Large Format Photography : Lessons from the field #4

Large format is expensive. Large format is slow. Large format is unforgiving. However I've always loved the slow and meditative process. I've been a long time film user and recently started using film again. My last attempt (circa 2005) to do large format work was a mixed bag and ended on a sour note (no pun) as I tumbled down a cascade. And so did my camera and lens on a tripod which I tried to hold on to in panic. It took about 12 years to recover and start large format photography again. This is an attempt to write about the thought process, technical aspects and lessons learned eventually.

Chamonix 45n2 with Schneider Apo-Symmar 150mm. Expired Fuji Velvia 50. Click to view large.

I've been huge fan of 6x12 panorama photography for years and have used digital stitching to create these successfully in the past. However there are instances, particularly if there is any movement, when stitching is not an option. So when I saw a 6x12 film back from Tristan Campbell for sale I decided to grab it. My very first attempt was quite a success in terms of using it and defining the composition on the ground glass. With only one double exposed frame out of 6 here are some lessons learnt.

  • You can  get away with using the 4x5 ground glass to focus using tilt+shift. However it might be better to concentrate on the 6x12 frame lines.
  • It is important to decide when you are going to advance the frame. I forgot the sequence once and double exposed the frame. It was probably the best composition and the next frame I tried was not exactly 6x12 but cropped slightly. This is perhaps due to the fact that I advanced the frame more than I should although I'm not sure.
  • Scanning slides is a pain.