I had this great idea yesterday. I saw that a former student had posted on Facebook a photograph she had taken when she was a student in my photography class. So my great idea was to post a few thoughts about my class and the choice between film and digital. I was up until about 2 o’clock finishing up about a 10 paragraph screed on the topic. I decided to go to bed and edit the post sometime today. It is now “sometime today”. I reread the post. It has now gone wherever trite boring trash goes when it is deleted. Granted, I made it through eight years of college writing some of the finest papers ever written the night before they were due, but I am now writing for a bigger audience, not some burned out grad assistant grading 30 papers. I also want this blog to be fun and funny, not bland and boring.
Poole blog post 8/15, take two.
Why I like film: In is workshop last weekend, Joe Buissink talked about his love for film and that he still shoots a few rolls of film at the wedding if his clients ask for it. I love film. I taught traditional wet room photography for 11 years. Even after 11 years I still got a big kick out of watching a sheet of white photo paper go into the developer and come out with an image.
Why I never made the switch to teaching digital: One reason I never went to digital was money. I always believed that if the district I worked for wanted me to go digital, they should pony up the money in the budget to do so. What the district finally did was strike a deal with West-MEC to fund digital classrooms. The catch was the instructor had to be Vocational Education certified, and West-MEC changed the curriculum from fine art photography to commercial photography. It was not practical for me to get certified as I was so close to retirement. My successor could do that. I have heard that West-MEC was considering taking photography off of its approved list of subjects, which would mean no more money.
Every year we photography teachers would travel to other district schools and grade the portfolios of that school’s photography students. Just my opinion, but the digital pictures I graded were technically sound, but lifeless. Too much reliance on the bells and whistles of Photoshop. Whenever I would have a transfer from a school that did just digital, I would ask them what they did in their digital class. They usually said something to the effect that they took pictures early in the year and then spent the rest of the time playing on the computer. Several of my current photographic mentors have said something like this, “if you take a crappy photo, Photoshop all you want, you still have a crappy picture.” The value of film, I believe, is that you are forced to do as much composing as you can in the viewfinder as well as getting the best exposure settings before the shutter release button is ever pushed. There are still adjustments that can be made in the darkroom, but the better the negative is the better the print. I appreciate the fact that professionals I talk to now tell me that just like with a film camera, they try to get the best exposure and composition when they take the shot so that post processing is kept to a minimum. That advice is helping me in my own transition from film to digital.
I don’t know what makes a car run, but I can still drive it. Digital photography reminds me a lot of a craps table. The first time a person looks at a craps table all that person sees is a maze of numbers and words and lines and 3 people, one with a stick who keeps saying weird things like “winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Quite intimidating to the uninitiated. Then I took a lesson on how to play craps. The instructor took a deck of cards anc covered up all the areas of the table that werent’ important.That left about 20% of the table that a player really needs to pay attention to. I think this lesson applies to digital photography. There are a lot of things a photographer could know about, there are only a few things the photographer NEEDS to know about to take great pictures.
When I got my first digital camera last October, it had two owner’s manuals. One in English, one in Spanish, both 260 pages long. Up until that point, the camera I usually used was a Pentax K-1000 with totally manual controls. I liken it to going from driving a Ford Escort to driving the Starship Enterprise. I was fortunate that when I took the introductory class to digital photography from Diana Elizabeth, she taught just like that craps instructor. She figuratively covered up all the parts that of the digital process and focused on what was important for me know. I believe she referred to it as the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple, stupid) which, as an aside, kind of warmed my heart because I had been using that term as well when I coached football. Art and athletics collide.
I liked simple when it came to football, I love simple when it comes to photography. I remember being on an online forum when one of the members who was new to photography asked how people were getting the subjects in focus but the background blurry. I was the first to reply and I told him to set the aperture at 2.8 then set the shutter speed until the light is correct and he would get the results he wanted. Photography 101. After my post, someone else posted with the following advice “to get the bokeh effect you want you need to figure out half the focal length of the phlibus and the gazorts and test the frackels and the moops of the….” I read the first couple words of this post and my eyes glazed over and my head exploded. The moral of the story: Skip the big, long-winded technical explanations when a simple answer will do.
Just one more thing: Bokeh effect is an actual photography term. I looked it up. There is even good bokeh and bad bokeh. Look it up. I did.
One of my shutter speed images for my digital class. My creativity knows no bounds.
Musical inspiration: artists whose names begin will L on my Ipod.