I Lost Something

June 03, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

I guess you could say I am kind of obsessed with pushing myself to be better, particularly where my photography is concerned. When I am driving, I am listening to podcasts about technique either with the camera and lighting, post production or business and marketing. When I am home I make time to read books along the same lines. Since I made the switch to 100% digital photography, it has been an all consuming immersion into 'catching up' with the technology and current business practices.
Along with the new tools, my creativity has bloomed into areas that I had always wanted to do, but didn't have the resources to explore. Photography is expensive and when you are shooting film, experimentation is a days long process and every click of the shutter cost money. Progress came slow and required you to keep meticulous notes. Today's cameras take all the notes for you (if you care to read them) and the screen on the back immediately tells you if you are getting the results you want.
I find that I am lazy with photography theory now. I fall into the trap of priority programs in the camera and just manipulate the settings I need to for the effect I want. Another way of loosing your camera smarts is shooting the same thing over and over again. You know, that certain portrait set-up you always use to yield F:8 at 1/60th. You can take the lights out of the bag, eyeball their distance to subject and never consider changing the settings on your camera, because you are getting paid and you know this always works.
I recently came across an old issue of Black and White Magazine which seems to really be a catalog of print collections that galleries are hoping to sell. Well the images are stunning and interesting, mainly because they are black and white. Then I started thinking all of these amazing images were made without the benefit of a camera that was more of a 'computer with a lens' than anything else. The people that took these images had to know what they were doing.
So I am missing black and white film. There, I said it.
I performed a little experiment to rekindle the old fires of yesteryear. I can't grab a roll of black and white film and go shoot (actually, I could. You won't believe how much useless darkroom equipment I have in boxes, just in case), that would be stupid given all of the niceties I have grown accustomed to with digital, namely instant results. I put my camera in Manual Mode, which shuts off all of the computers that want to push you around. I set the camera's Picture Control to a setting that emulates contrasty black and white film, put the camera on a tripod outside and composed in the view finder. I used my light meter, a Depth of Field Calculator and used the screen to verify results and evaluate adjustments. I focused manually based on my DOF calculator's reported hyper-focal distance. No need to check focus in the bright sun light, which is impossible to do anyway. Just like in math class, I think you should have to know how to do it the long way before you are allowed to take any short-cuts.
The image above is my pick from the few I shot today. The beautiful thing about shooting in black and white is that it reduces your composition to shape, contrast and texture. It is another way to keep your creativity excited about the next corner you are going to turn. As for me, I have re-acquainted myself with some of the theory and science that I love about this medium and along the way found some of the subtle beauty that has been missing from my work for a long time.

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