Monday, 12 February 2007

New cameras

With much smuggling and other insidious plotting, I finally have the camera I was talking about last year. It has come all the way from America, but I am such an incredibly stupid person that it did not occur to me to buy any memory to put into it, so I have an extremely high quality paperweight for the present. This is mostly because I am away in Galway and didn't get a chance in the brief return to Dublin to go and buy camera memory or UV filters. Still, in principle I am now in a position to return to the photography of old.

It's not really that worth commenting on, except that nostalgia or something had me dig out one of my old 35mm photography books and I was looking through the darkroom techniques it was laying out. I never had the capacity to do dark room stuff in the days when I carried a real camera, and so I had never really got any experience to echo back against when I first saw what Photoshop filters would do. Solarisation and posterisation seemed well, just part of the general purpose wonderfulness of computing - sure, of course the programme can systematically change the hue values for each pixel to create that effect.

Well, it genuinely is that "simple" for Photoshop, but as I read through the accounts of darkroom technique it sank in on me how very far from simple it was to do it in the pre-digital age. Solarisation - which is pretty much a single menu choice in Photoshop - involved a lot of very tedious intermediate steps in a darkroom. The same is true of a lot of the other filters. And the masking techniques and contrast improvement stunts you can do in Photoshop also have their analogues in the real world, and very laborious they were too.

All of somewhat academic interest for me. I'm a bear of little brain and my interest in photo software reaches as far as, "can this clean up this image?" and "how does cropping work?" It's not that I'm some disciple of the purity of the original moment, more that I don't have enough imagination to reach beyond it. I either get it right when I catch the shot, or I try to retrieve what I thought I saw - I don't seem to have whatever it takes to look beyond that. Which is perhaps all to the good. In the end, it's not the camera, it's the eye. You have to see the composition and the moment which make the shot worthwhile. And you should know enough about the basic physics of what you're doing to use the controls properly, so as to tweak the light a little bit when the simple mindedness of the camera insists on shooting what's there instead of what you see. I tell myself that I've spent a ton of money in an effort to get a tool which will let me do that without getting in my way. Time will tell if I was fooling myself.

No comments: