Posts Tagged ‘film photography’

‘Shooting digital like film’, column by Nick Smith published in Outdoor Photography magazine

June 20, 2011

In the old days we took far fewer photos, normally in batches of 36. Today we don’t feel we’ve done our job unless we’ve blasted away gigabyte upon gigabyte. So what happens when we shoot digital the way we shot film? By Nick Smith

Nick Smith's daughter, Tegan Smith on the teacup ride on her sixth birthday

Teacup ride, Swansea, one of a restricted number of 36 shots taken in one day

Next time you take your digital camera into the great outdoors take a big bag of fifty pence pieces with you. Then throw away one coin for every time you depressed the shutter release button when you didn’t have to. For those of you wondering what on earth I’m talking about, this is what shooting on film was like. I can’t remember the exact figures, but it cost about nine pounds to buy and process a roll of 35mm transparency film that would result in 36 photographs: 37 if you were lucky. You simply couldn’t afford to be profligate.

My new camera can shoot 36 exposures in less than four seconds, and because it’s digital, think of all those fifty pence pieces I’m saving. Storage is cheap and plentiful, and if Moore’s Law holds – essentially that digital technology doubles its capacity and so halves in price every two years – they’ll be giving gigabytes away with petrol soon.

But what you gain on the swings you inevitably lose on the roundabouts, because we all end up paying through our teeth in lost hours peering into the screen when it comes to the edit. If you think that this is somehow an absorbable cost or it doesn’t really matter, try throwing a fifty pence piece out of the window for every five minutes you sit at your computer.

I don’t know about you, but I loved it when my trannies came back from the lab. I’d put them on the light box and reacquaint myself with what was really going on, rather than just delete stuff. Editing then seemed to be a process of selection rather than of mind-numbing elimination.

But then it occurred to me that I might be looking back with misguided affection. How could it have been better then? By any objective measure cameras and their consumables today are better, cheaper, lighter, faster and funkier. Well, maybe. But one thing I am sure of is that digital is responsible for a torrential surge in mediocre photography. It’s everywhere. Don’t believe me? Put your hand up and offer to judge your local newspaper or camera club photographic competition.

I decided to investigate if we really do shoot better photographs when we do it batches of 36. The rules were simple: I could take as much kit as I liked with me to the Gower peninsular and shoot anything I fancied. The only thing I had to do was stay within the frame budget and complete the project in one day.

Off to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Llanelli one glorious Easter day. The sky was the colour of bluebells and there was more cherry blossom in the April breeze than you could shake a stick at. It was with an optimistic heart that I set out to fulfil my task that day of a portrait of my daughter (it was her sixth birthday), a wildlife shot (hence the drive to the wetlands) and a sunset, which would involve a short, sharp hike up a small mountain. I arbitrarily allowed myself 12 shots per project, which was a bit more daunting than sounds, not least because I was going to shoot the portrait on the teacup ride at the Easter fair, birds (for me at least) are notoriously fickle sitters and sunsets are not common in a land where it never stops raining.

By nine o’clock I’d downloaded my 36 compositions into Lightroom, and to my surprise my first reactions were all positive. First, it took no time to physically transfer the files because there were simply so few of them. Second, I suddenly found myself doing a positive edit rather than just moronically hitting the delete key. Third and most important of all, the proportion of decent shots was much, much higher that I would normally get from blasting away the megabytes. I was able to select three shots quickly – one for each project – that were above my quality threshold, and perhaps even more importantly, was tucked into a pint of Brains bitter well before closing time.

As I lubricated the tonsils I reflected on what my experiment had proved. I think this is what may have happened. I’d definitely spent more time thinking about what I wanted to shoot rather than pulling the trigger. And I was much more conscious of getting the basics right in order to avoid wasting my virtual roll of film. This had a further advantage, because when I came to review my work I found it much easier to evaluate how successful the images were relative to my intentions, simply because I could remember taking each exposure. I’d also had more fun, and as I polished off my pint I decided that wandering around South Wales musing on the glories of the natural world was simply a better experience than filling up flash cards with machine-gunned gunk.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography magazine

 

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Nick Smith interviews fine art photographer Stuart Klipper in ‘Outdoor Photography’ magazine

November 6, 2009

The art of outdoors

Stuart Klipper is an American fine artist who shoots the world mostly through a Linhof Technorama 617. He tells Nick Smith about his search for the ‘wide-field’

New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Library of Congress, The National Museum of American Art… just a few of the many organisations to have exhibited or collected Stuart Klipper’s photography.

An American fine art photographer with an international reputation, Klipper has spent decades travelling the planet in order to ‘seek out order’. His vision is expressed through a battered old Linhof Technorama 617 that he keeps in a battered old gadget bag. He wears rings of turquoise, sapphire and Navajo silver on every finger. He says the weight of the rings ‘helps to keep my trim on an even keel.’

Stuart Klipper doesn’t take photographs. He prefers to use the word ‘make’ in the way that an artist makes art. His images are panoramas in the 617 format, which he shoots on film. When asked why he prefers the ‘wide-field’ format he simply says ‘because it’s wider’. Sometimes he shoots verticals, but most of the pictures – from North Pole to South Pole and (even rarer) all 50 states of America – are horizontal panoramas.

Nick Smith: When did you first realise you going to become a photographer?

Stuart Klipper: Photography was a hobby among many. I went to college at University of Michigan and I read [John Van Druton’s] ‘I am a camera’. I realised I had a predisposition to seek out some sort of order. I realised I am a camera and so I decided to use one.

NS: What was your first camera?

SK: My dad documented my life with excess beyond even a presidential documentary photographer. Cameras were everywhere, mostly Kodak. My first real camera I got at 13 with my Bah Mitzvah money, a Rolleicord twin lens reflex.

NS: What formal training do you have?

SK: I’m pretty much an autodidact, but I hung around after my degree and took a few courses in the art school there: Phil Davies taught a very technical introduction to photography. There was another fellow that taught the aesthetics and design end of the spectrum.

NS:  How important is it to specialise?

SK: Of all the things I’ve been called in life one of the things I enjoy most is ‘a generalist’. I look at everything with equanimity. I don’t think anything is intrinsically more special than anything else. Everything’s fair game.

NS: What is the best assignment you’ve been on?

SK: Give me some assignments please. About a dozen years ago someone from the New York Times commissioned me to shoot a story about a small city in South Dakota that was remarkably economically successful. I was just going around town photographing street scenes.

NS: What’s the worst thing about being a professional photographer?

SK: You travel a lot and you mostly travel alone. There are certain aspects of the unsought solitude that can get to you. It’s finally started to become a bit corrosive, but you do your work no matter what.

NS: Film of digital why?

SK: I’m not a Luddite and I’m not old fashioned. Film is what the Linhof uses. A consignment of film arrived recently and the rolls all tumbled out. I was surprised by the feeling of looking at all these photographs waiting to be made.

NS: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from another photographer?

SK: The two photographers that sum it up in one sentence are Ansell Adams and Garry Winogrand. For over 30 years I’ve been a close friend of Lee Friedlander. We hardly ever talk about photography, but there is something osmotic coming through about how to live life as a photographer.

NS: What does photography mean to you?

SK: I have an extremely broad range of interest, and if there is one place where I can synthesise what I know about the world it’s through photography. It’s the most important way of getting a handle on the world, how we all can.

NS: What makes a great photograph?

SK: Photography isn’t about photography; it’s about the world. I just make pictures. There are no rules. Find your own vocabulary.

Klipper’s 5 Golden rules

1)   Find your own vocabulary

2)   Photography isn’t about photography

3)   Know who came before you and what they did

4)   Your equipment is only the toolbox

5)   There are no rules

Klipper’s gear

Cameras: Linhof Technorama 617, Mamiya 7, Konica Hexar

Film: Fuji Provia 100F 120 roll film and Provia 35mm film

Stuart Klipper’s new book of panoramic photography The Antarctic: From the Circle to the Pole has just been published by Chronicle Books and is available on Amazon.