Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Large Format Photography: Practice makes perfect

Large format has really bought into focus my lack of practical skills when it comes to making a photograph. I use 'making' quite deliberately because more than ever I find myself trying to make photographs rather than shoot and hope for the best.  I think a lot of people survive on instinct, which is fine, but when you only have one fairly expensive shot to work with you really have think much harder about how to get that shot to convey something interesting. Instinct in this instance can only take you so far. If you want to feel like you've never taken a photograph before in your life then you should really get a large format camera. As counterproductive as that might sound, I'm learning far more than I ever did than when using 35mm and 120 film.

I'll start by admitting there's nothing at all spectacular about any of this, but it proved a useful exercise, hence why I'm sharing it.  Before I took the shot, I tried to think about what I wanted the final image to look like. Mostly, I really wanted to capture the light hitting the trees from the side in the late afternoon light, as that being the only interesting thing about this scene felt like a vital element to retain and accentuate. Normally, an average meter reading would of perhaps caused the details of this scene blend into one. To combat this, I purposely underexposed and then overdeveloped the negative which helped accentuate the light hitting the trees without affecting the darker areas too much. 

If you look at the bottom half of this image, it works quite well, but then the top half becomes messy. It's a shame I couldn't bring the sky values down, because that would of balanced out the image. Perhaps if I were to try and get this image again, I'd wait until the sun dropped even further, to accentuate the shadows on the ground and also to try and darken the sky. I'm not sure a stronger colour filter would have worked in this instance as the sky was a very pale blue anyway. I'd say this image is a good example of getting it half right. Not to sound too disparaging as the best thing about working this way is that you really do learn from every image. When working one image at a time, there's nothing lost, only knowledge and experience gained, from taking a weaker photograph.