The craft of photography with the Crown Graphic

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crown graphicIf you thought that I gave up film after getting the Fuji XT1 I most certainly have not. It’s just that when you completely switch camera systems you need to run the new system through it’s paces so that you can discover the hidden quirks and get comfortable with the camera. Recently though my film cameras were calling my name. It was time to take a digital break and go burn some film.

Instead of shooting roll film I decided to shoot some 4×5 film. I wanted to immerse myself for a morning of full on photography. So I dug out my trusty Graflex Crown Graphic. I got this camera a couple of years ago and since then have put together a nice kit. I have three lenses for it, a bunch of film holders and some filters for black and white work. For those of you who don’t know what a Crown Graphic is, if you watch any of the old black and white movies where there is a cigar chomping newspaper reporter, holding a big camera with a bellows and huge bulb flash, it’s probably a Crown Graphic or one of it’s relatives.

The Crown was made for newspaper photographers. It was a sturdy box of a camera that when opened revealed a bellows/lens system much like a field camera. It shot 4×5 film (although there were smaller sheet film versions) that loaded into film holders and then into the back of the camera. It had a built in rangefinder system but you could also use the ground glass on the back for critical focusing. Just like a field camera you could change lenses if you had extras already mounted on lens boards. It had limited front movements. A good photographer knew their settings and exposures and could bang out photos using just the rangefinder system and bulb flash. I don’t work that way.

I use my Crown Graphic more like a field camera. I have my handheld light meter and take multiple readings with it. I look through the back of the ground glass on the camera and carefully compose my image. Speaking of looking through the ground glass, for those of you who have never done this, the image you see is upside down and backwards. It takes a bit of getting used to. For me it is one of my thinking cameras. There is nothing quick about using this camera and most of my time is spent on setting it up and composing the image before even taking one picture. There have been many times where I’ve got it ready to go and I decide what I am seeing isn’t worth using a sheet of film on and I close it up and move on to my next possible scene. It’s methodical, it’s slow and it’s very, very wonderful.

When I use this camera I feel that I am fully practicing the craft of photography. I only shoot black and white film with this camera so the craft continues when I get home and develop the film. It is a thrill to hold up a developed negative and see that you got a good image. The second thrill comes when I scan the film and really see if what I had in my mind at the time of exposure actually came through.

If you want to try a U.S. made camera that has some cool history behind it and be able to get some top notch photos from it, do yourself a favor and at least shoot one these once. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t and I must say I have gotten some of my favorite photos from it.

Happy wanderings.

Iridient Developer 3.0, better than the big guns!

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I have been an Aperture user since it came out. Of course now in Apple’s infinite wisdom they are doing away with the support for their professional photo editing software. That is a huge disappointment for those of us who had a good workflow going with their system. I also use Photoshop but have not yet done the leap to Lightroom. Just about when I was considering the Lightroom jump I bought into the Fuji XT1 system.

There were many complaints online on how Lightroom did or mostly didn’t, handle the Fuji X-trans files. I don’t even begin to understand the differences between their raw format and other camera maker’s raw formats but apparently there is plenty. I am more artistic and not scientific minded so I will leave those technological readings to those of you who enjoy them. I just care if it works! When I shot Nikon I shot only raw files for the flexibility. All of the modern software “big guns” out their handled those files great. Fuji is known for their great JPEG files and they are awesome but I wanted to know if I could get more out of the Fuji files.

Enter Iridient Developer! I heard that it handled the Fuji raw files really well and better than the “big guns” in the photo software business. I don’t know if this guy works out of his house or has a small company but it sure feels like you are dealing with a real person who cares about bringing out the best product that he can. It’s not expensive by software standards either, I think I paid like $99.00 for it or something like that. The best part is it works!

Now their is version 3.0 and I got to try it out yesterday. I downloaded some images that I just recently shot in Chicago. The originals are in color but I decided that I wanted to see how Iridient handled them in black and white. Wow! I mean really wow! I was able to make fine tuned adjustments to my shadows and mid tones and impressively bring back some blown out highlights that I thought were unretrievable. The results were black and white images with great tonal range and clarity. I could make huge prints off these files. I am super stoked about how well this software handled my Fuji XT1 files.

Currently I have only used it on landscape and city scape files but am eager to see how it would handle portraits. Stay tuned for that one. So don’t feel that you always have to buy from the “big guns” to get what you need. There is some great things coming from smaller companies with big ideas!

Happy wanderings!