First shots from the 4×5

Towards the end of the fall quarter I got to thinking about using a large format camera over the break, just for fun mainly. While I was in Wyoming I saw several photographers working with 4×5 and 8×10 cameras and saw the resulting prints, which were pretty impressive. During a class discussion last year the prof pointed out that despite whatever other advantages digital might have over film, having a sensor this large is (still) impossible or impossibly expensive. Four inch by five inch film puts my 35mm sensor to shame.

I also found that working with the view cameras last year in the studio forced me to slow down and concentrate more on what I was doing. It was still digital – we used Leaf backs to capture the image, so I still took 200 shots a night – but composing, figuring out the depth of field (and getting enough light), and focusing were all far more time consuming than with a DSLR.

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So I thought I would use one over winter break, with actual film. Turns out I can’t use the school’s equipment over break, so I made the mistake of checking eBay. I asked one of my professors how much – ballpark – these things cost, and he pulled up eBay and did a quick search. The first result was, by all appearances, a great deal on an Arca Swiss 4×5 camera with all kinds of extras. Two and a half hours later I had bought a camera. Another week or so and I found a lens and some film from Midwest in Columbus.

It took me a while to work up the courage to load the film sheets, find subjects, and even more time to work up the courage to mix up the chemicals, darken the bathroom, figure out how to time things in the dark without a timer, and get the film developed. I only sloshed a liter of Photo Flo all over the bathroom… minor accident. Scratched the heck out of a couple of the negatives – need bigger trays – but all in all it was a fun experience.

I foresee more black and white in my future, since a) it’s cheaper to buy film and b) I can develop it myself. Now for landscapes in the cold and snow!

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