PREPARATION
CAMERAS
LENSES & FILM
SCANNING
THE MYTH OF THE MAGIC
PRINTING & FRAMING
SIZES

PREPARATION

“All of my work originates from a film negative or positive. I shoot with 8 x 10 or 4 x 5 wooden field cameras. When the weather is wild, I revert to a medium format camera, as they are much more stable in windy conditions.

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“Typically I choose my subjects long before I take the shot. I choose the weather conditions that would enhance the subject to its fullest extent. Then, after several test shots taken with a digital camera at various angles in different weather [conditions] at different times of the day, the final decisions are made for camera, lens, filter, and film selections.

“I found an Islander life boat in the woods on a random bike ride. I returned with a digital camera to take test shots, but they were all wrong. So I returned and took more test shots, and those were satisfactory. Knowing ideal circumstances for optimum results, I returned again with the 8 x 10 large-format camera and took two shots – the maximum allowed on a single film holder for that camera.” – Jeff Serusa

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CAMERAS

“Camera selection is based on weather, available light, composition, desired effect, and final output size of the print. At this point the camera is just a foundation on which to build. Wooden large-format cameras are just that – large and unwieldy monsters that take considerable time to set up. Being completely mechanical, they contain no light meter, batteries, or automatic focus.

“For a proper exposure, light readings are taken with a hand-held meter calculating ambient light and filter factors. Film is loaded into the camera one piece at a time. Because of the cost of film, test shots are often taken with a smaller Polaroid to ensure that the exposure is correct.

“The image is projected through the lens onto a piece of Fresnel glass, identical in size to the film at the back of the camera – appearing on the glass both upside down and backwards which inspires thinking upside and backwards, swapping lenses, and thoughtful consideration before making the shot.

“Medium format cameras are quite similar to the old 35mm cameras but twice the size and rather stable on a tripod in foul weather. The biggest advantage is that the film size is two and a half times the size of 35mm film which allows for a much larger final print.” – J. S.

LENSES AND FILM

“I use several lenses – all top quality and ranging in focal length from 18mm to 1,200 mm. Inexpensive lenses compromise quality and render an inferior product. Lens selection is important, as the correct choice will limit the amount of cropping later on in the process.

“Film is as important as lens selection. I prefer the slowest film that I can get away with. Slow film (25 to 100 ISO) produces a much finer print and is less grainy, but it increases exposure time. Depending on light conditions, exposure times vary from ten seconds to ten minutes.

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“The unpredictable nature of inclement weather demands a much faster exposure time, therefore a much faster film. Combined with smaller film size and higher ISO, or faster film, these images tend not to be as large.” – J.S.

SCANNING

“Once the film is developed, it is run through a fluid film scanner. Film has a tendency to curl and not lie flat. So, using a conventional flatbed scanner would result in a scan not entirely in focus because scanners read information on one level plane. Fluid scanners assure that the film is perfectly flat, and on one plane, resulting in a perfect scan. These scans are done at a very high resolution, often rendering a file size of between 3.5 and 5 gigabytes, allowing for printing at a much larger size. A single 8” x 10” piece of film can be printed out to ten feet without loss of detail.” – J.S.

THE MYTH OF THE MAGIC

“After the film is scanned, it becomes a file and is imported into Adobe Photoshop where some would believe is ‘where the magic begins.’ On the contrary! The magic is the result of the process of preparation previously described. I rely on just the right light, equipment and film to capture all of my images. These become indispensable elements when you’re colorblind as I am. All that remains in the end is sizing the image, cropping, and a few minor contrast and exposure adjustments before printing.”
– J.S.

PRINTING & FRAMING

“Printing is the final and most difficult step. It begins with color management, which is the process that ensures what you see on the computer screen is duplicated exactly in final print.

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“Called ‘workflow,’ this involves following various strict protocols in a particular sequence. Both scanner and computer screen must be calibrated to a certain color space. The file or image must also be in the same color space. Printer and each paper or canvas must be profiled individually to that color space as well. Today’s high-end giclée printers produce incredible results, but only if you have all of your ducks in a row.

“Paper selection is another important consideration. Every image under glass is printed on German watercolor paper.

“Inks are archival and colorfast for 115 years, which means they won’t fade. As a test, I once printed a small image, and then shrink wrapped it in plastic, and left it on the dashboard of my truck for a year. I then printed the same image again for comparison; the two were identical and several people who viewed both prints could not detect any difference between the two.

“Finally we get to framing. I have a complete high-end frame shop. Mats are cut on a computerized mat cutter. Frames are assembled with air-operated underpinners. All of the materials used in this process are archival. Mat and paper are of cotton, with museum conservation glass that has a UV coating and will protect both mat and paper. The end result is a product that will give years of enjoyment without degradation.” – J.S.

SIZES

“Any print can be custom ordered to fit the customer’s specific needs and space requirements. Typically, all prints come framed due to the delicacy of the ink on the paper; however, matted, unframed, prints are available.” – Jeff Serusa.

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