Photographer Stephen Schultz has been experimenting with the Brenizer method on digital cameras for years, but as he’s been shooting more movies throughout 2021, he decided to see if there’s a way to mix this method with the Mamiya 645AFD.
The Brenizer method, also referred to as “bokehrama” or bokeh panorama, is a technology originally developed by photographer Ryan Brenizer to allow digital photographers to imitate the look and feel of a medium-format image using less expensive cameras with smaller sensors. By compiling a group of multiple images captured for a scene, the photographer can greatly increase the resolution of the final image as well as the perceived depth.
Bernizer’s Medium Film Method?
Schultz is a photographer and podcaster based in Chicago, Illinois who has been shooting digitally and has been a fan of Brenizer’s method for years, but has recently become more into the film business.
“I fell in love with the slower process of imaging, developing and scanning,” he told PetaPixel. “I work from a photo studio with a group of my friends, and we all shoot a movie together. Everyone is very encouraging and helpful, and we often come up with different ideas that we want to try.”
From that environment, Schultz himself asked if the Brenizer’s digital method could be combined with medium-format film.
“One day, it dawned on me that using my Mamiya 645AFD to draw a Brenizer picture could actually be a viable option,” he says.
Although the original goal of the Brenizer method was to simulate medium format, Schultz says the idea of using the technique but starting from a medium format camera was something he wanted to explore.
“Starting the Brenizer process with a true medium format camera was great for me, as I wondered what it was like to put a bunch of medium format photos together. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, or if it would work, but I am very happy with the results” .
Not without challenges
Actually taking the photos wasn’t the hard part, Schultz says, it was post-production where the challenges came up.
“Stitching the panorama in Lightroom was difficult — even when I cropped the photos and tried to combine them in the same way I do with Brenizer digital photos,” he says.
“Lightroom wanted to sew the whole, uncropped image, which I show in the video. I then tried to export them as TIFFs, re-import them, and merge them together, but the colors and contrast combined in a weird way once the panorama was complete,” he explains.
“The final process I did was to export it as a JPEG, re-import it as a JPEG, and merge it into a panorama.”
The resulting images were limited in their resolution, most likely by the way the film was digitally scanned with a digital mirrorless camera. Schultz says scanning and shearing around the boundary in order to transform the negative changed the resolution from what it could be. It should also be noted that the method only uses parts of each panorama image to create the final image, not every negative image, which also affects the final resolution.
However, the photos are not small: the widest ones I took are 15,404 pixels in diameter, while more square format photos are usually somewhere around 9697 by 9606 pixels.
A fun project, albeit an impractical one
While it was a fun project to spring from a “what if” mindset, Schultz realizes that while he thinks he’d like to experiment with the process more, it’s not something that works at scale.
“I definitely want to try this out more, but I don’t think it’s going to become a regular part of my workflow, because it takes so long and can hurt or miss you,” he says. “But trying something new was so much fun. I think I will use this again for specific conceptual photos that I want a lot of resolution and depth for, and I would also like to compare this along with the large format, which I am very interested in photographing.”
Regardless, Schultz says, he thinks it’s worth it just to have the fun of trying something new.
“At least, I think anyone can have a good time trying it once! However, you definitely don’t have to start with a medium sized film. If you have a 35mm film camera (or any digital camera, for that matter!” ), this is a great way to learn,” he says. “I think a lot of the fun of photography is trying new techniques and trying different things, even if it doesn’t work or isn’t very practical. You never know where new inspiration might come from!”
Image credits: Stephen Schultz’s photo.