Exploring large format

My quest into the world of large format photography continues. I had the chance to do a few more images and as the title implies, further explore the view camera.

Taking a view camera out in the field, especially a monorail camera, requires a significant bulk of gear and accessories. I am a fan of small cameras due to their light weight and small size, so carrying a large format camera comes in contradiction with my habits. Add to that, a recent muscle injury due to my bright idea of shooting a carnival for three hours at -8C temperature without gloves and you can understand why I was reluctant to carry the equipment far away from my car.

For my Sinar Norma camera, I got a Pelican style metal case so that I can store it without disassembling it. It’s good for protection when its in the car, but not convenient for carrying it on the field. If I am moving away from the car, then I put it in my Lowepro backpack and then assemble it on location. It takes a few minutes to get it ready for shooting, which at the present is not a burden for me (I am not sure of course if I will have patience at the future !).

My holders, lenses and other accessories are stored in a second bag, so there’s a significant load to carry. I am sure at the future I will improve the setup so that it will be a little easier for me. A field camera would be far more convenient but at the present, I don’t have the will (and the money) to invest in this type of camera.

Now, about operating the view camera. As its expected, its a very slow and thorough process from composition to making the image. The ground glass of my Norma is not the brightest one and I don’t have a fresnel, so framing and applying movements requires a good amount of light. Working with movements is a wonderful experience, but it will take a lot of time to master it. I am still at the process learning tilts, shifts, rise/fall and swings and the effect the have when applied.

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(Sinar Norma 4×5″, Schneider Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6, Fuji Velvia 100)

The good thing with the monorail, is that you have all the possible movements at your disposal and I am sure its the best type of view camera for a beginner to learn. In practice you don’t need all the movements, especially for landscapes but its a good thing to be able to use them in order to understand what they do.

My most used lens so far is the Schneider Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6 and I have only used the Nikkor 90mm f/8 in a couple of shots. The later requires using bag bellows in order to be able to use movements. My Schneider 150mm arrives today, and it will be probably the most used lens at the future to its focal length. I am also using my LEE filters collection which I was using before for my panoramic camera and they have proven to be very useful.

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(Sinar Norma 4×5″, Schneider Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6, Ilford Delta 100)

The above images is a 4 seconds exposure (my meter showed 3″ and gave it one more second for reciprocity). I will always carry a digital camera with me in order to shoot the same frame since I am still a newbie large format shooter and I would want to miss a good subject due to a possible mistake when operating the view camera. I have found the D800E meter to be on par with my Sekonic so I am now using it as a light meter. The D800E can also be operated at 5:4 format which is very helpful since I can see instantly how my photo will look both in terms of frame and metering. And if something goes wrong, I still have the image from the Nikon to keep.

Developing b&w film is very easy with the MOD54 accessory. So far I had 100% success and all the sheets came out excellent. The greatest problem is always dust so I am trying to my best to minimize it (you can’t avoid it completely, but I can deal with it later in post processing).

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(Sinar Norma 4×5″, Schneider Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6, Ilford Delta 100)

The above image is a huge crop for the original. When scanned at 3200dpi a 4×5 sheet will go you a huge size image, so when you decide to crop, you still have plenty of information for a good print.

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(Sinar Norma 4×5″, Nikkor 90mm f/8 SW, Ilford Delta 100)

The aspect ratio of the image above is due to a mistake I did during shooting. I didn’t fully removed the dark slide so the right part of the image was unexposed, next time I will fully retract it !!

Large format photos are made for prints, I will one more time repeat that you can’t appreciate them by just looking them at the screen. When you make a 40 inches wide print, then the photo really shines and you can really enjoy it.

That’s my experience so far with the view camera. Since its purchase, my medium format cameras haven’t seen much action, and while I will continue to use them (large format is not the right tool for all kind of images and situations), the view camera is the one that has earned my favor.

(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Responses to Exploring large format

  1. Rick says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the 4×5! I use a “field camera” (Chamonix), and there are plenty of good lightweight wood or metal used ones available at good prices (Shen Hao, Wista, et al), which are a good option to save weight, setup time, etc. They have all the movements you’ll need to outdoors, and the advantages are many. If 4×5 appeals to you, you might consider that option down the road.

    Keep up the good work!

    • kbesios says:

      Thank you Rick ! A field camera would indeed be a better choice outdoors, carrying the monorail is not an easy task. I am looking at the brands you mentioned (mostly the Shen Hao) and I agree that if I stay with the 4×5 format these cameras are better for my needs. The Sinar can pretty much do everything but its most suited indoors or very close to my car.

      • Angus says:

        Another vote for the Chamonix 45n2 – light and rigid with plenty of movements and bellows that can take 90-450mm. Weather has been too nice (no clouds) in San Francisco lately so haven’t been out in last week but my Velvia 50 is loaded!

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