weegee

Mark Kononczuk

New Member
Registered User
Hi,
I have completed my gear to do weegee style hand-held 4x5 graflex shots.
The scanned negs are great quality (obviously) .
BUT, the whole idea was not to use a tripod.
The pics I have taken so far have turned out sharp where i want them but only with scrupupous prior fiddling with camera and lens positioning.
How did weegee do it?
I used f16 which was fine, flash was ok at 1.5 metres, what is that, 5 feet? 4 feet?
Do you make a mark where you set the bellows and just learn to judge your distance?
Any help greatly appreciated,
thanks,
Mark
 

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Ian Grant

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I use the similar model Super Graphic hand held quite regularly, sometimes with movements. I focus usig the gg screen and find I can work very quickly. If I was using flash it would be a more powerful Metz CT-1

With no movement you can use the range-finder although mine doesn't work.

Ian
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
Recall that he wasn't shooting fine art, he was doing just-in-time crime photography. As I recall, he often developed in the trunk (boot) of his car to expedite the process. So, it depends a bit on whether you want the "Wegee look" or just want shoot in that style with higher quality.

More to the point, if you look at his work, it isn't particularly tack sharp in all cases. For example see:


This suggests several things:

  • As fast a film as reasonable - Tri-X or HP5 leap to mind
  • Aggressive development to preserve film speed even at the expense of grain - his photos were published in newspapers where grain would have been a non-issue
  • Enough flash to let you set get the f/stop down small enough so you have a wide DOF to work with - the Metz CT-1 @Ian Grant suggests is an excellent choice
  • A somewhat wider lens that you might normally use in this format to maintain a large DOF - I don't know what he used but the Kodak Ektar 127mm f/4.7 was common

Like Ian I too shoot handheld Graphics both in 4x5 and 2x3 from time to time - although my rangefinders work :) I find that zone focusing with a faster film does the trick nicely.

EDIT: I stand corrected. He did not, in fact, develop photos in his car, according to:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weegee

That same article says he shot at f/16 at 1/200 with a preset focus of 10 feet.
 
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Ian Grant

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Registered User
Usually I work at 1/200 at f22 with HP5 at box speed with a 135mm Symmar S or a 90mm Angulon, if needed I'll drop to 1/50 and f16. In my case I'm shooting hand held in areas where tripods are banned and dodging toursists.

With the Metz CT-1 there's enough power for f16 at 6 metres/20 feet, I'm only using this example because it's what I have, but something similarly as powerful gives far greater flexibility.

Of course Weege used flash bulbs which give even more power.

Ian
 

David M

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Registered User
It's a technique often recommended for street photography, to preset a focus distance and use a small enough aperture to give enough depth of field. (This was pre-digital, of course.) As Ian says, the flashbulbs would have given a great deal of light, so a constant small aperture would have been quite practical.
We should remember that he was doing this every day, so he would have got very good at judging distances, and in any case, the selling point of his work was sensational subject-matter, rather than thoughtfully composed, full-tone, mouth-wateringly crisp, ready-to-frame archivally processed images.
It's certainly to his credit that they later became Art.
The Wikipedia article also claims that he developed prints (!) in a streetcar. Given a choice between developing negs in the boot and making prints on moving public transport, I'd plump for the boot.
If he habitually used f16, it's hard to see why he'd recommend f8 – that's a very 35mm sort of figure, but if he did say it, he was right about being there.
Thank you for pointing out the article. There's a good deal about him that I didn't know
 
A

Anthony

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As with many of the best photographers, Weegee merely used a camera in his "world." He understood that world so intimately, and in all its facets, that the pictures often become "something else;" a very specific view of something we won't see otherwise; a visual and emotional view. Like Lewis Hine, who was driven to overturn child labor laws, and used photography for that purpose. There, the camera is almost incidental; zen like. May I be opinionated here please? For all his mountains of philosophy, Ansel Adams's best work were highly refined, intense versions of those 1916 snapshots he took with a Brownie. That was his "world," yeah? When he consciously tried to be "an artist," the work isn't at the same level. You know, boards and thistles, the rose against the wood, the tombstone, the anchors . . . they're "good" but he's trying to be Stieglitz or Strand: "This is 'ART'"!

Wonderful work doesn't have to be loud and thundering either. Charles Pratt's pictures are quiet, friendly, pleasant things - you really have to pay attention to them. No pretense, no posing, no bluster; and as good as anything you'll see. I would've liked to spend an afternoon with him.

Lots of photographers make pictures that are "about photography," not their world. They have this marvelous equipment and need something to do with it. The work ends up being a series of recordings of what's out there - a "casual, superficial" record. Their "world" doesn't enter into it. I was guilty of this for years, maybe I still am . . . Weegee's NYC nighttime world was raw, shocking, lurid, often horrifying. His later work, which is about photography, possesses little power.

May I be opinionated again? (Sorry folks.) After 1936, the best of Edward Weston's pictures are some of the full length nudes of Charis. (Why?) Also, my favorites of this period are the NYC nude of her lying prone with the window above her, and the one in the fog with the watch on her wrist. Very powerful - to me. Some might hold that the much of the other stuff from that period is . . . less than powerful. Beautifully realized and printed, but just records . . .

There's one Weegee picture of a drunk lying unconscious on a counter, he has a dark suit on but no trousers. The uniformed cops behind him are laughing at something; maybe the drunk, maybe something else. That picture is layers and layers deep; you could take a 2 hour walk and ponder it. Shattering.
 

Mark Kononczuk

New Member
Registered User
Thanks for your replies.
It started with a technical question and ended up with an analysis of why you are taking the photos, which is probably far more important.
I live(d) in a forest in northern Poland. In 2017 we had a front of tornadoes which destroyed many thousands of hectares of forest. Shocking as this was, it did not prepare us for what was to come. A corporation called Kronospan bought the local sawmill and started to build a huge plant to manufacture mdf boards. Now, I come from the UK, and to start building an industrial zone in the middle of a forest, next to a nature reserve and a national park was unthinkable. But it's happening. The company are in cahoots with the local councillors and the mayor. I am doing what I can with petitions and informing other residents of the consequences of inaction. For me, this situation, the constant noise, the vibrations, the blinding lights, is traumatic and the best way I can fight back is through my photography. My plan is to create a stark and disturbing project that is an introverted expression of the ecological catastrophe that is happening as I type.
 

Alan Clark

Active Member
Registered User
Mark, good luck with your project. What you say makes me feel guilty about using m.d.f. I don't actually use a lot but I build guitars and it comes in handy for making the moulds to build guitar bodies in.

Alan
 

Mark Kononczuk

New Member
Registered User
Thanks,
we've all got mdf somewhere in our homes. The issue here is rather that this is a very aggressive company that is forcing people out of their homes. Something similar took place in the US, the Calfornia Water Wars. Similar, but not the same.
 

Leicamadman

New Member
Registered User
Hi,
I have completed my gear to do weegee style hand-held 4x5 graflex shots.
The scanned negs are great quality (obviously) .
BUT, the whole idea was not to use a tripod.
The pics I have taken so far have turned out sharp where i want them but only with scrupupous prior fiddling with camera and lens positioning.
How did weegee do it?
I used f16 which was fine, flash was ok at 1.5 metres, what is that, 5 feet? 4 feet?
Do you make a mark where you set the bellows and just learn to judge your distance?
Any help greatly appreciated,
thanks,
Mark
I have had a go at this approach Mark with an MPP, but using the Vivitar 283 flash as you have. I also used a Speed Graphic rapid six pack film cartridge system and a monopod, plus the cameras frame finder and rangefinder. The monopod kind of defeated the object and got in the way and the results were 'could do better' but having read this thread I am minded to have another go with my current camera and a faster film and a 90mm lens. As to your project, I can only wish you the very best and will follow your progress with interest.
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Weegee was doing it every night. We don’t see his failures, so we don’t know what his actual hit rate was. If you cast your mind back to 35mm film, it was common to be very pleased to get one or even two good ones per roll. The success rate for digital photographers seems to be very low indeed - 0.01% for some and they have auto-focus and auto exposure.
My guess is that you‘re doing very well.
From my memories from the accounts of old press photographers, the system seems to be simply to get to the same distance as the pre-set, as quickly as possible. Weegee obviously knew more than me.
 
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Mark Kononczuk

New Member
Registered User
Yes,
I've generally had success with pre-set focus over 2 metres away. Close ups however are pretty hit and miss because the depth of field is so narrow. Another thing I've noticed is that hand-held 4x5 photography is great for reportage shots that involve movement and people doing things, It is completely pointless for static shots of landscapes or stuff that doesn't move, you might as well set up a tripod.
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
Yes,
I've generally had success with pre-set focus over 2 metres away. Close ups however are pretty hit and miss because the depth of field is so narrow. Another thing I've noticed is that hand-held 4x5 photography is great for reportage shots that involve movement and people doing things, It is completely pointless for static shots of landscapes or stuff that doesn't move, you might as well set up a tripod.
It's remarkable to think that there was an era not long ago that used 4x5 handheld for journalism, sports, and street photography.
Some of those photos are treasures.
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
A typical Weegee shot would have a body and some blood, with somebody on either side. I’d guess about three metres with a wide lens. That’s about ten feet in the old British Imperial system . Flash would stop any motion.
 

Alan Klein

New Member
Registered User
Weegee always captured grisly murder scenes of Mafia murders. Carmine Galante, a big cigar smoker and head of one of the Mafia families in NY, got hit in a restaurant in Brooklyn. Weegee, also a big cigar smoker, got there and stuck his own cigar in the mouth of the dead Mafiosa to complete the picture before he snapped the shot.

Or so it's said. :)
Cigar shot
 
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