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James S

Hankering after Large Format.

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I enjoyed my foray into LF, starting with a Crown Graphic, moving to a Chamonix 4x5 and then a Chamonix 10x8. You can take the 4x5 out with you for landscapes, but the 10x8 is more challenging, and almost everything I did with it was portraits. When I relapsed last year I decided to sell it all, and pretty much everything else apart from a couple of SLRs and Hasselblads. The 10x8 got snapped up quick, but there was not much interest in the 4x5 and I still have it, but only one lens now. I did 4x5 development in several ways - 2 sheets separated by a a bent wire in a tall metal tank, the Stearman Press tank, and the insert whose name escapes me for a larger Paterson (I didn't care for it much). 4x5 scanning on the X1 was great, but the V850 does the job very nearly as well.

It's a very different and deliberate way of working, but quite satisfying, and of course portraits with such thin depth of focus and older lenses are quite addictive. The LF forum (as in the link above) is very helpful. I'll take the odd picture with the 4x5 until either someone wants it or something else happens.

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For a decade I worked as a traveling Wet Plate Photographer, using basically period correct gear, doing tintypes and Ambrotype say {American) Civil War reenactments, historic sites and cowboy shoots.  I camped at the location, developed and processed right there, and was able to set up big equipment in fixed settings.  Usually I used a simple sliding box half plate camera on a studio tripod stand.  Sitters would be at a backdrop, and I used reflectors and a head brace.   •••• After getting test shots done and the ball rolling it was indeed a pleasure to do all this, being in a fixed location was a Real blessing.  Of course, with wet plate you do it all there, and with a dark box, water bucket, table and my work box.  Inside the tent I’d do the delicate task of pouring the varnish, and drying it.  I’d prepare the image from start to finish usually in about 15 minutes.      It was all basically large format, and once you had everything going, was pretty easy.  The BIG advantage you had instant feedback how your image is, unlike your sheet and roll films.   Also, after you get the chems in, and your gear, doing plates is much cheaper film, shot per shot.  Fun, Interesting way to do Large Format, and end up with something besides a larger negative.  ::-)

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That instant feedback was something I enjoyed with using paper negatives. I could make an exposure, walk into the darkroom and toss the paper into a tray of developer, see what I had under the safelight and either fix it, or walk out and do something slightly different. Slow motion chimping!

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