In the past I've written about my migration from film photography and darkroom printing to digital photography and digital printing:
Some of the results of this change are starting to become apparent to me. I'm a little surprised to find that it seems to be subtly altering the contents of photographs I make. Why I should be surprised by this, I don't know. Three years ago I wrote:
One would think I ought to have a bit of the self-aware clue. Well, sometimes, not so much.
I think working purely digitally is making me a bit freer, artistically speaking. With film photography and dye transfer printing, I gave every photograph weighty consideration. That's not too surprising considering my choice of media. It's not so much about the cost of film and processing as the printing, seeing as a single finished print would eat up over $100 in materials and as much as a week of my time. I try not to make photographs that don't at least have a chance of turning out to be portfolio-worthy. When adding a photograph to the portfolio consumes that kind of time and money, one is inclined to be rather selective; I set the bar high. Understand, I still made more portfolio-worthy photographs than I'll ever have time to print. There was no incentive for me to lower that bar.
The stakes aren't quite so high, nowadays. Making a portfolio-quality digital print from a digital photograph consumes considerably less of my time, energy, and money. By a full order of magnitude, in fact. That's a huge change, and it comes from the combination of both digital photography and digital printing. I can and do print my old film negatives digitally, but there's two hours of additional meticulous work just to produce a good, clean scan of the film. That's two hours I don't spend starting with a digital file.
The results aren't necessarily different. The illustration at the top of the post is one of my rare ventures into whimsy, but there are a handful of dye transfer prints in my portfolio (like this one and this one) that involve, for me, similar, um, "sensibilities." First they make me smile; then they make me think (thank you, Ig-Nobels). For the most part, it's not so much that I'm venturing into new artistic territory is that I'm much more comfortable playing, and at the sometimes-dubious fringes of that territory.
The best analogy I can come up with is that it's something like the difference in style between photographing with "mere" roll film and with an 8x10 view camera. One takes a much more considered and deliberate approach in the latter case. Which is good discipline, but can also be stultifying and limiting.
Some of the time, I am venturing outside of the comfortable and familiar neighborhoods. I'm willing to take greater risks and roll the dice more often, because the stakes aren't as high. This picture is the sort of photograph I would have been very unlikely to make in my film/dye transfer days. The odds of getting an artistically interesting composition would simply have been too low and required burning up inordinate amounts of film; in addition I would not have had a good sense if the experiment were successful until putting in considerable effort and money in the darkroom. I wouldn't have considered it worth that level of risk and investment for such a small chance of success; after all, as I said, I have no shortage of worthy negatives demanding to be printed.
In my brave new world of digital photography and printing, the cost of a roll of the dice was low. So I rolled them. Several times. To my delight and surprise, I won.
Maybe this is one of the reasons my Muse is so entranced by working with silicon instead of silver. It leaves her more opportunities to try something a bit different.
It'll be entertaining for all of us to see where this goes. Me, I love surprises.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP on Thursday mornings.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Kosch: "After following this blog for 4+ years, I bought an Olympus OM2n on ebay for $45.
"The 85mm lens ($125) was an add on that I had to have, since I loved my 135 f2 lens from Canon on my 10D and this was the closest I could find. I bought 32 rolls of Tri-X film (400 ASA, B&W) and was as careful as possible for every shot since every roll cost me average $22—best digital scan possible on a CD and 4x6 prints as a more of an instant 'nice job, here is how it looks straight out of the camera.' From my film endeavor, I have 3 photos which have made me enough money to live on for a year.
"My digital photos have never made me a dime, but because of the amount of shots I am able to take with a digital camera, and coupled with the ease of editing and ability to post my photos online, I get more happiness overall with my digital photos. Shots of my wife and daughter bring more comments and joy from family and friends than a ridiculously sweet shot of a water pump from 1845, even though that damn water pump paid the bills in 2009, and it was a great film shot.
"Film still wins for me money-wise, I'm not sure why. I can sell a print blown up from 35mm film for $500 plus, but try and place a digital print next to the 35mm print, and the technically better (IMHO) digital will not sell. There is some sort of juxtaposition happening right now in the photo world...people prefer looking at the web photos, but when real money is involved, it has to be big, framed, and on the wall.
"I'm going to seek happiness in the awesome 10,000+ digital photos I take with my E-3 on my right side this year, but my money will be made (hopefully) this year again with my OM2 on my left side.
"Technology will win, but when?"