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Thread: Framing and focusing in a breeze

  1. #1
    Photographer LocalHero1953's Avatar
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    Framing and focusing in a breeze

    How do you do this?
    I'm new to large format, but I've already realised that there are days when the wind is just too distracting to frame and focus properly. A dark cloth, even tied down to the tripod, catches the wind too much. And yet I plan to take my kit to the Lake District in May, when I'm sure to have the same conditions.

    I guess one option is some sort of 3-sided hood for the GG screen of my 5x4 (wooden) camera. Are there generic ones for sale? Or do you make your own? And I'm not convinced it would be dark enough on a bright sunny day.

    I have an idea for making one out of dark cloth: a tube, one end of which has elastic to hold it around the rear standard, the other end with elastic around my loupe. But for composing I would need something a bit more rigid - perhaps something similar with a wire frame that allows me to look inside and see the whole screen.

    I'm sure someone has invented a practical solution in the last hundred years or so.
    _________________________________________________________
    Paul Ashley Photography

  2. #2

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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    I've seen several commercial dark cloths that fit snugly around the rear of the camera, using elastic or drawstrings or other such thing. Some have snaps or velcro to attach firmly as well. I've seen some 8x10 cameras (the big green Calument comes to mind) that have a wire frame that comes off the back about 10" to hold the dark cloth up so its easier to stand back a bit and to view the whole glass without the cloth drooping down in the way.
    There are those spring loaded covers like you see on old Graflex cameras, but I personally don't care for them because they don't block the light shining from behind you and they often make using a ground glass lupe extremely awkward. Though they do offer good protection when closed up...but there's other ways to protect the glass that don't become an inconvenience.

    edit: and weights: it can be very helpful if the edges of the dark cloth are weighted down. You could put lead fishing weights in there (can you get those made of lead anymore?).

  3. #3

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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    I use a Technikardan that has a focusing hood - it is useful to use sometimes - I use a long focus magnifier. I use traditional a dark cloth which is a problem in the wind. Shooting in the wind is often very much a problem unless you composing completely static objects or you want the wind moving subjects to blur. The issue also in wind is to keep the camera from moving - they tend to be wind sails. The BJSS dark cloth sounds like what you are looking for.

  4. #4

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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    The drawback to having a dark cloth that attaches to the camera is that if it catches the wind it could take the camera with it. There are pop up hoods available but that would depend on which camera you have. The other option is to get a brighter screen - I have a Wista fresnel screen and that is bright enough to use in daylight without a dark cloth.

  5. #5
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    Make a custom fit neoprene viewing tube

    They weigh nothing, won't damage you, can squish about
    2022

  6. #6

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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    I think a draw string on the camera end - which could be drawn for a loose fit for focussing...then loosened enough to remove prior to exposure (so it does not become a sail), without upsetting the camera.

    Velcro would be a pain I think...too much force required to remove and would have high potential to upset the camera (even moving something a wee bit could require a re-focus/re-adjust).

    Here is something I "invented" for the purpose of testing my then new (2004) L-45A prototype...on the summit of NH's Mt. Washington in winter...a place very famous for its high winds - especially during that season. What you see behind the camera is a duct-tape focus hood...which, in concert with my camera with all of its curvy features, helped things to stay stable in some pretty high winds. And yes...this particular bellows stayed affixed to the camera - because a removable bellows would be way too "fluttery" and would likely be torn from my hands, and quickly end up many miles away!

    Very important here to mention that the bellows (made by Camera Bellows in England), while very sturdy, is also very light and flexible enough to vibrate with the wind in a manner which transmits none of its movements to the camera - where a thicker, more rigid bellows would likely cause quite a bit of vibration. At any rate...here is the setup:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Eric Woodbury
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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    I frame it with a cardboard rectangle before I ever set up the camera. Once set up, if it is an easy thing to focus, then I do it with a long loupe. If it is a hard to focus shot, then it's nice to have a friend help. Lacking friends, then I have a very short darkcloth on my 5x7 that is more like a tube velcro'd to the ground glass holder. It can work ok in a wind. Or switch to medium format.

    "Wind doesn't blow, it sucks." -Charlie Morrell

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    Either velcro tabs or a couple or ordinary clothespins help tame a darkcloth in the wind. There are times the darkcloth operating as a cover actually reduces the impact of wind vibrations on the bellows itself. But one always has to wait for the exact moment when all vibration stops to trip the shutter. And it helps to have an especially solid tripod. None of you would likely even believe the kind of wind speeds i've gotten immaculately crisp exposures in, but erratic gusts are the worst culprit; sustained wind is more predictable. Story of my life. But I'm running out of patience. If wind conditions seem just too big a headache, nowadays I switch to MF gear instead.

    What you DON'T want to do is put weights in the corners of the ground glass - an old custom, but a good way to lose an eye or break the groundglass or lens if the wind whips up.

  9. #9
    Photographer LocalHero1953's Avatar
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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    Thank you, everyone, for all the comments and advice! It sounds like DIY is the way to go. The BTZS dark cloth approach looks interesting, but being joined by the head to my camera looks like a recipe for pulling the whole thing over with an inadvertent movement.
    I actually have sewn small pebbles to the corners of my dark cloth, but the first breeze told me this was a mistake - no glass or lens broken, fortunately.
    I hadn't thought of a long focus loupe; I will look out for one, but I've spent a bit more than intended recently on LF so I will try to use my small Silvestri for the moment.

    @John Layton - I'm interested in your duct tape hood. I may try something similar. Is it duct tape holding card together? Or just a hood made out of duct tape stuck to itself?
    _________________________________________________________
    Paul Ashley Photography

  10. #10

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    Re: Framing and focusing in a breeze

    Have a look at the Paramo focussing cloth.

    It's elasticated at one end, but opens up (or closes down) with a zip and poppers.

    It's made of waterproof material too: https://www.paramo-clothing.com/en-g...F-389AF483A8BE

    Mike

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