160507 Mighty Beast - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

For the April 2016 FujiTuesday walk I did something I've been wanting to do since the group first started: I brought out the Mighty Beast, my Fuji GX680iii. This was my first Fujifilm camera, is my only Fuji SLR, and, inshallah, it will always remain the biggest camera I've ever owned.

The 680 shoots medium format roll film, with a 6x8cm (nominal) imaging area, with a rotating and removable back. On the working end it features rail focusing and a front lens mount with full technical movements, using swappable bellows to connect it to the camera body. If this doesn't make much sense, don't dwell on it — it's just a very large film camera and using it is something of an event.

The large bellows that I use with the long 210mm lens – a 105mm equivalent, given the 680's 0.5x 'crop factor' – either isn't seated properly or has a light leak that only shows when the lens is at the extreme limits of its movement. Since that's the main strength of the camera I tend to use its movements a lot; I could look into the source of the light leak and almost certainly resolve it, but so far haven't. I actually don't mind the results, and if I wanted perfect, I wouldn't be using film.

The best feature of the technical lens movement is that it lets me change what the camera sees independently from changing the camera position. Combined with the giant viewfinder this lets me spend a lot of time refining the composition, which all of my camera-walking companions found endearing. 

These two photos, taken at the roundhouse of the Toronto Railway Museum, were made before I joined the group. I probably spent ten or fifteen minutes between them.

These two photos were made more quickly after I had met up with the main FujiTuesday outing. Working faster meant that I was looking for simpler subjects and not being too delicate with the lens movements, which accounts for much of the character of these. If the subject was something new and shiny the results might be discordant, but for the old railway equipment I think it's perfect. 

One reality of using the Mighty Beast is that it must be stationary and supported. For the sake of expedience I was using an industrial bean bag instead of my mighty tripod, so my choices of camera position were limited. The springs were shot from a nearby post, and the wheel was taken with the camera on the rail. In each case the lens movements put the composition more or less where I wanted it.

I enjoy being under the Gardiner Expressway far more than is sensible, so when we passed under it on our way to the waterfront I couldn't help but take this shot. There's not much to it, but I like the interplay of the curves, the sign, and the building. 

Last time I was down here I recorded enough material for both a blog post and a fairly major project using my little Sigma cameras. My next trip will probably involve a tilt-shit lens and a tripod, and perhaps a hi-viz vest for good measure.

If there's anything I like as much as the gritty underbelly of urban infrastructure, it's more of the gritty underbelly of urban infrastructure. Or in this specific case, a parking garage to go along with the highway. We dedicate a massive amount of civic space to cars and their support systems, which is always something I mean to explore in more depth some day.

For now, I would point out that these last two photos, using less extreme movements and focusing at farther distance, haven't angered the bellows into producing light leaks. That's almost too bad; the highway photo would benefit from it.

And here we're back to light leaks again. In this case they really don't matter much, since the focus also didn't quite fall where I wanted it. I suppose I could claim that leaving visible lettering out of focus – in this case, the name on the stern of the boat – was an artistic choice, but nobody who knows me would believe it. I am simply incapable of not reading writing if I can see it.

I do still like the photo, though. It just won't have any future use beyond this post.


There are a few more photos that are still on the roll of film that's in the camera. Some day soon I'll take the Mighty Beast out again to finish it off, and maybe put a few more rolls through it as well. Undoubtedly I'll write a bit more once I do that.


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