Darkroom Digest: Large Format Photography is an Escape From the Modern Busy World

September 15, 2016  •  1 Comment

The "slowness" of traditional large format photography is a sort of heaven on earth for me.  The modern world is effectively digitized in just about every aspect, and this is in contrast to classic large format darkroom photography.  I view the art and craft of large format photography as an artisan's approach to creative expression.  

Large format photography allows photographers to slow down, be connected to their environment and subjects in a way that just isn't associated with other forms of photography.  It seems that many digital photographers press the shutter release button without thinking much about it in many cases.  While a digital photographer could work at the same pace as a large format film photographer, I have yet to witness this personally.  When I lead workshops where the participants are using digital cameras, I ask them to limit their exposures to no more than 8 for the day.  You should see the reactions that I get with that request... 

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A photographer is literally forced to work slower when using large format gear and therefore it creates a mood and environment this is unique to the medium.  It isn't for everyone, but those of us that see these types of things as benefits, we are hooked for life.  I like the fundamental idea of working slower, creating fewer prints, and investing myself into each exposure.  While I have no opinion on the digital vs. film or even large format discussion, I do however see many differences between the application of the tools and this is at the heart of my point in this article.  

With a few simple movements of the front and/or rear standards, I can control, alter and/or manipulate the perspective of my scene or subject in a way that is not possible with modern DSLR cameras.  My photography is about expressing and sharing the peaceful feelings that I experience while in nature and for me, it helps to work slower, soak it all in, and reflect along the way.  On the journey back home and to the darkroom, I find myself daydreaming about the exposed film and the type of prints that I want to make.  I view the time between exposures in the field, development of the film, and ultimately making the prints in the darkroom as an advantage.  In fact, I tell many people it is my secret weapon.  

My prints are the only evidence that I have of my emotional state when I am experiencing nature.  If it were not for large format photography, many of my experiences would be unknown to anyone else in the world.  Imagine a scenic mountain vista with some beautiful flowers in the foreground.  If I wanted the flowers sharp along with the distant mountains, it is a very simple process to apply a front tilt to get everything in sharp focus at just about any aperture.  If I wanted to exaggerate the foreground flowers for visual impact or emotionally evocative reasons, I would use a back tilt and I would still be able to get everything in sharp focus.  These are the types of opportunities that are not available with modern and small format roll film cameras.  When you combine these advantages with the slower more contemplative approach, it just feels right to me.  I feel more in control of my creative expression with large format.  

My brain is wired for large format photography I suppose and I feel like I am at my best when I am creating with these cameras. 

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Before digital in the '60s I did my own 35mm darkroom work. Would go back to film if I had room in the house! I believe more and more that digital convenience has ruined my ability to take a decent photo. I joined the LF page just so I could see the great alternatives.
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