#1085 Large format innovations

I get bored easily…
So I am always looking for new and not-yet-done innovations with cameras or camera-like devices.

After your feedback and sales at The New Art Festival I am excited about the direction I am going with my work.

Large Format – One-of-a-Kind Works
More and more, I am excited about simple processes. I feel like I am going backwards along the evolutionary scale of photography – back to simpler equipment and slow, but extraordinary results.

large format photography

Old photo formats – slow photography

While I have modern, new equipment I get most excited about old equipment. Last month I dropped my 4×5 in a lake… submerged. After a thorough disassembly (easy) and drying, the camera was happily back in action.

I’ve slowly explored the path of large format photography starting with a Graflex 4×5 and building up to my newest camera, my home made 8×10 field camera.

Last year I worked hard to figure out two new processes producing originals straight from the camera – not prints / reproductions.

I like it!

Next Show
I’m creating more this summer preparing for my next show at La Fab – September 18 – October 5th.

Stay tuned!

Large Format Photography

Original, straight from the camera. One of a kind. From my continuing 14 year Watershed project following the creek behind our home – 18km so far…

#1083 A Big Thanks!

We had a wonderful weekend  at the New Art Festival.
Weather was perfect and we met many new and familiar faces.

If you follow this blog you’ll know I showed my new Sunstreaks and B&W Watershed works straight from the camera.

photo art

New Works at the New Art Festival

Both sets of photos were exciting to explore. The processes took 1-2 years to transform and tweak into the artwork I am producing – many, many, erm, challenges/attempts/failures before I got successes.

A big, big thanks to everyone that came to visit and supported my work. Your purchases help me continue to experiment and produce new works.

Photo Exhibition

SOLD – New Works – Parliament Hill Sun streak…

And a big thanks to those that helped behind the scenes – John, Marcel, Omer, Rachel (& friend), Marie-Helene and, of course my wife and family who picked up the slack as I worked through the weekend!

Many thanks…

I have a show coming up at La Fab.
Stay tuned!

8x10 large format photography

Large Format Photography

#1076 Big Film Photo Workshop

People keep asking… so we’re offering a workshop for people who want a challenge beyond the DSLR.

Join us this summer as we introduce different large formats to the group while exploring a couple of locations from my Watershed Collection which involves 20 kilometres of exploring a waterway.

8x10 view camera workshop

Large Format Photo Workshop

For the last 22 years I’ve worked as a photographer. It’s only since 2007 that I have owned a digital cameras…. the early ones were terrible (technically) and I held out as long as I could. I’m now happy with current available digital equipment but still have a passion for film.

I’ve owned and shot many formats including:
• 18x24mm (half framer)
• 35mm (standard SLR format)
• 6×7 cm 
• 24×50 mm (panoramic)
• 4×5 inch (large format)
• 8×10 inch (large format)

large format photography workrshop

8×10 Large format – photographing Watershed

There are many reasons to shooting film and big formats:
• a new (or old) challenge – Think you’re a good photographer? Can you capture a technical shot with one click and no preview?!
• large file sizes
• tangible archival back-up material
• slow process
• There’s been a renaissance in film!

Dates – July 17 (eve), 19, 20, 24 (eve), 2014

Locations – Ottawa Studio Works (central Ottawa) & Chelsea Watershed (just north of Ottawa.)

Cost: $375 + taxes

Click here for more information and online registration.

large format photography workshop

From the home made 8×10 camera

#1074 Join Us – New Works

June offers the New Art Festival in the Glebe’s Central Park in Ottawa.

Hundreds of artists congregate to bring you their latest works with innovative ideas.

home made 8x10 camera

Hand bult 8×10 camera – photographing the Watershed project

This year I’m presenting:
• BIG Watershed prints

• My latest Watershed works shot with my hand built camera – these photos are originals – the photograph is the medium that gets exposed in the camera.

black & white original photos

Watershed 4×5 Black&White Print – this photo is the material loaded in the camera… there is only one.

• Sunstreaks – For a year I’ve developed a way to capture the sun streaking across familiar landscapes with an old process not intended for the camera. These pictures also come straight from the camera.


Sunrise over Ottawa – an 8×10 original. The photo is straight from the camera. That is why it is backwards!

• and some work from the archives.

Join us!
I appreciate your support and purchases – there will be a range of prices and work to suit everyone.

June 21, 22, 2014
Ottawa’s Central Park in the Glebe.

#1072 Oops, I dropped a camera in the lake.

I dropped a camera in the lake – submerged…

I trekked into Fortune Lake to continue my “Watershed Project” with two cameras:
a ‘small’ 4×5 Graflex large format camera
big hand-made 8×10 wood camera

With supporting gear, I hauled 50 pounds of equipment to a remote part of the lake. 

large format home made camera

8×10 hand-made sliding box camera

I set up and shot a scene with the 8×10 camera after which I set the Graflex on a tripod and went for the film holders. With my back turned (just a minute) I heard sploosh! One tripod leg had slowly shrunk causing the camera to pitch into the water.

classic camera

Graflex 4×5 camera

Clean-up and Recovery
I fished the camera out of the water and immediately took the lens off and dismantled it – the nice thing about large format lenses is you can unscrew most elements of the lens without tools.

I cleaned & cleaned & dried & dried with a soft cotton, absorbing cloth for 10 or 15 minutes and then went to save the camera by draining water and drying it as best as possible.

Once home, I took out the affected gear, warmed the oven to 200F, turned the oven off and put the camera and lens parts inside for a couple of hours.

Large format lens

Nikkor 75 mm lens with 4×5 coverage – easy to disassemble!

I am happy to report that all critical elements are functioning – I did damage the Graflok spring back but there’s an easy work-around until I can find a part… Anyone have spare parts for a Graflex?

Ottawa’s Camera Trading Company did not have the part but did have the expertise to help me make the camera usable without the Graflok back – that’s the value of Tom and Mark (and sometimes Bob) in the store – they know a lot!

Ottawa photographer

David Barbour

As I was leaving the store I bumped into David Barbour, veteran working photographer. He smiled commenting about my camera-in-lake Facebook post. “Never turn your back on a tripod!”
Thanks David.

In 1997 I assisted Malak in the Yukon. At 82 years old he had seen it all. He told me “I’ve made every mistake in the book!” It’s comforting to know others have big ‘oops’es.

I am a big, big fan of simple, mechanical equipment.
… I love it!

#1070 Web distractions

This edition of Web Distractions is brought to you by many of our readers and supporters! Thanks for keeping the links coming…

• 2014 Scotiabank Photography Award goes to…
Mark Ruwedel! Congratulations…

• Sun Streaks to Analemma 
Gilles saw my SunStreaks project and sent me this link to the related Analemma – very interesting! Thanks Gilles…

sunrise photo

iPhone Ottawa Sunrise

Mike V of PhotoKibitz offered this link to Custom Cameras… very fun!

NY Times: Alternate views of animals
Debbie S shared this article on different photos depicting animals.

Powerful photos…
Thanks again to Deb for this link!

Photographer Round-up 
Check who’s doing what in the photo world – it’ll help you develop your own vision!

A big thanks for the links – keep them coming!


Building a picture – soak up as many influences as possible!

#1057 – Upcoming events

Upcoming arts events?

Artist Talk – Harry Nowell: “Large Format Originals – Straight from the Camera”
Thursday, March 13th, 7pm.
La Fab; 212 Old Chelsea Rd, Chelsea, Qc; beside St Stephen’s Church

I’ll be presenting large format equipment including a home made BIG camera and discussing why I’ve chosen such large equipment and the idea of producing artwork straight from the camera – the substrate in my camera is the finished product!

More details.
Join us!

Large format photography

© Harry Nowell – Sun Streak above St Stephen’s Church – straight from the camera

Artist Talk – Rosemary Leach: “Aching for a Little Character”
Wednesday, April 23rd; 7PM.
Ottawa Studio Works; 160 Preston St., Ottawa.

Join us as Rosemary discusses her own journey as an artist – She’ll present works and answer questions about her life as an artist.

More details.

Artist Talk, Ottawa

© Rosemary Leach – Aching for a Little Character


#1052 Artist Talk – Large Format Camera & Photography

We’re offering a new Platform Presentation:

Artist Talk – Large Format Camera & Photography at La Fab!

8x10 home made camera

Large Format photography

We’re hosting a 90 minute session on Harry’s artwork from his large format cameras including:
• Why on earth would you shoot with such a cumbersome camera!
• 4×5 and 8×10 cameras
• Experience of building a camera
• Large Format Artwork

large format photography

Straight from the 8×10 camera – from the Watershed collection

Join us!:
• Thursday, March 13th; 7-8:30pm
La Fab Arts and Cultural Centre
212, chemin Old Chelsea
Chelsea (Québec)
It’s free…

We’ve just learned we have a solo show coming up in September 2014 at La Fab.
We’ll be exhibiting some work from Watershed and the BIG cameras. Stay tuned.

Sun streaks 8x10 camera

Sun streaks – straight from the large format camera – Old Chelsea, Quebec.

#1011 Large Format Camera Building

A long while back I talked about using ‘small’ large format cameras.
A shorter while back I talked about building a bigger large format camera.

Well, it’s almost done.
All I need are a few bits to allow it to mount onto a mega tripod (thanks Jim) and a couple of other holes drilled to keep the back pieces aligned around the ground glass and film holder.

home made 8x10 field camera

Building the large format camera – thanks, John, for your help.

A big, BIG thanks go to my distant neighbour John who helped make production as precise as it needed to be. What I thought may take an hour or two turned into 10 hours of design modification, precision cutting, routing, gluing and clamping.

Buying a new or used Large Format Camera would’ve been easier, way more expensive but less rewarding.

So what’s my fascination with Large Format Film?

• It’s big.
Full Frame SLR covers about 1.5 square inches of film/sensor space. A Graflex (lovely camera) covers 20 square inches of film. My new camera covers 80 square inches of loveliness.

‘Big’ helps you print big, very well, but it also has a lovely tactile feel to it. Looking at big slides/negs lets you see something you don’t get on a monitor or under a loupe.

8x10 view camera

Large format camera 8×10 hand made

• It’s slow.
That’s a good thing in some cases. The process forces you to slow down and get it right.

Modern photojournalist-based cameras boast a firing of speed of 11 frames per second. An 8×10 camera could get you 2 frames a minute if you’re FAST.

I’ve been experimenting with one process and I was getting one frame every 2-10 hours. It makes you think your shot through when a mistake costs you a whole day.

Ahem, last week, on a test shot, I forgot to take the dark slide out (equivalent of the lens cap.) Oops, that wasted a three hour almost-exposure.

And at $25 for film and processing one sheet of E6 film (a traditional slide) you want to make sure you’ve set the camera correctly! There’s not much room for winging it.

• There are no upgrades, obsolescence or menu screens.

I love my DSLR.
I do.

But there are many, many variables, menus and choices.
When I bought it (Nikon D800) the file sizes bogged my laptop computer’s speed. Photoshop and Lightroom needed updates to support the new camera’s raw files and my data crunching machine (Mac tower) needed a newer operating system to operate the software upgrades. Sigh, the dear Mac tower couldn’t run the new OS…

One camera purchase created a huge technology domino effect in my office.

Large format camera

Tom from the CameraTradingCompany.com. Big Camera

• Low Tech
With the large format camera there’s one piece of film, a focusing screen, one lens, a shutter to set and an aperture to decide upon.

There are no upgrades, ever.
It’s simple, mechanical genius. In school, I was never excited about science but this camera has had me excited about focus theory, flange distances and chemical properties related to Caffenol and UV light. Mr Deussing wouldn’t know what to make of me.

The simplicity is refreshing…

Who Used / Uses  Large Format Cameras?
Yousuf Karsh
Ansel Adams
Richard Avedon
And even current photographers:
Edward Burtinsky
Andreas Gursky (whose photos sell for $millions!)
Tom from the CameraTradingCompany.com

Stay tuned….

#1004 Building a large format camera.

I’ve chatted about large format cameras before and have been shooting on medium and large format film for years for Watershed and other work.

Small Big Format
My current large format camera is a 4″x5″ Graflex Press Camera – it’s cutting edge technology from the 1930’s. It was THE camera for photojournalists back then.

In the scope of large format cameras the Graflex is small.
4×5 is massive compared modern SLR cameras. But, well, it’s not big, really big.
I want big.

Large Format Prints

Watershed Exhibition @ Ottawa International Airport – Large Format Prints

Benefits of BIG
Big is nice because it’ll allow BIG prints. Yes, yes, good, big prints can be made by modern digital cameras. I have a giga-mega pixel camera that I use commercially (and I love it.)

But what I really love is the process of BIG. It’s slow and forces you to be precise. And instead of looking at hundreds of teeny previews on the back of your camera or monitor you get to look at a few large, beautiful transparencies or negatives – the way photography was intended to be seen.


8x10 Camera

Camera Building

Building Big Cameras
I’ve been looking for an 8×10 camera and while there are hundreds/thousands out there, it seems most people refuse to part with them. New is nice but, erm, pricey.

So, after hours of internet snooping and talking to people, I decided to build one.
It’s well on it’s way, thanks to John, friend, neigbour, engineer and grade 7 classmate.

I’ve also been excited about trying two new things that haven’t been done much.
Fun and exciting for Harry.
Stay tuned.