Tricks of the Trade

Some quick tips, for those odd situations.

These tips were passed on by various members, many are from Will Landon.

  1. A bright 500 or 750 watt Tota light can be mounted on the top of Roundshot cameras in a vertical mode to give a narrow band of bright light despite the manufacturers warnings that these lights can only be used horizontally. I try not to exceed a four minute burning time when in the vertical mode and recommend the use of a protection screen over the lamp should they explode.
  2. The cord to any camera mounted light must come down to the light from above the light in order to prevent banding due to drag. This is easily accomplished with a Norman Masster light stand that can be extended to over 12 ft. There is a fixture on the top for clamping a three ft. rod over the camera. The cord is taped to the rod with a buffering loop to the lamp.
  3. All changing bags come with only a single elasticized sleeve to keep out the light. When loading film in holders or a camera, there is always a chance that an extreme arm motion may cause a light leak that fogs the film. To prevent this from happening, buy the smallest, cheapest 35mm changing bag you can find. Next cut off the arms in a semi-circular cut about 6-8 inches from the sleeve end. Now sew both cloth layers of the small bag to the outer protective cloth of the large bag so that the inner light proofing material overlaps the main bags sleeve opening. You now have a double light trap that just won’t leak no matter how much you have to twist and turn to load your film.
  4. A NO NO. Never put any accessory down on anything but another piece of equipment which you have to carry. That way you won’t leave it behind.
  5. A NO NO. Never leave cable releases attached to a lens when you remove it from a camera. The cable release can grab and pull a lens out of your hand when you least expect it to happen.
  6. When trying to place a rotational camera directly in the middle of a domed room, use a laser pen or a slide show pointer light mounted in a block that holds it perpendicular to the floor, to find the central point.
  7. Panoramic photographers often end up owning more than one wide angle lens. Each lens has a recommended very expensive center filter needed to even out the light drop-off towards the corner. One way to reduce costs is to buy the center filter for your wide angle with the largest filter size and then use step up rings to adapt them to small filer size wide angle rings. Tiffen and Heliopan make step-up rings, with the latter being made of brass. Heliopan will also make custom sizes. One caution however, the larger center filter must be designed for the same angle of view as the smaller lends. Schneider XL can only be stepped up to the 90mm Schneider XL lens.
  8. Some flat panoramic cameras use the “red window” method of advancing the film. Unfortunately if the red window is recessed as they were in some designs, it is very difficult to see the numbers especially out in the snow without the benefit of a penlight. There is a very simple solution when in well lit conditions. Punch a ¾ inch hole in a white 4×5 inch card, usually found in sheet film boxes. Hold it to your eye at a 45 degree angle so that it reflects the light coming down from above into red window. This method also shields your eyes from surrounding ambient light, which also helps.
  9. On a really important negative with banding, you can get rid of it by using drafting mylar and a pencil. Shade in between the bands; spread it out by rubbing. You can also use this technique to bring out shadow detail.
  10. An inclinometer is a device that measure vertical angles to a single degree accuracy. They are extremely useful for quickly previewing the vertical coverage of any lens in any camera. They are especially useful when shooting rotational cameras since the top and bottom limits of a given lens can be previewed on a scene without having to set up the camera. Once you determine the limits by on camera testing and documentation. A highly precision unit is made in Finland and Forrestry Supply Inc, of Jackson MS may still carry them. 1.800.752.8460
  11. 11. Use the pilot silver marker pen to write your name, address and phone number on every lens cap that you own. If lost, a kind soul might just mail it to you. Also mark which lens it goes onto, so you don’t have to guess. Use the same lens to mark an up arrow on large format lens boards at the top, on the backside so that orientation is very quick.
  12. 12. For the normal or far sighted person, the drugstore reading glass that comes in powers up to plus 4 diopter are extremely useful in composing and focusing on a ground glass.
  13. 13. A lighted magnifying glass called a Magnalite is extremely useful when setting camera controls or lens settings in poor lighting conditions. Try to keep one in the key outfits as well as one in a photographic belt pouch.
  14. 14. It is possible on some center filters to also use a polarizing filter on top of the center filter. For example, a Schneider Center Filter IV used on a 90mm super Angulon f 5.6 lends on 6×17 camera has an outer ring that accepts a 105mm polarizing filter. The double density of two filers does mean exposures of ½ sec at f 22 on ASA film, but the effect is well worth it in many cases.On other lenses without the outer thread or which if used would result in severe vignetting it is necessary to go to oversize polarizes that slip over the center filter as a slip-on filter. Because the fit won’t be exact in most cases, it is necessary to wrap thin tape around the outer edge of the center filter to increase their diameter to the point that a fit is possible.
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