In May 2015 I started a project I call “4x5x365“. My original plan was to take one 4″x5” film photo each day for a year and post to my website. That proved all but impossible, so I changed the plan to simply POST one 4×5 photo to my website each day. Even that provide quite difficult.
So now my goal is to simply shoot and post a total of 365 photos using my 4×5 view camera. Shooting and developing large format film is very labor-intensive, with a lot of steps involved and hence, a lot of room for error. I decided that if I could shoot a total of 365 images using this format, I would be much better at the process and much more practiced.
So now that is my goal – to post 365 images I photographed with my 4×5 view camera.
NOTE: To quickly see my 4x5x365 images and posts, click this link —> 4x5x365
Starting with Film in 1996
I started photography back in 1996 when I went to the Atlanta Olympics. Of course, film was the name of the game back then and I started with a Minolta 35 mm camera, quickly switching to Nikon after about a year. I have shot mostly Nikon since that time but also have owned a variety of other medium format film cameras, including a Mamiya RZ-67II, Mamiya 645, Hasselblad 500, and more recently a Pentax 6×7 system. I started shooting 4″x5″ large format film in about 1998, first with a Cambo 4×5 and later with a Toyo VX-125. I always processed my own film and scanned it into my computer for finishing in Photoshop and printing on digital printers. I never did much work in the darkroom.
Film to Digital
In 1999 I purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D1. That changed everything. As a computer guru, digital just worked for me. I still shot film but much of my work switched to digital. I was a very early adopter and now have over 300,000 digital images in my archives. Eventually, I sold most of my film gear with the exception of my much loved Nikon F5, Nikon FM3A, and my Toyo VX-125 – my favorite film cameras. I didn’t use them much if any but held onto them just because I loved shooting with them so much and all I felt were works of art.
During the intervening years, I would periodically pull out my Toyo VX-125 and expose a few sheets of film. I loved the unique capabilities of a view camera but never could justify the cost of a very expensive digital back for the VX-125. I tried adapting my Nikon’s to attach to the VX-125 but that just wasn’t very practical since the shortest distance was about 150 mm, meaning everything was a telephoto shot. I kept playing with my VX-125 off and on but never enough to even keep my chemicals fresh. I eventually even sold my very nice Jobo CPE processor (big mistake) and would send my film off to be developed.
Developing my own film – again
In 2015 I started shooting more and more to my VX-125 and decided to start developing my own film again so that I could control the quality, shorten turnaround, and lower the cost of shooting this awesome camera.
My goal with this project was to force myself to start using my 4×5 cameras more so that I would get as comfortable shooting and processing 4×5 film as I am with my Nikon digital gear. I have learned that to take great photos I need to learn the gear inside and out so that when I am shooting a subject, I can concentrate on the subject and not on my tools. I shoot so much with my Nikon gear I can guess the camera settings in advance and be pretty close and can spin dials and settings in the dark and get them right. I know where everything is and how it all works like the back of my hand, so when I am shooting with my Nikon gear, I can basically forget about the gear and really focus on the creative aspect of photography.
I want to get that same familiarity with shooting 4×5 film.
I purchased a nice used Toyo 45A field camera in 2014 with the plans of making it my “travel” 4×5 camera. But after using it a couple of years, I decided the VX-125 was just as portable and easy to set up as the 45A, so I now mostly shoot with just the VX-125.
Three hundred and sixty five 4″x5″ Images
When I first started this project I thought “I will shoot one 4×5 image per day and post it for everyone to see.” Aaah, right. That lasted about 3 days before I figured out that was not such a great idea. As a busy editorial and commercial photographer, writer, and IT professional, I just can’t keep a schedule of shooting 4×5 every single day. The pictures would end up boring since I would not have time to go out and photograph something fresh and interesting. I travel extensively and that is a great time to take photos, but I also may spend several days at my desk working and that is just not conducive to 4×5 photography.
So I changed the plan – I would POST one 4×5 photo per day for a year. THAT I could do. At least, I THOUGHT I could post one image per day.
Again, that proved to be unworkable and negatively impacted my creativity. So I changed plans yet again. My goal now (as of 2021) is to simply shoot and post 365 images from my 4×5 view camera.
I was on a roll for a while, but then health issues in 2018 sidelined the project for quite some time. I had to put all my efforts into dealing with pretty serious heart disease and recovering from open-heart bypass surgery. And recovery wasn’t just recovering from the surgery. I had to get my health back, which included running, cycling, and swimming. I spent a LOT of my free time doing hard-core exercise and even ran a 26.2 mile marathon six months after heart surgery, and more 70.2 triathlons than I can remember.
During the pandemic of 2020 I finally got back into using my Toyo view camera and have been working regularly on my project. I shoot and develop 4×5 when I want to and can take time to enjoy the process.
For my 4x5x365 project, I am showing everything, even images where I make mistakes. (Well, everything but completely useless film. If I ruin a piece of film and there is nothing on it, which happens, I am not going to waste your time showing a blank piece of film.) You can follow my progression as I sharpen my skills at shooting large format work. If you read the posts you can understand the challenges with shooting 4×5 and how I overcome them over time.
Latest 4x5x365 Posts
Below are my latest 4x5x365 posts.
- 4x5x365 – Image 266I was exploring western Oklahoma in our Jeep Wrangler and ran across this abandoned bridge over the North Canadian River and stopped to photograph it with my Toyo VX-125 large-format film camera.
- 4x5x365 – Image 265I stopped at Jesse Chisholm’s grave in western Oklahoma for a picture of his grave marker with my Toyo VX-125 view camera.
- 4x5x365 – Image 264I made it a point to spend some time in Wilburton, Oklahoma – the home to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad. This is a locally owned railroad that services eastern Oklahoma. Their train yard is scattered across downtown Wilburton and is easily accessible via public property. I wandered around taking pictures with my Nikon z-fc digital camera […]
- 4x5x365 – Image 263I love visiting Lovera’s Italian Grocery when I pass through the McAlester area. On this photo trip, I spent the night in McAlester, so upon leaving I stopped by Lovera’s for a picture. Unfortunately, they were not yet open so I couldn’t purchase any of their great food, but I liked the picture I got.
- 4x5x365 – Image 262I had noticed this farmhouse west of Eufaula on Highway 9 when Kay and I were in the area the week before. We didn’t have time to stop this, but this trip I knew I wanted to stop and photograph it with my much-loved Toyo View VX-125 large-format film camera. The weather was perfect for […]
- 4x5x365 – Image 261I had a couple of days off over the 2022 Christmas holidays so took our Jeep Wrangler on a photo trip to eastern Oklahoma. As normal, I traveled the back roads looking for photo opportunities. I mostly shot with my Nikon f-cx digital camera, but brought along my much-loved Toyo View VX-125 view camera for […]