December 9, 2014

This one’s for Tony…

Tony and I have been having a debate recently regarding the ease at which someone can create a photo these days.  At the touch of a button on an app for your iPhone, you can create crisp, clean photos or photos that look like they were taken 100 years ago.  “Everyone’s a photographer now,” Tony says, and to some extent, I agree with him.

It is possible to create all kinds of effects with the touch of a button and I do it regularly.  My primary professional camera, a Nikon D800, is heavy, and the lens that I have on it most of the time costs as much as the camera and is also very heavy.  Consequently, I don’t carry it with me often.  I use it for scheduled photo shoots, and that’s about it.  For my daily use, I have my iPhone, which, I might add, I was very reluctant to use at first and fought the smartphone war for quite some time.

They say the best camera is the one that you have with you, and I tend to agree.  My iPhone has allowed me to catch shots that I would have otherwise missed, and the clever photography apps that I have on it are quite fun to use.  So I shoot more now thanks to it.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone is a photographer and that I am cheating.

I think there’s much more to creating a good photo than just an app.  The two things that make a good photo are lighting and composition, neither of which you can reproduce well with apps or post-photo manipulation tools.  As a friend recently said, the best lens is your eye.  That’s so true.

For me, before I take a photo–any photo, whether it’s on my iPhone or with my expensive camera–I size up the shot.  I look at the lighting and consider the best possible composition.  I think about what mood I am trying to create and why I’m taking the photo.  I’m not random at all.  Every photo I take I do so with purpose.  If I take it and it doesn’t fulfill the purpose, I delete it.  It’s the same thing I used to do in the darkroom as well, just much cheaper than buying loads of film and paper, ergo less wasteful.  But the process is the same: deliberate and meaningful.

But just for Tony, today I used my Nikon and an old 17-24mm wide angle lens from 1982.  The lens is completely manual, and in order to use it with my camera I have to adjust everything.  I even have to focus manually.  I have to set the aperture (on the lens itself) and shutter speed, control the white balance, set the ISO.  There’s no technology available except for my eye and my knowledge of how to use light to create the shot I want.  Even the dark edges are the result of lens falloff and not an app.

So here’s the result, right out of the camera with no post-production except for cropping due to the large size of the images.  The photos are of a decaying wooden boat.

Pretty good for a 32-year-old lens, eh?



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