Jim Cole Photography
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Photographic Equipment

Since photography is really all about the creative image and not about which tool was used to make that image, it shouldn’t matter what photographic equipment I used for any particular image. With that said, anytime I am at a show or gallery, one of the first questions people ask is “what do you shoot with?”. So here goes…

I have two photographic kits that I use depending on subject, available set up time, or what I think the image will eventually be used for.

Large Format:

For the great majority of my fine art landscape work over the past few years I have used a large format wooden view camera that uses 4x5” sheet film. I use color transparency (slide) films and started shooting B&W negative films inthe spring of 2008. This is my camera of choice because the large film stock allows me to capture about 15x the detail of a traditional 35mm film camera (which is what I started out with). This added detail is a requirement for making jumbo prints like 40x50 inches or even larger panoramics. The format is also accepted by discriminating publishers of high quality calendars, fine magazines and large format books. Occasionally I will use 120 roll film in a special back on the 4x5 camera for shooting 6x12cm panorama images.

In the summer of 2009 I acquired a new camera that uses 8x10" sheet film. In late 2012, after family needs had forced a move and trumped plans for a darkroom, I decided to sell my wonderful 8x10 classic Deardorff kit which had seen some use (about 30 negatives), but not as much as I had hoped. This was a tough choice, because once you've composed an image on the ground glass of an 8x10 camera (which is like looking at a small TV) and looked at negatives on an 8x10" sheet of film, the 4x5 seems like a small camera. However, since I had bought the 8x10 with the express goal of making contact prints in a wet darkroom, it wasn't serving its purpose. It is now in the hands of another photographer in Denver who , I'm sure, will make some great images with it. While preparing to sell my 8x10 kit, I needed to figure out what to do with a nice 450mm lens that I had bought specifically for the 8x10. I always wanted a longer lens than my 300mm for my 4x5 camera, but the limited bellows draw of the Ebony RW45 would not allow it. I decided to sell the Ebony as well and buy a new camera that would allow me to use both my 75mm wide angle lens and the 450mm lens. That new camera is a Chamonix 45n-2. So far, I am extremely happy with it.

.My large format kit consists of the following camera and lenses:

  • Chamonix 45n-2 4x5 camera with full tilt, swing and shift movements and an extension rail to allow for longer lenses
  • Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 with Optar Rodenstock 135mm and Kodak Ektar 203mm lenses that I bought to use for street shooting
  • Zero Image 4x5 pinhole camera that is for pure experimentation and fun
  • 6 modern large format lenses from Schneider, Rodenstock and Nikon in the following focal lengths: 75mm, 110mm, 150mm, 210mm, 300mm and 450mm
  • A collection of vintage lenses including a rapid rectilinear and a couple of Petzval design lenses
  • A couple of Pentax digital spot meters and a Gossen incident light meter
  • Kodak Ready-Load and Fuji Quick-Load film holders along with modern and vintage sheet film holders
  • Da Yi roll film holder for using 120 roll film for shooting 6x12cm medium format transparencies and negatives
  • Color transparency films are Fuji Velvia and Provia films along with Kodak Ektachrome VS
  • Black and white films are Fuji Neopan Acros 100, Arista Edu Ultra 100 (Efke), and Kodak T-max 400
  • Currently using Agfa Rodinal, Ilford DDX and Diafine developers for my B&W film in Jobo Expert tanks (3010 and 3005)

35mm and Digital:

I never shoot 35mm film any more since transitioning my travel and lifestyle photography to the digital format. I have sold all of my 35mm camera bodies. Since all of my 35mm lenses fit the Nikon digital SLRs, the transition was fairly simple from the equipment standpoint. A couple of new modern lenses completed new kit. As mentioned already, I shoot this format I am trying to be less conspicuous as a photographer when shooting travel and lifestyle images which are used primarily for stock photo agencies. I will make the occasional exceptional image into a print (usually an open edition) and maintain quality up to about 24x36 inches which is a bit larger than my limit with 35mm film.

My Digital Kit consists of the following cameras and lenses:

  • Nikon D300 digital SLR with the MD-10 Vertical Grip
  • 2 Nikon fixed focal length lenses in the following focal lengths: 24mm, 50mm
  • 2 Nikon zoom lenses in the following focal lengths: 17-55mm and 70-200mm
  • 1 Sigma 10-20mm zoom lens
  • 1 Nikon 1.4x adaptor for the 70-200
  • 2 Nikon SB-600 speedlights
  • 10 GB of Compact Flash Cards

Tripods and Miscellaneous:

I also use a lot of accessories some of which are listed below:

  • Gitzo G1348 MkII Carbon Fiber tripod
  • Gitzo G220 metal tripod
  • Slik Carbon Fiber Monopod
  • Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball ballhead
  • Various Arca-Swiss style camera and lens mounting plates from Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises
  • A selection of graduated neutral gradient, polarizer and warming filters from Singh-Ray, B&W and Nikon
  • Camera bags from LowePro, Tamrac and Domke, including two backpack styles, one shoulder bag and one sling type bag
  • Reflector and diffuser panel for light control in the field
  • Three studio hot lights with umbrellas