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Ultra Large Format Photography Diary – 8×20 Scouting of Old Barn at Siloam Springs

I love exploring local landscapes with my 8×20 camera. I have been thinking about a new project, Broken, But Still Connected, that I have been writing about recently, and the 8×20 camera and landscapes feel right to me.

Before I ever pack up the gear or load a sheet of film, I like to scout an area as much as possible.

I use an application on my phone called Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder to help me scout and pre-visualize my scenes. I created custom formats for 8×20 and 16×20 and loaded in all the focal lengths that I own.

Then, when I am out in the field, I take photos with my phone, and the application overlays whatever focal lengths I have selected on the image. This is a huge time saver for me because when I return to the location, I already know what focal length I want to use for the composition.

I love this little barn scene in the image below, and I think it is perfect for the 8×20 format. I have some ideas of how this scene may fit into the narrative for my Broken, But Still Connected body of work. I need to spend more time there and reflect to see if this is a fit.

I think it is worth mentioning that I don’t aimlessly go out and “take” pretty photos. I should say that I have no judgment about anyone that may do that. It’s just not how I work. I have a purpose and vision that drives my work; this is how I express my emotions and share my creative vision.

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8x20 Ultra Large Format Scouting by Tim Layton -
8×20 Ultra Large Format Scouting by Tim Layton

As you can see from the image above, I have narrowed down my compositions to 450mm and 600mm or 18 inch and 24 inch lenses.

This is just a general image and I will likely change the exact composition when I get behind the ground glass, but I know that I have a good starting place.

I am leaning towards the 450mm focal length because it will give the main subject (small barn) a little more room to breathe and also show off the sloping fence that falls from right to left. I will also be able to get more of the sky in, and I will use a rise movement to eliminate some of the foreground, most likely.

I won’t really know until I get there and get under the dark cloth, but I know that I have a good starting place with this scene.

Let me know which focal length you prefer in the comments below.

I will follow up with a new article when I head out into the field and expose a negative. I am not sure if I will use sheet film or a paper negative yet, but I know that I will use a soft focus lens to try and move towards an impressionist and pictorialist idea. I have 18-inch and 24-inch TT Signature Lens elements, and I think I will start with this lens. I need to verify if the 18 inch lens will cover 8×20 at infinity as my next step.

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