What is your ULF Shooting Routine?

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by pandino, Sep 4, 2006.

  1. pandino

    pandino Member

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    Okay, I finally got film holders for my 11x14 B&J and just had to take it for a test drive.

    I still don't have film, a proper tripod or lens, but I loaded the holder with paper and placed a 210 Symmar on it just to get a feel for using the format.

    I must say that it was a little more involved than I expected. Getting it on the tripod, carrying the film holder and meter, leveling the camera, focusing, etc. It was comical. I felt like I was about three arms and four hands short... and I was only eight feet outside my front door!

    So how do you guys do it? :confused: There's got to be an easier way. Do you have help?

    By the way, the paper neg came out just fine apart from a little too much contrast. The contact print left a little to be desired, but not bad for my first paper negative. Of course, I picked the worst possible subject; my 4-yr old son. You'd think he could sit still for 1/4 sec...

    As a side note, I was very surprised to find that the Symmar-S would cover 8x10 @ f/11 with no noticeable falloff. It is spec'd at 294 @ f/22.
     
  2. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    That's pretty much how it goes. You just need to slow down and take your time getting things set up and ready for the shoot. There really isn't an easy way to do it.
     
  3. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Mallards @ 2 o'clock

    Pandino,

    I have been dry firing the ULF for nearly a year. Now we are loading the guns. My routine is this:

    1. Load the car in the order of set up.

    a. I pull the tripod out first...It can be on the drivers side or passengers side or the rear door.

    b. Set the tripod and confirm leg positions.

    c. I unload the camera from the passengers side or rear of the car and not on the road side.....bring camera to location: depending on situation I use a 3 wheeled cart or converted dolly set up for this, or if close I bring the camera to the tripod in its box, which doubles as a platform for equipment.

    d. I use a majestic tripod, I set it up without the head, the tripod head is now fitted to the camera which is still in its folded position.

    e. Mount camera and head on tripod posts and firm.

    f. unfold camera and choose lens-lenses are transported in pistol cases with foam inside...several lenses fit in each case and foam holds secure. Lenses are in zip loc bags. These cases are available from Sports authority-several sizes, very inexpensive....10 to 15 bucks max.

    g. Compose the pre determined shot.

    h. Load camera---each film holder is transported in its individual holder case...these are zippered cooler bags with adequate padding, water proof, and if need be can be placed in a large cooler with frozen cooling cubes.....These bags accomodate my 14 x 17 inch holders and were sold this summer at Costco for 6.99 each....for my 8 x 10 holders I use the cooler bag that Matt Blaise (Blaze-ON) sells on apug they were less than 15 dollars...

    i. After exposing both sides of the film (if the shot is worth setting up for, IMHO it is worth 2 negs) the holder is returned to the bag and a note with info is put into the bag with the film......then the film holder bag is zipped closed and the strap handles are tied with a plastic grocery bag....I know from the outside this has been exposed and not to open it to check etc.

    * begin to collect as many holders as you can...it is more effective and efficient to load up a box of 10 or 20 when you go out, a well known Florida Large format photographer is known to take 10 or more shots of the same scene at one setting, knowing it is marketable and when everything is right and you are ready, you have to get it

    It is more like hunting ducks from a blind than it is flushing quail! :cool:
     
  4. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    dont try to talk to anyone while yer shooting.
    youll manage to forget something like closing the shutter or stopping down the aperture while yer yapping.
    spend some time walking around before you even haul out the camera. holds true for alot of formats, but seems amplified with ULF. Taking that time will pay off. might be a place you found interesting but upon walking around nothing strikes you.
    Dont feel obligated to expose a neg. When I first started shooting 7x17 I often times went through all the effort of setting up the camera and realized the scene was "striking" me any longer, yet I still exposed a neg... this rarely worked out well. So from first hand experience, dont feel obligated even if you spent a long while setting everything up.
     
  5. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Dave, 10 or 20 ULF film holders are fine if you are just working near the car. But not very feasible if you have to lug them any distance at all. Taking 10 to 20 exposures of the same scene usually means one thing. The photographer is not sure of either his technique or his equipment. Ulf is more like a marathon than it is a sprint. Get to know your equipment like the back of your hand and perfect your technique then you won't need 20 shots of the same scene. Slow down and take your time composing, work the corners of your ground glass. Eventually you'll get the shot you need in one or two exposures. Bracketting will get real old real fast with a ULF camera. Now if that is how you prefer to work then all I can say is it is perfect for you and keep up the good work.
     
  6. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    yes, it can seem daunting. But relax and enjoy the experience. The first thing I do is walk the area/scene and get a good idea on where I would like to set up. Then I set up the tripod. I turn it upside down on the ground (my foot so the it doesn't get scratched) the then adjust the legs to roughly my chin....then I know when I 'set it up' and put a camera on it, it's basically at the right height for viewing. Then mount camera. Then mount lens. Then place dark cloth. compose image (focus, meter, etc.) and hopefully you know the rest.

    Some folks use a baby stroller (3 big wheels) or large back pack, or back of the car to haul the stuff.
     
  7. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    I would suggest making or getting a piece of cardboard and cutting a rectangle in it the size of your film. Attach a string with marks equal to the lens length and walk around looking thru the cardboard to get a sense of where and IF you're going to set up. Then unpack.
     
  8. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Practice at home. Load your car, unload your kit, set it up, go through all the steps necessary to take a photo, repack the kit and load it back in the car. Do this 50 times and you'll have it down. Some areas of photography, particularly large format, are a performance and like any performance, need practice.
    juan
     
  9. jamie young

    jamie young Member

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    Taking your time and enjoying your experience, as other have mentioned, is good advice.It's not just about gertting a good photo, but also the process and experience. It let's you think more about composition and concept, which is the great part of the experience. On the other hand, you will get faster as you do the process. everything takes time at first.
    Have fun!
    Jamie Young
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One thing is when you attach the camera to the tripod, set the tripod head in the vertical position, so the platform is perpendicular to the ground, so you can access the screw easily and confirm that you are setting the camera squarely on the platform. Do this with the camera in the closed position if the camera folds, then set the camera horizontal and open it.
     
  11. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Setting up the camera goes faster if you don't break it down as far when your done with an exposure. I've meet people who will break a camera completely done after an exposure and put it back in a carring case just to walk sixty feet. That wastes a lot of time.

    I use a majestic head and take it off the tripod attached to either my 8x10 or my 8x20 (whichever I'm using at that moment) and place the whole thing in the back of my Jeep. I carry the setup into my house that same way and set it up on my camera stand. I think I only fully break down the camera about three or four times a year when I need to pack it into a tighter space in the car.

    Also 10-20 holders sounds nice, and makes great press,but more often then not most ULF shooters are working with less. I have four that I fully trust, two that are fine indoors. Its costs about the same to buy a Harrison changing tent as it does to buy one new 8x20 holder.
     
  12. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Dave gave you a very nice answer and I was surprised (not sure why) how many of the steps I do exactly the same. Yesterday I had the good fortune to be at 11,000+ feet in the ancient bristlecones with the 12X20 Folmer. When I tipped over the very top of the mountain and got to my first planned stop just down the other side a bit I noticed a rear tire was 3/4 flat. I go better prepared than most but even with 2 spares, the fact that I had traversed 24.5 miles of sharp nasty rocks and had more in front of me dampened spirits a bit. Next time I'll have 3 spares for that trip.

    Brett Weston was 1000% correct about all the good shots being within 40 paces of the car with a camera that size. Even more so at 11,000+ elevation.

    The key item is this. If you're not enjoying the entire process in and of itself you likely won't be shooting the big camera very long.

    I set and level the big Ries tripod. Next the camera comes out of it's well protected case and goes on. Then the lens and darkcloth go in place. Time to compose. Yesterday I made 4 exposures. My confidence (or is it an inferiority complex that none of what I'm doing is worth 2 sheets of film anyways?) is such that I rarely make more than one exposure at a set-up. Such was the case yesterday. Of the 4 there was one where I moved the tripod 2 times to get the scene composed with all the elements I wanted in the right places. Next comes the film holders. The 2 holders travel very nicely wrapped in terri-cloth towells and in the same case with the camera. Meter, expose, done. I reverse every step and break everything down 100% and re-pack between shots. That way the camera isn't compromised bouncing around the interior of the truck on extreme roads. Each picture takes perhaps 20 - 40 minutes to complete.

    I refuse to hurry. OTOH! I didn't get home until 0-darkthirty and had to get up and going at 04:30 this Am for work.
     
  13. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I get up in the morning. I think about ULF. I say "Nahh!". I forget it for the rest of the day.
     
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  15. pandino

    pandino Member

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    Some great suggestions here. You have given me some good ideas for streamlining things a little.

    I can foresee myself taking Claire's approach much sooner than I'd consider Juan's...
    Do that 50 times and the only 11x14 photos I'll be looking at will be the X-rays of my spine!
     
  16. Mike A

    Mike A Member

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    I've been shooting my 11x14 for a couple years now and this is the basic breakdown and setup of my equiptment.

    I keep my Phillips unfolded with a lens and hood attatched sitting on the back passenger side seat of my four door hatch back.

    My 4 holders (I could see maybe adding 2 more holders max) and my one and only extra lens are contained in a Xl messenger http://www.chromebags.com/kremlin.php bag on the driver side rear seat. (I love this bag, it swallows gear)

    My Berlebach tripod with Majestic head attatched and extended lay in the trunk.

    I wear a Lowepro utility belt that keeps my lens cleaning gadget, light meter and other odds and ends.

    So, as a few other experienced photographers have mentioned here, walk the area and look at the subject matter you want to shoot first. If you like what you see go rig up.

    For myself if I'm traveling a long distance from my vehicle (1-3 miles total) I'll put my unfolded camera and tripod over my shoulder, with my holders in the messenger bag and the utility belt on and start moving to where ever it is I'm going.

    I know this won't work for you and your B&J but it demonstrates the advantages of a light weight set up.

    Good Light,
    Mike
     
  17. climbabout

    climbabout Member

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    Lots of great advice regarding setup procedure in this thread - bottom line is with experience, you will develop your own routine that you are comfortable with - most important though - reread the post by Jamie Young - slow down and enjoy the experience.
    Climbabout
    Tim Jones
     
  18. Donsta

    Donsta Member

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    I have a "lightweight" 11x14 outfit - I use a Phillips Explorer (about 11 pounds) on a Arca B2 which is on a Gitzo 1548 (or 1348 if I am trying to keep it light). I have a backpack frame called a Azora Pack Mule ( http://azora.biz ) - A lightware case contains the camera and 3 holders and is effortlessly strapped to the frame. I either carry the tripod and head in one hand or I strap it on top of the case on my back. A small padded bag with the other essentials (lenses, filters etc) either gets strapped onto the frame or is carried in my other hand. This outfit makes getting an 11x14 anywhere I want to go very feasible. The frame with the lightware case strapped on is very comfortable and if I had the urge, I wouldn't hesitate to do ten miles with it.
     
  19. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Donsta,

    That is a nice frame set up...had not heard of it...thanks
     
  20. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    I just bought a pair of lenses on ebay, a 180 symmar and a 210 componon, I was just as surprised when the 210 covered (definatly not sharp to the very edge) 8x10 with a little (very little) room to spare, probably best left for images I know I'll be contact printing.

    erie
     
  21. Mike A

    Mike A Member

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    Donsta, that frame is just what I've been look'n for. The old alice pack frames can be fitted with a cagro hauling shelf that was designed for a large radio but this frame looks much more ergonomicaly freindly.

    Mike

     
  22. Donsta

    Donsta Member

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    Mike

    It's not perfect, but it works really well and it is pretty inexpensive and light (around 4 pounds I think). I would prefer a flat shelf, but the lightware case I use sits just fine. There are other options for "cargo frames" - this is probably the best (and I think it's reflected in the price which I think is around $350): http://kifaru.net/FREIGHTR.HTM
     
  23. Mike A

    Mike A Member

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    I've drooled over Kifaru gear a while back, but sheesh are they pricey.
    Is there anywhere on the Azora site that gives you dimmensions for the frame?

    Mike

     
  24. Donsta

    Donsta Member

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    Mike

    I didn't see any dimensions - I will measure it later this evening if you like.
     
  25. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    In a previous thread I posted some pics showing the tripod cradle I made for my 11x14 B&J. It really simplifies attaching that monster to the tripod and balancing it. The camera slides right in and is locked in place via two thumbscrews. It is a quick-release system that works very well.

    To transport it I bought a used 3-wheel jogging strolling and built a box that holds the 11x14. A colleague welded some large washers to the frame to facilitate strapping gear and the box to it using bungee cords.

    I usually only take 4 holders with me. I always use some sort of viewfinder (a cut-out card as mentioned previously, or the old L-shaped two hand-routine) to determine where to put the camera before I ever set-up for a shot.

    And then there's the portable wetplate collodion darkbox that goes along too...

    Joe
     
  26. pandino

    pandino Member

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    Joe,
    I've seen that picture of your cradle before and it looks perfect. Very clever setup. It allows you to center the weight of the camera over the head.

    The way the camera is designed, the rear standard is cantilevered way out there when using short lenses and no extension rail. I guess B&J figured they could design cameras without the input of an engineer.

    Unfortunately, I'm not quite skilled enough to replicate the cradle, let alone your darkbox. You're a freak!