Monday, March 18, 2019

A photographic trip with QRP

Intrepid Mk 3, lenses, film, KX2
I read Tim KA9EAK's two recent postings with a greater-than-usual amount of interest a few days ago as I was preparing to dip my toes into a different type of photography.

Later this week I'll be heading to central Texas in hopes of photographing the wildflowers that are in bloom this time of year. Mainly bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, they literally carpet pastures in blue and red.

A few months ago, I re-entered the world of upside-down photography via a view camera that shoots 4x5-inch sheet film.

Yep, film.

Ektar, Ektachrome, Fujichrome - they still make it.

Images are composed on ground glass underneath a focusing cloth and they are presented upside-down and reversed left to right. I'm not sure it's a good thing but something about my brain likes that.

I made a blog posting late last summer about an upcoming trip to Arkansas with this camera -
Attempts at portraiture
unfortunately, the camera did not get delivered in time to capture the fall colors. It arrived in December and I've used the time since then to reacquaint myself with the format and make sure the film holders, lens boards and bellows are all light-tight.

Most good landscape photography takes place up to two hours after sunrise and begins again a few hours before sunset. That will leave plenty of time in between for other things, including (hopefully) a bit of radio, so I'm bringing along the KX2 even though the primary purpose of the trip will be dedicated to wavelengths significantly shorter than 10-80 meters.

For those interested in knowing about the camera, it is an Intrepid Mk 3 from the UK. Film is making a come-back among a large number of photographers who value the process of making an image, not just the instant result of digital. And this particular format offers two significant advantages over other camera types: a very large (20 sq inches) transparency or negative that, when scanned, results in a much higher resolution file than any digital camera.

But the main advantage is the ability to tilt the lens axis from the film axis, ie they do not have to be parallel to each other. This allows the focus on the lower part of the film to be at a different distance than the focus on the top part of the film. So an object quite close to the camera can be in perfect focus as can an object on the far horizon, even with the lens wide open - a condition that would result in minimum depth of field for other camera types with their film and lens planes fixed parallel to each other.

It's this aspect that is fun to experiment with, especially when a good subject is at hand. I've never been much of a landscape photographer and struggle to make decent compositions and have therefore focused (pun intended) on portraits. So this will be an exercise-in-progress, inspired by the many fantastic photographers who post their processes on YouTube.

Radio-wise: CW on 20 and 30 meters, telescoping vertical antenna.



  1. Recommended: The Camera, by Ansel Adams -- still in print. Devoted to view cameras and all their various movements. Have fun.

    1. Yes, read it years ago. It's one of a series I believe with "The Negative" and a few others.

      73, John

  2. I still have a Graphlex 4x5 press camera. I always had to laugh when somebody walked past my lens upside down and backwards. Looks so strange.

    The prints from 4x5 are sooooo sharp but I think my days of loading sheet film are done.
    Enjoy the ground glass and radio waves.
    73, Paul VA3ZC

    1. Paul as long as you still have the Graflex, lens and film holders, there's a new way people are using these cameras and it's dirt cheap. Harmon makes a positive paper - no negative involved - and developing it with instant coffee (cafenol - LOL) and vitamin C:

    2. At first I thought you were a bit ahead of the April Fools game but wow, that's amazing.
      Instant Coffee as developer? Who'd of thought it?

      It will bring new life to the old camera, plus I have a bunch of pinhole camera ideas.
      Pinhole day is approaching.

  3. For those who want to try this with their digital SLR you can use a 'lensbaby'...

    1. I see that company has grown since the last time I looked and, as you mention, now offer a tilt/shift capable lens.

      73 - John

  4. I knew this was going to be your next post! What a great camera! I recall your past post about them and immediately began my research. The first thing I did was see if you could get a digital back for them as I have no interest in messing with chemicals anymore nor paying someone else to do it for me. Well of course you can. Hmm...

    I think that camera is really well thought out and well executed. I hope that the creators do really well.

    Those three Ansel Adams books (Camera, Negative, Print) were excellent resources. I also have an old book called "The Zone System for all formats" or something like that not that I ever got close to it but it was certainly fun to try. I went to an exhibit of his original prints some years ago. Amazing!

    Have fun with your new camera. I'm certain that you'll think of all sorts of great photos to take with it. You can blaze the trail and maybe I'll follow along some day. I'm really enjoying my M6 for now though.



    1. Hi Tim,

      Also gaining in popularity are the Chamonix cameras. They are Chinese but very well made according to all reports, and several models are offered in various sizes. I'm glad to see this as it has already caused one film manufacturer to start making (re-making) a previously discontinued film in 4x5 format.

      Developing transparencies is easy with various 3-step kits available and no darkroom needed except for the insertion/removal of film. I use one of these:

      or a lab in Colorado that develops each sheet for about $4. With film cost, each press of the shutter costs $7, inspiring me to think before I shoot. I use my DSLR as a "polaroid" allowing me to confirm composition and exposure before tripping the shutter on the Big Boy.

      I'm back from central was a bust. The fields aren' tas I saw them last and the only camera worthy displays were along roadsides...not what I wanted or am willing to use film on. In a few weeks, Tennessee (Smoky Mountain NP) hiking and maybe some large format waterfall pics.

      73 - John