Just thinking about portraits today.

I loved the process of shoot portraits on 4x5 inch sheet film. It always seemed so...serious.

We'd start out shooting black and white Polaroid to get the look and feel of the lighting locked down.

Then we'd move on to shooting a few color frames to see if the addition of color changed the graphic design of the shots.

Once the subject and I were happy with the final color Polaroid I would grab a stack of film holders and we'd get down to business.

After the last frame was shot I always felt sad. I never wanted to stop taking photographs.

I found these images in a box with hundreds and hundreds of other Polaroid test shots.

It made me stop and re-think my current practice wherein I get everything set up and then we spend some time shooting and chimping until I get everything zero'd in and then I start to shoot in earnest. I think I'm not spending enough time up front to get everything right before I start. I'm depending to much on the digital ease with which iterative corrections can be made as we go.

Next time I shoot I'll test more at the start and then shoot fewer frames during the shoot. But with more concentration.

These were done with one of my old Linhof TechniKarden cameras and the 250mm Zeiss f5.6 lens that I loved. It's amazing what one finds upon opening mysterious little boxes.

Speaking of larger formats you might want to watch the interview with the CEO of Phase One that Michael Reichmann just posted over at www.luminous-landscape.com.  It's pretty interesting:


Anonymous said...

Avedon said that when using his 8x10 for portraits (he went from a Rollei to 8x10) that he felt the big camera gave the process a sense to seriousness to his subjects. He wanted them to know that what he was doing was "important".

I don't know that the Avedon -> subject mindset is the best for all portrait work, but I guess it was for his..


Joel Wolford said...

These are all nice, Kirk, but the top-right hits all the sweet spots for me. Lighting is great, the expression and the eyes.....maybe I can't explain it in words exactly, but it speaks to me.


Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks. I agree. And that was the nice thing about the first part of a large format shoot. You'd play around with different poses while you fine tuned so when you were ready to use film you had an idea of where you wanted to go.

Anonymous said...

It would make me crazy when editing a shoot and the best shot of the day was a Polaroid.. 55pn I would hope.


Neal said...

I just ordered some Fuji FP100c for use in my Mamiya RB67 ProSD. I've never shot it before but I'm really looking forward to it for use as testing portraits before the Kodak Portra goes in.

It's a fantastic process to work slowly this way.. I haven't yet done many portraits on Large format, (I shoot mostly landscape for sheet film) But a convertible Schneider Symmar wouldn't go astray.

Oh course all that is the easy part..

Marita Bliss said...

Love the top right one too. And the light is perfect.

I have a Polaroid camera, but no film for it. I've shot a few rolls on my Chinon but that was years ago.
Digital is just so much more convenient!
And cheaper, hehe.

Dave said...

Linhof... isn't that a number on Dancing with the Stars? :) I never did a head/shoulder portrait with my old Wista 4x5 now you're making me wish I had. I used to carry that big brick out into the woods but never sat someone down with it inside! I love how excited people get about tilt lenses on DSLR's when I think about the mind boggling process of adjusting not only the tilt/swing but also the film plane with large format.

John Krumm said...

That LL interview is interesting. Makes sense that while more independent pros just can't justify the cost of digital MF, they are making it up with sales to rich advanced amateurs.