A few years ago I lugged my 8×10 camera into Zion National Park. For those who have never heard of an 8x1o camera let me describe it to you. It is an enormous wooden object that uses pieces of 8×10 inch film. To help you see what I mean I have procured this photograph of Ansel Adams with his 8×10. My camera looks almost exactly like his.
The images that are produced with these cameras are unmatched in beauty and depth
Needless to say. Walking around the park it drew a lot of attention. I like people to enjoy my photographs. But I prefer to work without people asking me questions.
I got a lot of questions from strangers. Questions like these:
- “Is that one of those old cameras that explode smoke?” (Of course)
- “Are you a high School photography teacher?”(No but Matt my buddy is)
- “Does that use film?”(yes 8×10 slabs of it)
- “Is that heavy?”(extremely 23 pounds)
- Who are you? (Jon)
The most curious people were the Asians. They studied everything about me. I could hear their whispered coded language as they pointed with their fingers at the camera and me.
One Asian guy had a spankin’ new digital camera with matching strap, photo vest, photo hat and abundant accessories. I saw him strutting around the parking lot with his camera around his neck like an olympic medal. He saw me and then looked at his camera and sheepishly walked away. He was hoping to have the coolest camera at the park.
Technical information, philosophical mumbo jumbo and photo tips:
Photograph done with Burke and James 8×10 model 100. Lens: Rodenstock 240mm 5.6. Film: 160 Portra 160vc. Film processed and contact printed by ABC Photocolour in Vancouver Canada.
I had a 40×60 print made of this negative and displayed the print in the workroom of my portait studio, CHARIS. It was a wonderful escape through days of intense business operations. I moved CHARIS to a different location and the print was bent in half. It was a sad event to finish destroying it for the trash.
Zions National Park was the perfect place to haul that camera around in. I found abundant subject material throughout the park. I carried on its tripod on my shoulder for the entire day. At the end of the day my shoulder was so sore that I had to drive with one arm. It was this trip that I decided to switch to the 5×7 format. The 5×7 is only 1/2 of the negative size but 1/8 of the bulk and weight.
The quantification of mystique that the 8×10 has over the 5×7 is hard to determine.
Jon Ball is a portrait photographer living in Boise, Idaho. His portraits can be examined at www.studiojonball.com. Thank you for wading through photo tips.