Reflections of a Large Format Photographer

For years I used a Toyo 4×5 View Camera, shooting 4×5 sheet film.  Up until 2007, I processed all my large format film, both color transparencies (chromes) and black and white negatives in my darkroom.  I used the Jobo rotary processor for film, and Cibachrome printing of my color images.  I printed all my own Gelatin Silver Prints. I operated a Community Darkroom in Durango, Colorado.  And taught darkroom and film skills at the Maine Media Workshops, at Bayonne High School in New Jersey, and private lessons in Durango.  I miss it.

Tonight is the opening reception for the Colorado Plateau: A Storied Landscape exhibition here in Durango.  As an invited artist, I was asked to show my Black and White imagery from the Four Corners.  I’m stoked to be showing right alongside Don Kirby, Bruce Hucko and Serena Supplee.  Years ago I attended and assisted a workshop, my first trip into Antelope Canyon, with Don Kirby, Bruce Barnbaum and Stu Levy.  These men are some of the biggest influences on my photography and choice to use large format, along with Ansel Adams and John Sexton.

Original 4x5 black and white negative, scanned and digitally printed. ©Kit Frost

Original 4×5 black and white negative, photographed with Toyo 45AII large format camera, scanned and digitally printed. I printed this image 24×32 and it’s amazingly sharp at that size.   Gotta love large format. ©Kit Frost

In order to complete all the work for the exhibition I reviewed years of my archive of negatives and chromes.  Choosing just 6-8 images proved challenging, yet, I found that the show was focused on the Colorado Plateau so some of my images spoke louder to me during the editing process.  Old school editing, lightbox, loupe and all.

Once I made some choices, I scanned the 4x5s at 2000dpi, planning to print to 16×20 and matte and frame to 20×24. And then the fun began.  I have digital dust on the sensor of my D300 and D5100 but nothing compares to the dust cleanup necessary with film.  My storage is a clean area, as dust free as possible. Once committed to the process of zooming in to each small square of the file in Photoshop CS4, I used the healing brush, one spot at a time.  Very Zen.  I gave myself the luxury of time, time to get the clean up completed.

Bears Ears, or Honey I'm Home!  Large format black and white negative, Toyo view 45AII, scanned and digitally printed.  ©Kit Frost

Bears Ears, or Honey I’m Home! Large format black and white negative, Toyo view 45AII, scanned and digitally printed. ©Kit Frost

As you can see, I love Southwest thunder clouds and cumulus clouds in general.  So a clean, spotless print, is important to me.  The prints were made on an Epson 7600, boy that printer is a workhorse, as I’ve had it running in my studio since 2003.  Amazing quality.  I used a combination of Lightroom and round tripped to Photoshop to use all the tools in my “toolbox”.  I enjoy the editing process, I enjoy the ease of  Lightroom to organize portfolios, to make choices as to how images look in combinations (I made a bunch of collections to view images as a group). I burned the midnight oil (but never judged prints under night lighting in the studio).

Passing Summer Thunderstorm, from Hunts Mesa, AZ.  Large Format Color Chrome, scanned RGB, converted in Photoshop. ©Kit Frost

Passing Summer Thunderstorm, from Hunts Mesa, AZ. Large Format Color Chrome, scanned RGB, converted in Photoshop. ©Kit Frost

Looking towards the Weminuche Wilderness, the Grenadier Range, part of the Colorado Plateau series.  Large format color chrome, scanned and printed digitally. ©Kit Frost

Looking towards the Weminuche Wilderness, the Grenadier Range, part of the Colorado Plateau series. Large format color chrome, scanned and printed digitally. ©Kit Frost

I plan to record video stories about each of the images hanging in the current exhibition.  I love story telling.  And preparing the work, editing, scanning, printing, matting and framing has inspired me to use my Toyo View Camera once again.  Interestingly enough, I’ve been shopping the Nikon D800 as an upgrade from my current gear.  I look forward to working those 36 megapixels into a series of 30×40 prints. But the view camera is calling my name.  I have plenty of Ilford and Fuji film, but as many of you know, the “in the field” workflow is so much different with DSLR compared to the view camera, that I’m spoiled by the speed and quick results of my Nikons.  Waiting for film to be processed by the lab could prove to be a real challenge for me.   So maybe it’s time for my next darkroom, eh?  More to follow.  Stay tuned.

Are you using a large format set up?  Have you retired your large format gear?

 

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