Bend me, shape me


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Bend me, shape me

13 Jun 2020 9:41AM   Views : 317 Unique : 236

Stuff about using a monorail cameraÖ The reason for making a monorail is that it is far more versatile than an ordinary plate camera, where the lens sits on a bed attached to the back. Linking the lens at the front and the plate at the back by a single rail allows both front and rear standards to move freely in every direction. You can move them further apart for extreme closeups or long lenses, you can move them up, down and sideways, as well as tilting them on two axes.

This means that you can achieve wonderful front-to-back sharpness using the Scheimpflug rule (go on, look it up!), and frame a building tightly without converging verticals by moving the front standard and lens upwards, but still parallel to the film.

All of this is a thorough pain in the neck (literally, if the camera isnít at eye level), but it allows you to do things that are not possible otherwise, other than through things like focus stacking. There are some wonderful examples on the late Roger Hicksí website: Iíll put a link in a comment later on Ė for some reason, putting a link of any sort in a blog messes up the way it uploads.

Iíve not done very much of this kind of thing, and I donít have the sequence of actions for focussing when using tilt or swing internalised (my learning for today is to look it up and read it carefullyÖ)

Of course, a lot of the time you donít need to use techniques like this, any more than you need to get a tilt/shift lens for your digital camera. Itís just that the physical simplicity and consequent low-tech engineering of large format allows much more ambitious movement, and thatís occasionally useful.

One other thing, although Iíve not exploited it myselfÖ You shoot individual pieces of film, and develop them in small batches (maybe something on that for Silly Sunday?) Itís certainly feasible to develop one piece of film at a time: and that means that if a scene lacks contrast you can give extra time in the developer to build it up. Contrasty scene? Overexpose, and underdevelop. With patience and experience, you can make every frame perfect.

Though if you read either Barry Thorntonís very clear accounts of his pictures, or Ansel Adamsí rather more opaque prose, you will realise that even the masters of the art get things wrong surprisingly often. Thorntonís ĎElementsí is possibly the single best book on seriously refined darkroom technique in existence, and this is reflected in the price of secondhand copies of the book.

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
13 Jun 2020 9:42AM
For Roger Hicks on camera movements, fully illustrated, see:
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
13 Jun 2020 1:01PM
Looking at the link you put in your comment, I have a couple of questions:

1- When you do not rise or cross, do you image the entirety of the film?
2- When you do either cross or rise and cross, don't you reduce the amount of film that can be imaged?

Interesting blog and link.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
13 Jun 2020 10:45PM
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you... Been shooting today!

Unless the camera movements are excessive, so that some part of the mechanism blocks the light, or the lens coverage is poor, you always use the full area of the film.

An essential point in making lenses for large format cameras is that the lens must form an image across a much greater area than would be needed for a 'straight and level' shot. So the diameter of the image that a lens produces (with good sharpness and little corner fall-off) will be way bigger than the diagonal of the film. For 5"x4", you'd expect - at a guess, as I haven't checked, looked up, or measured) an image that's around 8" diameter.

Tomorrow, I might see if I can get a definite answer - but it's late evening in the UK now...

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