Breaking Out the View Camera

Photo and text by Larry Shapiro.

With all the talk about shooting film, I was beginning to feel fortunate that I still had both my film cameras and darkroom equipment, even though I had rarely used them in the last five years.

My first camera was a Yashica D 120 roll film twin lens reflex, and I never really got into using a 35mm camera. For me photography was  black & white prints processed in my home darkroom from negatives made in medium or large format cameras, because the bigger negatives allowed me make better prints.

So I thought if I'm going to shoot film again, let's bring out the 4x5. While I had sold some of the large format equipment, I had kept a beautiful metal Toyo field camera. I had to locate the lenses and lens boards. But after digging through the equipment closet, I found what I needed. I put the camera on a tripod in my front yard and started to focus on a Lily of the Nile that was there waiting for me. 

Almost immediately, I drew a crowd. A small boy who had been walking his dog wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I was taking a picture of the flowers and asked him if he wanted to look through the camera, but he shied away. Fortunately his father soon came by and asked what I was doing, and he did want to take a look. He ducked under the dark cloth and was struck by the clarity of the view, and he even convinced his young son to take a look.

While I had not planned on exposing any film while reacquainting myself with the camera, I was excited by both the interchange with my on-lookers, as well as viewing the scene on the ground glass.

I went into my darkroom and fortunately found a film holder with some unexposed Ilford HP 5 (which I later determined was 8 years out of date) and slotted it into the camera. I metered the scene with a Gossen incident meter, set the exposure, attached the cable release, removed the dark slide, clicked the shutter, replaced the dark slide and took the film holder back to the darkroom.

I then tray-developed the film. After it dried, I scanned the negative. Lots of steps for one exposure, but I was very pleased with the results. I'm sure that there will be more 4x5 subjects in my future.

Editor's note: To see more of Larry Shapiro's work, visit his web site: He also maintains a Flickr page at: . Text and photo by Larry Shapiro.

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