I was talking to my photog friend Matthew Turley a few months back about 4x5 cameras. He is a master of the format, and makes big, beautiful, pictures that I wish I had made. I've never owned a 4x5, but am getting more interested in them as the digital workflow accelerates and becomes closer to real time. It just seems like a great compliment to shooting everything digitally. Slow, crafty, thoughtful vs. fast, instant, loose.
At some point in our conversation I recall saying how much I'd love to hit the road with a 4x5 and shoot landscapes, one sheet at a time, but that my life just feels too hectic for that to be a reality, with two young kids, a house remodel, and trying to stay afloat in the current economy.
A week later a plain brown box shows up on my doorstep. Inside is a Graflex SpeedGraphic 4x5 camera and 10 sheets of neg film, along with detailed, hand-drawn directions on how to run the thing:
I spend literally 30 minutes just looking at it -- and trying to locate the secret button that opens it. Eventually I find it and the inner workings of the SpeedGraphic are revealed. It's a hand held camera with a focal plane shutter (up to 1/1000 sec!) rangefinder focusing, and a big piece of beautiful ground glass on the back.
To be honest it's a bit intimidating, as if an amazing camera deserves an amazing subject. The first thing I thought to do was take a picture of it (above) b/c it was just so cool looking.
I took it along on a recent editorial shoot, but it was sleeting sideways, so it never came out. This morning, I shot two sheets at an empty car dealership by my studio. I love the handicraft and how precious the film feels. I found myself really taking extra time to study the compostion and fine tune everything. We'll see how it turns out, or if it even turns out at all.
Thanks Matthew, that was very cool of you, and some much needed medicine....