Giant Cameras

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Giant Cameras

Postby Tukuhnik » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:02 pm

Okay guys, I am trying solve a mystery. There was a black man with a really big old fashioned camera taking pictures this summer at Many Glacier and other places in the park. The man appeared to be very accomplished, skillful, intelligent, and was always in the right location for the perfect shot regardless of time of day or weather. (Once we were hiking Avalanche, during a mild rainstorm, and he was perched precariously on a moss covered hillside. We saw him in Waterton at the Prince of Wales hotel. Another time we were told he spent the night photographing the MG lobby. Another time he was photographing the sunset at MG and there was a large crowd watching him, asking questions and he appeared to take it all in stride.)

We noticed on several occasions park rangers, bellhops, wait staff, and hotel management chatting with him. When we spoke with him, he would only say his name was Mason. When we pressed him for information (was he a pro, work for national geo, the park, etc.) he would excuse himself and go back to his photography or simply walk away. When we inquired at the hotel we received evasive answers. When we chatted with various hotel guest, we learned he had been in the park the entire summer.

Okay I know famous people visit the park,and the staff and park rangers will not reveal their identity. I also realize all those wonderful hotel and park photographs are created by accomplished photographers. We understand all of this, and yes I am very curious. However, it was as if the hotel staff and park rangers were deliberately protecting this man's identity. I was wondering if anyone can help me solve this mystery? Thanks
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Selkie » Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:31 pm

Probably not the same person, but a Dr. Sabry Mason has a digital photo site with some images of Glacier, and rather nice action shots of animals in Africa.

http://www.evocative-images.com/index.html
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby daveparker » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:52 pm

It could have been any number of people that spend the summer in the parks photographing, they may be working free lance, or they may have been hired for a certain project by GPI, etc.

Unless you have a real familiarity of who is who in photography, your probably not going to figure out who it is.

I was fortunate, working in the photography industry for many years as well as manufacturing a product for those large old fashion cameras, I have been able to meet a great many of them, or make parts for their cameras and spoke with them on the phone.

I can honestly say, unless you know them, most of them are very evasive in answers as well as who they are, pretty common in the photography business, I remember the day, I met Galen Rowel on the trail to Iceberg, he was very evasive and I knew who he was, but it was only after he figured out, I was the guy that made the viewing screen in his camera that he actually warmed up to me and we spoke quite often until his untimely death.

I also had a similar experience with Erwin and Peggy Bower, evasive until we figure out who each other was...I also had one of the most famous photographers in England spend a week at my house, he was a great guy, taught me a whole bunch about photography, but he was very evasive with those he did not know..

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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Tukuhnik » Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:47 pm

Selkie:

Thanks for the link, however I do not believe this was the gentleman I am speaking about.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Tukuhnik » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:37 pm

Dave:

I must admit your logical, informative and insightful reply has caused me to stop and think. It never occurred to me the elite, famous, world class photographers would be reluctant to divulge personal or technical information. (Now that I think about my probings, it is clear to me the park rangers, and hotel staff may have been protecting his identity. However there is a greater likelihood they, especially the wait staff and bell hops, did not know his true identity.) For what ever reason, I simply thought the elite, famous, world class photographers would be more direct, open, share their secrets, etc.

Initially I thought Mr. Mason was rude, intolerant, and aloof when he would not answer our questions. Several of us were perplexed when we did not receive the answers we wanted. We could not understand why he either deflected our questions or simply refused to answer. (I am still somewhat unclear why they (famous photographers) are elusive and evasive.) I guess I am accustomed to those photographers who talk forever about the greatness of their cameras, their websites, and photographs. Now I realize those talkative photographers are seldom amongst the elite.

In a culture of reality television, it is a shock to our senses when we meet a true artist who offers little if any information about their cameras, websites, photographs or who they are.

As you stated I do not have a real familiarity of who is who in photography, however your insight has allowed me to peek inside a world I never knew existed. Although I may never know the real Mr. Mason, I will always remember watching a true artist.

Thanks.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Tukuhnik » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:49 pm

Dave:

Sorry to keep bugging you, but do you have any idea as to the size of his camera? The camera was one of the large old fashioned type (I must admit the camera was beautiful). The camera reminded me of those cameras Ansel Adams (only photographer I know) used in the 1900. Mr. Mason would do something under a black cloth, hold a "pistol" to his eye, move some dials on the lens (I think), insert a large black plate in the back, look at his stop watch, and make some notes in a notebook. This appears really complicated and took forever. Can you explain what he was doing and why he would be using an old fashioned camera........

Thanks
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby daveparker » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:35 pm

Hi Tuk,

I quite often shoot with large format cameras, even though they look old fashion, there are still quite a few companies that make these cameras, I used to manufacture the glass screens that go in the back of them so you can focus your image on the viewing screen, when it comes to photography, bigger is always better, I suspect, he was probably shooting a 8inch x 10inch camera, that means each negative is 8in x 10 in in size, and came be duplicated in magazines very easy, and also can be blown up to very large sizes, the largest cameras I ever shot are 16inches x 20inches and 20 x 24 inches, that was the size of my negative or my slide, depending on the type of film I was shooting that day.

The little tube he was looking through would be a micro focusing loupe, to anaylize the critical focus on the viewing screen and he was also using an exposure meter (the pistol) and making adjustments to his exposure and f/stop on his lens, I would suspect from what you described, he was shooting at f/64 or higher, which require long exposures to get the proper exposure on the film.

My largest camera now is a 4x5 in, I use it a lot for shooting product advertising panels for companies, normally with provia 100 slide file, then they are drum scanned into digital format for layouts in magazines.

But the large format business is still quite a good market, as just a note, in the 3 years I made camera viewing screens, I shipped over 50,000 screens all over the world, it was quite a business.

When you run into a dedicated large format shooting, often times, they are very secretive of their techniques, in addition, the film they are shooting is very expensive, a box of 8x10 provia film runs well over $100 for ten shots, so if you screw it up because of a distraction, it can be very expensive, if he was shooting an 11x14 in camera, then your talking over $250.00 for 10 shots, 16 x 20 film is over $800.00 for 10 shots!, so they really are not trying to be rude, but they do hold to their techniques as highly guarded secrets as well as keeping their mind in the game and waiting or exactly the right moment to push the shutter button..

And its no bother, I always enjoy talking about photography of any type..one thing I will add, those large cameras, if they are new, or even restored old ones, with lenses and shutters can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, just my little 4x5 would with lenses and shutters that I have would run over $3000.00 to replace at today's prices..but a good 11x14 camera will run quite a bit more than the most expensive pro digital cameras..

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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Pocketlint » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:27 am

Hi Dave:

I don't remember much of what my dad used back in the 40's 50's and 60's.

My dad was an "official" photographer at the founding of the United Nations back in 1947? in San Francisco I think it was. I have a picture of him while he was there. I also have a picture of my dad with former long time Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Not sure who took it. My sister has an autographed print of the Hindenburg blowing up. The picture that virtually everyone has seen. My dad knew the guy who took that famous picture.

My dad used a 4x5 Speed Graphic for a lot of his work at weddings. It looked like those things in the 30's movies :) Flashbulb holder and all.He used it for the magazine ads out here in GNP, Yellowstone and Banff in 1957.

My older brother and I gave my dad a Hasselblad 500C for Christmas in 1968 to replace his old Kodak Medalist.

My dad sometimes used an 8x10 Linhof out at Cypress Gardens Florida where he worked as PR Director in the 50s. The Linhof actually belonged to Monts DeOca(SpChk) who was a photographer for the Gardens. Monts made many of the original pictures many people saw as huge 4x8foot murals(the girls in "old fashion hoop dresses standing in the flowers). These murals hung in resturants, etc. all over the USA back in the heyday of Cypress Gardens in the 50's and 60's. I remember as a little boy seeing Monts spend hours setting up that big camera on a tripod that looked like it would hold me on it!!! He'd be checking the light with his meter and would spend hours waiting for "just the right light" or "just the right clouds". etc. (so my dad told me later)

Anyone wants a large format camera, Linhof apparently still makes them. A mere $5000 or so will get you a basic 8x10 model :wink:

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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Tukuhnik » Sun Sep 19, 2010 10:53 am

Hey Dave:

You have exposed me to a world I never knew existed. When I googled large format, I got hundred of thousands inquiries. I thought maybe a few hundred but not hundreds of thousands. Who knew the large format arena was this big, I did not. WOW

You were correct, these cameras are expensive. My goodness, the basic camera, without lens, started around $2,000. Used cameras, even those in total disarray were several hundred dollars. Then you have buy lenses which are thousands of dollar each, and film (film cost per sheet was outrageous). A basic camera outfit could be ten thousand dollar. Needless to say I have sticker shock.

These large format cameras do not have instruction manuals, delete buttons, metering systems,etc. You must know exactly what you are doing.

I have a greater appreciation for Mr. Mason talents. The next time I encounter a large format photographer, you can rest assured I will be very quiet, give them plenty of space, and appreciate their talents.

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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby bsktball55 » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:21 am

Are these large format cameras really that much better than the professional digital cameras some of which shoot 20 mp's or more? Seems to me that the quality wouldn't be much better plus you could shoot all you wanted and then pick out the perfect picture. I'm just an amateur so I don't understand, but it seems to me that you would be better off with a high end digital that would allow you to shoot as much as you wanted.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby daveparker » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:58 am

For certain applications, the Large format scanned on high end drum scanners are much better than even the best digital camera. And when your shooting large format, your not concerned with shooting as much as you want.

Large format photography is a completely different mind set than digital photography, I still shoot my 35mm film cameras quite often, when I am wanting to achieve a certain look.

One thing I like about large format photography, is you slow down and do all the steps right, often times with digital photography, it is a shot gun approach and I would be the majority of digital photographers shoot on all auto mode, and let the camera make the choices, it i nice to be able to make the choices myself on what I want for exposure and look in certain pictures...they both have pluses and minuses, large format is definitely not for everyone..
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Pocketlint » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:01 pm

Like you, I'm an amatuer.
So I'll answer your question this way.
Take a look at photographs by Ansel Adams, or some of the other photographers of that era.

I'll leave it to Dave, Ralph, and others to explain the technical side of it to you. Part of it might be stuff like

the extremely small aperatures(f64 f128) these large format cameras can use. You get a depth of field that at least so far can't be done with DSLR's???
Also the difference in rendition between film and digital sensors????

pocketlint :wink:

PS

I also remember our family going to a local photographic studio for family portrait pictures every year during the 1950's. Us kids hated it. Getting "dressed up" and all :) The old guy had this huge old bellows camera that he got under a black cloth to view the image on a glass plate. Not sure of the plate size, but I think it was 11x14.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Selkie » Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:05 pm

Those large-format cameras with film holders are things of beauty, and always captured my imagination. My family had one from the 1920s (film size about 4 x 6, but not exactly). I cared enough to have it cleaned and its innards photographed in the early 1970s, when it was still possible to mail-order film of the correct size. It does take patience, and an appropriate subject - not for the casual snaps - and pretty generally an ability to do the darkroom work as well. I'd pop for an older model Leica first, though.
Shoot for the shadows, print for the highlights.

BTW, I picked up some postcards of Edward Curtis's photographs of Piegan and other Blackfeet ppl in the Park Cafe store; they were made using a large-format camera. Even in postcards you can see how much exquisite detail there is in the grasses, the horses' coats and musculature, the garments and ornamentation worn by the men, the reflections in Two Medicine River. A few photographers, most receiving funding, worked in the area in the early 1900s, before the park's official parkness. Although the human figures are often posed, in Curtis's case at least it seemed to be a collaboration of subject and photographer.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby Ear Mountain » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:14 pm

Maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong but here's what I'm thinking.

Let's assume you use an 8 x 10 inch large format film camera with fine grain film that produces an 8 x 10 inch negative.

My home professional film scanner can scan film to make a digital file that has 4000 pixels per inch. Now it can only scan 35mm film but you get the idea. A professional drum scanner can do better. I'm not exactly sure how much better and maybe someone can help here. But for the sake of discussion let's say the drum scanner can scan the film at 5000 pixels per inch.

The drum scanner can also capture a greater bit depth too resulting in better color gradation but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

At 5,000 pixels per inch on a drum scanner an 8 x 10 inch piece of film will produce a file 40,000 pixels x 50,000 pixels for a total of 2,000,000,000 pixels. That's 2,000 megapixels.

The best 35 mm full frame DSLR cameras are now around 21 to 25 megapixels and cost around $8,000.
Medium format digital cameras like the Phase One 645 Digital are at 60-65 megapixels and cost around $46,000.
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Re: Giant Cameras

Postby daveparker » Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:35 pm

Normally when scanning on a drum scanner it is expressed in terms of LPI, lines per inch, based on your post Ralph, you have the concept down, but it is hard to translate, because the differences in how the images are scanned, I had some slides scanned a couple of years ago, on a drum scanner, from a 35mm sized slide the the file sizes were over 500 megabytes, we scanned at the highest resolution of the scanner.

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