A couple of weeks ago at the Photography show in Birmingham, I picked up my first large format film camera. The camera is a 4x5 field camera made by Intrepid Cameras in Brighton, a young company born from a kickstarter campaign. The company manufactures 8x10 cameras as well as the 4x5 that I purchased. I bought the red one as opposed to the black one as this camera is a fun machine.
I put the camera to use for the first time recently. The whole process from loading the film into individual film holders in a light-tight dark bag to taking hold of the final negatives takes time but it’s so worth it in the end.
It’s a fully manual camera of course, with interchangeable lenses. There is no light meter and so one has to figure out the correct exposure using a handheld light meter. The shutter is tripped with a cable release. The image through the lens is projected upside down onto the ground glass on the rear of the camera. Focus is manual and a Lupe is necessary to nail the focus perfectly, as well as a shroud to keep the ambient light out and aid focussing.
For my first attempt, I asked a couple of musician friends of mine to pose for me. Philo and Mike have been part of the musical fabric of Bristol for some time as well as playing in various bands around the city. They were only too happy to help me get started. Thanks gents.
I chose a location that I love to shoot in. It’s an area close to the centre of Bristol called Kingsdown. Kingsdown is an old, relatively affluent area of Bristol. It has lots of character and I like shooting there.
I loaded a total of 8 sheets of film and 6 of the resulting images were a success, albeit one of them is a double exposure because I forgot to switch the film holder around. The remaining negatives were unusable for various reasons.
I used Fomapan 400 as my choice of film. I’ve never used it before so I didn’t know what to expect from it. I have to say that I really like the mid contrast tones it produces. The amount of depth and the tonal range in large format is phenomenal and the Intrepid camera coupled with a Schneider Symmar-S lens is a winning combination in my book.
Overall I was really happy to have such a success in my first foray into large format. Concentration is key and also because the image is presented upside down on the ground glass, you have to pay careful attention to composition. The second picture of Mike is an example where I could have improved composition by not cropping in camera at the lower leg. Patient subjects are a necessity as there are so many things to think about, especially when starting out
These images are part of a new personal project called The Kingsdown Lowdown. I’ve invited more of the Bristol great and good to pose for me in Kingsdown over the next few months, so we’ll see how it works out.
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