Life in large format – Part one

Well, I am one step closer to working in large format now. I have bought a beautiful Ebony field camera. Mind you, that’s all I have bought so far. I still need to buy a lens (hopefully with lens board and shutter fitted), dark slides, dark cloth, film, etc. I am meandering across Evilbay and websites to find the rest of the kit.

To say that this is going to be a journey of discovery is probably a bit of an understatement. I have never even held a 5×4 inch camera until last weekend, so learning how to use it is going to be interesting. I have, however, managed to find some videos on YouTube about how to set up and use a large format camera, which is already very helpful.

Naturally, given that it is a large (and heavy) camera which can only shoot one image at a time the whole approach to photography needs to be different. Obviously, I need to slow down – in fact this almost Victorian era camera is going to force me to do this. I don’t mind this, as I have been purposely using a Mamiya 7ii for a while to force me to make my work more considered (you get 10 shots per roll of film on this camera). Then, there is the whole setting up, focusing and shooting experience – once you have focused and loaded the film into the back you are into the realms of guesstimating what the image will look like – unlike my usual cameras I won’t have lovely big viewfinders to peer through. After that, I need to work out how to get the film posted off somewhere to get it processed, as my local processor doesn’t do large format. I have seen a few places online, but would prefer something local. I could try and do it myself (I have processed E-6 slides before and black and white), but time is the main issue for me with a young family.

I am both excited but also anxious about the whole thing. I am excited as large format images look stunning when they are done well. The level of detail in them and particularly the tonality blow away any thing else that I have access to (I don’t have access to a 100mp Phase one 645 camera at £32,000!). But, I am anxious to say the least about actually using it. I am really clueless in this area of photography. But, if anything, I like the challenge of learning something new. Until I decide to take on the MA in documentary photography (a long-term goal), I have always taught myself how to use a camera – for me the process of discovery is part of the fun of trying out different cameras!


Diverse Britain – Chris Leslie

I have got to say this is an absolute cracker of a website, really professional and of exceptional quality. I have focused on his Red Road work in Glasgow, which is a in depth coverage of the culture and destruction of this housing estate. There is top draw documentary photography and videos (as he is also a film-maker) on this site. This is a website to absorb over time and a beer? 😉

Early signs of Spring

When I was in town today I noticed near to the Arts Centre that some trees had flowers on them. I took this shot to capture the moment. It’s nice to think that already there are some signs of Spring in the air. Although, it was a bitter -5c first thing this morning when I was first outside!

Salisbury, Arts Centre. Canon 5D3, 50mm, f1.4

Visit Britain: The weird and wonderful world of Britain’s ancient festivals

OK so I started with Visit Britain, but I will probably change the working title of this project to ‘Gatherings’, it sort of fits better now than Visit Britain for the project as the ideas are evolving.

I have been trawling across the internet looking for British Festivals, initially most of what I came across were music festivals. Which, whilst great, were not what I was looking for. However, after some more hit and miss searching, I came across the term ‘ancient festivals’. Suddenly, a lot of interesting and strange old festivals started to emerge. Turns out, they are also quite popular too!

It also turns out that there are a lot of these ancient ceremonies across the UK, some are internationally famous, like Up Helly Aa – the Lerwick fire festival – but there are a fair few that I have never heard of – like The Feast of St. Blaise in London, which is the patron saint of people afflicted with throat complaints! After a little digging around, it turns out that this ancient Catholic ceremony is also performed in other countries, like Croatia, as well.

The main problem that I am going to have is (1) selecting appropriate shoots from the incredible choice of ancient festivals out there and (2) quite a lot of events occur at night, which is going to be ‘interesting’ to shoot. However, my main interest is shooting night street photography, so I find this aspect quite exciting.

I think as a basic, I will try and cover the most important and famous events on the festival  calendar. Then, I might try and photograph some of the more unusual ceremonies to add a bit of novelty to the work.

These events are coming up all the time, some occur in January, which is too early for me at the moment – mainly due to the lack of large format camera! It’s going to take a little while to sort that piece of kit out.

What I am hoping is that these traditional festivals can be used to illustrate some of the diversity that occurs in Britain – whether it is diversity of events, places or people. What I would like to see is the relationship between these continuing ancient festivals and modern Britain.

I expect as the project unfolds other avenues that I could explore – or other understandings will open up. Hopefully, this will develop a deeper storyline to the project, but also make it potentially more interesting. Well, that’s the hope anyway!

Salisbury, Arts Week, 2013. Canon 5D3, 85mm

Quick Shot – Salisbury at night

Salisbury, Night. Canon 5D3, 50mm

I went for a short (and wet) walk around town last night. Usually, I just stroll and capture candid street images (like here). However, this time I took the tripod with me to try and get some photographs different to those that I usually take. This was the most interesting image from walk.