The more advanced photography becomes the more I find myself chasing simpler technology.
High Tech Photography
I admire the tech that’s now available – the potential is amazing if placed in the correct hands. Even in the wrong hands amazing things can happen. That’s good news for many but not so exciting for me.
Large Format Film
Part of what I like about shooting on film is the challenge to create excellence without the support of digital previews and post processing. Technically, a film photo boils down to the correct interpretation of the physics of light using only shutter speed, aperture, recording media and a lens. That’s it.
In the last five years I’ve experimented with shooting directly onto paper loaded into the camera. The paper becomes the unique, final product after simple, traditional processing. There is no recovery for “oops” in the darkroom or computer. There’s no negative, no digital file… just one chance to get it perfect. Click. The big camera and direct process forces me to slow down before I open the shutter.
And that’s what I like. Shooting SunStreaks and my latest Watershed works tests my skills and patience. I can bracket exposure but, at two minutes to eight hours per exposure that gets impractical and expensive.
When I do make mistakes I am discouraged. But when the photos are excellent, straight from the camera, that makes me smile wider than anything I shoot digitally.
I have two large format cameras:
• Graflex 4×5 – Mine is very old. It’s so old I found a similar Graflex (below) in a museum. It’s simple. It uses no batteries. I dropped my Graflex in a lake – totally submerged. It still works well after a thorough drying!
• Home-Made 8×10 View Camera – I had trouble finding an affordable 8×10 field camera. Someone gently prodded “They’re not hard to build – just a box with a lens…” I spent a summer tinkering with ideas and, with the help of a friend’s added suggestions and precision tools, we built the 8×10 camera out of plywood. I added a Schneider lens and it’s still producing excellent results.
I use the two cameras predominantly to capture my Sun Streaks and Watershed projects. It’s an enormously slow and challenging process compared to phast photography using current equipment. I like the challenge!