Behind the Scenes: the 1930′s Hollywood Shoot
It’s been a busy week for photos, and I’ve had a TON of fun learning and expanding my horizons. Today’s post is brought to you by THIS GUY:
(Photo courtesy of Kerry Thalmann, who maintains a great webpage for large format fans)
It’s a large format camera; the film cells are generally 4″ x 5″ or larger. This week, I learned the process behind using one of these cameras, and the detail in lighting that goes into taking 1930′s Hollywood -style portraits. Think Clara Bow:
Taking this style photo is a complex process – since black and white is all about values, there are certain tricks to lighting these portraits so as not to have “hot spots” (see that blown out white on top of her head?), and that are lit well enough to show the detail and depth of each photo. Using this photo as our model, I sat for a good 15-20 minutes, in approximately this pose, while Kirk and I tried to guess the best light position.
Kirk took a bunch of test shots with the Nikon to try to figure out lighting and position, and then it was time to shoot with the big camera. The process takes ages, but it’s a lot of fun. You open the shutter and focus the lens using knobs underneath the body. This can be tricky, since when you’re looking at the image, it appears both backwards and upside-down on the screen. We used a magnifier to focus in on the subject’s eye, then hit the trigger to close the lens. The film cells come in large cartridges that are loaded into the back of the camera body while the shutter is closed. There’s a screen in front of the film that keeps the film from exposing – this gets pulled out and the shutter is snapped to make an impression on the film. The screen is pushed back into the cartridge and the cartridge slides back out – the image imprinted onto the film inside.
The model needs to stay very still for this methodical process – which seems to take forever under the hot lights. During the sitting Kirk mentioned that when you see these portraits, the models are often leaning against something or seated – holding the same pose for so long can be pretty tiring.
Our results looked like this:
The image is amazing with impressive detail – you can see the outline of my irises on even this small image.
Kirk had two cameras we played with – one mounted large format, and one hand-held large format camera, so I tried my hand at using the hand-held version, only to realize they weigh, like, 10 lbs. My skinny little arms wouldn’t be able to hold it up long enough for the proper exposure (without shaking) so we set it on a tripod and I took this photo:
(Kirk’s Street Glide)
It’s a little over-exposed up at the top, but it’s one of my first big film shots. Whaddaya think?