project christmas day
December 30, 2015 - group portrait
I have now three large format cameras, a horseman 4×5, a sinar f1 as well as a wooden 4×5 folding camera. I admit I hardly ever use them. The cameras look nice but they are collecting dust. I bought three packs of sheet film and I don’t even remember where I stored two of the three. My original plan was to mount the 5.6/210mm Sinar lens on the wooden folding camera and take it out on Christmas day. what was a good plan until I figured out that I don’t possess the special wrench to loosen and fix the lens to the board. However, that didn’t put an the end to my plan: I decided to use the Sinar F1 which I used once to shoot four close ups in the house. With the camera choice settled, I thought about what to take pictures off next.
Most of the strangers in this blog are met unplanned, somehow by accident. But what about going out to the city center with a large format camera waiting for people who like their portrait being taken? The challenge is, I kept thinking, how to approach the people and how to react when being rejected. People asked to have their picture taken will also question me and I need to be ready to have answers why I wish to take their picture and if I want to publish it online. But asking the people isn’t the only challenge as I had to realize. The even bigger problem is setting up the camera correctly, focusing on the screen, make sure the subject doesn’t move in the meantime, taking a final light measure, put the film holder in, and finally trigger the shutter to release. Maybe the process sounds easy but it isn’t the same as just hitting a shutter and an image appears on the screen. It’s also not a landscape that pretty much stands still while setting up the camera. Portraits are about moving people and I didn’t realize all the things a photographer needs to be aware of while taking them with a large format camera. Anyway, what is better than to try and learn and do it even better the next time.
I was down to my last sheet of film when I saw Markus in Bavarian lederhosen and his dog Spike. He was waiting for his brother Christian in front of the McDonalds at Karlsplatz. Both were happy to be the last models of the day. The camera sloped down towards Karlstor and Munich’s most prominent shopping street. Again, I found myself rushing to set up the camera and focusing on the faces. I checked that the falling lines of the gate were about parallel. Yet, I didn’t get Christian and Markus’ head and feet in the same plane. At first it bothered me, but I realized that the slightly out of focus legs makes the faces and the upper bodies pop out of the image even more and I couldn’t have met more handsome guys than Markus and Christian.
Even though both wore traditional Bavarian outfits, they were not born here. Markus and Christian grew up in Berrendorf near Cologne which is about 600km away from Munich. However, Christian has lived in Munich since 2007 working as a policeman while Markus is visiting from back home where he runs a bicycle shop. Both helped me to overcome my shyness to approach strangers and take the perfect Bavarian Christmas 2015 image.