Zenfolio | Matt Lethbridge Landscape Photographer | The lessons learned so far................

The lessons learned so far................

May 10, 2017  •  3 Comments

It's been a little while since I last posted and so time for a little update. As I write this I'm waiting eagerly for a few sheets of Provia 100f I shot last weekend to come back from Peak Imaging. I shot a couple of bluebell images locally and really can't wait to see how Provia renders the colour.

I also thought it may be time to tell you all about a few things I have learnt in the last 4 months or so..............

Firstly, loading and unloading film, one of the stumbling blocks when I was thinking of trying Large Format. Put simply, it's a doddle. I had one instance where I loaded a sheet of Velvia 50 back to front but it still exposed ok......I just had to convert it to monochrome (terrible red cast). Really, if your thinking of trying large format don't let handling film put you off, just get a changing "tent" link mine and away you go. I've already got it down to about 5 minutes to unload 10 sheets.

Film choice. Another thing I was worried about was the choice of film to use and how to meter for it. No worries there either. Low contrast, slide film, high contrast colour neg, job done. Yes slide films (Velvia, Provia etc) have a narrow dynamic range compared to my usual digital setup and you definitely have to take care with your metering but if I can do it anyone can. Colour neg is great, as long as you don't underexpose your shadows the dynamic range is brilliant, very hard to over cook indeed. As for black and white, I've only shot 2 sheets of Ilford Delta 100 so I can't really comment on that really, only that both sheets came out ok.

Setting up the camera. No worries, takes a few minutes that's all, I have been playing around with tilt and swing a little of late and although it's still a learning curve it's caused me no dramas at all. The composition is still a little odd when viewed upside down but not at all off putting, just different. What is really different though is my whole outlook when shooting. While I used to go out and shoot 15 or more compositions in a day, I am now chuffed if I accomplish 2. 

How it makes me feel. Well.......this is the most important question of all really. I love it. Really. So much so that my digital setup has been put away in the bottom of the wardrobe.............for now. I say for now as I know that large format will not completely replace my digital photography but as I want to really master this form of photography, I'm finding that the XT-1 is getting in the way. It was tempting to shoot 5x4 at the start of a day and finish off with digital when my film was used. I am determined to slow the whole process down even more....to the extent that I have had 2 recent trips where I've shot nothing at all. If the picture isn't there, why force it?

So that's it really, at last I've settled in to large format and I have found what I've felt has been missing this last year or so. I realise that shooting this medium is not better than digital, just different. It's also not for everyone but if you've enjoyed following my journey so far and are hankering after trying it......why not give it a go? You may not like it, but you can always resell the kit for pretty much what you paid for it anyhow and if you don't try it you'll never know. All those hurdles I put in front of myself when thinking of it just seemed to fall away one by one.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from my last productive trip just to show what a numpty like me can achieve................

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Matt Lethbridge Landscape Photographer
Thanks very much David, I'm really glad you liked the blog, it started really as just a way for me to document my journey really. I know exactly what you mean about the camera having a little bit of soul........I am starting to feel like I owe it to the Chamonix to really try to get the best from any composition............
I'm quite happy now to leave the Fuji digital setup at home, it kind of takes the pressure off me to produce images, I also need to slow down on social media where I usually post an image a day. I have set myself an achievable target of 6-10 really decent images this year, we'll see how that one turns out!
David Fearn(non-registered)
The other thing I will say:
With my Linhof Technikardan, at least, I feel the camera has a personality. With its multitude of controls (full movements in all directions on both front and rear standards, in addition to the focusing knob and the locking screws for the focusing rail) I feel the camera is always watching me, wondering whether I'm going to be up to the challenge of using it to its full potential. In my case it's like having a special, rather teutonic, shooting companion! Might seem a bit of an odd comment, but all part of the fun :-)
David Fearn(non-registered)
Really nice to hear this, Matt. I still find loading film a bit of a pain (hopefully I won't ever load a complete set of DDs with film back to front again!) but I entirely agree that shooting digital in comparison just isn't quite the same - it's all those intangible qualities of saturation, contrast, and texture.
Since starting out on large format in February last year, about 30% of my decent output has been shot on film. There's also less wastage, because unless you make a mistake - which is actually relatively hard to do once you get a routine sorted - the whole process of selecting a scene and composing it tends to ensure that you don't faff about taking loads of shots you're not sure about, which can happen with digital, even with landscape work. This also means you can relax more and just enjoy the scene: if you can't find a composition, you don't have to take a shot. Large format work seems to encourage me to revisit areas more and get a feel for a sense of place.
I've often tended to take the Nikon gear with me in a side pouch, but feel that my best work has been when I've left the digital gear behind; on a side note, I've never been entirely successful with the "reshooting" idea (revisiting compositions you shot previously on digital in years previously): it all seems rather belated, somewhat missing the point, and I often feel that I don't quite get the composition right - there's a sense of spontaneity that's missing, a kind of artificiality.
I agree with the point about not risking missing a shot or screwing one up - I had a failure on this during my first ever visit to Glen Etive last year when I forgot to add time for a polarizer - but I think, again, an adjustment to my routine (how I pre-annotate my DDS tapes) means that this is now less likely.

I'm eagerly waiting for customs clearance for my latest order of 4 boxes of Velvia 50 from Japan Exposures... I still can't get over how exciting the whole experience of large format is: a bit like all your Christmases come at once!

All the best,
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