4×5 Film and Chasing Down the Alternative Processes

Thunder Bay Landscapes

I like to keep my head about me, but the internet moves in such wide circles that it is easy to miss the brilliant bits. One such brilliant bit is the short film about Ian Ruhter’s giant camera project, Silver & Light. I found the link via Zack Arias’ seminal photography blog [if you are not familiar with his efforts to constantly improve his work and the world around him, then check him out], and was blown away by Ruhter’s passion for the alchemy that is inherent in analogue alternative process photography. The idea that he would have the courage to walk away with his life savings to do work like this is awe-inspiring, and makes me wonder if we are about to hit a point where more and more citizens walk away from the system to do what they are passionate about. Has the system of workhardandyouwillberewardedwithabighousecarandpension not failed our generation entirely; do we not see the man behind the curtain who made illusionary magic for the Boomers? I look at my investments, my career and my supposed pension that may disappear, and wonder when will I be ready to walk from the system to pursue my dreams; when will I be ready for the road?

Thunder Bay Landscapes

Where does that leave me and my work as a photographer? Shooting with the Linhof Kardan Color 4×5 camera in Thunder Bay left me wanting to only photograph using film and large format cameras. Even at school today, students commented on how cool they thought the yearbook cover looked this year – the entire cover is my first 4×5 test shot of the school in black and white. However, the box of commercial products arrived today from Paderno, and I cannot even imagining attempting to do any of that work if I were relying on film. Maybe it comes down to purpose and understanding that digital is a miraculous workflow that guarantees delivery in a way that the alchemy of film could never do. If my purpose is to make money and deliver highly accurate images that show the best a product has to offer, then digital is undeniably the way forward. If I want to create vibrant art that stands out from every 5DmkIII owner shooting weddings and babies, then I need film to realize my vision and I hopefully will have the time in this life to explore film and the alternative processes to my heart’s contentment.

Both of the 4×5 film photographs in today’s blog are from the Thunder Bay Landscapes series that V. and I worked on. The first photograph used the maximum amount of shift and tilt that I could muster out of the 90mm Schneider Kreuznach lens, which is minimal. I have another untitled shot, but I find that what draws me to the view camera is the ability to alter perspectives to create a unique vision. Unlike the LensBaby Composer, which I also own, the shift allows for perspective alterations just not possible with tilt alone.

Butcher's Meat

Speaking of film…while completing this year’s tax returns I noticed that in 2011 I spent about $1000 on film and processing. Yep, a cool grand on Spain, Peru, Morocco, Chicago, and New York. Expensive, but worth every cent as I know that I would never ever have been able to capture my favourite photographs this year without either the Kodak Portra film or the Ilford Delta films I used. When I get ready to have my first exhibition, then I know that it will be my film photography that makes it to the walls and not the digital captures.

Beef Hamburgers

The food featured here was a best of times and worst of times scenario. I went to the butcher to pick up some nice, small cuts to ensure no waste, but sadly the beef sliders were over seasoned at the butcher which gave them an unpleasant taste. The beef tenderloin also went a little south the next day. If there is one thing that I hate, it is beef that tastes like dead cow. On the flip side the lamb loin chop was stunning and clean.


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