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Thread: The challenge of large format colour

  1. #1

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    The challenge of large format colour

    Does anyone else find that shooting large format colour brings with it a particular challenge? I've been musing on this lately. I recently arrived back from my 2 years in the US with a bunch of 5x7 colour film (E6 and C41) that I knew I wouldn't be able to find here in the UK.

    Yet now that I'm home and stuffed to the gills with colour film, I can't for the life of me find any inspiration to shoot colour under grey London winter skies. Often I encounter a scene which would make for a strong composition but which would just look weak and washed out in colour.

    I think that black and white materials are inherently more flexible. I can shoot b&w in just about any light and the film and paper are not as rare or expensive as colour materials. I also find that in the urban environment (my prime habitat) there are often many more blobs of distracting colour in a given scene (whether it' a street sign, a car, whatever).

    So anyway, I now have about 80 sheets or so of colour 5x7 and I can't for the life of me imagine where I'm going to conjure 80 great colour pictures from - particularly in an urban environment in winter.

    Does anyone else out there feel this self imposed 'pressure' to do the film justice?

    The irony is that if colour 5x7 materials weren't as rare as hens' teeth then I'd probably be shooting it with reckless abandon and picking up the odd hit now and then. Maybe I should forget the cost and scarcity and just go burn through my colour 5x7 and see what I get.

    Happy shooting in 2012 everyone.

  2. #2
    kev curry's Avatar
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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    If you can handle the expense why not enjoy it with abandon till its gone. If not, sell it on and buy BW film if you think its more suited to your grey habitat;-)

  3. #3

    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    London at this time of year is very difficult. There were some lovely muted colour pictures on this forum a while back (can't find them right now) of woods and water though, that were quite inspiring for me. Shooting at twilight can add some more blue that adds something, and we have had a few clear evenings. Plus there is some colourful architecture around too... Right now the sky is a giant softbox as usual though and it is hard to be inspired at all...

  4. #4

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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    Overcast conditions make for a wonderful diffuse light for photographing intimate details with color. Bright overcast is better than heavy overcast but both can work well. Work on finding small to mid scale scenes with no. or little, sky in them. Leave the bigger scale scenes for when the sky suits them.

    It can be a new way of seeing, but a great skill to develop and have in your tool kit.

  5. #5
    Resident Heretic
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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    Quote Originally Posted by Riverman View Post
    Does anyone else out there feel this self imposed 'pressure' to do the film justice?
    Not me. Film is a tool. I have it in my bag of tricks to do my vision justice, not the other way around. If it doesn't do my vision justice, I don't use it. Simple really.

    Bruce Watson

  6. #6
    SE Penna. and coastal CT
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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    I don't disagree with the OP's comment. I would therefore shoot color materials in the spring, summer and fall when some believe (as I do) that color in nature is most vibrant.

    Another suggestion to shoot color materials in winter, is to do cityscapes and capture the colors there (vehicles, signs, lights, people, Royal Mail boxes, telephone booths). Another idea is to visit a botanical garden/greenhouse and shoot whatever is growing there.

    Lastly, as I look out my kitchen window into my garden, I note that the bigleaf hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophylla) are a very lovely shade of brown, with highlights coming from filtered low winter sunlight. Adjacent to the hydrangeas are a nicely textured, deeply green boxwood hedge.

    So, coming full circle, one could say there is a different color palette in winter as compared with other seasons. Not a better or worse palette, just a different one.

  7. #7

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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    Sounds like you want to make photographs that look like a Paul Simon song, i.e. photographs that make all the world look like a sunny day. Which is certainly fine, there's nothing wrong with that kind of photography except that your environment apparently doesn't lend itself to it. But since you seem to find b&w film more suitable for what you have available to photograph, why not pretend your color film is b&w film, make the photographs, then convert to b&w when you scan it? Better IMHO to do that than to let the film just sit in the fridge while you wait for your environment and your color interests to coincide.

    Of course there's always the travel option too but you certainly know there are other places that look different than London in winter so I assume your job or other circumstances don't allow for that right now.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8

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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    Thanks for the suggestions everyone. This afternoon I pulled myself out of the rut and decided to explore what was on my doorstep in East London. I ended up shooting a couple of portraits of some regulars at one of the boozers in my neighborhood. Got to hear some good stories of East End past as well.

    It's weird, large format on a tripod is probably not the best medium for shooting this kind of stuff but it has worked for me in the past in DC (see link). Now I might have a crack at doing something similar here in the East End.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbk21/s...7624396311475/

  9. #9
    Preston Birdwell
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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    When the light is muted and soft, challenge yourself to see the intimate details around you. Look for color contrast; warm against cool, with open shadows. E-6 films respond very nicely to such scenes. If the dynamic range is greater, think about using a color negative film. Keeping the sky out of the frame in such conditions is a great suggestion.

    Here in California, I often have the opposite problem: Bluebird skies and high contrast. So, rather than give up, I look for scenes that are in the shade and lit by the sky, or by reflected light from something outside the frame.

    If it bugs you to have your color film languishing in the fridge waiting for the perfect conditions, what have you gained? Go out and have fun! :-)

    Happy New Year To All!

    --P
    Preston-Columbia CA

    "If you want nice fresh oats, you have to pay a fair price. If you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse; that comes a little cheaper."

  10. #10

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    Re: The challenge of large format colour

    Dull overcast days and snow makes bright colors, both natural and man made "pop" Why not take advantage of that?
    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.

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