I recently acquired a old Bronica SQA medium format film, and I thought I would share a few of the challenges that have come along with shooting on it. First, it is film, and though I have been shooting 35mm for a while medium format is rather different. Second, it is fully manual, which makes shooting on it a fair bit slower than I am used to. The biggest challenge I have had so far though, is the format.
The SQA is a 6x6cm medium format camera. It takes square images. This is in some ways useful, as square images have become more popular with apps like Instagram, and it is convenient to be able to post your whole image to Instagram (once you get the film developed that is), but I have found it challenging me in many ways. I have shot for so many years with a 35mm aspect ratio, that I have become quite comfortable composing shots with it, I won't say good, but comfortable. And while I have, as I mentioned, been posting some of my pictures in square format to Instagram for a while now, they were never originally composed as such, and so I have found the process of composing images with a square viewfinder rather disconcerting.
I trend towards the center. It is hard not to be drawn towards the center of a square image, it naturally focuses the eye of the viewer there. This can be used to powerful effect at times, but I find I need to remind myself to not always place my subjects there, as tempting as it might be. Placing them elsewhere though, is a difficult task. The rule of thirds, a standard of the photographers toolkit across the world, is hard to apply when the image is square. Negative space becomes awkwardly sized, and things have a tendency to look out of place.
Instead, I try to look for symmetry. Where a rectangular format tends to lend itself to asymmetrical, off-balance, and weighted photographs, I find that square pictures instead lend themselves to evenness, balance and symmetry.
I am still learning and experimenting, but this camera has been amazing in how it has challenged me to look at things in a different ways, to slow down, and to think more. It has already helped me to produce some beautiful images, and hopefully together we will create many more!