It seems that nowadays many of us are trying to simplify our lives. Downsizing, going green, eating organic – in general trying to get back to our roots, live naturally and have less of a negative impact on this beautiful planet we call home. I applaud all of this awareness and back to nature stuff. What I don’t get is the irony of how photography seems to have gone in the opposite direction. With digital cameras and computer programs, the ability to manipulate and alter photos has gone a little crazy. From landscapes that have an eerie ethereal glow to overly processed images pushed to the point of breakage and beyond, people seem to have gotten a little carried away. Bigger, brighter and bolder obviously must be better.
With all of this post processing craziness, I started to wonder how my photography stacked up. Was I out of control as well? I try my best not to over process my images, but us humans seem to be attracted to bright shiny things.
This whole thought process brought about an idea for a new project. I thought it might be fun to get some film and see just how different the results would be when compared to my normal routine of post-processing digital images. Just how far have I strayed from the basics? So I headed to the upstairs closet to dig out and dust off my old 35mm camera and then to the camera store for batteries and film.
Once I heard the snap of the shutter and whirl of the film advancing, it brought back so many good memories I couldn’t help but smile to myself. But it also brought back memories of just how limiting it is to shoot with film. I can store hundreds of images on my SD card, but there are only 24 exposures per roll of film. We really had to think about what we were shooting back in the day. Luckily I had my digital camera along for the ride to pick up the slack.
In the end, I shot two rolls of film at two separate state parks, for a whopping total of 48 shots. After finding out that local drug stores no longer return your negatives, I made my way back to the camera store for development. Here’s the kicker, I paid $12 for 4 rolls of color film, and it cost $18/roll to get prints, negatives and a cd. Now I feel much more justified having bought a pricey digital camera. It basically pays for itself since you no longer have the ongoing expense of film and developing.
After a couple days, I returned to the camera store to pick up my prize. Mixed emotions ran through my mind as I contemplated the feeling of holding the unknown in my hand, anxious to open up those envelopes of never before seen prints. The excitement, the apprehension – was it worth all the time, effort and money? I hurried to the car and began shuffling through the photos. There they were in all their glory … and really not half bad. I went home, pulled up my previously edited digital images and compared them to the prints. I was pleased to see that they were actually pretty similar. Nothing crazy or weird, no overly sharpened “HDR’ishness” or exceedingly saturated bluer than blue skies. I believe I can rest assured that I haven’t fallen victim to the curse of the Photoshop generation. My images still resembled photographs!
As much as there will always be a special place in my heart for the joy of shooting film, I realized I had learned another important lesson. Going back to basics does not always go hand in hand with going green, or saving green for that matter. Aside from the obvious toll on your wallet, old school photography also involves harsh chemicals and by products that need to be safely disposed of. Digital photography has none of these adverse side effects. Now I know I can remain true to my photography roots without poisoning the earth in the process. Despite all the hi-tech bells and whistles, digital photography and online editing are definitely the greener alternative.
In all my attempts to live a more natural and simple life, I have to remind myself from time to time that less is more. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should; the most important part of any endeavor is knowing when it’s time to stop. Even a painter knows when he has added the last brush stroke. After all, nature is the ultimate artist; she should be celebrated and revered for all her perfect imperfections.
Note: All landscape photos were taken with Fuji 400 speed color film and retouching was limited to the adjustments available in a darkroom setting only.