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Thread: large format photography

  1. #1

    large format photography

    Until just recently, I'd been shooting only with 35mm.
    I became disenchanted back in 1988 with all sorts of commercial photography.
    I retired as it were, there and then.
    I've shot 8 x 10, 5 x 7 and 4 x5.
    I used a lot of Hasselblads as well.
    Trouble is, I only shot the big formats indoors.
    Now,... many years later, I'm starting all over.
    But outside this time, and with a eye to scenics and nature as my subjects.
    I have absolutely no idea of where to even begin.
    I have a used 4 x 5 camera,(calumet/cambo field type monorail), a 90mm lens, a 150mm lens and awaiting arrival of a 210mm lens.
    I have the film backs, and 99% of the accessories etc, etc.
    But not really sure about a lot of things.....
    Here I need advice:
    1) films today...(chromes, etc.) (everyone seems to have "one" favorite)
    2) metering needs... (as far as the outdoors)( a spot meter is needed?)
    3) lens needs for subjects...(scenics-wide angle, flowers-close-up/macro?)
    4) using a "hood" as opposed to my generation of using a loupe, and everything was inversed and backwards.
    5) A "Great Book" I can study???
    Thanks to all of you in advance!
    Bill Barentine

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    large format photography

    I have so far preferred using chrome (and preferably Velvia) for scenics when situations allows (this film have narrow exposure toleranses, not the best to use when lighting condition is difficult to determine. However, I still use from my supply of old 50 asa, not having tested the newer 100 in LF yet. I have used Fuji Astia also, being easier to scan and having less contrast ++ less saturated. I assume You are thinking scanning + outputting on printer?. I don't use a hood, dark-cloth + loupe is OK for me. Carried a big sinar reflex-bino finder in the field once, not worth it, and bad with WA's. I use a worn but working pentax digi-spotmeter which is very precise, but I allways carry a small (4"x5") grey-card so that I at any time can measure incident light as well. Develope myself using JOBO equipment, scan 4"x5" and smaller on Polaroid Sprintscan 45 (can be found relatively inexpensive, uses scsi connection, but maybe the newer Epson or Microtek flatbeds is as good, though). You might find it easier to go using a good color-neg film (100NC - is it still around?) instead of chrome: about as high resolution now (= much better than before/in the era of Vericolor II & III ) much more forgiving on exposure, no trouble with the high dens areas of the velvia (any scanner can see through a color-neg = a used $$ 100 epson 2450 might bee adequate for up to 1200 dpi/if not too large prints), and much faster developing (8 minutes using NOVA press kit instead of about 30 min on E6-3bath jobo/tetenal kit) but more difficult to judge image when developed, & tweaking with scan to get rid of any cast from the color masking. On lenses, I must admit that it were a kind of small revolution as I slooooooowly could replace 40 year old single-coated Xenar and symmars with multicoated Fuji & Super-symmars: as many of my pictures include areas of bright light, the advantage of multicoating/reduced flare/less "haze" in picture were much more apparent than I thought it should be. I have SS XL 110/ SS HM 150/ Fuji 250/6.3 (I miss one in between 150/250) + older 360 Sironar (can't afford to replace, but would much rather have the very sharp 360W Nikkor I once had) and an odd but inexpensive 75mm/5.6 mamiya press mounted on tech boards & slightly vignetting on 4"x5" but hideously sharp especially in center & perefect with roll-holder. I am very satisfied with the 3 first ones. OK - just a mess up of thoughts, good luck anyway & welcome back to LF!

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    large format photography

    5) try Steve Simmons book, Using the View Camera. One of my all time technical favorites. It is especially good on giving good basic advice.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  4. #4
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    large format photography

    Welcome back to the LF world, William.

    1) films today - as you noted, people tend to have different "favorites," particularly with color films where the the responses to the color rendition of particular films are highly personal. You'll find (by using the search function) a number of discussion threads here that may be helpful. My personal preference is for the more neutral color rendition of Fuji Provia for landscapes and "things" and Fuji Astia for people. Many, however, prefer the stronger color saturation of Fuji Velvia. For B&W films, I like Ilford FP4+ (ISO 125) and Ilford HP5+ (ISO 400), usually developed in Ilford DD-X developer.

    2) metering - metering methods also vary widely, but haven't changed much from what you were probably accustomed to before. The two primary "schools" of thought are the Zone System (as popularized by Ansel Adams, but with lots of variations), using a spot meter; and BTZS (Beyond the Zone System) using an incident meter. Fortunately, there are now meters that have both functions, usually with electronic flash capability. I use an older model Sekonic meter, an L-508, which does both spot and incident.

    3) lenses - the lenses you have (or will shortly) are a good spread of focal lengths, I think. Belows extension is a major factor for close-ups approaching 1:1 magnification, but that shouldn't be an issue for you with those lenses and your 4x5 monorail. (You need 2x the focal length for 1:1.) Again, there are several threads here on macro work that you may find helpful.

    4) using a "hood" - most folks still use a loupe and a focusing cloth. The reflex viewers available for some cameras flip the image, but generally don't magnify enough to do fine focussing.

    5) A "Great Book" - in addition to various books available, there are also a number of articles available on the home page here (see link near top of page) that may help in getting you started again.

    Have fun re-immersing yourself in LF photography.

  5. #5

    Join Date
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    1,904

    large format photography

    There are several Free Articles on the View Camera Web Site that will be helpful to you

    http://www.viewcamera.com/archives.html

    Good Luck

    There are two other books I usually suggest

    User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

    Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

    Steve Simmons
    www.viewcamera.com

  6. #6

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    large format photography

    I would like to second the Dykinga book. I still keep a copy in my truck and look at it regularly.

    RichieV

  7. #7

    Join Date
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    large format photography

    Welcome back to LF. Here is what works for me.

    B/w Film: Ilford FP4+ (125), Ilford HP5+ (400), Kodak T-max 100. I like the Ilford film just very slightly more than the T-max, but I often shoot in low light where the superior reciprocity characteristics of T-max are important.

    Color film: Positive, Fuji Astia (normal saturation, great reciprocity characteristics); Fuji Velvia (much more color saturation). Negative, Fuji Pro 160 S (normal saturation, for subjects with a higher brightness range than positive film will handle)

    Pentax digital spotmeter and the zone system. But many people successfully use a modern 35mm with a matrix meter instead.

    That is a good three lens kit. Stick with what you have for at least 50 sheets. Then you will know what you need.

    I use a hood that is held tightly to the camera with an elasticized collar, and has a slit along the bottom that is fastened with velcro. It is very dark and easy to use.

    View Camera magazine has many interesting articles.

    Large Format Nature Photography, Jack Dykinga.

    View Camera Technique, Steve Simmons.

    The art of photograpy, Bruce Barnbaum (out of print)

    Good luck and good light!

  8. #8
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    large format photography

    I can't, nobody can, tell you what tools you'll be most comfortable with. I can only tell you that I've been down the same road, and the choices I made for myself. For one, I'm only shooting 5x4. It gives me sufficient film area to make huge enlargements (50x40 is only a 10x enlargement -- comparable to a 9.5x14 from 35mm), the largest variety of film, and the lightest weight.

    1) Film. Films have changed over the years. B&W films have become sharper and finer grained at all speeds. Color films have also, and now have a large range of saturation characteristics. Color negative film now has about the same dynamic range capabilities as B&W.

    For these reasons, I shoot mostly Tri-X developed in XTOL 1:3, and 160PortraVC. These I scan on a drum scanner with excellent results.

    2) Metering. I'm a Zone System guy, so I use a 1 degree spot meter (a Pentax digital with Zone VI modifications).

    3) Lenses. Anything from the "big four" (three now that Nikon dropped out) are excellent. And you can get surprising results with lenses dating back to the 1800s. I wouldn't buy any more or different lenses until you've spent some time using the ones you have. I doubt you'll change much.

    4) Hood. Still gotta have a focusing cloth, although using a fresnel lens does make life nicer. I'm using a Maxwell screen, and highly recommend it. I'm also using a BTZS focusing hood which attaches to the camera with elastic. Very nice.

    5) If you are going to only read one book, I think the classic is still the best - Adam's The Negative is what I recommend. I doubt you need anything on how to use a view camera because they work the same outside as inside. But the Adams book gives you the nitty-gritty detail about how the zone system works and it's still right on the money.

    Good luck. It won't take long for it all to come back, and you won't even see images upside down and backwards anymore, unless you try to see it that way.

    Bruce Watson

  9. #9

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    large format photography

    Meters - I use a Pentax Spotmeter. I'd suggest a spot meter if you plan to use the zone system. The Pentax does only one thing - gives you a read-out in EVs - but it does that very well and very simply. If you don't plan to use the zone system I'd probably get a meter that has more features and options, probably one of the Sekonic meters. I would have suggested the Minolta Spotmeter F but with Konica-Minolta no longer in the photography business I'd be concerned about service and parts if needed.

    Film - You don't say whether you plan to do color or b&w or both. I've done very little color so I can't make a recommendation there. For b&w I use TMax 100 or 400 but I don't think Kodak will be making b&w film much longer so if I were just starting today I'd use Ilford FP4+ (I used to like HP5+ but I thought I read that Ilford has discontinued it). The reason I wouldn't start out with a Kodak film is that I don't think Kodak will be making b&w film much longer (no inside information, just a guess based on Kodak's clearly stated lack of dedication to traditional media). I don't know how long Ilford will be around either but at least they're dedicated to traditional media which Kodak clearly isn't. You want to try to pick a film that you think will be around for a while so that you don't have to be constantly testing and re-testing.

    "Hoods" - Usually this isn't an "either or" situation. Most people use a dark cloth of some sort for general composition and focusing, then use a loupe for fine focusing and checking everything. I've never liked the traditional "horse blanket" dark cloths. My preference is the "hood" made by BTZS and sold by The View Camera Store (www. theviewcamerastore.com I think it is). It's light weight, attaches easily to your camera, and does a good job of blocking the light.

    Books - I've read all of the LF books that have been in publication over the last 15 years or so and own most of them. IMHO the best LF book, and the only one I'd recommend buying, is Leslie Stroebel's "View Camera Technique." For the rest, I'd go to your local library and see if they have one. If so, check it out, read it, and return it. If not, and if you want fast instruction rather than a long-term reference, any of the following will do: Shaman, "The View Camera," Simmons, "Using the View Camera," Stone, "A User's Guide to the View Camera," Dykinga, "Large Format Nature Photography." There's also a Kodak publication, maybe no longer in print, called "Kodak Book of Large Format Photosgraphy" that's pretty good.

    Lens needs - This is obviously highly personal. But a fairly common configuration for landscape photographers and many other types of photography is 90mm/150 or 210mm/300mm. You may find you need something longer or shorter but that's a good place to start and you already have two of them. I wouldn't have suggested both a 150 and a 210 for someone just starting out I think they're too close together unless you have some specialized need for both. I did what you've done and bought both but find that I almost never use the 150. So if money is tight I'd suggest selling one and using the money to help buy a 90. If money isn't tight keep them and see if you end up needing both or which one you prefer.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

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