Monthly Archives: May 2009

I think I get it

Ever since playing around with vintage film cameras I have had to explain to my fellow digital photographers why I love them.  They can’t comprehend why one would want to goof around with a $10 camera when one could play with a- zillion mega pixels and digital editing software that would make a Pixar filmmaker jealous. I understand most of the arguments for digital, including the convenience factor. But I really never understood why digital? Really? Is it an artform or just pixels in space? Why sit for hours at a computer monitor and tweak your picture until it’s your idea of perfect?

So I turned the tables on someone and got an interesting answer. Digital, this person stated, is MY medium. What I create out of pixels is art to me just as your tangible film negative and resulting print is art to you. Interesting. But I was still having trouble wrapping my mind around it all.

Enter a particularly challenging photo gig and the need to tweak some horribly exposed pictures in something other than PS. I was contemplating switching to Lightroom to ‘perfect’ digital shots of an 80th birthday party.  I understand the need for the sharp, crisp look, especially when folks are actually paying you for that type of product. An innocuous how-to video really crystallized the answer to this question for me.

The video was explaining how the photographer got these fantastic colors in the sky of a gorgeous landscape shot of what looked like the Grand Canyon. Immediately I looked at the shot and thought “Wow,that is so fake” and it was. This guy made no bones about it in the video and explained that he took the original picture, which was very drab and unimpressive, and turned it into what he remembered the shot ‘feeling’ like in the moment. It was intriguing to hear his explanation. This picture was taken in the warm light of the morning and the original just didn’t capture that warmth. He felt that the altered version of the sky really captured the what he was feeling in that environment and what he was trying to convey in his photography. So THAT’S what it’s all about!

Just like those of us in the film community love the retro, grainy and imperfect look of our shots, digital photogs love the sharp and perfect look they can attain through mega pixels. I look at the film way as a more ‘organic’ view of the world; relatively unaltered, imperfect and natural, while the digital view of the world is ‘enhanced’; saturated, perfected, possible cut-and-pasted and totally in the electronic realm until one actually prints a copy of the photo onto paper.

Understanding the digital photographer’s need to fill their pictures with surreal colors and shapes helps me appreciate what they do a bit more but I have to say, as a film girl I resent the fact that the public has become accustomed these overly-saturated shots as the norm. It seems as though popular tastes have shifted towards a more unrealistic view of the world through a lens. My film shots look really drab in comparison to digitized ones and they always will because I don’t like making them look fake. Oversaturation due to crossprocessing is one thing while vibrant reds, purples, yellow and oranges in every sunset picture you’ve ever taken is quite another.

I guess that’s why us film-o-philes don’t outnumber the digital heads. And that’s okay. Each art form has it’s place. Understanding what compels someone to work in the fully digital world has taken my acceptance of it to a new level. Next time I see an unnaturally colored sky or flower I will know that it represents more than just mad PS skills. That’s cool with me but I think  I’ll stick with the natural, organic film look.

no parking fire hydrant063


iPhone shot on travel website!

Who says the iPhone camera takes crappy pictures? I was recently contacted by Emma Williams of the Schmap Baltimore Guide. They were in the midst of putting together their seventh edition of the guide and one of my iPhone photos was short-listed for inclusion. I was pretty stoked but figured nothing would come of it. A few weeks later, wouldn’t you know, Emma contacted me saying this shot would be included in their guide! Yay!

Low and Long Exposures with Holga

On our recent trip to NYC my family and I made a stop at the Natural History Museum. What a fantastic place and very visually interesting as well. The place was full of possibilities for low-light shots. With my Holga on bulb setting and using walls, columns and sometime the exhibits themselves to brace the camera, I was able to capture some pretty unusual shots. Here are my favorites.

Foggy Picture practice was worth it!

Wow, OK, so it’s been awhile. You know how life gets in the way. The good thing is I’ve been able to take some pretty cool pictures lately.

My little family and I visited some friends and relatives in NYC at the end of March and I loaded up my Holga and Brownie with B&W film and went to town. Coming from my rural home, it was quite the sensory-overload experience and I must say, this small-town girl had a few panic attacks from the claustrophobia I felt with all those people around, not to mention trying to keep track of 3 children who have little big-city know-how. Yikes!

Our visit was on a weekend with mostly foggy weather and the remnants of a recent snowstorm. I was THRILLED that I had conducted my foul weather experiments in January because the lessons learned came in handy.

I love using the Holga for long-exposure shots. It turns out I guess the shutter time right most of the time. Here are some of my favorite outdoor shot taken in Central Park.

My favorite is the reflection of the fence in the puddle with No Carriages, No Dogs, No Bikes painted on the curb. After I took it I couldn’t wait to develop my film and see if it turned out as I expected and it actually did! That’s happening more and more often, which I love. I used Ilford FP4 + iso 125 and developed it in Ilfosol 3. I haven’t developed the Brownie shots yet but I finally got a 127-sized film reel so they should be finished soon.

Up next, some low-light shots I took in a museum.

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