It's another Photo Day and Chris has made his way up to the TWiT Brick House in Petaluma to talk photography with Leo Laporte and his guests!
The theme for this Photo Day is Photography outside the mainstream.
Among many other topics, Chris will hang out in studio to talk with Leo and his guests to talk about the origins of Tilt/Shift, taking pictures from kites, digging up 1850s photo technology to create true works of arts and - of course - he'll answer your questions!
Guests include Leo Laporte (Chief TWiT), Cris Benton (Kite Aerial Photography), Paul Sergeant (Tintype Studio) and Susan and Neil Silverman (travel photographers extraordinaire).
Tune in Saturday August 18, 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 23:00 Central European time!
Follow the show live at http://live.twit.tv/
Ask audience questions via Twitter (hashtag #photoday2012) or at http://tfttf.com/photodayquestion
You know, one of the most satisfying things for me these days is to spend a day at an interesting location and take six or twelve pictures with a 4x5 large format camera.
It's hard work. It means to carry a heavy-ish bag over your shoulder and a tripod with a big camera attached to its end. It means to thoroughly set up the camera, check the angles, open the shutter, stick your head under a black cloth on a sunny day withtemperatures in the 90s. To focus on the focusing screen, you use a loupe that's hanging around your neck. It means to use a hand-held light meter, fish a film cassette out of your bag, load the camera, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, hope that you didn't get any of the steps out of sequence, pull out the dark slide and finally take the shot.
It's error-prone too. It means that there are at least 10 different steps in the process of making one exposure where you can mess up. Accidental double exposure? Been there, have even done a triple exposure once. Forget to set the right aperture after metering? Yep, I have my share of overexposed large format negatives.
If it's that hard work and that error-prone, then why am I doing it? The answer is simple: in the end it's one of the most fun and rewarding experiences that I've had in a long time. Nothing beats creating something with your own hands and finally holding the result of that work in your hands. Or post it online for the world to see. Much more rewarding than any digital shot has ever been.
Over time you get better. Most errors you only do once, as it hurts to lose one out of just a few pictures you'll take that day.
Last weekend I brought my trusty Grafmatic film holder system, a revolver-type 6-shooter that allows you to keep 6 shots in one magazine. Very convenient, but also heavier than normal double cassettes. Which turned into yet another source of error. I accidentally brushed the Grafmatic at the wrong angle with my arm, while the dark slide was still pulled. This resulted in a nice big splash of light pouring onto the exposed negative for a brief time. Long enough to ruin the shot. So I thought.
I ended up actually being quite happy with it. Is it because it's one of my babies? Or is there something about a perfect 4x5 picture seemingly ruined by light leaking onto it?
Let me know what you think.
I just ran across another blog article that asked the question if mobile phones would take over in the long run and overthrow all other cameras because the sensor technology and the fact that you tend to have one with you all the time.
I'm not so sure for a two main reasons.
1. Control. Cameras tend to get better and better, but even the best automated decisions will not necessarily reflect your intentions.
An example: think about a backlit portrait. Without built-in intelligence, the camera's light meter willtell the camera that there's a lot of light and the image that comes out is likely to be a silhouette of a person. Most cameras nowadays will detect this and compensate for it, resulting in a well-exposed person (and most likely a slightly overexposed background). I guess in most cases that's what the person behind the camera wanted anyway, so it's okay.
But how about the times when a photographer intended to produce the silhouette picture but didn't have a way to tell the camera that that's what they wanted?
The way the current mobile phone cameras look, it's very hard for me to believe that they will get to this level of control any time soon.
2. Sensor size. Different sensor sizes result in different depths of field (DOF) and control over DOF is a very important tool for most photographers.
In-focus and out-of-focus areas in a picture are one out of a whole array of essential tools for photographers when it comes to telling a story in a picture. Focus will show or hide things, focus will help you guide the viewer's eyes through a picture.
Smaller sensors make it very hard to control DOF. Everything tends to be in focus. Bigger sensors make it easier to control DOF. A photographer can place focus where it's important. And as things look right now, mobile phone cameras are pretty unlikely to get larger camera sensors.
Even if mobile phone cameras got larger sensors, that would mean that the lenses needed to be bigger and further away from the sensors, adding bulk and size. Very unlikely.
Will newer technologies and computational photography replace the need for bigger sensors in the future?
Who knows, but at this point in time, even the Raytrix and Lytro cameras cannot do their job without a certain level of bulk, and the results are by far not where they'd need to be.
What do you think? Are we going to see DSLRs disappear any time soon?
Group shot, Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
Large format photography has the potential to seriously mess with ones mind. The photographer's mind and that of the audience.
For a photographer it is still the most affordable way to get spectacular resolution. The camera movements allow for compositional freedom beyond anything that ispossible in smaller formats. Due to their simpler and much more symmetrical design, the image quality of the lenses is generally superb. And last but not least, the different workflow and the more thorough approach to each individual photograph generally make for more thought-out pictures.
The audience reaction to large format pictures is often a different one than to 35mm photography. Due to the higher resolution, the pictures will typically have more detail, which oddly enough tends to be true even when downsized to web resolutions. The large size of the medium (4x5" and higher) results in a very different look and depth of field. And the typical lack of falling lines tends to give even very busy pictures an amount of structure and a tidy appearance that is hard to achieve with smaller formats.
My typical reaction to the higher resolutions used to be: "meh". My impression was that at the sizes typically used on the web, it wouldn't make any difference if the picture was shot with a DSLR or if it was taken with a large format camera.
After having immersed myself in large format photography for a while now, I had to change my previous "meh" into a "HOWLY COW" though. The amount of perceived detail even at smaller resolutions tends to be spectacular.
I should have known about the detail thing from the video side of things though. A very similar effect happens when you downsize HD video footage (1920 x 1080) to SD resolution (544 × 480). The amount of perceived detail is just a lot higher than with native SD footage.
Here's my audio engineer's look at it: sound recordings are often made at a much higher bit-depth (24 bits) and higher resolution (96 kHz) than the resulting CD will ever have (16 bits / 44.1 kHz). Why? Higher perceived resolution, even at the final down-sampled stage.
My next step is to print one of these pictures at 25x50" to see the ACTUAL detail. Zooming in to tiny portions of an image to see them at a 100% pixel resolution on your screen just isn't the same.
By the way, here's a little detail from the above shot:
Group Shot (detail), Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
What's the largest print you've ever made?
Man muss analoge Bilder auf die Schatten belichten, die Lichter finden sich dann schon von alleine. Solches hört man immer wieder, und es ist schon ein Stück weit berechtig, speziell wenn man sich im Bereich der "guten" und "normalen" Belichtung befindet.
Die wirklich spannenden Bilder finden sich allerdings oft in den Extremen.
Was, wenn man sich an die Enden heran pirscht, an die Bereiche ganz im dunkeln oder im hellen? Bereiche, die sich an anderen Stellen auch gerne mal "Zone 2" oder "Zone 9" schimpfen. Bereiche, die man als guter Fotograf gefälligst mit einem Reflektor oder einem Blitz aufzuhellen hat?
Dort begibt sich so mancher Fotograf dann in derart unbekanntere Gefilde, dass er sich nicht mehr so ganz auf die Dinge verlassen mag, die er viele Jahre lang gelernt und praktiziert hat.
Ist Schattenzeichnung wirklich so wichtig? Darf man nicht doch diese Ungewissheit ins Bild legen, die dem Betrachter Spielraum zur Erforschung gibt?
Von 15.-17. Juli 2011 halten wir in Braunschweig einen Doppelworkshop gemeinsam mit Spürsinn zu den Themen Fotografie am Ende des Lichts und Entwicklung am Ende des Lichts, in dem wir uns ganz analog und mit viel Spielfreude in die Extreme begeben.
Die dunkle Ecke im Keller, in der sich die Monster verstecken, mag beängstigen...
...spannend ist sie allemal.
Being confined to the studio with the Plaubel Peco for several months was a good thing as it allowed me to experiment and try out large format photography within a safe environment. But taking the Chamonix out for a first spin felt really really good too!
I took my friends Sean and Michelle for a spin in the Black Forest during their Germany vacation, and Sean brought his foldable Shen-Hao large format camera, which is virtually the same as the Chamonix.
Two guys with large format cameras in the black forest. Imagine the amount of geeking .. and eye-rolling from non-geeks ;)
Photographing large format is a very different way of working, and there are several things that blew my mind when I used the camera in the field and when I returned home and had a look at the pictures. One of the mind benders is the amount of freedom you have with the camera movements, also known as tilt, swing and shift. Perspectively correct pictures automatically become the norm, not the exception. You set the camera up straight, then shift to your heart's content. If the lens has a large enough image circle, that shift can be quite extensive.
And then there's the massive amount of data in these pictures. I scan my negatives on a regular Epson V600 flat bed scanner. Still, my digital files end up at about 100 megapixels and that's far from what would be possible if I cranked up the settings. My little MacBook Air 11" sure takes a bit of time to render the full size Lightroom previews.
If you're not used to this resolution, zooming in has the potential to cause a bit of mental damage to the viewer. And drooling.
By the way, this detail is a crop from a down-sampled 50 megapixel version of the image.
But having all that said, large format is only partially about resolution. I love pictures to tell stories and that doesn't depend on resolution at all. Large format photography gives you the tools to take your time, enjoy the process, set up the pictures while thinking about their details, composing well and then taking a well-metered shot. Usually.
I have just dipped my toe into the large format waters though. There is so much more to learn, and I'm looking forward to diving more into its creative potential.
I've been playing with large format photography for a while. Last year I bought a used German-built Plaubel monorail large format studio camera, I'm in the process of building the Marquardt International Pinhole large format camera, which is by the way moving forward and if you are on the list, you should soon get an update.
I had been missing one important piece in the puzzle: a 4x5 camera with all the required movements that I could use in the field without needing yak and two sherpas to carry it for me.
A few weeks ago I discovered the Chinese manufacturer by the not so Chinese name Chamonix. They are a small company with 8 employees and they build various foldable large format cameras, 4x5" being their smallest one.
It's the model 045N-2, it comes in at about 3 pounds without a lens and this morning one of them arrived here at my studio.
I'm going to spend some time with it to get used to the camera and to experiment. The initial impression is that it's really well built and that it is very functional for a camera of that size.
Sometimes things move forward faster than expected. As it's just now happening with the Marquardt International Pinhole.
We had a meeting today and one of the outcomes was that we are going to build a run of ten cameras to see how people accept it. This will be a very special camera, not only because it creates beautiful pictures, but because each and every one of them will be a hand-made unique one-of-a-kind item.
I will not go into more detail right now because I simply can't - I know the general direction and I like it, but as you, I will have to wait for the final cameras to know what they will exactly look like.
As soon as they are finished, I will post pictures.
If you are interested in one of the first ten cameras, please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Offical website: www.internationalpinhole.com
Update: I just posted the first picture out of the MIP
Update 2: The official Marquardt International Pinhole website is now online
Here's the first official test of the homebrew International Pinhole, complete with proper exposure times (I hope), taking reciprocity into account, even includingme freezing off my fingers, as a tough photographer should do (the other choice would be to throw myself on the ground, but that was even colder).
Some background info: aperture of the pinhole is f/200, focal length of the camera is 60mm, it accepts international (graflok) backs, which includes 4x5" film cassettes, Polaroid backs, roll film backs and more. To be installed: mechanism to hold the backs in place, soon to come.
Next up: develop and scan the pics. And post if they're any good..
Building pinhole cameras is easy and fun. All you need is a box, some tape, aluminum foil, a pin, and joy in experimentation.
Unless you're me and your landlord is a cabinet maker. Then creating a pinhole camera might as well turn into trying to make a really awesome one.
Since I've been dabbling in large format photography I had the idea of creating a beautiful pinhole camera that would accept large format film. Not just film though, but also the according large format film cassettes, Polaroid backs and other backs, including 6x9 backs for example. All sorts of formats.
When I ran across a wonderfully made DIY pinhole holder and tripod mount, I knew that this would get me one step further, so I talked to my friend and landlord, and the other day we made a first prototype.It starts with just some material, cut to the right dimensions. Here is the front wall, the sides and the top and bottom. Once finished, the camera will feature an open back that has the right dimensions to hold large format view camera backs (also known as Graflok backs). It will be able to easily fit a 4x5" film back or even a Polaroid back.