Why Large Format

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Most of us know that Large Format photography offers features not usually available with smaller formats, camera movements, ability to expose specifically one sheet at a time, so exepting these more technical features: why do you use LF?

-- adrian tyler (tyler@nova.es), February 07, 2002


I shoot large format because it's fun!

-- Brian Yarvin (brian@brianyarvin.com), February 07, 2002.

Contact printing and alternative processes.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), February 07, 2002.

Besides the advantages when printing... it makes me smile when I see those big negs... like this wouahhhhhhhhhhhhh.. :)

-- dan n. (dan@egmail.com), February 07, 2002.

I like to spend my free hours in dodgy weather fiddling with brass knobs.

-- Matthew Cordery (foraker@hotmail.com), February 07, 2002.

I use large format camera for the influence they have on the image- making process, as much as for the technical advantages. The precision and skill a large format camera demands focuses you (sorry for the pun) on the task at hand, and I am far happier struggling over making 12 images a session with an 8x10 then I would be making 100's with a 35mm.


-- Eric Boutilier-Brown (ericbb@evolvingbeauty.com), February 07, 2002.

Hmmm......probably too many reasons for me to put here, but my main technical reasons for working with it is the larger negatives (8x10 contacts are unbeatable), ability to develop each sheet individually, and the ability to use various movements to control image characteristics. I think most overwhelmingly, though, it just fits the way I think, if that makes any sense. I've been using the same Nikon for about 7 years now and it's still a lot harder for me to use intuitively than the 8x10 I've been using for about two years now. My friends call me crazy, but it's one dementia of which I hope I am never cured.

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), February 07, 2002.

The forgettable stuff is still.........forgettable, but at least there's not so many of them. And the good stuff can be....incredible! At least the possibility is there.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), February 07, 2002.

Although I'm the poster I can't resist chiping in, I think that an LF print, whatever the technique has a certain presence, hard to define, perhaps it has something to do with the effort that goes on beforehand, but it is more than just fine grain or quality.

-- adrian tyler (tyler@nova.es), February 07, 2002.

I find LF forces me to work more purposefully and makes me more selective in what I photograph. By slowing things down, I feel you just naturally start to look at everything with a more critical eye. It also trains you to do the same with smaller formats, when circustances dictate.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (info@razeichner.com), February 07, 2002.

I absolutely enjoy every part of the LF image taking process - setting up, leveling, focusing, looking at the GG, mucking around with the movements, metering, setting the lens, etc. I've even grown fond of the strange looks you get from some folks when you pop your head out from under the darkcloth. The whole process is simply enjoyable - like a vacation. And increasingly LF is a process for me, not a result. And once you look at an image on the GG, other viewing alternatives seem puny and inadequate.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), February 07, 2002.

There are many reasons. The larger film yields infinitely sharper pictures than any smaller formats. With the tilts, rises etc, I can get an effect of endless depth of field, or keep buildings from falling over. Or, I can deliberately go the other way and distort things if I want to. There is no concern about grain. Each sheet can be developed individually for best results, or if all were shot in similar lighting/contrast I can still "batch develop" in a tank. Gentle changes in shading are less abrupt (tonality and smoothness). Negatives are big enough for contact printing if you want to. Everything is manual and you see the effect of various movements on the glass. A lot of it is about control. I want my cameras to do only what I tell them to, without some computer deciding what is best for me, or having to refer to the owners manual all the time to just change one setting. A friend got a brand new, do everything, professional (according to him) Pentax - I hated it; too much fiddling and reading and menus for even the simplest things. Finally, by doing it all personally, it feels more "pure". If the final print is a good one, I can take all the credit. If it looks awful, I just don't let anyone see it.

-- Steve Gangi (sgangi@hotmail.com), February 07, 2002.

Printing with the 35mm negative is not satisfying. Med format camera not versatile enough to justify cost.

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), February 07, 2002.

I do large format for the babes!

Haven't we done this thread every week for the last 2 years!??

Can't we skip it this week?

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), February 08, 2002.

I'm right there with Michael Mahoney. It's so much fun setting up and using a 4x5. Plus, there's something more deliberative and introspective about LF. For landscape, because one really studies the scene to get a good composition, one sort of "drinks in" and better absorbs what the see around them, whether or not they're under the darkcloth. After searching for and taking LF photos of beautiful scenery, I walk away having a much better appreciation, understanding, and a feeling of "oneness" of what I've seen.

Being so technical, LF is a nice blend of art and technology. One has to have a good technical foundation in photography to successfully do LF photography, so there's that sense of satisfaction in successfully bringing off a large format photograph.

Something else not mentioned is that being forced to view the image upside down and backwards on the GG so effectively brings out the elemental "design" of a scene. Personally, I like geometry in a photograph for this very reason, and LF photography lends itself very well to this kind of seeing.

On another level, LF can be a very solitary endeavor. Some people probably like this, but I tend to like being around people.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), February 08, 2002.

Matt, darling, have you got a headache again... don't worry we don't have to do anything you don't want to...

-- adrian tyler (tyler@nova.es), February 08, 2002.

I think I read this in one of AA's books: "The view camera doesn't force you to do anything, but it allows you to do everything."

-- David Haynes (studioblsp@mindspring.com), February 08, 2002.

Sailing has been described as standing is a cold shower and ripping up 100 dollar bills, Large format photography is similar. I just love to stand out in public with a big piece of balck cloth over my head and tear up 20 dollar bills for each 8x10 shot. It really gets the adrenal glands going!!

-- Ed (zeke@idirect.com), February 09, 2002.

I am probably in the minority here as a large format portraitist, but I've got to tell you...there is NOTHING like looking into someone's eyes in a LF B&W photograph. They are always 3- D, and I swear sometimes that there is color there, and I have to look twice. I've captured people on film of all sizes and there is a place for portraits on film of any size. But somehow it's the eyes that pop on the biggest negatives.

-- David G Hall (me@davidghall.com), February 09, 2002.

I like to use my 8x10 because the little chicksters at the beach always want their picturee taken. It's fun being under a dark cloth in the desert during the day sweltering. And It's fun being under the dark cloth during the winter and constantly fogging the ground glass. And all that weight is wonderful when hiking 20 miles to get yet another sunset from the top of the mountain. I just love it. Especially the chicks. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), February 09, 2002.

There is only one truth to shooting LF..... IT GIVES ME A WOODIE, why else!

-- Bill Rennaker (brenaker@aol.com), February 09, 2002.

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