“I photographed my first ever motorsports event on an Arca Swiss 4×5 camera” is written by Kieran Elson (website | Facebook):
I couldn’t let the opportunity to see England’s first closed rally slide by me, a huge part of my childhood was watching Colin Mcrae in his iconic Subaru Impreza. I couldn’t wait to finally see a live rally event, so how would I approach a rally in 2018?
I have never photographed motorsports before, should I bring a 200, 400, or how about a fisheye? I decided to look at photographs from modern reporters, see what kind of photographs are being made. A quick google search revealed 1000’s of pin sharp photographs of the cars either drifting or jumping, now while we all like to see gravel and water frozen in time with perfectly focused cars, I was a little disappointed to see that nothing looked any different from my 2005 WRC calendar. But this did make sense the camera format hadn’t changed after all, going digital didn’t really change the look of the images it just increased the image size.
I wanted to create something different, there would be no point in copying what has already been done a thousand times.
So what better to bring to a motorsports event than a 4×5 monorail Arca Swiss? With its 0 fps, manual focus, permanent viewfinder black out and maximum of 10 shots what could go wrong? Well plenty, the lens broke, my first batch of film failed and one of the film holders developed a new light leak.
I chose to use a 4×5 view camera just to do something different, I could have used a modern auto focus camera and played it safe. But wheres the passion in making it easy? Photography should be about the journey as much as it is the final product, and dragging around a monorail view camera sure adds to the journey.
Those who are not familiar with view cameras, they are completely manual in every way possible.
All focusing is done with the ground glass while no film is in the camera, once this is done and the scene is metered the film can be inserted. With the film inserted the ground glass is completely blacked out, its the equivalent to shooting with mirror lock up on a SLR camera.
But the added challenge comes with its own benefits, any lens mounted can be tilted and twisted creating very unique perspectives. There are ways to replicate this effect in Photoshop, but software cant replicate the depth a large format lens has. 4×5 also has incredible freedom for cropping, I made panoramic crops and even cut one photograph by over 50% and still kept a poster size image. Because of this ability I shot the whole event on one lens, this made carrying and assembling the 4×5 all day a breeze.
Knowing I can only take 10 photographs really allowed me to enjoy this incredible event, I wasn’t trying to capture everything that caught my eye. I could really take my time and enjoy the cars, rather than watching everything through a viewfinder or from the back of a screen.
After enjoying this experience so much I took the 4×5 to Santa Pod Raceway to continue capturing something new, this has also inspired me to dig out some old Minolta film cameras to capture shots where a tripod couldn’t reach. They are so much smaller than a typical DSLR and don’t attract attention, plus the lenses are affordable and have beautiful rendition.
Finally after having so much fun seeing the world a different way I have started bringing the 4×5 to weddings, everyone loves seeing the camera being set up and asking questions about it.
For additional info, see also this article by Kieran Elson.
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