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Thread: Why Large Format?

  1. #21
    Jeff D. Welker
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    Sep 2006
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    Mesa, Arizona
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    293

    Re: Why Large Format?

    In the late 1940's my father began shooting large format in the Air Force (4x5 Speed Graphics & K20's). After his military career was over, he became a professional photographer that often shot large format for weddings, portraits, commercial work, etc. His Linhof was a workhorse for many years. He put a lot of food on the table with that camera. Eventually he went to medium format, but he always had a 4x5 around - just in case. As a youngster, I was weaned on a 4x5 both for shooting and in the darkroom. While I've enjoyed dalliances with medium format film and digital cameras, I always come back to large format. I love all the movements, the process of taking a single image, and having a more thoughtful approach to each scene - but that big negative is the main drug for me.

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
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    The "Live Free or Die" state
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    893

    Re: Why Large Format?

    I picked up large format after l got back into photography. I had initially used 35mm and a cheap Seagull TLR in high school, but put it aside when I went to college. The birth of the kids had me buy a fancy new AF Nikon which I used for snapshots, but also started back with the landscapes and city shots (more buildings than people on the street). I was still not really satisfied with the prints from this, despite the fancy new camera. The internet allowed me to discover large format (and way too many medium format cameras) in a quest to get my artistic vision onto paper. Lately digital has gotten good enough that I'm happy with the results for even larger prints, but I still pull out the analog cameras, especially the 4x5 and 5x7, when I have the urge to shoot. I also prefer to print black and white in the darkroom, but scanning and inkjet are also a passion. Either way I choose to print many of the best results seem to originate on sheet film.

    Based on all that it sounds like I'd fit into Ted's Artist category, but I'd say I'm at least as much a Technician in my interests. I like building things, and darkroom equipment and cameras are fun toys with lots of opportunities for improvements and experimentation. The trick for me is to make the art dominate, since that's what keeps me interested and shooting long term. But messing with cameras, developers, scanners, LED printing heads, timers, printers and custom ink sets is serious competition for the little bit of free time I can find. My best work is done when I take the time to understand the technology, but then stop and use that knowledge to make art.

  3. #23
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
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    Maryland, USA
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    5,438

    Re: Why Large Format?

    Large format is unpopular with the modern generation because you must think about what you're doing and know what you're doing. It's not a one-second tap on a cell phone.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  4. #24

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
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    292

    Re: Why Large Format?

    I hope nobody thinks I used “dead end” in a pejorative sense. Those of us who love it will practice large format film photography until we can’t get the tools we need anymore. Thankfully there’s a vast amount of gear out there on the used market. Anyone who wants to shoot large format will be able to do so for a very long time… as long as someone makes film (and paper if you wet print). My point, though, was simply that I’m not seeing any new developments in the technology—so it’s a “dead end” (or sunset technology if you prefer). Mind you, I don’t think we really need new developments in the technology of large format photography, so it’s all good.

    I’d argue that photography using what most people who have been into photography for a while would consider a “camera” is at more risk of disappearing in the next couple decades. It will be interesting to see how long the major camera manufacturers can keep making and selling new cameras given that for the vast majority of people who make photographs, the only camera they’ll ever have or use is the one in their phone. But that’s another topic.


    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    rdloe -if you want to talk about the horse race of technology, just remember that "analog" photography, as you call it (I prefer just to call it photography,period) has a 150 year head start in this race, so mere speed of alleged improvements doesn't tell the whole story. And I think, visually, large format film photography is still way ahead if optimal quality rather than mere convenience is what is in mind. And for me, personally, trying to keep up with constantly shifting hardware and software, which becomes rapidly obsolete by design, is a lot more fuss and headache than doing what I already know and am equipped to do. But as far as dead ends go, there is a point at which the sheer R&D expense that goes into modern digital printing has to be recouped at some point, and that it too will hit inevitable plateaus of performance which essentially stall. I think that is already happening to some extent with inkjet technology. It will show steady minor improvements, like C-printing did during its evolution; but basically, it's already reached a "good enough" level from a marketing standpoint, and that level is a qualitative step backwards from what traditional color reproduction can potential do in the right hands. Convenience has always ruled the masses, not quality. George Eastman got rich figuring that out. So I am quite grateful for what you express as a "dead end". It's more like a living end. I will end long before my large format cameras, enlargers, and lenses even begin to wear out. Besides, artists will always rebel against the routine. There is great appeal in tactile processes rather than just pushing buttons. But this is a remarkable era in which you can have your cake and eat it too, if hybrid technique appeals to you.

  5. #25

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    Massachusetts USA
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    8,214

    Re: Why Large Format?

    Quote Originally Posted by pepeguitarra View Post
    I invite you to describe your own motives if you want.
    Because of the intangibles.

  6. #26
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    11,887

    Re: Why Large Format?

    Ken is nailing it here and by his latest posting in Abstracts.

    That last one is awe inspiring!
    Vive la révolution!

  7. #27
    Drew Wiley
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    Sep 2008
    Location
    SF Bay area, CA
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    12,990

    Re: Why Large Format?

    I disagree with the notion young people are not going to get into or continue the legacy of large format photography. They just need to get exposed to it. Just like our Baby Boomer generation rebelled against all the "ticky-tacky little boxes" suburb culture and went off to start a counter-culture, I imagine some the children of today's electronics gadget addicts will rebel and want to do something creative with their hands instead. I get young people politely asking about my large format gear and darkroom methods all the time around here, out on the trails. The big issue is simply the affordability of real estate space suitable to a darkroom. Even the 20-something down the street who normally works on boat or car engines in the driveway walked out of there one day with a flea-market wooden 4x5 and old wood tripod to experiment with - and you don't usually associate beer-guzzling grease monkeys with that kind of thing. I never asked him about it afterwards. Even his skill as a mechanic is so-so. One time he and his brother managed to burn down both the garage and the same expensive speedboat they had spent months working on. But it's the attitude that counts. Old wooden camera can be downright cool, and not just to us ole geezers. At the local camera store, classic used vintage film cameras even in the 35mm category still sell almost as briskly as new digital versions; and certain people strongly prefer them.

  8. #28
    Les
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    Dec 2011
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    Seattle, WA
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    1,001

    Re: Why Large Format?

    Good enough for me.

    Les

  9. #29
    Charles S
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    Jan 2017
    Location
    Zurich, Switzerland
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    80

    Re: Why Large Format?

    I am 52, so I suppose I count as the young generation on this forum. I grew up with analog and then moved to digital, but it never satisfied me the same way.

    A couple of years ago I got back into analogue and slid into the pit of LF; 8x10 that is, shooting mostly studio portraiture. Recently I picked up a 4x5 for location shoots.

    I like LF because is is slow, it is deliberate, it is classic, it is difficult the movements allow to use focus as well as lighting to draw attention to the features you want to highlight, and the results are different enough to make it worthwhile and a good image gives a sense of achievement that makes it all worthwhile

  10. #30

    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Posts
    3,816

    Re: Why Large Format?

    I guess that images are better than words to explain it. Many single images are able to explain it. For example this one: http://100photos.time.com/photos/ric...with-elephants

    LF is not better or worse than a DSLR or an smartphone. But LF contains a set of unique tools to make art.

    No problem with digital or hybrid... but a pure optical process is something amazing, software is powerful and makes all easy, but to make a Pietà the powerful way is taking a hammer and hitting a boulder.

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