There are so many things about digital photography that are annoying to no end. Silly, pointless rules, such as “you MUST shoot in RAW”, you must sharpen last, you have to bring up everything out of the shadows, you can’t have any blown highlights, the list goes on and on. Add to the list when you get novice photographers on Flickr taking the “rule of thirds” so literally that you can almost predict where they will position their subject in the shot, and you have one interesting main subject, and 2/3rds of virtual nothingness. High Dynamic Range photographs, over-processed, with wonky colors, continue to flood Flickr. I just don’t get it. Why anyone shooting sports photography, with the higher burst rates of jpg, would shoot in RAW, with its much slower capture, boggles the mind. And yes, the RAW files are massive. Sell more hard drives.
William Eggleston was recently interviewed on The Today Show by Ann Curry, who is a Nikon and Leica photographer. The pioneer of modern-day color photography, he is brash, arrogant, and yes, a genius. His name has been coming up a lot lately on the Flickr boards. Walker Evans- master of the vernacular, he made things like signs, subway people, and everyday things we take for granted, beautiful and relevant. He shots SX-70 exclusively in the later years of his life.
As a photographer, I love to be inspired by such masters, even if the quality of my work does not even come close. It doesn’t. Additionally, while I love looking at photography from David LaChapelle, and Annie Leibovitz, it just isn’t my style. Yet, I love their work.
Back to digital- the crazy “you must’s” go on and on. Model’s faces are post-processed and skin smoothed to a pulp, to the point where they look like rubber. Artifacts which normally would make for interesting imperfections in a photograph are clone stamped out. The obsession that new photographers have with “tack sharp” images needs to stop. Millions upon millions of fantastic images were made before lens technology reached its current state. A softer, well composed image, is much more pleasing than a “tack sharp”, boring one.
Many lengthy diatribes have been done on the “film vs. digital” arguments. This is not one of them. I shoot film and digital. Different tools, for different purposes. But, I love film. The image featured here was shot with my Nikon D300, 17-55mm f/2.8, and the ISO was cranked down to “Lo-1”, the equivalent of ISO100/ Digital tends to shoot “hot”, leans towards overexposure, and provides very little exposure latitude, certainly much less than film. The base ISO of the camera is ISO200- if I had shot this at that speed, it likely would have had lots of overexposure. Guessing that the base was set at Nikon to 200 because digital photographers seem to compulsively want to lift everything out of the shadows. The dynamic range of digital is poor- you really have to nail your exposures, or else you have lots of blown highlights, darker than normal shadows, and a wonky looking image. “But wait”, Dave Digital says, ” I can fix it in post.” Photoshop is not photography. It is a tool. Sadly, digital photography has become a consumer electronics industry, not an art form. And, the “its digital, it’s free!” mantra needs to be put to rest. Adobe software prices really help end that, not to mention new camera models every 6 months. It truly is insanity.
Stepping off the soapbox. And, shadows can help to make a great shot. Keep them.