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Thread: Getting back into film - why not LF?

  1. #1

    Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Hi all, just found this great resource as I have spent the last week daydreaming about shooting film again. I can't give myself too much credit with film, mostly my experience is limited to a high school photography course (limited to B&W 35mm, we developed our negatives and made enlargements). But looking back at some of the shots I took for that class and reminiscing about the serene sense of fulfillment I felt in the darkroom, I really would like to take it on as a hobby. A desire to be better at documenting married life (and maybe a soon-to-be third family member) plays into this as well.
    I've always had a sense that digital simultaneously cheapens photography for me, as well as makes it overwhelming if I am trying to do more than casual snapshots; both of these feelings are a result of the sheer number of shots that can be taken to try and best capture a moment... Then trying to choose the best frame to edit and publish/print out of dozens of candidates leaves me a little demotivated. Hence a desire to get back to a format where each shot feels more valuable (because it costs more, at the very least). The idea of medium or large format has always intrigued me, and as I've done some research I think it will offer what I'm looking for - infrequent but important and hopefully beautiful shots that can be cherished, lack of practicality compared to 35mm understood and accepted.

    I have found a couple of 4x5 cameras for sale locally - an older Arca-Swiss and a Wista 45SP. Any advice for a first large-format camera would be welcome!

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Nearly everybody gets LF camera 2...3...just because

    Lenses matter more

    Try hard to get working good shutter and keep it

    Keep the chems away from the baby
    NO WORDS No Questions until 2022 Images Only

  3. #3

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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Bring a small but bright LED flashlight so you can check the bellows. If the bellows are not light tight it can be a bitch to repair or find a replacement.

    It's also a bad time to be buying now, since the prices have gone up lately. I'm hoping things will come back down after the pandemic when cabin fever has subsided.

    For a first time large format buyer I'd try to get a complete outfit from a reputable retailer, or from someone you trust. You may pay more, but at least you should get everything you need, like camera, lens, tripod, film holders, loupe, dark cloth, cable release, changing bag, light meter, etc. This all adds up, but you're going to need all that stuff. Once you've been doing it a while it becomes a lot easier to figure out what works and what doesn't.

    Before you fork out, why not try shooting digital with a tripod all the time. That will give you a small taste of what you're getting into.

  4. #4

    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Thanks for the advice!
    I do still have a couple 35mm cameras, I’ll give it a try with solely-tripod shooting for a while.

  5. #5

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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Hi, Mikey. As one who cut his proverbial teeth in 35mm for a decade before getting my own 4x5, I know that it is a big jump in many ways. While the advice above is useful, I think you also need to answer some questions, for yourself, about what purpose the larger format has for you. Some want freedom from grain, the resolution of the fine detail, the potentially smooth tonal range; others want features of the camera movements; others want to slow down and take their time through every image; some prefer the image proportions; some love viewing the image on the ground glass at 4x5, 5,7, 8x10 or larger; others enjoy photographing in several formats; and various combinations of these and other considerations.

    The point is, it is an investment, so to speak, in image-making in a slow fashion, very much different from 35mm, even 35mm on a tripod. It can be great fun, lots of challenge, a continual learning experience, and so forth, but it's just challenging enough to warrant some amount of careful thought before diving into. My own story is, that, having taken a second-year photo-major course that included an introduction to 4x5, and having devoured the Ansel Adams photography series as well as pored over countless images, I realized, when confronted by a certain design challenge for a book cover illustration in 1979 (Dope, Inc.), that only a view camera could render it. A friend bought me one, along with a 75mm lens, and, despite my rookie LF experience, we managed to get the image. Later, I found the dimensions wonderful for portraits with a 210mm that I added, and loved being able to make Poloroids for ad images and, later still, architectural interiors I made professionally for some time, again with the 75.

    I really don't mean to sound scary. With films and formats in the ranges available today, and the financial investment and learning curve to start up, not to mention the "hybrid" approach that some employ (film negative, electronic scanning and printing), it seems to me useful to define one's reason for trying it out before jumping in.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  6. #6
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey Antonakakis View Post
    Hi all, just found this great resource as I have spent the last week daydreaming about shooting film again. I can't give myself too much credit with film, mostly my experience is limited to a high school photography course (limited to B&W 35mm, we developed our negatives and made enlargements). But looking back at some of the shots I took for that class and reminiscing about the serene sense of fulfillment I felt in the darkroom, I really would like to take it on as a hobby. A desire to be better at documenting married life (and maybe a soon-to-be third family member) plays into this as well.
    I've always had a sense that digital simultaneously cheapens photography for me, as well as makes it overwhelming if I am trying to do more than casual snapshots; both of these feelings are a result of the sheer number of shots that can be taken to try and best capture a moment... Then trying to choose the best frame to edit and publish/print out of dozens of candidates leaves me a little demotivated. Hence a desire to get back to a format where each shot feels more valuable (because it costs more, at the very least). The idea of medium or large format has always intrigued me, and as I've done some research I think it will offer what I'm looking for - infrequent but important and hopefully beautiful shots that can be cherished, lack of practicality compared to 35mm understood and accepted.

    I have found a couple of 4x5 cameras for sale locally - an older Arca-Swiss and a Wista 45SP. Any advice for a first large-format camera would be welcome!
    Film photography is not simple if you plan on converting (scanning) for printing, displaying on your TV or monitor or cell phone, etc. You're going to be busy enough with a child so trying to find the time to scan and edit film is time-consuming. Of course, if you only plan on making let's say 4x6" prints, that's easy enough with a film camera like the 35mm you have an outside processing lab.

    I would consider using a digital camera for your family shots. Get one with an articulating screen so you can easily get down towards the floor for more intimate shots of children and pets. Digital also allows video clips with the same digital camera. You can combine both still and clips into one family-oriented video show for showing on a monitor, or TV, or cellphone. Or download to Youtube like this.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDz...gCHh2rVvEsFOJQ

    Then reserve your film photography for selected moments for your own pleasure. I think your wife would probably appreciate that as well. She'll be wanting to show the kid's pictures to friends and not wait until your process, scan and give her the results. Of course, cellphone pictures will come to the fore anyway bypassing your involvement. That's bound to cause conflict.

    Anyway, that's my thoughts.

  7. #7

    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Philip, Alan, thank you for the points you made and the advice given. In the interest of keeping my initial post from getting too long, I left out some of the details.

    My primary reason for considering LF was to force the process to be slow, careful, and involved (treat each shot like a mini investment). Probably next up would be clarity and the impact of having movements available. I also have an addiction for learning new skills (especially technical/quantitative skills that offer room for creativity - I’m a research engineer as my day job, mechanical background), and the LF process seems to offer plenty of opportunity for that! It certainly will only be a supplement to cell phone photos and occasional DSLR use. I have a Rebel T2i that I’ve haven’t taken a single shot with in the last 3 years, mostly because I’ll end up firing off hundreds of shots in a single outing, then feel overwhelmed when I sit down to choose a few shots to edit and print. I probably mostly just need to get over it, or maybe practice being a little more mindful shooting digital in any format.

    This evening the wife and I loaded a roll of expired Fuji color film into a 35mm inexpensive SLR, and got out to the local state park (Cheyenne Mountain) to get some fresh air, catch sunset, and teach her some photography basics. Mostly tripod shots with a few handheld. We are setting our expectations pretty low for this roll, but we had a great time regardless! It was nice to stop and take some care with setting up shots and really soaking in the views). She’s a medical physicist involved in radiation therapy for cancer treatment, so it was pretty cool to see her draw parallels with her medical imaging knowledge.

    I imagine that even if i really fall in love with LF, a few years from now more than 99% of my photos will be digital (and probably 90%+ of those will be from a phone). But I also hope the remaining small fraction in LF will both help create and document some lasting memories and mementos.

    Thanks again to everyone for the sage advice. I’ll certainly take it into careful consideration.
    Last edited by Mikey Antonakakis; 28-Jun-2021 at 11:42.

  8. #8

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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Mikey, an engineer such as you might enjoy at least some of Harold Merklinger's in-depth treatment of depth-of-field and discussion of the "hinge-line."
    file:///C:/...Local/Temp/FVCADNDM.pdf

    I worked at it for a bit and made myself a little chart, but the math is out of my scope, and I found the use of the hinge line too cumbersome in the field. I haven't a mind for geometry. The principle, however, is interesting.
    Last edited by Ulophot; 26-Apr-2021 at 13:40. Reason: Link
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  9. #9

    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulophot View Post
    Mikey, an engineer such as you might enjoy at least some of Harold Merklinger's in-depth treatment of depth-of-field and discussion of the "hinge-line."
    file:///C:/Users/Chefs/AppData/Local/Temp/FVCADNDM.pdf

    I worked at it for a bit and made myself a little chart, but the math is out of my scope, and I found the use of the hinge line too cumbersome in the field. I haven't a mind for geometry. The principle, however, is interesting.
    Thank you for the resource, Philip. I'm looking forward to reading it.
    I think the link you gave is a local copy on your machine, but I think I found the web-based version from the filename: http://www.trenholm.org/hmmerk/FVCADNDM.pdf

  10. #10

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    Re: Getting back into film - why not LF?

    once upon a lifetime ago, i used lf alot. sold everything but recently i picked a wista. is a nice camera, a bit heavy but built like a tank.

    now depending how n what you plan to do with your camera, concider if you are going to haul it in the back country... perhaps a lighter wood camera may be your poison.

    as tin can mentioned... lenses are everything. although most lens brands are all exceptional quality for starters. you can wet your feet on a budget and later upgrade as you go if you plan to stay with it.. thats what i did before investing on a couple top of the line lenses.

    for starters, you will spend more time getting to know your film and chemicals than how lf actually works. learning lf will come as you practice using it and getting valuable tips n tricks in here from some very talented people.

    have fun.

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