Nov 6, 2008
Large Format Photography
Posted in: Life & Culture
[by Biyeun Buczyk ‘10]
I need a mule. I also need to train for a marathon. Why? I’m now the owner of an 8x10 view camera.
In my last post, I mentioned that I was in the process of building an 8x10 camera at the MIT Hobby Shop. After months designing and building this camera from scratch, in between classes and a summer job, I finished it in August, just in time for its first shoot during the Student Art Association's Photo Safari class.
I worked feverishly the week before its debut, polishing the brass and oiling the cherry, with the hope of having the camera in working order before the class left for the weekend. I pulled an all-nighter on the last day, finishing just in time to glue the bellows, roll it up, and assemble the camera before piling it into a car.
After a nighttime shoot (with a smaller camera), I spent a few hours struggling to fold the bellows together before falling asleep, leaving the bellows half done on the floor. The next morning I barely finished folding the bellows before packing up the rest of my equipment for the Quabbin Reservoir shoot. It was not until we reached the Quabbin Reservoir parking lot that I attached the bellows to the camera body, readying it for its first (and hopefully successful) shoot.
With two hours left, my goal was to take one photo. Just one. I carried the camera to a decent spot along the lakeside, not too far from the car. With a little help, I mounted the (roughly 20 lb) camera on a tripod.
After fiddling with the focus, framing the image, taking a light-reading, and setting the aperture and shutter speed on the lens, the camera was ready for its first shot.
Please, please let there be no light-leaks.
I removed the dark slide from the film holder, triggered the shutter, and that was it.
Well, sort of.
Later that week, after spending a half an hour in complete darkness developing my sheet of film, I finally realized the success of that day.
And guess what? My first camera...worked!
The first photo at Quabbin Reservoir.
Since that day, I’ve quite a few more shots. My favorite thus far is the one I took up in Maine about three weeks ago:
One thing I must note is that these images, after scanning and jpeg compression, are nowhere near the quality of the actual photographs. If you’ve ever done any analog photography, then you are probably familiar with 35mm film. And most of you are probably aware of many new full-frame digital SLRs on the market that can match the quality of 35mm.
Now realize that the negatives that produced the images above are 8 inches by 10 inches in size.
For an illustration of this comparison, you can fit roughly 57 35mm frames into a single 8x10 frame. The range of tonalities that you get out of this is, of course, phenomenal.
Although I’ve taken mostly landscape photos so far, I’m excited to use this camera for portrait photography (especially after seeing the Karsh exhibit the MFA). I have taken a couple portraits so far, but I’m thirsty for more. The good thing is, I’m currently taking “Learning to Photograph People” at the Student Art Association. So far, the shoots have required a lot of moving around (not a happy thing for a heavy camera), but in the next few weeks we’ll start more work in the studio. I’m quite excited.
And now for a close-up of the camera:
Photo taken by Graham Ramsay.
And in case you were wondering, its name is Zaphod.