Film V Digital

A comparative review…..

I have a friend (just the one) – who shoots film almost exclusively.  He says that you can’t get the same quality of image from digital that you can from a film camera.  He insists he’s right – won’t hear a word said against film (and I’m not going to here either).

The thing about this, is that the production of an image, has nothing to do with the medium on which it is taken. It’s a mechanical thing, whichever way you look at it.

There was a time, when I bought, shot, developed and printed from film.  There’s a time now when  I buy cards, shoot, process and print digital images – and the difference is?  I can do it in the daylight, instead of sitting in (what was at the time) a stuffy little built in wardrobe, with the smell of chemicals wafting on the air.

When I did my photography courses at college – one of the first things we did, was go straight back to the lab, and process a film – ahh, you say – nostalgia….. nope – same old darkness (in a larger room to be sure) but with the same chemical smell that lingers long after you get home.

‘But”, my friend argues “we did it all ourselves, all the famous photographers of our time did”… well sorry to disillusion you…… but most of them had assistants, even if they oversaw the whole process.

Think this way as well.  We didn’t make the film, as much as we didn’t make the memory card.  We didn’t make the lens for the camera, or the electronics that are in there today.  Someone somewhere along the line helped us to make that photograph.  If we digital shooters produce a JPG, then the camera has done some editing in advance – if we shoot RAW, then we end up with the equivalent of a negative, to edit as we wish.  I suspect it’s no coincidence that Lightroom has a ‘Develop’ module, or a library for that matter.

What I notice is that my friend does not print his own images, nor does he process his own film, and yet argues that his image making process, is  more ‘pure’ than mine,

As photographers, and creators of images, I don’t think it matters if we leave some things to our virtual assistants – get our images printed elsewhere for example – it is entirely our choice, but if we leave the film to be processed into prints at the time we send it off -then we are leaving the final edit to the chemistry lab operators.

In the end though, it’s our creative vision, and the print, (if we choose to go that far) is our end product.

Put a film print and a digital print side by side, and most times I would defy you to tell which was which !

Feel free to argue the point – I’d be interested…….. 

Here’s an idea !

I’ve been reading about photography ideas – here’s one I like the sounds of, and intend to have a go with – I’ll publish the results in due course, and if I don’t, I’m pretty sure someone will remind me.

Why don’t you have a go at this too……

  1. Go for a walk WITHOUT your camera. Go back and make one photo of something you saw on the walk.
  2. Use negative space with ‘wild and reckless abandonment’ – make the main subject a very small part of the composition.
  3. Walk an area you normally drive through. Bring your camera, and make one photo of something you’ve not noticed before.
  4. Make a scenic photograph. Eliminate one element and retake. Repeat till there’s nothing left to take – see how many steps you can spread it out for.

So that’s one shot each for the first three, and a number of shots for the last……

Remember they don’t have to be masterpieces of artwork – just thoughtful things.

Now – there’s a bit of woodland I drive past all the time………..

Have fun with your photography…..

Woods in the winter

Insecurity

Being insecure is good for the photographic process.  Usually when you are out and about – you take a picture, and then review it on the back of the camera.  You might then move about a bit, and take another. You might do this a few times, till what you see on the back of the camera accords with your own internal ideas.

You can’t do that when you shoot film of course. You don’t have the benefit of seeing the ‘result’ straight away, and so there’s that element of insecurity because you are not totally sure what you have got ‘in the can’.  You are also limited by the number of pictures you can take.  36 on a roll, or 24, or maybe as few as 8 or 10.

What do we do?  Digitallly, we take lots of images – but which ones do you like the best when you get home, and look at them all together?

I often find that the images I like the best are usually not the ones I thought I was taking at the outset – things move on, even as I shoot, and it might be the 10th image that I take that is the one that I use. The benefit of the digital camera is that you can check as you go – but is this always good for you?

Sometimes I wonder if by virtue of being able to look at the back of the camera all the time, I am just confirming that what I saw was good, or am I merely looking at a preview of my ultimate expectation.

It might be both – because looking at the back of the camera all the time can disrupt the shooting process – causing us to miss things….

When I was working as an agency photographer – most times I didn’t have the opportunity to look and check what was happening on the back of the camera – I just had to keep going, and trust that the settings were the right ones. I learned to adjust as I went, working on the principle that it had to be right first time, as there were no second opportunities.

That was the insecurity which was hanging over my shoulder all the time – it made me work harder, and faster.  If I checked at all, it was briefly.

The best lesson I learned was to reset my camera to a default, at the end of every single shoot.  So the camera sat at ISO 400, f5.6, RAW, and Aperture Priority.  That would get me most times an OK shot – it also meant that if I’d previously been shooting at ISO 12,000 – I wouldn’t be doing that the next day, when the sun came out again.  

It happens to us all, we make mistakes, but resetting the camera can mitigate things.

Why not try this – put some black tape over the screen – and go out and shoot – make yourself a little more insecure – and see what happens….

It’s only pixels……..

Margaret Bourke-White, and the weight of a camera…..

Margaret Bourke-White – June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971 was an American photographer.  She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry and was the first American female war photojournalist.

She was also the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War 2.  In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression.  She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded.  Taking refuge in the US Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.

And what a camera!  In a book she wrote after the war, she described what she took with her.  Five custom built Speed Graphic cameras, all of her film, and everything she needed to process the film, and print, which she did – using the bath in her room.

In total, she had over 600pounds of camera equipment including portable lighting.

As she wrote in Portrait of Myself: “People often ask me, ‘What’s the best camera?’ That is like asking, ‘What is the best surgeon’s tool?’ Different cameras fill different needs. I have always had a special affection for the larger-than-miniature cameras.”

I mention this because I think we – as photographers in this upcoming new decade – need to appreciate how much easier it is for us, than it was for her.

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There’s Too Much Noise

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much going on around me, and it’s distracting me from my photography.

Not the camera – but the rest of it – the internet (in particular Facebook), the computer generally, the radio, the television – it’s all getting to be too much.

I know I’m not taking enough time over my photographs – I feel rushed…. complete this, edit that, mount up this one… and I know I’ve talked about this before – and still done nothing about it.  Well from this minute forward I will – I promise.

I’m trying to be on a Facebook hiatus.  I do check in to look at what’s going on from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I did.  I’ve turned off the TV (other than Wimbledon) and I’m listening to podcasts only in the evenings.

I think that the more I can turn off technology, the more I should be able to concentrate on my photography – and do you know, it’s starting to work for me.

I’ve found more time for my edits, and am now looking at some photographs I took about 2 weeks ago and appreciating what I can do with them.

The plan is to go back to images I took ages ago, and re-edit them. I think that because of the rush to produce I’ve not always done my best, so I want to start again, and get some prints done, and keep up with the blog too.

Last weekend, was Armed Forces Day in Cleethorpes – I was away (on family business) for part of it, but did manage to join a couple of other photographers on the Sunday afternoon.  We shot some aircraft displays, and I purposely took far fewer images than I would normally do – and the results were much better.  The other plus side was that I actually watched most of the displays – something I would normally miss, as I’d be hidden behind the camera frantically trying to track a Eurofighter as it shot across the sky.

Here’s a couple from last weekend then, a fast one, and a slow one…….  the rest of the edits will just have to wait!

Has Photography been Trivialised?

I was reading an article the other day about the number of photographs that are taken each  year, and in addition the number of photographs with people in them, who don’t know that they are IN them.

A bit of research took me to the oldest known photograph with people in it.  It was taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, and it shows Boulevard du Temple, in Paris.

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The street is lined with lamps and trees, and in the middle of the frame is a tiny figure. A man getting his shoe shined, who likely had no idea his image was being captured at all. (In fact, Boulevard du Temple is and was a busy street. When Daguerre took the photo, there were carts and people streaming up and down the street and sidewalks, but only this one man shows up because the photograph had to be taken over the course of 10 minutes. Only the man standing still shows up after such a long exposure.)

A lot has changed since then – think of the numbers of photographs taken each day, and uploaded to Facebook, or shared with applications such as Snapchat. Facebook revealed in a white paper that its users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos, and are uploading 350 million new photos each day.  It’s a number that I just can’t get my head around.

Another way to think about it (and data here from another blog I read) – more photographs are uploaded every day, than existed in total 150 years ago – and that’s just the ones that are uploaded.  It doesn’t count all the ones stored on hard drives.

Images are becoming almost mundane – it’s all been done – and much like the UK debt, they can only increase with the passing of time, especially if you think of the numbers of mobile phones being used as cameras.

I do wonder, at what point will the number of images being taken, become so overwhelming that the medium of photography will become trivialised and border on meaningless.

Already it is getting harder and harder to find images that are unique, and photographically exciting.  The rise the in popularity of photography started to skyrocket around the year 2000 with the production of the ‘smart’ phone.  Photography is now moving forward so fast, that it’s likely to be tripping up over its own feet.

Has the magic disappeared?

I certainly think that some photographers have started to become lazy.  For example, take the photographing of UK wildlife – if you wanted photographs 20 years ago – you had to go out and look for it yourself.  You had to learn skills.  Tracking, hunting, understanding your subject.  Now, if you want a photo of, say, a red squirrel, you just look on line, and pay someone to set up a hide for you – supply the requisite nuts – and maybe even tell you what camera settings to use.

And of course it’s even easier with a digital camera – you can afford to make mistakes and use the wrong settings.  Just take a lot of images, and if it all goes wrong, pay again, and shoot again.   The comment “oh, it’s another red squirrel”, was not one  you would have heard even 10 years ago, but it is much more prevalent now.

For me, the act of being a photographer is much more than just recording my day to day life, and posting my lunch on Instagram.  It’s about the excercise of the process, rather than the result of the process.

A commitment to follow the path of art can be a thrilling one.  It’s not about the technology (though as I have said in the past, it can help), it’s about the making of the image, and I still find this to be the very best part.

I’ve also found over the last 18 months or so, that entering competitions has lost some of its flavour.  I see so many changes and developments in the different categories of the competitions, and just can’t keep up with all of them.  Not that I’m expected to I suppose.

On the other hand, I find the new technologies to be tremendously exciting – the advent of the mirrorless camera has provided me (and a good number of others) with a new found freedom.  They are lightweight, compact, and the images are massively superior to some of the older DSLR cameras out there – and when I say older, I don’t mean THAT much older either.  The ability to throw a small camera into a bag and walk out and shoot has been something I missed for a long time.

My first camera was a Sony Cybershot with 3.2 Million Pixels.  It used the (then fashionable) memory stick.  Easy to stick in my pocket – it got used a lot.  Then along came the bridge camera, and later my first DSLR  – the Canon 350D – still reasonably compact – but then the Canon 5D, and later still on to the Canon 1Series.  Each time they got bigger, heavier, and the lens followed suit.

The advent of mirrorless was only on the fringes of my perception for a long time.  Then suddenly Fuji, Sony, Olympus, and others,  produced a range of gear that, in the end I had to take notice of, and the purchase of the Fuji X-T2, and now X-T3, has encouraged (and allowed) me to shoot even more.

So, has photography been trivialised?  To some extent I would think so – but in the same breath, I think there is still room for the serious shooter, and I’m looking forward to browsing Instagram, Facebook, 500px and other places for my next batch of inspiration.

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A16 towards Tetford

 

Technology Battles

We depend on technology so much these days – far more than when we all shot with analogue cameras.  It puts me in mind of a story I heard, (maybe an urban myth) when a photographer went through airport security in America, (it had to be there) and was asked to turn his camera on, to prove it worked.  He tried to explain that it didn’t ‘turn on’, and ‘no they couldn’t open the back’ – in the end apparently, the security guys opened up the camera to discover that it had film in it.  The young guy hadn’t heard of analogue cameras that didn’t have batteries in.  Whoever heard of a clockwork camera?

So our dependence on technology goes on – in film days, we depended on a different type of technology:-  the camera, the film processor, film dryer, the enlarger, printing developer, fixer, print dryers, special wash, and all the associated gadgets.

We had in our family in film years, any number of cameras, more than one enlarger – a dedicated dark room – a frustrated mother who didn’t want film in the freezer, or chemicals in a fridge. The print dryer was huge, and the print trimmer (which I still have) was big and heavy.  Everything took up a huge amount of room, and everything we did was either in the dark, or under a red light.

What I’m getting at is that although we’ve come a long way, in terms of technology, we still need the same amount of ‘stuff’.  I now have a ‘daylight darkroom’ but still, a dedicated room.  I have cameras, lens, computer, tables, and mounts, and cropping machines – it all takes up space.  I know photographers who have turned outside sheds and garages into dedicated studios.

Then there’s the problem of what to do when something fails.  All cameras fail in the end, I’ve had lens with failed diaphragms, cameras with failed shutters, I’ve dropped lens, and camera together (shattered on some marble) – cable releases fail, and I’ve even lost a tripod.

When the printer fails, (as mine did a month or two back) then that made me start to think about whether I needed a new one or not.  I love to print – I love the sight of a brand new photograph coming slowly out – and then the result is nearly the end of the process.  I can mat and frame, and there it is.  All my own work.  However, the cost of ink nowadays is nearly that of the price of gold!  I can get a lot of prints done if I outsource for the price of a set of 8 inks.

In the days of analogue, if there was no print, there was no image, so now we have to depend on our, or someone elses technology to produce the final (finished?) image.

Technology now is changing and developing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.  For a long while I didn’t look at what camera manufacturers were doing. I was happy with the gear I had, and saw no reason to change for the sake of it.  Then, when I was offered a trip to Spain 18 months ago, I looked for a small camera to take with me.  This is when I discovered that technology had moved on without me.  The mirrorless camera that I bought then, (the Fuji X-T2) was a revelation.  Beautiful image quality from such a small thing.  I’m more interested now, that I ever was in what is being engineered for photographers of the future.

So what comes out of the camera now, and photoshop? Sometimes it looks nothing like a traditional photograph.  Do we call this something different?  Digital art maybe?

Whatever we choose to call it, and whatever images you produce – it still starts with a camera, and most importantly, the photographer behind it.

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The Conversion Continues

After my purchase recently of the Fuji X-T2 – I bought a new lens this last week – the 16-55 F2.8. My first zoom.  It’s stunning.

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I had a studio shoot, and although I took along my Canon Camera, it wasn’t long before I switched over to the lightweight Fuji.

It performed beautifully, with only one menu item that had to be changed.  Shooting in manual mode, with studio lights being fired from a trigger on top of the camera, I had to turn the preview exp/WB in Manual Mode off.  This is under Tools, and Screen set up.   Other than that – it was good to go right out of the box. (Thanks to Richard Egan for giving me that information).

With the camera’s 24M pixel count, the image sizes are much larger than I’m used to – 6000×4000, leaves plenty of room to crop if you need to with no loss of image quality.

The viewfinder is different too. Mirrorless means electronic, but there’s no lag to notice, and I found I quickly got used to the look. 325 focus points means no searching for the right place to lock on to, and it’s easy to move the focus point around with the control stick.

I’ve never had a tilting display either – the Canon DSLR’s that I own don’t have it – The X-T2 display rotates up, down and pulls out sideways too for ease of use, and has a great resolution of 1.04 million dots.

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I did the firmware update this week.  This allowed more options on ISO, and a very pleasing addition was the ability to record information onto files.  Useful when I have to remember how to spell names, and refer back to locations.  It’s something I used a lot with the Canon DX.

So far, I have not used their 4K video, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

There’s another firmware update scheduled for May!  Two inside 3 months – I think Canon had one update over a 4 year period.  Maybe they think they’ve nothing to prove, and nothing to improve on.

Ultimately the conversion so far, to Fuji has been a seamless one.  All I need now is a long lens….. and I’m set to go……

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Oh, and if anyone is interested.  I’ve got a Canon 1D MK4 body for sale……..  Message me on here if you are interested, or see my Facebook page for more information and a price.

Thank you for reading…… more on this topic to follow

 

Quicker, Better, Faster??

In the last 8 months I finally succumbed and subscribed to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom CC – I’d resisted, and resisted till in the end I was backed into a corner.  Two things happened – one piece of software that I had as a plug-in, updated itself, and then refused to work with CS6.  It had gone beyond what CS6 could do.  Secondly, Lighroom did an automatic update, and suddenly the RAW convertor would no longer talk to CS6, and I was left making a DNG file, in addition to the RAW file, and finally then a conversion to JPEG.

Frustrated, I decided to take the plunge and go down the subscription route.  First thing that happened was I got an upgrade to CS6 to the ‘Extended’ version (which sits happily now, doing nothing on my hard drive), the next thing was that LR CC completely overwrote the version of LR6 that I had got already.

In the short term, this isn’t a problem, but if I do decide that the subscription method is not for me, then I’ve no idea if I can recover the version 6 I had before.

I suppose the other issue would be that changes I made in the ‘new’ software won’t be recognised by the old.

Adobe continually tell me that the new software is quicker, better, and faster…..  and as a retired full time photographer, I appreciate the need for speed in processing.  Nowadays though, I can relax and process my images for my use, in my own time.  Which is wonderful.

Is faster necessarily better though?  I’ve spent some time thinking about how I looked at image making in my time with film.  First of all, I was much more careful about what I shot – 36 on a roll – fewer with medium format.  Twin lens Rolliflex – 10 at a time.  Then the film itself.  Dark room, winding the unexposed film onto a reel – dropping something on the floor, and trying to find it again.  Waiting for it to develop – rinse, add fixer, rinse again – fingers crossed, and out it came – and that was just the start….. Check negatives, and look at printing – enlarger, dodge, burn, photo paper – (the sort I saw for sale on ebay a while ago out of its black plastic bag – ouch), and then, the magic of seeing a print magically appear on the paper in the developing tray – fix it, rinse it, dry it…… lets have another look under a light that’s not red………..

Don’t get me wrong, I love the digital darkroom – working in the daylight, and able to walk away for a cup of tea when I want to.  It’s cooler, and I don’t miss the chemical smells.

I love taking time with my images, but that’s not the attitude the advertising bods would have us ache for.  Rush rush rush…. and I see it all the time in on-line images.  Tilted horizons, underexposed, overexposed, burnt out, over processed…..  This is NOT art, this is careless.  More processing does not make for a better photo – whanging up the clarity will never, ever fix a badly composed photograph.

I qualify this by saying that sometimes there is art… and that is very much a personal thing – careful, artistic processing most definitely has its place – but this is by people who genuinely know what they are about.

Begone, you slide whangers – let’s try to tone it down a little – 100% clarity, combined with 100% vibrance really isn’t the way to go……..