Zenfolio | Matt Lethbridge Landscape Photographer | My Large Format Journey

My Large Format Journey

December 11, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

ChamonixChamonixdav For quite a while now I have been quietly pondering on the subject of my own photography. I really enjoy my photography, I love the way it forces me to arise long before dawn, perhaps there is a long journey to my chosen location, perhaps it's just a few miles. I love the preparation the night before and the anticipation of what awaits. Will I rise to the challenges that I may find? will I be able to create an image that encompasses the feelings that I have for today's particular location and can I do it justice on a 2 dimensional screen or print?

The longer I mused over the things that I love about landscape photography, the more I realised that it is the very act of locating, composing and making the picture that gave me the most satisfaction. With this in mind my thoughts slowly turned towards shooting film. The extra challenges film poses to the modern photographer (post digital that is) would surely enhance the whole experience? At first I started off shooting with a Nikkormat 35mm camera which was a lot of fun but I still felt there was something to be gained by going bigger......................

Enter stage left a used Mamiya 645 Super and a few choice lenses for what seemed like a pittance. Now this is more like it, loading the film backs, dark slides, rudimentary metering the lot. The size and weight alone mean that this is not really a point and shoot bit of kit, it takes a little more thought about how and when to use it. So there we were...............happily bumbling along................but..............in the back of my mind I still felt that I was not really getting the whole experience..............

It started off quite innocently really, I accidentally stumble across a few Youtube videos made by an American photographer called Ben Horne. Now Ben makes beautiful images in locations such as Zion National Park and Death Valley. Nothing unusual in that, except he shoots with a 10x8 view camera. His videos show just how dedicated you have to be to become successful with such a beast. Now I had given Large Format photography a thought in the past but had not really known enough about it to give it serious consideration. Then there's the cost involved, digital photography costs virtually nothing once you have all the kit you need. Go out and shoot 100 frames.....no problem, Large Format....well let's just say your probably looking at 4-5 quid a click. Not long after discovering these videos I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Tim Parkin at his home to have a look around his Drum Scanning setup. While I was there Tim showed me around a few of his LF cameras and then a few slides on his light table. Now.............to say I was bowled over is an understatement, the quality of the images was amazing, totally beyond what I could hope to achieve with my current digital setup. If you have ever wondered just how good sheet film photography is I suggest you look at a good image, made on Fuji Velvia 50, on a light table. The colour rendition, sharpness, colour separation and saturation as well as the (to me at least) level of detail was astonishing. 

The seed was sown. I started to research Large Format in a big way. The size/weight of camera as well as the cost of film etc meant that I soon discounted 10x8 in favour of the more common 5x4. I messaged Tim about a Shen Hao camera I had seen advertised and he suggested that I would be better of with a Chamonix, he also had a friend who was willing to part with such a camera....................

One very long round trip to Birmingham saw me returning home with a beautifully crafted Chamonix 045f1 view camera and half a dozen double dark slides (many thanks again Paul, much appreciated). I must admit I set it up on my tripod and spent the best part of an hour just getting to know how things work. I then ordered a Nikon Nikkor W 180mm f5.6 standard lens, which as I write is winging it's way towards me. 

So what am I hoping to achieve?

I am hoping that I can learn to slow down even more, to relish the new challenges and limitations that this new style of photography brings and hopefully improve and grow as a photographer. Most of all I am looking forward to just enjoying the whole experience. After all is said and done, isn't that what it's all about..........having fun?

Please feel free to join me on my journey...............I may not post weekly updates but as and when I progress I'll post up the progress and the pitfalls as I see them.

Thanks for reading.





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