I am pretty sure that a certain part of me will always feel just a little bit guilty, for the fact that I now use auto-focus by-default, even though digital photography systems have made this feature fast reliable and excellent. Tactically-sublimating masochist reminds us – Just because something is super-great, that doesn’t mean it’s not still a cheat.
Silly in one (practical) way – sensible in another (cautionary). There really is a predictable loss of skill in areas which we delegate to mechanism habitually, without thinking about it. Working a reality-meets-instrument problem with fingers and brain, over and over again, absolutely does build powerful intention-muscle. (None of the masters skipped hard work!)
But that doesn’t mean that simply increasing the difficulty of a thing, will automatically improve our approach to it – to me, the question is always – where are we directing the newly saved-effort? I absolutely love analog tape in every way – but there is something wonderfully freeing about not having to buy and store huge spacial-volumes of physical tape (especially when, like me, you also end up with a profusion of odd, obscure and outmoded formats).
Lossy depth – open glade (top photo)
Likewise, digital photography still thrills me in a huge variety of ways – not just the freedom of free infinite-exposures – but also by allowing me to get away with shots which would never have worked at my level of skill, without such fast and fine light-sensors, actively flattering my efforts.
The curious thing is, the high-tech beasties also have emergent artistic qualities – the tight selection of a precision plane from within a deep field being among the more fun (you can take every variation of depth, “bracket” your zone, by shooting too long and too short, then work your way right in between, to get just exactly the spot you want.
The brain in frame stays mainly on the plane
I also really like the way you can blend hard and soft texture, and warm and cool light – this frame would never have come out with this diversity of colour temperature and texture (for me) if I was still shooting 35mm analog Fuji 400 – much as I’d like to be able to boast otherwise.
Pollen and promises
Best of all – as soon as you turn off all of the beautifying systems inside the camera – so you’re shooting the RAW unprocessed sensor image, you suddenly find all this room at the top and bottom end of your histograms, when you go to process your image.
Which means you can take a pretty picture of a flower, on a lucky still moment between wind-gusts, and drop the mid-point down by a nice margin, revealing more detail and enriching depth of tone all around the frame, without having to increase (amplify) the lower-light pickup noise, by adding pure saturation-gain!
I swear, it’s still all audio mixing to me – that histogram-clearance noted above is really just an analog(y) for headroom! Hey wait – could we maybe start calling radical analogians, anti-histo-memes?
(Sorry, still too soon? – for me too – it’s a Pagliaccic chortle, to be sure)