Large Format Fun

If you follow me on Twitter—and I don't know who reads this other than people who follow me on Twitter—you'll know I have been shooting large format film for the past few months. All that means is that I am using cameras that expose "sheet film," or film that ranges from (approximately) 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall to 8 inches wide and 10 inches tall.  

My camera—a Graflex Crown Graphic refurbished by the good folks at Blue Moon Camera—shoots 4x5 film. It is an interesting piece of equipment; a "press camera" used originally for photojournalism. It has three ways to focus: A rangefinder, ground glass for through the lens focusing, and scale focusing for those of you who can accurately judge distance (I can't). My rangefinder was misaligned, and the mechanism to realign it was broken, so I removed it. This makes handheld focusing somewhat difficult but it's still doable. That said, I've taken to using the camera on a tripod, to maximize sharpness and take advantage of the detail that's possible to capture with such large negatives.

These photos were taken handheld and with a tripod. They aren't my first large format photos, but they are the first ones I'm willing to share. The films are Ilford HP5 Plus for black and white, and Fuji Provia 100f for color. I don't think these are technically great shots, but I am excited to improve my technique here.

August 2017—Rolls 1 & 2

I try to buy film in bulk, purchasing all the film I need for a six month period, and not buying new film until I finish that supply. That mostly worked out this year, until Lomography released a special edition film and I saw a good deal for some Cinestill 50D, one of my favorite color films. The result was that, at exactly the time I expected to run out of film, I had a bunch of color film to shoot. 

These photos are from the rolls of color 35mm I scrambled to shoot in August. The first six or so are the Lomography film, followed by the Cinestill. As always with my 35mm work, these are just snapshots: Attempts to capture the things I see everyday. One of the photos will feature an older, bearded man, arguing with a younger woman. This was apropos his attempt to remove the shroud that had been placed on the Robert E. Lee monument in the city. I'll let you guess what his perspective was. 

A few other thoughts: I took some of these just before the events on August 12, hence the photo of the signs. The "Out/In" photo was taken in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I visited for a talk. The group of young people standing and reading were from Howard University. They had come to Charlottesville just after the white supremacist attack to give their condolences and pledge their support for anti-racist causes. The last photo was taken with a new lens that I'll write about in a future post. I like it (both the photo and the lens) a lot though.

July 2017—Miscellaneous Medium Format

The "miscellaneous" here simply means that these photos were taken in different places around Virginia, with little rhyme or reason to them. I used a fixed-lens 6x9 rangefinder that I have since sold; the lens was wide-angle, and I realized I'm just not that great working with anything wider than around 35mm or its equivalent. 

My favorite photo out of this bunch is the first shot, of a hotel estate in Bath County, Virginia. More than anything, I just like how I correctly exposed a transparency for once, with proper detail and saturation across the entire frame. The other photo I like in this group is the last one, of the solitary basket at the laundromat. You can buy that one as a print, if you're interested.

July 2017—Roll 3

I shot my third roll of July with Cinestill 50D, a converted motion picture film stock that is one of my favorite color films. This was actually my first time scanning any color negative film, so it was interesting and fun to do my own color conversions. My favorite photos from this bunch were taken in Powhatan, Virginia, where I attended a very nice wedding in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

July 2017—Rolls 1 & 2

It takes me entirely too long to upload these photos and write these things. Anyway, this summer I moved away from my usual Tri-X to try a few different black and white films. One of them was Ilford Pan F, a slow technical film with high sharpness and low grain. I shot two rolls in 35mm, which is where these photos come from. As usual, these are snapshots that capture my day to day life—the things I see and want to remember. The one photo in all of this that I really like is of the mailbox, which is in front of an old stockyard not far from my apartment. I guess I also like the first photo in this collection, which is of a car that looks awfully like the design for the first Batmobile.

june 2017—roll 10

Alright, it's the only roll of slides I shot in June. I mentioned in an earlier post that, with the right light and exposure, slides provide a level of vibrancy and tone that you can't get with negative film. There are two photos here—of debris in an alley—that demonstrate the truth of that. 

For those curious about the locations, I shot these either in and around Union Market or in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington D.C. Part of my last bit of photographic exploration before we moved from the area.

june 2017—roll 9

Looks like we're back to color! This is another roll that I shot while on a walk; I was visiting my in-laws in Charlottesville and decided to take advantage of the lovely light. You'll notice these are square format photos—I took these on my vintage folding camera, which I love. My favorite shot of the bunch is of the old Lucky 7 sign. The convenient store is still there, although with the recent burst of development in C'ville, I'm sure for how long.

june 2017—rolls 7 & 8

Depending on the exact negative size (6x4.5, 6x6, etc.) you'll get between 8 and 15 exposures for a roll of medium format film, which makes it pretty expensive relative to 35mm! That tends to be why I tend to shoot medium format on weekends, at events, where I can treat each roll as a record of a particular day, shot with a particular purpose. (I'm still figuring out where my recent foray into large format fits into this, but more on that later.)

I shot these rolls during D.C's Pride Weekend, part of my attempt to capture all the activity in the city those days. This batch has just a few keepers—I wasn't feeling as bold as I usually am when photographing big crowds, and it shows. But I had good time shooting, and that's ultimately what counts.

june 2017—roll 6

I was bored one Sunday morning (I think it was Sunday) and decided to take my bike and my camera for a little ride. I went down to U Street and took photos of anything that seemed interesting. I say this a lot, but it's definitely true in this instance: I'm not sure this is particularly *strong* work. But I had a good time shooting these photos and I cam back to my apartment with my mind a little more active, and ready for the day.

I believe this is Kodak Tri-X, and it was shot on a Fuji 6x7 rangefinder. I made a print from one of these negatives, and it looks *great*.