Large Format Photography : Lessons from the field #7

Large format is expensive. Large format is slow. Large format is unforgiving. However I've always loved the slow and meditative process. However when it works, it is pure magic. 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 re-learned during my second attempt.

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My approach in the field and composition choice at the location for large format. I decided to go with Rodenkstock Sironar S-150mm . Please click on notes and images on how I arrived at the exposure for film and development choice. Click to view large.

Chamonix 45N2 with Rodenstock Sirnoar S 150mm/f5.6. Ilford fp4+ exposed at ISO100. Rocks in the cascade exposed at Zone 3 and developed for 6:15 min in Ilfosol at 21C. Click to view large.

I had a Monday afternoon free and decided to go for a test-hike in south wales. The waterfall country is a brilliant 7 mile hike and a good test hike with all the camping and LF gear. I have done this hike in the past so there was no pressure of making images as such. However with heavy rain over the past two days and mist in the air I decided to make this image using Ilford FP4+. The final exposure was 22” and not matter what I did I could not get rid of the spray on the front element / pol filter. Instead of fighting it I decided to use it as an element reflecting the elements. This is quote a popular spot however I reached here by 6pm and had it almost to myself.

I have added a new “taking field notes” as part of my large format image making routine now. I found these brilliant Rite in the Rain pencils and spiral notebooks and now use it regularly. The combination works brilliantly and is rugged enough for UK weather. Please check images above to know how I use it.

So here are the lessons I learnt from this outing -

  • Test hikes are good. It allows me to test various new equipment without the pressure of making any images.

  • Don’t fight the elements. Use them. The mist on the lens makes this image even better, I think.

  • Always have a duplicate negative of the same scene. Practice I’ve been following now for a while (Thanks Ben!). It is the same exposure setting but to have a back up in case negative gets damaged for some reason. Here while unloading the film I scratched the emulsion side a little. It is not terrible but I’m happy I had another negative of the same scene with the same exposure.

Enjoy.

Here are the images I’ve made in the past on this trail. All images made with Canon EOS6D. First three with Canon 45mm TS-E and the last one one Olympus Zuiko 24mm MC. Adding here just for fun.