Monday, November 24, 2008

on digitial differences

shortly after i began experimenting with film, i began searching flickr film groups for inspiration and tips. i couldn't help but note a number of digital-hating groups and i swore then that i wouldn't position myself that way. after all, some of my best friends (or fav photos) have been digital. (take, for example, this over-exposed iris.) never mind that when i joined flickr at the end of last april, i was taking two or three hundred digital pics a day, experimenting with composition, exposure, different kinds of lighting, etc.

but then, just the other day, the most curiously discomforting thing happened. i was checking out other people's work on flickr and ran across an image i loved and that i (wrongly) assumed was taken with a film camera. eager to add that camera to my collection, i searched the name of the camera and was--dare i say it? disappointed to find that the image was taken with a digital camera. at that moment, i hesitated about whether or not i even wanted to make the image a favorite.

i was left wondering/asking, "has it happened to me? will i soon be joining the various 'digital sucks' groups?" this would, of course, be dishonest since, technically speaking, all my images on flickr are digital images as i'm converting the negatives to jpgs before uploading or printing them. still, how to account for my disappointment at learning that the image i thought was taken with a film camera wasn't? actually my first response was kind alike, "oh, wow, that's so not fair."

and it wasn't that i was feeling i had been tricked--that what i thought was something taken with a film camera wasn't and it also wasn't a matter of my having camera envy (the digital camera that took the image was/is waaay out of my price range). it was more a matter of wanting to say to the image (as crazy as it sounds), "wow, you might have been created with film--sucks for you that you weren't." and even with this, i realize that it sounds as though i've gone to the other side.

but i'll insist that i haven't. in fact, i've spent the past couple of days wondering, asking myself this question: "why would someone choose to shoot digital (whether exclusively or every now and then) when film remains an option--(assuming film does remain an option for them)?" . . .and in the case of the image I assumed was film, i know film remains an option.

no doubt about it, i've not much used my canon powershot since i began experimenting with film. and when i do, it's usually employed as a light meter. to be fair, working with film is still new--and therefore still a novel experience for me. i started working with film mid-june and i only got into diy developing at the start of august. in this way, my main objective/motive is not necessarily to take good pictures but to learn what's possible to do--with different cameras, different films, different development techniques. having recently gotten to the point where there's nothing new that i'm eager to try (i.e., i haven't the funds or even the space left to keep acquiring new cameras, there's not a development technique or a mod i'd be capable of doing that i'm eager to try), what i appreciate most about these months of experimentation is that i'm finally in a position to say, "okay, based on what i've learned or tried thus far, i feel strongly that in this context, b/w film in a flipped lens bhf is the way to go" or "for this, i really want to use velvia and the holga." or, "I'd like to see what the bratz cam does in this context." what i've noticed, however, is that i rarely find myself thinking, "okay--for this, digital is the way to go."

and part of this is that i enjoy the process of film, feeling as though i'm doing more by way of participating in the making of the images. maybe i'd feel differently about the issue of participation if i had gotten into more post-processing techniques. as it is, whether i'm shooting digital or film, i rarely do a whole lot more than resize, adjust levels, do a little unsharp masking, maybe convert to b/w. in this way, the bulk of my participation takes place before/while shooting the images and prior to uploading them to flickr or printing them up. in this way, shooting digital feels a bit like eating out: i want something decent and soon, so i'll opt to go here. problem is, i really enjoy preparing meals for myself--i love the shopping, the deciding, the seasoning, the waiting, etc. perhaps not surprisingly, i'm not a huge fan of the post-processing part of meal prep--cleaning up, putting things away, etc.

so back to the question: why (or when) would someone choose to shoot digital if/when film remains an option? most recently, i offered to take pics of members of one of my classes and to post them to flickr so that other members of the class could grab images for their final projects. i had asked students to contact me if there were particular kinds of pics they wanted to have for their projects. for a previous class session, i had brought with me to class my yashica-D but it was difficult (given the lighting in the windowless classroom coupled with my not wanting to ask people to hold still while i metered, focused, etc.) to get many good shots. when a student contacted me requesting head and full body shots of each class member, i opted to use the canon powershot (see images left and below). but again, in this case, the main objective/motivation was to get decent shots, and to provide this student with as many shots as i could--to provide her with plenty from which to choose. and i think there were about 300 in all.

so where to go from here? cause the thing is, when i started getting into film, it was simply about learning more about potentials for writing with light, and, in the end, preparing myself to have more choices, to fit the camera, film and technique to the situation. and it bothers me that when i think about digital i think of it as back-up: if the film doesn't turn out at least i'll have something to work with, to remember this trip, this person, etc. but that's not what i was thinking it would be, how it would end up. so maybe, since i've kinda hit a plateau with the film (again, i don't really have the time, money or even desire to test new-to-me film cameras or dev techniques--though i'm sure the desire would come back if i could afford my dream camera--the Kiev 88), i should begin reading up on and experimenting with things i can do with digital, post-process. cause, really, i don't think it is a matter of being pro-film or anti-digital but a matter of liking (needing? needing to continue learning from?) the kind of participation i am currently associating with as well as experiencing while working with film.

1 comment:

Tim said...

great blog, i'll be back to read some more