Photography articles

                   Is It Photography Redux

                          Film or digital - does it matter?                                                                                

The issue of whether digital photography is “really” photography has not been laid to rest and needs to be revisited. Many who grew up with and learned photography using film cameras, even after more than a decade of digital cameras, still harbor a feeling that images recorded by an LCD or CMOS sensor instead of film are not “real” photographs. This debate has many similarities to the “art” arguments from photography’s early years: is a photograph art the way a painting or a sketch is art? That photographs were in fact art was settled long ago but the digital versus film debate still goes on.

Many of the objections to digital photography center around the ease of editing the digital image files with software such as Photoshop or PaintShopPro. It should be obvious to all that this sort of manipulation was around during the chemical darkroom days, at least as far back as 1860 when a photo appeared with Abe Lincoln’s head on John Calhoun’s body. Look at the “photographs” of Jerry Uelsman, all done entirely in the chemical darkroom using film negatives and optical enlargers. None argue that these extreme examples are not really photography simply because they are film-based images. Even Ansel Adams, a modern photographic hero to many, used rather extreme exposure manipulations throughout the entire process from exposing the negative to developing the negatives to making the final print, often taking weeks or months to get a print that satisfied him.

More objections are raised about how easy digital photography supposedly is compared to using film. This argument also make no sense when examined more closely. New digital cameras do have many more convenience features than film cameras ever did. Better automatic focusing, better automatic exposure, anti-shake lenses and camera bodies and automatic white balance have all produced many more properly focused, exposed, blur-free and correctly colored photos. But none of these improved automatic systems have produced greater photographs, just a lot of snapshots with fewer flaws. They are all simply extensions of trends that were already well developed before digital photography began displacing film. Even face-detection and now pet-face-detection in digital cameras are just refinements of earlier auto-focus and auto-exposure systems.

The actual argument seems to center around some film photographers not wanting to make the necessary adjustments to using a digital camera or a computer instead of a darkroom. They prefer to stick with what they know(film) and disparage digital as “not real photography” or “too easy” or “something different” or even “not permanent enough”. But digital is simply the logical extension of photography as we have always known it and yes, it is “real photography”.



Inner Photography Is The Visual Communication Of Emotions

Eggplant Flower Photograph

Inner photography has nothing to do with equipment or subject or technique. Inner photography means taking advantage of photography’s power to communicate on the emotional, symbolic and spiritual levels, often in a more direct and meaningful way than written or spoken word allows. It means acknowledging and using photography as an effective method of self expression and personal creativity to contribute to the larger community of the world. It is having photography as an integral part of a well-rounded lifestyle. Make photography part of your inner universe.

Inner Photography Exercises Your Mental Image Tools

Photography, like painting, sculpture and the other visual arts, is primarily an inner activity, a mental activity. Most really good photos start with an idea or a concept or an emotion and the resulting photograph is the vehicle of expression, the way the original idea is communicated to others. All of the camera equipment and technical knowledge are just the means toward that end, to the communication. If there is no idea or concept or emotion behind a photograph it will not have any meaning to others looking at it.
The primary mental image tool needed to allow ideas and emotions to express themselves is a state of attentive mental calmness. Relax the body, relax the mind, let the inner dialogue float past without comment instead of letting it occupy the attention. Don’t worry, the inner dialogue and all of the concerns and check-lists and doubts will not get lost if they are ignored for a while – they will all return as soon as they are allowed.
In this relaxed and clear mental state(meditation) deeper emotions and concepts are allowed to bubble up and present themselves to our minds. Treat these ideas the same as the inner dialogue by letting them float past the attention without getting attached to them. The most meaningful to you will stick around for further work at a later time. My personal experience is that quite often the way to capture a concept photographically presents itself at the same time. Occasionally a photography technique will present itself and a use for it will come along at a later time. This state of mind promotes the birth of ideas and concepts and that is at the core of any means of communication.
Sea Weed Photograph
When a photographer knows the equipment and technical aspects of the craft well enough to not have to think about them, photos can be made while in the “clear” mental state. I think of this activity as “stream of consciousness” photography and often end up with images I am very happy with. Sometimes I will not even know what I have been shooting until I download the memory card. Often after one of these sessions I find that I have discovered new techniques, new applications of old techniques and exciting images of subjects previously considered dull.This is not an image tool to use during a shoot with a tight deadline or requiring very specific shots that must be fully planned out in advance. But this process does work very well for me previous to and during the planning stage for such shoots. It is a great “un-blocker” when having difficulty coming up with a concept or the means to translate a good concept into an effective image. I also like to try to spend some time in this mental state after all the “required” work for a shoot is taken care of and things are more relaxed. As often as not many more good shots result with at least some being much better than the fully planned results.
Rose Photograph
So learn your equipment well and practice often so that the physical operations of taking a well exposed, well composed, in-focus image become thoughtless and automatic. That is the time to relax your mind and let the creativity flow. The camera and lens should become a tool for translating your ideas into images. This is the way of inner photography.

Enjoy this part of the site. Use what seems right for you and let the rest flow past. “Wander without seeking and you will find what you need.”
Sunrise Clouds Photograph*originally published

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