People photography with ULF ?!

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by vic vic, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    hi all,
    can u share your experience of photographing people with ULF, 11x14, 12x20"...
    people photography - staged, location, environment, scenarios, or even closer portraits.
    ---
    obviously, it will be bulkier than 8x10" - camera, tripod, lens, film-holders. more expensive too.
    i guess it will be more elaborating with lighting - slower shutter speed, aperture etc.
    suppose one can handle this, with assistances on the set, by blending this bulk in other production needs (such as lighting on location, which in itself might be even bulkier sometimes than ULF kit), and the flaming passion for a pure contact print (platinum etc) may ease the endeavor.
    ---
    but...
    are there other hidden challenges that i cannot properly imagine and estimate without actually experiencing the ULF ???
    for example, i can imagine that the controls of the camera are physically less accessible, and the whole process must be slower... how much it may stand in the way of photography compared to 8x10.
    other unique challenges ?

    thanks, victor
     
  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I have a 11x14 enlarger which is as easy to work with as my 4x5 and 8x10 enlargers.
    but I have never shot 11x14 film.


    i would think the real issue would be weight and set up , other than that I think it would be easy to use.
     
  3. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    At one time 11x14 was almost the "standard" studio portrait format as the rival to 8x10. A nice big
    retouching surface and shallow depth of field. Mostly stand cameras, not field folders. I've seen a lot
    of classic Hollywood portraits done this size, including color work.
     
  4. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    do this all the time--getting close means it's best (for me) to focus by moving the camera (we're at 1:1 or thereabouts here for close head and shoulders)...so I got a saltzman tripod with a dolly on the bottom....I also use a deardorff commercial studio camera--also has wheels on the camera stand to move the camera to focus--in my opinion...camera MOVING is the way to go.

    I shoot black and white transparencies--so there like one better than contact prints in my book--back lit they look so kool...

    I always use strobe since I'm inside with the deardorff and longer lenses (deardorff studio with stand is large and weighs like 400 pounds with camera and all)...BUT...Ialso now am experimenting with verito 18" f4....this allows use of regular light BUT...that's a problem because packard shutter is on ly one speed or "you squeeze it" speed--very hard to control with accuracy, so Iend up going back to strobe (very weak ) with verito and synched packard for better exposure control to get it right.

    also now I'm starting to experiment with W I D E portraits in the environment--using 11x14 with super wide lenses like grandagon 200mm.....for them you don't need the wheels on the tripod at all--but it's still a 200mm lens so even there your DOF is still small even at a decent distance (like 6' gives you the view of an entire couch with people on it)..so it's a 200mm lens at 6'...even f45 JUST gives you barely enough DOF to get the couch in focus front to back.

    Best to do 1:1 zone--in that region, the depth of field is pretty much independent of focal length--no matter what size the lens-

    yes...11x14 is THE size for me...I was doing 8x10 but it looks positively puny in comparison.

    whatever lens you're using, even a full body portrait is still in the 1:5 macro zone so there's always bellows compensation and easier to focus by moving the camera--or it is for me--actually in the full body zone, then it's just becoming easier to use camera focusing...but any closer like standard portraits and you're in the macro region.

    a bonus with macro region is the amount of bellows extension de-facto increases effective focal length--so a "normal" lens when shot close up becomes a "portrait" focal length--say 600mm lens at 1:1 is 4' bellows and 4' distance to subject--portrait distance--effective focal length of 1200mm without changing your lenses. In ulf you can do more with one lens--with smaller formats, you need more of a selection of lenses.

    that's like a 40mm lens becoming an 80mm lens for headshots--when you enter the macro zone you get like an automatic zoom lens action where the bellows draw increases and adds to the effective focal length.

    biggest challenges: rigidity, space and weight....even the film holders are heavy....AND you run out of ceiling space to pull a dark slide pretty quick with the big cameras up high. You will find that you'll be climbing on chairs or a small stepstool/ladder for focusing and film holder insertion/darkslide pulling
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 3, 2012
  5. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    bob and drew, thanks. 11x14 overall kit should be about twice bulier/heavier compared to 8x10. im not into holywood style studio or retouching. just platinum contact prints that fascinate me. 8x10 is great in the hand, 11x14 will look better on the wall usually, but the bulk may turn a limitation during the principal photography.

    jonielvil, thats an interesting point. the lens issue can be felt on 8x10 already, and a bit on 4x5 too (even with 150 lens), though not as dramatic as u described in the case of 11x14. i actually like that aspect.
     
  6. craigt

    craigt Member

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    It's funny, it's a bit like your TV...you get used to what you have. With wet plate, I started at 4x5, then moved to 8x10 and progressed to 11x14. Now I'm starting 24x32 and I find the 8x10 small in comparison. If you're prepared and experienced with what you do, you know what to expect. That only comes with time. Anything seems intimidating before you take it on.

    I think you'll eventually work out your own limitations and they might be different to other peoples experiences. Common things are....be prepared to take time to prepare and to carry a lot of gear in the field (I have a dedicated caravan darkroom that makes it easier). Be ready to fail at times and push through those failures. Above all...have fun!
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    You start appreciating larger table/working areas with 11x14.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    If you want to have fun worrying about depth of field, try using a 450mm lens on a 14x17. A head shot is 1:1 or even higher magnification. At f22 depth of field is the ear. In a profile portrait. So your margin for error is about -1. But when it pops, it really pops!
     
  9. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    craig, vaughn, the flying camera... thanks...
    8x10 will be a lot of fun, for sure.
    8x10 print in the hand is about perfect.
    bigger is even more fun when the hand made print is on the wall, and the world is on the groundless, with unique optical charm of mammoth lens.
    but, the weight and the bulk doesnt look fun at all, and, since im not experienced with ULF, im not sure if these inherent limitation will stand in the way of photography and fun, or will give the work a new dimension or character.
    contact prints can be done with inter-negatives from 4x5 or 6x6, being less limited regarding the final size, but im wondering where the fascination for a puristic ULF will take me?
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Vic -

    at least half the reason to shoot ULF is the total experience of working with the ULF camera - the giant ground glass, the two-handed focusing, etc. If you can get your hands on something bigger than 11x14, even if only for a day, try using one before you invest money in a system, to be sure you enjoy the experience. It isn't for everyone. As you said, you can always make an interneg from a smaller piece of film if you just want to print big.
     
  11. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    i have no access to ULF at the moment, but yes, i will not be jumping into it without at least basic experience.
    one thing is the investment into the ULF (financial and labour), and the other, even more important is the art-project - being with the "right tools" that inspire and will make the endeavor possible :smile:
     
  12. martinez

    martinez Member

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    I use an 11x14 for portraits. When everything works, it's fantastic. I was using hotlights for a while, but my models have encouraged a push towards strobe and natural light.
    The other issue is cost. I have an 8x10 back and that helps, but each sheet of 11x14 HP5+ is $6.40 at BH (compared to $3.50 per sheet for 8x10).
     
  13. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    martinez, yes, saw the price differences for film :smile:
    among the movie lights, dedolight is very efficient and gives amazing quality of illumination too. naturally, it is spot, but because of the design, it is easier to diffuse than most other spots, with efficiency and lots of room for mastery with panels and various fabrics/filters.
     
  14. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    well, I'll tell ya---if you try to be a dillatante and only dip in your toes without out an adequate investment, then the tools you have will be inadequate and it will not be a good experience.

    however if you bite the bullet and buy the proper equipment up front--that INCLUDES a sufficient number of film holders--that will be your #1 thing to get in my opinion--11x14 portraits you will need to have a lot of these--don't expect every shot to go as planned or at all.

    don't bother trying to build anything till you use some equipment for a while and you KNOW what you're doing. Things on a 4x5 or 8x10 are different on 11x14...the priorities change for what you want in a camera--I find I'm better off with more than one camera--each one suited to a specific task rather than buying an "all in one" camera---the all in one's try to add too much functionaliy and sacrifice rigidity and weight...however, that is all there is on the market---so buy one of them and you'll see what each type of shooting requires and allow sufficient knowledge to build your own cameras. THEN you can sell the original camera, probably for what you paid for it and you'll still keep your film holders...or you can sell the lot for what you paid likely...it's not like you'll be out any money on the deal---and TIME--it is more valuable than money--so just jump in or you'll be wondering "what if" you're whole life.
     
  15. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    johnielvis,
    obsoletely agree, the time, the effort, the vision, the emotions and the expectations going into doing the art-projects will not like dilettante state of mind.. so, no short-cuts and excessive savings or building my own. Lotus has wonderful ulf cameras, film-holders, schnieder xxl lens to offer, and from initial contact, the designer himself seems a great man to deal with.
    basically, im sure i can manage with ulf camera, and the contact platinums will look great, and i will do my best to make it work perfectly... but the ulf camera (and contact print) is not a goal on its own and not an indispensable part of the vision and plans i have for future works. i guess some initial experience will be an intuitive guide, straightening out the ambivalence of fascination and hesitation about ulf.
     
  16. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    btw, i dont know how about 11x14 with portraits, but the essential difference is between "roll film" and "sheet film" attitudes.
    either way, several film holders are needed, thats for sure. portrait is a delicate craft.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi vic vic

    i have a 11x14 camera that i use for studio type portraits.
    its a century 8a, but i don't shoot film with it .. i use paper negatives.
    i made a 11x14 back and paper holders .. and eventually i found an 7x11 back with film holders ..
    using a big camera is nothing like using a smaller one. everything is a bit more deliberate .. and less
    portable ...
    paper takes the hassle out of the cost of film, so it frees me up to have a bit more fun and do things i
    normally wouldn't commit a 7$ sheet of film to .. it also makes it easier to process the film by inspection ...

    i don't stop down my lens, but use a big old wollensak triple convertible wide open ..
    i have 2 monoblock lights that i use in soft b oxes its fun, and inexpensive ..


    good luck !
    john
     
  18. vic vic

    vic vic Member

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    john, thanks...
    do u have any samples of wide open 11x14 for post, please, to give some impression how it look like.
    the paper thing is cool too, ilford positive paper ? i still havent tried that one
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hey vic vic

    i haven't used the direct positive paper yet
    but i am looking forward to someday using it ..
    ( i don't think is is available bigger than 8x10 in fb but then again 8x10 is a nice size )


    http://www.apug.org/forums/members/jnaånian-albums-paper-negative-images.html

    there are some paper portraits in my "album" on my profile page :smile:

    have fun !
    john

    ps. old expired paper works great since the fog helps tame the contrast
     
  20. prado333

    prado333 Member

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    Nicholas Nixon is a master doing portraits with 11x14 camera. watch his work , i like his selfportraits.
     
  21. garysamson

    garysamson Subscriber

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  22. garysamson

    garysamson Subscriber

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  23. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Well, I have been shooting portraits with 8x10, 11x14 and 14x17. My favorite has to be my Century 8A Studio camera. A dream to use. I do have a nice setup for the 14x17 and as far as cost goes try shooting x-ray film for portraits and retouching the negatives. I love it! This is an 8x10 I did of my son. Can't post the bigger stuff yet but you get the idea. The image is a carbon transfer print from x-ray film.
     

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