It has been mentioned to me that some of my writing does not paint large format photography in the positive and attractive light it deserves. This is probably true as I do tend to be a tad–or perhaps a lot–cynical. And perhaps the humor I was trying to employ fell short. What follows is a more positive, warm, fluffy, and attractive piece. Read on, won’t you?
Using a large format camera is like a dream, a lovely dream in which all good things are realized. You see, it is really quite simple and very rewarding. Actually, it is quite astonishing that there are not legions of people using this wonderful technique for artistic expression. Daily I wish that more would join those of us practicing this relaxing, energizing, and terribly simple art.
The camera itself is often an aesthetic masterpiece, an item of equipment that is a piece of art, making it even more of a pleasure to use. It has a ‘standard’ at each end, one for the lens and one for the ground glass on which you focus your photographic art; they are connected by bellows and move relative to each other. Simply place the camera a distance from the subject, make some adjustments, and take the picture.
It might go something like this: I see a nice composition of some fluffy clouds, a picket fence, and some rocks. I decide I want a fairly tight composition, so I select my 300mm lens for my 5×7 camera, a beautiful walnut Canham (1 minute). I set up the tripod, attach the camera, open it up, rack out the front standard, and put on the lens (3.5 minutes). I put on the dark-cloth and look on the ground glass. I move the standards a little to get focus, turn the camera for composition, and then re-focus (3 minutes). I meter the scene–a perfect 5 stops! (1 minute). I set up the lens, put in the film holder, pull the dark slide, take the shot (2 minutes). 10.5 minutes of fun!
I repeat this process for pictures of puppies, babies, and kittens. I finish up my day energized and excited about all the potential images I have. I rush home to develop the film. While I am driving my pink hybrid, I ponder why I shoot large format when there are so many other cameras out there just as simple to use. Well, I get a big negative, for starters. Since I am over the age of 45, I do appreciate a larger film area. Also, bigger negatives tend to have more detail which makes more pleasing prints. It is so simple and easy to contact print these big negatives too, as well as to use them for wonderful alternative photography methods. Most importantly, using large format cameras allows me to encourage people to view me as an elitist film snob who eschews the smaller formats, making my photographic life infinitely enjoyable and rich.
At home in my spotless, large, and well-appointed darkroom, I commence developing the film. This is a meditative process that anyone can master and takes just a few minutes. The best part is viewing the negatives for the first time. Oh goodness! I have some splendid images. I am so pleased. But nothing is perfect; one image isn’t as good as the others–the puppy moved. Still, 9 sheets out of 10 is a 90% keeper rate. Quite fine. I am feeling warm and fuzzy all over.
Well, perhaps I have gone a little overboard on the positive, eh? If you haven’t thrown up yet, you have a stronger constitution than I do.