Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Impulsiveness of Digital

When you compare something old-fashioned to something new and modern, an entire mentality goes with each. And normally, the new and modern tends to be faster or easier than the old fashioned.

When you take pen and paper and write, you're going to have a different process than if you were to type - I've said this before. It's a different mind process as well as a different physical one. Typing (if you know how to) is easily faster, and deleting prose on a screen is likewise.

What I intend to focus on is film photography versus digital.

Film photography still exists. I think it's become more niche, but not nearly as niche as some of the original ways and methods still used today by extreme minorities. For instance, there are archaic methods - like glass plate tinting - to develop film that was practiced in the 1850s that some small hobby groups still use today. Polaroid cameras probably still enjoy a popularity among some people.

You can't take someone who has grown up almost entirely with digital cameras, give them a point and shoot film camera, and expect them to get great, clear, composed shots. Not when they are singularly used to smartphone cameras and tiny digital point and shoots. I know this thanks to an experience with my grandfather's film SLR. He had it out at one family dinner, and anyone could freely pick it up and take photos with it. Anyone from uncles to cousins. When I saw the developed results weeks later, 98% of the images in the pamphlet had turned out blurry or useless.

I remember my cousin playing with it, snapping shots of me one after the other, quickly. I kind of felt unsure about that as the shutter snapped. The camera didn't use a 64-gig memory card. It used a twenty-four image film roll.

There are obvious reasons why digital photography has ruined the style and mentality of film photography (for young amateurs in the digital age, anyway):

- Space. You can put a tiny 15 gigabyte MiniSD inside a cell phone and take hundreds of photos. Therefore you have virtually free reign to how you take your photos; you don't have to worry about using up all your space with bad images because you have so much of it, and you can delete the crappy photos.

-Instant images. You can immediately view what you've taken, eliminating the need for patience as well as the concern for quality. For film, you have to wait for it to be developed, which is going to cause you to take more care of what you're snapping, because who wants to wait an hour or more only to receive a blurry, careless image?

-Advanced camera functions. By this point, digital technology has advanced in such a helpful way for us. You can set a camera to evaluate every point of basis for capturing an image, from appropriate shutter speed to ISO, and you can set it to avoid issues such as motion-blur or low light with in-camera settings or automatic detection. Furthermore, if you're good on the computer, you can use Adobe Photoshop to fix an image's exposure, white balance, dirtiness, etc. etc. You can't really scan a film print into the computer and fix its exposure - you're not able to gain anymore information from the clipped pixels that the scanner didn't already expose/create. Try brightening a dark image with mostly blacks from a 4x6 film print. All you'll do is turn it a murky grey without revealing anything.

Digital cameras are set up to do the majority of the hard work for you, they have the space for thousands of images that can be deleted, and you can see the image first-hand right away. That creates an information-hungry mentality that's impatient, impulsive, and invulnerable considering you can retake an image and have the result right away. So when my younger cousins pick up the film SLR and carelessly snap a picture at a subject impulsively, they aren't taking into account the exposure, ISO, f/stop, or whether the flash is on or off, and they get a motion-blurry image of a careless subject they could have deleted on a digital camera in an instant after seeing the result - in an instant. And they run out of film fast.

The only images that turned out in the package were ones that happened to be taken by me; I looked through the viewfinder and saw an extreme clarity when the lens focused, more than what I was used to with my digital SLR. It was beautiful. I took my shots with care, and they turned out very nice. Film photography is often undervalued - it has great density and depth to it, and often an interesting colour cast. And it has a detail that reveals an essence to the clarity and look of the image that you just don't see in a shiny, processed digital image. I see some character.

This impulsive, instantaneous way of information-sharing doesn't just apply to photography but to virtually any modern thing. I think it's why people can't focus on anything at once for very long anymore - they need more, they can't wait, hurry, rush, we need information, we need the webpage to load, the video to buffer, the feed to update, the image to appear on our screens. Where's the good old anticipation and excitement?

Red Cloud

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