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Ultra Large Format Photography Diary – Practice Makes Perfect

You don’t lift a weight one time and become strong.

You aren’t taught something one time, and it stays in your mind forever.

You don’t do the right thing once, and it becomes a lifelong habit.

All of the above should ring true, but you might wonder why an ultra large format photographer is sharing these things with you.

I have two reasons.

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As Epictetus said, philosophy is a “hard winter’s training” practice that a soldier does in the safety of camp so they might draw on it in the heat of battle.

“You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers and digest their works,” Seneca said, “if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.”

I share the above quotes with you because I want to remind you about the benefits of contact printing your ultra large format images. It is impossible to reach your full potential by sitting on the couch or making excuses why you can’t get out today and photograph. The act of printing is the magic sauce that connects all of your vision and works together. The fact that most people can’t scan their ultra large format negatives and are forced to make real prints is one of the biggest benefits of ultra large format photography in my opinion.

By investing the time and putting in the cycles, you will slowly define your vision and create a signature look that is your own. If you go look at my latest YouTube videos for my wild horse handmade book project, you will see how deep I go to explore my vision and what it takes to figure that out.

I encourage you to push yourself beyond your normal routine, both with your contact printing, but also in other ways like trying another format or a different lens, or possibly a new approach to compositions. By simply dong the work, you will make new discoveries that you would otherwise never know about.

8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton -

Try something new outside of the box, like the 8×20 cow portrait above. I try and push myself to do things like this to see what happens. I am in the process right now of testing my 16×20 with the 47 1/2 inch lens for a wild horse environmental scene. I am practicing sitting up the 16×20 with the long lens and focusing at infinity so that when the wild horses come into the valley, I will be able to hopefully create the exposure. I have been working on this for months now and I am hopeful it will all come together this spring.

Ultra large format photography is designed to be a practice and a routine. It’s not something that you can read about and fully understand. It requires you to put in the cycles and eventually your soul is revealed through your contact prints.

Is a still-life subject at home possible if you can’t get out in the field today with your ULF camera?

I encourage you to think about ways to feed your mind with inspirational and new thoughts to help you grow and evolve your creative vision with your ultra large format photography. This is why I am writing these articles for you. I want to be a source of positive inspiration and help you reach your full potential.

If you are a photographer or interested in learning about analog photography, we have an Analog Photography Membership Community that is the only community of its kind where you can learn and explore analog photography in depth. I also have an extensive training library of video workshops and guidebooks if you prefer to download the videos and books for offline use.