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Panorama! Sunday, September 28, 2008

Photographer Doug Wyland mounts a Fuji GX617 camera on a magic arm Sept. 23 in preparation for a photo of the senior class at Mountainview High School in Vancouver, Wash.

I had the opportunity to learn a bit about old-school photography last week. We shot a class portrait of some 400 seniors at Mountainview High School in Vancouver. Unlike almost every other job I've done, though, this one was on film. We didn't use the typical 35-mm roll, though. For a higher quality negative and because of the wide shape of the group, we shot it on medium format film with a panoramic camera.

[left] Michael Flanigan hands the shutter release to Doug Wyland.

The Fuji GX617 that we used is not an SLR camera, and everything is manual, so you have to focus with a ground glass focusing screen before you load the film. Basically, that's a translucent screen that fits into the back of the camera exactly where the film will be when you expose it.

Once you have established the focus and measured the exposure with a light meter, you can load the film.

As its name suggests, the GX617 shoots a 6cm x 17cm image (considerably larger than the 2.4cm x 3.6cm size of 35-mm film, and much wider). But you only get four shots per roll.

[left] Bill Berger looks through the focusing screen.

Once we had everything set up, we herded the seniors into the gym, arranged them on the bleachers and took the photos—two formal, and two "spirited."

And, because we live in the digital age, we took a few with a D300 "just in case."