I was given a gift recently. A Calumet 4×5 View Camera. An older gentleman was downsizing some of his belongings and wanted to give it to somebody who would use. I found him through a friend that thought I would be interested. I met him at his house a few days later and picked it up. He also passed along a Leica handbook (I recently acquired a M2 Rangefinder as well!), the tripod, two lights, and some old Polaroid Sheet film.
We talked a bit about photography and what this old camera was used for. Then he started telling me about his time in WWII and pulled out pictures he had taken in North Africa during the war with his Leica. Really amazing images that he developed and printed himself with a travel enlarger. He’d sell portraits to other GI’s to send back home.
I promised him I’d use the camera.
So far I’ve used it twice. Once that night I brought it home and again this morning. It’s a time consuming process – metering the scene, getting under the sheet to focus with on the ground glass, loading the film back, engaging the shutter, and finally click. Then you have to put the dark slide back in, pull the film and wait. With old exposed film that’s a anxious time. Did it work? Does it still meter and the listed speed? I fired off 22 shots this morning.
For every four or five shots shots that don’t work…
you get one or two that does. Today I got three.
I think I was there for an hour. It’s a chore to even get to a location. The camera and tripod don’t seem very heavy until you haul them a half mile across the beach. I envy the photographers that mastered the craft this way. I makes you think about everything before you push the button. Mistakes waste too much time and too much film. I love the process though. Every bit of it. It truly becomes making a photograph.
From what I can tell, nobody makes Polaroid Sheet film anymore. Fuji makes the pack film for the Polaroid Camera’s most people may still have around. I’m going to have to move to negative film and wet chemistry. I’ve got two negative holders. That’s four shots I can have on hand every time I go out. Four. They all better count.
So I’m ordering film this week. There are some more landscapes I want to shoot with this camera. I’m hoping to get a very patient client or two in front of this lens as well!
EDIT June 14, 2011
Jack called me this afternoon. He wanted to thank me for the picture. Said I had a real eye for this. He couldn’t believe the old film he passed along worked at all. He said that was the first landscape that this specific camera had ever been set in front. It also meant to lot to him because the Fairport Harbor lighthouse was one that he wanted to paint, but had never been there to capture a picture to use as a guide. I think I may have to send him some more pictures.