Radio Kootwijk

Large format camera: focusing

On Friday, March 30th, 2018, I drove to Radio Kootwijk in the province of Gelderland (NL) to capture a beautiful building that the Dutch government used for communication (from 1923) with the former Dutch East Indies. It was designed by Julius Luthmann (Amsterdam school) in Art Deco style, built with reinforced concrete. The building is excellent for practising the camera movement skills. On arrival, it was a shiny but windy day with 40% cloud over, a pleasure to go for an architecture shooting session. This blog should address camera movements, but I changed the topic into focus, and I will tell you why.

I have to admit that one of the beginner’s frustrations with a large format camera is focussing on the ground glass. It seems a little overdone to use a dark cloth like in the old days of photography, but it is a relevant aspect of the workflow.  Beside darkness, a loup is essential as well because there is no autofocus on board. Focusing is already difficult in a neutral camera position, let alone in case of different camera movements, i.e. swing and tilt.  

So, if there is an out of focus image (assuming that it is not my intention), I am to blame, it is my fault.

That day, I used the Linhof dark cloth version which is of heavy cloth, and it is already challenging to fixate it when there is just little to moderate wind. So, the consequence was lack of darkness; the darkness I needed so much to evaluate the sharpness of the upside-down image on the ground glass. To compensate for the dysfunctionality of the dark cloth, I pulled my jacket over my head and camera which was better but very clumsy and time-consuming. The focusing time took me more than twenty minutes! The conclusion was clear: focusing was already difficult in the neutral camera position without a decent and lightweight dark cloth. It was disappointing not to practise the movements because of lack of darkness.

The previous months, I watched many YouTube videos on several subjects, and one of these was a review of two dark cloths brands, BTZS vs Harrison. It is an interesting review, and Ben Horne (benhorne.com) does his job well and in the field. In my opinion, he has no preconceived view. Based on this comparison, I decided to purchase the Harrison dark cloth ( Harrison Dark Cloth purchased from www.linhofstudio.com).

In a next blog, I will update you with my experiences of this new piece of gear.

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