dead tree in snow photograph The camera I use almost exclusively is a 4 x 5 inch view camera. This is an old-fashioned camera, made out of wood, having a bellows, sitting on a tripod, and using a dark cloth to cover me and the back of the camera when I am focusing the camera. It usually takes me ten to fifteen minutes to take a single photograph with this camera.

After I set up the camera for this photograph, I had to wait about half an hour for the shadow to swing around into position. While I was waiting, somebody walked by with a camera around his neck. He paused, said something like “That’s interesting”, snapped a picture, and walked on. It all took about fifteen seconds.

There are many differences between using a view camera and using a hand held camera. From a technical point of view, the negative is ten times or more the size of the negative or sensor in a typical handheld camera. The larger the negative or sensor, the more detail in the print. But perhaps the biggest difference is that you can take dozens of hundreds of photographs with a hand held camera in the time needed to take one with a view camera. To some extent, this is just a difference in work flow. Someone who takes a large number of photographs in a day must later spend time editing them, i.e. separating the good ones for the rest. Using a view camera forces me to do most of my editing before I even take my camera out of the back pack. I have to ask my self, “Is this photograph going to be worth the trouble?” I don’t have enough hours of daylight to say, “I’ll just snap fifty today and decide later if any of them are any good.” I am not saying the slower approach is necessarily better, but it is the way I prefer to work.

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