I’d resigned myself to selling my 8×10 Eastman #2 recently. Hadn’t been shooting it: I couldn’t quite dial in the Ektascan BR/A in Adanol, the camera was unweildy, the Ries heavy. Got discouraged, annoyed, and checked out mentally. Went so far as to put the 14″ f/6 Petzval I’d bought for it on the block.
Gratefully, it seems to be a buyer’s market right now. Got no bites. As I was mowing this weekend, I figured I’d shoot something outdoors with the 8×10 and the 14″-er and maybe that would help it move. Decided I’d put the boy in front of the lacrosse goal for an end-of-season picture. I’d had a moment of developing success with the Ektascan in HC-110; I had just enough syrup left for a couple sheets.
I set the camera up, pre-focused and waited for some clouds. Stood my son in front of the net with his stick, and fired off the shutter.
Now, I’ve been shooting the same ol’ portraits for a long time. Bored with them. Wasn’t expecting much out of this shot, but was nice to shoot something a little difference. I was not ready for the rendering this lens would give, though. I’m in love. Have some ND filters on order so I can slow things down enough to shoot my local waterfall with this lens, too. I’m reinvigorated, and the rig is off the market.
Okay, while you can bottom feed with large format, it’s really not *cheap*. Usually. Lemme ‘splain: Years ago, Mark Sawyer published an article in View Camera about using dollar store magnifying glasses as objectives in LF. I immediately started looking for cheap glass. But everything I found was plastic, small, and had a secondary focal length diopter built into the lens. Didn’t seem like that would work, so I kept looking.
About a month ago, our local Ace had a sale on real, glass, single FL magnifying glasses. Three sizes, a dollar each. I bought one of each size. Mounted one for the 8×10 a couple days ago, but have no film. Tacked the midland length lens (which, turns out, is 7″ f/3.5) into a 4×5 board tonight, strapped a Packard to the front (literally – held on with a bunch of rubber bands) and aimed it at the boy.
I’m happy with what I got. And I’m a little disappointed – all those expensive lenses got very little on this’n. I’m reassessing my Magic Bullet chasing.
Took this photo this weekend of my wife and son, on 4×5. And I’m dissatisfied. It has me, again, ready to swear off large format portraiture. And I’ll tell you why:
My daughter gets her giggles from her mother. While my son is capable of sitting stock-still for multiple seconds, my wife couldn’t handle this 1/2 second exposure, and my son couldn’t stand still while he was telling her *she* wasn’t standing still. So, on large format, with a modern Sironar-N lens, the image is soft. Not what I was going for.
The exposure and lighting were not what I was shooting for. When I’m using period lenses, I tend to over expose a bit, which is easier for my scanner to recover. With this shuttered lens, the sensitivity to under exposure (using Arista film, which has horrendous reciprocity) is acute. The negative was under exposed by, maybe, half a stop, but that’s thin enough that I lose shadow detail. And it makes my scanner wacko.
Post-processing, while simple and full of opportunities and options with digital, are greatly reduced with a thinly-produced, wonky scan. No color option, no post application of various filters.
I’m back to where I used to be: Unless I have a specific reason to use LF for portraiture (i.e. – using a period/specialty lens), I can’t justify it anymore. This image should have been shot on digital, would have yielded a more expressive, technically stronger image. Shame on me – I was more about the process than the result.
Okay, I’m starting to remember what shooting large format is about. 4×5 is not large format. 8×10 is. There’s a completely different set of operations, and concentration, and focus. For me, anyway. YMMV. But for me, there’s a world of difference when I step up in format, and it surprises me how quickly I lost that.
Anyway, far from art, but I sat Maddie in front of the Eastman today. Trying out a Voigtlander lens I got with the camera. She’s far too giggly for large format – always has been – but I like how this turned out.