My Practice

‘JB operating the GFX Cambo Actus’ - thanks to David Tolcher for the picture
‘JB operating the GFX Cambo Actus’ - thanks to David Tolcher for the picture

The quality from digital sensor technology (detail and dynamic range) has changed dramatically in the last few years and this has diversified the options available to the discerning landscape photographer. Going back a few years I shot Large Format film exclusively. Now I work with a wider range of digital and film cameras.

There are 3 main systems I use:

1. Technical View Cameras (Digital and 5x4/10x8 film).
View cameras allow amazing control over perspective and the plane of focus. They also allow for a lot of flexibility in the use of lenses and film/digital capture options. For many years my main camera was a Linhof Technikarden 5x4 camera with various Large Format Lenses. I also have a beautiful Chamonix 10x8 camera that is a delight to use. With these I mostly shoot Fuji Velvia, Ilford black and white film and occasionally Kodak colour negative film. For the last couple of years I have owned a Cambo Actus GFX view camera for which I use my Fuji GFX as a digital back to capture images using a range of large format, Hasselblad and Pentax 645 lenses. This has now become my default go to camera.

2. Medium format.
The recent range of Sony CMOS sensors have created an absolute revolution in digital camera capabilities. I love the results they offer both for colour and black and white work. However after a lot of experimentation I concluded the 3:2 format prevalent in most DSLR and small mirrorless cameras is just unusable for someone brought up on the 5x4/10x8 shape. I also find the cameras themselves too small for serious work - it is too easy to drift off into happy snapper mode and I do not get a pleasurable response from handling and using these cameras. Enter the Fuji GFX. It's Sony sensor is simply superb and has more pixels and dynamic range than I could ever need. As an aspect ratio, 4:3 is so close to 5x4 that I am perfectly happy shooting in its native format. And it gives access to a lot of superb medium format lenses. This will be my go to camera for many years to come I think. I also have a wonderful Mamiya 67 film camera system which I use to shoot Velvia/black and white film from time to time. This system is similarly a pleasurable experience to use.

3. Small mirrorless.
I have a tiny Sony A7RII which also has an excellent full frame Sony sensor in it. Even with a standard zoom lens attached it fits in my inner jacket pocket. It is used mostly for portable hand held work (especially black and white) and scouting, though the quality of its Sony Carl Zeiss lenses and the tilt/legacy lens options make it a very serious camera when needed. It can go onto my tripods if necessary, and frequently does. I no longer regret not having the main cameras around when I only have this one to make an image. The camera is now truly not important in terms of image quality. It is all about the experience of using the camera and the skill of the photographer to see and then realise the image. Finally for some walk around work I use a Sony RX1R - an amazing little camera that has perhaps one of the greatest lenses of all time permanently attached to a small handheld digital camera.

I continue to use a Linhof viewer to help me visualise the image before setting up the camera, regardless of the camera used. My cameras sit on Gitzo tripods with either the 405 or 410 Manfrotto head depending on whether I am working lightweight or not. My gear fits into a range of F-Stop bags and ICUs. I print using a Epson 3880.

Thanks to David Tolcher for the above picture.