View Full Version : New York Times article about Clifford Ross ULF

John Flavell
9-Dec-2004, 06:25
A very interesting article in today's New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/09/arts/design/09phot.html?oref=login&pagewanted=print&position= (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/09/arts/design/09phot.html?oref=login&pagewanted=print&position=)

MIke Sherck
9-Dec-2004, 06:39
For those who object to registering with the paper, you can use "photoid" as your user name and password (all lower case, omit the quotes.)

Frank Petronio
9-Dec-2004, 07:16
Leave it to the NYT to regurgitate the same tired press release bullshit from a photographer - err... "artist" - whose real talent is self-promotion. There are dozens of photographers on this forum who use larger cameras, make sharper and more detailed photos, and dare to make well-crafted, emotionally-charged, and intelligently composed images. But what do I know? I'm a dummy from a red state ;-0

Larry Gebhardt
9-Dec-2004, 07:37
Hey Frank I'm a dummy from a blue state and I feel the same way. I'm sick of seeing his name pop up in these forums. I have yet to see what is special about his camera, other than he built it himself.

Leonard Evens
9-Dec-2004, 07:53
I did some rough calculations. It seems to me that resolving shingles so they look "sharp" at 4000 feet is doing pretty well, but not way beyond what one can do with a even a 4 x 5 camera using the right film. If you throw in a Imacon scanner, you can probably produce Gb files which preserve that detail. But, it is of course impossible to know just how well he is doing except by seeing it directly and examining it.

What does "blue" vs. "red" states have to do with it? It is true that the NY Times might be classified as a "blue" newsapaper. I read both it and the Chicago Tribune, which is located in a "blue" state, but is a moderately "red" newspaper, at least as far as its editorial page is concerned. They both do a good and accurate job of reporting the news, but the Times clearly is superior in that respect. You learn about things in the Times, of all kinds, that you would never see in most other newspapers. But of course no news source is perfect. It is easy for a reporter to get carried away by some point of view and report nonsense that is apparent to anyone knowledgeable about the subject.

Michael Kadillak
9-Dec-2004, 08:14
Any national story that talks about LF is a good thing irrespective of who it is about because it draws attention to an art form that needs participants to not only survive, but prosper.

Secondly, if each of us would take a few minutes with the truly inquisitive when we are out shooting and dispell some rumors about high cost and beyond their capability, we could collectively bring many into the fold.

Pass it on....


Ken Lee
9-Dec-2004, 08:45
Some of Johannes Bach's children were composers, and considered his music and old-fashioned and dull.

"You're SO squaresville, daddy-o".

Perhaps they made more money than he did, or got better recognition. But unless you're "into classical music", you've probably never heard of them, or any of their compositions.

9-Dec-2004, 08:45
Also, the story is more about this guy's inquisitive character than anything else.
As far as his camera, does anyone actually know anything about it?
I'd be surprised these imaging speciealists at Nasa would be so impressed if it was just a homemade LF camera. There might be some innovation in there that the space guys think they could exploit.

Greg Miller
9-Dec-2004, 08:51
I s it just me or is the horizon line in the photo severely sloping? Maybe we should start a fund to buy the guy a bubble level...

tim atherton
9-Dec-2004, 08:56
"I s it just me or is the horizon line in the photo severely sloping? Maybe we should start a fund to buy the guy a bubble level..."

my photos have to be level?... now he tells me

9-Dec-2004, 10:16
I'm not sure what the whole dogpile is about here, but I checked out the guys site ... some of his work is very, very good. it's uneven, but i think that's a good sign if someone's work is exploratory. not everything you discover works perfectly, or at all.

Impressive resume, too. I suspect there's more to self promotion involved in getting your work into the permanent collections at the met, the guggenheim, the icp, the whitney, and the yale art gallery. Or getting a pattent, or getting awards from the national academy of design, the american academy & institute of arts and letters, and yale university.

Just some thoughts.

QT Luong
9-Dec-2004, 19:18
While there might be dozens of photographers on this forum who use larger cameras, I think it is a safe bet to speculate that all of their methods are geared at b&W contact printing, and their images probably contain less information than Ross negatives. Ross is already well established and does something which is relative rare with this camera, so I don't see what so strange about the recognition he receives, or why one should diss it.

QT Luong
9-Dec-2004, 19:32
If you want to know what's the originality (or lack thereof) in Ross Camera, there is no better place
to check than the US patent he received for it

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,795,648.WKU.&OS=PN/6,795,648&RS=PN/6,795,648 (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,795,648.WKU.&OS=PN/6,795,648&RS=PN/6,795,648" <a href="

Jorge Gasteazoro
9-Dec-2004, 19:47
I have to disagree with you QT, the guys has nothing more than a camera with a vacuum back, and two standards that have been check for parallelism. I dont see anything great here. Since there is no color film on these sizes I guess nobody has been able to compare, but even on B&W, I doubt he can get more info on his negs than I can on my wobbly Korona. I agree with those who think this is more a case of good marketing.

QT Luong
9-Dec-2004, 20:14
While it is one thing to say "it's nothing but an extremely well-aligned ULF", building and using it is another. Ross receives some publicity, but it's not like people are saying that he is the next Leonardo. I would think that a very precisely aligned camera would give sharper results than a wobbly one.

Jorge Gasteazoro
9-Dec-2004, 22:05
I dont know QT, I mean Wisner, Canham, Philips do it everyday. I recall a while back there even was a vacuum holder on e bay....There are people making their own cameras and doing a great job, Bob Herbst comes to mind.

What I meant by the wobbly remark was that with a little bit of care, even a 75 year old camera that is not known to be the best can produce outstanding results. I dont see the differenc between using his camera and using my 12x20.....I bet both of us are not hiking with them.. :)

I guess I just dont get what is so special about this.......This guy talks as if he invented the wheel. In the mean time I am not sure that I cannot get similar results with just plain old film holders and good technique.

Mark Sampson
10-Dec-2004, 07:02
Well, as we all know, having the newest, largest, and most expensive camera means that you will automatically make the best photographs... And even if your photographs made with the newest, largest, and most expensive camera are not particularly exceptional, proper application of publicity will ensure success.

Ken Lee
10-Dec-2004, 07:22
I retract my sarcastic remark.

Any publicity is good publicity.

I wish the guy all the best.

May we all gain more recognition and fulfillment.

Kirk Keyes
10-Dec-2004, 09:52
I agree with Jorge - it's just a camera with a "microscope" for focusing, a vacuum back, and what is probably similar to a ZigAlign mirror system permanently affixed to the camera. I think we all use a "microscope", i.e. loupe, to focus our cameras, and some even focus on an aerial image instead of ground glass. A well constructed camera probably does not need a mirror alignment sytem, and I think we all agree that a vacuum back will improve resolution for any camera system.

I don't really see this as something that special. I mean, after all, it doesn't sound like he has some special lenses, just something that we all have access to.

Maybe it's me, perhaps I have larger format envy...

Frank Petronio
10-Dec-2004, 19:39
The 10-inch wide aerial mapping cameras - complete with vacuum backs and rare-earth, custom made lenses - were made back before WWII. I think the only significant thing he is doing is proving that a Yalie trust-funder can reinvent 70-year old technology.

10-Dec-2004, 19:41
Wasn't there another ULF camera project that was recently getting some attention? As I recall, this other project went so far as to design and manufacture their own lens(es). (As well as a dedicated SUV 'transporter')

I find it interesting that the mainstream press seems to think that someone building their own LF camera is an interesting topic worth writing about. As they say - any press is good press.

However, very little of what the builders are doing is novel or unique. Indeed, I think that if Ross's patent were to be challenged, a court would find that the patent teaches little that its truly novel or that is not anticipated by other patents or current state-of-the-art.


Kirk Keyes
13-Dec-2004, 11:33
I was flipping through some past View Camera issues, and one from the spring of 2001 had two guys that had 2 modified astrographic survey cameras that were 9x18 format. These cameras were designed to photograph the entire sky in only about 100 frames! It sounds like they used the same vacuum roll back as Ross.

The cameras in the VC issue also used 3 micrometers to adjust the lens for focusing and front tilt. Since these guys did not us a ground glass for focusing, they used a laser range finder to determine subject distance and then a lookup table to determine what setting to adjust the micrometers to. I think they used a 35mm camera with a viewfinder mask to determine framing.

Sounds very similar to the Ross camera, and perhaps more high tech...

Kirk - www.keyesphoto.com

Mark Sampson
13-Dec-2004, 13:41
A few years back, I was involved in the testing of experimental aerial color negative films. (One of them is now the Kodak product 2444.) Last year one of the engineers I worked for then gave me a copy of an 12-page article (single-spaced) called "The R1: Hector Mann's mustache (Draft 8.4)" . It is Mr. Ross' explanation of his quest to build the ultimate camera, as of 1/03/03. In it he explains that the Flint/Weissman camera (as seen in VC) did not meet his needs, which led him to develop his own camera. I will say that he's been very thorough in his research, design, and engineering, right through to the final mounting/framing of his prints. It does seem to me that with his publicity he has set the bar very high... and that making pictures worth all the technical effort will not come easy. There are plenty of other ULF photographers working on making a "Portrait of America", and his image-making skills will have to be the equal of the best of them to live up to the hype. That said, I wish him all the best, he's set himself a very large challenge...

(I suggested that Kodak donate some film to him, but I don't know if they ever did.)

Kirk Keyes
14-Dec-2004, 10:46
Mark - can you remember in whast way the Flint/Weissman camera did not meed Mr. Ross' needs? Looking at the difference between the two cameras, I suspect his main one was no ground glass framing/focusing. But as far as one being technically superior to the other or greating a higher resolution image, I can't see much difference.

Mark Sampson
14-Dec-2004, 13:59
Kirk, per the document, the Flint/Weissman camera article in VC was the source of Mr. Ross' idea. He met with the two inventors and found that a) it lacked view camera movements, b) lacked groundglass viewing/focusing, and c) the inventors had "commercial applications in mind", which I take to mean that the F/W camera was not for rent. So he decided to build his own. But now that I think of it, didn't I see the Flint/Weissman camera for sale in the classifieds of a recent issue of VC?

Frank Petronio
14-Dec-2004, 14:44
Did the Flint?weissman camera come with a spirit level? ;-)