« Honey, We Need to Talk (Sony A7R IV) | Main | Film vs. Digital (Not What You Think!) »

Friday, 19 July 2019


"I wonder what other features of "old" photography that we take for granted are actually unfamiliar to the generation born after 1995? There must be more."

How about the sound and feeling of disposable single-use flashbulbs crushing under your feet? Or, some years later, wastebaskets filled with spent disposable "flash cubes" at a wedding or other event?

"I wonder what other features of "old" photography that we take for granted are actually unfamiliar to the generation born after 1995?"

Running out of film!

I was just thinking about red eye the other day, it just doesn't happen any more.

Digital (not counting scanning) is three years old for me. And the thing most likely unfamiliar to the current generation is an editing process necessitating: an entire room with specialized equipment that must be light tight, access to running water, amounts of paper that treats trees as an unlimited resource, and the elimination of toxic chemicals into our local environment.

Now, every facet of editing can be done at our desk, and the toxic chemicals necessary for the technology mined in a "third world country" and then disposed of in a "third world country."

Some things I think of:

  • The smell of the plastic 35mm film canisters
  • The "joy" of grabbing a just-fired flash cube to switch it for a fresh one.
  • Having to decide ahead of an outing whether you plan to make photos inside or outside--due to both color balance and film speed.

From my grandfather's extremely brief autobiography:

"I was born in a log house in the little town of Woodland, Utah. [Aug 6, 1889] My twin brother and I were the eight and ninth of a family of eleven children. We grew up on a ranch which later became almost a cattle ranch. I went to a grade school in Woodland, Summit County in which one teacher taught all eight grades. After finishing the eighth grade, I went to Provo, Utah for my high school and college work."

He likely didn't see a car until hitting his teens. He saw men land on the moon eleven years before his death.

Ya know..I hadn't really thought about it....ButI never have red-eye in my photos anymore....higher ISO's are good enough that I rarely use flash.

Budgeting for vacation and figuring in both a handful of 36 exp K25 AND prepaid processing mailers.
Haven't even left the house and already anticipating a trip to the mailbox in a couple of weeks.
Chimping is not an improvement in my opinion.

Or tearing open the foil protective bag holding a fresh roll of 35mm or 120 film with that odd chemical tang that wafted out.

oops, delete that last about smelling new film, with more and more hipsters going to film, it's not a lost sensation, it's the new normal, in certain circles

Light leaks on your Verichrome Pan, drugstore developed, black and white pictures taken with the your free with a gas fill up 620 plastic camera.

I can't think of single specific things since I seem not to hang out in the circles of photographers born after 1995, but based on surfing the Internet (remember that?) a few trends come to mind regarding the advancement of technology:

- Tech was a lot less sophisticated: 5 AF points were state of the art in the 90s, nobody in their right mind assumed a camera would focus in drive mode and matrix metering was a fancy feature.

- Cameras without light meters were common

- Primes were compact and lightweight (well ok they didn't perform like now, but pre-1980 build quality was great)

- Nobody talked about weather sealing

- The only economical way to video was using a largish (bad) to huge (good) camera that recorded to magnetic tapes of dubious quality and had to be rewound. Serious editing capabilities were expensive. DOF was very large. Most people didn't bother with video.

- Ever heard about slideshows?

- 4x6" machine prints being the medium that holiday pictures were being shown in (and they sucked compared to today's phones)

- ISO 800 was a practical maximum for color

- Black and white wasn't an effect

Some of the technical limitations give me a chuckle, particularly video has been a huge revolution due to advancements in computer technology and digital imaging. For producing results we're living in a time better than ever, but the downside is that one can't walk the street without someone pulling out their phone to record some mundane aspect of their lives. This brings out some vague memory of Susan Sontag mentioning how we keep recording our lives in the hopes of experiencing life. Also Martin Parr's photos on the banalities of mass tourism remind of more quiet times.

With older Canon cameras, there was a pre-flash intended to generate information for the main flash. Amazingly, some people have such quick reflexes that they blink on the pre-flash and have their eyes still closed during the main flash. This happened far too often. The solution was to turn off the pre-flash.

The ability to look at a photograph easily by walking over to the framed print on the wall, or by turning the pages of an album that resembles a book. Most photographs today are buried deep in phones or laptops and require lots of boring scrolling or searching through files to find.

To this day the sound of a motor drive on an SLR tickles a reflex in my hindbrain that says "There must be a very serious pro photographer doing serious pro photographer things around here somewhere."

I miss the sound of some camera shutters like my old canon a1. I’m sure I would know that sound anywhere. Sigh...

Cupping the lens in the palm of your left hand, with your thumb to the left and fingers to the right. You could then adjust focus and f-stop with your left hand while bracing your left elbow against your rib cage, steadying the the camera enough to squeeze maybe one more stop out of the exposure.

Shooters trained on digital, with auto-ISO rising to nearly infinity, hold the lens with the thumb underneath, like a pirate holding a spyglass.

I liked the feel of manual film advance levers.

Film photography was around before we were born but digital emerged during our lives, so they could never "feel" the same. Maybe that's why modern tech confuses us in a new way. VHS recorders came and went, floppies came and went, DVD players now cost less than a good lunch, but paper and pencil preceded us. This phenomenon of rapid change is not natural to us.

Re. the closed eyes: As a boy I was notorious for being photographed with closed eyes. Nobody asked, but the answer is simple - I could hear the shutter and before the flash blinded me, I had closed my eyes. I could imagine that the young man in that photograph had reacted in the same way...

Well, no one would notice the absence of something, but in olden times nobody ever talked about "bokeh."
On the other hand, there were lots of magazine articles on how to increase depth-of-field.
I guess folks who started photography in the last 20 years would think that weird.

I think that digital camera photography as a hobby is headed to the same place that film camera photography is today. One data point - the digicam vs phone cam arguments in the forums have the same feel as the film vs digital arguments 20 years ago.

I predict that people born this year will have a lot of trouble operating a DSLR when they are 20 years old.

Another data point - there are 4 billion smartphones in use today.


Why would someone who has never owned a digicam buy one when they could have a better smartphone, with a better camera, instead?

Kodachrome was a film used to take pictures, not a song.

I never experienced DOF problems with film. I set my camera to f5.6 and adjusted the speed. It seemed easier that way. I didn’t search for bokeh until digital came along.

I had a young man buy a picture from me on saturday at an art market. He then asked for advice on how to use his Nikon F65 film SLR. He wanted to know how to set the ISO speed. I couldn't figure out how to set it manually but explained to him the feature of DX-coded film canisters and that the camera would almost certainly just get it right automatically. He was also confused about how you work out correct exposure when you don't have live view and histogram.

Glossy prints.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007