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Fine art photographer Jim Collum's "Magic Leaf": The Aptus 75s Jim's platinum and platinum and pigment prints are remarkable. He's known for his bold landscapes, interior and industrial scenics and fine hand-crafted prints. Now he works with an Aptus 75s & Mamiya 645AFDII. This is an ongoing report on how the camera works with his style and expands his artistic reach.

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  #1  
Old April 10th, 2008, 07:43 PM
JimCollum JimCollum is offline
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Default Introduction: The Cameras

I've been asked by Asher to start documenting my experiences with a new set of tools for my photography. I'm not sure why he's asked me... I'm more of a visually oriented person than one who can express themselves in words. I'm also not a very prolific writer... most of my day is spent in my 'real' job, a software engineer writing code that makes the wireless access points a lot of you use work. After I leave this job, most of my interaction with a computer is with images.

So I'll start with a little history of how I got started in all of this.

In 1977, I was introduced to computers. I had a great uncle who had built an Altair 8800 (one of the first microcomputer available to 'hobbyists'). At that time, anyone who would play around with computers like that would make today's 'geeks' look absolutely 'hip' (a word, from what I understand, that isn't used any more). That computer motivated me to put my own together, and from then on, my profession was Computer Engineer. I've worked in that industry ever since. This experience has been helpful with the advent of digital photography.

In 1982, I discovered some books with images by Ansel Adams and Brett Weston. Up until then, I hadn't given much thought to cameras.. but from those images (especially Weston's) showed the world through eyes that saw in both tones as well as in small abstract slices of a much larger reality. I had always seen things in 'patterns', and I felt that here was a way to express what it was that I saw (having absolutely no aptitude at putting paint or ink down on paper/canvas).

I ran out and bought a 35mm camera, some b/w film and began shooting.

The film that I got back from the Lab didn't touch me the way that I thought it should have (hey.. I was young... I figured it was a camera.. how hard could it be....) . I bought Adam's series of books (The Camera, The Negative, and The Print), a lot of chemicals, some development tanks and an old used enlarger. Still no magic.

I then found an old used 4x5 monorail camera, so I bought that. Looking at the ground glass struck a chord in me. An image floated in space, separate from the reality around it... upside down and backwards. I could for once, see if the image 'worked' for me before I clicked the shutter. The slow, meditative work before the capture suited the way I interacted with the world. It was a more solitary (most friends tired of hanging around while i 'looked'). I felt more part of the scene, rather than on observer snapping away.

I was hooked. While the images weren't good, they still had something of me in them.

Most of what I've shot since then has been with a View Camera... moving from a monorail, to an old wood Zone VI, a Wisner Traditional, and the last one i've been using for a good number of years.. an Ebony SV.

I started using Digital back at Photoshop 3.0... still film capture though.. I just had my film scanned (40Mb was a *big* file back then... and an unsharp mask on an image that size took hours)

I picked up 35mm digital cameras along the way (Fuji S1, Nikon D1x, Canon 1ds (Mk1,2).. but my favorite was the Betterlight scanning back. It took me back to my 4x5.. but I could see the images as I took them (I'm a very impatient shooter.. probably the reason I alway developed my own film). I've been working with that back since about 2001 (it's been at the top of the heap image quality wise since then)

This image quality has been what's kept me coming back and using the Betterlight in spite of the convenience of the DSLRs. I realized that the current generation of Medium Format backs were an excellent compromise between the two.. allowing for more convenience of the DSLRs, while approaching the IQ of the Betterlight. After coming across a deal that I felt couldnt' be beat on one of the forums, I sold all of my Canon gear, and bought the Aptus Leaf and Mamiya 645 setup. I also found a very (very) good deal on a Horseman SWD-II and 35mm lens. This 'diary' will be document how I work with those tools (and they are just tools.. I could never understand the 'my-car-is-better-than-your-car' religious wars.. and I don't understand the 'my-camera-brand-is-better-than-your' wars either. My images aren't to everyone's taste. I prefer very mute, pastel colors over the 'chrome' look most popular today. But I can only shoot how I see and feel.. and this is what the world feels like to me.

Well.. enough for now.. that's a very long winded summary of the last 30 years in gear ( I suspect I'll go into print output one of these sessions... since for me, it's all about the print)

thanks for listening.. and Asher, thanks for the platform

jim
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Old April 11th, 2008, 12:50 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Jim,

This is a very special opportunity for us to follow an experienced artist during the transition to a new format. Also this allows many more people to get to learn about your work. I know there will be things that this medium will not allow. That we'd like to know. At the same time how the Leaf Aptus behaves in your real world and excels we'd really like to know, especially in relation to the other cameras you have used.

All our "diary" reports will add another facet to camera use by how it serves a real photographer with individual needs. As we follow on we'll hopefully learn about this particular "paintbrush" in your capable hands!

Thanks for your very down to earth and personal style!

Asher
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Old April 11th, 2008, 03:41 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Hi Jim,

A very nice introduction, and several of your remarks sounded very familiar to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimCollum View Post
I felt more part of the scene, rather than on observer snapping away.
Don't know about others, but this was my sentiment exactly when I used to shoot some LF on film (many moons ago).

I'm looking forward to the follow-ups on this report.

Bart
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Old April 12th, 2008, 06:31 AM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Hi Jim

Thanks for taking the plundge! and welcome into the "Diary" world!

I'm sure we'll learn a lot from your experience!

Waiting now for some pics and explanation of the context (where/why/how etc. you know better than me!)
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 11:57 PM
Yaron Lenard Yaron Lenard is offline
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Very excited to follow you through some of this.

MF and LF seems to be a little like golf (something I don't play) - if you don't have someone show you how it's done, you're unlikely to just go out and try it by yourself. I have always wanted to work with more deliberately, and I can see how most of the larger format equipment forces that on the user.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 12:26 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Yaron,

Film cameras are very inexpensive. Do you happen to have an old one? Even today one can get one used for a song. If you allocate a small amount of time with one film, say Ilford HP 5 B&W and then see how wonderful the prints are. A 24 image roll is not expensive but the images will give a whole new look to the world. The garish colors of the street will vanish and one can concentrate on shapes and textures, human form and expression. Now you will see more purpose in human activity. Try it.

Once you master that film you could add say Provia for colour. With these two you have latitude and will get scans at the time of development so tht you can look at the film on your computer.

Anything great you can scan yourself on a cheap scanner. The idea is to know just two films. Everything is then transferable exactly to large format. When you do that you will leap over in resolution and appearance all the digital cameras you cannot afford. 2 rolls of film would be enough per month.

So what do you think of that?

Asher

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Old May 23rd, 2008, 12:42 AM
Yaron Lenard Yaron Lenard is offline
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I think that sounds quite compelling... No old cameras, but I am aware that MF film gear is not as expensive as it was a few years ago, to put it mildly.
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Old June 8th, 2009, 12:00 PM
JimCollum JimCollum is offline
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Well... after an extended absence... along with a number of life crisis.. I'm moving out of the software engineering arena and into full time photography. Although not an ideal time to undertake such a venture, a layoff (ok.. they called it 'restructuring') package from Cisco systems has given me a kick in the butt to get me moving.

Given most of my work in the past has been structural in nature, as well as most of the necessary 'hardware', I'm going to focus on Architectural photography. In the middle of putting up a new website

http://www.collumphotography.com

I started off by approaching a few architects during the local Open Architecture tour, and offered a free shoot, as a way of introducing myself, as well as gaining images for a portfolio. So far, this has netted me a few actual jobs coming up.

So far, the most prolific camera in use has been the Aptus 75s and Horseman SWD II, although I have been able to use the Betterlight for some exteriors. I have the 35mm and 55mm lens and have found them both to be excellent performers.

I know that by now, the 75s is an ancient relic but hopefully some things that i post might be of use for other similar backs








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