Tuesday, July 26, 2011
It's not about how many mediocre frames per second you take.
Now I'm still in my 30's (by the hair of my chinny chin chin mind you!) but I grew up in the pre-digital era. And while there's a lot of things about the film workflow that have simply gone by the wayside, there's one habit that I've never wanted to shake. And that's placing a value on each individual image I shoot.
I took this photograph on a month-long trek through the Nepalese Himalayas with my wife. We started walking after a short bus ride out of Kathmandu, hiked all the way up to the Gokyo Valley near Mt Everest and back to a little town called Lukla where we caught a plane home.
We went without porters or helpers of any kind - just the two of us with small daypacks on our backs filled with clothes, water purification tablets and film for our cameras. Seeing as neither of us are exactly body builders the amount of film we could physically carry was limited. In my case it was 25 rolls of Fuji Velvia. Think about that for a second. That's a mere 900 pictures for a whole month in the most picturesque place on earth.
But that's the situation I was in and I had to live with it. What it did mean was that I had to be very particular about what I photographed and what I didn't. I didn't shoot willy-nilly in the hope that I would get something good. I stopped, I waited, I anticipated. I valued each and every single time I pushed the shutter.
And I think that thinking has partly been lost in the digital era. Because the individual images themselves are pretty much low cost, and we often have the attitude that we can delete what doesn't work, we tend not to value each individual image as much.
I see it in both the amateur photographic world as much as the professional world. Go to Flickr and you'll see 50 different variations of the same photo. Vertical, horizontal, different focal lengths. There's probably two maybe three wonderful images and the rest is mediocre in comparison.
In the commercial world I see it when photographers offer to supply the client hundreds of pictures from a shoot. But how many of those pictures will ever see the light of day? The reality is not many. If the client has a good eye then they will pick out the best and use those, or they might let their graphic designer do it. Either which way the photographer would be doing their client a much better service by perfecting and presenting only the really fantastic shots and letting the other stuff fall into the virtual trash bin.
At the end of our photographic lives we won't be remembered for how many times we pushed the shutter. We won't be remembered for all the nearly-there pictures we took (at least I hope so!). We want to be remembered for the amazing images we took. Don't be so quick to take as many pictures as you can in as short a space of time as you can. Give situations time to develop and learn to click the shutter when the best of the best appears in front of you.
Just because pushing the shutter thousands of times a day may not be costing you much money it could be costing you a lot more.
Go on through to my Nepal photo gallery to see more images shot slowly and decisively on film.