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Notes on equipment
I have been using large, bellows cameras more or less continuously since 2005. For my pictures of landscapes and architecture, it is the go-to camera thanks to the fantastic subtlety of expression it offers. For events photography, a high-spec digital SLR is my favoured tool. The latter are well known, so I thought I should write a bit about the other kit.
Bellows cameras use large sheets of film which mean, I can really extract the detail of my subject. The design of the camera where, unlike a pocket camera or SLR, the front and back move relative to each other, is another fantastic tool, because I can control the sharpness of my main subject relative to its context. I can build a story within each frame for an in-depth representation which rewards continued study. The quality of the print matches the composition to create a picture of which you won't tire.
My camera is a modern and more refined version of the wooden cameras of yore. It works on the same principles, but is just simpler to use in the same way that synchro-mesh is simpler than double clutching. For all my colour work, I use modern lenses which have outstanding optical properties and give sharp prints from corner to corner, with no distortion worth speaking of.
In the last two years, however, I have invested in a set of vintage lenses dating from between 1860 and 1960. They give the resulting prints a very distinct character. In the plane of focus, in the centre of the picture, they are almost as sharp as modern lenses. Moving towards the edge of the frame or away from the point of focus leads to a marked loss of resolution: lower contrast, darker tones, optical distortion. These are actually a valuable aid in creating a picture, by driving the attention towards the central subject.
I have used these older lenses to take pictures of architecture and cities, particularly elements of our heritage. I like the disjoin between the old feel of the picture and to the viewer in the know the fact that the subject is evidently shot in recent years. To me, this matters more than the engendered nostalgia, the warm glow of reminiscence. These lenses are also particularly good for portraiture. Skin tones have smooth, flattering transitions while the background has a softness which offsets nicely the sitter. Conversely, modern lenses create a more distracting background, which is why so many photographers today like to shoot against a plain backdrop. This is especially true of the modern, zoom lenses on SLR's which try very hard to make a good impression, but in the end try too hard.
I have a set of modern lenses from fish-eye to wide angle to moderately long in full-frame SLR terms, 8mm, 17-30mm for the wide angles to 115mm at the longer end. They are nicely corrected to create a transparent medium and are direct descendents of lenses designed some 100 years ago. The first photography lenses in the 1840's were derived from astronomical viewing glasses telescopes and developed slowly from there as our understanding of optics grew and as new glass materials were invented. The large lens in the picture above is my oldest and is of a Petzval design, which first appeared in the 1840's. In the 1870's, the rapid rectilinear design was launched independently in Britain and in Germany. Then in the 1890's, there was a sudden spurt of creativity with two lens types, the double-anastigmat by Goerz and the triplet by Cooke. This was rapidly followed in the 1900's by the Tessar and Heliar designs. These last four designs are the bedrock of modern photography with most lenses of the twentieth century deriving from them in some way or another. Indeed, until the 1960's and the popularisation of colour film, many designs changed very little.
I have examples of all the above designs, which I am more than happy to demonstrate at one of your events, where I can also shoot and process film to show the method.
Naturally, I am also more than happy to take pictures for you, either portraits of your family or photographs of your premises or local village. There is nothing quite like a traditional photograph!