Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Same Yet Different - Large Format

Remember when you would buy a new CD, drive home (in your car with a tape deck), go directly to your bedroom, shut the door, then listen to it all the way through?  Now you buy a song here or there and they automatically upload onto your phone.  You forget you even bought it until it comes up on shuffle.  Because of the convenience of modern technology we have lost some of the romanticism that surrounded our music buying experience.  The same could be said about taking pictures.  I do not mean to imply that iTunes or modern digital cameras are a bad thing.  I think they are great.  But everything has its place.  And large format film holds the most romantic of places in the hearts of anyone who has had the pleasure of shooting it.  There is just something so intimate about the process - the time involved in setting everything up, the steps ensuring the correct exposure, draping yourself with the dark cloth,  the meticulous composition knowing you only have one shot, the darkroom, etc.  

Large Format Gear:
Kodak Master Camera 8x10 with Schneider 210mm f5.6 lens
Cambo SC 4x5 with Schneider 90mm f8 lens
GraphicView 4x5 with Wollensak 190mm f4.5 lens

Jimmy and Mike with the Cambo on Kodak Portra 400 film
The first of these cameras we shot was the Cambo SC.  I set it up to get more of a complete upper body portrait and give the composition a little more room.  The shots turned out fine, but not great.  I needed to use the camera's strengths and really get some detail and emotion out of my subjects.
Ben, Stacy, Molly, and Ryan with the GraphicView on Kodak E100S film
Then we set up the GraphicView.  Such a beautiful camera.  I got super tight on the models with this one which did a few things - it showed off the super shallow depth of field these cameras are capable of, it gave more detail into the people themselves (look at Ben's eyes in the shot above... almost captivating enough to take your attention away from the brownies in his teeth), and it brought more interest and emotion out of the models as they were so close to this beautiful, large format process.  I love these images and want to shoot more like them.

Ben with the Kodak 8x10 on Kodak Ektachrome 100 film
Later we set up the Kodak 8x10.  Wow.  After spending many years pressing my eye into a little viewfinder on an SLR, it is definitely refreshing to place a cloth over your head and compose your image on an 8"x10" piece of glass.  I would not consider this camera "practical."  The camera is big and heavy, the lens is expensive, the film is massive (and way expensive), the tripod is big, etc.  But man, does it take great pictures.  Each of these images just had me looking over and over at the detail therein.  

Overall, the Large Format stuff was a blast to shoot.  The 8x10 was fun, but I have a hard time seeing justification for it too often in my workflow.  However, I definitely want to shoot more 4x5 in both my commercial and personal work.  The process is long and involved, but it brings a lot of interest out of your subject that you may not get with a DSLR that they have seen so many times.  In essence, photographers are storytellers.  If it takes a 4x5 camera to draw out the extra bit of story from my subject then so be it.  I really just want to find the right tool for any given project.  

Molly with the Kodak 8x10 on Kodak Ektachrome 100 film
I don't remember the last time I went to the record store and bought a physical CD.  And to be honest, I am a little ashamed of this.  I miss the process that is involved with experiencing new music.  Spotify can only do so much.  I need to take note from the guy who has his collection of CDs, Vinyl, and MP3s.  I need to put forth the right amount of effort to get what I want out of my photography and discover something new every time I click the shutter.

*Thanks to Jimmy Bunting and Rodger Newbold for the camera loans

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