Large Format Workshop – Gower

Posted on September 25, 2011

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I have just got back from a Large Format Landscape Photography Workshop in the Gower Peninsula in Wales. The event was run by David Ward and Phil Malpas of Light and Land. David and Phil have both published a number of books on contemporary landscape photography practice. Their roots are very much in the tradition of Romantic landscape imagery , celebrating both the beauty and the awe inspiring nature of the landscape. Much of David’s work could be characterised as intimate landscapes, often challenging the viewers comprehension of the subject. Small elements in the landscape take on grand scale and assume new identities. This photograph of a tidal pool at Achnahaird illustrates David’s work..

Achnairhaid Pool by David Ward

David’s approach is very interesting as it opens up a way of producing original views of the landscape as opposed to repeating cliche images of the grand view. It is an approach that I will be taking further in my landscape work. I have this idea that I might be able to capture the essence of a location through a series of images of intimate landscapes and slices of the larger scene…..more of this later.

I had not used a large format camera before and it is a long time since I have photographed with film….it promised to be a challenge. A challenge it was, but one that I really enjoyed. Using a large format view camera takes time and care, so one spends much more time pre-visualising possible images before setting up. This is a long way away from shooting lots of digital images and hoping that something turns out!!

The camera I rented was a relatively inexpensive Tachihara 5×4 folding view camera which looks like this…

I had two lenses a 150mm and a 210mm. These are broadly equivalent to a 50mm and a 70mm in 35mm photography.

The key difference with using a view camera is in the camera’s movements. It is possible to use these to shift the image in the frame (to keep verticals vertical) and to alter the plane of focus so that run along the subject plan ( this can vastly increase the depth of focus). The other advantage is the sheer size of the negatives. A 5×4 positive or negative has about 16 times the area of a full frame digital sensor or 35mm frame. Much more detail is  captured and it is possible to produce very large prints.

I am keen to look at the use of a 5×4 view camera for my portrait typologies. It will allow me to produce life size prints and I am also hopeful that it will engage a more thoughtful and considered response from my subjects.

During the workshop we photographed on each of the four days and I came back with about 10 images. These have now been developed and the resulting slides are like little jewels!! It is hard to describe how lovely a 5×4 positive slide can look. I have yet to have the slides scanned (I am thinking about buying a flatbed scanner) but the composite image below gives some idea of the approach I took during the few days. (these images were captured on my Lumix point and shoot so that I could retain a digital record of what I shot)…

Large Format Landscape Workshop, Gower Peninsula Wales, photographs by Keith Greenough

I am pretty sure I will spend more time working with large format both with landscape and portraiture. I love the slow deliberate style of working and the possibilities that the medium offers in my future work. I also feel that it might help to differentiate my work in a world full to the brim with digital images.

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