I met landscape photographer David Hibbard in 2003 during one of Brigitte Carnochan‘s portfolio workshops. David consistently presented beautiful prints of his quiet, contemplative coastal landscapes. I was impressed with both the images, and his meticulous craftsmanship. Eventually the conversation turned to workflow — David was shooting slide film with a Pentax 6×7 camera, scanning on an Imacon, and using either Epson or Lightjet output for prints (depending on the print size). Recently David has added a Canon 5D digital SLR to his toolset. I currently shoot with a 5D and 6×7 film as well, and David agreed to conduct an interview to talk about cameras, workflow, and his forthcoming book. The interview was conducted via IM on 3/5/2008.
Joe: Let’s start with your Latest Work gallery – the abstract, moody street work is a departure from the more quiet coastal and forest landscape images I’ve seen from you in the past. Is this work a product of your recent plunge into the digital world?
David: It really is a return to work I did when I was much younger and just getting into photography. Back then, I lived in SF and wandered around the city a lot, armed with my trusty Nikon F. Acquiring my Canon 5D brought me back to that type of work. It is a great camera for taking quick, visual impressions. The image-stabilized lens I got with the camera helps a lot in that regard.
Joe: Sounds like you’re using the 5D for street and travel photography, and sticking to your Pentax 6×7 workflow for serious landscape work?
David: Yes, that is how and I working now. I love the resolution of fine detail that I get with the 6×7 system, and that is what I need for my landscape work. The 5D does not quite match that level of resolution. Although I love my Pentax 6×7, and I love working with film, I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay with that. I’m very tempted by medium format digital.
Joe: Your largest print size is 32×40 from a 6×7 chrome. How large have you printed from the 5D, and have you done side by side testing against 6×7?
David: I’ve gone as large as 13×19 so far and I may try some bigger enlargements soon — maybe 17×22 or even larger. I haven’t done any side by side comparisons yet. That’s probably because I tend to use one system or the other when I’m in the field — but not both at once!
Joe: You’re wiser than I am – I’ve been shooting with a 5D and a Mamiya 7II in the field, and carrying two tripods hurts after awhile. I’ve found I don’t like printing bigger than 20×30 from the 5D.
David: How do you decide then which camera to use? I did take both systems down to Point Lobos the other week and having to decide which to use drove me crazy.
Joe: That’s part of what I was going to ask you! I’ve been immersed in digital since 2002, and only last year started shooting more 6×7, due to the long exposure advantages and look of Fuji Tungsten slide film. So I’m mostly shooting 6×7 at night. My choice is easier because I have a full 35mm digital kit, but only one lens for the Mamiya 7II (a 50mm).
David: It sounds like you have a specific reason for using 6×7. I would think that the decision as to when to use it would be fairly easy for you.
Joe: Yes. But seeing the results on the light table makes me want to use it more. Even though scanning gets tedious, and paying $10 per roll for the combined cost of film and processing can add up.
Have you been keeping an eye on the 1DS Mark III and rumors of a new big megapixel Nikon dSLR? Seems like a more affordable alternative to medium format digital.