Getting Out - Large Format Portraiture on Location.

Chris Frear

New Member
Registered User
A few years back I was able to acquire via a well known on-line auction website my first (and so far only) Large Format camera in the guise of a Calumet CC-400 monorail.

I bought the camera from a guy called Terry McGrory in Liverpool, who had imported it from Iris Point Cameras a dealer in in Clifton, Montana with similar intentions of getting into Large Format photography. But for whatever reason he quickly lost interest and I picked up a bargain.

“Bargain” though is a relative word as I was soon to find out. If you're an indoor photographer a heavy Monorail camera like the CC400 is fine, but if like me you're an outdoor or location photographer, lumping the heavy camera around quickly becomes quite a chore.

The camera came without a lens. But this is where I first discovered the generosity of the Large Format movement, something which is absent in mainstream photography. I came across a local guy who had used Large Format cameras for commercially. He had a lens sitting in a cupboard which he lent me. He also came and dropped off the lens and gave me some tips on how to use the camera.

It's a strange lens/shutter combination. I'll post an image over on the technical sub forum as I need some help with it.

Due to a house move I only got out with the camera a couple of times before relocating. I managed to process the film using a Paterson tank together with a MOD54 film holder insert. Both of the later were lost by the removal (moving) firm! So I've not really done much since the move.

But by happy coincidence I came across a memory stick this week. Rather fortuitously on the memory stick were the two high res scans of the two 5x4 exposures I'd managed to shoot.

Image one shows a local lady who is an amateur racing driver, stood beside her car. I photographed her outside the storage unit on a local farm she uses as a garage. Looking at the raw scan I scan see the negative hasn't sat flush to the scanner at the corners. So I've cropped it.

maddy-5x4ff-web.jpg maddy-5x4crop-web.jpg

(click Thumnail for larger image)

The second image is a local sculptor in his garden using drystone walling techniques to create a layered stone globe. About 5 seconds after I made the exposure, the partially complete sculpture collapsed as he hadn't supported each successive layer as it came further out.

max-5x4ff-web.jpg max-5x4crop-web.jpg

Far from perfect, but not bad for a first effort with a strange camera. I just thought I'd post them here as not many people are posting large format location portrait work. Regards Chris


Registered User
Hi Chris,

Thanks mate! I too am just starting and was embarrassed not to have used the camera.

Suggestion. If you're free why not go to the April meet up day/s on the Severn Valley Railway? I am disappointed to be busy, it would have "put a rocket" into my interest.


Chris Frear

New Member
Registered User
Hi Robert, Wish I could get to the Severn Valley Railway, but its the opposite side of the country to me. If I open my front door I can often hear the roar of the North Sea, it was particularly loud last week during the gale force winds.

Anyone fancy having a meet up in Lincolnshire? Plenty of places to pick from. I even have a steam railway on my doorstep.

Ian Grant

Active Member
Registered User
I guess you're very definitely restricted to using a tripod with that Calumet :D

With my Crown, Speeds or Super Graphics I can (and do) shoot hand-held but mostly when that's really the only option - I often shoot where tripods aren't permitted while in Turkey and Greece. I don't use the rangefinders, the one on my Crown Graphic works fine but was for a 150mm lens and the camera came with a 135mm lens, I got used to focussing on the GG screen then shooting with the wire frame sports finder, I found I can work fast this way. I now use a 150mm lens with the Crown so should calibrate the rangefinder.

In the UK Crown and Speed Pacemarer Graphics tend to be overpriced, they can be found at decent prices in the US but even there some are asking silly money for them. You need to avoid the Quarter plate versions.