25 Jul 2011

Retrospective

Submitted by Roger

Roger Monahan with setup. Photo by Dan RickardsI have been running around with a camera in my hand and pictures in my head for as long as I can remember. I started with film, and now work with digital media.

A good photograph is not an accident. Digital media have not changed my basic approach to photography. If I do not see the image in the viewfinder, then I will not have the image later. It does not matter how many frames you have if you have not worked to create the image before you begin to shoot. The days of film taught us to hone our skills with the medium. There was no photoshop, and retouching was difficult and expensive. I encourage new photographers to take their finger off the shutter release, and to take the time to create the shot using the light to best advantage, framing and composing their shot, and to pick up the camera after this is all done. Film gave us all a good introduction, because mistakes were expensive. It also allowed us to do long exposures without worrying about battery failure, and multiple exposures could be used to good effect.

Digital gives us many other capabilities, but we are restricted to a single exposure per frame, and exposure times are limited by battery life, unless we use an auxiliary power source for the camera. True, photoshop allows us to combine images, but the type of image produced in a computer is not the same as the effects which we could produce with film. Digital, however, allows us to work without dust spots, and we are able to adjust colour temperature, vibrance, saturation, contrast etc and we can now work with these attributes to produce surreal images which were impossible to comprehend with film. I shoot exclusively in RAW format, and use the full capabilities of the medium. My choice of camera is Canon. I began with their FTb years ago, and went to F1, then to A1. I also shot in medium and large format (4X5). Today, my 5D gives me a 21 Mpixel image with as much clarity and resolution as I could achieve with a Hasselblad years ago.

Dynamic range has always been a concern in photography. Ansel Adams developed the zone system of exposure to allow photographers to take advantage of the full dynamic range of the film, and to keep detail in both shadow and highlights. Printing suffers from the same limitations. To improve the dynamic range of color prints for gallery presentation, photographers would have limited editions of dye transfer prints done. This process produced superb color prints by laying a number of dyes on the paper using a registered sceen print process. Today we achieve the same result using high end ink jet printers with archival dyes and the prints are amazing compared with the older darkroom technologies.

The medium has changed, but the basic concepts have not. I am loving the new capabilities, and enjoying my journey with digital. Film has gone the way of floppy disks. Yes, you can still find both, but I know that I am no longer looking for either of them. I still use a light meter, and my camera is usually set on manual so I have complete control over depth of field and shutter speed. I have never been comfortable with TTL metering. A dark background will overexpose your highlights, and high key will destroy the detail in your shadows if you let the camera choose your exposure. 

While I am enjoying my digital journey,  I will be posting updates on techniques and milestones. I will be expanding my gallery projects as time permits and as I work at scanning my older film work into digital format. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

photography
digital
film
photoshop
exposure
dye transfer

Comments

Roger you have always loved talking pictures I am glad to see that you have taken photography to a new level. I intend top learn more along with you.

Your Old Friend