Large Format photography is my new love. But boy, is it slow!!! Yesterday I was out with my friend A___ experimenting with the Cambo. Four hours later we had ten shots in the bag. TEN! Serious slowing down for anyone who is used to shooting the same amount of images digitally in about four seconds!!! And yet I am not put off, because LF shooting is just something else. It makes you feel like you are photographing, not merely pushing the roundy little spot on the top right of your camera body.
|Shooting LF at Poolbeg Power Station|
Ok, some of it may be because of the novelty of releasing the shutter via this old-fashioned and yet professional looking release cable. Every time we released the shutter, we kind of stopped for a moment, almost celebrating the process. “Ready?” “Yes.” “Shutter cocked?” Yep.” “Let’s go for it.” *ssssssssssst* And you really need to, because LF photography is a lengthy and costly process.
Let’s compare SLR and LFP just for the sake of it. LF photography involves shooting with what is called a view camera. Where the light that falls through the lens meets the back, a translucent glass screen makes the caught image viewable for the photographer. But since light travels in straight lines, the image on the screen will be upside down and left to right. The SLR sets this right through the use of a finicky system of mirrors inside the body (hence the “reflex” in the name!) that bounces the light around so the photographer sees exactly what he is shooting through the viewfinder.
The beauty of the SLR of course is, that you can focus and frame while the film is loaded. The mirror will obstruct the film/sensor while you view and compose and only get out of the way as you push the shutter release to let the light come through. With the LF camera it is a different story: The actual capturing of the image with the LF camera involves pushing the film in front of the glass screen before you take the exposure. The resulting negative or transparency (theoretically you could also put a sheet of light-sensitive paper in there and create a paper negative, btw) is as big as the screen and therefore hugely detailed. But it also obstructs the screen and therefore makes focussing and changing camera movements impossible with film loaded – all focussing, framing etc has to be done before the film is slid into the back.
That is basically why LF photography is such a lengthy process – because you need to take your time and make sure you have focussed correctly, framed properly and worked out your exposure times (no handy TTL metering here!). And you really should, cause processing one sheet of film will set you back 7 Euro. *shock* (Or you do it yourself. Cheaper – riskier.)
I feel as if I am not making a good case for LF shooting here. But believe me, I love it. The fact that it challenges me – understanding the physics of photography, abstracting what I am seeing, making creative choices about the camera movements – outweighs the disadvantages. It is a special way of creating images. Less fleeting, more unique, more valuable.