Thursday, 27 January 2011

Larging it for Assignment two...

I skipped instruction 17 of SPN to focus on assignment two.  Again, just in case I want to recall instruction 17 in future, it was by Mirko Martin:
Take pictures where you're not comfortable, where you feel exposed, threatened, or morally on the wrong side 
It would have been a touch challenge for sure.

But back to the reason for my post.  To update you on my progress for assignment two, I am relieved to report that there is some, not a lot... however having left the keys for the digital at home and having cranked up the vintage model, I can confirm my speed has reduced to that of snail and energy consumption per picture has rocketed off the scale...

However, don't let that mislead you. My sense of humour has finally returned after several months of unauthorised leave of absence! I'm really starting to feel the magic of this large format camera. I'm fearing it less and whilst I'm certainly still in its awe, I've found myself indulging Ebony with anthropomorphic qualities. We go out on photo shoots together and her presence emanates a sort of authority that I lack!!

It is only a box at the end of the day, but its the nicest one I've ever owned!!

Anyway, I've meandered...I've finally got my first negs and proof sheets back last week. Even processing took me an age to get to grips with...what do I need to ask for so I can view them and what on earth is that on the order form. Well I got it wrong, but after speaking to an extremely helpful lady from Peak Imaging I eventually got a set of viewable proofs. 

My work pre-Christmas amounted to eight images...I know, I told you it was slow...and out of those eight, my success rate was comfortably less than 50%, which sounds abysmal. However, I was strangely pleased that there were some OK shots in there, given the number of potential errors one could make and I was likely to make.  It meant I had loaded and unloaded my film correctly, I had actually understood the settings on my light meter, I had focussed adequately and composed upside down and back to front reasonably well. There are loads of things that are still a mystery, in particular the tilt movement. I understand how it works on a horizon line with landscapes but not with portraits yet.  

Without going in to detail about the actual project which I will save for another post, I carried out four photo-shoots (far too formal a word) before Christmas. Two sheets of film per sitting (can't afford more, the cost per sheet once processed is nearing £10 all said and done - nothing like the coin to focus the mind and camera!!). From the four sittings, I was unsuccessful with two, the other two I have a useable image from each. My errors were not due to exposure measurements, focus or shutter settings which surprised me.  My mistakes were actually due to too much fiddling with the tilt and shift which for this purpose was unnecessary.  Was I pleased with the results? Was it worth all the effort? The project I've taken on for this assignment is designed to be relatively simple given it is my first with the large format camera and may be the images are individually unremarkable however, the print quality of the image and the lighting is way better than anything I've taken with my digital. They have a sort of elegance that I like. I am hoping the images will work as a series where the subtleties will become more apparent.

Since Christmas I've not tinkered with 'tilt' which I think caused the main 'defects' in my earlier shots. I've relied on natural light with no supplementary light so exposures are necessarily long which results in some movement which I think is tolerable. I have redone the two unsuccessful sittings and have completed a further three.  The assignment asks for about a dozen images, which is quite a tall order given the approach I'm taking. And given Ebony doesn't have live view it is many weeks after taking the photos that I find out whether I made any howlers!! I am wanting to put this assignment to bed, so there will inevitably be compromises.

Going forward and taking an optimistic view I am hoping that I have been able to achieve a one in two success rate for each of the recent shoots. If so, it still leaves me five to do if I aim to take twelve. Never before has twelve seemed such a large number!! Looking at timescales and what I can achieve, I think ten is more realistic.  

When I finally get this next round of film sent off and have sight of the proofs only then will I know whether I need to redo any - I really hope not.  After this, I will need to make some decisions on printing. The project I'm working on is a series of images which I think would work best in a book format. However, the book format will result in reduced image quality. So I'm dithering a little. My main concern with mounting is you can't easily retain the order of the prints. In addition, annotating, topping and tailing seems clumsy and less professional. But I will need to come to a decision fairly soon as the costs to print and/or scan are considerable. 

In terms of timescale, I am hoping to complete the photography in the next two weeks.  The printing and presentation is a little unknown to me at the moment, but hopefully by the beginning of March I will have something concrete to submit.


  1. Sounds really interesting - I look forward to seeing the project!

  2. Good to see you are getting work done with the 5x4. How do you find working upside down and back to front ? I find myself trying to rotate my head which is stupid. I recently saw Joe Cornish working on an image and he turned it upside down on the screen to check the composition. 50% is a good hit rate. I did 3 Provia a few weeks ago and all failed. I haven't been so angry for years. Next week I am in Keswick for a few days and will be leaving all the digital equipment at home (well baring the M8 which cant be left alone) and it will be 5x4 all the way. I just need a subject for Assignment 3 and I will be fine.

    Its a pity you aren't closer to Norfolk. I have a 24" roll printer that you could use for some prints.

  3. And I shuddered at the cost of shooting MF with my 'blad!!!

    Good luck with it, I'm looking forward to seeing the images now...

  4. Not sure Eileen and Rob, think the anticipation may be greater than the result. But we have to start somewhere. My attempt at managing expectations!!!

    Nigel, I must admit I quite like the upside down back to front it adds to the obscurity of it all. I hear and share your frustrations, using this type of camera really does make things harder and what was so simple with the digital requires so much more thinking. I'm hoping that the sweat and blood will pay off for both of us!! And insult to injury is that you can't just delete the bad files, you have to pay for them!!

    If you want to meet up whilst in Keswick, let me know - it's only 20 mins away from here. And I hope the weather is kind for you - I've been indoors with my camera mostly, so hopefully it'll stay nice and dry when you're out and about!!