Category Archives: photography

Why use film?

Is film better than digital?

There is plenty of acrimony out there in the disagreement between film and digital photographers. There is also plenty of people for whom the medium doesn’t matter in the slightest.

In my case, I feel the need to pontificate, mostly because I can’t help being opinionated and I like to share those opinions. So there.

I think in some ways, film is indeed superior to digital for recording images.

Why? First, the look of a film image is different. The medium as well as the camera and lens combinations lends a more unique look to the images. Digital tends to bring a sameness, a uniformity to the look of an image, as does the processing that follows. True, you can’t tell with some. But overall, there is a difference and with digital, I find you lose something when you lose those unique qualities that film, let alone alternative capture methods, brings. Why else are film based filters so popular for digital shooters?

Not only is there a diminishment in unique qualities, there is also a loss of serendipity, unique results, happy accidents. While you might make mistakes, digital doesn’t have real flaws nor can you induce unknown results by playing with chemicals or processes. And messing about with Photoshop doesn’t count I’m afraid.

Second, there is the process. Film, by nature of it’s scarcity, (as few as 12 shots in a roll let alone single sheets), requires you to slow down, think abut your shots and make them count. Yes, you can do that when you shoot digitally, but how many people do? While the bountiful nature of digital does mean some additional freedom is possible in your approach, how many rely on number of frames versus quality of frames?

Professsionals used to shoot film, they got the shots, and did so without needing to take 5000 images. They also engaged in plenty of experimentation. I think photography has actually lost something with the ease of digital capture. It’s lost people really learning the skills of a photographer in knowing their gear so well, knowing how to create great images in camera, knowing how to get the shot the first time.

Third, digital has led to a lot of people with cameras calling themselves photographers who really don’t know much about photography or even how to really use a camera. Anyone can get lucky shots and if they shoot enough frames maybe quite a few good ones, but it takes more than that to create with intent. And that is the difference. If you count the number of people using digital cameras vs the number of film shooters out there creating images with intent, I think you’ll find they are proportionally a lot smaller the the film camp.

Before you object, I’m not talking about all the pros out there making their living with a digital camera, they are beside the point. I’m talking about everyone else. Pros don’t have as much choice these days as client expectations require digital compliance unless you get some exceptional clients.

Given these points, in many cases I say film is superior to digital and here’s a finger to all those old farts saying “thank God I don’t have to be in a darkroom anymore”. Lazy buggers.

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Trees

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Besides the fact that I like these images, I thought they were a great way to illustrate how varied you can make a subject matter or theme, such as trees.

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An evening out

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The colours at dusk are always fantastic.

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A little botanical interlude

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Here’s a little gallery of some lovely botanical shots.

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Shadows at noon

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A lot of people have this thing about there being a perfect time of day to take pictures. They will only shoot first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, at the “golden hour”. They’ll place a lot of restrictions on when they can shoot, looking for the perfect light. Well, as far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as perfect light. There is light that is better for some kinds of shots than others. But rather than restricting yourself to only shooting at certain times, embrace shooting at any time and simply choose subject matter that is appropriate for the light. You may not be able to modify it at all so learn to work with it. While I like early morning light the best for a nice soft glow and long shadows without the sun being too low, I have no problem going out at any time. Sometimes, you don’t get to decide when a shoot will happen, your subject will. You need to learn to be flexible and you’ll be able to get great shots.

Below, I have a few shots of tree shadows on a sidewalk at noon. One time of day many photographers just give up on. Full blazing sun actually is perfect for shadows and will work well for anything you want nice, hard lines and tone gradations on. If you want the light soft, find shade or a way to block it on the surface you want to shoot, or simply pick something else. You’d be surprised at what you can get to work, at any time.

 

 

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What do I see when I look for images?

Well, I see a lot of small details many people don’t notice. This is pretty common I think for photographers and artists in general. As observers, it’s the details that catch our eye, that make us think, that spark something for us.

While looking around my place for the latest entry in my 365 project, I at first thought, “my house is pretty boring”. But as I looked around, and let go of that rather unhelpful thought, it was easy to see things that were a little different, a little unusual. Details like that are everywhere, but you have to develop the habit of really looking to notice them. So often we go on autopilot, not really paying attention to what is around us. If I let myself be stopped by the thought of my place being boring, I wouldn’t even bother looking beyond that thought.

To give you an example of what catches my attention, I thought I’d post this little video clip. I noticed this amazing pattern of moving light, just in the middle of my living room floor as the sun came in through the blinds. I was entranced. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really capture what I saw, with my camera, as it was the ┬ámovement that really caught my eye. But that is part of the magic of photography, when it works, and sometimes, you really just can’t translate the 3D world into a 2D image that communicates the true flavour of something.

Dancing light

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Images of Arch Cape, Oregon

I had the wonderful chance to visit Arch Cape, Oregon last fall for a workshop and only recently seriously looked at the images I made, as I was going through them to enter another photo competition. Here’s an eclectic selection that I think exemplifies the amazing variety of places and things you see on the coast, on the boundary of water and land. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How is working on spec any different than working for free?

Or in other words, how else can a small business owner save money while supporting other creative professionals?

Where is this coming from you might ask? Well, I saw a tweet posted by a very influential photographer encouraging other photographers to use www.99designs.com. He advocates a service that unfortunately is part of the ongoing problem with low pay for creatives based on people being willing to work for free. That’s what spec work is. In particular, with a site like this, and it’s not the only one by far, they hold “contests” for design work such as a logo, and if your design is chosen by the person wanting a logo, then and only then, will you get paid for your work. And to top it all off, “prizes” are generally less than industry rates.

I find it very ironic that a photographer or other creative professional would support such shenanigans given the same problems in the photographic industry. How often do you see posts and articles bemoaning the ongoing lowering of the bar for rates due to all the would be photographers who will work for free or very little pay for “experience” or “exposure”? Its a problem that has become even more pervasive with the easy access to professional level gear.

The only way out though is education. We need to teach photographers and other creative professionals to value their time and each others’. We need to teach our clients to value our work and pay what we’re worth. And those clients may be us! That means charge industry rates yourself. And pay each other industry rates. Find someone who will do the work you need and skip the spec stuff. There is a range of prices in every industry that hovers around an average. You should be able to find someone you can afford. If you think you can’t have you looked at other options than straight cash? Contra deals, or barter of services in other words. Saving up a little longer to afford the one you really want to work with. Will your designer or whatever take multiple payments? How about some creative fund raising like www.kickstarter.com? After all, the money you spend on marketing your business is the best money you’ll spend and why would you cheap out? You wouldn’t on your gear when it counts.

And don’t forget, if you don’t want to work for free, why should anyone else?

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