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Thread: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Collinsville, CT USA

    Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    Am interested in how others have approached this "problem".

    For me I can relatively easily backpack up to my 8x10 with a few lenses and film holders for a mile or two up a trail or lot less distance following a stream up a gorge. Tripod over the shoulder. From one bad experience, a GG protector a must to have and use.

    Using the 11x14 is a totally different experience. The camera, a few film holders, and a few lenses all easily fit within a customized/altered large vintage Sinar camera case. but it is very heavy and have to use and deal with it from the trunk of my car and transporting the equipment anymore than a short distance very unpractical.

    Tried hauling equipment in a drag-behind-me cart but totally didn't work... trails I like to hike in New England too narrow and usually very rocky (vibration of equipment case really worried me). I tend to hike on class 3 and class 4 trails up mountains.

    look forward to comments...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Re: Practically of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    My Chamonix 045n plus three lenses is actually lighter than my Nikon D800E +lenses, so no problem there. I now have a 5x7 field camera (Gundlach Korona). Although it's not really heavy, I find by the time I add a stouter tripod and bigger film holders there is a noticeable increase in weight. So far, I mostly use the Chamonix for anything involving more than a two hour walk. A bigger issue is time. I generally only shoot LF when I'm by myself, not on a trip with family.

    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  3. #3
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    The bigger the camera, the shorter the walk. Besides, with only one good pic in ten (on a good day), what are the odds of finding it when tired and far from the car.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    It very much depends on the details of your outfit and the status of your strength and conditioning. A bare-bones ULF outfit can be not much more than 8x10 to carry, but that depends on having an ultralight camera and limiting the number of lenses and holders you carry. For example, a 7x17 Korona with a 270 or 305 G-Claron and two or three holders isn't that much more of a production compared to a typical 8x10 outfit.

    The largest formats I've ever carried away from the car are a (relatively) lightweight 7x17 or 11x14 with one lens and a couple of holders, and even then I've never had the pack hoisted for longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time between taking breaks for a setup or a rest. And this has been for casual day-walking on well-trodden trails. Unfortunately, I'm not remotely in shape for serious hiking with 8x10 or ULF. YMMV.

    I do have a cart for wheeling heavy outfits around the neighborhood, but it's not appropriate (nor permitted, I think) for most trails I'd want to walk.

  5. #5
    David Lobato David Lobato's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Baltimore MD

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    Scout the area beforehand, know the time of day, how far to hike, and what specific setups to get to. Then plan to return with the bare necessities (lenses, filters, film holders), plus a little more for contingencies. I just recently put together a very manageable kit with a light 8x10 Conley, a 12 inch Kodak Commercial Ektar, 4 film holders, cable release, and a light focussing cloth or a black T-shirt, and my iPhone with a light meter app. It fits in a medium backpack with room for water and outerwear.

    I have an Empire State 11x14 camera and would use the same approach. Tripod, one lens, 2-3 film holders, lightweight focus cloth, light meter app. A lightweight extra lens is a definite option. An 11x14 might necessitate a larger tripod.

  6. #6
    Lachlan 717
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    The key is a good backpack. No way I'd carry a box.

    I've hiked miles and miles with a 4 lens/4 holder 7x17" kit in an 80ltr pack.

    You miss 100% of the shots you never take. -- Wayne Gretzky

  7. #7

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    For multi-day backpack trips (and bicycle trips) I take my Toyo 45CF. Weighing ~ 3.5 lbs the camera folds up with my normal lens - a 150mm Apo Sirona-S which gives the same field of view as a 75mm on my P67II which is my favorite 67 lens. The low weight of the camera allows me to use a series 0 CF Gitzo instead of the much heavier and larger Series 3 and the resulting weight and bulk of the traveling kit is less than the MF kit and the tripod and head fits compactly on the bikes rear carrier. I gave-up on readyloads long ago due to the weight and bulk and instead carry 4 or 5 film holders and a Harrison pup tent. Much better on the back and pack.

    I'll day-hike with my 810 Toyo MII but wouldn't dream of backpacking with it unless I had a mule to carry it for me which, in my old age, will start doing. A few hundred dollars for a mule is looking more and more like a good idea for this senior citizen.


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    now in Tucson, AZ

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    I will be the first to quote the great Brett Weston, who used an 11x14 camera around New York City while in the Army in 1945;
    "If it's more than fifty yards from the car, it's not photogenic."
    And of course later in his career Brett used a Rolleiflex SL66.
    The real answer is that you have to build a kit that will let you do what you want. Certainly scouting locations ahead of time is a good idea. Anything ULF won't lend itself to wandering in the hopes of finding something you like.
    My decision, long ago, was to stick with 4x5, but I admire anyone who will take 8x10 or larger cameras into the field.

  9. #9
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    I bumped into Dick Arentz photographing at Calf Creek....too many years ago. His first trip brought the tripod (Majestic with extra diamond plate welded to the head), second was the 12x20 camera, third trip was the lens, meter, film holder, etc. He only had to get 50 yards from his truck.

    I'm just now having renewed interest in 8x10, but I'm not going away from the car with this. I can go a little further with the 5x7, further yet with the 4x5, and far enough with a Mamiya 7 and one or two lenses in my pocket. Then again, I don't print large nor with platinum.
    my picture blog

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2013

    Re: Practicality of using LF and especially ULF in the field

    I'm not sure LF and ULF should be used in the same sentence with practicality. That's part of its charm.

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