Large Format course Nov 2012 part A

November 30, 2012

Intro to Large Format photography is a 2 x 3 hour course that I teach occasionally at the ACP in Paddington. The most recent course ran over two Sunday afternoons, with six students. The brief is to give students an understanding of the qualities of large format photography and how it differs from the other formats, through lecturing and hands-on demonstrations. The students get to load film in the film holders and to make exposures with the cameras. We expose B&W film in 4×5 and 8×10 and also Fuji instant film in 4×5 for on the spot proofing.

The cameras I bring are my own large format cameras and I talk about their good and bad points, trying to give the students advice learned from experience. For example, my 4×5 camera is a Crown Graphic, a camera that is often recommended as a good way to get into large format, however I am often frustrated by its lack of a rotating back. The camera is fine for shooting with horizontal framing, however for a vertical frame it has to be turned on its side which means the ability to use movements is lost. The Crown doesn’t have many movements to start with, but it would be useful to be able to use front rise in a vertical format. This is why I recommend people to get a modern rotating back field camera such as Toyo or Wista.

Fuji FP 100C 4×5 instant film exposed on Crown Graphic 4×5 with Kodak Ektar 100mm lens with maximum front rise. Exposure was based on meter but also matched with Sunny 16 – f/16 at 1/100. There is vignetting in the top corners due to the lens image circle not completely covering the film due to the amount of rise, however I think this is pretty good for a 1950s lens I bought for about $100. The Fuji 4×5 instant film was discontinued in early 2012 which means that once I have run out the expensive film holder will be useless. I will probably buy another Fuji back that will allow me to expose the still manufactured medium format instant film on 4×5.

The same on Tri-X 320 processed in Rodinal / Adonal / Maco RO9 for 15 minutes 1+50 in a Paterson tank. For 4×5 I use regular 600ml Paterson tanks and curve one sheet around the inside of the tank and use the same type of agitation as for 35mm and 120 film. The horizontal roof line is a bit wavy – this is not lens or film distortion.

Fuji instant with a Kodak Ektar 203mm f/7.7 lens. Here the Crown was turned to vertical format which meant removing the quick release plate from the base and screwing it into the tripod socket on the side. I forgot to set the front rise back to zero after the previous shot, so this became front shift in this orientation. There are many mistakes you can make in large format photography and this was one of them. Movements should always be set to zero position when setting up. Below is the same on Tri-X – interesting to see how flat the image becomes in B&W as the bins and wall are tonally similar to each other.

In the first class we talk about the essential of large format, get the students to load some film, and then go outside for some real life experience with tripods, dark cloths, focusing loupes, spot metering and basic movements. The theme is architecture / landscape, i.e, how these cameras are used on a practical level for this type of subject matter. In the second class we cover still life and portraiture. The instant shot above was another made at f/16 at 1/100 this time with the Graflex Optar 135mm lens on the Crown Graphic and some front rise. The white spots show up occasionally as the film was a few years out of date.

The same basic framing done with Ilford HP5 on a Deardorff 8×10 with a Siranon 300mm f/5.6 lens. I process 8×10 film by rolling in a sink in a Jobo 2830 print drum. Generally this works out well however in this instance I noticed some marks in the sky that seem to have occurred where the film base sits against the ribs that run down the length of the drum. I’m pretty sure this happened because I didn’t do a pre soak in water, something I always do but skipped with this sheet to save a few minutes. Fortunately it was only a demo shot, see below for detail of the marks. The film was processed in Rodinal 1+50 for 8 minutes constant rolling at 20 deg C.

One of the students brought his own 8×10 Tri-X to expose in the Deardorff. Here I made the third mistake of the day – cocking the shutter on the camera when it was already cocked and he had removed the dark slide. At least it wasn’t colour film. Fortunately he was a good sport about it, and also exposed a second sheet that came out OK. Exposure was something like f/40 at 1/60.

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One Response to “Large Format course Nov 2012 part A”

  1. jojonas~ Says:

    I find accidental self portraits interesting. thanks for sharing 🙂


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