Monday, April 7, 2008


Mavericks go their own way. They buck the trends. They are out there-often alone.

Being a large format photographer is alot like that. In a world gone digital mad, the large format film photographer is somewhat of a standout.

I frequent the National Parks and am amazed at how I have not run into another large format photographer in the last few years. Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Zion, etc. Visit a major overlook at sunset and find only digital photographers. I know there have to be a few of us left but it is harder and harder to find one.

Sure I have a digital too. I finally decided it was not a "passing fad" and added one to my kit in 2007. Actually I find it a good compliment to the 4x5. The slow deliberate work of the view camera is the opposite of the light quick hand holdable of the DSLR. I use the digital on hikes, in the daytime, out the window of the vehicle-all places the 4x5 is at it's weakest. I use the 4x5 at magic hour light. They allow me to work fast or slow. Or on some mornings when I have both cameras on a tripod-both fast and slow.

I can set up the 4x5 for the best image and wait for the light. I can then use the DSLR to work other images and tweak composition. It helps me frame images and allows me to make images in light I would never consider using a sheet of film. It lets me hoard my Velvia 50 for the truly best light.

It also gives me a much longer reach than the 4x5. My 4x5 longest lens is a 210mm, my DSLR is a 200mm. At first blush you would say 210 is longer. In raw mm yes, but not in 35mm film equivalent. The 210mm on the 4x5 is about equal to a 60mm and the 200mm on the DSLR is equal to a 320mm. So really a much longer reach with digital. Again, that compliments the 4x5.

When I leave on a hike with the 4x5, I have a big 30+ pound pack and a tripod. With the DSLR I can fit the tripod, camera, long lens, extra battery and a few memory cards in a tiny Osprey Daylight (700 cu in) that is roughly the size of a Camelback. The kit is light, easy to carry, and has that "free film" (we can talk OTHER costs of digital sometime) factor.

It has turn out to be a good two camera kit. I can leave the car with a big LowePro backpack (Photo Trekker), a small LowePro bag around my neck (Omni Sport) and a tripod in each hand. I can do my normal pace, even the dark with this rig. It works.

I guess all this make a a bit of a Maverick. I am sure large format guys think I need to just move up to 8x10. Digital folks wonder why I carry all that large format stuff. I think I bridge the gap pretty well. I am using what works for me and having fun making images.

Speaking of mavericks, this image is taken of Maverick Mountain and the Maverick Badlands near the west entrance to Big Bend National Park. It is almost 180 degrees from Tule Mountain (see Friday's post). They were taken about an hour apart as the sun was rising on a cloudless day.

If you are going to be a maverick, photograph one.

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