Feb 1, 2012

Back In My Day...

It has been a while since I've written anything but for good reason. A small medical procedure with the hope of making the time between my search for a suitable washroom longer was performed on me over a week ago. The recovery took as long as I expected and I am at the point of learning whether the procedure had its full effect or not. At the very least I do not expect to be worse off than before the procedure was performed.  Initially, the pain and spasms were bad enough that I was concerned that I would be worse off than before it was performed. It may or may not have been a waste of my time but hopefully it will benefit me for at least six months. From what I am seeing I am not terribly optimistic that it was very effective.

If this is the case, and I am able to have this done once per year, hopefully being off medication for six months will make it more effective when I do resume taking it for the six months that the procedure's effects have weakened or worn off. Of course, everything relates to photography with me. In this case, if it is effective, I will feel more confident about accepting assignments and a photo shoots on location that will take time exceeding my typical window between searching for a rest stop.

On another topic, I have been thinking about my style of processing photos. There are a lot of different ways of "developing" digital photos out there and I know that I have my style. I know that my style has changed over time. I still like nice deep rich colors but I have learned to pull back and use a little bit of moderation so that not every photo is so bright that it is hard on the eyes. I still really like using metallic paper when the photo calls for a real pop of color but I am trying to not use a sledgehammer on a finishing nail.

There are a lot of people's photos out there that I really admire the final look they have achieved. Without question, they know how to expose the photo exactly how they want it but they excel at the post processing/development which is where I feel weaker. There are manual ways to achieve different looks and most of the time it is simply playing with the sliders inside your development program of choice. I have done that but yet to find those perfect combinations that please me. Enter automatic developing plug-ins. You choose the look that you like, click a button and let the program apply the effect.

This is where a lot of people get hung up. Some see it as cheating, others embrace it and say welcome to 2012. I have decided to give these plug-ins a try and see if I like them or not. I can hardly call myself a purist because I have only shot film once on a field trip in grade four. However, I do try to get everything done correctly in camera as opposed to fixing it in Photoshop. The more you have to manipulate an image after making it the more potential to introduce problems in the final product.

This view of it being "cheating" is not a new phenomenon. Whether it is my wife's grandfather who was still using decades old hearing aids and a first generation cordless phone, and who had never owned a microwave until he was a widower, to the photographer who has been shooting for 50 years and feels that any digital manipulation is cheating. Ansel Adams was doing things in the darkroom to manipulate his photos more skillfully than a lot of Photoshop users are able to do today. Was he cheating? No, he was skillfully using the technology available to him that the time. Could the same things that he was doing then be done now with greater speed and far less effort? With practice, yes.

How great do you feel the value of knowing how things used to be done is? Do you have great respect for people who used to have to steam frozen vegetables in a pot taking 12 to 15 minutes instead of 4 minutes in a microwave? Are we cheating now? No, we're saving time, energy and effort. The same could be said for learning handwriting for five years before learning to type, learning film processing instead of going straight to digital (like I did), learning extensive bookkeeping on paper before learning to do it with software, or any other study where excessive time is spent learning to do it the old way when there is little to no likelihood you will ever do it that way ever again. I'm not saying that the history is not important but that it can be appreciated without excessive time being spent teaching future writers, photographers or cooks the old ways, unless the old ways have advantages to the final product that new ways cannot provide. If you can live without those few advantages, move forward. I just do not think that any sentence that begins "Back in my day…" is going to boost your respect level by 50 points. Tell me what you are doing today, not just in your glory days.

What I am feeling as I age, and hopefully gain wisdom, is that I would like to do as much as I can with the time that I will be given. If technology will help me to get more done then I will embrace it. If it will help me to produce photos that are liked better then I will use it. I won't get into the discussion about and the consequences of thinking a person has to get so much more done at the cost of family and sanity. As long as I make sure not to be constrained by the technology and that every photo of gets the same three clicks on the same three settings or presets I think I will continue to grow as a photographer. My root vegetable medley will still be roasted in a pan with seasonings, not microwaved, despite the extra scrubbing afterwards. The flavour is worth it.

I suppose the last thing to consider is what a person does with all of this extra free time afforded us by technology. Do you read something, send an e-mail to a friend, spend it with family, create something or sit in front of the TV? I know I have a few video games I should cut back to a few hours a week.


  1. Interesting. Some things are worth the time, some are not. Sometimes it is good to know the old ways and basic principles of a subject, some times it doesn't matter. Depends what you are trying to accomplish. I'm glad you still roast the vegetables. Chef Ramsay would have sworn at you if you had said microwaving them is just as good.

  2. Certainly sometimes the extra time is worth it. But weighing the cost/benefit ratio is worth it for a lot of things.

    I'm not against learning the principals of previous methods, but years of bookkeeping on paper or a year of film-only photography classes is beyond learning theory and history and into wasted time, for example, in my opinion.

    But, I think a mandatory half-semester of microwave only cooking in high school made us miss out on learning the value of a nice, seared piece of meat, a browned potato or the one I remember most, a darkened muffin top. Muffins just aren't right made in a microwave. :P