I am primarily a rangefinder photographer, of street scenes, people and other moments of opportunity. It has, however, been a long-standing ambition of mine to take up large format photography. I finally bit the bullet earlier this year, when a new, affordable 5×4 camera came onto the market. That camera is the lightweight Intrepid field camera. I now have the forthcoming 10×8 version on order too.
My experience of large format photography has not been all plain sailing, as I expected. There is a lot to learn, and the format is very demanding, both of the photographer’s time and wits. Many elements need to converge for a special frame to come together, and it sometimes feels like the moon needs to be in alignment too.
My relationship with the little wooden Intrepid took no time to develop. It is hard not to like this simple camera: the controls are minimal, it is light, folds up neatly (such that it can be carried in a backpack with ease), and it is robust and well made. Large format lenses are plentiful on the secondhand market, and of course one has a good choice of film stocks from Kodak’s richly coloured Ektar to my favourite black and white films, Ilford Delta 100 and HP5 plus.
It is hard to put into words exactly what it is about a well-exposed sheet of large format film that makes it so magical. I often find myself looking at a potential subject and wondering whether my an exposure on my full-frame mirrorless digital camera won’t do. I’m sure the difference is a product of a number of things: aspect ratio, depth of field, lens characteristics, the grain of the film, and so on. These things conspire, along with the need for timing and the photographer’s disciplined attention, and a magic takes place. For this instalment of 5 frames with … I offer some favourite exposures from my journey so far. I hope you enjoy them.
You can find more of my photography and writing at richardpickup.com
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