Down the 4×5 rabbit hole part 1: A trip to the world upside down
Like so many of us, I found myself with a bit more extra time during the global pandemic. This created an opportunity to explore various ideas and potential projects. As one of my primary interests is nature and landscape, consideration for large format photography did come up a few times. But, in those moments, I always dismissed the idea with “nah, I don’t have time for that”, now, perhaps I do have a window to try. And then, the evening came, a bit of surfing around and…
…that moment in the morning when you wake up to a cheerful e-mail from eBay, confirming your purchase. The all familiar sinking feeling of “what did I just do?” sets in. The weight of time commitment and financial implication gets more real with every sip of your first coffee. Camera, film holders, lens, film and some processing accessories are on the way.
As four packages converge on my home, it is time to start thinking about what to do with this whole 4×5 outfit. How do I cut through intimidation barrier and forge ahead towards my own conclusion and workflow? Was this truly a good idea? Let’s see – first, why?
Larger negatives mean more detailed images — at least this is the conventional wisdom supported by many a landscape photo books on my shelf. For me, the more contemplative process behind intimate and semi-abstract landscape scenes creates the draw. Then, what is the choice of film — should I buy something that is relatively inexpensive and experiment, or just go straight to the target medium?
Well, why not start with the target — ILFORD FP4 PLUS and Kodak Ektar 100? In the end, with film, the starting kit consists of Wista 45D field camera, Fujinon 125mm f/5.6 lens with Seiko shutter, four 4×5 film holders, a Mod54 insert for Paterson System 4 tanks, Printfile negative sleeves and an 8x magnification loupe. That completes the kit, what of the approach and process?
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First, I will have to familiarize myself with camera controls and operation of the shutter. Planning to do this without film and just develop “muscle memory” around the camera. Then, the second step is to figure out how to load film into holders. I have a lot of trepidation over this, but much like with roll-film, this just may be a matter of practice. Then, it is off to exposing two sheets in a test scenario, committing to composition and exposure discipline like never before. Finally, processing the film and contact printing the two negatives on a 8×10 sheet of RC paper for evaluation.
From there, ideally, the goal would be to create a project for both black and white, and colour film and perhaps present it in a zine form.
That is the plan, at least for now. Thanks to EM’s kindness, or twisted sense of humour, we are making this a public exercise. At the time of this writing, nothing has been done, the kit is here and it is time to start. Follow along as this adventure progresses and takes inevitable twists and turns…
I’ll check-in in about a month from now!
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