My Large Format Love Story

2017-11-08 14

A few months ago I wandered through the Wukesong camera market in Beijing looking to buy a couple of rolls of Ektachrome for a trip to Spain. Any photography enthusiast who puts a foot into Wukesong will love it, it is China’s largest 2nd hand photography gear market filled with rows after rows of little individual stores in which you can find pretty much everything your analogue heart desires. From expired Lucky film to Hasselblads and Kievs, all kinds of rangefinders, SLRs, shops filled to the roof with vintage lenses, filters, chemicals, lights, hell even an Arri Alexa Mini if you fancy ̶ ̶ you get the picture. If you have time and the nerves to find and haggle for it, chances are you’ll get what you were looking for, or maybe the same thing that happened to me that day will happen to you...

I approached my usual go-to shop to buy film when I saw a beautiful, mint condition Fuji GW690 on a shelf, needless to say that Fuji has always been very high up on my wishlist. It was almost new. It had a red strap and looked amazing. An invisible force had me stray off my path and pull me into the shop. A whole world of other gems presented themselves to me. I saw a Nikon F3 Titanium special edition, a light meter prism for my Kiev 88, A Bessa R2A with a 40mm 1.4 Nokton lens and such beauties. Overwhelmed by a GAS attack, I only after awhile noticed that there’s a whole shelf of ‘Chamonix’ cameras and accessories in the back. It turns out the name is misleading and has nothing to do with the French Alps as the shopkeeper introduced the brand to me, they are large format cameras created by a veteran photographer in Shenzhen. Well crafted, lightweight due to a carbon fiber base, a wooden frame and all of that to an affordable price tag, I was pretty much in love right then. So it did happen, I did not even buy the 35mm films but exited the market with a basic Chamonix large format kit, smiling like a child in a candy store. I got myself this lovely thing:

Credits: montagu

Chamonix 4×5 view camera
Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm f5.6 lens
Toyo Film Holders 2x
Box of Shanghai GP3 100
Jobo 4×5 developer drum

The spark was always there, but now it ignited into a huge napalm explosion. I had no idea what I was doing, just winging it all and setting up the camera a few times, looking at the Beijing skyline through the glorious 4×5 size ground glass with a t-shirt over my head, it was already exciting. A few online tutorials later I was loading my film holders like a boss, set up the camera within minutes, and was ready to tackle anything. I left to Europe the next morning and within a couple of hours, took my first ever shot on the Chamonix on the cheap Shanghai GP3 100 film. I shot with a 1:2.39 mask, coming from film I always loved that format, doesn’t make much sense though as you can just crop the image later on if you wanted. I set my exposure with the LightMeterW app on my phone. Not the cleanest job I done, some dust, some fingerprints on it but I can tell you despite that, it feels amazing to hold your first LF negative in your hands, the negative itself has so much detail and looks like a piece of art.

People will tell you that large format is complicated, that it’s hard and a pain to use, that you need a master’s degree in light metering and that it takes forever to set it up and so on. Don’t listen, don’t be intimidated by it for a second. Also don’t be discouraged by the rather monotone and serious sounding LF photographers on blogs and Youtube that show you how to do everything painstakingly detailed. In truth it is much fun and if you begin by initially choosing a rather forgiving film stock it is quite easy to get beautiful results. The process is obviously slower than working on 35mm but the possibilities are boundless. It is actually a truly great experimental camera! I will elaborate on that and give you a whole array of examples a bit further down.

To keep everything under control regarding costs, I believe that developing the negatives yourself is rather crucial for LF. I developed my first black and white pictures with the Ars Imago Monobath, a monobath developer that gives you a finished negative within eight minutes at room temperature in one single step. It's very forgiving and also quite cheap, it doesn’t get much easier than that. Nowadays I switched to the Ars Imago FD developer with even better results and for 15 USD I can develop more than two hundred negatives ̶ ̶ I call this great value for money! The C41/E6 I develop with a standard Tetenal Colortec kit which you can easily find online.

So what can you do with a large format camera and why would it be exciting to an experimental photography enthusiast? Isn’t this supposed to be something for serious old men who shoot mountains at sunset? Well, it can do it all. I start with a quick overview on lenses:

A shall we call it ‘standard’ 150mm LF lens can usually be two or even three lenses in one. First, there’s the 150mm focal length (horizontal FOV equivalent of around 47mm in 35mm format). Then even if it’s not classified as a convertible lens, by simply taking off the rear element of my 150mm (Rodenstock you take off the rear, some Fujinons or Schneider you take off the front) it turns it into a 450mm (horizontal FOV equivalent of around 141mm in 35mm format), it does loose a bit of light in the process, I measured mine at f11 without the rear. It will also have quite a bit of optical aberration, some softness towards the edges of the frame but sometimes this might even work towards you as a great portrait lens or for dreamy landscapes. I shot this photo of a red tree without the rear element:

Credits: montagu

With the 150mm, the scene was disturbed by a wooden bridge to the left and a few picnickers to the right, but with the 450mm option I could easily single out the red tree and get the symmetrical landscape I wanted. You can clearly see how the sharpness drops off towards the edges but I find it somewhat pretty.

Then there’s also the lovely fact that a 150mm lens becomes a 1:1 macro lens just by extending the bellows. With the negative size of 4×5 this is pretty amazing, imagine you can still crop heaps, you can basically capture someone’s eyeball in amazing detail. Pretty nifty little things those LF lenses and great for some macro shots or tabletop photography, basically there’s always the framing one wants as there is not really a restriction on minimal focusing distance.

Credits: montagu

And the depths of the internet as well as flee markets are fairly saturated with large format lenses. I bought a second lens for 25USD at a local flee market, a 90mm Yamasaki Congo f6.3 (horizontal FOV equivalent of around 25mm in 35mm format). Got to love that name! These lenses don’t have a great reputation but I have yet to discover why. I love it very much since it operates flawlessly and these two lenses literally cover all of my LF shooting needs so far. This was my first Yamasaki Congo shot on a hike last month:

Credits: montagu

Something else that makes experimental photography convenient and fun in more than one way is the fact that LF works with sheet film holders. A huge advantage and something that I love very much is to have the option of shooting a Kodak Ektar, then maybe a Shanghai GP3 and then maybe a Fuji Velvia 100F without the commitment of having to go through a roll of 36 photos of each emulsion. Redscale? Don’t even mention it, just put the negative in the holder upside down, done.

Double exposures and in-camera collages? Of course, as many exposures on one frame as you want. At the moment I work on a project of making in-camera collages, basically chosing the object I want to have and placing the camera in a way that most of the image except my object is covered with dark foreground so that only my object is properly exposed. I then put a piece of masking tape onto the ground glass to remind me which part of the negative I have already exposed and move on to the next shot. It’s like a Splitzer on steroids. I will update my LomoHome (@montagu) with the first collages I made in a few days when I’m back from my holidays and had a chance to scan them.

How about what I call a cross-emulsion contact print? Basically what I played with was loading an unexposed direct positive paper or any negative in the sheet holder and then loading a developed 4×5 negative or slide on top of it, then expose! I was in for a surprise and loved the results very much. You will end up with an interesting mix of positive and negative on your final image.

Mix this up with color negative, slide, positive and negative papers and some interesting results with a twist on the ‘normal’ double exposures are sure. These two shots were made with this technique, the first one being a pretty overexposed, developed Velvia slide of grass overlaid on a nude shot on Provia, the other one being a developed Kodak Ektar negative on top of an Imago Positive Paper. Basically you end up creating a sort of contact print on top of your new image, in-camera:

Credits: montagu

Paint or scratch on negatives? A 4×5 negative is so big, it’s a pleasure to draw on it without having to use a loupe. Color it, scratch it, put finger prints, or all of it together. Whatever your experimental heart desires. I was alone at home and bored, shot a self portrait that was out of focus. Well, I started to play around with it, first with a sharpie just tracing lines and then went all crazy on it with a screwdriver. Not my best work but you can see there’s some potential here.

Credits: montagu

Making filters and masks? Yes! Every part of the camera is very easily accessible, The front of the lens naturally, but also the rear element, the gate in front of the ground glass, the space the negative occupies, on top of the negative inside the sheet film holder and so on ̶ ̶ there are endless options on making masks and filters which I have yet to discover.

And last but not least, something I need to add. A large format camera is an absolutely amazing tool for any pictorialist ideas. Very soon after you start using a 4×5, it shapes a sort of mindset, pushing you towards creating THE landscape, THE portrait, THE city shot, THE tree you always wanted to capture perfectly. Especially because it takes time, because it’s large and every shot is rather expensive, it drives you to pay extra attention and thoroughly prepare your shot. This is all personally speaking of course, but working on a large format camera inspires me to do that. It boosts my discipline, knowing what I want and paying attention to the details, measuring the light carefully, making notes of everything, waiting patiently and then 'click', get that perfect picture that will hopefully make me happy for a long time. Listen to me, I already sound like an old man taking pictures of mountains at sunset! This is a picture of my hometown Basel that I always wanted and I tried to combine the old and the new Basel in one:

Credits: montagu

As some of you might have already seen, I am working on my ‘Diagonal Compositions’ sun trails lately, part of the series is in my LomoHome @montagu. I could probably have done this series on many formats, but the LF camera was an ideal choice for this. It’s small things that make a huge difference. The lens has a T-Shutter mode (one click to open the shutter and one click to close the shutter), eliminating the accidental closure of the shutter in case the pressure of the remote lets go, when the battery dies or weird things happen like the Hasselblad Xpan 1 that on bulb mode only shoots for a maximum of 30 seconds. On top of that, most LF lenses equipped with an aperture that stops down to f45 or f64 which in my case is necessary to get a strong definition of the sun trail and not fill the frame with too much stray light. And sounding like a broken record, when every exposure of your project takes two to four hours, it is good to be able to develop the images pretty soon after taking them instead of having to shoot 18 days of sunsets and sunrises filling up a 36 exposure film only to realize the exposure was completely off.

Credits: montagu

This was my large format love story. I am confident that you can feel the genuine love and excitement I have for these cameras. Not even four months ago I have never even touched a LF camera, nowadays it is my most used tool.

I am sure there are still way more options to explore for all the experimenters out there, but this should get you on speed about the most common tips and tricks that I can share about my 4×5. I hope you are inspired by this little tipster. Thank you for reading it and let me know if you have any questions. Also add any ideas or experiences you had regarding the additional use of a LF camera in the comments!

2017-11-08 #gear #large-format #large-format-photography #chamonix-4x5-view-camera Montague Fendt の記事

【25周年アニバーサリー限定エディション】Lomography生誕25周年記念として Lomo LC-Aシリーズのカメラが限定デザインで登場!ブラウンの本革に25周年アニバーサリーのロゴが入ったスペシャルなエディションです。オンラインショップまたは直営店Lomography+にて販売中。限定生産なのでお早めにどうぞ!

14 Comment

  1. mtsteve
    mtsteve ·

    This is just awesome!!! Amazing work the with the GP3!!

  2. stouf
    stouf ·

    Bravo!

  3. robertofiuza
    robertofiuza ·

    Looking forward to seeing you do this live in a few days @montagu

  4. montagu
    montagu ·

    @stouf @mtsteve Thank you, hope the tipster can inspire you!

  5. montagu
    montagu ·

    @robertofiuza Sure! Also I'm bringing loads of sheets for Vienna, everyone can play with it and shoot some 4x5:)

  6. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    great article!

  7. mtsteve
    mtsteve ·

    @montagu it does! Very much so! Thanks for all of your hard work!

  8. srcardoso
    srcardoso ·

    @montagu I always said to myself I would go LF someday, when I'll have some more free time. Have you tried some swing and tilt techniques?

  9. montagu
    montagu ·

    @SRCARDOSO Do it! Yes, a lot of my photos on LF are tilted. I don't use swing much because that's quite specific in its use, but tilt I do use all the time to make horizons straight or buildings, towers, trees straight. These are some examples that I specifically remember tilting to straighten the vertical lines:
    https://www.lomography.com/homes/montagu/photos/22257292
    https://www.lomography.com/homes/montagu/photos/22304954
    https://www.lomography.com/homes/montagu/photos/22318750
    https://www.lomography.com/homes/montagu/photos/22342269

  10. rafaelcabral
    rafaelcabral ·

    Great article. We can feel your passion through your words - Gracias!

  11. montagu
    montagu ·

    @sirio174 thanks! glad you liked it

  12. montagu
    montagu ·

    @RAFAELCABRAL Thanks! I hope it makes large format a bit more approachable

  13. mloscik
    mloscik ·

    Great article, I'm looking forward to a day I'll manage to get my own LF camera. Right now I started experimenting with LF self-made pinhole but it will take me a while to get this thing going properly.

  14. petek
    petek ·

    Fantastic article im inspired!

他の記事を読む

  • 【直営店Lomography+】期限切れフィルムフェア開催中!

    2018-02-21 olderndaze の記事
    【直営店Lomography+】期限切れフィルムフェア開催中!

    直営店Lomography+にて期限切れフィルム各種を限定販売中!Lomographyフィルムや他社製の生産終了品を大放出。なんと、期限切れ品はすべて定価の30%OFFで販売いたします!もしかしたらレアなフィルムが見つかるかも?

    2018-02-21
  • Lomo'Instant Square 発売記念ワークショップ開催!@谷根千エリア

    2018-02-21 olderndaze の記事
    Lomo'Instant Square 発売記念ワークショップ開催!@谷根千エリア

    Lomo'Instant Squareが発売され、大人気の正方形写真がついにLomographyのインスタントカメラでも楽しめるようになりました!直営店Lomography+では Lomo'Instant Squareの発売を記念して谷根千(谷中・根津・千駄木)エリアを散策して撮影を楽しむワークショップを開催いたします。フィルム・インスタントカメラが初めてでも全然OK!

    2018-02-21
  • 太陽の下で写すスクエア・ポートレイト:Audrey Kwok

    2018-02-19 #people crissyrobles の記事
    太陽の下で写すスクエア・ポートレイト:Audrey Kwok

    前回 Petzval 85 Art Lens で美しいポートレイト・シリーズを撮影したシンガポール人の Audrey Kwok。私たちは Lomo'Instant Squareのクラウドファンディングが始まる前に、彼女にカメラを試してもらいました。彼女が描くミニマルで美しい世界は、Lomo'Instant Squareのスクエアフレームにぴったり。

    2018-02-19
  • ショップニュース

    ロモグラフィックな写りを簡単に楽しめる!

    ロモグラフィックな写りを簡単に楽しめる!

    【ロモグラフィーの Simple Use Film Camera(レンズ付フィルム)】さあ今すぐ撮影開始!ロモグラフィーのユニークなフィルムでの撮影を簡単に楽しめます。フィルムが既にセットされているので、購入したらすぐに撮影スタート可能。

  • 冬の木々に魅せられて

    2018-02-19 #tutorials hodachrome の記事
    冬の木々に魅せられて

    葉が落ちて枝の形があらわになった冬の木々…、冬の寒さや物哀しさを感じさせるシンボリックな光景のひとつですが、皆さんは写真に撮ったりしますか?色が乏しく素材としては難しいのですが、アイデアや技術、そしてロモグラフィーの個性的なフィルムを駆使することで面白い写真を撮ることができます。今回はそれらを紹介していきたいと思います。

    2018-02-19 1
  • Diana F+で光漏れを楽しもう!

    2018-02-14 Lomography の記事
    Diana F+で光漏れを楽しもう!

    レトロな中判カメラ Diana F+の好きなもの、それはたくさんの『光』なんです。

    2018-02-14
  • 紙にこだわったアナログなイベント『PAPER BAZAAR vol.2』開催

    2018-02-14 refallinsasaki の記事
    紙にこだわったアナログなイベント『PAPER BAZAAR vol.2』開催

    紙で写真を見て、紙で本を読む、「紙」にこだわったイベント PAPER BAZAAR vol.2 が 2/23(金) 〜 25(日) に レインボー倉庫池尻大橋 にて開催されます!今回は写真家 nao ashidachi × Lomographyのスペシャルな企画も近日公開予定。

  • ショップニュース

    全てがクラシカルなポートレイトレンズ

    全てがクラシカルなポートレイトレンズ

    Lomography New Petzval Lens は85mmのポートレイトレンズ。周辺のボケが渦巻くように現れ、中心の被写体へ視線を惹き付ける画を写し出します。Nikon FとCanon EFの2種類のマウントでご用意があり、こちらのマウントに対応するデジタル及びアナログカメラに対応しています。オンラインショップではその他のマウントアダプターやフィルター各種を取り揃えています。

  • CP+2018:ロモグラフィー出展のお知らせ

    2018-02-09 #ニュース #ビデオ refallinsasaki の記事
    CP+2018:ロモグラフィー出展のお知らせ

    2018年3月1日(木) ~ 4日(日) に開催される国際的なカメラと写真映像のワールドプレミアショー「CP+(シーピープラス) 2018」にロモグラフィーが出展します!日本のみなさま、年に一度のカメラの祭典でお会いしましょう!*English follows Japanese

    2018-02-09
  • 一夜限りの「トウキョー・ウィーン・ダブルエクスポージャー」開催します!

    2018-02-06 #ニュース refallinsasaki の記事
    一夜限りの「トウキョー・ウィーン・ダブルエクスポージャー」開催します!

    Lomography 25周年イベント『 トウキョー・ウィーン・ダブルエクスポージャー 』が 2/14(水) 一夜限りで復活。Lomography発祥の地ウィーン、オーストリアと東京を舞台に撮影したフィルムスワップ写真、それぞれの街で撮影した8mmの映像も上映します!今回はウィーンで開催されたワークショップの写真もたくさん展示予定。ぜひお仕事帰りに オーストリア文化フォーラム東京まで遊びに来てくださいね!

    2018-02-06
  • 【動画】Youtubeチャンネル Analog Thingsが Lomo'Instant Squareをレビュー

    2018-02-03 #gear #ビデオ Lomography の記事
    【動画】Youtubeチャンネル Analog Thingsが Lomo'Instant Squareをレビュー

    アナログ写真にフォーカスした Youtubeチャンネル Analog Thingsの Marcoが、Lomo'Instant Squareの第一印象を動画で語ります。英文ですが、カメラの使い方等わかりやすく説明しているので、気になっている方は要チェック。

    2018-02-03
  • ショップニュース

    ファインダーを覗くだけでも楽しい!軽量二眼レフカメラ

    ファインダーを覗くだけでも楽しい!軽量二眼レフカメラ

    Lubitel 166+での撮影はとても実験的。上から覗き込むタイプのウエストレベルファインダーを使って思う通りにフレーミングできます。120フィルムと35mmフィルムが両方使えるので、飽きずに創作意欲も存分に湧き上がることでしょう。あなたもロモグラフィーのオンラインショップでLubitel 166+を手に入れて、アナログ写真の代表作を作りましょう!

  • 詩的な東京旅行:Franz Navarrete

    2018-02-03 #gear #people crissyrobles の記事
    詩的な東京旅行:Franz Navarrete

    シンガポールを拠点として活動する Franz Navarrete は、先日 Simple Use Film Camera Black and White を持って東京を訪れました。白黒フィルムで写す雨の東京は、私たちがいつも見ている騒がしい東京とは少し違うようです。

    2018-02-03
  • Lomo LC-A+の魅力とは?

    2018-02-02 #gear Lomography の記事
    Lomo LC-A+の魅力とは?

    長年にわたりたくさんの人々に愛されてきたフィルムカメラ Lomo LC-A+。このカメラのどこがそんなにいいの?と思う人もいるかもしれません。でも、LC-A+の写す世界を見れば一目で理由がわかるでしょう。この小さななボディには、クリエイティブな可能性がぎっしり詰まっているんです。

    2018-02-02
  • 『レンズの時間 Vol.3』にロモグラフィーのフィルムカメラ全18種カタログが掲載中

    2018-02-01 refallinsasaki の記事
    『レンズの時間 Vol.3』にロモグラフィーのフィルムカメラ全18種カタログが掲載中

    玄光社より発売中の『レンズの時間 Vol.3』にロモグラフィーのフィルムカメラ全18種オールカタログが掲載されています!特集は8Pとボリュームたっぷり。それぞれのカメラで撮影された写真は11月に開催されたワークショップの時のもの。参加された方は要チェックです!

    2018-02-01