About Me

My photo

I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

When film trumps digital

Don't worry - this isn't going to be some technical pixel-peeping diatribe about why film is better than digital blah, blah, blah. As I've said many a time I think it's different horses for different courses.

Digital is easily as good a quality as film these days and I think that debate ended a while ago.
No I want to talk about emotion - which should be at the heart of any good photograph.

But in this case I mean the emotion of the photographer. In these days of instant gratification where you can look at a giant LCD on the back of your camera screen, ooh and aah over your bell shaped histogram and either slap yourself on the back or try it again, don't you think there's something missing? That incredible feeling of nervousness and anticipation.

When you shot things on film, particularly experimental stuff, you had no idea what you had captured until you got the film from the lab. You would pick your stuff up and then race home in the car, quickly scan for the sheet of slides you wanted and slap them on the lightbox. Your heart pounded as you switched the light on and reached for the loupe. And there it was - the image you hoped like anything you managed to capture. The image that you really wanted to take. It didn't matter if anything on the rest of the roll was total crap. That one image made up for everything.

I kinda miss those days. Don't get me wrong. When you're on a job and the correct exposure is critical then digital really saves your butt in a lot of situations. But I do still kinda miss that knot in the stomach nervousness and sense of anticipation you used to get looking at your developed film for the first time.

The shot above is a perfect example. It was taken inside the caves of Chillagoe, in western far north Queensland. I had Fuji Velvia film in the camera and set it on a tripod. It was pitch dark inside and the only lights I could see were the torch lights flickering around. So I put the camera on its Bulb setting and left the shutter open for about 30 seconds. I then proceeded to paint the walls of the cave with my torch, taking wild uneducated guesses as to where I needed to shine and for how long.

I took about 5 shots all up and they all turned out more or less but this is the shot that left me gasping. This is the one that makes all the nervous waiting worthwhile. I wonder if I would have had the same sense of relief and thankfulness if I'd been able to see straight away whether it had worked or not?

No comments: