Large Format Shoot: Outdoors


Introduction to Large Format Photography


Lesson Info

Large Format Shoot: Outdoors

So we're out in here in the field. We've got a great location, and I have found some really kind of beautiful blue hydrangeas, and there's some nice hydrangeas that have died behind them, a nice little decay element in nature. So I've gone ahead and set up the tripod. So this is the location I think I want to start my shoot from. So the next thing I've got to do is I've got to dig that camera out of the bag. So, Gina, why don't you go ahead and hand me the camera. We're gonna be shooting the four by five camera, so I'm gonna go ahead and get that mounted up here, get that on the tripod. Then I'm gonna go ahead and get that opened up. Get that set up. So now the camera's just kind of getting set up for its positioning. Things are just kind of set up just at a nice, general, neutral spot. This is a glass protector, ground glass protector for a camera, so I'm just gonna take that off, and that's just a great little piece of metal. You can use it like a flare, lens flare, something like th...

at. And I'm gonna shoot a, I think I'm gonna shoot a 120 lens. I was debating between a 120 and a 180. 180s gonna give me a little, or 120s gonna give me a little bit wider view. And what I'm gonna try to play with a little bit is this tree and that flower. So we're gonna see how much of an angle of a view this gives me. So we're gonna go ahead and mount this up, put this on the camera. Make sure we actually get it in the camera so the lens doesn't fall off, get that cover off, and now we're kinda set up at 120. We're gonna rack that back just a smidge to about where I think it needs to be, zero out the camera, and then, Gina, can you grab me a dark cloth? Yeah, great. So this is gonna quickly tell me whether or not my angle of view is gonna be okay and whether or not I need to switch to that 180. So I'm under here now and basically what I'm gonna do is kinda get the camera in the position that I want where I can kinda see everything and how much I can get into the view and out of the view, can I get those hydrangeas I want. So in this case, actually I can't get the tree over here, but I actually do kinda like what I'm seeing with that front hydrangea flower and that tree in the back. It plays a nice kinda little plane and I pick up a little bit of the edges on the outside there so I think I'm gonna go ahead and stick with the 120. It's not quite as wide as I wanted, but I didn't bring my wide, I didn't bring a 65. Camera gear is heavy, so when I packed it, I made a decision. I was gonna do a 180 or a 120. I've got a 65 and a but I didn't pack those, 'cause I'm saving weight. I don't wanna have that extra weight in the bag. So I'm gonna have to go with what I brought. So at this point now, I've kinda roughed in my focus, I've got everything set up, so now I'm gonna go in and get my movements done and get all the things done that I need to have set up so that I can get that shot. So we're gonna go back under the dark cloth and the other thing I'm fighting out here is there's a little bit of wind. So when I'm doing it with the dark cloth at this point, it might start flapping around, so I'm gonna just kinda try to cinch it underneath me so I don't have light come up from underneath. It's gonna make it a little bit easier to start that focusing process. So I go back under that dark cloth. At this point, what I'm really looking for is how much can I make the foreground elements of those hydrangeas be the dominant part of the frame, and then how does that taper off to the background? So in this case, I can't see the full hydrangea, so I'm gonna go ahead and, I've lowered the lens in the front as far as I can. So I'm gonna raise the back and that's gonna go ahead and let me see those hydrangeas in the foreground and that nice blue one, this really nice blue set right here is a really nice chunk of the frame, it's got a really big element that's coming into it. Because of that distortion of that wider angle lens, I'm getting something really nice there. So I'm gonna go on ahead and play with that spot there now. I gotta get on my tippy toes so I can see the whole kinda frame, and I've got that front hydrangea basically in focus. What I wanna do is kinda, I wanna elongate it a little bit, I wanna give it a little bit of definition so I can try to make it run the distance back in the frame. So I'm gonna do a little bit of a back swing and see if I can elongate that and just help your eye walk its way back into the frame and then when I lock the focus, we're gonna do a little of that shine-through principle we talked about, and I'm gonna try to bring that back tree into focus. We're gonna bring that back tree in, have that front foreground, and that enlongation's gonna make for, I think, a really nice weighted element within the frame. So we're gonna go back under here. We get back under the dark cloth and... I've got the elongation about where I want. I'm not pointed up so I don't really have to worry about any major distortion and now I'm gonna go ahead and do that front tilt. And now basically how this process works when you're doing that front tilt to figure out how much to use, I'm gonna roll through my focus. So I'm gonna roll over the backs in focus, then I'm gonna roll over the fronts in focus, and I'm gonna slowly tilt until I can get the smallest amount of roll that happens on the camera here. So as this rolls back and forth, that initial roll is gonna be really far. So as I start that tilt, I'm gonna try to tilt and roll, so that's the smartest part, and then the depth of field when I change off the f and move up to where I'm gonna end up, will actually pick up the rest. So it's just a little bit of back and forth. There's no hard and fast rule like tilt it three degrees and everything's fine. It's a, you gotta kinda look at it. So as I get back under here, if I roll forward, roll back here, now the back tree's in focus, and I've lost some of that foreground, so I bring that forward a little bit, a little bit more tilt there. And now I'm getting pretty close to what I want. I've got some of the nice little leaves of the green here, so I'm gonna get some separation in the foreground, so I don't, the foreground, then I'm gonna hit the subject, and I can roll into the back, and I can kinda see my tree. Now, when I look down here, I can see a tiny bit of the tree. And remember, because I'm upside down, the top of that tree is what I'm seeing here. These guys are actually up here. So that's my inverse relationship. I'm gonna take a focusing loop this time. It's a little bit humid out here today and it's a little bit warm and so the glasses are great but they steam up really fast, and then I can't figure out if it's out of focus, or the glasses are out of focus, or I'm out of focus. So I'm gonna use my loop this time. If you get a loop, one with a lanyard is a really nice option because it can just hang around your neck and then you can pick it up and drop it and you're not consistently having to remember where you put it. So that's just a nice little kinda sidekick piece to have. So I'm gonna go ahead and get back under here and I'm gonna check my focus now. The focus looks really nice on the hydrangeas. And then I'm a little soft back on the tree back there. So right about there, I'm in focus on the tree, so... My hydrangeas are looking okay. My leaves in the front are a little soft but they're pretty okay. I'm gonna do a little more of a tilt here, change that tilt a little bit, try to bring that into sharp focus. That's actually starting to look pretty good. The hydrangea's starting to look pretty good. Front elements starting to look pretty good, my corners all look okay. Now I'm gonna take a step back and kinda check my overall composition. That's starting to look okay. I'm kinda weighted a little to the right, so in this case I'm gonna make a small little shift of the camera, just gonna kinda shift my flower a little bit more towards the middle. So now I'm kind of on that third mark, so it's a nice spot. Now when I look back now through the camera, I can see, off in the distance, there's some white cars, and they're on that back edge. They're gonna cause a problem. They're gonna be a little bit of a distraction. So I'm gonna see if I can minimize those in the composition. The more work I do here, the less issue it's gonna be in printing in the dark room, if I'm scanning, I don't have to clone things out. So I'm just gonna see, can I do a movement here that'll help minimize that effect. So one of the things I could do is I could change my, a little bit of a shift might get rid of them so if I do a shift, I can kinda pull that out. And then what's interesting there is my composition's changed a little bit and now I'm picking up that hydrangea that's back there. So I picked up this one originally and I cut right about here. The shift to get rid of the cars has now brought me over here, which has actually made a nice balance. So something I hadn't seen before in the composition, I'm seeing by moving the camera, which is kind of a nice element when you're out here working behind the field 'cause sometimes we get myopic and we think this is the shot, but dealing with the things we see in the ground glass is great. The other piece is, I can tell you 100% fact I would not have seen those cars through my 35 mm camera. They would have been so small in the frame, I wouldn't have seen the distraction. Now, there are photographers who are great about that and they see that, and that's wonderful, but I wouldn't have seen that. So now that I've got my new composition set up, I'll double-check my focus, make sure everything looks okay. Gonna go ahead and open up my f-stop here a little bit, double check my sharp focus on that hydrangea. And that's looking pretty good. Okay, the background's got a pretty nice softness to it now. And somewhere right around there I've got pretty good front to back. I'm a little soft in the front, and a little soft in the back right now, and I'm okay with that. I'm at f8, I'm gonna go ahead and stop down now, see if I can bring those closer into focus. Now, I don't want the background completely sharp, and I don't want these front edges completely sharp 'cause I want your eye to come into those hydrangeas from a sharpness standpoint. So I'm gonna leave a little bit of softness there, but I think we'll be good on the movement here, and then I'm gonna go ahead and fix out a little bit of that elongation, and then I think we'll be ready to actually make a decision about exposure. Okay, we're gonna stop down. Right there. Okay, we stopped down to right about there. So right about there, I think I'm pretty good for my focus, so I'm gonna go ahead and make my lock down of all my positions, so that way my camera's not gonna move on me. It just moved on me 'cause I was crazy. Go back in and double check that focus. Okay. Lock that down. What's causing that shift is this is a wooden camera, and one of the advantages of a metal camera is metal doesn't expand. But wood will sometimes expand. And so, as the humidity has set in, the wood's expanded a little bit, and so I hadn't loosened the one side enough, so when I went to roll the focus to tighten it, it actually had grabbed the wood. So it's just one of the things that can happen sometimes when you're dealing with a wood camera is that wood expansion. Camera's all locked down. Now, I'm gonna hand that back to Gina, I'm gonna grab my meter, and I've gotta make a decision now, but my focus dictates my f-stop. Because I'm concerned about depth of field, when I dialed that in, I ended up at f32. so I'm at f32 is my f-stop. that's what I wanna be shooting at. So now what I'm trying to figure out is the shutter speed. So I'm gonna get my base exposure set first. So in this case, I'm shooting black and white film. So in this case, I've gotta decide what my significant shadow is. That's gonna be my zone three placement, and then I'm gonna have a highlight. I've got a black and white film class where we talk about that more in depth so you can check that out, but what I basically have to do here is meter my scene and decide kinda what is the range of light in the scene and what is my shadow. So my shadows look like they're about an EV of eight, EV of seven and a third, two thirds. So somewhere around an EV of eight. My highlight, which is gonna be the brightest part I'm gonna hit, is kinda the top of this flower there, is hitting in at about an EV of 10 and 1/3, so basically I have an EV of seven and two thirds, so seven and half, eight and a half, nine and a half, 10. So I'm about four zones. So for black and white film, I'm gonna have to expand this. I'm gonna give this a plus development and I'm gonna help extend the tones with that. Now that I know kind of what my EV placement is, I take a look at my meter. I'm gonna be shooting this at, 160 is gonna be my ISO because I'm gonna be doing a little bit of the plus work on that, and then I'm gonna set my EV of eight, seven and two thirds, into zone three. With that in zone three, at f32, my exposure right now is a half a second. Now, I'm fighting the wind. So if I look out here, the wind is moving every one of these. So I'm gonna sit here for a second and figure out is a half a second gonna be enough to stop the exposure so I don't have a lot of movement? If I'm shooting something macro and close up, if I was shooting something on the ground or something like that, I might be able to get my dark cloth, I could shade the wind. If I have a reflector I've brought out to balance the light I could actually deal with that, but in this case I'm really just kinda fighting a little bit of that wind, but as I'm watching, there is a point of kinda rest. If you think about how a basketball moves, basketball hits the ground, it stops for a second, it comes back up, stops for a second, and goes back down. At that moment of rest, as the energy's changing, I can see that in the flowers. That's one of the things I'm looking for in the composition. So, half a second? May be able to pull it off. But I want to put a filter on this here because these blue flowers are great, and the greens there, but those are gonna collapse into basically the same tone when I'm thinking about black and white photography, so I wanna separate those a little bit. So I've gotta put a filter on the camera. So... Gina, can you hand me my actual filter piece? So one of the things I have is this is a, what's called a LEE filter kit and basically it allows me to use multiple filters and stack them on here, and then I have interchangeable rings that I can screw on to the front. So I have one filter system that works for all my camera lenses. So... I screw that onto the front, this thing gets attached to that. Now, this is gonna give me my filter. If I can get that on there, you can do it, no pressure. Okay, so that gets put on there. So a filter, it lightens its own color and it darkens the opposite color. So in this case, a yellow filter is gonna lighten green a little bit, darken blue a little bit, so I think I'm gonna take a green filter and I'm gonna use what they call a Yellow-Green number 11. The Yellow-Green number is a filter, it kinda looks like that. So to us, it would make the whole world green, but in this case what it's gonna do is lighten those greens, darken those blues a little bit. I'm gonna put that on front of the lens, get that centered up, and now I'm basically gonna need to add another stop, stop and a half. So I've got two seconds, I've now gone to about a second, and maybe a second and a half. So I'll go ahead and just, we'll say we're at a second and a half. Reciprocity starts in at about two seconds, so I'm gonna add another second for the reciprocity failure. No ballast extension, 'cause I haven't extended out for any macro work. So I'm now at about a three second exposure. So that's gonna be my total exposure. That's a lot of time. So if I really wanted this shot and I really wanted it to be sharp in focus, I would actually probably shoot it about five or six times in hopes of actually getting it sharp and in focus. We're gonna shoot it two times, maybe three times, and see if we can nail it with that. So it just takes a little bit of patience. So I've got my film holders loaded up into here. I have this little kit thing that I can clip on and hang. Adds a little weight to the tripod to help it keep stable. Because I'm in the field, my film holders are in plastic bags. Put that in my pocket. I'm gonna go ahead, tap the film, put that in here. Okay, now I gotta close the shutter. I'm gonna cock and test fire the shutter. Okay, and we've got a cable release that's a little grouchy that won't release, so we'll go on ahead and hit that. So that released, test that again. Okay, I can get that to release now. These cable releases have a little locking mechanism and sometimes it'll get stuck. And so you just kinda have to tighten this screw down. There's a little screw and sometimes getting that tightened down prevents it from having its problem. But before I actually make my real shot, I wanna make sure that it works. Now, because I'm at three seconds, I'm gonna set my timer, my shutter, to time, for T. So that's gonna allow me to basically do this. The shutter's gonna cock, I can fire the shutter, and then when I push that, the shutter goes, and it's finished. So, lens is closed. I'm at f32, shutter's cocked. I'm gonna double check my meter reading here just 'cause one last second, I'm just gonna make sure that I don't inadvertently have a sudden change in the quality of light. Okay, that's actually okay. I've actually picked up a little light. So I'm okay there. So but, I'm still at basically the same exposure, so I'm not gonna worry about that. So, I'm gonna go on ahead make sure that my shutter's closed, shutter's cocked, pull the dark slide, and then I use my favorite black and white tool. I call it the head metronome. As long as nobody's out there to bug you and the exposure's not so long, you do this. One, two, three. So it's about a second for the metronome. So we do, one. Two. Three. And that's our exposure. Now, a more scientific and accurate way is, on your phone, you're gonna have an app for your phone that will actually have time on it. So you could come out here, grab your stop watch. So I've got a stop watch now, I can start, and when it hits three seconds. You do not wanna worry about hitting the stop on your phone. You wanna worry about hitting the stop on your shutter. So I'm gonna go ahead and cock the shutter. That pulls out. Shutter's cocked. Okay, so the other trick I have, if you're gonna use your phone, is to click start, and then when it hits like one or two seconds, then hit your plunger, 'cause you hit 'em at the same time, you're gonna get futzed up. At small intervals like this, a half a second makes a huge difference in exposure. If you're doing a longer exposure, it's not as critical. So I like to click that up, and I just hit a second, and then there's my exposure for that. Now, let's say like I wanted a little more exposure, like I was like, oh my gosh, that should've been a tiny bit more exposure, because everything's moving here, if I fire the shutter now, nothing's gonna be clear, but if I'm working in the studio and I'm under still lights or hot lights, I can shoot multiple times and actually build up the exposure. But in the field where things are moving, you can't take a double exposure and hope that everything stays in focus. Okay, so I've shot those two. I've got the black side facing out on the camera. So those pieces are all taken care of. Gina, why don't you give me one more, I'm gonna hand you that, so we don't lose that. And then I'm gonna have you just, we're doing a plus one development on those. Plastic bag, and here's a plastic bag you can put it in. Okay for this one, I'm gonna go on ahead, and normally I would, if I was gonna be doing this, I would be potentially changing the composition a slight bit but what I'm fighting here is can I get something still. So I'm gonna cock the shutter, I'm gonna pull the dark slide, and now... If I was actually doing this and not trying to do the class, I'm literally gonna sit here like this, 'cause now these things are moving all over the place, and if the back moves a little bit, I could probably deal with that compositionally, but this I've gotta make sure holds nice and steady. So I'm basically gonna watch until that stops moving. When that looks like it's stopped moving, that's when I'm gonna make the exposure. So, fighting the wind in a multi-second exposure is really, really hard. I could pull the slide. One of the other things I could do is I could drop to f16. So that's gonna distance my depth of field, but I'm gonna pick up two stops, so now I'm gonna be at a half a second exposure. So that's another option. I'm gonna give up that depth of field. Now, I had focused with this being the critical piece in focus. So what I'm gonna give up is a little foreground and a little background, but that's another choice I could make that I would have to make the decision, because when you're using something like this and you're fighting the elements with these long shutter speeds, it's about the trade off of what you can and can't do. So at a half a second, I can stand here, we can all hold our breath, and if we don't breathe, maybe it'll stop moving. Good job. It actually moved a little bit. So I'm gonna go on ahead and make one more and then I'll process all four and we'll hopefully have one that's got some nice sharp clarity, focus to it, or that the movement in it makes enough understanding of the photograph that it actually draws some interest. So there could be a little interest in the photograph from the way things move. So the beauty of film, is you don't know until you get it developed. So when you get back, you may end up with a really nice happy accident. So we would go on ahead here and we'd wait for the image to fire, and hopefully get that exposure half a second, and somewhere right around there, we're almost there, that was pretty close. So it'll be a little bit of movement in that one but probably not so much we can't deal with it. So we get that piece done, hand that back to Gina. At this point now, we finished with the actual shoot, so I've gotta break down the camera. So basically I'm just gonna reverse the order of everything I've done. I'm gonna pull the filter off and the filter components and I'll hand those back and Gina will get those taken care of. I can pull the lens off at any point, so I'm gonna pull the lens off. The lens caps go back on this 'cause we wanna make sure we don't get dust or things on the lens cap. So we'll hand that back. And normally you're doing this yourself and you're not in any hurry, so you can just take care of those one at a time. The camera, you're gonna loosen all the elements, and you're gonna zero the camera back to its neutral setting, and basically everything is gonna get lined up nice and square. And then the camera will get folded back up. You wanna make sure everything gets squared up 'cause that's how the camera's gonna actually be able to fold itself up. So these field cameras, in order for them to compress, and get flat, they all need to fold up. So if you don't get everything taken down, the camera won't fold, and if that happens, you just kinda take a deep breath, get everything moved into the right position and it'll fold. This one, in this case, I just need to loosen that up so it'll come down. Oh. Shift in the front. I forgot I made that front shift. Zero out the shift, and then it'll close, and latch, so we'll get that closed and latched. Pull it off the tripod. I'll put that ground glass protect back on. If you don't have a ground glass protect, it's not a big deal. You can order 'em, they clip on or something like that. But it's just in case you drop something. So, nice little piece for that. That piece is done. That comes off, I break down the tripod. Everything goes back in the bag. We do the inventory to make sure we haven't dropped a cable release, we haven't forgotten a loop, we haven't forgotten any of the film. I'm then gonna write down all my shooting notes. So, I made some decisions here about three seconds, half second, what the exposure was, and that the development was gonna be a plus one development. So knowing that, I can head back into the dark room, and do my processing for that. So with that, we end up with a completed shoot out in the field. Key things to remember. You gotta be patient out here. You're not in control of the environment and you're dealing with slow shutter speeds by the time you add in a lot of those elements. So you've just gotta be patient and also kinda realize that you can photograph something different. So if you come out and the wind is blowing like crazy, maybe that's a chance to find something in shadow-protected area, or wind-protected areas, or something like the bark of a tree that's not gonna move. There's always something out here to photograph, no matter what kind of camera you got. Okay, so we got everything packed up. We have got everything ready to go. I'm gonna head back into the dark room. I wanna develop that film, we're gonna do a plus development. All those decisions we made about exposure over here get put onto the film. So I'm gonna go back and develop that. And now, after the development, we've gone on ahead and made a print and now you can kinda see the end results of what we got here, or what was the best and most in focus of the images that we were dealing out here with the wind.

Class Description

Explore a new (or rather historic) way of approaching your photography. When you learn to utilize a large format camera like a 4 x 5 you’re forced to slow down, observe and shoot sparingly. Artist and educator Daniel Gregory, will start with the basics like what exactly is a large format camera and why you should use one. He’ll demonstrate the art of using this workflow and give a guide that sets up up for success in the field.

You’ll learn:

  • How to setup and care for the camera
  • Camera movements
  • Metering and exposure techniques
  • How to pick the best shot when in the field
  • How to add studio light to a portrait
  • Color correction techniques using film and gels

Some of the most legendary photographs were shot using large format cameras. In this course, you’ll learn the art and technique that went into capturing those memorable photos so you can start to craft and create imagery on your own.



Daniel is an excellent teacher. His approach of teaching common mistakes and then explaining the proper way to do something is very helpful. The entire film series is excellent. I can't say I have a favorite over any of the others classes in the series. Each class covers great information. I learned photography back when digital didn't exist. Even after shooting film for so many years, I still learned some great tidbits from these classes. I highly recommend this series for anyone considering learning film or getting back into film.