Lost Art Threads

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My heartfelt thanks to all of you who responded to my two questions about the lost art of hand held shooting of LF and the second question of 'have we lost something', in lacking the discipline of anticipating the action and having only one shot, in a Linhof of Graphic to make the shot for our editors, thereby assuring our continuted employment.

My purpose in these two post,....although hidden....were to get some posters to 'THINK!' Lets examine the way we use LF. How many of you make a shot at tripod height level, just because it is convenient, and easy to see the ground glass. In the fifties and sixties, it was an insider joke to say...."Yeah, another Rollei shot"! This was meant to say that it was a 'belly-button' shot made when a shooter looked down into the twin lens reflex image and made the picture, where the camera was held, and the taking lens was at about belly-button height.

I am much more inpressed about the seriousness of a photographic artist when I see him/her, take the viewfinder off the Linhof,...walk around to compose the shot, and THEN bring the camera to that position to execute the exposure.

To simply extend the tripod to a convenient level, mount the view camera and conveniently make the exposure is a common occurance in LF photography. To me, it is only a KODAK PHOTO OP, but done with large format. "Put your camera here...point it in this direction, and make your picture." Sorry guys, but that dosen't cut it for me. Just ask yourself,...'when was the last time you had to invert your tripod center post, hang the camera upside down and make your shot....a foot off of the ground?'

The next time I come upon a shooter in the Colorado high country, and see him/her with his camera inverted, and him/her bent over checking the ground glass, upside down,....I'll know I have met someone worth knowing....and I'll buy the first round of drinks. It will help me get over the incessant questions on this list, of lens coverage, and filter size. I realize that newbies to LF need to have answers and I can appeciate that. Does anybody have any ideas on a chat group that would like to deal with PICTURES...and what makes them work...or not?

Thanks again to all who responded. Be well, Richard Boulware -Denver. P.S. The job I have been shooting with my Canon EOS-1vHS's is technical, and NOT art. But the BUCKS are very nice...and we all have bills to pay and obligations to meet. (:-)

-- Richard Boulware (boulware-den@att.net), February 23, 2002


Just got back off of holiday to the southwest. Met the photo ID and magnetic wand police at every turn in the airport.....now I have to look out for the tripod Police too?

-- Marv (mthompsonn@mchsi.com), February 24, 2002.

Richard, I (wasted?)(probably not) a couple of hours today scratching my head. I want to make a then and now shot for my town. The original was done in 1952. There is one building left (thank God) that has angles to work from, and the road alignment is still pretty much the same. The second story platform that he used is gone, but I'm allowed onto a roof that I think will be close. I took the 4X5 and the 5X7 and the original pic today after failing yesterday doing it from memory. I'm damned if I can figure out what the guy did! If I put a wide lens on to get everything that he got, it's all too far away. And if I put a long lens on and back up.......scratching my head. Your paragraph reminded me what a difference a few inches in any direction can make. I want to find the guys tripod holes for once, and it aint so easy. I've got the museum digging for the original neg. At least that will be a clue as to format, and then I can back track to lens angle and where. Honestly I think he had a magic camera!

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), February 24, 2002.


It was just a few hours ago that I with the family at a local park for some hiking and a picnic. I brought two LF cameras for some outdoor portraits of the kids. First I tried to work with my studio camera that i had brought along. I realized that the best shots would be with them on some playground equipment, way to much movement and other kids for a tripod. Whipped out the Speed Graphic, stuck 4 holders with HP5 in my pocket and went to work. From previous experience and tests I know distances well and then just use the depth of field scale on the bed and the sports view finder. If I make it out to Colorado this year my current beer of choice is Red Stripe.

-- James Chinn (JChinn2@dellepro.com), February 24, 2002.

Richard, you got me thinking about landscape photography and what it is that I want to accomplish---or at the very least, avoid. Many Thanks!

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), February 24, 2002.

how nice it must be to be able to divine any particular shooters artistic intentions merely by observing the position of (his) camera on the tripod. Can you also divine what emulsions are involved? one exposures or two or three? Wow. very impressive. I have to admit that this level of clairvoyance exceeds my own capabilities by a bit. I am envious. Maybe you can divulge your secret. Certainly, I have no illusions about whether I am, by virtue of my camera postion, worth knowing.

-- George Stocking (gwrhino@earthlink.net), February 24, 2002.

Richard, I attended Still Photo School in Ft. Monmonth, NJ, (84-b). The first camera we were given to learn was a speed graphic. Almost everything was shot hand held. Some with sports finder, some with rangefinder. Some with view finder. We looked like a bunch of green Jimmy Olsons running around. At first I hated it. So old, slow. Then I adapted my 35mm way of shooting to 4x5. Its just another camera. Now I have a Horseman 45fa. I like it, but I wish there was a way to hook up a range finder focus to shoot hand held. I miss it. As for tripods, of course its easier to set up at face level, but I, (and I think most LF people) do what ever it takes to get the image. I have even set up in water above the knees, camera inches above the water. (ever mindful of boat wakes.) And the result was less than i had hoped for. Maybe next time. d

-- d.s. (deesee@pinn.net), February 24, 2002.

Richard I think the disatisfaction is with YOUR method of working. I have a board cutout with a 4x5 and 8x10 hole and "scout" the image with these before I even set up the tripod. Many time I dont even set up the camera because I find the subject/placement lacking. From the responses you have gotten you can see many of us do "Think" before we set up. I think you are projecting your impatience on the rest of the LF community.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), February 24, 2002.

Well, since the projected image on the ground glass is inverted already, for someone to stand on their head while composing is to view the image in proper perspective. But then again suffering for ones art is admirable, even if it means standing on a headache.

Though point well taken, proper perspective, architecturally correct images are becoming a cliche, boring. I have been having fun with my 65mm superangulon on my sinar. It just barely covers a 4x5, so you have to do some deep knee bends, or toe lifts, bring along a step ladder, or better yet, just point and shoot. Throw the rule book out the window. An Ansel Adams fan forever, but it's time to branch out.

PS, trips to the wilderness for pristine landscapes are fun, but you can also find great subject matter in your own home state.

-- Rob Pietri (narrationsnlight@aol.com), February 24, 2002.

Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

Here's how I see the scenario playing out: Richard wouldn't find me in the Colorado high country, because I photograph only what's close and meaningful to me, and the Colorado high country isn't it, but if he came wandering around my region and found me with my camera inverted and me doubled over at the waist looking in the glass, and if he immediately heralded me as a Photographer Worth Knowing, and announced his availability to buy me drinks, I would first look around to see if help was within hailing distance, and then I would thank him for the compliment, but would decline his offer for drinks saying I was busy working and besides, I'd wonder what evidence he'd be offering on his own behalf, to show that HE was a Photographer Worth Knowing? I would also explain that I bend over to look at the ground glass only because it's more comfortable, with my stiff knees, than crouching or kneeling, and I would wonder what that has to do with anything. I'd say that it's only the PICTURE that matters, and how the picture was made (what contortions or lack of contortions the photographer had to go through to see the ground glass, for example) is completely irrelevant to the picture itself, that one can't tell anything about the greatness of the picture or the photographer from the position of the camera; only the picture will tell anything worth knowing. And then I would ask him to please excuse me so I could finish my work. The end.

-- Katharine Thayer (kthayer@pacifer.com), February 24, 2002.

Regarding tripod position, I agree with previous posters who decry the silliness of that as a measure of anything. Richard, try to give photographers you observe some credit for having some idea what they want. For my pictures of streetscepes, my tripod is almost always set at the same eye level. That is because I want the point of view of my pictures to be that of the person on the street, experiencing the surroundings. Most people don't lie on the sidewalk or stand on tall ladders to look at the buildings, so you certainly won't catch me shooting like that.

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), February 24, 2002.

Oops, that first sentence didn't make sense. I mean, decry the tripod criterion as silly.

-- Sandy Sorlien (sand44@mindspring.com), February 24, 2002.

I agree completly with George,Katerine and Sandy. By the way, thank you Richard for coming down from on high to educate the common people and also for telling us about your assignments from "time" and "Newsweek" (earlier post)....zzzzzzzz and also letting us know who is worthy of your approval based on.....well not much really.

-- mark lindsey (mark@mark-lindsey.com), February 24, 2002.

oops, sorry Katharine

-- mark lindsey (mark@mark-lindsey.com), February 24, 2002.

Cartier-Bresson from the Introduction to "The Decisive Moment": The photographer's eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of the knees. . . . There is a lot of talk about camera angles; but the only valid angles in existence are the angles of geometry of composition and not the ones fabricated by the photographer who falls flat on this stomach or performs other antics to procure his effects."

If you having been reading other's posts, Richard, you would find that many of those who contribute to this forum think. Really think. It is condescending of you to imply that we neither think nor make photographs thoughtfully. You should apologize to the group.

Although many people have technical questions, there has been a fair amount of discussion about pictures. Maybe you don't read the right items.

What impresses you about how people use their Linhof is exactly what would not impress me. Those who photograph only what they compose before they look through the viewfinder or at the ground glass tend to repeat themselves. I believe I've discussed this in a previous post.

"Compose a shot." Sounds like a photojournalist talking. "Shot"? What is that? I and some others make photographs and expose negatives; we don't "take" "shots."

I've never heard of a Canon EOS-1vHS. Since this is a large format discussion forum, I assume it is some kind of new large format camera that Canon is now making. I didn't know they were getting into large format.

Sorry to be so snide. I do not like to inject personal criticism into forums like this. It really doesn't belong. However, your comments and tone are way out of bounds and really, you should apologize.

-- Michael A. Smith (michaelandpaula@michaelandpaula.com), February 24, 2002.

Richard, after reading the responses to your post I am amazed that a number of people feel that you should apologize. While I may or may not agree with what you have to say I feel that you have a right to say it without apology or need for permission to express it, especially in this forum. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), February 25, 2002.

An apology would be a sign that he too is able to think.

Suggesting, in bold capitals, that LF photographers do not THINK when making their work, and that he can provoke us to think, is both ARROGANT and SMUG. It should be clear to him, if he takes a moment to consider his words, that his attitude is not in the spirit of the forum.

This may sound like I am being superior too, but I simply want to point out, as others have, that this is an extremely positive and vibrant forum for those wishing to share knowledge and experience. Technical, philosophical and artistic.

Finally, I would just like to say that I have never met or spoken to a photographer, who uses a large-format camera to make pictures, who does it with convenience in mind. That is just absurd. All the people I know using LF, go to great lengths to produce work which is rich and deep, both in thought and quality of production.

It seems to me that by standing upside down, you have missed the point. I'm with Katherine and the rest, I'll buy my own beer.


-- Stephen Vaughan (stephen@vaughanphotos.freeserve.co.uk), February 25, 2002.

I, for one, preferred your two previous posts. Enjoyed them immensely, in fact as I do a little handheld 4x5 when I want a big neg and don't/can't carry a tripod. This post however, comes off a tad arrogant. Being thrifty (cheap, poor, what have you) my tripod is a little too short for me to comfortably focus, etc. Hence, I often shoot on bended knee, with a little knee pad made of closed cell foam bought at a gardening store (great invention as it gives my badly worn 28 year-old knees a waterproof/dirtproof refuge). My work is mediocre in comparison to many on this site, but I'm glad to hear I might get a beer out of it. Let me know if you'll be in the NYC/Hoboken area anytime soon. Most people who see me just think I'm praying to the camera, and they're half right. I'm actually praying for the 1-in-10 or 20 exposure I get right, and to remember to close the shutter, and to remember to remove the dark slide, and to replace the dark slide in the proper manner so I don't double expose.

Penitently, Terrance

-- Terrance McDonagh (tmcdonagh2@hotmail.com), February 25, 2002.

Constructive criticism is useful, arrogance is not...

-- Steve Clark (agno3@eesc.com), February 25, 2002.

Now I know how to do it. I wear a Tshirt saying "If Ansel didn't do it, it can't be right", switching off on odd days with my "Duraflame...light of the Gods/take only photos, leave only footprints" pullover. I have my Fred Picker autograph model chain saw to get rid of those damn trees that always seem to be in the way of the "really Good!" photos. Then I set up the tripod making sure it is at an odd angle so I look SERIOUS while doing chiropractic back exercises to impress those watching me set up. A book of Dave Muench photos with a matching case of 24 plus LF lenses so I can find where he was & duplicate his tripod holes... but from a creative angle known only to me & the insurance adjuster who will be contesting all the visits to the doctor for back surgery in the future.

I have found through experience that looking at their results tells me a lot more about how creative they really are than how they look while setting up the camera. It don't really think Morley Baer, Dick Arentz, Paul Caponigro, Al Weber and so many others now & before relied on gymnastics in setting up the tripod to get their masterpieces. Talent, hard work, excellent technique & personal vision seems to work well for those we find out are really good with the camera.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), February 25, 2002.


I have a story for you. Every day on the way from work to the bus stop I walk by a whale bone (I think it is from the skull) and think boy would I like to get a picture of that. All winter long there has been a blanket of snow in the area. I finally took out my camera on Saturday. The light was beautiful but the snow was gone. What was left behind was a manhole cover and the edge of a parking lot. I circled the bones for about 20 minutes trying to frame a shot. I ended up taking two shots that I might be able to crop. I will know for sure when I get the results back at the end of the week.

Thanks for the post.


-- Edward Kimball (edward.kimball@ns.sympatico.ca), March 04, 2002.

I will preface this by stating that I am not a pofessional; I photograph to please myself only. We all think when we get involved in this large format "thing". It just can not be avoided. Here are some of the things cluttering my brain when I go out to burn some film: 1. I think this is a good scene to photograph. 2. I think that spot over there is a better place to set up. 3. I think this is the right lens for the overall image I think I want at this aperture and that tilt. 4. I think this is the right use of nearby trees for framing. 5. I think I remembered to pull out the dark slide. (BIG ITEM for me). 6. I think this little spot on the groundglass will be Zone 3. 7. I think I will develop for this long with that chemical. 8. I think these 5 prints are garbage but THAT one is a keeper. (I am a ruthless critic of my own work). 9. Etc etc etc. I use an old ITE television camera tripod with no center column. Its minimum height is still pretty tall (about 4 feet), but it is super strong (good thing). Trading low height in favor of strength was a deliberate decision. I don't handhold, because a metal monorail is not very "user friendly" for that, and my main purpose in using large format is to get the sharpest, cleanest image I can. Hence the tripod. If I didn't care, I would use my 35mm handheld (I even use tripods for 35mm by the way). There is an awful lot of thought going on. So, if you're ever in California, buy me that beer, and I will politely listen and then do things my way. Now, if you really really really want to practice that "one critical shot" and use a lot of film failing, try bird photography. You never realize how fast they are until you try getting one on film - regardless of format. You'll be spewing curse words you never thought you knew in short order. What fun!

-- Steve Gangi (sgangi@hotmail.com), March 04, 2002.

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