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.


2 thoughts on “Format choice – hypomaniacal ponderings…

  1. It is all about results. You wouldn’t make something in your shop and then throw it out unused, just to do something with your hands. But at the same time, the choice might be to build or buy something you want or need. Same with photographs. For some shots, the process is part of it. Standing by the river, trying to frame up those rapids or waiting on That Light is all part of it. Just keep in mind: the best camera is the one you have with you.

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