New vision, what tools. : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all,

Looking through my recent work ( hobby only ) Iím just not satisfied with what I getting. The photos are nice, but Iíve seen them before ( mostly landscapes ). I think itís time to do something radical.

1. Trash all my old photos that donít scream Print me! Iíve kept most of my OK shots, the ones in focus, exposed correctly, somewhat interesting, but not photos that pop. I think purging the marginal work will be very cathartic. 2. I really think I need a change in vision. I want to see what the world looks like upside down and backwards. Iíve decided on 5x7, itís a nice size for contact prints and my scanner will handle up to that size for BW quadtones when I need something larger.

The questions are; 1) Has anyone done this? Did it help your photography? Should I re-think this? 2) I have a limited budget (700 Ė900 for a kit with a convertible lens, camera, and half a dozen holders). Wobbly wood fields arenít very appealing. Are there any monorails in this price you can pack into a f 64 bag? Iím kind of a pack mule so wt. isnít a huge deal as long as itís within reason. Are their any metal fields for this price I should consider?

Thank you for your input,

-- Jeff Rivera (, February 07, 2001


Are you using large format now and thinking of switching to 5x7? Or are you thinking of getting into large format from what? I find that using easy to shoot handheld cameras helps me loosen up. Sometimes you can get tripod bound. It does help that I see alot of great work people do with Diana/Holga cameras. Landscapes too. If you're getting into large format prepare to slow down. I'm not sure that just using large format helps you see images any better but the ones you do see will be technically better.

-- Chuck Pere (, February 07, 2001.

I shoot MF (70%) and 35 (30%). I have not tried LF, though it's been in the back of my mind, for sure.

-- Jeff (, February 07, 2001.

I don't know of any 5x7 metal fields or monorails in the $500 range (which is presumably what you'd have to pay if you're going to stay within the $700-900 figure).

Like Chuck Pere (above), I too wondered where you're coming from. If it's from 35mm, I'd say (prepare for heresy, folks) get a used Fuji 6x9 and a used Beseler 23C enlarger. You'll save a bundle on film costs compared to 5x7 (as with pets, in LF initial purchase price can pale in comparison to ongoing costs) and if you only enlarge to 5x7 most people won't be able to tell the difference between your enlargements and a 5x7 contact print (yes they will; the enlargements will be the ones that don't need spotting!). Best of all, you won't be forever limited to having every photo you ever make be exactly 4.7x6.7 (or whatever the dimensions of 5x7 are). Yes, 5x7 contact prints can be beautiful, but no, I wouldn't want to be limited to that, and if you're going to scan on anything but a drum scanner, 5x7 doesn't give you much of an edge over the next smaller formats.

Come to think of it, if you're already a LF shooter and are tripod weary, as Chuck notes--it periodically happens to us all!--the Fuji 6x9, handheld, wouldn't be a bad solution for that either. But I doubt you'd be looking at 5x7 if you're already shooting 4x5 or 8x10, at least not in the radical way you hope it might give you "a change in vision."

Of course, if you're a 35mm or MF user and want to move up to large format, there are ways of getting into 4x5 for $700-900--especially if you're happy with scanning options when it comes to getting larger- than-contact-sized prints. But 5x7 would be tough in that price range unless you're open to really beat-up "wobbly wood fields."

Good luck. More info on your current/past preferences should lead to more useful responses than I've been able to provide!


-- Simon (, February 07, 2001.

Answers:Yes it does help. You don't have throw away every thing just put itfor the time being in boxes that you can't get to immediately. But you have to be very decisive: images are either "Yeses!!' or NOs!" with no "Maybes?"

2.) Start with a Calumet Cadet, and a single high quality lens.

Here is the essential attitudes to approach this re-visioning with: A.)Take the hardline of being responsible for every square millimeter of the frame.

B.) If you are looking at the image on the groundglass and you think you have seen the image before, don't waste the film.

C.) Go to more museums: find work that challenges you ask your self questions about why it challenges or offends you.

D>) Don't be afraid to play.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 07, 2001.

I obviously was composing my above response as you were posting your 70%/30% response. I'm surprised to learn that you shoot that much MF (and obviously the Fuji 6x9 wouldn't be a huge difference for you, although my remarks re: 5x7 and 4x5 still are valid).


-- Simon (, February 07, 2001.

I agree with Chuck. If you ask me, it was my experiance composing with smaller formats that helped me with composing the larger ones. There is more freedom and ease when using a smaller format. Large formats tend to be very slow and can be cumbersome when you consider everything is tripod mounted. Altough LF movements can enhance an image, the overall image is based on tripod position. I think that if you are getting some uninteresting images with smaller formats, larger formats will not help very much. On the other hand, if you are happy with your images now, switching to LF will enhance your photographs.

-- Dave Anton (, February 07, 2001.

Switching to LF and seeing everything upside down and backwards really helped my composition. I've gotten so used to it, though, that composing well with 35mm and MF has become more of a challenge!

FWIW, The F STOPs Here has a Seneca 5x7 for $725.

-- Dave Munson (, February 07, 2001.

Well, I will offer a different take... I shoot mostly roll-film, but I do it with a view camera. For me, the issue is the nature of the viewing system of the camera. With most 35 and MF, you look THROUGH the camera. This tends to focus your attention THROUGH the camera at the subject, rather than the image of the subject on the focal plane. With groundglass viewing, your attention is drawn to the image on the glass, and you are forced to pay attention to the composition, the corners, and every other square mm of the image. Format is really secondary. I discovered this when I left my Hasselblad meter-prism behind once, and returned with much better images from having to deal with groundglass viewing. Being inverted and/or reversed helps abstract the image even further.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, February 07, 2001.

Depending upon what MF outfit you are using, you might find moving up to a medium-format view camera a cost-effective way to get you out of your rut. For instance, if you're shooting with an RB67, you can buy a Galvin 2x3 and use your existing backs, thus saving you a few bucks that you can put toward a second lens.

Although you might think that shooting the same format as before with a different camera isn't much of a change, the pace of working with a view camera is considerably slower and viewing your compositions with a ground-glass, upside down and backward, instead of through a finder will almost certainly cause you to look at your subjects differently.

Of course, when I found myself in a rut, I opted for a retro approach and started shooting with my Minolta Autocords, both hand-held and on a tripod. Although they're not for everybody, they're cheap and what they do well, they do very well indeed.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, February 07, 2001.

Jeff: I think using a LF camera makes one a better MF or 35mm photographer simply because LF makes you slow down and pay attention to what you are doing. There are no motor drives or pentaprisms in LF, so you learn to shoot what is important instead of zipping through a roll of 35 and hoping for the best. Every LF photographer I know has set up a shot, studied it on the ground glass, and walked away without making a shot. You soon learn to recognize good images. However, I don't know if changing to LF would really solve the problem you are having with being dissatisfied with your images. You may need to give your images a good, hard look. If you like one, why? If you don't like one, why. You will learn more from the good and bad images than from th so-so images. Really pay attention to why you like or dislike an image. Does it need better printing, better composition, or was it a crap image before you took the picture. A LF can make some beautiful images, but so can a MF and 35mm. For what it is worth, I would get into LF through 4x5. It's cheaper and other than being able to make bigger contacts, it's about as good. There are many more film choices with 4x5 also.


-- Doug Paramore (, February 07, 2001.

I've had this happen as well, but for me the solution comes from the darkroom. You took the image because you saw something there, but perhaps it's just not coming out on the print. For inspiration I open a book like Eddie Ephraums "Darkroom Techniques for Landscape Photography" and wish I was shooting 35mm. Nothing wrong with going up to 5x7 - that's what I shoot - but you probably have some really nice images that need coaxing in the darkroom.

... and sometimes I pick up my $15 120 6x6 Holga (not the pentax 67) and take the full frame images to 4x4 prints mounted in 8x10's. It's a great feeling of creativity that often rejuvinates me and resets my "eye".

good luck - doug

-- doug mcfarland (, February 07, 2001.

I think that if you like the proportions of 35mm a 5x7 should do nicely. It is big enough to see and you can still get old 5x7 enlargers in decent condition for a low price should you decide to enlarge the images other than digital.

5x7 is easily tray processed, either by inspection or time/temp. I find it a comfortable format to work with, and I do use 'wobbly wooden cameras', and find I enjoy it.

You can easily get a 5x7 outfit with holders for your budget if you look a bit. The older Korona cameras can be solid & work well. So can the Kodaks, Burke & James and others. If I were doing this I would look at the Koronas or Burke & James as they are some of the lower priced ones, can easily be refinished to look beautiful and are pretty solid when locked down. They can also be braced a bit if you want the extra rigidity. Some are maple and clean up & refinish to a beautiful showpiece if you work at it a bit.

An older lens is fine but if you can, try one of the more modern designs. One of the real benefits of newer lenses is the shutter. Some of the older ones will cost more to rebuild than you would have spent for a newer one.

eBay *can* be a good option here. If you check it a bit & do some research you can get a good deal. Camera, lens and holders all for a minimum cost. Part of this is sticking to what your budget allows & dropping out rather than overextending the budget. Good deals are to be had and in many cases the seller is glad to get rid of the 5x7 albatross.

At any rate, good luck. 5x7 is a nice format to work with.

-- Dan Smith (, February 07, 2001.

If your problem is with creativity, I think it's unlikely that buying new gear is likely to solve it. If you're making boring negatives now, moving up to 5x7 is likely to result in bigger boring negatives. I'd spend the money on a really good workshop aimed at creative issues.

-- Chris Patti (, February 07, 2001.

If you buy the 5x7, I suspect your next question will be "New tool, need vision"....LOL. whenever I feel in a creative slump, I go the opposite way - take out a cheap point&shoot camera and fire away. Several rolls an hour: shoot everything you see and sort it out later...

On the other hand, why not try 5x7? Buy used, sell it later on eBay. I recently made an attempt at LF, but found it too slow for my style. But I also agree with Glen, what helped my compositions the most, was being able to see the image on a ground glass (as opposed to looking through a camera). For you it may be the ground glass of a LF camera, for me it's the waistlevel finder on my Hassie... Good luck!

-- Andreas Carl (, February 08, 2001.

Jeff, nothing wrong with your quest. But don't be too radical. I remember the flames up to 3 meters high from my transparencies (did not even keep the good ones). As a result I didn't touch a camera for almost ten years and when I picked up again, it was because I had seen some large format photographs and I went that way. The first results were encouraging, probably due to a genuine thirst for achievement, but then again, things started to settle down very quickly. Ten other years have passed now. One has to always strive for emotion. A Linhof Technika 5x7 or 4x5 could be a good starting point. Mastering the output process as said previously is a vital step.

-- Paul Schilliger (, February 09, 2001.

Jeff, I bought a nicely restored Century Grand 5x7 a few years back with a B&L convertable Protar. The whole package was $450, complete with a newly installed bellows. Problem was the camera was set up for plate holders, not film. I did some calculations and made an aluminum focusing shim that I insert between the gg and the lens just like a film holder. I focus, pull the shim, insert a holder and shoot. The results are wonderful. With holders, a case, some filters and a bunch of other odds and ends, I don't think I had $650 in the whole kit.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, February 09, 2001.

Jeff - You asked: Has anyone done this? Did it help your photography?

I think most of us have. I know I did, and yes, it helped immensely. Quite the opposite of some posters, snapping away with a 35mm or MF camera wasn't working for me. Going to LF is more than just an upgrade in image quality - it changes the way you approach photography in general. And the good news is that with vintage LF gear, you can (in a practical sense) rent it for next to nothing for a year to see how it works for you. (i.e. you can usually get your money back out of it if you decide to sell your equipment.) So follow your muse - get an old 5x7 or whatever and have fun. I'm betting you'll love it.

About creativity, we each have to find our own way. For me, I find myself always scouting for images even when I don't have my camera with me. Two benefits of this - I know where to go when I set out before sunrise early Sunday mornings instead of wasting time and light, and, more importantly, it really seems to improve my "vision". In effect, I'm "photographing" every day, or at least involving myself in the most important aspect of it. Dorothea Lange said it best - "A camera is a tool that helps you see without a camera."

Good luck!

-- Mark Parsons (, February 11, 2001.

Ok. I've heard and seen this before so here goes. Why!? If your compositions don't thrill you with your current system, then no format is going to change that. Period. If you just want to get a different view of the world, format isn't going to do that. Period. The composition is in your mind. Left or right I forget. Format is what you use to forge your ideas into something you can hold. If you can't make good images with 35mm you won't make them with 5x7 or 16x20. The answer is sitting on your shoulders. Now that we have a basic understanding of the real problem, I'd suggest two ways to work through them. First, and easiest, go some place and find the images that turn you on. Libraries are full of books with all kinds of images. All sorts of different genres. Or go to galleries and look at prints. The web is also a great place to explore creative ideas. The more you emerse yourself in photographic creations the more ideas start to blossom in your own creative mind. Great images are created everyday with everything from pinholes to digital imaging devices. Second, go find out what grabs you and go do that. Landscape, street, still life, portraiture, weddings, self images, abstracts. It's all out there waiting for you. But you have to find it. Find what turns you on. Take a creative workshop. There are many of them. Get into a camera club or get together with other photographers who shoot lots of film. Open those creative juices. Go ahead and drool. Just don't think changing formats will all of a sudden make you a creative individual. 5x7 is a very nice format but limits you to contacts or computer scans. 4x5 is doable for not much money. But 35 and MF are very versatile. Get a 4x5 speed graphic and shoot hand held with a modern flash if you really want a challenge. James

-- lumberjack (, February 11, 2001.


For my own part I have found that "improving by consuming" i.e buying a new lens or a new camera doesn't really hasn't done anything radical for me in sense that I would make better pictures. I have tested (and use) 35mm, MF and LF. But I have to say LF has affected me most and it still teaches me new ways to see things.

Photos that don't pop, won't pop in any format. I have struggled with pictures, which I have done in all of the above formats and it won't come through. My line of thought is maybe you need to take a vacation, a course or something to bring new juice into the creative system.

Think long and hard on what you want to tell, and how you want to express yourself, through what medium. And be true to yourself: if you feel that might you express yourself better by doing 5x7 LF photo, by all means do it. We all have to learn by ourselves and find our own ways. Good luck!

-- Jimi Axelsson (, February 12, 2001.

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