Here, I would like to go through the steps of preparing and then doing a Large Format shooting on location. A few smart considerations before actually hitting the road, make life outdoor much easier.
The use of a sturdy tripod is of utmost importance for the image quality. Just a small movement of the camera during the shooting will cause severe problems later during PostProduction as “jumps” within the image are very difficult to correct. The total weight of the camera can quickly exceed four to five kilograms – the little lightweight tripod can therefore stay at home.
Attaching the DSLR to the rear standard of the viewcamera is also highly recommended. It’s the only way to reduce the amount of dust inside the camera and on the sensor. Shooting at aperture values of up to f=64 makes even smallest amounts of dust a serious problem.
The lens is easily changed thanks to the Graflok-mechanism which makes it also feasible on location. According to my experience some prior planing of the shooting makes this operation rather infrequent.
The standard equipment comprises
- a sturdy tripod,
- a solid case for transportation and protection of the large format and DSLR camera,
- an external exposure meter, as I do not want to rely on reading the histogram alone
- a white balance card. The first image taken should be used to do a proper color calibration later in the lab,
- paper and pencil in order to make some notes. Something that makes it much easier to assign related captures. I usually take “black shots” – where I cover the lens with my hand e.g. – in order to mark the next series,
- a voice recorder can be a useful alternative,
- if applicable a laptop or at least some external storage device. A second set of batteries is also a must.,
- a water level (to be put into the flash hot-shoe, not only for panorama shots a very useful piece of equipment,
- a micro fiber cloth, a set of small screwdrivers and some sticky tape. A large format camera is rather mechanical than electronic,
- some means of transportation with wheels as the volume and weight of the total amount of gear makes carrying in a backpack a total “no go”.
A very important aspect is a certain amount of time and calmness during the shooting together with a permanent control of the single steps. Choosing a suitable location would be the first. As already mentioned, a stable position if the setup is crucial.
Just setting up everything and doing a few first test shots takes time, the “fire and forget” photographer might consider to be eternal. One classic mistake of a beginner would look like this: There’s still 10 to 15 minutes before sunset, a good location was not yet found, so one has to be quick. Here we go, let’s shoot.
For the more trained large format photographer all necessary steps like fine tuning of the focus together with immediate image control, the moving of the DSLR in horizontal and vertical orientation, are just fluent movements.
Everybody will develop his own rhythm or rather write down notes. Nothing is more annoying than figuring out only back home that one single frame is missing, making the whole shot unusable.
Personally, I like the slow and controlled way of working a lot. About Ansel Adams it’s said that he took only a small amount of plane film with him, spending many hours or even days out in the field and still coming back with only perfectly well exposed sheets of film. Bigger and bigger memory cards ensnare the “mass but no quality” style of shooting – something I do not want to subscribe to.