I Would Keep My Bed

Lately I’ve been looking at how large format photographers craft their photos. It’s interesting and seems worlds apart from what the rest of us are doing.

I watched a fascinating video of two people waiting for the light breeze to die down so that they could expose a sheet. That’s some dedication. In many books, the purpose of large format, especially using a view or versatile field camera, is to get everything in focus.

If you’re taking a photo of a fenceline, for example, employing a bit of rear swing will allow the entire frame to be in crisp focus. And, honestly, that is an impressive thing to both pull off and see.

This coming season, I’m definitely be working on this.

However, I don’t think it’s why I got into 4×5 photography. I’m certainly not going to wait for the wind to die down before taking a shot. I think I got into this to explore in some lazy way how we used to do things.

I’ve never used autofocus or auto-anything, really (and no shame if you like it better, shoot your own photos). So my fall into 4×5 wasn’t the largest chasm ever. But it did make me slow down in ways that shooting 35mm doesn’t.

But it’s not just that. You can even slow down with the camera on your phone. The process, the ceremony of 4×5 is unique – and really the closest thing I have to how photography was done in the 1800s.

Granted, I don’t shoot on glass plates, and I don’t have a portable darkroom pulled by mules. But this is a glimpse.

And while I’ll try my hand at the whole “get everything in focus!” idea, that’s not my reason for shooting 4×5. But who knows, maybe it’ll become that.

‘I Would Keep My Bed’

Camera: Seneca Chautauqua 4×5 (1905)
Film: Arista Ultra Edu 100
Process: Xtol; stock; 6mins

Spiral Jetty, Utah


2 thoughts on “I Would Keep My Bed

  1. Like you, I’m tempted by 4×5 work. I think that there’s something special about the way one sees and interacts with reality with that format. But I fear losing the spontaneity and risk-taking associated with medium and 35mm formats… I guess the thing is to do it and find out…

    1. I was worried about that too. So I started bulk loading 35mm and tried to shoot everything that I could. I look at 4×5 as something special. If there’s a scene I come across that just demands a closer look, that’s when the big cameras come out.

      One of the cameras I shot with last year weighs in at 17lbs (with tripod). That’s ridiculous. But I dragged it out on the road with me. It probably won’t accompany me on too many road trips, but when I need it, it’s there.

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