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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Transforming Large Format


Landscape master Jack Dykinga’s new “secret” view camera is in the form of a modern DSLR

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Versatility is a very practical consideration for a photographer these days. Not only is traveling internationally ever more difficult with film and quantities of larger and heavier equipment, but the infrastructure that for years made large-format film the professional option has shifted considerably toward the digital realm. When your images are all about quality, those practical concerns become game-changers.

“It’s multifaceted,” Dykinga explains. “It seems like the labs are disappearing. And film availability is sometimes scarce. But I still continue to use film and my 4x5. If I’ve got a scene that I know is really going to go right to fine art, I’ll pretty much revert to film. So I’m still kind of juggling and marrying the two.”

The other concern Dykinga has with his new approach is technical, and decidedly digital. It comes by way of color fringing at the edges of the image due to the extremes to which he’s pushing his lenses. It has both a digital cause and a digital solution.

“Fringing is important,” he says. “Basically, the glass isn’t rendering all of the colors exactly the same. When the angle is bending the light way out at the edge of the frame is where it’s most noticeable. So when you pull the image out of the raw processor, you’d better address the fringing—especially these wide angles that have huge image circles. When you approach the edge of the circle, you’re almost assuredly getting red, green and yellow blue fringing going on. With these smaller-format cameras, it can be the difference between a sharp picture and a not-sharp picture.”

Most of the changes Dykinga has seen from his new approach have been quite beneficial. He even has begun to notice aesthetic changes that have followed the technique—things he always dreamed about with 4x5, but only now can he achieve.

“One of the things I find is that with 4x5 you’re sort of gravitating to shorter lenses and wide-angle approaches,” he explains. “And a lot of these pictures—the cactus, the desert, the Namibian sand dunes—these are all telephoto shots. It’s a good mixture, but what I find myself doing are these very wide panoramas with telephoto lenses, which allow me to bring up that background and get that effect I’ve always yearned to do with a 4x5. To do that with a 4x5, I would have to be using a 1200mm lens and a tripod and several Sherpas to carry it all.

“Some of the panorama shots,” Dykinga continues, “they’re shot with telephoto lenses, and a lot of those aren’t that sharp until you get down to about ƒ/13. Quality is always the driving force. Unlike wildlife or people, when you can actually shoot wide open because you’re going after that moment, you’ve got no excuse with landscape photography. You want maximum quality. That’s probably the original reason for going to this—to supply maximum quality.”

Other Gear Options
Jack Dykinga is a longtime Nikon user, but you can employ his same technique with other camera makes, as well. The two key components of Dykinga’s gear are the high-resolution image sensor and the perspective-control lens. Canon calls its lenses Tilt-Shift, and it makes several focal lengths. Of course, Canon also makes several high-resolution cameras, including the full-frame EOS-1Ds Mark III with 21.1 megapixels. There also are a few adapters made that essentially fit between your DSLR and your lens, which gives you a range of view-camera movements. One example is the Arca-Swiss M-Line Two Single Lens Reflex (there’s also a model for medium- format shooters). The M-Line Two SLR is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Canon TS-E 24mm Tilt-Shift lens
Arca-Swiss M-Line Two Single Lens Reflex

To see more of Jack Dykinga’s photography, visit www.dykinga.com.

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