Before Heron starts shooting with his 5x4 Large Format camera, he needs to decide on what he wants to photograph. He spends quite a bit of time walking around Horsell Common using his iphone or a small compact camera to sketch out possible images. He uses this as his practical side of the research. Instead of just taking one quick photo, he takes about 5 to look at different styles of composition. When he's found the perfect shot, he will take his 5x4 camera. When I went out with Heron, he wanted to replicate a photo he took on his iphone back in March.
When we got to Horsell Common I realised how much gear he actually has. He had one ladder, a huge tripod bag, a rucksack for his large format camera and a waterproof case where he keeps lenses and other important accessories. Heron started to unpack his tripod and I was literally shocked at how large the tripod was. It went up so high and that's why the ladder was needed - to be able to look in the back of the camera. The reason why Heron had such a high tripod was because in order to get the whole image in focus, it's best to get to higher up. It also meant that he would have a further vantage point for his photos.
After setting up the camera to get an almost identical picture to his original photo he explained to me some steps he took to get the perfect shot. He explained that his aperture is mainly in the middle, so about 16. He used the metaphor of a cars engine, cars work best when you drive at a constant middle speed, and it's the same with large format photography. Another reason was that if the aperture is too low, you could potentially see a darker outline on the photos. Heron talked in great detail about his composition and how it's important to have something in the bottom corner stand out as well as a top corner, to create a direction of viewing.
He took quite a few lightmeter readings but it took quite a bit of patience as Horsell Common is a very popular dog walking area. Thus, he had to take some more lightmeter readings. He talked me though all the steps of large format photography, and said that one of the most important things is to check whether the shutter is closed when you put the film in, and that you don't have the shutter release wire in the way when shoot!
After the first photo, Fergus Heron decided to take another photograph as he'd been wanting to take a photo in a second location for a while. We set up the camera in the second location, but since we were already elevated, he didn't have to have the tripod as high. The composition was incredibly important and it took quite a while to get something he wanted. The iphone or compact camera screen obviously have a different ration than the 5x4 camera, so the composition needs readjusting. He explained it's important to always make sure that you can see the bottoms of the trees, as it looks very odd when you have a "floating" tree, so to say.
It was an incredible experience to work with Fergus Heron. when he finished shooting he asked my about my projects and gave me some advice on the people to look into. He will be sending me digital copies of the two images that he took! Working with his has made me feel so nostalgic for large format photography!