As a landscape photographer, the attainment of high image quality is my main priority. Speed and quantity of output are not that important and for those reasons I have, until relatively recently, always used large format equipment (specifically a Tachihara 5×4 inch field camera and several Super Angulon lenses). Digital imaging was of little interest to me but times change and my clients, my picture library and my publisher were all expressing a preference for digital files. 5×4 transparencies, beautiful as they are, were no longer wanted and I had to accept the fact that my days as a film based photographer were coming to an end.
My large format equipment was, (I have to admit, rather reluctantly), consigned to its bulky aluminium case and replaced by a Mamiya 645 medium format camera, a Phase One digital back and three prime lenses of focal lengths 35mm (Mamiya 35mm f/3.5), 80mm (Mamiya 80mm f/4) and 150mm (Mamiya 150mm f/4.5). The only accessories which survived the transition were my Linhof viewfinder (an indispensable aid to composition in my opinion), my Lee filters, a rangefinder and a Mamiya cable release.
Having made the change it became immediately obvious that there were a number of advantages to digital image making, one of which was the portability of the equipment. For the first time in my life, I was able to fit everything into a backpack (despite the fact that medium format equipment is a lot bigger than APS-C), particularly when a number of fixed focal length prime lenses are used instead of a single zoom lens. Long treks over demanding terrain were no longer the arduous task they used to be and virtually overnight my productivity increased, with no loss in quality. The pre-exposure routine of setting up the camera and tripod, attaching a lens, focusing and exposure metering was also much quicker and this meant that images which I would have previously missed (capturing a rainbow, for example) were now within my grasp. I do miss the old methods of film photography, but I wouldn’t go back to them. My large format camera now sits proudly in a display cabinet – surrounded by a number of digitally captured images.
All images copyright Peter Watson.