Mark Lucock 

Fine Art Nature & Landscape Photography


 

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Tutorial                                                                                                                                   

The anatomy of a picture:

Learn how this image was rendered?

Equipment:

 - 5x4 inch view camera suited to extreme wide-angle perspective with front tilt

 - Fuji QuickLoadTM film holder loaded with ISO 50 Velvia film

 - Sekonic spot lightmeter

 - Small 18% grey card

 - Schneider wide-angle lens

 - Hard ND graduated filter

 - Marginal warm up filter

 - Heavy duty Benbo tripod

 - Cable release

 - Stop watch

 - Horseman 8x loupe

 - Ground glass/ fresnel focusing screen  

 - Focusing bellows/dark cloth

 

Image attributes:

- Colour and good composition, particularly balance

- Foreground interest anchors scene

- High resolution file from huge transparency

Brisbane Water Nat Park, NSW Mark Lucock

Colourful rock pools above Somersby Falls at sunset, Brisbane Water National Park, NSW (Aust). This image was taken on an Ebony RSW 5x4 wooden view camera with leather bellows and Schneider 80mm wide-angle lens. I used a Lee 0.9 ND graduated filter to enhance the sunset colours (i.e. to hold back the light in the upper third of the image and balance the exposure with the foreground). The Velvia sheet film was then scanned professionally using a Hasselblad/Imacon virtual drum scanner, cleaned up and minimally enhanced in Photoshop at a size suitable for extremely large format printing at 300dpi (500+Mb).

The secret to success with this and similar images in which foreground features are used to anchor the overall scene is based on the ability of view cameras to tilt forward and alter the plane of focus in a manner that extends depth of field and hence sharpness from near to far

The trickiest aspect of large format film photography is without question how to focus the camera. There are several methods that one could use, although the one I tend to favour goes as follows: Set the aperture to its widest setting (plus one stop on my 80mm wide-angle lens so the image isnt too soft) and use front axial tilt, as opposed to front base or rear tilts (available on some cameras, but not the RSW) to control the plane of focus. This involves focusing the camera rail using the most distant subject within the field of view. I establish critical focus on the fresnel/ground glass screen using a Horseman 8x loupe (bear in mind the image I see is inverted). I then use forward axial tilt until the foreground is crisply in focus. Then I use the camera rails to refocus on a distant subject. I repeat these iterations a few times (sometimes more than a few times) until both near and far subjects are in focus to my satisfaction. I then often take a quick look at the tripod borne camera to visualise whether the three planes (film, lens and subject) intersect in a way that is described by the Scheimpflug rule*. Before exposing the film, I then shut down the aperture to at least f22. This further increases depth of field along the new plane of focus generated by front tilt. This is quite important, since it allows tall components in a scene to remain within the field of focus. Having said this, very tall trees or buildings can extend out of the plane of focus and appear soft in the final image, so extreme care is required in your preliminary assessment of a scene. The next job is to insert the film holder, cock the shutter, withdraw the film emulsion from its light tight sheath, meter and remeter till satisfied, set the appropriate shutter and aperture, and fire the shutter - phew, digital photography is certainly much easier!

*The Scheimpflug rule states that subject, lens board and film planes must either be parallel to one another, or meet at a common intersection along their planar axes

Clearly, a lot goes into the making of large format photographic art. Due to the weight of the equipment and the complexity of the set up, the effort involved in making this kind of image ensures that long before you even trip the shutter, you have both invested a lot of time, and thought deeply about the picture you are chasing.

This is picture making - not picture taking. It may be a laboriously slow process, but it is still the ultimate way to render your landscapes as photographic art. If you want to know more about this and other techniques in nature and landscape photography, consider buying one of my books.