I fall in and out of love with my Chamonix 4×5. Most people associate large format cameras with process and precision, but using my 4×5 has always felt clumsy to me – knobs, levers, an inverted image on the ground glass, elusive focus, slow glass, a moment of capture that’s interrupted by the insertion of a film holder into your line of sight. I rarely feel that I can operate it with any flow or fluency, but the negatives come back with a depth, presence, and tonal smoothness that I love. I sometimes resent how slow it is to use, but it’s a nice foil to the everywhere-all-the-time readiness of an iPhone.
A couple falls ago I lived in an historic garden in New Jersey. In the evenings after work I’d lurk around and photograph on the grounds. After the first frost all the plants began to wilt and slump. I decided to go out at dusk when there was still warm light in the sky, but the landscape had fallen under a blue/green shadow. I don’t remember my shutter speed, but I likely shot this image wide open – f/5.6 on a 210mm lens. I unfocused the lens and gave it an extra little pulse of light to soften things. The images shot on my 4×5 that I like the most are the ones that feel loose and chaotic, without the stuffy straightness that the camera pushes you toward.