How did we cope?


I used one of these, a Rollieflex twin lens reflex, for years. Pretty much a box with a lens on the front. No AF of course, no metering except a wildly innaccurate solar powered needle in a window system, nothing resembling a programme mode and a screen that showed the image reversed.


How on earth did I cope? These days you read comments from 'photographers' who after shooting pictures for about 3 weeks declare that they aren't buying a camera because it doesn't have IS, face recognition, 9,999 point AF, ISO 1,000,000, touch screen and basically doesn't go out and take the picture for them while they sit in front of their playstation stuffing chocolate and hamburgers into their mouths.

The concept of learning about exposure, focus and how to create an image is far too much hard work and these photographic 'practitioners' usually end up using their phones instead and writing some nonsense about the 'best camera you have is the one you have with you' the phrase most likely to indicate a lack of ambition, a lack of skill and a lack of talent.

And most of the time I find it sad and further confirmation that the increase in picture taking combined with technological advance is in inverse proportion to the quality of images produced. Since I make my living selling pictures I suppose I shouldn't complain, since despite what you might think the more people produce this seemingly endless supply of new photographs, the more I sell and the more 'talented' by comparison I seem to become. Digital photography has certainly democratised photography, but as to whether it's actually improved the quality of what's produced is very much open to debate. The amount of rubbish produced does seem to have increased in roughly the same proportion to the amount of technological 'aids' installed in even the cheapest cameras. It's no wonder that old film created images fetch such high prices at auction and film photographers are revered for their skill and insight. 

So do I want to shoot on film with basic cameras again? Well of course I don't. I use this technology all the time. Only yesterday I was watching the cycling on TV and shooting pictures on one of my cameras with my iPad and then uploading the pictures to my facebook page. And while I did appreciate the utter pointlessness of what I was doing, it was an example of what is possible these days.

I write often about 'useful' technology versus 'gimmicks' and 'gadgethead fodder' and it's important to differentiate between the two. Wi-Fi and facebook may be a time-filling pastime for many people to document their lives in an attempt to prove they actually have one, but in the hands of a someone caught up shooting images that inform and move us from the other side of the world, it is indeed a useful tool. And that news can be instant and therefore more relevant and the effects of it more compelling and potent in affecting us. You only have to look at recent conflict images and footage to see the power and impact of that. Plus you don't need me to tell you about the advantages of AF, accurate metering, high-speed shooting and the instant production of high-resolution images that capture the world in such astonishing detail.

However, sometimes I wish that those who are more concerned with their camera specs. rather than it's picture creating abilities, would take some time to explore what they actually know and /or are prepared to learn about the relationship between light, aperture and shutter speed. And also explore how foregoing the tendency of modern cameras to produce efficient, error free yet often bland versions of the reality around us and explore their own individual points of view can actually be rewarding. I spend as much time changing my cameras settings from their auto-everything notion of how an image should look as I do accepting their preferred way of doing things. 

And sometimes that's useful, sometimes it's not. Modern camera technology seems to be about eliminating risk and the possibility of failure from our picture taking and in many ways I regret that. My Rollieflex did produce the odd disaster but when it (and I) got it right then I certainly got more satisfaction out of that than the endless stream of accurately focused, accurately metered digital images I now produce. Yes there are times when I value that efficiency and when I'm working for a client on a deadline in a pressure situation, I appreciate that technology and how it allows me to do my job. But when I have the time to explore and experiment, it's nice to work with my instincts again and actually put all that experience and knowledge I've accumulated to creative use. And to me that's part of the joy of photography, coming up with the unexpected and the inventive rather than the often lowest common denominator images that digital cameras, left to their own devices, can often produce. 

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Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are just that, opinions. What is written here is at no time intended as a recommendation or otherwise of photographic gear or practice. This is a personal blog written 'in the moment' and is primarily intended as an entertainment. I would also point out that this is not a review site and not intended to be so and the Google+ groups where you can post comments are not forums. I am the sole moderator and I will remove any post (and poster) if I think fit. 
 
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N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post.

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