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Thread: Slaying the deamons of format choice

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Southern New England

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    What can I say? I MUST be mental. A few years ago I went through what most experience when "upgrading" my format choice. The 8x10 was getting rather small so bagan my journey into the world of ULF. Of course my first choice was a rather beefy 16x20. After talking to a shooter who was and still is using a 16x20 that choice was put into the closet...for awhile.

    My next thought was an 11x14. After some postings the descion was made to buy an 11x14. Fate jumped in and I found a great deal on a used Winser. All this while I was waiting on an 8x20 conversion back for my 8x10. But wait.....I had JUST taken delivery of a 7x17 conversion back for my 7x17. Before the film holders for the 7x17 arrived I made the brilliant (?) decision to sell the 7x17 back and order the 8x20 back. I ended up selling the 5x7/7x17 kit (not the plan).This would make more sense. I could shoot both 8x10/8x20 and then the "occasional" 11x14. Sometime I crack myself up! That 11x14 became the replacement for the 8x10. After all....why bother removing the 8x20 back to shoot 8x10 when there is a perfectly good 11x14?

    I finally decided that the 8x20 was 99% of my vision. Until I would see a shot that just screamed for the 11x4. In my effort to simplify, my approach was to leave the 11x14 at home when traveling with the 8x20. Now the rub.....A few weeks ago I noticed a post for an e-bay auction for some Weston 11x14 contact prints. They were amazing. Then I started seeing more 11x14 shots...not even looking for 8x20 images. The bug for 11x14 has peaked like a raging fever. I honestly thought that my road trips could be based on the 8x10/8x20 combo. Not the case. When I pack the 8x20 I now get the STRONG urge to pack the 11x4.

    Just like you would expect if the 11x14 is left home there WILL be a shot that is perfect for that format. What to do? Do others have the same problem or am I just plain INSANE? Maybe a support group is in the works?


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    Stick to one format. Block out the others. Work on your vision. That's what I'd do.

  3. #3
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    It sounds like you might have a case of the Magic Bullet Syndrome.

    Purging it from your system might could some soulr searching. It can come down to thinking about why you photograph,

    You talk about seeing a "perfect shot" for a format that you don't have with you, but it might be worth questioning what was so perfect about it. What it meant to you. What about it was intrinsically yours vs. being a nice looking picture (like ones you'd seen before) that happens to fit the shape of the camera you left at home.

    There are always an infinite number of great shots that got away. All that needs to concern you are the ones that matter most to you, that you are prepared to bring into the world at that moment.

    It might be an interesting exercise to pick one format at random, and stick to it for a few weeks. Ignore the things you see that don't fit its format. Learn to see through that camera, and learn the nuances of its shape, what that shape filters from the world, how it connects to you. Don't pick up another camera until you've gotten very comfortable with that one. You'll probably find that in the end one of them speaks to you more clearly than the others. But you can't know until you study the language of all of them.

    I think it's telling that most of the great artists of the medium did very little switching around from format to format over their careers. When they did, it usually represented a change of vision, not just a change of mood.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    If, given the weight of ULF equipment, you're already working out of a vehicle and sticking to subjects within close lugging range, then take them both. Follow your own muse - if it doesn't work, you'll figure it out.

  5. #5

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    For me, it is not very important which camera I take into the field. When I was first getting into photography and would go out with my 35mm camera and 50mm lens, I only thought about how to use what I had, not what I didn't have. Sure, I'd occasionally see something where I said, gee, it's too bad I don't have a wide angle, but that didn't happen too often. I still need to get a 600mm lens for my 11x14 system, but it doesn't bother me when I go out without one, even though I have long lenses for my other formats.

  6. #6
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    You need a Minox. Stick with that format, and see how your vision changes! Just watch out for the contact prints.... :-)

    Contact prints seem to be your problem. You want larger sizes, but you don't want to lug around several different cameras. Why don't you get a 8x20 back for the 11x14 camera? Or an 11x14 back for the 8x10? Then one camera could handle two or three different formats.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    Have you tried golf? :-))

  8. #8
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    North Carolina

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    Learn to crop?
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  9. #9

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    When I decide to take to the field with 8x10 (or any format), I look for images in my viewfinder that fit that particular objective. Occasionally an alternative composition will present itself at which time I make note the particular angle of the sun and when during the day the lighting be at its optimum for a return visit. GPS devices are perfect for this application. I then continue on with my objective unimpeded with the urge to go back to the truck for the "other" camera because I purposefully LEFT IT AT HOME.

    Having struggled with "format" decisions myself, I have come to the conclusion that it is best to keep it simple and work on the discipline aspect of photography. Pick one format and work with it singularly for at least a month and learn to see with it. At the end of the day it is really not about size or proportions or for that matter even the process. It is about the image. I have seen 5x7 contacts that knocked my socks off and 12x20 work that made me wonder what the photographer was trying to say.

    When you start jumping around I feel that your visual efficiency goes into the toilet in the same manner that your gas mileage goes to hell in a hand basket when you are stomping on the gas pedal followed by jumping on the brakes. Over time it will all sort itself out and the word "dilema" will no longer be an issue.

    Good Luck!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Slaying the deamons of format choice

    I have found that while I am stuck indoors with work etc I feel I need to upgrade to all sorts of different formats, lenses etc.
    When I am out photographing I dont give alternative gear a single thought, I just get on with making pictures.
    It's good therapy to watch things finish on ebay that you think you need....

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