Smiths Beach Yallingup Cape Naturaliste sunset

Contemporary panoramic photographs are only a middle section taken out of a larger image! This is a 6x12cm crop from a 4x5 transparency to avoid lens flare. Most "panoramic" cameras simply crop all your compositions, you lose the rest of the image.

I was reviewing some of my data files from film scans and came across this image of Smiths Beach Yallingup. It was made at sunset with my wooden field camera back in about 2002. The composition I envisaged was of the panoramic proportions above. On the day, though, the actual film was a full sheet of 4×5 Velvia.

My initial plan was to publish the image in my Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park postcard series. Although I don’t normally crop my 4x5s this was the only camera I was using on that day. I made a decision to “waste” half my potential film and make a panoramic from the final image.

My biggest concern at the time of making this photograph was trying to minimise the lens flare. I was looking almost directly into the setting sun. Such an acute angle of point source light hitting the front lens element sets up internal reflections. These relections usually take the form of the lens aperture blades.

Under a focusing cloth I carefully adjusted my composition. I positioned the camera lens at the smallest angle to the sun that would just allow me to avoid flare.

Checking my focus, I then stopped the lens down, closed and cocked its shutter. I placed a Grafmatic film holder in the camera back containing my 6 sheets of 4×5 Velvia. Carefully, I pulled the double dark up from the Grafmatic back and then returning it. This moved an unexposed sheet of film to the front of the pack, ready for exposure.

I waited momentarily by my tripod watching the surf for what I guessed would be the right sequence of waves. Pressing the cable release, the shutter clicked and whirred for its one-second duration.

The exposure over, I pressed the lock catch on the Grafmatic insert, raising and lowering the internal film compartment. This action effectively shuffles the exposed sheet of film to the back of the film pack, leaving a fresh film on top for the next exposure.

What I hadn’t accounted for was that at such an acute angle to the horizon the sun’s position moves significantly in a relatively short period. 60 or 120 seconds later from checking my focus and positioning on the ground glass was sufficient time for the sun to move and cause lens flare.

I guess that is one of the difficulties in using a camera where you can’t continuously view the image through the viewfinder or in this case, ground glass (by virtue of the fact the film back has to be in position to make the exposure thereby obstructing and possible view). A possible fix is to use photoshop to edit the sun flare out, although this makes it a little too perfect for me. Although not initially intended I can live with the lens flare. It’s an authentic lens artifact from photographing into the sun and forms part of the quality of light that attracted me to make this image of Smiths Beach Yallingup in the first place.

For one reason or another, the image was never used in my south-west postcard range, although I have made custom prints of it.

Smiths Beach Yallingup: Wista field camera Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm lens 4×5 velvia 50 ISO f16 1 second.

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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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