The next step – Large Format Photography

I was fortunate enough to come across a great deal and as an end result I am now the happy owner of a 50+ something year old Crown Graphic 4×5 camera. Simplicity itself to use, it’s basically a light tight box with a lens attached and a ground glass at the back for framing and focusing. It does have some other dohickies to help with that as well but I want to keep everything simple.

This camera takes 4inch x 5inch sheet film (HUGE!) or I can also use 120 Medium format film with a rear attachment for 8 shots in 6cm x 9cm size (again, still massive). This gives me the best of both worlds really. I can shoot 6×9 and keep costs down and go for the 4×5 when only the best quality will do.

Currently I’m only geared up to do 4×5 in black and white, but will be working to get colour home development sorted in the next month or so, then I will probably shoot more 4×5 than anything else.

Why 4×5? There are several things really that I wanted. One, is huge size/great quality, you get this in spades with the negatives. You also shoot one at a time and can change between different films on the fly as long as you have them loaded in a holder. A lot harder to do with medium format where you must finish the current roll, or carry multiple (and expensive) backs.

You can develop 1 photo at a time, especially nice with black and white as you can then do neat tricks with developing to change the end result/contrast etc.

The other is movements. This is a biggie for me. Out of the box with the 90mm lens my Crown Graphic has, movements are pretty limited, some rise, tilt upwards and shift left right. What I really wanted was lens tilt forward, this really helps with landscapes to get close focus and distant focus all in the same shot, while keeping everything parallel. Only cameras with movements or very expensive shift lenses can do this.

A quick modification to the front standard (reversing it) and I now have lens tilt forward along with rise, just perfect for landscapes. The rest of my kit is pretty budget, I’m just using an old black short as a dark cloth, and I have 5 holders (10 shots), more than enough really as I only plan to shoot 1 to 2 photos each time I go out. So 2 shots b&w and 2 shots colour loaded.

Well it was time to go and play so an early start saw me at the top of Mt French, getting slightly wet from the odd shower, and cursing the lack of the real light I wanted. Note, I also had not reversed the front standard yet, it was only after developing this photo I realised I really needed front tilt for focus control.

Anyway, there is a great spot in the middle of the heather where you can sit and chill. With the slightly gloomy conditions I just knew that black and white was the way to go. I had 2 sheets of Kodak Tmax 100 loaded and I exposed both, one as I metered and 1 a bit over exposed. I then developed both at home using the same time and went with the negative I was happiest with, which was the normal exposure. A good learning experience.

The level of detail in the photo blows me away, zoomed in you can see the individual rain drops on the chair and all the branches, leaves, rocks etc have wonderful textures. I even like the focus fall off into the distance even tho I really wanted it all sharp.

I also captured a few 6×9 frames in Kodak Ektar 100, a wonderful colour film, looking the other way from this view over the heather and nearby mountain. Those will have to wait for another day as I’ve not yet finished that roll, the joys of film 🙂

For anyone wondering why do all this, film is dead etc, go visit Alex Bourke. Alex is my inspiration in 4×5 photography, his images are just outstanding and he teaches a lot. I’ve purchased his Ebooks and regularly read them and his knowledge works. If I can get photos of Australia half as good as his USA photos, I’ll be in heaven.

Until next time, take care!

Murray

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