FIELD NOTES #1
Pictured above is the WillTravel 3D printed 4x5 camera, taken with my iPhone. It’s mounted quickly on the screw threads to a cheap but super lightweight tripod. Lens, camera, film holder and tripod weigh somewhere around 5 pounds, total. This is my go to “run and gun“ (for as much as that’s possible) large format, portable camera.
If you look close, I have pre measured distance on the focus ring. Technically, you can use the ground galss (resin on this 3D camera) and focus with a hood and loupe. There 'aint no time for that in feild work like this. Instead, I decided to create fixed focus points. I used my Watameter range finder and a laser distance finder to callabrate the focus ring. I can dial up the distance, skip the loupe and hood and just shoot. There are no swings and tilts on this rig, so it realy is a point and shoot set up. As I test this, I will do a post on this technique and dive into how I created it. So far it works great.
I’m shooting Ilford Delta 100, and even though I am in morning light, I still have an exposure time of one second at F/22. There’s no wind so I can get away with this cheap tripod, using a cable release. The environment is the gritty bowels in and around the LA River/basins. I have a small homeless encampment tucked very tightly under the overpass to my right… however it is extremely quiet… In fact it’s completely absent of any human life. That’s really strange but also some of the reason I shoot early in the morning beyond on the terrific light. Sleepy people rarely become difficult.
There is no doubt there is a danger factor to this kind of work. It’s somewhat editorial in the nature of the position you put yourself in, but given that it’s large format, it’s slow, time consuming and has eyes always on you. 10 minutes before this, a shirtless man, in his underwear, rode past me so fast on his bicycle, with a golf club cocked up in the air, like a pollo mallet, that I thought it was going to be on. We looked each other in the eye and that was it. But who knows what another day would bring with this guy. Or anyone else for that matter.
As an interesting companion, I bring my audio field recorder just about everywhere I go. I usually record two or four channels of 24/96 audio, as a scratch pad of ideas to use in other creative endeavors. I like the idea of creating sonic landscapes that I can weave in and out of musical experimentation. The above sound file is several minutes of the ambient sound heard as I worked. There is no naration, as I work queitly in the background. I am about 30 feet from this device, shooting with my back to these sounds. It's a quiet morning, accented by the occasional car passing, moved along by rhythmic machinery and city noise deep in the background. It's dotted with bird life overhead. It's all woven over the top of an otherwise legato movement of early morning industrial hum. A big, rakish and dramatic train passes in the middle of the movement, as if it were a surprise counterpoint in a legato orchestral piece, crafted to elicit audience reaction. And then, as quickly as it enters, it’s back to the quiet blanket of hum. I find this type of sound fascinating to explore.
And just like that, the photo was done. It takes more time to discover the shot, set up and everythinbg else, than it does to capture the moment. In a follow up peice, I will present some preview images on the light table, as I develop them. In the mean time, I am curious ...what do you see when you hear this passage?