Which 4x5 camera for old hollywood glamour shot

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by jimmy_marsden|1, Oct 14, 2001.

  1. I am looking to recreate george hurrell's look he captured in the thirties and forties. I know he used an 8x10 camera. I'm looking for a 4x5 camera with a lens that is good for portraiture. Any recommendations? I wouldn't mind even buying an old folding 4x5 camera from the early 1900's to help recreate that look. Lastly, if i do buy new, what is the difference between a view camera and a field camera? thanks!
     
  2. Hurrell did a whole lot of work to his negatives with a pencil, plus
    he was a genius. The camera you use is not going to make a
    difference, but the lighting and your skill with the pencil will. You
    might think about using an 8x10 if Hurrell's look is really what you
    are after, and you think you can get it.

    <p>

    A field camera folds up into a box. A monorail rides along rails.
     
  3. Look for non coated lenses and use a blue filter to recreate the
    look of the films and lenses ofthe period. As the first poster
    pointed out, the camera itself is not goingto make much a
    difference. And yes Hurrell's negatives and prints were heavily
    retouched.
     
  4. Hurrell's lighting was evidently dead simple as well: a large
    theatrical spot light some distance from the subject so the light
    fall off was pretty even. across the face and there was plenty of
    room for "gobos" to shape the light.
     
  5. You might take a look at Roger Hicks' book on hollywood glamour. I
    believe he discusses lighting setups including Hurrell's. Also take a
    look at Mark Vierra's (sp.?) book on Hurrell and his view camera
    article several years ago.

    <p>

    As the above post(s) suggest, Hurrell's technique was a function of
    his negative retouching in combination with the use of high-powered
    hot lights and soft-focus lenses. If I remember correctly, he used
    several Mole-Richardson 1000W lights and often employed booms to
    acheive just the right placement of light. His lenses varied over the
    course of his work. I believe his early portraits were taken with a
    Wollensak Verito, a variable soft-focus lens. Apparently, he used the
    Verito stopped down to achieve a balance between sharpness and the
    characteristic soft-focus halo look of the Verito. Later on in his
    career, Hurrell switched to a Goerz Celor.

    <p>

    .............................................
     
  6. I have the Hicks book and have to say I like it.

    <p>

    As for the retouching, damn, they didn't retouch back then. On some it
    looks like they took a spray can, chisel, bleach, razor blade, steel
    wool, anything they could find, torch, shoe heel, bubble gum, etc.
    Pretty bad compared to what you'd think of now as retouching. :>}

    <p>

    Hicks and his partner point out a couple of shots in the book which
    exhibit particularly nasty attempts at retouching. Guess what, these
    are some of the most memorable pictures. You're so captivated by the
    personality and wonder of the image, you dismiss the obvious goofs.

    <p>

    That being said, have a look for yourselves.
     
  7. From the little I've gathered Hurrell's subjects used little or no
    makeup (Joan Crawford was not too happy about that) and he lit them
    pretty hard with hot lights and then retouched the negatives heavily.
    If you look at some of his photos it often appears that eyelashs and
    eyebrows were "drawn" in and the skin tones appear almost
    "sandblasted" down. I'd suggest starting by studying the makeup and
    hair styles from that era and either go that way or learn to retouch
    bigger negatives, not as easy as you would think..good luck.
     
  8. For the retouching part, you might look for William Mortensen's
    book 'Print Finishing' (Camera Craft, 1938). He details the use of
    powder, eraser, carbon pencil, razor blade, spotting brush, and his
    own abrasion-tone process. This is for prints, not negatives, but it
    might help get the look you want.
     
  9. Hi Jimmy, with regards to the 4*5 camera, I think you will find what
    you need is a camera with bellows extension of at least 16 inches so
    you can get in close. And this job doesn't call for a fancy camera or
    an expensive lens, maybe an old Kodak or Graflex studio camera on a
    rail which could probably be had for around $300. You might find a 10"
    lens useful. It would probably be best to rent a studio camera with
    Polaroid holder to find the perspective you want and then make
    decisions about buying equiptment. An old folding camera from early
    1900s is not the answer IMHO; an old studio camera from the 1950s
    might be the answer. See if you can borrow a Kodak 10' Commercial
    Ektar for a lens? Not enough room to go into difference between field
    and studio cameras, but I think for the job you outline a studio
    camera is much cheaper without the limitations some field cameras
    might have. I mean with the field camera, the compromises are for
    compactness and portability. This ususally means expensive in any
    thing. Basically all you want is bellows extension on a rigid camera
    and that is pretty easy to find in 50s studio 4*5s. Good luck, David
     
  10. With all due respect, please allow me to correct some misperceptions
    here. I am friends with Mark Viera, a latter-day associate of George
    Hurrell's who recently published a book titled "Hurrell's Hollywood."
    Mark reprints Hurrell's original negatives and uses the techniques
    Hurrell perfected. I asked Mark the same questions Jimmy has posted
    here, and this is what he told me:

    <p>

    1. Hurrell's lighting was not always "dead simple." He did not use
    just one spotlight, as many people believe, but often several lights.
    Yes, his facial light was often one carefully aimed key, but he built
    up abstract patterns and shapes on on the background with other
    lights, shapes complementary to his subjects.

    <p>

    2. Hurrell stopped using blue-sensitive orthochromatic film in the
    1930s. Most of Hurrell's best known work was on standard panchromatic
    film - this is obvious to anyone who looks at his portraits taken
    after about 1934. So, no, the "Hurrell look" is not ortho film- you're
    wasting your time going down this avenue.

    <p>

    3. Yes, he was an extensive retoucher. Either Hurrell himself, or one
    of several assistants, would painstakingly pencil in the blemishes on
    the negative, using powdered graphite to "burnish" the highlights. And
    yes, he did not allow his models to use ANY base makeup whatsoever.
    The flawless skin you see is a result of pencil retouching. Joan
    Crawford, for instance was COVERED with freckles. . .Hurrell's genius
    is obvious when you see how well he covered them. If you pick up
    Mark's book, you'll see an interesting "before and after" - the
    negative of Joan with and without retouching. Her face is a mass of
    freckles in the "before" and the "after" is alabaster cream. Another

    <p>

    4. One poster seems to think these portraits are amateurish in their
    retouching - nothing could be further from the truth. The key to
    classic-looking portraits is not their "obvious goofs." That's an
    unfortunate attitude of the current mindset that no one knew how to do
    anything "in the old days" and that only current technology can
    produce good work. Hurrell's photos are masterpieces - find me an
    "obvious goof!"

    <p>

    5. Another common misconception about Hurrell's work is that it was
    done in soft focus. This is not the case. Hurrell ORIGINATED the
    portrait style of super sharp photography combined with the
    preternatural smoothness of skin. This is why his portraits hold up
    today. After about 1935, he no longer used soft focus because he
    didn't need to cover up amateurish technique with diffusion. Take a
    good look at these shots and you see crisp, sharp outlines (note the
    detail in hair and eyelashes) with no facial flaws. This is all
    retouching my friends.
     
  11. Hi Jimmy,

    Sorry to arrive here more than three years late (just saw your
    question today). As for a camera, the bigger the better.

    I agree with Josh Slocum but can't agree with Ed Buffaloe that
    William Mortensen is a good example for Hurrell style
    retouching. Not saying that Mortensen was bad, just different.

    Retouching 8x10 negatives isn't as easy as you'd think because,
    ironically, the retouching shows more easily than on a smaller
    —say, 4x5— negative. You've got to do more pencilling to cover
    the same area (for example, a cheek). Dye retouching would be
    simpler.

    Mark Viera is your best source of information on Hurrell's
    technique, if you can get him to share it. Have fun and just
    practice, practice, practice.

    Best,

    Christopher Nisperos

    co-author, Hollywood Portraits
     
  12. Former Mortensen student Robert Balcomb has an interesting blog for discussing all things
    Mortensen and anything else you might want to delve into regarding portraiture, techniques,
    photography as "Art."
    http://robertbalcombphotoforum.wordpress.com
     

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