My 8x10 Large Format Backpacking & Gear Reveal
I specialize in making very large silver gelatin darkroom prints, and I require the ultimate quality and resolution.
I love this classic format just as the masters before me did too.
I also have 4x5, 5x7, and 4x10 reducing backs for this camera because this is the one camera that is with me at all times. The reducing backs have been one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am really glad that I made those purchases.
MY 8X10 LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA
I have more than one 8x10 large format camera, but I use my Chamonix view camera the most. It is light enough for hiking, it sets up fast and very easy, and offers every movement and adjustment that I need for my style of photography.
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MY 8X10 LENSES
My Large Format Accessories
I get a lot of questions about the tools and accessories that I use, so I developed this section to share my most frequently used items with you. I only share the items that I use on a regular basis so you can rest assured that I am happy with these accessories.
I have a comprehensive large format photography video workshop series that I have developed to walk you through everything you need to know to become a confident and solid large format photographer whether you are printing in the darkroom or scanning your film.
Tripod and Heads - Purchasing a tripod and head is one of the most expensive and important accessories you will buy during your time with large format photography. I have several tripods, more than I care to admit. However, I have a couple of different tripods that I use most of the time and the others serve very specific purposes or were just collected over the years.
I standardize or Really Right Stuff across the board for my tripod gear and accessories. It is expensive, but it has no equal from a quality and performance standpoint in my opinion. I have been using the same Really Right Stuff in brutal field conditions for over 15 years without a single failure or incident. I also use the Really Right Stuff L-Plate brackets on my smaller medium format and digital cameras and the replacement feet on my telephoto lenses.
I use a Really Right Stuff universal leveling base along with the BH-55 ball head for the vast majority of my large format photography. You can also get the universal leveling base with the Arca Swiss clamp which allows you to use the base without any other accessories required.
I own the standard size tent for loading and unloading my 4x5 and 5x7 film, and the large tent for 8x10 film, and the jumbo version for 11x14 and I also use this as a portable darkroom when I am traveling on the road.
You can also use the Harrison film changing bag that comes in small (27"x30') or large (36"x36"). I prefer the tent style so I don't have to fight the material over the top of my hands when handling the film and when using the tent as a portable darkroom. They are expensive but will last a lifetime.
You will have the choice of several different magnifications for your focusing loupe ranging from 3.5X to 15X. I prefer something in the 5X range for general focusing on the ground glass and 10X for very detailed fine focusing. You may need to try a couple of different magnifications and determine your personal preference. Also, if you need an adjustable diopter, you will want to keep that in mind when selecting a loupe. Loupe - You will need two kinds of loupes as a large format photographer. A focusing loupe to use on the ground glass to help you make sure your image is in focus and a viewing loupe to use on a light table to critically look at your film. I have several different sizes, but I have settled on Peak loupes for my focusing needs and Carson loupes for viewing my film on a light table.
Another trick that I use is that I have a pair of high magnification reading glasses in the 5.0 to 6.0 range that works really well for quick focusing. I still use the 10X loupe for critical focus, but it isn't needed all the time.
Light Meters - I have several light meters, with some of them being 30+ years old, like my Pentax Digital Spot Meter (just like Ansel used), but mine was modified by Zone VI Studios to easily work with the B&W Zone System.
For my modern light meters, I use the industry-standard Sekonic light meters. For ambient metering, the small L-308 is an excellent choice that also measures flash in addition to ambient light. I use this meter with slide film all the time and it is super small and very easy to use.
For spot metering, I use the L-758 (purchased in 2010) and the L-558 (purchased in 2005). The current model, L-858 is a one-degree spot meter that is a state of the art piece of equipment. It is able to take incident and reflected light readings of both flash and ambient light with an expanded measuring range of -5 to 22.9 EV at ISO 100.
Backpacks - I have more backpacks than I care to tell you about. They each have a different purpose, but there are two of them that I can recommend for different purposes.
The F.64 Backpack is a good beginner backpack or storage bag that will handle formats up to 8x10". The main body of the backpack has two compartments and comes with two 4"x5" detachable film pouches. A hideaway rain cover is always ready to guard against the weather. There are removable dividers that allow you to customize the interior to your specific needs. It has ergonomically designed shoulder straps with sternum and waist belts plus an extra pad that adds lumbar support to allow you to carry heavy loads. It has rubber tabs that allow you to attach a belt, which would allow you to attach a tripod, and 16 loops can hold accessory pockets. I use this backpack for short hikes and to store my gear during travel. The price is very reasonable for this backpack. I prefer the Gura Gear G Elite pack for my long hikes, but it is also twice the cost.
The Gura Gear G Elite 32 Backpack is a professional quality backpack that I use for all of my long hikes. I can pack with large format cameras up to 8x10 in the pack, making it very versatile. The butterfly design allows for the organization of a lot of gear, and provides access to one side at a time or the entire pack, depending on what users need at any given moment. The internal compartments also feature a completely customizable internal divider system for different setups, and there are various pockets throughout including two full-length front accessory pockets, an expandable exterior mesh pocket, and multiple interior mesh pockets
This professional-quality backpack is designed for comfort, even on long journeys, the bag offers multiple carrying methods and supports in addition to the adjustable and padded shoulder straps, including a stowaway harness, removable waist belt, a durable sternum strap, and riveted carrying handles on the top and side of the bag. Users can carry much more than just their camera gear, as there is a way to configure the bag with a multipoint tripod/monopod attachment and M.O.L.L.E. attachment points on the side. Additionally, it comes with a removable rain fly that can double as a ground cloth and a custom-fit dust bag.
Dark Cloth - I primarily use the BTZS Focusing Hoods because they are the best design and easy to use. The elastic around the end that covers your ground glass is simple but very effective. Also, the exterior is white to help keep the heat down, and black on the interior to help you see better.
You can get them from Fred Newman at the View Camera Store. I have several different sizes for my various formats from 4x5 up to 11x14. They are incredibly simple, durable, and should last a lifetime. Fred is a great guy and regular contributor to the Darkroom Underground Magazine.
Levels - I keep two and three-axis bubble levels in my large format photography kit as well as a small six-inch carpenters level that I frequently use to ensure my camera is level with the horizon.
Being level with the horizon, or even in the studio for commercial, portrait, or product photography is important. Your eye is easily tricked, so I just use a level to make sure I get it right on the film and this minimizes cropping or other fixes later in post-production.
You can also put a leveling base on your tripod too, which is an expensive option, but highly useful. I use a Really Right Stuff universal leveling base along with the BH-55 ball head. You can also get the universal leveling base with the Arca Swiss clamp which allows you to use the base without any other accessories required. The Really Right Stuff is painfully expensive, but I view it as a lifetime investment and I have gear that I know performs as was designed without fail.
Spanner Wrench - I use the Rodenstock Spanner Lens Wrench that has all the right sizes to mount a large format lens properly. This wrench is designed to work on modern shutters that include Copal # 0, Copal # 1, and Copal # 3.
This tool should work on just about every large format lens made in the last 75 years, or possibly even longer. Even though the sizing is based on the Copal shutter, the wrench will also work on most other shutters as well to include Compur, Prontor, etc. The wrench is made of high-quality stainless steel. The spanner wrench is a very simple tool, but important and should last a lifetime.
Whether you are doing black and white photography or using C-41 or E-6 color film, you are going to need filters to create your best images. I use the Lee Filters Foundation Kit along with the wide angle filter lens hood as my large format photography filter base kit. The wide-angle hood has slots for two 100mm wide filters which I use for almost all of my filter choices. I store my filters on the Lee 10 Filter Pouch which allows up to 10 100mmx150mm filters.
B&W Filters - Red, Orange, Yellow. I use the 100mm x 100mm filters and slide them into the wide angle filter lens hood on the Lee Filters Foundation Kit.
Protective Wraps - I use the Domke Protective Wraps on everything from my cameras and lenses to my accessories. I like to use the wraps on anything that I place in my backpack from my meter to my lenses, and other accessories.
The protective wraps come in a wide variety of sizes an colors allowing you to customize your gear based on your own personal needs. The Domke Color Coded Protective Wraps are constructed of padded knit nylon with a non-scratch nylon backing. These squares can be wrapped around small cameras, lenses, electronic flashes, tools, or anything else that will fit inside a bag or case. Touch fastener tabs on all four corners allow them to be wrapped in any shape.
I use a variety of different sized bags as interior storage bags/cases that I place inside my backpacks. I really like the Tenba BYOB cases and I use them in a lot of different scenarios depending on which system I am working with. The Tenba bags are designed for this exact purpose and with their adjustable interior dividers and top handle, I find them very useful. I wrap my lenses in the Domke Protective Wraps and I have never had an issue with my gear.
Tenba 7 interior dimensions are 7” x 5” x 3”
Tenba 10 interior dimensions are 10” x 7.5” x 4"
Tenta 13 interior dimensions are 13” x 9” x 5"
I also really like the inexpensive Ape Case Cubeze QB35 as an interior miscellaneous bag to store all sorts of things within my larger bags and packs.
Threaded Release Cable - You will need a couple of different cable releases for your large format photography kit.
I always carry at least one extra cable release with me at all times.
I place one cable release in the main camera bag along with the camera, meter, loupe, etc. Then, I have a bag where I keep extra parts and supplies, and I place two additional cable releases in there as a backup.
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Thanks for the info, Tim.
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