View Full Version : Los Angelino diving in...

24-Oct-2006, 22:05

My name is Anthony Hardwick. I'm about to make the leap into LF. In the realm of still photography I have quite a bit of 135mm experience, as well as MF. These days I shoot primarily 135mm BW and various color stocks with my Leica M6 and a couple of lenses. I may get an M8 digital body down the line at some point as well.

Really, most of my experience is in motion picture cinematography, which is what I do for a living. I have been shooting 16mm, Super 16mm, 35mm and even Super 8mm since 1986. In the past couple of years, I have shot a few projects on a variety of HD formats as well.

I graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 1988 with a B.F.A. in Film, and started working initially as an Assistant Cameraman. I made the switch to Director of Photography in 1995, and have been at it ever since. I have shot a television commercials, documentary films, feature films and episodic tv series over the years in the capacity of camera operator on some and D.P. on others. A film I shot is opening up next week called "Borat: Cultural Learnings from America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." I know it's a mouthful, but check it out if you get a chance... it's pretty funny. It was shot in a documentary style for the most part.

Anyway, I have been interested in getting into LF for personal projects for years. I am about to take the plunge. I have been reading the excellent articles on this site as well as following various threads with interest. I purchased a book, "View Camera Technique" by Leslie Stroebel, and look forward to reading it. Really my hardest decision in a way is whether I will jump right into 8x10, or begin with 4x5. There are pros and cons to both from my perspective, so it will be a tough one to make a final decision on.

I look forward to learning from you all and getting to know some of you hopefully. Thanks for reading my intro.

John Kasaian
24-Oct-2006, 23:12
Welcome Anthony, 8x10 rocks!

Ron Marshall
25-Oct-2006, 05:49
Welcome to the forum Anthony. Don't overlook 5x7, the "Goldilocks" format. I began with 4x5 then purchased a 5x7. The 4x5 is a 3lb Toho which is a wonderful camera for hiking etc. I use the 5x7 near the car.

There are a few lighter 8x10s that may be backpacked, if that is one of your intended uses. Have a look at Kerry Thalmann's site, for a wealth of lightweight lens info. The home page of this site has reviews of many current LF cameras.

The Canham 4x5 is very versatile, it is actually a 5x7 with a 4x5 reducing back. A 4x10 back is also an available option.

25-Oct-2006, 07:56
Welcome to the forum Anthony. Don't overlook 5x7, the "Goldilocks" format. I began with 4x5 then purchased a 5x7. The 4x5 is a 3lb Toho which is a wonderful camera for hiking etc. I use the 5x7 near the car.

There are a few lighter 8x10s that may be backpacked, if that is one of your intended uses. Have a look at Kerry Thalmann's site, for a wealth of lightweight lens info. The home page of this site has reviews of many current LF cameras.

The Canham 4x5 is very versatile, it is actually a 5x7 with a 4x5 reducing back. A 4x10 back is also an available option.

John and Ron, thank you for the welcome. Ron, I have considered 5x7, but the fewer choices in film stocks available pre cut in that size has dissuaded me to some degree. Aside from that, it is a format that would appeal to me. I like the fact that it isn't much larger/heavier than a 4x5 outfit. What draws me to 8x10 is the contact printing possibilities, but hiking with it seems difficult. I will check out that site you mentioned, so thank you for the suggestion.

A good friend of mine whose brother shoots 8x10 laughed when I told him I was concerned about hiking with an 8x10 setup. He asked me what I thought Ansel Adams did - with likely heavier gear than is available today. He has a point.

Ron Marshall
25-Oct-2006, 08:30
Anthony, since you have some interest in 5x7, here is a link to an article on the home page of this site that considers the pros and cons of 5x7:


Sheldon N
25-Oct-2006, 08:42
Welcome Anthony. Your movie has been getting a lot of press lately - I hope it does well.

It's nice to see you here and showing an interest in LF. Be careful of some of these guys here, they'll have you wanting to shoot 11x14 or 12x20 in no time flat. :)

If you are still deciding between 4x5 and 8x10, I'd say start with 4x5 then add 8x10 later on if you decide to upgrade. Most of the folks who shoot 8x10 here have a 4x5 body as well.

Eric Biggerstaff
25-Oct-2006, 08:57
Welcome Anthony! I think you will find this forum a great place to pick up information.

Don't get to bogged down in deciding on a format, choose one that fits your personality, shooting style, and what you enjoy to photographing. As you already know, there are people on this forum who use just about every LF size available, so you will get plenty of good advice.

Have fun and good luck.


Hugo Zhang
25-Oct-2006, 09:12
Welcome Anthony!

If you like contact prints, jump into 8x10. I bought a 4x5 Arca-Swiss 6 years ago and used it for less than a year when I took a workshop in pt/pd and moved to 8x10. That beaufitul Arca-Swiss has been sitting in my closet since. It's easy to move up, hard to move down. Part of the fun of LF is all sorts of challenges you have to go through.

I have learned so much from this forum and made some nice friends too. Good luck!


steve simmons
25-Oct-2006, 10:12
Welcome. The Stroebl book is a good longterm reference but not the best inro. I usually recommend

User's Guide tot he View Camera by Jim Stone
Using the View Camera that I wrote

or Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

Check your local library.

There are also several good articles in the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site


steve simmons

Ole Tjugen
25-Oct-2006, 11:38
I'll have to agree with Steve Simmons here - his book is far more useful for a beginner than Leslie Stroebl's.

Welcome to LF, by the way :)

25-Oct-2006, 18:11
Thank you all for the warm welcome. I appreciate the advice from all of you, and I will no doubt be seeking much more of it in the coming year.

I think I have just about exhausted reading all the articles both on this site as well as the free ones at View Camera. That was a good start in getting a base of knowledge to expand on for a beginner.

Steve, I'll definitely get your book and perhaps the one by Jim Stone to start. I got the Stroebel book as a good reference work that I figured I'd go back to regularly as I need more info on a given aspect of LF. It's kind of like college textbook, so it feels as if I'm going back to film school in a way!

I've exchanged some emails with a LF forum member who lives in the L.A. area, and he has offered to show me his 4x5 Ebony and a few lenses sometime. I'm looking forward to seeing it, and it'll be nice to meet a LF enthusiast in my neck of the woods.

Sheldon, thank you for the well wishes regarding the movie. I think it's pretty funny, and judging from a couple of screenings I've attended, including the Premiere the other night, I think it will do alright.

Ron, thank you for the 5x7 article link. I did read it.

And to the rest, thank you as well. I look forward to getting to know you at least in the virtual world, and perhaps to meet a few of you on travels down the line.

Finally, I frequent a few forums dedicated to various interests of mine, and there is often a steep learning curve when it comes to noobs and their basic level questions that can irritate some long time members and experts of the given forum. I will do my best to search before posting questions that have probably been asked hundreds of times, but I'm sure a couple of dumb questions are bound to come from me now and then. So... I'm apologizing in advance! :D

25-Oct-2006, 19:53
Greetings Anthony,

Welcome to the club... you'll learn lots from some really decent folks here.

As for format... I started off with 4x5, went to 5x7 with a 4x5 reducing back, and finally settled on 8x10 and looking for reducing backs to 4x5 and 5x7.

The decision to shoot (or not shoot) 5x7 should be based on what kinds of films you like to use. You can still buy Provia, Velvia in 5x7 along with all kinds of B&W. Frankly, most people tend to shoot a limited number of films and tend to stick with them as they become more and more familiar with the films' characteristics. I've essentially settled on Ilford Fp4+ and Hp5+ for B&W and Provia 5x7 for my transparency films. And, even if the Provia goes down the tubes in the future... I'll cut my 8x10 down to size. So, no big issues in this corner.

The 8x10 format is a different cat to use from that of either 4x5 or 5x7. I have a Dorff 8x10 that is NOT the lightest of cameras. And, by the time you load up the backpack with lenses, film holders, dark cloth, and meter... you've got some fairly significant weight on your hands. My backpack is "almost" as tall as I am! :) So, if you're looking to build up your leg muscles... by all means, choose this format.

Now, having said all that about 8x10... when you look at your first properly exposed transparency or negative! :) WOW! 8x10 is all of a sudden worth all the challenges!

Contact printing either 5x7 or 8x10 is easy to do. Some people also contact print 4x5 and like it. Others don't. IMHO, it's just a matter of taste. :)

As for Steve's recommendation of a different book... I couldn't agree with him more. The ones he has recommended are all excellent. My favorite is still the Stone book. But, the Jack Dykinga book is great because it relates the camera movements to the outcomes on film via real life examples. I'd highly recommend this book too.

As for the learning curve... all that is required is that you shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Otherwise, it's like any other worthwhile activity... it requires LOTS of practice. :)

Good luck


John Kasaian
25-Oct-2006, 20:56
More thoughts---After you've read Steve Simmons' excellent book, you might want to jump start your LF adventure with a workshop or maybe find a class in LF offered by a Junior College or adult school in your area. Since you're in LA you might also want to stop by Peter Gowland's studio in Santa Monica. If Peter is feeling up to it, He'll talk your ears off about Large Format photography. Listen to him!


Eric Biggerstaff
25-Oct-2006, 22:20
Another thought along the same lines as John's, he is correct in that some instruction will go a long way into getting you productive more quickly. Another name you might look up in Los Angeles is Ray McSavaney (http://www.tgartworks.com/mcsavaney). Ray is an outstanding photographer and should be in the book, look him up. But then, in Los Angeles you have A LOT of great photographers!

Have fun and keep us posted as to your progress.


Eric Biggerstaff
25-Oct-2006, 22:50
Oh, I almost forgot......here is my 2 cents worth on which format to begin with.

I would strongly advise to start with 4x5, and here is why.

LF photography, like anything, takes a lot of practice to get good at. To learn what you need to know and begin making successful images you will be happy with takes practice and lots of film. The fact is, the more film you put through the camera the more you will learn and the better you will become.

LF film, while not the most expensive thing on the planet, is expensive; and the larger you go in format the more expensive it becomes. At some point, the cost of film becomes a limiting factor in your growth as you might not be as inclined to shoot 4, 5 or 6 sheets of film while working on a compostion. But this is JUST what you need to do to learn - shoot a lot of film. In the LF world, 4x5 is the least expensive film you can buy.

As your skills and vision mature, then looking at larger formats is a nice thing to consider. The number of keepers you will make will be greater and the film cost will not be as great a consideration. I think it can be a mistake for people new to LF to begin with the larger formats as they just don't put enough film through the camera to progress quickly.

As a DP, you did not start out making feature films, you started on lower budget films and worked your way up. I think the same idea is right for starting out in LF photography.

In the end however, it comes down to what you want to do of course, the main thing is to have fun and use your new camera a lot to learn. In the end, having fun is really what matters.

Good luck.


25-Oct-2006, 23:19
You guys are great! I really appreciate the thoughtful replies and the time it took you to make them. Many of your suggestions and recommendations are things I've been thinking about in the back of my mind.

Capocheny thanks for your points on the practical differences, especially in bulk and weight, of the various formats. I will keep them in mind when I get ready to buy my first camera package. As for the suggestions of shooting a lot of film, I do intend to do so in the process of becoming competent, and ultimately skilled I hope. That is something that is integral to becoming better that I've certainly learned from experience in other formats. You really need to shoot a lot of film through a camera (still or motion picture) in order to become completely comfortable with the camera ergonomically and with the characteristics of various film stocks.

The points you raise Eric, regarding the benefits of shooting 4x5 in order to shoot more film in as economical manner as possible, have been running through my mind for some time now. I also foresee a time in the future when I may very well own a couple different LF cameras spanning a couple of formats. This is all assuming I take to it, but I have reason to believe I will.

John and Eric, I like your advice about potentially taking a workshop. I would love to do that, and I think I will nopt too long after I get a kit put together and start shooting some on my own to get my feet wet. I'd like to have a base of at least minimal experience before taking a workshop, but I'm not talking about waiting a long time to do it. I will start to read up on the various workshop options around, and ask advice from all of you when I get closer to making some decisions.

A workshop will probably work better for me than a regular class due to the unpredictable nature of being a freelance cinematographer. Between features, I usually do shorter term commercial shoots, and I often get booked with relatively short notice. It's one of the negative aspects of the lifestyle. There are many courses I would have liked to have taken over the years, but chances are good that I would have missed far too many classes in a given course to make it worthwhile. A workshop over a shorter but more intensive time period is esier for me to commit to.

Thanks again for all the help!

28-Oct-2006, 23:51
I just wanted to add that I met up with Rick Russell today, who very generously spent a good portion of the day showing me his beautiful Ebony 4x5 camera system. We met up at El Matador beach just North of Malibu this morning, and despite the uncooperative tide which went from high to higher over the course of the 4.5 hours we spent in the area, we had a great time. The weather was amazing, and there was a group of artists painting the landscape (and seascape) while we were there.

The unusually high tide prevented us from being able to play around much down on the beach, but we did manage to have enough time to mount the range of lenses that Rick brought with him, and we made two polaroid exposures testing the differences between a polarizer and an orange filter on the contrast of a simple composition. Then we retreated to the higher bluffs, where Rick set up and took a photograph of a woman painting on the edge of the cliffs. I took a few photographs with my Leica of Rick and his camera while he was working, and I also took a few photographs of another painter working on the cliffs nearby.

In the time that we spent together today going over the functions of his camera and the general process of composing and taking a LF photograph, I learned an incredible amount. Much of the theoretical knowledge that I've been soaking up via this board and other sites on the internet came to life and quite a few lightbulbs went off in my head as I made connections between the theoretical and the practical.

I am indebted to Rick for his generosity in offering to meet up with stranger, and for spending the better part of a Saturday showing me his camera and lenses and explaining the reasons behind his methodology of working with LF. Thank you Rick! What good fortune to meet and become friends with such a great guy who shares a strong passion for photgraphy. I look forward to getting together again, and perhaps before too long to head out into the field with Rick and my own future LF camera to practice the art and craft.

What did we all do before the internet?