Press Photographer and Photojournalist

Posts tagged “4×5

Sinar F2 Portraits: Tribute to Yousuf Karsh

Well not quite a tribute but a first attempt to emulate his style! Shot again using sheets of Ilford HP5 film, and for all but two of these portraits, using a 300W fake Kino Flo from Amazon (Limo Studio) continuous fluorescent light source, a reflector, and some black and white filters. Having just recently worked on a film set producing some film stills and witnessing how film makers use continuous lights, my next plan is to add a second light using a 300 or 600W Arri tungsten light. There seems to be no end in sight for accumulating photography equipment!

Frankie Curac1

Frankie: Sax sensei.

Frankie Curac2 Frankie Curac3 Alice Maguire1

Alice. Seeing the complete image on the ground glass of the Sinar can be challenging as in this shot where you can see the fluorescent light creeping into the top left-hand corner of the frame.

Alice. Seeing the complete image on the ground glass of the Sinar can be challenging as in this shot, where you can see the fluorescent light creeping into the top left-hand corner of the frame.

Sinar F2: Portraits

I’ve gradually been experimenting further with portraiture using a Sinar F2 large format camera. This is a very slow form of photography and can take an hour or more to make two images (well until I’m more confident using the camera). The speed of using large format is part of the appeal! There’s a lot to think about and a lot that can go wrong. But when it goes right, it looks really good.

I had the help of my test subjects Simin (in the throes of PhD madness), Tim (a colleague from work), and Simon and Cilla (my landlord and his partner).

The Good


Simin in the throes of a manic PhD episode……..



Tim: a fastidious collector of books and vinyl.   Tim_Jenkins1_small

The Bad and the Ugly

I usually aim to take two portraits of each person using a single film holder (to make the film go further in terms of the variety of images I can create with one box of film). One of the steps when using large format is to prime the mechanical shutter on the lens before taking the shot. I was distracted chatting with Simon and Cilla and could not remember if I’d primed the shutter at the time of making their portrait. It turned out I had……and I therefore did this step twice, creating a double exposure………

Simon and Cilla

Simon and Cilla

For the second shot, I had problems with the darkslide sticking after making the exposure and it could not be closed fully. Two weeks later I discovered that the sheet of film and fallen inside the camera! I learned the hard way that the darkslide has to be removed from the film holder in a slow and steady manner otherwise the darkslide can pull the film out of the rails which keep it in place inside the film holder.

More Sinar F2 Test Shots

Here are some more test shots from the Sinar F2 large-format camera which I shot and developed a couple of months ago. It’s an interesting learning curve using a large format camera. There are a great number of steps involved to obtain a useable image when using large format, and mistakes can occur at any step along the way. The website Large Format Photography, has a long list of all of these potential errors here:

The image of Mount Kaukau below is one example. This image turned out OK considering that I had to expose the same piece of film twice, and removed and re-loaded the film holder into the camera between my two exposure attempts. It was my first attempt at using bulb exposure with a large format (or generally any old mechanical) camera. The cable release (it’s an actual physical cable that mechanically activates the lens shutter) I depressed with my thumb, let go, counted the exposure time down, then pressed it again. Only after removing the film holder from the back of the camera did it occur to me that I actually need to physically hold the shutter open with the cable release for the period of exposure! I manged to get it right on the second attempt.

The other problem that can occur, and that I’ve now experienced, is that the camera rear standard can be moved or knocked when loading the film holder into the rear standard. If the camera’s movements are not locked sufficiently, it can result in the subject being out of focus.

The Cake Tin

The Cake Tin


Tarakena Bay

Tarakena Bay

Mount Kaukau

Mount Kaukau

Holcim Cement

Holcim Cement

Evans Bay Boat Sheds

Evans Bay Boat Sheds

Sinar F2

G’day folks. It’s been a heck of a long time since I last posted on this blog. A desperate PhD student appropriated my computer over the past couple of months, but now that painful exercise is (practically) over, I have my computer back. First post of the New Year – perfect timing!

Several months ago I bought a portrait book by Gregory Heisler called 50 Portraits. I was immediately struck by the immense detail and amazing selective focus of his portraits, created (mostly) by using large format cameras.  I’ve always wanted to test drive a large format camera.

Recently, I’ve begun to notice that the inverse square law appears to apply to more than just light: I find that where I have half as much time to concentrate on photography, I’m four times more likely to buy more camera gear! Perhaps it’s a convincing way to keep that photography dream alive and burning brightly when time is a scarce resource!

Anyway, long story short, I bought one of these babies (well, I collected the parts over several months): A Sinar F2 4×5 View camera.

The Sinar F2 4x5 View Camera

The Sinar F2 4×5 View Camera

Now, you’ll have to ignore the camera-shake riddled picture. It turns out iPhones are only good when used outdoors! Who would have thought.

View cameras are unique in that the lens plane and film plane can be moved independently of each other. These movements are useful of course in architectural photography for correcting perspective where you have converging horizontal or vertical lines of buildings. However the movements can also be used creatively for selective focus by manipulating the way the plane of focus intersects with the subject plane. Playing with selective focus for portraiture is my main interest in using this camera.

I’ve been testing the camera using Ilford Delta 100 4×5 sheet film which I develop myself using a MOD54 sheet film holder and a 3 reel Patterson developing tank:

Mod54 and 3-reel Patterson developing tank.

Mod54 and 3-reel Patterson developing tank.

The Mod54 is quite an ingenious design for developing 4×5 sheet film at home. It takes a little bit of practice learning how to fit the film into the device in darkness but it’s pretty simple after several practices, once you get a feel for it!

When using the view camera, you first focus the camera onto the subject using the ground glass and a focusing loupe. Ignoring the use of movements for the moment, you then stop the lens down to a suitable working aperture for the required exposure and depth of field, and remembering to close the lens preview lever, you slide the sheet film holder behind the ground glass.

It was at this point when taking my first test shot that I made a rookie mistake. The ground glass on the back of the camera can be rotated to shoot both portrait and landscape formats without having to move the position of the camera. I had only practiced loading the film holder into the camera once or twice and it seemed fairly straight forward. However I had overlooked the fact that unless the cameras movements are locked, it’s very easy to knock the camera’s position while trying to insert the film holder. It’s easier to load the holder into the camera while the ground glass is rotated in the portrait orientation rather than landscape. However I forgot to rotate it back again before taking the picture. Along with a substantial light leak, this was the result of my first shot using the view camera:

Island Bay, Wellington

Island Bay, Wellington

My next test shot of Lyall Bay was much better:

Lyall Bay, Wellington

Lyall Bay, Wellington. It’s no Ansel Adams but it’s not bad.

As I am interested in using the view camera primarily for portraits (plus maybe experimenting with landscapes) I did a test shot on the desperate PhD student mentioned above:



The above selective focus was achieved by employing the Scheimpflug principle, to orientate the plane of focus so that it is no longer parallel to the lens and film planes. This allows the use of larger apertures while keeping the main points of interest in focus. To achieve this effect, I employed  swing movements to rotate the lens standard (the part of the camera the lens is mounted to) to the right, and the rear standard to rotate the film plane to the left.

To complete the ‘vintage’ look, I developed the film in my bathroom. Throw in some dust and a couple of cats, and bingo, we have an old-looking photo. The borders were created by using a cardboard negative holder to digitise the negatives using the ‘Macro(lens) Method’  as I do not (as yet) own a scanner. No photoshop required!