a field portraiture day

…backtrack to the end of july. the 2010/11 season is ending and I daresay it has been very good for me – “good” as in “busy” and “doing new stuff“, what with teaching and exhibitions and more commissioned analog-only assignments. however, my personal photography pursuits are suffering, ideas being born and then dying fast due to absence of time, a whole project being postponed for at least one year and, of course, less and less personal portraiture sessions. the latter is quite unsettling since I am addicted to portraits and I need a steady flow of them to keep my spirits up.

moreover, I am painfully trying to master large format portraiture, which is a quite different beast than medium format, a lot less flexible, totally tripod-bound and requiring extreme patience and composure from the model and the photographer alike.

so, it’s summertime, the concerts are over, I have extra free time and a need to get my speed graphic out on the field for a proper, calm and composed portraiture session.

enter miss eliza. she’s a dream, a muse, a girl who understands my driving need and can keep still when I ask her to, while she’s a most enjoyable personality when not posing. it’s a hot sunday evening and we go up to a favourite location of mine: hotel xenia on top of parnitha. it’s an old building that started as a sanatorium 90 years ago, became a hotel in the mid-60s and now lies abandoned and defaced.

I had four cameras with me – the speed graphic fitted with the hektor 150mm/f2.5 for large format, the medium format bronica sq-a fitted with the zenzanon 80mm/f2.8, the polaroid land camera 250 and a 35mm minolta xd-7 that I intended to use as a lightmeter.

before setting up the tripod for the speed graphic, I took a couple of frames with the polaroid – the positives are  good but they cannot be compared with the negatives, which acquire a lot of random “textures” during the bleaching process.

…then I put the speed graphic on the tripod and spent 5 minutes trying to arrange the framing. tripod photography is even more time-consuming if you have to frame and focus through an upside-down ground glass image. took two identical frames (better safe than sorry) and then decided to take out the bronica.

…on medium format everything is so much easier, framing, changing the angle of view, moving closer or further, catching momentary expressions or even the wind. and the ilford fp4+ does a very good job against the light, keeping a lot of detail in the shadows.

…with the 12-frame roll finished, it’s time to go back to the speed graphic… and the first picture is an example of how you can lose your framing if you spend a long enough time on correctly focusing the razor thin depth of field of a f2.5 lens on large format.

…while the second picture really shows you the 3D effect of this particular lens/format combination. on both the images the fomapan 100 film holds up very well against the sun. very good large format film, especially considering its low price.

….and that’s it. all in all we shot 22 frames in two hours: a medium format film, 8 large format sheets and 2 polaroid peel-apart frames. the only post-processing that was applied to the above images was burning/dodging and of course manual scratch and dust removal – I’ve yet to find a scanner that cleans itself as well as the negatives before scanning.

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