Thursday, June 25, 2015

TGIF (random pixels)

Surfer: Mick Henderson

Film or digital? I read it all the time. It's a stupid question with stupid comments from people (like me) pontificating about stuff that most viewers couldn't care less about - stuff like pixel power, dynamic range, colour cast, grain, chromatic aberration and differences between various film emulsions. Ohh and let's not mention cross processing or bemoan the downfall of E6.

It's like asking a surfer "Longboard or shortboard?" 
It's like asking  "4x4 or sedan?"
Or "Wide angle or telephoto?"
Surfer: Mike Pimm
There's six film cameras here and twelve rolls of film in my refrigerator as I type this. The cameras are two 35mm, two by 6x6, 6x7, 6x12. The dreary clouds outside my cold kitchen don't care. Neither do 90% of those who view my imagery online. I'd even argue that 99% of folks can't even tell the difference between an image shot digitally or on films like Kodachrome 64 or Fuji Velvia. Should we care? Probably not.

I shoot film. Sometimes.
I shoot digital, a lot. It's cheap and I can "process" digital while I cook dinner, while I sit on the bus bored out of my gourd.

Sometimes I ride a longboard. Sometimes a short board. Sometimes I just body surf. The ocean decides. Sometimes there's no surf and I opt for a bicycle ride. If the light is awesome and I want a certain look, like 120 format infra red, then only film will nail it for me. 

Until I can afford medium format digital. Then I will shoot no more film. Yep.

Scarily, while us photogs bang on about the whole film x digital debate, most folks will look at an image for maybe 3-5 seconds. Don't believe me, then go to a "Big aRt Gallery" in the Big Smoke and watch the watchers for a few minutes as they humbly shuffle past Almighty aRt. 

Do people care how you made that brilliant image? Does anybody care that I shot the water images on this post during the rain, in winter, while cold and battling a head cold  while treading water and trying not to get run over by middle aged blokes with poor eyesight? Probably not.

For most of us, you're either going to  respond to an image with "wow" or not. Simple.

Is film more pure than digital? I don't know. I think it's another stupid question. It's just a hunk of plastic with some chemicals glued to it, that react to light photons. Don't ask me how digital does it. I think it's beyond my ken.

I started shooting 40 years ago when film was all there was and the only decision was colour or BW. So you had two camera bodies and about four lenses - none of which zoomed. You actually took the lenses off and put others on. Even when shooting weddings.

For 20 years I processed and printed my own shots in darkrooms I built myself. I remember the stink of chemicals and the spider bites and also the absolute magic of watching an image come to life under the red light. Yes you had to hone your craft. Yes it was hard to do it good.
Surfer: Keith Crocker
I still have my slide projector and tens of thousands of transparencies.

But is it just nostalgia for those younger carefree times that keep some of us so emotionally attached to film?  What exactly are we on about here? Is process more important than outcome? 

Surfer: Mick Henderson

If you want the look of Kodachrome 64, or 5x4" sheet IR film, then it's too late anyway, as they aren't manufactured or processed anymore  But compromises are available for the diehards (or is that The Obsessed?)

There's a few companies putting their mathematicians hard to work coming up with algorithms to turn sterile digital files into Imitation Film. Seek out their software if that's your thing. Shoot film if that's your thing. Or just ride a longboard and let nutters like me do the shooting.

Surfer: Tony Willett

Monday, June 8, 2015

Impossible Land (Eddie did go)

"Don't undertake a project 
unless it's manifestly important 
and nearly impossible"

 Before The Impossible Project and the whole Holga-esque dalliance with film, there was Polaroid and it's founder the brilliant thinker Dr Edwin Land. Apart from sunglasses and funky cameras, this fella brought into the photographic universe the surf shooter's greatest friend, the polarising filter, which cuts out a lot of the reflective glare off the ocean. Thanks Eddie!

What sorts of projects can we take on, can we dream of, can we initiate, can we talk up, jot down and share around?

Australians like to think that we embody two qualities - "have a go" and "fair go". The latter, an egalitarian declaration that we are all created equal in the eyes of the gods of our choice and that all should be treated fairly. (Some work to do here, I admit.)

But "have a go"? Why not? Give it burl, as my old Dad would say.