Mourning the Loss of a Loved One

OK, so “mourning” may not be entirely accurate here, and the “loss of a loved one” bit is a bit melodramatic given the circumstances.  But the news of Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy has caused me to reflect on many of the recent changes in the photography world.  Specifically, it is the symbolism of the bankruptcy – the near literal death of film photography – that weighs on my mind.  I know it’s odd to mourn the loss of an (almost) antiquated technology, but film photography will always be near and dear to me.

Near and dear in an idealized, romantic sense, mind you, but not in a practical sense, given I, like most other photographers, haven’t purchased a roll of film in years.  The end of film photography for me can be traced to the day I gave my wife a digital SLR for Christmas three years ago.  To be clear, I had no intention of ever shooting with that camera.  I had only put one roll of film through my new Canon Elan 7E (a 35mm film SLR) and had my beautiful Mamiya RZ67 (a medium format film camera) for when a 35mm just wouldn’t do.  The thought of switching was still out of the question, despite the fact that most of the world had already embraced digital cameras.  To be sure, digital was flourishing and film was already gasping for air, but somehow the romantic notion of remaining a “film guy” had taken root.

Now, while it is true that I had no intention of using my wife’s new camera, I knew I would need to shoot with it just to show her how it works.  It also happened that the gift I received from my wife that year was a Canon 580EXII flash.  Being a “natural light” guy myself (for some reason I seem to label myself when it comes to photography — something I don’t tend to do in other areas of my life), I had spent very little time shooting with a flash.  And so, without really thinking much about it, I snatched my wife’s new camera out of her hands to “show her how it works” practically before the packaging came to a rest on the the heap of discarded wrapping paper that was passing for our family room floor.  That first tutorial lasted a few hours, my wife being absent for a good many of them.  I shot my daughter opening her gifts.  I shot my daughter playing with her gifts.  I shot my daughter’s gifts as they lay on the floor, abandoned for the next new toy.  I shot the floor. The tree.  That heap of discarded wrapping paper.  The Christmas dinner.  The Christmas dinner dishes.  I haven’t shot a frame with my film cameras since.

And that, after all, is the beauty of a digital camera — you can shoot with reckless abandon, because it doesn’t cost you a penny.  Just pure, free, instant photographic gratification, and you don’t even have to do the Polaroid shake.  No doubt digital photography has made me a better photographer.  The ability to instantly see what a change in aperture has done for an image or how a change in lighting impacts the mood of that image is invaluable.  But that is also the curse of digital photography.  There is no need to think anymore — no need to plan — because you can just shoot, and shoot, and shoot until your image looks right.  I always hated keeping the log of images and settings — a process that inevitably detracted from the image-making process — and it was torture waiting for the film to be processed (hoping and praying all the while that those 36 images would turn out like I imagined they would).  But that process made me a more thoughtful photographer.  The notion that I had a mere 36 chances to get it right – to capture that decisive moment – made me think.  It made me plan.  It made me visualize.

I understand that “good photographers’ do all of those things whether they are shooting digital or film.  But today I chimp more than I visualize (I know I’m not alone), and I don’t think there will be as many “good photographers” in the digital age.  That’s not to say there won’t be lots of photographers making great images, but too many of those images (IMHO) will be luck of the draw.  I suppose if the net effect of the digital revolution is that there are more great images in the world, we’re better off regardless of how they’re made.  I’m just hoping that despite all the bad habits I’ve picked up — or in spite of the discipline I’ve shed — I can some day become a “good photographer.” It just saddens me to know that I’m unlikely to have Kodak film to fall back on if I decide to shake the dust off those film cameras and actually put some thought into photography again.


Please Won’t You Help?!?

On this, a day of new beginnings and hope, I am reaching out to the readers of MuchAdo to appeal to your charitable spirit.  Our lives are busy.  It’s all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and we often forget to take a moment to consider those in need.  Today, I would like to ask you to consider contributing to a worthy cause that has all but escaped the attention of the mainstream media.

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen that SPCA commercial with Sara McLachlan where the one-eyed dog is eaten by some heartless dog-eating Republican (at least I think that’s what happens, but I don’t actually watch that commercial because it’s really, really a bummer).  Well, this is, believe it or not, a much more worthy cause.  No, it’s not starving children.  No, not disaster relief.  NOT UNICEF!  Stop guessing!  I started this post off by saying it “has all but escaped the attention of the mainstream media.”  Why would you think you could just guess.  As I was saying, this one is a doozy.  A real heart stomper.

[Note: this would be a good time to click on that link for the SPCA commercial, and let it play in another window while you read the next bit.  I would embed a stirring song here, but (a) I don’t really know how and (b) I’m pretty sure that would violate some sort of copyright, and who needs that mess.  (Whatever you do, do not watch that commercial, it will totally ruin your day.)]

It turns out, in a country that has everything (well, at least 1% of this country has everything, supposedly the other 99% have nothing but time and hacky sacks, but I must admit I didn’t follow the Occupy [Insert Name of Someplace Here] movement all that closely), there are photographers who lack access to the most basic, high-end technology.  What could be more disheartening than the thought of a photographer without the proper equipment?  I am certain there is a photographer in your life that is struggling to make images with substandard equipment.  I know in my heart that this is true.  Oh sure, he (I strongly suspect the photographer in your life is male) may actually have  an SLR.  And to the outside world, it may seem that his images are perfectly adequate.  But he knows that he is greatly in need of a new camera.  And that knowledge alone is too much for any photographer to bear.

So, what exactly is it that this photographer needs?  What he needs is the Canon 5D Mark III.  (Again, I am positive the needy photographer in your life is a man, and I am positive he is not shooting with Nikon.)  What’s that you say?  You are not familiar with the Canon 5D Mark III?  Well then, my friend, you are not a Canon enthusiast, for there are entire web pages devoted to the Canon 5D Mark III.   Why, the fine folks at Canon Rumors have a whole page with dozens and dozens of posts devoted to this camera.  Same for Keith Cooper over at Northlight Images.

Now, here’s where things get a little dodgy.  Sadly, the Canon 5D Mark III does not exactly, in a literal, non-fictional sort of way, exist.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it very much exists in the way that my four-year-old daughter’s stuffed bunny has been to college, lived in Mexico, Japan, various parts of Europe, California, and Chicago, has run a variety of successful businesses, and has magical powers, despite having been purchased by friends on what I have learned is a very ordinary, non-magical website shortly before my daughter’s birth.  That is to say that the Canon 5D Mark III exists in the minds of all those Canon enthusiasts I mentioned, but not in a physical, mass production sort of way.  And I . . . er, I mean . . . the poor, hard-working, saintly, deprived photographer in your life really, really wants the Canon 5D Mark III to exist — in a, “Hey, I think I’ll head over to my favorite photography shop/website and pick one up” kind of way, not a “Did I tell you about the time Bunny went to China on a flying dragon and ate won ton soup out of the holy grail” kind of way.

I know what you’re thinking. “But, what can I do?”  Let’s be clear, I don’t have all the answers.  I have identified the problem, now I am looking to you for help.  I, for one, plan to continue reading all of the rumor websites so I will know the second the Canon 5D Mark III is just days away from being announced (which, at last count, has happened 468 times in the last twelve months alone).  However, maybe you are close personal friends with Chuck Westfall (not to be confused with this guy) or someone else from the imaging group at Canon U.S.A. If so, for God’s sake, stop reading this right now and implore that person to release the Canon 5D Mark III (or better yet, get me . . . um, I mean your, oh, whatever . . . a test device — I’ll sign an NDA).   In the meantime, please start saving your pennies (by which I mean twenties or hundreds), because I am fairly certain that MuchAdo will be launching a Needy Photographer Fundraiser once this camera is released.  We are really going to need your help.