View Full Version : People photography with ULF ?!

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vic vic
07-02-2012, 02:44 PM
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.
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

Bob Carnie
07-02-2012, 02:56 PM
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.

07-02-2012, 03:33 PM
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.

vic vic
07-03-2012, 05:12 PM
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.

07-04-2012, 12:59 AM
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!

07-04-2012, 01:27 AM
You start appreciating larger table/working areas with 11x14.

07-04-2012, 03:19 PM
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!

vic vic
07-06-2012, 11:22 AM
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?

07-06-2012, 11:32 AM
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.

vic vic
07-06-2012, 12:26 PM
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.

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 :-)

07-06-2012, 12:56 PM
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).

vic vic
07-07-2012, 05:15 AM
martinez, yes, saw the price differences for film :-)
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.

vic vic
07-07-2012, 04:16 PM
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.

vic vic
07-07-2012, 04:26 PM
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.

07-07-2012, 04:27 PM
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 !

vic vic
07-08-2012, 03:58 AM
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

07-08-2012, 08:38 AM
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 )


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

have fun !

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

07-10-2012, 03:10 AM
Nicholas Nixon is a master doing portraits with 11x14 camera. watch his work , i like his selfportraits.

07-14-2012, 07:47 AM
Here is a portrait made with a 12x20 camera and 355mm lense by available light. The exposure was five seconds.


07-14-2012, 07:52 AM
This portrait was made with an 11x14 Wisner camera and a 450mm lens.