Slowing Down

August 14, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

One of the attractive things to me about using a large format view camera is that you have to slowwwwww dowwwwwwnnnnnnn....

It's probably one of the things that keeps so many people away from large format film.  A photograph is an event—to plan, to prepare for, to execute, to document, to review and to revisit.  You inherently miss a lot of other shots.  That's what my digital camera is for.

Not that I just shoot willy-nilly with the digital, but when I do use the camera I can easily grab a new view here and there, and often take dozens of photos in the time it would take me to do one large format photo.  Both have their place.  Besides getting a lot of nice photos, digital is a lab, a sketch, a draft which can be refined, discarded, used or thrown away.  No big deal—(no) film is cheap!

With the large format camera, however, you have to almost meditate on the shot, from the first notice of a visual opportunity, to composition, angles, perspectives, light characteristics, setup logistics and much more.  You better have a decent idea of what you're going to do before you do it.  No point and shoot here.  Besides the planning and conceptualization, there is the mechanical process of taking a photo.  To borrow from another photographer, Bruce Barlow, there are both process/technical and artistic/conceptual sides to large format photography.  Both are very important.  But, the best happens when you do one while the other is on auto-pilot because you've had experience.

I'm still getting there.  I've ruined a photograph because I've concentrated so much on technical aspects, worrying about focus, not exposing the film prematurely and so on to the point of clicking the shutter without due consideration to the photo itself.

I have also taken what I assume were wonderful photos, only to have them ruined by making a significant technical error....like exposing the wrong side of a sheet of film!

That's the learning process.  But now, it is getting more meditative as the technical becomes more second nature.

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