The Darkslides is a collective of large format film landscape photographers from various parts of the United States. They are Alex Burke, Alan Brock, Ryan Gillespie, Justin Lowery, Ben Horne and Martin Quinn. The goal of this site is to not only show beautiful images taken with large format cameras but to share knowledge and experience in using them with you.
What is Large Format Photography?
Large format photography as we practice it, is created using large cut sheets of traditional analog film, typically measuring either 4×5 inches or 8×10 inches in size. These sheets are carefully loaded into film holders, each of which holds two sheets of film, one on each side, protected by a removable “dark slide.” (The dark slide is the oblong object with tiny handles on it depicted in our logo at the top of the screen.) This process must be done in total darkness, because the film will be destroyed if exposed to stray light.
Our cameras are “view cameras,” which come in two varieties, the “field camera” and the “monorail.” Field cameras are typically the more compact and lightweight of the two, while monorails are the more fully featured and flexible. Each type of camera features two “standards.” A standard is the upright portion of the camera, shaped like a frame. The “front standard” contains a square opening, into which the lens board is clipped. The lens is in turn installed into the lens board using a spanner wrench. The “rear standard” contains the “ground glass,” literally a rectangular pane of glass which has been sanded down, thus allowing an image to be resolved on it from the lens, upside down and backwards, due to the lack of mirrors to “correct” the image that are usually found in other types of cameras. In front of the ground glass, is an opening which can be pried open using a lever, spring, or strap. Into this opening, we insert the film holder, to capture the image that is being projected onto the ground glass. Now, having two standards with nothing between them wouldn’t work, so we also need a perfectly dark tunnel to connect them. This flexible tunnel is called “the bellows.” It must be flexible, because each of the standards can be moved around in space to achieve various effects. Moving the front standard maneuvers the plane of focus around, allowing us to “swing” or “tilt” the plane of sharp focus to follow the subject we are photographing. The rear standard can be swung or tilted to change the perspective of the image, in order to emphasize the foreground, background, or one side over the other. Read More