What is your best LF image? Why is it your best image?

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I am working on my current project and I am using colour, light and motion to document my school. I am using an A-S Discovery,150mm lens, Tungsten Halogen clamp lights and long exposures of moving people. I made some excellent images but I haven't made my best image yet.

-- David Payumo (dpayumo@rogers.com), December 15, 2001


David... I hope I haven't made my best image yet, and I don't think I want to. That will be for others to decide after I am gone.

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), December 15, 2001.

Dave, Wait about ten to fifteen years. In the meantime, work hard, take thousands of photographs, and then ask again. Even then, probably you'll need to count your fingers on one hand only! Cheers, GS

-- Geoffrey Swenson (amicor@hotmail.com), December 15, 2001.

I'd have a REAL hard time picking just one. I have several favorites, but here are a couple I have online:



Of course, the reasons these are two of may favotites are based on my personal experiences, and may not evoke the same emotions in others. But since you asked "Why"?...

The first image is what I consider my first "good" large format image. It was made about six months after I bought my first 4x5 camera - an old Speed Graphic. It is a place I have returned and photographed many times since (it's only about an hour and 15 minute drive from my house). And although I've gotten may other very nice image of the same subjects, I've never again experienced the same unique combination of colors and elements. The sliver of crescent moon peaking through the clouds - a little hard to see in the jpeg - is one thing that adds to the uniqueness of this photo.

This image also taught me some valuable lessons. First, don't put away your camera when the sun goes down. This image was made about 20 - 30 minutes after sunset. There were a couple of other photographers there that day, but they packed up and left the beach as soon as the sun went down. They missed the best colors. This experience taught me to not be in a hurry to leave a good location. The best colors often appear during the afterglow 20 minutes or so after the sun goes down.

This image is also just about the only one that I crop significantly when printing. The original image was shot as a vertical, but there is too much detailess black sand in the foreground to print it that way. At the time I took this image, I only had two lenses and a couple film holders (it was shot with a 210mm). So, I was a little limited in my options and only got one image of this composition (my last sheet of film). Now I always carry enough film to get a couple extra in-camera dupes of special situations like this (and would probably shoot both horizontal and vertical compositions). When printing, I crop to horizontal using the full width of the vertical image, so I effectively end up printing from a 3 1/4 x 4 piece of the film. My favorite size for printing this image is 20 x24 (gives it just a little more of the purple clouds in the sky at the top than the crop shown on my web site). It also prints well square. I have never done so myself, but it has been featured that way in a couple calendars that use the 12 x 12 image format. Finally, this is the image that launched my career in professional photography. It was the first mage I ever sold (to a local calendar publisher). It has also sold well over the years, both for publication and as a print. I'd still like it if I'd never made a penny off it, but since it was my "first", that's an added bonus.

The second image also has a lot of personal sentimental attachment for me. Although it was taken 9 1/2 years later with a much longer lens, at different time of year, different ime of day, under totally different conditions, this was the exact same location where I took my first ever large format image. The first time was an early August morning a couple days after I bought my Speed Graphic, two film holders and a 127mm Ektar. That image actually turned out OK, but the one at the link above is much more dramatic and unique. It was taken on a cold January afternoon at sunset after reaching the location on cross-country skis. It was taken with a much longer lens (450mm vs. 127mm) with a lot more snow on the mountain and much different lighting and atmospheric conditions. It is my favorite image of one of my favorite subjects. It has also proven to be my best selling image to date. It's been published in calendars, magazines, post cards, web sites, as a self-published poster and I've sold a few prints of it as well. Again, the money is a nice bonus (guess that shows other people like it, too), but the emotional response I get when I look at this image and recall the magical conditions I witnessed at the time it was created, is what makes it special to me.

I have others that I feel just as strongly about, but those are two of my personal favorites.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 15, 2001.

Nice pics Kerry, particularly Mt. Hood. I bet they'd look awesome printed to Cibachrome.

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), December 15, 2001.

Hi Andre,

Thanks. I have not attempted to print either on Cibachrome. I have printed "The Needles at Twilight" on a number of papers over the years, including Fuji's polyester based type R Super Gloss as well as Lightjet prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. In addition to the poster (which was printed on 100 lb. cover stock on a six color offset printing press), I have also printed "Mount Hood - Alpenglow and Lenticular Clouds" as a Lightjet print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Last week when I was in my local gallery for a poster signing, the gallery owner requested a 30"x40" print of this image. I'll probably do it as a Lighjet print, since all the up front work is done and paid for (I had an archival drum scan made for printing up to 40x50 when I made smaller Lighjet prints of this image). All the dodging and burning has been done and archived on CD-ROM. So reprints in any size up to 40x50 are less expensive and the quality consistant across all sizes.

Still, it would be nice to try them on Ciba some time. Any recommendations for a good ciba/ilfochrome printer? My local rental darkroom only supports Fuji type R papers. So, that's my only choice when making my own convential prints (I don't have a home darkroom).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 15, 2001.

The only reason I attempt to answer this question is that I have only been working with a view camera for a few months, so I have very few good LF images. (The first 20 years of my career I used small and medium format --- I am now using 6x9 so technically it's still MF but using LF technique -- all movements, LF lenses, tripod, spotmeter, etc.) Last week I finished printing a portfolio of 18 color coupler 16x20s from the best of my view camera work. Among those 18, I will venture to choose the "best" for you and explain it. Keep in mind that my opinion of which one is the best may change if you ask me again in a year! But maybe not.

It's a straight-on, frontal shot of a deserted department store, "Harold's," in Elmira, New York. There are no people, no cars, no nature except a few tree reflections in the store windows. The color is warm and very subdued, nearly monochromatic (dull yellows and grays) at first glance, and the light is flat and even, such as the Bechers would choose to photograph their gas tanks or water towers. I am doing a series on distressed Main Streets and downtowns in America. This image was successful because I knew what I was looking for, I had been shooting buildings for 20 years, I got up very early that morning, and I was cruising slowly through an unfamiliar town in my car looking for the right kind of block to explore. I knew immediately when I saw this building that I needed a frontal shot of it. I also made exposures from other angles but the frontal one was indeed the best. It's all about the character of the building and the feeling of desolation when an urban block has been abandoned. This is a good picture because it accomplishes those things and also has some graceful details that reward a closer look. I think in many of my best images I feel a shock of recognition at the scene that the photograph is there --- I see the photograph when I see the scene.

So, I got the picture because I was (a) prepared and (b) lucky. What is that old saying about luck being mostly preparation? And (c) I went out with an idea, not a blank slate. (I know some of you other shooters don't like that approach.)

And right, I haven't made my best image yet.

I can email you a JPEG of Harold's if you want.

Cheers, Sandy

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), December 15, 2001.

Here is a single favorite that breaks all of the rules I have set for myself as well as everybody elses.


This was done with a Nikon many years ago but what I continue to love about it is the happy combination of errors that ultimately made a unique image.

I had put the moon on the frame 2 days earlier and was waiting for the weekend to complete the idea. The moon was done with a 300mm lens and a 1.4 converter. The rest of the image was added at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park 2 days later using the moon behind me as the main source of light. The shutter was open for 28 minutes to allow the exposure on Fuji Velvia. During that time I walked down to the foreground buildings and lit them with a Vivitar flash.

Errors: I forgot where the moon was and that's why it has crashed into the mountain. I was developing my own E6 in those days and fighting magenta cast on my out of date Fuji Velvia. The magenta turned the moon pink and corrected the green cast that is normally associated with longer night time exposures. I call it simply "Pink Moon"

It was fun to do and is the one picture that I continue to get multiple requests for. Even though 35mm, it prints well to 16X20.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 17, 2001.

I'm embarrased. Forgot the title said favorite "large format" image. Dis-regard my post. Jim

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 17, 2001.

It depends on what day it is and whether I have been out shooting in the past few days.

With many I like on film the 'favorite' is usually a new one and that is constantly changing. I have many I like for various reasons and that doesn't change much. I am constantly adding to them. Todays favorite is down the list next week. If it didn't happen that way it would mean I was not out shooting & working to get new images.

For one 'favorite' from the past two months check out Photo.net on the question of shooting near Salt Lake City in the Nature Q&A section. That is a current favorite though I have newer ones waiting in the wings.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 17, 2001.

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