Another day, another sunset
— Galen Rowell
What has digital photography led us to?
The other day, friend of mine uploaded some pictures from back when we were ye big. One picture amongst them caught my eye. It was a portrait of my childhood friend sitting on a table in front of a window, through which one can see their backyard. From what i can recollect, it was taken with an ordinary Minolta with a fixed focal length lens. And yet, the color tones, the bokeh… everything was exemplary.
It got me thinking. A cheap-ass camera from two decades ago had a FULL FRAME imaging area. It had decent bokeh. It had pictures that looked great SOOC, if you used it wisely. It didn’t have hot pixels. You didn’t worry about high-ISO noise because you chose ONE ISO and stuck with it. You didn’t worry about your camera getting “Outdated” in 6 months when the latest “XYZ Mark whatever” came out. You didn’t worry about maximum print sizes because, guess what? That cheap-ass camera gave you images that could be blown up really, really big if you needed to.
Can we say that about the digital equivalent of that Minolta with a sensor the size of my pinky nail?
No, this isn’t a rant on how film is superior in EVERY WAY to digital. Digital has significant advantages which led to its widespread adaptation around the world. When I was a student, photography was a huge financial burden on me, thanks to costs attached with film photography. So when digital came along, I embraced it completely. Much like millions of other aspiring photographers around the world.
But in the process, we also sold our souls. We gave up things that we took for granted; things like large imaging areas and brilliant color tones for convenience. We took shots indiscriminately, going home and then choosing 3 out of the 500 we shot that day. We started taking variable aperture, slow lenses as the norm.We resigned to the fact that to get big sensors, one has to shell out a fortune.
But you know what I miss the most?
I miss the feeling I got when I developed my first roll of Black and White film myself. It looked foggy and I screwed up something or the other, but that didn’t matter.
It was tangible.
That’s more than what we can say about a CF card that gets imported into Lightroom/ Aperture.
I am under no illusions that a film revival would take place. I will continue to shoot digital primarily. But hey, here’s a thought. Mamiya M645s go for 200 odd bucks on Adorama.
Sometimes, it’s good to slow down and take a good look around. Don’t be in a rush to find the good photos, wait and let them come to you.
One body. One focal length. One ISO. Limited amount of shots available.
Sometimes, less is indeed more.