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Cal

4x5 large format underwater photography?

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Whilst admitting that 10x8 Polaroids have a quality all of their own, I would like to observe that for 20 years I shot nearly every commission on 10x8 film. Why? Because that was considered normal in the field I was in. However, I was commissioned to shoot some ads for Whiskas catfood and cats are very quick movers. So I nervously shot everything on Hasselbald, worrying all the time that the resulting little 6x6cm trannies might not be of good enough quality. They were printed at 64-sheet poster size (the largest in Europe - don't know about the USA) and were sharp as a whisker!!!

From this I deduced that I had been wasting time and money (there was plenty of it around in those days) shooting on 10x8.

Edited by John Bantin

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Ask Clyde Butcher about marketability. We just saw some of his prints in 30x40 inches or so and they were stunning. The gallery said they were inkjets (giclee) but the didn't look like any inkjet pics I have seen before. As for the difference between a MF digital back and your D90, I think that the difference is really huge and easily noticeable. I think the 80 MP backs will blow you away if you haven't seen their output. I also think your idea of housing a Graflex is probably right.

 

Bill

Of course we don't know exactly what Cal is up to, :) , but the fact that one is shooting in a pool or even through water will severely restrict the quality advantage of large format beyond close range shooting. Unless Cal has arranged to to be shooting in the NASA training pool when he is touring the US...

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thanks for the great responses guys!

 

Darren - Its all about the art and the challenge. Im looking into the Fuji GW69. Also, good luck in the AIPP.

 

Bill - I meant film medium format not a digital back. I wish I could afford one!!

 

John - Thanks for the insight.

 

 

" Unless Cal has arranged to to be shooting in the NASA training pool when he is touring the US...: - :rolleyes: you got me!

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Cal, come to think of it I think the GW had a 90mm lens, the GSW a 65mm

 

They are great cameras. Fujinon lenses are excellent.

 

and thanks! Big weekend of photography in Sydney coming up!

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Why not build an acrylic diving bell (spherical) of the proper radius to match your lens? Put yourself and the camera inside the bell?

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This is in regards to large format - 8x10 (film) photography underwater. In 2003 I designed and built an underwater 8x10 camera - not a housed 8x10. There is an article now in the works - B&W Magazine (online) about the camera which is just as sharp underwater as any 8x10 in a studio or out in the field. About not having the ability to shoot many images underwater...that does not matter. One is supposed to scout an underwater location first in order to get the shot one is looking for...not shoot several images then edit later on land. Many fine art galleries will not accept digitally produced images, they want those created from film. This was my reason for building the camera...and perhaps producing them for sale. With this camera, a whole new world has been opened to the large format photographer. The image posted here is a full frame image done of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida. Note the edges of the 8x10 negative. You can contact me at dstahl5@verizon.net. David Stahl

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This is in regards to large format - 8x10 (film) photography underwater. In 2003 I designed and built an underwater 8x10 camera - not a housed 8x10. There is an article now in the works - B&W Magazine (online) about the camera which is just as sharp underwater as any 8x10 in a studio or out in the field. About not having the ability to shoot many images underwater...that does not matter. One is supposed to scout an underwater location first in order to get the shot one is looking for...not shoot several images then edit later on land. Many fine art galleries will not accept digitally produced images, they want those created from film. This was my reason for building the camera...and perhaps producing them for sale. With this camera, a whole new world has been opened to the large format photographer. The image posted here is a full frame image done of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida. Note the edges of the 8x10 negative. You can contact me at dstahl5@verizon.net. David Stahl

Can't see an image

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Hey Cal,

 

Save the penny's and get the PHASE with a big back.

Images are great - perfect for what your doing and well supported with great glass available :lol:

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post-35817-1330446822.jpgFull frame contact from 8x10 negative - Tmax sheet film - f11 1/2 @ 1/125 in full sun in four feet of water. Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida 2005. This is the underwater 8x10 camera I designed and built in 2004. It's just as sharp as any 8x10 camera on land. David Stahl

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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.

Edited by loftus

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What's with the regularly spaced vertical lines ? Maybe a scanner issue.

 

I have never shot film in the water but am concerned about housing a full frame 35mm let alone trying to make a large format function behind a dome.

 

The weak link in imaging under water is not the format / resolution / film used, it remains the water column effects / dome (air) interface and most often the ugly lump of biomass behind the viewfinder.

 

Jeff is correct this one is not quite there yet as a wall hanger here is a real wall hanger !

 

Don't think I am buying yours quite yet.....

 

Paul C

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Check out Bruce Mozert of Silver Springs fame.

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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.

post-35817-1330883202.jpg

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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

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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.

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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.

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David, I’ll 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, it’s 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 c’mon, 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, it’s 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 Boutan’s 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

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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

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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.

 

Paul C

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