Since the beginning of using my analog medium format camera as a landscape photography tool I was concerned how the limited aspect ratio of the camera would actually cumber my workflow. It is for a good reason that the 4x5, 6x7 or 3x4 format is also referred to as “landscape format” when using the longer side as the horizontal one. Ben Horne, a large format landscape photographer that I really admire for his incredible work and his inspiring YouTube channel once said, that he tries to shoot in landscape format as often as possible, because in his opinion that fits to the calmness in his photographs. He further mentioned that most people are more likely to hang a picture in landscape format on their walls than in portrait mode (especially landscape photographs).
I think in a lot of ways he is right.
So how could I even think about investing in a system that would be able to expose film in a 6x6cm format?
First of all, I think medium format is a very good compromise between getting a reasonable large area of film with still comparably good portability, as well as a more ease of use compared to large format. There are also analog medium format cameras available in other sizes such as 6x7. But the more I reflected about the square format the more I liked it.
In the last years I more and more switched to more minimalistic black and white photographs, just because I love that style. Being limited to the square format comes really emphasizes this style in my eyes. A square is as simple as it gets in terms of geometrical forms.
Another plus of the square format is the fact that you don’t have to turn your camera anymore. In a square both sides are equally sized. In earlier days I sometimes struggled because I was unsure if I should use the portrait orientation or not. With the Hasselblad there is not that question anymore.
Using the square format consistently also adds exactly this to your photographs: a little bit of consistence. Especially in times where pictures are posted in an immense amount to social media in oversaturated tones it is in my opinion important to stay consistent.
And finally: If you really feel that you would need for example an upright composition, you can still crop your image later. Famous example: Ansel Adams “Moon over Half Dome” was also shot with a Hasselblad 6x6cm film camera using a 250mm lens.
So all this benefits led to something surprising: During the last year, when I was an dedicated landscape photography trips, and I had both my analog and my digital camera with me, I switched my digital camera to a square crop, because I was already so used to it, that I pre-imagined most of my compositions in squares.
What I finally realized: I think in a lot of my landscape or portrait compositions I had the problem of a lot of dead space. I often placed the main subject somewhere in the mid area of the frame, or let’s say at least in the central third. That had the effect that the space both on the extreme right or left side wasn’t used as it might have been should. When I use the square format I don’t feel that I have that problem a lot and the composing feels more naturally to me, or let’s say I don’t feel that I have to work so much on the composition.
So what about you? Do you like the square format? What is your favorite format for landscape and why? Let me know in the comments! Thanks a lot!