Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Philosophical discussions

I was reading a post on Photo.net about black and white digitial images and if an 8-bit image compared to a 16-bit image is really that worse for quality of the final image. The obvious answer is yes, but that answer has a lot of caveats, one of which is the argument about the depth of information in the image. Namely can do produce the image you want with 8-bit grayscale versuses 16-bit grayscale.

A similar logic applies to the argument when people argue to shoot raw format only, or if you really want, raw+jpeg, because raw offers so much more in the details in the images as well as the whole array of photo editing tools available to you to work with the file and produce an image. My view of this, often taken to the extreme for the sake of argument, is that this can make you photographically and camera stupid and computer smart. You can produce images but it doesn't make you a photographer.

Being a photographer, to me, is about standing behind the camera, to know what you're doing there with the scene, subject, light, exposure, equipment and so on to capture the best image you can. Being a photographer is also about producing good images, the product of your work, but focusing solely on the image production doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you someone, who in the old days of darkrooms where some people couldn't use a camera but were wizards with an enlarger, paper and chemicals, who can produce images, a printer as they were called.

Obviously that's an extreme view, and one I don't hold absolutely tight to my brain or heart. I like taking images, and I'm learning to produce images. I was taught photography with a 1960-era slngle lens reflex camera with the basic controls of ISO, aperture, shutter speed and a needle matching light meter. I learned about light, exposure, composition, etc. and I practiced my photography. I still use this when shooting with my 4x5 camera and in my studio photography, all manual. I've only adapted to aperture-priority when newer cameras.

Since I retired to focus more time on and in my photography I've learned a lot and will continue to learn every time. There's far more to learn than I can ever hope to know, so it's always a balancing act between learning, knowing and doing. And there always comes a time in the work I simply give up, because I'd rather be standing behind the camera than sitting in front of a computer.

I also like philosophical discussions about almost any aspect of photography. I like thinking and discussing the ideas behind and about photography, good tavern conversations on the nature of the work, the field, the endeaver, the technology, the people, and so on. But, as with any discussion, I get tired of the continual argument from the different camps espousing rigid rhetoric about the quality of their side.

And there always comes a time I get up and leave the discussion because I'd rather be taking photographs than arguing about them.

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