Star Camera Company 10×12 – Bellows installed, ready to rock!

Yesterday, the bellows arrived from Wales.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t here to sign for them, so I had to wait until this morning to pick them up. But they were in pristine shape, well-packed, and ready to install.

The installation took about 25 minutes. The front of the bellows attach by a frame; Sandeha attached the bellows to the frame and trimmed the end with felt to help create a secure light seal. I screwed the frame back into the original holes. Easy.

The rear of the bellows attach by about 8 gazillion little 1/4″ tacks. I did a little trimming to make a perfect fit and started tacking. I have 25 in place now to hold things; as time allows, I’ll go back and install more of the tacks. But it’s secure and light-tight now.

Placed atop the Ries, it’s ready for action.




I’m ordering HC-110 today, and some 11×14 paper. I’m hoping to take this on a hike early next week.


Format choice – hypomaniacal ponderings…

Okay, I’m heading back into a philosophical slump again. Case in point: This photo, posted a few days ago.

Seed pod...

Just for kicks, I shot the same scene on my Canon 20D with a Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens, toned in CS5:


I’m disappointed in the second shot, mainly because it makes me question the first.

The large format shot had plenty of rear swing, keeping the out-of-focus rendering of the rest of the branch consistent. The use of a Petzval lens dropped the depth of field down to a razor edge, and created a luscious bokeh. Those familiar with such things are likely to see them. But when I show these two images to non-photographers, they unanimously choose the digital version.

Depth of field on the digi-shot is created strictly by aperture, not by movements. But is the shot any less successful? Not to me. At least, the small differences, selectively perceptible, don’t justify the time, effort, and expense of the large format version.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE shooting large format. But I’m afraid I’m becoming process-driven, rather than result-driven. I believe there’s a place for both; I’m falling into the habit, though, of favoring one indiscriminately. The seed pod shot is an example.

Another data point: I recently rediscovered my shelved Nikkormat FT2 and its small stable of Nikkor glass. I joyously shot a roll of film on the kids yesterday, metering carefully and shooting from a tripod. Took the film to CVS today, and the results were lackluster. Very ho-hum. And these were shots I’d usually try on large format. When the film ran out, I grabbed the 20D and a Super Tak 135/3.5. Shot of a bunch of frames in rapid-fire mode. Cherry-picked the best, converted it in CS5 to duotone, and I now have a fantastic image that I’ll have printed large. With none of the hassles or gyrations I’d generally put myself through. The results were the priority, not the process.

I’ve always known that there’s a place for digital, a place for 135, a place for 120, a place for the large formats. But my limited attention span keeps me from making a conscious decision about which is appropriate for a given scene. Which tells me I shoot too much from the hip; I need to be more considered in my shooting. Which may actually get me out of my creative rut. I’ll be shooting snapshots and even some setups of the kids with the 20D. When the 10×12 is operational, I’ll be taking it to a local waterfall to shoot the scene with plenty of tilts. And the result will be contact printed, and should yield a crystal clear print. But the gray areas in between are going to need some thought.

Asanuma project camera – happy endings…

I’ve been using the Asanuma for a while now. Today as well, as a matter of fact. Shot a still life with a 10″ f/5 Petzval this afternoon:

Seed pod...

The camera was at full draw, lighting was pretty poor, and the film was slow. But everything locked down tightly, the holder slid in and out precisely, and focus for this Petzval wide open was exactly where I’d placed it, confirming to me that the ground glass placement was exactly where it needed to be. I always sweat that, but I’m very pleased to see these results today.

The camera has proven itself to be a great performer. It’s intuitive to use, is rigid and robust, and the back works like a dream. I’d bought the project because I wanted a dedicated 4×5; that’s exactly what I ended up with, and I’m now shooting more 4×5 than I ever dreamed I would.

Star Camera Company 10×12 – Bellows finished! And ground glass musings…

I just received these photos from Sandeha Lynch.  The bellows for the 10×12 are completed, and will post tomorrow!

Big ol' bellows...

Shown here with a standard 6×6 bellows for scale:

Big and small...

I really couldn’t be happier with how these turned out. Sandeha says they’re as light as the originals, and compress as well. And I’ve heard murmurings that the post from Wales stateside is moving much faster these days – my fingers are crossed!

Now, the last thing to do on the camera, pre-bellows fitting, is to clean off the ground glass. Removed it today for a scrubbing. I’d used a little Windex on it before, and the grid lines smeared a bit. So, I decided to try some solvents today: VM&P naphtha, denatured alcohol, xylene, and lacquer thinner. Aside from removing a lot of grime from the glass, none of these solvents had any effect on the grid. I’m guessing that the ammonia in the window cleaner is what was dissolving the lines before. The glass is pretty clean now, and I’m leaning towards leaving it alone, and just finishing off the cleaning with a microfiber cloth. But I’m at a loss for what those grid lines are painted on with…

I decided I really didn’t like the heavy red lines on the glass. Washed it off with Windex. The original drawn grid is still faintly visible. Pencil would have washed off, so I’m not sure what the grid was drawn with, but it’s much less obtrusive than the red lines. And the name is still there. All’s good.

Star Camera Company 10×12 – Provenance…

In a holding pattern on this project right now – too many other obligations, and frankly, there’s not much left to do until the new bellows get back. One thing, though, that I do want to get done is cleaning the ground glass, which is awfully dirty. The thick-lined red grid is coming off, likely with some form of solvent. Don’t think Windex’ll get it.

Anyway, at the bottom of the glass a previous owner scratched his (or her) name:

I’ve googled T.Peruche to no avail, but it is, nonetheless, kind of neat to have a name to attach to the provenance. I think I’m going to do my best to preserve the name during the scouring of the rest of the glass. Just ’cause.

Otherwise, I’ve sent the old bellows off to Wales. I’ve ordered (after an exhaustive local search) some mahogany leather dye for the handle. And I’ve made the first of several lensboards, mounting a Euryscop IV #3 which, at least preliminarily, covers the format. I plan on shooting a waterfall with this camera on it’s maiden voyage; I’ll be making a stop for the Euryscop soon. Going to have an 1/8″ aperture, which works out to about f/92. Should give me a decent waterfall exposure time with ISO400 film…