One Frame

Autumn Leaves, New York

A very familiar everyday view. Perhaps proof that you really shouldn't have to travel very far to find a photograph.

This picture, like all the others, is taken to practice the operation of the camera, to gain confidence with it. The camera has been designed to be intuitive to control, but that intuition needs to be honed through use.

Operating a large format camera from beneath the dark cloth is a skill that is learned- it didn't really hit home with me until I went out with a couple of friends, George and Martin, and it was enlightening to see their hands emerge from the cloth and tap all around the back and sides of the camera, without any real idea of what they should be looking for.

By that stage, I was a little bit practised with it, so it brought home to me how utterly alien it must seem to those seeing it for the first time, and being immediately thrust under the lid.

For those who find themselves with a new camera, some good advice would be to get to know it thoroughly, so that its operation becomes second nature. Since I'm a male, I have a natural aversion to instruction manuals, and they will be opened only as a last resort. The instruction manuals for my Nikons are the most pristine part of the whole system...

It is a testament to the elegance of the design of some cameras that an instruction manual may not even be necessary. Large format cameras are relatively simple machines, and they should be easy and quick to set up and use. The control handles should express the function, and with the camera set up, they should be comfortably located somewhere close to the ends of your arms. Of course, those really bad videos I posted here might be a help too...

So anyway, back to the picture. I hadn't used the camera vertically before this day, and I used the opportunity to push the camera as far as it could go, which was further than the lens could be pushed. Lessons were learned...

The lens was a Nikkor M 300, used with a lot of front rise, at f/45. It was a bright, but windy day, and I had to wait quite a while for a little lull. It's been cropped to a 1x2 format from a 7x17" original: a little off the bottom for the composition, and a bit more off the top, because it's way outside the image circle. Some of the image that remains on the top is outside the image circle too...

Front rise is limited to 60mm with the back in the vertical position, so I tilted the base of the camera 15ยบ on the levelling head to borrow a little more. Bellows vignetting became an issue- these are the second set of bellows I've used on this camera, I made the first set myself, and I had to conclude that they weren't the prettiest bellows ever. However,they did have some tabs sewn into them that allowed the front or back sections of the bellows to be pulled out of the light path, and attached to the camera, an addition I had not yet made to these new bellows.

The lifting lid can be removed and re-attached to hinge from the top to suit the vertical format, but I didn't do that for this picture, electing to suffer the marginal discomfort of having the lid to my side instead, because I was making other pictures too. If you were setting up for portraits, or mostly vertical pictures, setting the camera up properly would be the better option.

Lesson learned? Well, the main lesson is that I like the 300mm in the vertical panoramic format, but I'd like a 300mm with a 700mm image circle too...

Autumn Leaves 11x17 11x14 7x17 c1117 camera ulf