The less technology, the better the photograph?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by dnjl, Dec 30, 2010.

  1. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    When I was shooting digital, my photos were awful. Shooting thousands of frames, I didn't manage to make one memorable picture.
    Moving to an advanced analog SLR, my photos suddenly started getting better. I actually liked the results I was getting. I guess the greatest thing about analog is that you cannot evaluate your shots immediately after taking them.
    Then, recently, I acquired an all-mechanical Minolta 7s. I threw out the battery and guessposured everything. Not every picture I take is well-exposed, but I am finally making photographs that I would dare to show to other people.

    What I'm saying is: it seems that the less technology is involved, the more I like my photographs. I was wondering, am I the only one who has experienced this? It doesn't make sense, and yet it's true. I'm not a purist who despises technology and I love my Canon Eos SLR, but my all-mechanical 7s with fixed lens makes better photos! How is this possible, and does this mean I should revert to neolithic drawings in order to fully express myself artistically? What are your experiences?
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I use anything from D200 (Digital) to F100 (35mm) to M645Pro (645) to Rolleicord (6x6). So far, I have been getting best good shots per total shots taken ratio in reverse order of this list.

    What I think happening is that older the equipment, less automation are involved. With Rolleicord, I have to carefully compose using ground-glass type finder, focus-focus-focus, measure light with an external light meter, set shutter speed and aperture, cock the shutter, then finally shoot. It takes so much time and care to just take one photograph.

    With equipment listed earlier in my list, it isn't unusual I just point, autofocus, then shoot.

    I know it's all in my mind. I can be just as careful with any equipment - but simpler equipment requires and forces me to get into this mind set. It is helping me greatly. I am hoping this practice will eventually become a habit and stick with me.
     
  3. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I set my auto-exposure Oly OM-4 on the shelf years ago, only shoot fully manual. OM-1, Yashica-D, Mamiya C-220 & C-330, 4x5. Auto-exposure equals auto-mediocrity.
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I don't think technology and automation are necessarily opposed to effective photography. But if you find that they put some distance between you and your subject, then... get back to basics!

    I prefer simple gear and happily use my expensive digithing on fully manual. My favourite cameras to work with, by far, are the Amish boxes with bellows from 100+ years ago. I just don't like black boxes that try to think for me.
     
  5. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    If you want to get really Neanderthal, try a pinhole camera. That will really tax your ability to compose a shot.
     
  6. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Oy.

    Photography is among the most technological of the arts. Without technology, we don't have photography. Of any kind.

    Don't be thinking that analog film photography isn't technological either. It takes an amazing amount of engineering and resources to produce film. See the book: Making Kodak Film by Robert Shanebrook.

    It's not the technology. Technology doesn't make photographs; photographers do. The technology is just a tool. What you do with it is up to you.
     
  7. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I agree to a point. I can't imagine coating my own class plates or mixing my own emulsions. I do think as technology advances, it takes away what makes us human. Digital cameras makes me shoot more carelessly. I think I'm much more thoughtful shooting film. I see the film counter on my camera like the aging. As the years or the exposures accumulate, I think more before I squeeze the shutter release. Camera technology has advanced, but the craft of photography hasn't. The tough part with shooting with new technology is not letting technology steal your intuition and allowing chance to come to play in my shot.
     
  8. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    I think that the ability to shoot a couple of hundred photos on a memory card, with out the concerns of the processing costs could possibly make some of us a little lazy about exposure, and composition. When I'm out with one of my MF cameras, and a couple of rolls of film, I am very aware of the film costs, and the future costs of the paper, and chemistry to process the shots. As Bruce mentioned, photography is very technical. Even the bare bones box cameras of the past were very carefully designed, not to mention the more modern film RFs, and SLRs that were (and still are to me) the back bone of much of modern film photography. If you take the time to think about composition, and exposure. be it digital, or silver based, you will most likely produce an image you will like.
     
  9. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    when i was very young (which is a long time ago) we shot film like crazy, motor drives appeared and people used the machinegun style. Then one switches or begins to deal with LF , now everything slows down. My "luck" i took that thought process and brought it back to 35mm and then to digital.

    The mentality I will fix it later, whether in the darkroom or on the comutur has made a lot of the world "lazy photographers" imho. Perhaps the cost comes into play these days and so folks begin to think more and "fire" less. I think it is the thinking part of the equation not the firing part that is increasing one's abilities..
     
  10. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Re: Original post, maybe it appears to work out that way sometimes. Maybe it's because I cut my teeth on film and Sunny-16 (50+ years ago!) -- I think it's mostly working method. There is no requirement that one utilize the 5 frames per minute of a d!git@l thing, nor is it mandatory to use auto exposure or auto focus, just because the capability is there. And you can still disagree with the camera and tweak. Perhaps having the auto-everything mode tends to make us a bit careless in the things that can't be automated -- like composition, angle of lighting, etc., but one can guard against that. I've had work accepted in juried shows from many of my cameras. A year or so back, a shot on a roll that was a test of a newly acquired camera snagged me a nice prize -- even when I'm just testing mechanics or film, I like to pick an interesting location and give a little thought and consideration to what's happening in the viewfinder.
     
  11. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    Just because a camera offers autoexposure doesn't mean you have to use it. The guy who set aside his OM-4 is missing out on the best manual exposure metering system ever put into a 35mm camera. I use my three OM-4T bodies on manual only with magnificent results.

    Digital cameras do tend to have crappy viewfinders, so unfortunately autofocus is often a necessity with them. I could never accurately focus the Nikon D-SLRs I owned, but I always used them in manual exposure with great results.

    [​IMG]
    Shot with a Kodak 14n digital SLR. On manual with a tripod, exposure with handheld meter.


    My point is that if you're a good photographer, you'll get good results with or without technology. Photography itself is a very technology-dependent art, even with film. The camera draws the photograph, your hand does not. That's something a lot of people here have not come to terms with. A lot of people here are desperate to find the most primitive processes so that they can claim that they're doing 'art' on a level with that created by painters or sculptors. That debate was settled a century ago. Shoot film or do historic processes because you like the look of the image, not because you think a photo is not 'real' or 'art' if it was shot with a digital camera, or the film was scanned, or the camera offered an auto mode.

    [​IMG]
    Shot on film. Leica M6, Zeiss 35mm f2.8 C-Biogon on Tri-X
     
  12. R gould

    R gould Member

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  13. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    I have to agree with this. Photography as we know it is an industrial-era art, and the camera is a sophisticated machine. There's no getting around this, no matter how "simple" or "primitive" you get. But, whatever tools you choose, if you want something good, you have to apply Mr. Brain to the task, to get the device to give you the results you want. Sometimes it is easier with less automation, because it forces Mr. Brain into action. If you were not getting good results before, it means you were letting the machine control the process, rather than you.
     
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  15. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    This is true, but I would point out that it's part of the human mindset to take the easier path. Without that built in we'd probably still be in caves, but someone figured out fire, cooking, exploiting dogs (wolves) to help hunt, farming, road building, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da, and every easier softer path got adopted.

    With a whizz-bang do it all for you techno-marvel you expect *IT* to do the work. So you let it.

    With a less automated approach, the human mind kicks in and says, "Whoa, I'd better pay attention here."

    But once someone is trained to pay attention, it's easier to second guess the machine.

    I concur that technology itself doesn't detract from the quality of the work. But until one actually learns the underlying processes the technology makes it easy to ignore those processes, and the work suffers. In other words, I think it's easier to become a good photographer without a lot of the gizzmos, and once you are a decent photographer you know how to exploit those gizzmos to your advantage.

    MB
     
  16. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    Picture quality has NOTHING to do with shooting film or digital.

    The composition has NOTHING to do with shooting film or digital.

    What makes a great picture has NOTHING to do with technology.

    None whatsoever.

    To make a great picture, one must envision and capture a great composition. How one does this, what one uses to capture the light is irrelevent.

    Only the closed minded, ignorant, religious, subjective, and xenophobic think the media matters.

    If you make a bad picture, it is all your fault and never technology's , nor the media you use.

    You can make great art with very low and very high technology.

    It seems people are dead set on demonizing technology, digital, or anything they don't like or understand.

    IT'S ALL GOOD....It's about the COMPOSITION! Nothing else....

    Here: Tri-X, 35mm, Canon 1V SLR, 35mm F1.4 prime lens....
     

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  17. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    The relationship between technology and good images is like relationship between lingerie and good sex.
     
  18. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    I don't take part in the conservative crusade against technology. I think digital is great, I'm just bad at it. And I think the medium does matter. Even though the difference is in your mind, it is a difference nonetheless. It's like eating a turkey you shot yourself on a hunt (not that I would, poor animal) versus eating a supermarket turkey. Even if they -objectively- should taste the same, the one you worked your ass off for tastes better! I feel like that with photography: if the camera does the focusing, the exposure and even the film advance, it takes away part of the enjoyment. No, the picture won't be better and is even likely to deteriorate because the electronics in your camera are more accurate than your eye. And yet I like it better.

    On an objective level, I think that less technology can be a real benefit too. When I walk around with my SLR, I look at things differently: will this look good with my 50mm? Or should I mount my 20mm and go closer? Or perhaps step back and take out my tele? Should I do spot metering, matrix metering, partial metering?
    With a manual camera like the 7s, everything is much more basic: compose, expose, wind. It has less potential and is therefore easier to overview.
    If you are an experienced photographer, you can judge more complex situations, so you can take full advantage of technology. If, like me, you haven't been in the business for decades, simplicity is the key.
    That's how I feel. I realise now that I made a poor choice with the wording of the first post: I mean automation instead of technology.
     
  19. rphenning

    rphenning Member

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    I agree with this. I think that maybe with more tech it is simply easier to take more images. So those "good" moments are totally watered down by the frames leading up to and after it. Just a thought.
     
  20. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    If you set your exposure mode on "M", set your focus to "Manual", and use single-shot mode, how is your d***** camera different from your old mechanical SLR, aside from how the image is stored?
     
  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Technology and sex

    Technology has also enabled sex toys and birth control. Don't know if it's a good thing or not just like digital cameras. Like it or not, we have to live with it. Am I way off here?
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Sure it does. "Quality" is defined by the artist/photographer. It is a series of choices and actions that end up as a product.

    Each choice; medium, lens, paper, process, whatever, takes you down a certain path and builds certain qualities into the picture.

    The only way it doesn't matter is if the exact same end result is expected, i.e. a sharply focused 8x10 landscape on Kodak Royal Paper.

    Shoot HP5 at 3200 with a Holga and print it with an enlarger on an old distressed canvass tarp that has been coated with a hand made emulsion and regardless of the composition, you will have a distinctive product.

    Sure, this example is a bit extreme but it's not out of the realm of possibility and only there to make a point, as is the following statement.

    It is "closed minded, ignorant, religious, subjective, and xenophobic" to assume that it's "all about the composition", that's just your definition to which you are entitled.

    If that were true in the grand plan of the universe, there would never have been any need for anyone to shoot anything except Kodachrome and Tri-X. :wink:
     
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  23. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Arggghhh... Almost the very definition of what it is to be human is technological advance. It's what humans do. It's what humans have done throughout our entire history.

    By it's very definition as one of humanity's creations, technology can not take away what makes us human. Because technology is in part what makes us human.

    Oh please. Think about what you are saying. Inanimate objects are controlling you? Take responsibility for your own actions. If you shoot more carelessly, you personally are the only one to blame. It's not the camera -- it's you. And you know it.
     
  24. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    The mind draws the photograph, not the technology. The camera is simply used to record it, if technically feasible. One must first see something of interest before the act of using a camera is even contemplated, let alone executed.

    My favorite part of photography is the time spent walking around without a camera. Time spent looking. Seeing. Thinking.

    Only after deciding if there is something I want to say, and what that something might be, and whether the camera can effectively be used say it, do I actually pick up (or set up) the camera itself. This process can take time, or it can happen in an intuitive instant. Or even in a cascade of instants.

    At that point the picture has, for all practical purposes, already been made. It then becomes just a (hopefully) skilled exercise in technology manipulation (the "path" referred to by 'markbarendt' above) to get it onto the film. And later onto the final print.

    The moment of discovery, however, occurred before the technology was ever a factor.

    Ken
     
  25. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I do not find this to be true. I do think that if one piece of technology offers a technical advantage over another in certain circumstances, then it can help in that specific situation. For instance, not every camera has a built-in spot meter, or automatic film advance, which can help sometimes. However, this is a minor point. IMHO, it is all on the photographer, no matter what piece of equipment he or she is using. If you are shooting digital or an electronic camera a whole lot differently than you are shooting film, then I would look within yourself for the answer, instead of at the equipment. I find the many features on modern cameras to be more useless than distracting. I do prefer shooting with my older cameras, as they have everything I need, without much more, and it is all right where I think it ought to be. However, I don't think the quality of my pix has much to do with the presence or lack of features on the camera.
     
  26. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    Well, not "simply." You have to know how it's done. It's a technical process, not magic. Yes, there's no art unless the photographer has some sort of vision, that doesn't come from the camera. But by choosing to use the camera to pass that vision on to others, then you engage the technology at some level, manipulate it. Choosing the camera means choosing a certain path, or from a set of available paths, to the result. The two aspects are not completely inseparable.