My Spring of 100 Mistakes – Part 3

Spring is officially over, but I’m continuing to make mistakes with my large format camera. Not a lot of mistakes. Not major mistakes, just little mistakes. But I’m really glad that I’ve been learning close to home so that I can make changes before our big trip. (Next Monday we start a four week jaunt around the West, starting in Denver and making a sweeping northward arc before turning around in Portland, Oregon.)

I’m at the point now where many of my mistakes could be solved — or at least ameliorated — through the judicious use of instant film for proofing. Sadly, Polaroid is discontinuing instant film by the end of the summer. The silver lining is that Fujifilm makes instant pull-apart film. The yet-more bad news, though, is that I would have to buy another $125 film holder. (Photography as a hobby is akin to heroin use — or golf; you always have the opportunity to buy something more.)

Nevertheless, I have good news to share. Last weekend I took my camera with me to Winchester and made a couple of exposures before viewing the juried show at the Griffin. (More on that later.) One of my photographs was unpleasantly dark; but the one that I spent about fifteen minutes setting up turned out quite nicely, if just a tad underexposed. It was quite gratifying to be able to use all of the features of a view camera to make an image I couldn’t really do with my SLR.

As for mistakes and lessons learned. . .

Eight: Those little numbers on the lens and the incident light-meter matter. I think the reason that one of my photographs was so underexposed was that I didn’t exercise sufficient care in setting the f/stop. It’s also possible that the shutter on my lens needs a 1/3 – 1/2 stop correction factor. But there’s not a lot of distance on these lenses between correctly set and wildly wrong. I must exercise more caution.

Plus the off-camera meter specifies exposure down to 1/10 of a stop. f/45 plus 0.7 is not equivalent to f/64. If using a large format camera has taught me anything, it’s that you pay dearly for the smallest bit of laziness.

Nine: Always take another exposure reading before tripping the shutter. Light changes slightly even on a mostly sunny day.

Ten: Focusing is pretty tricky, even though the ground glass is enormous (four-by-five inches, fer-goodness-sake). You see, I’m what you might call very nearsighted. So I wear glasses, but when I look at things very close to my nose while wearing my glasses, everything is blurry. What to do?

Fancy-pants photographers buy expensive loupes with rubber edges so they can place them right on the ground glass. I use an inexpensive plastic magnifying glass. It has two magnification levels, seems to do the job very well, and doesn’t take up much space in my bag.

Eleven: It gets pretty hot under the focusing cloth. Wear cool clothes on a hot day . . . or at least ones that won’t show how much you sweat.

Twelve: Use that graduated neutral-density filter to equalize sky and foreground exposure. I mean, I own a pair of them; I might as well avail myself of their awesomeness. (It’s been too long since I’ve been on top of my game.)

Thirteen: My film scanner doesn’t support 4×5 film after all. To “scan” the picture below, I had to take a photograph of it with my digital camera. It’s not a great likeness. How ghetto.


Spare yourself, and don’t click for larger

This entry was posted in Fodder for Techno-weenies, Large Format Camera, Life Lessons, Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Spring of 100 Mistakes – Part 3

  1. mary says:

    even when ghetto, it looks really awesome!

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