Saturday, November 5, 2011

High-Speed Shooting with 4x5 for First Friday in Valdosta

Shooting 4x5, you are normally restricted to a tripod and oftentimes long exposures. Not one to ever accept limitations, I decided a couple months ago that I wanted to try shooting 4x5 handheld. And not just handheld, but handheld at night. Most anyone would call that crazy, and rightfully so. With most large format lenses having maximum apertures of f/5.6 (or slower at f/9) exposures in dim environments with "fast" 400-speed film are nigh impossible, with shutter speeds in the range of 1-second range or longer.

But there are some little-known lenses capable of super-speed. The most famous one is the Kodak Aero-Ektar 7" f/2.5 lens. This lens was used by American planes to photograph bombing missions during World War II. This lens, coupled to a Speed Graphic for use with the focal-plane shutter was popularized by David Burnett and has been copied by various photographers. I was able to acquire an Aero-Ektar lens and a Speed Graphic and had a local machinist make a mounting ring for me. I was halfway to my dream...

Next was figuring out a film and development process. The fastest production 4x5 film is ISO 400, which in dim environments would require a 1/2 second exposure - still too long to handhold. I bought some Kodak Tri-X 320 film and after some experimenting am able to push the film to the insane speed of 3200 pretty easily and 5000 if the conditions are right. At this point I was able to shoot at 1/50 - slow but doable!

To give you an idea of the massive size of this rig, here is a picture of the Aero/Speed camera and my little Nikon SP. Quite a difference!

Today was First Friday in downtown Valdosta, so I shot a roll of Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600 on my Nikon SP and a few sheets of 4x5 with the Aero/Speed camera. The 3D quality of this lens and hyper-speed lens/film is unreal and like nothing else I've shot. Here are two images from this setup:

The subjects just pop out of the image due to the limited depth of field. For comparison, the equivalent DOF would only be attainable with a 35mm or full-frame digital camera with a non-existent 50mm f/0.7 lens (crazy cinema lenses for half-frame movie cameras don't count). The image quality is also unparalleled from the large sheet film. Of course, shooting sheet film can be very limiting due to time and cost.

Here are also a few of shots from the Nikon SP, with the 50mm f/1.4 lens or 28mm f/3.5:

No comments:

Post a Comment