal philosophy for choosing the right camera for your uses:

    use the camera that allows you to express yourself in the best possible way.
    if you shoot fashion, it can be done with LF, but MF or 35mm would be better, due to speed. If you shoot rocks, you can shoot any format, I don't think they're gonna move anytime soon . If you shoot people, it's really up to you. I like 8x10 and 4x5 for portraiture, mostly because I get a different 'look' out of the sitter when photographed with a camera they're not accustomed to seeing. It also seems to relax them because it takes more time.

    do some soul searching. what camera allows you to express your artistic, and personal vision in the best, most effective way?

    personally, I have almost given up on 35mm altogether. its just too small now. I still have a pentax, and a few p+s cameras(great for a day out with friends due to portability), but when I can, I try to shoot MF or LF to really express what I feel, because I feel these tools allow me to express my vision in the best possible way.

    in the end, its really your decision. DON'T sell anything until you've made an informed decision, cause you might regret it if it isn't 100% on the ball.

    -Dan

  4. #4
    Downstairs
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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    Step up.
    Strip it down to essentials. One camera, one lens, one film-holder, one tray.
    Forget art. Concentrate on craft. Be consistent like the Bechers.
    Forget your vision - the viewer does not give a hoot about your vision. Better to concentrate on what you can do about stimulating his vision.
    Last edited by cjbroadbent; 1-Jun-2010 at 02:24. Reason: typo plus

  5. #5

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    I've struggled a bit with this question too on my 4x5, luckily I've got an enlarger so print size isn't an issue.

    I've got an RB and love it. The thing that keeps me from stepping down from 4x5 to my RB permenantly, is the movements.

    I rarely shoot like the F64 crowd, most often the opposite. I like being able to distort the scene and manipulate focus to get more abstract/emotional works and the 4x5 kicks the RB's tail here for any subject that will hold still for it.

    If I were making a change in format it would be up to 8x10 to get that lovely big ground glass to compose on, but then I'd want the enlarger and...
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

  6. #6

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    I agree with CB except for the vision, which I would turn around 180, and say that you need to find subject matter that excites you regardless of others. Move up and try the bigger negatives that you can contact print (I'm working on 7x11 now, and I sometimes shoot two 5x8s on an 8x10). Keep the process simple. Your seeing--what excites you visually--can change just as a function of the size and ratio of the view screen and lens.

    I think we've all experienced what you relate. It's natural. We set a certain goal or follow a certain interest for a while until we achieve/experience/learn what we wanted or what attracted us, then we look around and ask "what next?"

    Regarding your location, I grew up in a fairly crowded (for the US) suburban location. Yet, I was constantly surprised at encountering little "pockets" of nature--drainage ditches, etc., where nature survived. You just have to get off the beaten path.

    Edward Weston did not drive, and though he did spend a lot of years on the California coast and so had nature at his doorstep, for a lot of other years he did not and so worked with vegetables, shells, photographed clouds from his rooftop, nudes (friends & lovers), and basically whatever was at hand. Consider spending a week just walking around where you live, looking, scouting for what excites you visually--without a camera. Then return with your camera.

    Also, some part of the direction you go depends on your personality--are you more open, or closure-oriented, or a balance of both? Do you like the idea of going out into the world with your camera to "discover" in terms of your particular vision, or does the idea of conceiving a project that has definite boundaries and that you can complete in a reasonable time frame appeal to you more? Neither approach is right or wrong, but we are usually more comfortable proceeding in the way that feels more natural to us.

    And, as a small aside, if you continue with the Tachi and want to shoot in a 60% ratio, consider making a 2.5in x 4in mask to fit inside the back--a piece of cardboard painted black and folded at the ends that you can wedge into the back will allow you to accomplish the same end as the 2x5 darkslide but in a similar ratio to the 7x11.

  7. #7
    Downstairs
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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    Michael, that was a good thoughtful reply to the OP - and to us.
    The vision thing: I tend to be disruptive about art and vision.
    Sometimes it's shield for eluding criticism. Sometimes it's a crutch. But whatever, vision is the last thing to search for when you're stuck.
    I would pencil 'Non Nobis' inside the ground glass and shoot for perfection.

  8. #8

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    Christopher, thanks. There is something in Matus's post that struck a chord. I completely agree with you about vision being used as a crutch or shield against criticism--or a way of "selling" crap. I guess I was guilty of using the term w/o thinking of all the connotations. I recently reread EW's collection of published articles on photography and admit to being under the influence at the moment of his way of thinking about "seeing." But what he meant by that is not the same thing most people today mean by "vision" in terms of art.

    I like your last comment a lot--esp. the idea of penciling your "theme"--whatever it is--onto the gg and shooting for perfection.
    Cheers

  9. #9

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    "Large Format Photography" is not about camera/negative size, it is about state of mind. It can be done with a Leica as well as with a Linhof.
    Unless it is something you must do because it is how you make your living, your photography should be done because and however it pleasures you to do so, not because one way is "better" than another.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  10. #10

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    Re: Stepping up or down .... ?

    Thank you for your replies and support - very different opinions with lot of truth and good advice.

    True is - jumping from one camera to other will not improve my results. Still - using the right tool for the right job has something to it. Om this note - over past few months I did several portrait sessions with one friend of mine - two were shot digitally (actually for another person who does hand-made body jewellery - with a bit of luck there should be an photo-exhibition in Munich organized by the her) and I did also some informal portraits with 35mm RF. Indeed those shots would not have been possible with 4x5 given the conditions and requirements. At the same time when traveling light (visiting different cities and places just for a day or two with my wife) 4x5 does not fit - there I would like to have a flexible MF along (to be solved ..). So much to this.

    - Christopher -

    I see your point and after short initial shock I actually agree on the 'vision' (I did not dare to mention this words in my first post). I will take a different look at my photography now - let's see what comes out of it. And I will concentrate on craft.

    - Michael -

    Yes - my complaints about the surroundings are shallow - inability to see is the problem on my side. Camera-less walks DO help. But as I do not find too much time recently I tend not to "loose" the time running around without the camera (wrong, of course). Still - there are views I have realized to be interesting just when going around the city shopping - some of them still wait there for me. I have already noticed that I "see" more photographs without camera in my hand. Sometimes.

    What concerns my nature I am rather open person although exploring places full of people with 4x5 camera is something I do not feel fully comfortable with yet. Recently I made a discovery - I went to photograph local "festival" (well lot of carousels and food) and was surprised how little attention I got (late evening). One example shot is HERE

    - Mark -

    truth to be told I have slipped way too much into producing "views" instead of photographs - using the movements in creative way way too little.

    ----

    Concerning changing the camera up or down-wards - I will try that trick with a matt-board with cutout for more panoramic format and see what comes out. Initially I just wanted to use a half dark slide (2 shots per sheet), but this way I will be able to eliminate the rest of the image and make the visualization easier. Will give it a try. I think I should finally get a spot meter - metering with DSLR is precise, but one does not learn much and I often fail with incident light meter (Digisix) ...

    Actually - part of the feel for changing the camera is that I do not feel fully comfortable with the Tachihara - the main reason being the precision of the movements and alignment as well as awkward handling with wide lenses (75mm). The possible movement to larger format is a serious decision (as it would require to sell most of my current equipment) is something I do not hurry with.

    I also realized that I too rarely bring things to end - in this case it means to actually produce a print and/or post the results on the web to get some feedback (advice, critique or praise). You may have noticed that I have posted a few photos over last few days (and few more will come). But now that I got basic handle over the scanner (Microtek F1) I am forcing myself to produce more photographs. In fact I have sent a few for printing yesterday.
    Matus

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