on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

There & Back Again!

Re-learning large format photography

Prashant Khapane

I'm a hobby photographer and get inspired by the artists who are also good writers. I'm a mechnical engineer by profession and work at Jaguar Land Rover currently as CAE manager.


I've always loved the theatre. There is a minimalist approach to portray everything. The approach is like an ideograph as the theatre, film and opera director, Julie Taymor, puts it. An ideograph is like a brush painting, a Japanese brush painting. Three strokes, you get the whole bamboo forest. In her most famous work, "The Lion King", she uses the essence of the story. The circle. The circle of life. Very effectively. Ever since I saw the nineties Disney movie, "The Lion King", I have been hooked. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make images, still or moving, that evoke emotions? is the question I’ve asked myself often.

I knew, someday when I'm able to afford it, I will buy a camera and start making images. And so, it all started when I got the Kodak KB 10 from my first salary of being a graduate engineer. It was fun. Of course, buying a film and developing it for small prints was still a luxury. I had it for a couple of years and kept making images. Most of them could only evoke emotions or memories for myself. And that is okay. I think. I moved to Germany as an exchange student on a decent scholarship and that KB10 became a Canon 500N. I eventually got to know about the “larger film” cameras.

It all started when I got the Kodak KB 10 from my first salary of being a graduate engineer. It was fun. Of course, buying a film and developing it for small prints was still a luxury.

Over the next 4-5 years, I moved from 35mm to 120 (Mamiya 645/Pentax67) and then to 4x5 large format. It took a lot of courage and saving to invest in the large format system. But there it was, my precious Tashihara 4x5 with the only lens for it, the 150mm Schneider. Unfortunately, while making a photograph in Harz national park near Göttingen I slipped over a mossy boulder. In the panic, I decided to hold onto the next standing thing. My tripod. Both of us took a slide I will never forget and ended up in the cascade. The lens and most of the wooden parts were broken and I could never muster the courage of buying another large format camera. In fact, for over a year all I was using was a Yashica Mat 124G which I bought in a German Flohmarkt (Flea market) for some €30.

Well, this was 2005/6 and Canon had released their shiny and able EOS 5D. It was way out of my budget so I was happy to stick to the film media which was incredibly cheap compared to today’s standard. I mean, I used to pay €1 per 120 roll film development in Sauter, München. That soon changed though. And I eventually succumbed to the “dark side”. I bought a digital SLR and it became my main camera for all things photography, family, portraits and landscape included. My research institute was also selling all the “old” equipment including some really fine Hasselblads and I bought one for a really small amount. I was having buyer’s remorse for a couple of years but never sold it. It stayed in the pelican case it came with for years. Fast forward to another 10 years or so and while going through all the remaining moving boxes I found that case with many rolls of Ilford Pan F film. Around the same year, I was also thinking about my ever bulging lightroom catalog. Agreed that the majority of it was personal family images however, I did make quite a few landscape images with various digital SLRs I had kept buying in search of a silver bullet.

The fact was I had lost the mojo and the enthusiasm. It had become an automated process. There were few decent ones I could have printed, which is my litmus test for a good image still, however, the percentage was really low single digits. I was also hearing a lot about film resurgence. I was very sceptical though as most of these were “YouTubers” who I thought wouldn’t exist in a couple of years. Most of my heroes - Joe Cornish, Guy Tal, David Ward and many more had moved on to digital.

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