Saturday, December 29, 2007


Slow. Using a view camera takes a little getting used to. There is no stopping and taking an image out of your car window. There is not much hope for an "action shot". There is little to no chance of being able to change lenses or a composition during the magic light. There is not even hand holding at all (at least with my camera). You have to learn to work at the speed of a view camera-slow.

Slow means it takes time to do things. In a hurry means I might be able to be set up and take one image in two minutes. But it is often 5 or 10 minutes. Set up to image to pack things up is often 15 minutes-for just one image. It is also common to pack up, shoulder the backpack and stop again in 50 feet and do it all again. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get anywhere.

You just cannot be in a hurry with a view camera. Hurry too much and then -you get sloppy and a view camera punishes the sloppy. So you take the time. Look. Think. Look some more. Focus. Look. Then you can meter and take the image.

You are much more selective with a view camera. If the light is flat, or too bright, or just not right I'll often forego even taking the camera out. I wonder if the subject is worth a sheet a of film. I go slow, think about it, and look for something good. So when I take an image I hope it is a better one. That is the benefit of slow.

It also means I do not take as many images. Over a week in Colorado fall color I took about 100 sheets of film. In that same week I probably took 4000 digital snaps. Two very different cameras and two very different ways of working, thinking, seeing, and photographing.

Here is slow in action. I have seen these trees for several years. I have tried to take a couple of images at different times, but never really found the right conditions or the right way. As I wandered about the other evening I decided the heavy overcast and wind might finally be the time to get the image. The arrival of winter has taken the leaves leaving the branches bare along with the dreary conditions to finally get the image right. Six years of waiting-I guess you could call that slow too.

I set up the tripod downhill from the trees and went to work with them. Level the camera. Framing the trees. Thinking about the image. Trying a different lens. Having to refocus. Stepping back. Taking it all in. Metering. Getting the film. Taking the image. Packing up. I think it was a good 15 minutes. It was one image.

On this dark day, even the exposure was slow-something like 4 seconds. Slow is the norm.

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