I’ll be 58 in about a month or so, not really old, but perhaps late middle-aged. The older I get, the easier it is to fall into the ‘back in my day’ horseshit, but I try to avoid it whenever possible. It’s true, some things were better, (french fries, Converse All-Stars, to name a couple) but for the most part, any older person using BIMD, is just ignorant of what’s out there, or can’t be arsed to put in the effort to learn something new. Bear in mind though, people my age, for example, have been forced to go through plenty of generations of Windows, or Mac operating systems, where we were forced to change how we used a personal computer, for things as simple as how to send a bloody email. It was as if you had learned to drive, but every few years, someone had reversed the position of the clutch, and brake, and switched the gear shift to the other side.
You can see why people reach a certain age, they begin to think, ‘fuck it. I give up. It ain’t worth the headache.’
Can you blame ‘em?
BIMD is also great for bullshitting about how ‘kids today have it so good.’ “When I was your age, I was two years older…” The kind of nonsense you become entitled to just by virtue of sticking around long enough.
With that last point in mind, I’d like to mention a bit about just how good modern cameras are.
Short of resorting to hyperbole, sometimes, when I think about it, the modern digital camera seems about as removed as the jet engine is from the Wright Flyer. Or maybe the modern pc from the abacus. (O.K., maybe I am being a bit hyperbolic)
The first camera I had, had no autofocus, no motor drive, (method for automatically advancing the film through the cameras body) no form of auto exposure assistance, (there was a meter in my Pentax Spotmatic, but it was broken, so I had to rely on the instructions that were printed on the inside of the box that my film canisters came in) the ISO, or ASA as it was known at the time, had to be constant for the whole roll, and plenty of other things that you had to learn and understand to get a half decent image.
These days, with my state of the art-ish camera, for just about everything, I can use the ‘set it, and forget it’ approach. I’ve been shooting mostly manual these days, so all I’ve really got to consider is exposure, and composition. I can trust my machine to do what I’ve programmed it to do, the way I like it. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve at first; figuring how to adjust, and set the parameters where I like them, but for anyone reasonably familiar with the science of photography, it’s not too hard.
Yes, modern cameras are that good. Because competition is so fierce, they have to be.
Of course, anyone who’s ever taken a cursory glance at any photo gear forum, will have seen dozens of posts claiming that ‘brand X’ is a piece of shit, or ‘brand y’ has glacially slow autofocus, or won’t allow 16 frames per second shooting, or doesn’t have image stabilization….. etc., etc.
That’s what humans do: Go online to bitch, or conversely, troll with a ’my camera can do this, can yours?’ type statement. (By the way, I suspect that at least 90% of these idiots couldn’t take a decent picture if their lives depended upon it. Seems the end result is somehow inconsequential to them. They really only care about fastest, shiniest, best resolution at 500% magnification.)
Not me. I don’t take this shit for granted. I am still pleasantly amazed every once in a while when I stop and think about what I’ve got.
Because, back in my day…..
At the beginning of a new year -or at least some time in January, I try to make sure that I do a new backup of my photos, and take stock of what I have done over the last year. With the processing software I use, I can get year end totals for the amount of images that I’ve kept: 7197; most used camera: Fuji X-T2; most common ISO: 200; and favorite resolution: 6000 X 4000.
That’s a lot of photos, but that’s only the images that are still stored on my pc. The actual number of pictures I took last year is (conservatively, I would guess) probably four times the amount, and it doesn’t include the hundreds of images that I fired off with my phone cam, or photos that I have stored in the cloud, or photos that I took for someone else…..
Again, that’s a lot of photos. Most of them are either bad, or just not up to what I consider worthwhile. But they’re there. Waiting in the dark as little digital blobs of millions of ‘1s’ and ‘0s,’ ready to spring to life as shitty images, should I ever go hunting for something I might have missed the first couple of times I sifted through them.
It’s rare that I’ll use the ‘spray and pray’ method of shooting, where you set your camera to ‘burst’ mode, activate continuous autofocus, and simply hold down the shutter button, shooting hundreds of images in a few seconds. Probably 99.5% of the images I took last year were from individual stabs at the shutter release. Click….click….click….click…..
When it comes to taking that many shots, you’ve got to be brutally merciless when it comes to deciding what you keep, and what you toss. Why are you keeping this? Is it a good technical image, or is it just a holiday snap-shot? Is the impact of the subject enough to overlook the poor technique? Conversely, is the technique, or light, or location so great that you’re willing to overlook a boring subject? And on, and on.
Deciding what to keep is massively important with regards to how others see your images, and perhaps even more important, how you see yourself. Just like what you wear. It’s not just the colour of your shoes, it’s the style. (“Holy shit! How did I end up with ten pairs?!?”) These are the things we use to express ourselves.
Most of my shots, I just keep to, and for, myself. Some, I share with my wife, but I wouldn’t inflict the vast majority of what I keep upon her. For various reasons I keep them, but, quite frankly, no one besides me would really give a shit about them -and that’s fine with me. I’m not trying to impress anyone, or prove anything to anyone else, I just like having a body of work that I can revisit from time to time, and that hopefully reminds me that I’m improving incrementally as time passes.
Every once in a while, I’ll go out and get a bunch of new pictures printed up, and swap out the older ones that I have framed, and hung around my house. The sizes vary; anywhere from 12” along one side, to 36.” (I say ‘along one side,’ because I haven’t a fucking clue what the photographic aspect ratios are anymore. I used to know, when everything I was shooting with was 35mm film, but that’s all gone by the board as I’ve gotten older, switched systems several times, and like everyone else, presented with an overabundance of aspect ratio options. 1:1, 16:9, 4:3, 3:2, 5:4……. Ever cycle through you HDTV’s options to try and resolve the problem of peoples bodies appearing too long, yet their heads seemed too big? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Then, when you get around to printing, you’ve gotta get your head around how that aspect fits onto the proper paper size.)
I choose the images I want, make sure that there’s enough resolution there for the intended print size, put any finishing touches on the way I think the images are supposed to look, that I might have missed the first time, and then take them down to a printer that I’ve been using for a few years now.
Having a good printer that you trust is important. A good printer will help you with paper selections, and even offer their opinions on how they think the final print will turn out. Whether they think too many highlights will be lost; not enough resolution for that size, etc., etc. The type of paper you use is hugely important too. How it absorbs the ink; how reflective it is…. A quality print shop should have plenty of samples, and catalogs for you to skim through, to help you make your decision.
All of that stuff goes towards making a PRINT!, as oppose to just a print.
Years ago, I thought I’d get a printer, and put forth the effort into learning a bit about it, figuring that I could just do it myself. I got a half decent Canon printer, and figured I was good to go. What I didn’t realize, was that even what I thought was a fair chunk of cash ($4-$500.) barely gets you in the game. Then there’s the price of quality paper; the larcenous prices of ‘archival quality’ ink, but most of all, the thing that killed it the most for me, was that I just didn’t print enough to keep the ink heads from drying out, clogging, and wasting tons of precious over-priced ink.
That shit is expensive, and not at all practical for how often I print; hence, the need for a good printing service.
I bought myself a nice beveled mat board cutter, so it didn’t matter what size of frame I wanted to put the picture into. I could make the mat board frame as wide as I wanted to, for any given aspect ratio.
If you enjoy photography, please, print! Displaying images on a computer monitor is nice, but it’s just not the same. An image from a screen is illuminated. Your monitor/image is the light. A framed image hanging on your wall doesn’t emit any light. It reflects back any available light to your eyes. Big difference!
Plus, it helps to improve your photography. Having a framed image in a conspicuous place will make you look at it more. ‘What did I like enough about this image to make a print of it? What could I have done better?
Then, of course, there’s the bragging rights.