02 December 2015

Photographic Journey: Then and Now

I have been doing photography for many years. I took my first steps back in the 80’s, in the lab, where I actually discovered the photographic art. A family friend was a professional photographer and I could use his lab to learn about all processes after image was taken. It seemed like a miracle to me, a new world discovered.

I still remember how I was looking from the dark room into the shooting room my curiosity piqued to the extreme. Ladies with poodle dogs, gentlemen with hats and curled mustaches, children, they all came to have their picture taken pretty much like they went to see a play at the theater. The preparations for the shooting were so interesting and funny. When people were finally ready, the photographic lights were up, all the stirring stopped, silence reigned the space, flashes lit the room and the whole spectacle came too fast to its end. 

After all that's about it in photography. Fractions of a second count the moments in time we aim to capture. Summing up all the time spent in shooting memorable images, we end up with only few seconds making the whole story. Thousands of preparation hours and excitement for only a few seconds of memories... That could be a definition of a lifetime photographic legacy. 

Later, I have started doing lab work at my home. At first in black and white, then in colours and slides. I have read tons of photography books, dismantled some cameras in order to understand how they function and also to restore and repair the ones which were broken. 

After the lab "secrets" where unveiled, in the mid 80's, I have started to take photographs by myself. Considering the point in time when I started photography, it is easy to understand why I am still addicted to black & white photography and why sometimes I make photos on film, 24x36 as well 6x6cm. 

It is also obvious that photography changed dramatically during the digital era. It is more convenient, cheap and reliable to make photography in digital nowadays than ever before. And this journey continues. What will be the future of digital photography? No one knows for sure, but it is clear it evolves every day and surprises may be waiting for us just around the corner.

I would love to have the depth of field from a medium film format camera on a compact digital one.

I would totally appreciate to have the possibility to change the spectrum of the camera from visible to IR or UV and here to choose the cutoff filter with a simple shift in the camera.

Surely, the weight of the gear dropped down dramatically, image quality improved gradually over the years, setting new standards. However, with all the digital revolution, in the last 24 months I notice a stagnation in digital camera developments and I am wondering what probably marketing engineers ask themselves also: Where to are we heading our product development? 

I remember, during the film era, how many formulas for developer I tried to reduce the grain on the 1600 ISO negatives. What is ISO1600 today in the digital? If you shoot on daylight at ISO 1600 you achieve same quality as shooting at ISO 100. And we talk about 4 stops between. This was not imaginable on film.

Are cameras going to mirrorless instead of pentaprism and mirror? Maybe yes, maybe not. Sony is making amazing progress in this direction and their new Alpha7RII seems very capable. This does not mean future will be DSLR and I mean here serious cameras and not point & shoot ones. Can you imagine the professional cameras going even slimmer and weightless than mirrorless ones? What about having a full bag of lenses on the camera already? What about having camera and all lenses together on a device of a smartphone size? It sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

Look at this company, Light and their new camera technology that inspired me for this post.

I am also not sure to which gear to switch and I am in this stage for a few years. I have not taken a decision yet, as no camera seems to offer any substantial benefit against the others available on the market.

In a way, the major changes actually occur with the person using the camera. You need to know by heart the camera to be able to get the maximum out of a given situation. This is a precondition for the full understanding of the effect of light into the scene, of the composition, as well as of the rightly chosen moment for shooting.

I start here a series of Then and Now with pairs of images taken in two different photographic periods, film vs digital.

Year 1991

Practika MTL3, Pentacon 1.8/50

Shot at 1.8, ISO100 AZO film, available light, scanned with SilverFast on CanoScan 9000F

Year 2013

Pentax K5, Tamron 2.8/28-75

Shot at 6.3, ISO80, 75mm, external flash (1 light)

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