Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The End not yet

My love-hate relationship with the digital (i.e., using a digital camera to take photos) has intensified. Case in point: A couple of months ago, I noticed that my favorite infrared film [Efke IR820] suddenly increased $2.00 a roll. [For this, and for everything analog photo-related that increases in price, becomes harder to find and buy, gets discontinued, etc. I, of course, hold digital cameras responsible.]

What stunned me most was that the film didn't even inch up month-by-month but BAM! One day it was $9.99 and the next time I looked it was $11.99. . . .Although truth be told, even if I had seen this coming, I'm guessing I wouldn't have stocked up when it was $9.99. Even for a 36 exposure roll of 35mm, 10 bucks a roll is just too steep for me. That said, I did place a fairly large order for the Rollei IR, just in case that film shoots up in price as well.

And now this most recent development: Last week I was looking at B & H's website, trying to remember what my favorite C41 kit cost. I didn't need another 5 liter box right then and there, but I knew I'd need one soon and wanted to plan that into the budget. Yipes! Discontinued? Yep. Not "out of stock" or "back-ordered," just gone. In this case, I know Freestyle's got my back with their Arista, Unicolor and Rollei/Compard Digibase kits but I gotta wonder: for how long?

One of my favorite Quackenbos subjects is #283 The End not yet. This is how I feel about analog photography. How I've felt about it for some time. No, it's not the end. . .not yet. But likely soon. And by this I'm not suggesting that nothing will be around to be had, only that things will become more and more scarce and more and more costly. At what point, I wonder, will costs and/or the scarcity of product ensure that I won't be able to work with film--whether at all or as much as I'd like to, as I currently do?

At times like these it can be useful to play the "well, what if I only had digital as an option?" game. Some days I think, "screw it--I'll get another hobby." Other times I think that if that were my only option, I'd likely get a real DSLR (Pentax, for sure), hone my Photoshop skills and spend increasing amounts of time post-processing my images.

In digital's defense, I can say that when working with my Canon Powershot, I spend more time (i.e., then I do when shooting analog) messing with exposure and I'm probably a little more mindful of the composition as a whole, particularly the role light plays in the composition, since I have a kind of instant visual [i.e., on-screen] feedback that is lacking with my other cameras. And I can make 50 (or even 400) exposures of the same [more or less] scene given the size of the memory cards and how easy it is to delete the images I don't want.

But I have to say, comparatively speaking, and as much as I love my Canon Powershot S5, working with digital cameras bores me to no end. Most often, I'm only using the Canon as a light meter or to fill the function Polaroids used to: As a way of testing a shot. With the image above, for instance, this was one of several test shots I made while deciding what kind of image I wanted to make with the Crown Graphic 4x5. And then there's this: If digital were my only option, I would miss terrifically, the spooling of film on reels, the chemical processing and all that's involved with making prints in the darkroom. I don't want to say that working with digital cameras feels like cheating, or that it necessarily need be easier or quicker than working with film. Rather, for me, it just feels incomplete--like it forces the elimination of many of the materials, processes and strategies that I mostly closely associate with, and love about, photography are missing.

And I do stand behind my contention that anyone with a digital camera [and a little and a decent-enough sense of composition, light, contrast, etc.] can take a decent photo. In this way, working with film cameras and processing strikes me as the more compelling, challenging option.

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