Forward to the Past

I won’t refute charges that I am certifiably nuts, that I’ve finally gone over the precipice. After years of discussion, persuasion, debating and research, I finally bit the bullet and have invested in… drumroll here… Large Format Photography.

Yes, you read it right. I have taken at least three giant steps into the past- beyond digital, beyond 35mm film cameras- and joined the ranks of Matthew Brady and Ansel Adams. I’m now the anxious owner of an Arca Swiss 4x5 view camera, film and all.

We’re talking Neanderthal here:  manual focusing, manual setting of shutter speed and aperture, manual cocking of the shutter, manually inserting film into film loaders and then stuffing them into the back of the camera and stripping out the light-blocking shade and then reinserting it after the shutter is tripped.

Frankly, I was planning on tackling large format in 2012, but at the cajoling of my associate, Bob Boyer, I decided to bite the bullet immediately. This is the first in a series of blogs I hope to write over the next couple of years, reporting on my progress, or lack thereof. Bob has been doing my post-processing for the past couple of years, readying my digital images for traditional printing or, as client needs demand, for printing on aluminum, fiberboard or behind plexiglas.

Throughout this time, Bob’s sheer talent has gotten us by. He is able to extract every last pixel from my images so that we can enlarge them to the sizes our clients require, usually 20 x 30 or 24 x 36. But our clients have been clambering for ever larger images and the tipping point came last month when a client needed a 5-foot by 8-foot mural printed on a specialty medium. Bob pulled another rabbit out of his hat and the mural turned out every bit as good as we had hoped.

The client loves it and restaurant patrons regularly comment on it. One patron said that she specifically brought her friend for lunch just to show her the image.

But, that last mural was the proverbial straw. It took so much effort to stretch the image from its native 12 mega-pixels. Now, depending on how the image is scanned, with that 4x5 transparency I’ll be able to get images with 100 MP, 250MP, 500MP or even 1 gigabit of information! Enlarging those will be a snap. Plus, there are other terrific advantages to shooting with a large format camera, but also some serious drawbacks. I’ll cover those, too, in future blogs.

For now, it’s back to the books, climbing the learning curve with my newest photo tool.

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