Large Format Diaries
#3. Bernwood Birch Bark Detail
Bernwood Forest, Oxfordshire
Linhof Technikardan S45
f/32, exposure time not recorded (well, it was, I just can’t decipher my note here!) – probably about 20 seconds or so.
2º front tilt back, 15mm front fall; 360mm bellows (exposure calculated with the indispensible and incredibly useful Reciprocity app for iPhone).
scanned with 4 D800E frames stitched
The kind of shot I’ve been dreaming of taking, and a strong argument in favour of the proposition that shooting Velvia 5×4 is awesome for close detail work.
Comparison with the other shots of this scene taken at the same time but on digital (with a pretty high-end setup: D800E and a PC-E tilt-shift – check out the flickr stream for these) reveal a few things about shooting 5×4 Velvia. (NB I still don’t yet have a film scanner, so all my processing is done with the Nikon and a lightbox, though I imagine results might be comparable).
First, there’s the effortless resolution – large format posted at the equivalent digital file sizes feels like the photographic equivalent of driving a supercar at ordinary road speeds. [Edit: change of analogy. … like a diesel-powered massive lorry with huge torque, compared to a sports car].
Then there’s the colour and saturation. Processing the Nikon shots to make the colour and colour-contrast look half decent takes quite a lot of effort. Velvia, by contrast, just looks like this, and you basically have to do nothing to it apart from add a contrast curve or two to make it look how you want, and then sharpen as usual. Even with lots of targetted contrast and saturation, the digital D800E files look rather flat and lifeless by comparison.
Of course, the trick is setting up the camera correctly, getting the exposure right, and making sure you’ve not made any errors whatever in the pipeline from loading film to shooting it. At present, I’m still having a few problems here and there with exposures, especially with shots in direct light (more shading of the lens, or a lens hood, seem like likely solutions; I still don’t have any grads yet either: some important Lee Filters purchases to be made before too long, then) but I have the technique with the camera pretty much down fine, at least for the moderate shift and tilt effects; compound movements, and the instinct for what will be needed in setting up a shot, will take more practice. It does though bear repeating that viewing the shot upside down and back to front under the dark cloth does take some getting used to… This is another place where the practice will come in, I guess.