Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some more thoughts on quantity (and camera size)

Because it's the end of the year, I'm in the thick of my annual assessment of stuff. Looking over my collection of images made over the last year (by viewing them in Bridge), and looking at images from previous years, I notice a couple differences.

When I was working primarily in large format, I routinely made 'in camera dups'. That is, once the camera was set up, I routinely exposed two sheets of film. Having two sheets was insurance - if I managed to screw up one sheet, I still had the setup on the other sheet. This saved my butt more than once, which is why I did it even th0ugh it doubled my film costs.

But working digitally, I never shoot dups. I sometimes exposure bracket - that is, I make an exposure, examine the histogram, adjust the offset, and then make another exposure.

That's an obvious but not very interesting difference.

More interesting is that with the EOS-5d, I can see that I often have several exposures which are all from the same basic camera setup, but with minor adjustments in framing or minor changes in camera position.

At first, I thought perhaps this was just laziness or insecurity, but I've noticed that I don't alway use the first exposure, or the last one. The final choice is spread across the exposures pretty evenly.

I finally figured this out. With the 4x5, I could actually see what I was doing, on the ground glass. The edge of the frame was marked clearly, and the image on the groundglass was large enough that I could actually make judgements based entirely on what I saw.

With the EOS-5d, no can do. That viewfinder is just too small, and there's no way to judge relationships in the image exactly. The whole "look through the lens" thing is right, it's just too damn small to make judgments. The viewfinder also shows only something like 85% of the frame, so there's no way to judge the edges closely.


Blogger Rory said...

Exactly, exactly! The large format camera allows me to find the best composition on-site. With a digital camera, I find that I have to take loads of pictures of a scene, and then find the ones that work on a monitor later. Best wishes for the season to you and your family!

Rory, Trinidad WI

5:31 PM  
Blogger pitchertaker said...

You know, guys, I will bet that both of you have many, many years of experience with a dark cloth over your head while pondering an upside-down, backward image on a dim piece of ground glass. Me, too. But I wonder, when after as many years with the digital viewfinder pressed to your face as you have had squinting in the back of a view camera, will you still "take loads of pictures" just to get at the image you want? I wouldn't look to negatively on how you are trying to adapt to the new fangled way of making images. You might just learn a thing or two from being able to click 'till you heart's content without vacating you film budget. Why not put your new pitcher-makin' gadget on a tripod and a dark cloth over your head?

7:04 AM  
Blogger Edward Richards said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Edward Richards said...

First, the info is not there, no amount of squinting is going to make it visible. Second, our old, tired eyes probably could not see it if it was there. I suppose I will have to move to 8x10 as I get even older.:-) Wonder if you wcan compose by touch on 20x24?

7:24 AM  
Blogger Roger Hein said...

In principal I agree but have found that not all LF cameras necessarily 'jive' with what the film holder 'sees'. It's not uncommon for a film holder to sit slightly off from the ground glass on the camera - particularly in older cameras but I've had it happen in a new 'current' model too. Granted it's usually an easy fix but there are users out there who never notice the 'quarter inch' crop between what was captured on the neg and what the ground glass showed.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...

from Bryan, via email:

Anyway, it seems to me that with the VC, the hassle of small experimental variations is large. It's hard to move, there are lots of things to move in sync, and so on. Also, the real cost (weight of film and holders, volume of said, time to process them) is large. I suppose for some the dollar cost matters.

With a digital camera, the shooting cost of some small experiment is much lower. It was very cheap when the cameras where new, it's nearly free now (bigger cards and long life batteries.)

However, the editing burden is much larger with digital because the volume of exposure, many of them very similar, is so much larger. So in some sense, digital moves some part of the "cost" from shooting/processing to editing.

If you had a digital camera that let you see as well as a good view camera, you would very likely make some intermediate number of exposures, more than with film, less than with the somewhat wild and wooly digicam.

Another attribute of this is emotional or artistic state. Your mindset or emotional-state may be very different between when you shoot and when you edit, and I imagine that changes the results of the film and digital workflows.

1:02 PM  

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