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4x5 large format underwater photography?


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#41 H2oman211

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 04:08 PM

Check out Bruce Mozert of Silver Springs fame.
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#42 David Stahl

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:48 AM

The images I attached using the underwater 8x10 camera were during the first shots taken during its test phase. The lens was a Schneider Super-Symmar 150XL which conforms to an 8" dome that was selected after optical tank tests. The equipment I use for magazine assignments is 35 to 6x7. It's obvious that image performance is better and easier with housed digital equipment then enhanced with Photoshop. The UW810 film camera was built to shoot "reefscapes" not people or motion. Above all, the reason for using film was because no credible Fine Art Photographic gallery will consider anything produced digitally...and with good reason. Any great looking image taken digitally immediately is suspect. Was it a product of Photoshop or some other computer effect or was it due to real old time photographic skill on location? Today people can buy programs that do everything that Ansel Adams or Jerry Ulsman did in the darkroom. Using the UW810 is like learning to ride a unicycle over a rocky road. It takes skill and hard labor. The easy way isn't always the best way. It just depends on what path one wants to go with their photography.

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#43 David Stahl

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:38 AM

Here's a shot of a manatee in Crystal River done 35mm. I need to go back and redo this with the 8x10.

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#44 loftus

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 02:36 PM

David,
I completely understand if someone does something difficult and achieves something different or something better than others can achieve. Staking out a superb photo opportunity like a sunrise or sunset and then stealing the moment with a large format camera, or dragging a large format through the everglades like Clyde Butcher does, is one thing. In neither of those scenarios is the superb quality of large format compromised.
Dragging a large format underwater and compromising the potential of the format with poor dome / optics performance and then making things even more fuzzy with less than stellar water clarity, and then missing the moment because you only have one shot at it, is not only pointless, in my opinion its sacreligious. Sorry, just no points for making something harder and producing an inferior result. Also your point about no credible Fine Art Photo gallery considering anything produced digitally is simply wrong.

Edited by loftus, 05 March 2012 - 03:35 AM.

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#45 David Stahl

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:32 PM

Hi David, not a bad fun pic, but I'm still very skeptical that there are any real advantages of large format. For one thing you have significant distortion of the front models right hand which really detracts from the image, and I suspect that is the behavior of your lens / dome combination. The high detail visible in the closer models, is simply lost in the models near the back due to the water column. The concept of large format sounds great, but when you add in the difficulties of getting wide enough lenses, getting those lenses to perform behind a dome, the issues of losing resolution simply by adding some water distance etc, large format simply starts to lose many of the benefits that one chooses it for in the first place. Setting up a group of models like this to all be in the exact right position for a single shot - is pretty wishful thinking in my opinion, hands and feet in this shot are all over the place. Tantamount to taking an 8x10 to a basketball game. Maybe shooting a static reef scene to record fine detail would be a better place for this, but even then, I think you are better off compiling multiple images like some have done to make massive high definition murals.
It's hard to see anything in this image that makes it better than what could be achieved with smaller format underwater. Just having high resolution simply does not make a good photograph; it's desirable, but not at the expense of giving up everything else. The pic you show above may be a fun high resolution snapshot, but hardly a gallery wall hanger as a photograph. With a high res DSLR with the proper lens / dome combination, you could create a much better image than this one in my opinion. For one thing you could shoot multiple images, so that you get hands and feet coordinated, you could have all the models with their eyes open,you would have less peripheral image distortion, and you could get pretty good resolution to boot.



#46 David Stahl

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:55 PM

You refer highly to Clyde Butcher's use of 8x10 and larger film equipment. Why would he bother to drag this size equipment into a swamp when he could take much smaller digital equipment? Or why not even fake South Florida images using Photo Shop and make it look like large format film? Why? Because it's not honest photography. Large film formats have a value and quality not understood by novice photographers who only know the ease of digital. Using 8x10 format film underwater has never been done before. There are those out there who like to do new things and to push the limits of the ordinary...while others just sit back and criticize and follow commonplace thought. I've not pursued the promotion of this 8x10 underwater camera but already through word-of-mouth one museum and two magazines are interested in the results. One magazine already has published an article on my underwater 8x10 work.

#47 Viz'art

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 05:22 AM

David, Iíll side with Loftus on this, saying that any serious art gallery will not consider digital file is not only erroneous, it is preposterous. Most Artwork done with large format slides and negatives are scanned, retouched for blemishes and then printed on chemically processed Crystal archival paper via a digital printer nowadays, many of the gallery I know off will only accept this type of paper since it has one of, if not, the best archival quality known to us at this point. So in a way, itís like taking the slow train to digital.

I come from a large format background, (both field and monorail type) and while I am a big advocate of the place these large cameras have in the photographic art world, but címon, you have to conclude that at one point, picking the right tool for the right job have to take precedent over shooting big just for the sake of shooting big, itís not just the hardware that counts, I mean, image quality has to account for something at one point. I certainly hope that the magazine that printed your 8x10 underwater shots did so because it was proper art and not simply because it was shot on with a big and complicated rig, that would suck big time. BTW, I take offence at the statement that large format is more honest than other forms of photography and not understood by the novice, Wow! that is quite a bit of a condescending thing to say and borders on the pompous, ever heard about photojournalist, about photographers getting shot at to get their images, how about Cartier Bresson, lets keep the large size for the film format and not for the ego, can we :D .

IMO, large format is not at home underwater, it too rigid a platform for such a fluid environment and, sorry, but your shots reflects that. Plus on the technical aspect side, they are really not up to par with what is available for this type of underwater imagery using any decent digital camera/lens available on the market. Ironic that underwater photography actually started using large format camera in Boutanís days and as evolved into the diminutive APS size format preferred by so many today.

I also see that you shoot B&W, therefore from the onset you are manipulating your image and to some extent, a lot more than most digital underwater photographer will. Whether you push process a film in a tank or move a mouse around a menu, you are striving for the best image to represent your vision, so I would steer clear from this can of worm if I was you :D;-) there already is a good thread started by Alex Mustard on the morality of the underwater photographers and the images they make in the galley section (good reading).

Edited by Viz'art, 22 March 2012 - 05:33 AM.

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#48 loftus

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 05:46 AM

You refer highly to Clyde Butcher's use of 8x10 and larger film equipment. Why would he bother to drag this size equipment into a swamp when he could take much smaller digital equipment? Or why not even fake South Florida images using Photo Shop and make it look like large format film? Why? Because it's not honest photography. Large film formats have a value and quality not understood by novice photographers who only know the ease of digital. Using 8x10 format film underwater has never been done before. There are those out there who like to do new things and to push the limits of the ordinary...while others just sit back and criticize and follow commonplace thought. I've not pursued the promotion of this 8x10 underwater camera but already through word-of-mouth one museum and two magazines are interested in the results. One magazine already has published an article on my underwater 8x10 work.

David of course you are welcome to 'push the envelope' to your hearts content. If you can create great images underwater, with any camera, I will definitely give you credit. But I think you are off track if you think simply simply because it's 8x10 it will somehow make it great. Just trying to make the point that, taken underwater, 8x10 quality is compromised by the physical limitations of the dome etc. When Clyde Butcher drags his 8x10 or bigger out to the Everglades through the swamp his image quality is not compromised one iota. Once he sets up and shoots the image, the image is as clean and pristine as if it were shot in a studio. Your images are not. I doubt Clyde Butcher would think much of the quality of your underwater images. You may want to contact him, and see if he has any ideas about submerging one of these devices.
So I applaud your effort if it pays off, unfortunately 8x10 underwater, including your images, have yet to show that it does.

Edited by loftus, 22 March 2012 - 06:04 AM.

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#49 PRC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 05:56 AM

For one I am still not buying the 'because it is difficult it must be somehow better' angle.

If and when you can demonstrate a superior image that can be attributed to the fundamental format or media used then maybe it is worth the effort - up until then I am not convinced.

Where next ? put up an easel and get the tubes of oil paint out of the box while in the water ? - would that crank up the 'difficulty' ? Well yes it would, however would the end result be better because of it ? Well it would be different that is for sure.

Show us and we can all make the judgement call.

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