Those who are not familiar with view cameras, they are completely manual in every way possible.

All focusing is done with the ground glass while no film is in the camera, once this is done and the scene is metered the film can be inserted. With the film inserted the ground glass is completely blacked out, its the equivalent to shooting with mirror lock up on a SLR camera.

Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018

I couldn't let the opportunity to see England's first closed road rally slide by me, a huge part of my childhood was watching Colin Mcrae in his iconic Subaru Impreza. I couldn't wait to finally see a live rally event, so how would I approach a rally in 2018?

I have never photographed motor sports before, should I bring a 200, 400, or how about a fisheye? I decided to look at photographs from modern reporters, see what kind of photographs are being made. A quick google search revealed 1000's of pin sharp photographs of the cars either drifting or jumping, now while we all like to see gravel and water frozen in time with perfectly focused cars, I was a little disappointed to see that nothing looked any different from my 2005 WRC calendar. But this did make sense the camera format hadn't changed after all, going digital didn't really change the look of the images it just increased the image size.

I wanted to create something different, there would be no point in copying what has already been done a thousand times.

I photographed the event from the main public viewing area, this had an excellent panoramic view of the B1352.


So what better to bring to a motorsports event than a 4x5 monorail Arca Swiss? With its 0 fps, manual focus, permanent viewfinder black out and maximum of 10 shots what could go wrong? Well plenty, the lens broke, my first batch of film failed and one of the film holders developed a new light leak.

Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018

I chose to use a 4x5 view camera just to do something different, I could have used a modern auto focus camera and played it safe. But wheres the passion in making it easy? Photography should be about the journey as much as it is the final product, and dragging around a monorail view camera sure adds to the journey. 

Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018
Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018
Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018

But the added challenge comes with its own benefits, any lens mounted can be tilted and twisted creating very unique perspectives. There are ways to replicate this effect in Photoshop, but software cant replicate the depth a large format lens has. 4x5 also has incredible freedom for cropping, I made panoramic crops and even cut one photograph by over 50% and still kept a poster size image. Because of this ability I shot the whole event on one lens, this made carrying and assembling the 4x5 all day a breeze.

Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018

I scanned the negatives at 3200dpi, this produced file sizes of 15000x1100 and up. This is an insane amount of data which would be even greater from a drum scan, of course this is all irreverent tech talk and not what matters in photography. What I enjoyed most about this camera was the creative focus, having so many options to position the lens was far more useful than the massive resolution.

Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton 2018

So would I do it again? definitely!

Knowing I can only take 10 photographs really allowed me to enjoy this incredible event, I wasn't trying to capture everything that caught my eye. I could really take my time and enjoy the cars, rather than watching everything through a viewfinder or from the back of a screen.

Even though it was my first time photographing Motorsports, I feel I was able to capture something different to what I'd seen on my calendar as a child.


Much like my other articles this is not a recommendation just my personal experience, everything must be done slowly and methodically on a view camera not something everyone can have fun with. 

There is a reason that only a handful of people around the world are using a 4x5 camera at sports events.

copyright Kieran Elson 2019