Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Technology and Cluelessness

I read the article in the New York Times about the new Lytro camera which will be on the market later this year or next. The camera eliminates focusing and simply becomes a true point and shoot camera. But what does it say about the photographer?

With all the innovations now standard in modern cameras from even cellphones ones to point & shoot to the consumer and professional rangefinder and DSLR's, you can simply do very similar things and with the tools in the newer image editor (note I make a distinction between photo and image), you can be the world's worst photographer and produce some of the world's best images.

Really? Well no, but the cameras eliminate all the thinking when you're standing there capturing the image (or taking the photo if it's film). This doesn't mean you can't plug your brain in, you can to the extent you want. It means you don't have to plug your brain in except to know where the shutter release is located.

The photo editors will correct for anything, and even create images by merging images, adding parts of other images or from nothing but your imagination. And shooting raw format, you can simply do more with all the exposure controls with exposure settings, light, color balance, etc. to export images for production to other media.

Those factors along with the development of autofocus, program mode (full exposure control), and automatic white balance (correcting for light source) and auto-flash controls since the 1980's, makes photography easy for everyone with little or no understanding of photography or even about cameras. Just turn it on and shoot, you, or rather the image editor, can fix it later.

And this new technology even adds to the path away from being a photographer to just taking photographs. Forget learning, just point and push the button. Don't worry, all the automatic tools in the camera and all the autocorrection tools in the photo editor will make you look like a professional.

Yeah, I'm being a curmudgeon. I was also new to photography, and yes, I used the latest technology (a Minolta SRT-101 camera) to avoid learning some of the "basic" skills all photographers were supposed to know. I still haven't learned it beyond the basics to shoot 4x5 film, and I still use technolgoy (light meter) to help there.

So I'm being more a traditionalist because there is one thing I do stick with in my photography, getting the best shot you can while you're standing there, whether it's in the field or in the studio. I always try to capture what I see and want, it reduces the post-production work in the photo editor from my own stupidity.

Yes, it's more work then and there, but it's also far less work sitting in front of the computer, and it affords me more time to tinker with the image for fun than for work to correct mistakes. I once spent a week to get one studio shot (shown here) to get the 4x5 film capture exactly what I wanted. It took nearly 200 digital (jpeg) images to get the one 4x5 slide which is what you see there, nothing different.

I won't argue the technology is good and worthwhile, I use it, just not to the extreme as possible, but I still rely on it when I don't have the time to think beyond the immediate needs or issues with a photograph or image. I'm just remarking that with each step something is being lost, and has been getting lost since the introduction of internal light meters in cameras.

Long would be the day a photographer had to use their knowledge and experience to guess the exposure, simply see, judge, adjust and shoot. It's all my Minolta SRT-101 had with its needle-matching system. Nothing else but that one technological advancement. And now my Canon 5D will do damn near anything with the right setting, which I've used automatic or program on occasion.

I'm only waxing nostalgia for nothing really. Only now you don't even have to think beyond looking and pushing. All the "photography" can be done in the camera or the photo editor, and even that is automatic now. And you can pretend you're smarter than you really are, or at least your images will appear like you do.

And this is where you see the difference. Just ask to the see the original photo (film) or image (digital). I won't argue that request would be met with disdain in the pre-SLR days when you took and develped the negative to produce the best print (eg. Ansel Adams). Those days went away long ago and you can always argue to see the original (positive) transparency (slide) with film as you can fudge the exposure there very far.

Which is what I shoot, only rarely B&W negative film. And all digital is transparency. So, in a way you can say, "Show me the original." I can, like the 4x5 slide mentioned above along with the one digital image I used for the exposure and flash settings. So yes, call me what you want, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and enjoying the personal challenge than leaving it to technology beyond the minimum, and certainly not without plugging in my brain.

No comments:

Post a Comment