Thursday, December 18, 2008

And now for something completely different...

After nine years of nothing but digital photography, with the exception of a few times I dusted off the MP & loaded a roll of Tri-X, I'm embarking on a new journey down an old path.

Considering the idea for several months, I purchased a used, medium format 6x6mm Kiev88, the inexpensive and famously unpredictable Russian version of a Hasselblad.

Although I am a diehard believer in the quality of digital images over the past several years and certainly am happy enough with my Leica M8s, I find myself being less and less deliberate when I choose to make an image. Even though I keep my cameras set on single frame and rarely use the "continuous" mode, I think less about each individual exposure than when I had to change film every 36 frames and process a batch at the end of the day.

I have been shooting professionally for 28 years, so even after nine years using digital cameras with unbelievable automatic functions, still, almost two thirds of my work has been with film. As mentioned in a previous journal, the very convenience of so much work being done by the camera has become a creative dilemma. Or at least a bugaboo that I need to address.

I have judged several photography contests recently; professional, amateur, high school and college. I have become convinced that auto exposure and auto focus functions on cameras has leveled the playing field in that almost all entries are technically, at least, equal.

Now an image is judged solely on its content and the creativity & skill of the photographer, and that is a good thing, whereas in the olden days a judge could toss at least 60% because the technical quality was crap, regardless of the content. And that was a good thing, too, because technical skill was as much about photography as creativity.

However, be it for good, bad or otherwise, manual focus and manual exposure are skills that are no longer necessary. These skills used to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when photographing in difficult, tense or dangerous situations.

Be that as it may, I am not one to bemoan the disappearance of these skills any more than I bemoan not having to clean my eight-track tape player or LP records and turntable stylus with special cleaners and little brushes. Cruise control may have made me a lazy driver, but not necessarily a worse driver. But it hasn't made me a better driver, either.

If people never learn to use their cameras on anything but full auto, that's OK by me. A good image has little to do with the camera itself, anyway.

But as for me, I don't want to get any more lazy than I already am. I use calculators and spell check for even the most simple challenges.

I used to take pride in being able to read available light without a meter, choose my f-stop/shutter speed combination without a second thought and manually focus on damn near anything as it moved in damn near any direction.

So now I've got this Kiev. It has a waist-level finder because I like the look of an image made four feet off the ground. I'm looking forward to composing in a square format where horizontal or vertical has more to do with content than with how I orient the camera.

Nearly all my personal work has been of the street variety with a small rangefinder: candid shots, hip shots, wide shots. But there's no concealing this monster under my jacket. The shutter sounds like someone dropped a frying pan on the floor.

I will have to be very deliberate when I take a picture. Especially since each frame will cost about one dollar, counting film and processing.

I can tell you one thing: this ain't the kind of camera I would ever want to use for street photography.

(It will be a LONG time before I even consider setting up a darkroom again.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. I'll let you know how it goes, or you'll see it on eBay in a few months.

Trabajar por la Vida


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peregrinaciones de Virgen de Guadalupe


From Blogger Pictures

The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), with its colorful religious processions (Peregrinaciones) from December 1-12, is the most public and extended religious holiday in Mexico. Guadlupe is the patron saint of both Puerto Vallarta and of Mexico. She is also known as La Virgen Morena (the brown-skinned virgin). She is believed to be the manifestation of the Virgin Mary in the Americas.