31 May 2009
I took my first photography class when I was 12, shortly after I received my first camera. Since my father was a professional photographer and filmmaker, there was always some pressure to be good but I was firm about taking photos as a hobby only. I liked the sense of capturing a moment on film, of stopping time, and I liked the magic of the darkroom.
Mixing chemicals, processing film in the dark, hanging dripping film from a line. Setting up an enlarger, working by the light of a dim red bulb, dipping photo paper in the baths and watching the image--ghostly at first--rise up from the paper. The fun (and sometimes, horror) of a contact sheet. Our darkrooms were always hot and musty, the smell of developer and fixer strong in the small space.
Magic. Unless, of course, you botched the film processing. Or shot an entire role out of focus.
But it was a good smell.
I love my Nikon DSLR. It has limitations (including she who takes the photo), but image quality isn't one of them, and it's faster and easier to crop a photo with image processing software than it is to do so manually. Still, I miss the dark room, the excitement of developer, stop bath, fixer. The smell. The occasional failure. Instant gratification is great, but there is something to be said for the slow approach.
In some ways, though, going digital has forced me to slow down. I'm regrettably lazy when it comes to photography. I don't fiddle with settings as much as I should, though I find that I'll take more care in setting up a shot than I did in years before. I think this comes from having stuff like Photoshop, having the ability to mess with a photo after the fact, because I don't want to succumb to the temptation of alteration. I don't want to tamper. It's too easy to add a slice of moon where it never existed. Instead, I'd rather think more, see more, and let it be...or not.
Go listen to some good music: "Camera" from the album Reckoning by REM. This has been sitting in draft form for days, but the migraine struck while it was waiting final embellishment. It didn't get it.