Transitioning from digital to large format film was a paradigm shift in my photography. This format provides a very zen-like shooting experience that is difficult to put into words. It has sparked many discussions with friends, and a lot of thinking on my part.
Although the sheer image detail of large format is impressive, it will not magically transform a mediocre subject into a brilliant photograph. A spectacular sunrise shot on large format will also be spectacular when shot on a digital SLR. A boring subject shot on a digital SLR will be equally boring when shot on large format. The camera itself has no super powers. It is just a camera — a tool.
Imagine going to Home Depot, and being told that the DeWalt would give a more zen-like drilling experience. Although this might sound absurd, it is not far from the truth.
A master woodworker’s tools are a more appropriate analogy. The hands-on approach to planing a piece of wood must also be a zen-like experience. The tool and the operator seamlessly become one.
In this sense, we cannot differentiate between digital and large format film. Each format provides a hands-on approach — both literally and emotionally. There must be something else.
After much thought, I attribute the large format experience to three simple, all encompassing principles of human nature.
- The less you have of something, the more you respect it.
- The harder you work for something, the more you respect it.
- Lists with three items are much better than those with two.
principles are instrumental for my love of large format photography. I shoot far less photos, but I have more respect for each photo I take.
Perhaps I should have just stuck to my 1Ds3 and a single 128MB memory card? 🙂