In May 2015 I started a project I call “4x5x365“. My plan is to post one 4″x5” film photo each day for a year.
NOTE: To quickly see my 4x5x365 images and posts, click this link —> 4x5x365
I started photography back in 1996 when I went to the Atlanta Olympics. Of course film was the name of the game back then and I started with a Minolta 35 mm camera, quickly switching to Nikon after about a year. I have shot mostly Nikon since that time but also have owned a variety of other medium format film cameras, including a Mamiya RZ-67II, Mamiya 645, Hassleblad 500, and more recently a Pentax 6×7 system. I started shooting 4″x5″ large format film in about 1998, first with a Cambo 4×5 and later with a Toyo VX-125. I always processed my own film and scanned it into my computer for finishing in Photoshop and printing on digital printers. I never did much work in the darkroom.
In 1999 I purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D1. That changed everything. As a computer guru, digital just worked for me. I still shot film but much of my work switched to digital. I was a very early adopter and now have over 300,000 digital images in my archives. Eventually I sold most of my film gear with the exception of my much loved Nikon F5, Nikon FM3A and my Toyo VX-125 – my favorite film cameras. I didn’t use them much if any but held onto them just because I loved shooting with them so much and all I felt were works of art.
During the intervening years I would periodically pull out my Toyo VX-125 and expose a few sheets of film. I loved the unique capabilities of a view camera but never could justify the cost of a very expensive digital back for the VX-125. I tried adapting my Nikon’s to attach to the VX-125 but that just wasn’t very practical since the shortest distance was about 150 mm, meaning everything was a telephoto shot. I kept playing with my VX-125 off and on but never enough to even keep my chemicals fresh. I eventually even sold my very nice Jobo CPE processor (big mistake) and would send my film off to be developed.
In the past year I have been drawn more and more to my VX-125 and decided to start developing my own film again so that I could control the quality, shorten turnaround, and lower the cost of shooting this awesome camera. Right now I am shooting almost exclusively black and white because it is easy and low cost to develop at home. Eventually I would like to shoot more color with this camera but I need a better way to process color film.
So my goal with this project was to force myself to start using my 4×5 cameras more so that I would get as comfortable shooting and processing 4×5 film as I am with my Nikon digital gear. I have learned that to take great photos I need to learn the gear inside and out so that when I am shooting a subject, I can concentrate on the subject and not on my tools. I shoot so much with my Nikon gear I can just about guess the camera settings in advance and be pretty close, and can spin dials and settings in the dark and get them right. I know where everything is and how it all works like the back of my hand, so when I am shooting with my Nikon gear, I can basically forget about the gear and really focus on the creative aspect of photography. I want to get that same familiarity with shooting 4×5 film.
I purchased a nice used Toyo 45A field camera in 2014 and began using it more when I travel, as my 4×5 “point and shoot”. It is easier and quicker to set up than the VX-125 but offers limited lens movements when compared to the VX-125. I can use my same lenses and boards, same accessories, so the 45A was a great choice and very inexpensive to add to my collection. I now use both equally.
The 4×5 Images
When I first started this project I thought “I will shoot one 4×5 image per day and post it for everyone to see.” Aaah, right. That lasted about 3 days before I figured out that was not such a great idea. As a busy editorial and commercial photographer, writer, and web design professional, I just can’t keep a schedule of shooting 4×5 every single day. The pictures would end up WAY boring since I would not have time to go out and photograph something fresh and interesting. I do travel extensively and that is a great time to take photos, but I also may spend several days at my desk working and that is just not conducive to 4×5 photography.
So I changed the plan – post one 4×5 photo per day for a year. THAT I could do. I will use mostly new work but will show older work every now and then. The new work forces me to shoot more 4×5 – which is the goal of this project. Besides, I doubt I have shot 365 sheets of 4×5 film in my entire life! That will soon change.
I will be posting more than just my best 4×5 photos. Some in the photo industry warn to only show my best work on my web site. I feel I have plenty of excellent work in my portfolios and stories on my site. For my 4x5x365 project, I am showing everything, even images were I make mistakes. (Well, everything but completely useless film. If I ruin a piece of film and there is nothing on it, which happens, I am not going to waste your time showing a blank piece of film.) You can follow my progression as I sharpen my skills at shooting large format work. If you read the posts you can understand the challenges with shooting 4×5 and how I overcome them over time.