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 271I was taking a day trip in my Jeep Wrangler while Kay was gone on a trip and like I often do, I brought my Toyo VX-125 4×5 film camera setup with me. I was driving a dirt road like I often do and came upon this creek near Kingfisher. I stopped on the two-lane… Read more: 4x5x365 – Image 271
- 4x5x365 – Image 270My daughter Emily and her husband Dirk Mathews stopped by to pick up their kids and since I already had my Toyo VX-125 all set up on the back porch, I talked them into posting for a quick portrait on black and white Ilford Delta Pro 100 film.
- 4x5x365 – Image 269I started to toss this piece of film since the image is out of focus, but changed my mind and posted it just to show that not every photo turns out great. I was photographing two of my grandkids on our back porch with my Toyo VX-125 film camera and this one I just missed… Read more: 4x5x365 – Image 269
- 4x5x365 – Image 268After I was done taking my grandkids photos, I let them take a picture of me with my Toyo VX-125 film camera. I had them check and adjust the focus and then load the film holder and snap the shutter. I like to see them learning new skills like photography.
- 4x5x365 – Image 267I had not taken any recent 4×5 pictures so one day in the summer of 2023 I asked my granddaughter Luna Mathews to pose for a quick picture on our back deck. I shot this photo with my Nikon 300mm F5.6 W lens on my Toyo VX-125 view camera. I had to install a rail… Read more: 4x5x365 – Image 267
- 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.