Monday, November 23, 2009

Time for a format change

Don't get me wrong--I love my camera. I especially loved it yesterday when the birding/wildlife feature helped me zero in on my first javelina sighting:
Still, there's a high level of impermanence about the digital camera. One little click, and it's deleted from my computer forever; one little print, and two weeks later it looks like junk. What's a girl to do?

Obvious: Switch formats--or rather add formats to the arsenal. On the way to my house right now are two vintage 35mm rangefinders. They in turn will be paired up with black and white film and used for my nefarious purposes. One of the cameras will be here in short order, but the other is coming from Ukraine and will take at least 30 days plus whatever the Christmas rush does to the mail system. More on the Ukrainian camera after it arrives--it deserves a post all its own.

So why switch back to such a dated format? I owe that to the fantastic NPR blog The Picture Show. After they'd referenced "street photography" a few times, I realized that this was a type of photography all to itself and decided to do a little research. Street photography, as it turns out, is more philosophy than technique. They stress the importance of being at home in your surroundings, of being close to your subjects (the 26x zoom on my digital camera would ruin it), and of having love and sympathy for your subjects. Purists will tell you that the only way to do it is with a 35mm rangefinder--ultra-purists will tell you it can only be done with a Leica M. Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate about photography, but I'm at a point in my young life where I can think of several better ways to spend $7000 than on a camera. So to hell with the Leica, and bring me my 1950's Steinheil rangefinder!

I enjoy parameters. I like that my current camera is a point-and-shoot instead of an SLR (again, I can think of several better ways to spend $3000 than on a camera). I like just using iPhoto for my digital photos because I don't want photos that require much fussing. Technology is no substitute for talent. And until I can prove that I can take some decent pictures with ancient 35mm cameras, I don't deserve to even think about a Leica M. Anyway, using old cameras has a romance all its own, so screw the Leica!

I don't have a darkroom--I hope to someday. But the good news is that there are still places out there that develop 35mm film. There are also, believe it or not, places that develop 120 film, so if I want to move to the medium format camera I'm free to do so. The joy of film is not dead.

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