Is Traditional Photography THAT Hard???

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Sean, Oct 14, 2003.

  1. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I was reading the latest issue of Black & White Photography (by the way -way to go Jorge! loved it! and thanks Ailsa for the copy!)

    All was well until I turned to the Letters to the editor section. I haven't seen issue 24 but apparently some poor guy mentioned in that issue, that he believed digital imaging is a different art form than photography. The digital camp of course went berserk and wrote several letters defending thier medium in this current issue. But the one thing that stood out and almost gave me a migrane, were the comments regarding some of their mentalities for going digital. I got the impression that many went digital because they could not cope with or have any success with wet methods. I can't understand this. I processed my first roll of film when I was 16 with zero experience, and I also made a rather nice black and white print in the highschool darkroom of that image. I did not find this hard, cumbersome, inconvenient, annoying, frustrating, or difficult in any way! I actually found it magical. I ummmm, simply followed basic directions to achieve this result! BASIC! Mix this with that, pour this into that for x minutes. Wow, that is soooooo hard isn't it??? But apparently scores and scores of "photographers" can't produce work they are satisfied with by using these methods, and thanks to digital one reader says they have a "new lease of life in photography". I'm dumbfounded that people find wet methods so difficult that they must rely on computers to give them the means to be "photographers". I am no master in the darkroom, but the results I achieve are my own and that means a hell of a lot. If computer aided photography can improve my results shouldn't I go with that? Never.

    (as usual thanks for letting me blow off some steam)
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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  3. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    Many good points Donald

    "I found the ability to obtain the result that I want to be too difficult with traditional means and that digital is easier"

    I guess that's the main thing I can't relate to. Sacrificing handmade craft for convenience. It's too much of a sacrifice for me to stomach..
     
  4. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  5. Lex Jenkins

    Lex Jenkins Member

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    Digitoids are suffering through a transition period akin to that experienced by watercolorists and acrylic artists. I imagine it took a while for oil painting to become acceptable as it began to put icon painters work in egg tempera out of business. Nowadays, tho', there are probably more egg tempera painters working in the iconic and free art styles than ever before in history.

    As soon as a few individuals become leaders in the digital field - whether by assuming the role or being shoved into it - the rest of the pack will cease feeling so defensive; which is precisely why they tend to respond as they do and to appropriate traditional film photography terminology such as "carbon" inkjet/whatever printing. As soon as they have a champion they'll relax and just go back to being photographers.

    I find the two media as similar and as different as the painting examples I mentioned earlier. Having done both - b&w traditional darkroom since age 8 or 9, digital for several years - I have pretty solid opinions about which I prefer and the reasons why.

    I simply find traditional film and darkroom work more rewarding, despite the mess and smell. For similar reasons I found myself gravitating from a preference for painting in watercolor to using oils, tho' I don't paint much at all these days.

    Even if the output was truly indistinguishable (and it ain't - yet - no matter what anyone claims, at least not from what I've seen), I'd still prefer the hands-on approach over the digits-on (that's a finger pun) approach.

    From an entirely practical POV, traditional photography practically demands a dedicated darkroom for best results. In my makeshift darkroom/spare bathroom/laundry room I can compromise on either quality or time. I don't like to waste materials so I won't compromise on quality. Instead I limit my darkroom sessions to when I can be sure no laundry needs to be done, the air is as dust-free as possible, I can devote the tub to the fiber print washing cycle for up to 12 hours and I don't have to worry about distractions. That means I can develop film a couple of times a week but print only about once a month.

    Digital photography, OTOH, requires highly specialized equipment and practically demands up to date equipment. Before getting back into the wet darkroom I'd had high hopes for transitioning to all-digital. Then I realized I didn't have the budget to keep pace with the ever increasing demands for more megapixels, better sensors, compatible lenses, faster processors, the latest type memory, being unable to even carry over basic peripherals and add-on cards from one obsolete computer to the next, ad nauseum.

    To make it worse, I wasn't enjoying it anymore. Sitting at a computer and making art don't go together in my thesaurus. I don't understand the terms "computer" and "art" in the same phrase and I don't get the fascination with digital photography. God bless those who do but I understand them about like I understand folks who drink Dr. Pepper first thing in the morning instead of coffee, the damned heathens.
     
  6. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Sean, It's not apples and apples (or should I say apples and Mac's) they're comparing. The computer work has it's own personality as does the wet practice. I just finished a project for a couple of interior designers who wanted 15 16x20's and 17 11x14 b/w fine art images for some high end model homes. They said they wanted cheep.(always cheep! rrrrhhh) so I showed them samples of one image, printed 3 different ways; fibor based photo print and printed on my epson 7600 with 2 different papers one thicker and one thinner and cheeper. This was my first experiance at providing this service and boy I learned alot! It's just as complicated to work the images through photshop as it is the wet photographic process. And to my own suprise the images had a completeally different feel to them, even the client noticed. So yes, the self development of an intuitioned based response to the wet process is a complicated path. But so is creating computer assisted imagery that does not look like a gimmick. Commercially the two can go hand in hand but from an intuitively artistic standpoint their way apart and have their own markets. If these people are looking for the easy way to create, then I'm sure their work will reflect that, no matter which process they use.
     
  7. brimc76

    brimc76 Member

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    The other thing I get from new digital photographers is that they can trash any picture on their storage card that they do not like, with the push of a button. In fact the sales people push this feature. I am certainly not a master printer or photographer, but I feel that with time and film I am getting better, and one thing I enjoy doing is pulling out last years contact sheets and prints and comparing them to recent ones. I can see what I've improved on and what I still need to work on. I've even gone back to places with a print I wasn't happy with and tried different angles, or waited for the light to change. If I was to trash all the photos I didn't like how would I have a reference point to judge my learning?
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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  9. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Now that's the best name suggestion that I've heard yet for Aggie's Mag: "WET photography". Sexy, yet perfectly legitimate and descriptive. After all, H2O and computers are pretty much mutually exclusive and yet we can't make a picture without the stuff.
    I can imagine the wink and nudge I'll get from my mailman when my new issue of "WET" magazine is delivered in it's plain, brown wrapper. :wink:
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think this is the real point in all this.
     
  11. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Digital image manipulation is a separate art form. Graphic artists had to learn digital image manipulation or retire. Commercial photographers are going the same route. Photographers who have opted for that route for various reasons are defensive because they realize they are orphans of both photography & graphic arts. The realism for which they strived as photographers is under-cut by the ease with which their tools can alter that original vision. Today, they merely clean-up after sloppy technique, tomorrow they clone 2 images together to get a better effect, and the next day the original vision is sub-sumed into a fantasy world.
    Instead of trying to pull photography into their digital world, they should embrace graphic artistry.
     
  12. BobF

    BobF Member

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    I can't believe that mastering digital would be any easier then mastering film. What is easy is to jump to something new when you have reached a plateau and can't quite master the process you are using. A few will master digital but many will later jump to something else when they hit a wall with digital.

    I think it has a lot to do with short attention spans and marketing hype that leads you to believe you can do better with the latest innovation. All you need to do is spend some bucks and you can create a masterpiece with little effort on your part.

    It's not just digital, AF auto-everything cameras were sold the same way and by themselves didn't even solve focus and exposure problems, not to mention composition and lighting etc.

    In my particular case I know it's a lot more about my limited talents than what equipment I may use.

    Bob
     
  13. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    "short attention spans and marketing hype"

    Well put!

    Flip through a digital photography magazine, and nearing the end you're likely to feel your current gear is completely inadequate. Then you'll feel guilty for not going digital so that your photography can reach it's true potential. At the final page your credit card is ordering a plethora of digital peripherals, and your old gear is posted on ebay. I’ve yet to see marketing as brilliant as the digital photo industry..

    Fortunately Jedi mind tricks do not work on me, muuhaaa haaa… :tongue:
     
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  15. lee

    lee Member

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    I think that a large majority are just "equipment queers". When there is nothing left to buy they move on. You see this with guitars and computers and woodworking. When those "eq's" see or find out how much work is necessary they suddenly move on. Not an uncommon sight. I bought a lot of high end darkroom stuff cheap because the guy wanted to buy more and different toys. The sad part was he does have some talent but somehow decided that his digi stuff was better than his Leicas. Go figure!!


    lee\c
     
  16. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    The other thing is that I pick up a digital photography magazine and I dont understand a thing of what they are talking about. and to me seems infinitly harder. Used to be anybody knew what film was, at least in some basic sense. Now you got RAW, JPEG, TIFF...and you have to know what each means to evaluate the capacity of these cameras. Of course, some people might say, well this is no different than having all the diferent kinds of film and I think it is not the case, aside from file format there seems to be an ISO rating, which is something I just cant understand. With film you have ISO 400 or 100, you know one has finer grain than the other, but the pixels dont change in size, why would I want to change ISO on a digigizmo?

    How can a pixel be equally both and less sensitve depending where you have your dial? With film, if you put a roll in your camera you know you get either 24 or 36 pics no matter what ISO you use, is this the same for digigizmos? It seems to me if you are somehow changing the sensitivity of the pixel, then the file size much change......ah heck I am sure there are simple answers or explantions for all these questions, but it seems to me there is something to be said about having the same equipment for a long time to become familiar and comfortable with its use. Something I dont see in the digital area, no sooner is the latest camera out when they arer already announcing a better one.....

    as I told someone who saw my pic of the darkroom with all my stuff, he commented he now understood why I was afraid of digital, since all my stuff went back a few years. My response was, well I will be using my 75 year old Korona far longer than you will be using your latest gizmo....I would like to see where your super duper Epson printer is 75 years from now....
     
  17. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Jorge , I agree with your thoughts completally in an ideal situation, yes our equipment will outlast todays trends yet my duper Epson printer has paid for itself several times over (since June) and helps fund my wet processes. The compromise to keep myself competative gives me freedom for ambition.
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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  19. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    Just a few random thoughts to add to the mix here. It's very easy to make a negative and get print. It's very difficult to do it well. Same goes for a digital camera and printer. It has nothing really to do with the technology involved, it has everything to do with the ability of the person using the equipment.

    There are lots of interesting points discussed in these ongoing analog/digital discussions, but in the end the only thing that matters is the content of the image.
     
  20. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    I purchased a Coolpix 2000 (for bithday parties and the like).

    Since I have a quite decent printer (Lexmark Z-33), I decided to print some of the photos in A4 format (about 8x11 inches).

    First I tried coated paper (cheap). Absolutelly lousy.
    So, I purchased glossy paper - 50% as expensive as silver B&W paper.

    Made first print - colors were way off.
    Made color adjustments, second print - so and so.
    More color adjustments, third print - call it acceptable.

    Looked at how much ink I've used - almost half a cartridge.

    Burned a CD ROM and brought it to the nearest Frontier printer...

    It's only easy in manufacturer's ads.

    Jorge O
     
  21. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    Yeah, but you can't always just sit back and ignore things happening around you. If skinheads start spray painting swastikas all over town should we just allow it and say "they are ignorant, I don't have time to be concerned with them because I am for peace and love, not against hate". I can't help but cringe when I see the words like "digital platinum giclee" or "digital carbon pigment print". Sure I could ignore it, but with a marketing powerhouse behind digital, traditional photography can't really stand on it's own merit anymore. It is their desire to merge the two mediums, this way they can just call digital photographs "photographs", and digital prints, "photographic prints". Anytime new artforms emerge they should be addressed in new ways. Oil Painting, Acrylic Painting -why just call it a "painting". So with photography I believe it should be Traditional Photograph and Digital Photograph, but the digital crowd will not have any of it. I think people should know the difference and if it's ignorned?
     
  22. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    "but in the end the only thing that matters is the content of the image."

    What if that content isn't real? After interpolation, the gaps in the ccd/cmos array being filled in with artificial info, compression, editing in photoshop, printing, is there anything of the original scene left? With film I feel like I've captured the essence of a scene, with digital it's an artificial numeric representation of what it thinks the actual scene looks like..

    I don't mind arguing about this stuff, I am bored today :smile:
     
  23. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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  24. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    I've participated in a couple of threads on photonet where the question gets asked, "I want to use my digital camera for Black and White photography, can I expect results to be as good as if I used traditional b&w materials?"
    Ok, give the guy credit for trying, he's becoming aware that he's a tone as opposed to color guy and he's used to digital. What shocks me and fills me with a profound sense of regret is that everyone who answers him assures him he'll do just fine digitally using his epson color printer in monochrome mode.
    How can we have reached the point where the superiority of the results of using analogue materials isn't a given?
    I've been to galleries in NYC that display big, but mediocre, inkjet prints priced at only $4,000 and have to wonder.
    on the other hand, my daughter's high school friends are usually surprised, in glad sort of way, that her father has a darkroom. a couple have expressed interest in learning to develop and print and expressing it as "digital is just digital".
     
  25. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I took the 8 x 10 out yesterday to Glen Echo Park, where I photographed alongside a herd of painters. Such a scene could easily have been staged in 1903 as in 2003. And in 2103 I'm sure there will be painters, large format wet chemistry photographers and digital photographers with 14 Gigapixel cameras mounted inside their wristwatches all making pictures alongside each other. Why does this bother anybody?
     
  26. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    Sean, since you're bored...

    Do you listen to CD's?
    Do you watch DVD's or Satellite TV?

    It's all digital.

    The reason there are differences is not due to the fact that light is changed to numbers but that the processes today are not that good to fool the eye.
    But there is no reason they cannot be improved upon - but I really don't know if it will be cost effective, namely the sensor size.

    There's a very interesting article here:

    http://www.photo.net/equipment/digital/sensorsize/

    (prices skyrocket the larger the silicon is)

    Now, just suppose it's possible to overcome all the difficulties and make it cost effective.

    Would traditional photo be dead?
    Is painting dead? Why to paint a portrait if a photo is so much close to reality?

    The only thing that would significantly kill analog photo would be the lack of light sensitive material.

    It's easier to say I will make my plates and paper than to do it...

    Jorge O