Monday, April 1, 2024

The Photo-Fossil

 Musicians at the Cultural Village, Lusaka, Zambia.

Olympus OM2n, 100-300mm f4 Tokina lens, Fujichrome 100 film

(Click to enlarge)

Blog Note: As I said in my previous post, sometimes life gets in the way. Unfortunately, it's still in the way, so I'm re-posting a blog from about three years ago. I hope to get back on track soon and continue the series about perspective control.

I've been a photographer for nearly 56 years now. From 1968 to 2003 all my photographs were made on film, but in the summer of '03 I switched to digital photography. Not because I wanted to, but because it was necessary to remain competitive in my photography business. So -- 35 years with film, and 20 so far with digital, although I have exposed a few rolls of film in those years.

Several years ago I began a project to choose my 100 best photographs, with the idea that I would have them printed in a book by one of the online publishers. I haven't spent a lot of time on this, and it may turn out to be one of those projects that never get finished. I should probably pick several hundred and take the whole pile to my longtime friend, client, and ace graphic designer, Michael Largent, and let him pick.

In any case, at this point I'm only up to about 70 photos, and only seven of them were made with a digital camera. Two-thirds of my photographic life was spent working with film and only the last third working with digital. Twenty years worth of work, years when I'm supposedly a mature photographer, and yet the overwhelming majority of photos that I consider to be among my best were made on film.

"Why is that?" you might ask.

I can think of at least two reasons. One is that life brought me more interesting assignments in the days when I was shooting film. All my overseas documentary assignments and the Rock City Barns book were done on film. My limited edition book Georgia: A Backroads Portrait is a combination of film and digital photography.

The second reason is that digital can be just too easy. And that makes it too easy, for me, at least, to be careless or too easily satisfied when the little screen on the back of my camera tells me I have an okay shot. Maybe not great, but okay. Besides, "I can always fix it in Photoshop!"

In this digital era, cameras can select the proper exposure and focus themselves. All the photographer has to do is frame the shot and choose the instant to press the shutter button. And ways have now been invented to capture the proper instant even if the photographer misses it. The only skill left to the photographer is composition.

By the end of the film era, cameras were pretty good at choosing exposures, but smart photographers learned to fine-tune the settings. Autofocus was also in wide use. But photographers still had to master timing and composition. I believe film helped us be much more careful with focus, exposure, timing, and composition because there was always a little meter in the back of our heads, keeping a running account of costs. In short, I believe shooting film made me a better photographer.

Or maybe I'm just a photo-fossil.

Signed copies of my book Backroads and Byways of Georgia are available. The price is $22.95 plus $4.50 shipping. My PayPal address is (which is also my email). Or you can mail me a check to 8943 Wesley Place, Knoxville, TN 37922. Include your address and tell me how you would like your book inscribed.

Check out the pictures at my online gallery:  Looking is free, and you might find something you like.

Photography and text copyright 2024 David B.Jenkins.

I post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday unless life gets in the way.

Soli Gloria Deo -- For the glory of God alone.

Tags:   photography    travel     film photography     Olympus OM2n camera    Tokina 100-300mm f4 lens Fujichrome 100 film    Zambia

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