Do you get funny looks when shooting large format?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by mark_capowski, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. I enjoy shooting with a wood camera (4x5, moving up to 8x10 now). Do
    any of you get funny looks when using your LF camera in public? Most
    people stare at my camera, and they really get a laugh when I pull
    out the focusing cloth.

    I'd love to hear your experiences and the comments people make. I
    most often get asked:

    "What is that?"
    "Does it take color pictures?"
    "There is this new thing called digital.. want me to explain it to

    Hopefully we can get a fun thread going.

  2. I discovered that people are willing to pay me more for portraits. Their Uncle Ernie doesn't have one "just like" mine.
  3. I ignore laughter, except to ask the laughing ones to move out of the way as necessary. I go on about my business and they go away. (It's really rare though.)

    Usually, though, people exhibit strong interest and curiosity. I try to answer questions without it interfering with the work.

    Generally, people are very nice, even respectful. Makes the outings even nicer, knowing that I'm among friends....
  4. I was shooting in my local nature preserve with my Shen-Hao and this guy with two little boys comes up to me an says "What is that beast? I've never seen one of those before."

    I tried to explain it was a view camera, large format film, etc. etc.
  5. Most common comment: Is that some kind of antique?

    Dumbest comment: I'm out in the field, I've got a 4x5 on a tripod, a lightmeter around my neck, film holders and lenses in a bag...everything but the little birdie. Someone asks, "Are you a photographer?" D'oh! I blew my cover somehow!
  6. I try to be funnier looking than my camera. However, the only people who give me trouble are the serious alcoholics who come rolling out of the bushes and darkened taverns. They tend to want long, long conversations and to tell you what great photographers they were and how they wish they had never sold their Ricohflex.
  7. I like that people are curious about large format, especially kids. I've let
    several people get under the dark cloth and experience it for themselves.
    Their answer is always, "WOW!" I recently explained to a kid that this is really
    the way your eyes see things until your brain flips it around and his answer
    was, "So, we're all really walking around on our heads." I thought that was a
    great observation!
  8. I was showing my Graflex and my Linhof viewfinder to an old man selling copies of Olemc (?)
    figurines at the "pyramids" in Oaxaca last week after he asked questions (and I rapidly tried
    to remember my Spanish). Sat down next to him, struck a deal for a figure and a portrait. He
    was telling his friend who came by about it. A couple tourists (young, German) paused and
    said "Great camera!"
    It's nice funny. 4x5 already slows me down, makes me more thoughtful. But when in public
    then the questions start - and things slow down even more. But it's cool.
  9. Perhaps it's no coincidence that many photographers actually prefer using their large format kit when there's no one else around, except perhaps someone helpful enough to carry some of the gear.<p>
    In the city I live in, I can still count on one hand the number of medium format cameras I've seen in use. Same goes for Leicas. I've yet to see anyone standing around with a large format camera.<p>
    My Mamiya 7 hardly raises any eyebrows, though, as it doesn't look all too imposing, more like a big SLR with a small lens.<p>
    I am about to get myself my first large format camera, so perhaps I should try it out in the middle of town one day, although I think I'm actually the kind of photographer who prefer it when I can do my stuff without interruptions from random passers-by.<p>
  10. I hnow this is the large format forum but i would like to share my experience too.

    It happens to a lessen degree with medium format too. When i use a TLR and get noticed, i get "how old is that camera ?" . If it is my Mat 124G, they are disapointed that it is 70's made. It has to be 50's to be impressive (wich i have too). So, it is not a mather of size but age. But i don't get mocking remarks (so far).

    Even with 35mm manual focus SLR (a use Contax), i am consider more and more as some dinosaur ( but not by people that know me and my background).

    Local photo stores closing has force me today to send my slide film through my local drugstore. It was the first time the employee saw an E-6 processing film. Next week, i will try them with a 120...

    I salute you, large format shooters, as pictures 'artisan' . Hang on to your intemporal gear and traditionnal way of making good pictures.
  11. Out shooting with my Tachihara 4x5......
    Question - "Is that digital?"
    Answer - "No, it's a real camera"
  12. rj


    I get funny looks if I shoot anything with a tripod, nomatter if it is a 35mm or a 4x5. I do love the comments I get when shooting my crown graphic handheld.
  13. I often get asked if my 4x5 is an "old time camera"?

    Even funnier is when people ask me to take their pictures at my day job surveying! We often get asked if we are "making a movie"? We do have a NIKON instrument, but it only vaguely resembles a camera.
  14. I often overhear someone telling their friends, "That must be digital" (ie. big and "professional-looking" == digital).

    But then, I don't use a darkcloth, so I don't look like an old-timey photographer.
  15. I live in Las Vegas and regularly shoot on "the Strip" with my Sinar and have found the
    thousands of tourists to be very interested and curious but respectful. Only the security
    personnel hassle me when I break out the camera. Interstingly, I have found that when I take
    out my Wisner, they pass me by and remark to one another about how my antique camera
    looks like one they saw once in a movie... I don't mind. I get my photograph and they think
    I'm just a strange tourist "photo-bug"

  16. Was out by the river with the baby Tech, a guy asked if I was done shooting video so he could pass (without getting in the picture). The statement did not compute as the camera is about 45 yrs old so I looked at him blankly. Hours later I realized he must have confused the GG for an LCD screen.
  17. I get stares, I did not know they made those anymore, and does it really take pictures in that order. Most are friendly.

    I use a Zone 6 with shinny brass hardware and mohagany wood. It is neither fast or stealthy.
  18. I don't get any funny looks or remarks when I break out my 4x5 but, it does gather a crowd. While the hoard collects around and watches me go through the paces of setting up, they speak in a very hushed tone as if they were in a church. Fortunately for me, I've never had a lensboard (with lens attached) fall off when I finally snap the shutter.
  19. What's wrong with this picture? Me under the dark cloth with my 5x7 Canham and my guide dog "Vermont" leashed to my belt and patiently waiting. Being almost totally blind and hooked on large format makes for some great conversations.
  20. I've never had the digital question,but recently I was out with my 8x10 and a man came up and asked me if it was autofocus.

    My reply: I guess, my photos are always sharp.

    He then proceeded to stand right in front of my camera to take a picture with his Digi Rebel. It didn't bother me, I was setting up the camera to take a photo once the light improved 1/2 later ;)
  21. I am never sure if it is the 5x4 that makes people stop, or the universal 'what is he making a picture of?' question. In other words, why go to all that trouble and end up with a picture of some rotting wood and rusting corrugated iron?
  22. More curious people. Some want to look at the GG, or through the binoc viewer, ask what it is etc. If there a lot of people out with digitals, i always seem to attract a lot of attention, especially with an 8x10.

    I was at a garden location the other day where there were a lot of pro wedding photographers and a few digital shooters. One guy was following me around. Just guessing I thought at the time he had never seen anyone shooting an 8x10. He was really watching me. A couple of the wedding guys came over and talked a bit. It was interesting there views on photography for weddings and what not.

    Interestingly one worked for a studio and they had a high dollar MF back on a Hassy and he mentioned that the files were too big to work with, for wedding output and he preferred his dslr.
  23. I shoot with a 10x8 metal canham camera, and it often attracts attention. This can be
    handy, since sometimes interesting portrait subjects approach ME to see what I'm doing.
    In manhattan, where I live, it is an everyday occurance to see photo shoots going on
    around town, and seing a view camera is (still) not all that rare.

    Lots of people ask to see through the ground glass, which I always let them do (although I
    may make them wait if the light is changing fast and I need to shoot asap).

    Lately, not once, but twice, I have been asked if I was shooting for television when using
    my view camera. Sign of the times, I guess.
  24. I took the traveling "Shur-Flash" down to the Grassy Knoll, and got some stares with it- it's just a simple black box, not even very big.

    I've NEVER seen anyone around Dallas using regular view camera- think I've seen one guy using a Crown Graphic or something similar (train photography).
  25. I think Randy made an excellent point -- people arent't shy when you pull out a wooden brassy type camera. A big dSLR + f/2.8 zoom glass is very intimidating. A camera that looks 100 years old is not going to scare many people.

  26. Another funny response:

    I was proofing a 4x5 shot and showed the Polaroid (type 54) print to a spectator. She gave me a rather unimpressed look and said "too bad those old cameras can't take color pictures."

    In hindsight, I should have bought a Linhof. I hear they do great color. ;)

  27. If you want to have fun, set the camera up pointing at absolutely nothing and pretend to be making an important photo. Someone will be sure to come along and copy it.
  28. Over the past decade I've been shooting with 4x5s in a large park system that is near my home, using (in order) a Speed Graphic, an enormous Plaubel Peco Supra II, and a Canham DLC45. Throughout this project, a certain elderly gentleman has approached me about a dozen times to watch me work, and each time he has asked me if my camera is a Linhof. When I begin to explain that it's not, he nods and turns away. There's a story behind his questions, I think.
  29. No. But when I had a MF Camera once I picked up this chick.

    My GF at the time was busy that night and I was on my way to a restaurant to meet 2 friends (a couple).

    Since I was without a friend for the dinner date I asked her if she would come. She loved my camera and came. We had dinner and ended up at my place.

    "No LF required".
  30. Never had anyone ask me, "Is that a Hasselblad?"

    Never had anyone ask me, "Is that digital?"

    Usual question from younger folks: "Are you a professional?

    Usual question/statement from older folks: "Wow! I haven't seen one of those since I was a kid!"

    The best thing about LF: people go out of their way NOT to disturb your setup. Once, when I was ready to trip the shutter, I had a dozen or so folks stop in their tracks.

    Yeah, LF is something else ...

    I think I'll go out this weekend.

    /s/ David Beal ** Memories Preserved Photography, LLC
  31. Do you get funny looks when shooting large format?

    All the time!
  32. I have been asked "Is that a Hasselblad?" I am going to put a Hassy pic in the the case for the next time. Ive been asked "Can you still get film for that?" Response "Not for 10 or 15 years now". I've had a person place a tiny
    point and shoot on top of my Calumet and take the same pic.
  33. I actually get surprisingly few questions or comments while I'm out working. Those that ask, I gladly show them - I've never had anyone turn down a look under the dark cloth when offered. I think of it as good public relations to educate the public. Haven't managed to turn any of it into a print sale though ;-)

    What does happen, according to my wife, is that I get my picture taken regularly while I'm under the cloth. She says I've been in hundreds of pictures. This tells me that we LFers must be a really rare breed.
  34. Funny thing about the dark cloth.. Mine is white and black. Whenever I'm under it, people see the white side of course. They always ask why I'm using it backwards.

  35. Would not categorize it as funny looks but rather curious looks. Constantly if in public. Most people just observe my wooden Wisner a bit as a curiosity. Other photographers of lesser formats come up to me while I'm working and first open with a statement complementing how fine or great looking a camera I have and inquire, "What is it?" One can hear many adults in passing just whispering to others in their party. Non-photographer women often can be heard whispering "antique" while their men may quietly chirp in "large format" and "pro". Kids of course may just walk up and blurt out something funny like "Is that an old camera?" or "Why do you put your head in there?"
  36. It was touched upon, but when I am shooting with my Speed Graphic. The most common comment that I get is 'Wow, Thats one of those old Black and White Cameras isn't it?' People are generally amazed that film, not the camera, decides whether the picture is in color or not.

    I think many are just surprised to see a camera without an LCD on the back anymore.
  37. Glen, you'd be surprised how many people think the ground glass is an LCD screen, even though the rest of the camera is entirely wooden.

  38. trw


    I once had a guy come up and say that his Digital Rebel must be much higher resolution (than my press camera) because it's newer.
  39. No, but I get funny looks from my wife when she looks over my shoulder and sees me reading threads like this.
  40. I was out at Mono Lake at dawn with my Toyo 4x5 and a bus full of "photo tourists" showed up before sunrise. About 50 people walked past me at South Tufa and gave me a mixture of strange looks and silly remarks like "is that an antique?" or "are you surveying?" They sounded like New Yorkers and they were all walking around with the latest digital SLRs; easliy $10K hanging from each their necks. They were all taking pictures in the near dark without tripods deployed. Are fuzzy, seriously underexposed frames the new fashion on the East Coast?

    I took 4 frames, each carefully composed and capable of 4x5 foot-sized enlargements with detail.

    "High tech" and disposable income do not a photographer make.

    Since I aquired the 4x5 about two years ago I have learned to slow down and really look; to see. I have been a professional videographer for broadcast networks for over 20 years and have shot a great deal of 35mm and 16mm film for national commericals, but I am now amazed at how much I have been missing by moving fast with an SLR camera.

    I now take far fewer frames and am much happier with the results.

  41. "In manhattan, where I live, it is an everyday occurance to see photo shoots going on around town, and seing a view camera is (still) not all that rare."

    One thing I have noticed through the years is that there seems to be a good bit more interest in photography and darkroom work farther north. I attribute this to the fact that darkroom work is ideally suited to long dark winters (and poorly suited to long hot summers!). I notice it most when shopping used equipment- it's seldom around here.
  42. I`d have to say this is the funniest thread I`ve read in ages! Thinking that a ground glass is actually an LCD is perhaps the best yet. I was recently out shooting 6x17 trannies on 120, when a passerby, asked was I shooting them in 'RAW'. A more common question is 'How many frames did I stitch together to get that?'
  43. I've had my picture taken quite a few times while I'm using my LF camera.

    I'm not surprised when it happens out in the suburbs. But I was surprised when in happened in NYC while I was taking a picture of the Flatiron building -- probably one of the most LF photographed structures on the face of the earth.

    Other than that, most of my experiences involve people asking me if I'm surveying (because of the spirit levels on the 3047 head, maybe?) or if I'm doing an assessment for the bank on a piece of property (???)

    In my experience people are equally very polite or nosey to the point of being annoying.
  44. in china its worse...they gather behind you like its some kind of puppet show...and then there is the expert amongst them who will ask you so many questions that you end up missing the fun fun.
  45. > This tells me that we LFers must be a really rare breed.

    Well I freaked a guy out just a little over a month ago. I was coming down a trail after a day out in the wilderness (w/35mm gear) and was only a few minutes from the trailhead. He'd come up the short distance to do some fall colors in the late afternoon. As I went by I asked him if that was a Wista he had. Needless to say he wasn't expecting that sort of question out there in the boonies. But indeed it was a Wista. What were the odds that two LF people would cross paths - one of them actually out with his camera?

    Anyway, if I'm at a touristy spot and people ask about my ancient Calumet 4x5, I just tell 'em it's my 100 MEGAPIXEL camera -- which is actually maybe even being a bit conservative depending on what you think you can get out of film.

    But generally I screw up if I get talking to people too much, so I usually try to ignore them if I can. I'm not paid to be yet another tourist attraction, though some people haven't gotten the memo on that.

    It has struck me too that any camera on a tripod with a cable release appears to the average yokel to be something from the far distant past, even though it's not considered particularly cool like an old car might be.
  46. Once was all alone in the desert west of Phoenix with the dark cloth over my head. All of a sudden a voice out of no where said, "Do you mind if I take your picture?" Almost put my forehead thru the GG. Turns out it was a coast-to-coast bicycle rider with a digital and me with my LF in the middle of the desert looked rather scenic to him.
  47. I've made some of my favorite portraits when strangers stopped to watch me with my 4x5. People who might be threatened by a small camera pointed at them seem honored to be asked to pose in front of a view camera. The experience has taught me to bring along as many loaded film holders as I can carry.

    I was at a beach once, with my camera aimed inland, when I heard a little girl say "You should take a picture of that, too, Grandpa." Grandpa said "Stand back, honey. He's a real photographer." I told the little girl "Your grandpa's a real photographer, too." She was thrilled, when I asked him to take my picture. It was a good day.

    George Mayhew
  48. This will be a little OT but when I paint on location, I'm known for my heavy use of color. Sometimes an observer will tell me that he "doesn't see those colors in the scene". And my reply was "don't you wish you could?"
  49. Me n my close LF friend were travelling together with a bunch of digital photographers to sea shore area.. U may already know how were the reactions when we both set up our 4x5 cameras..

    We took out a calculator (which capable to present graph, etc) made a "calculation", reviewed the graphs, and discussed them

    Those digital men were amazed.. I think u must try this.. It was so funny... 2 LF photographers were standing side by side with 2 LF cameras seriously discussing syntax graphs...

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