Tag Archives: documentary photography

Photography in the Age of the Quick and Easy

I recently spent a week at the beach in North Carolina. North Carolina has incredible beaches, as nice as any anywhere. They’re an easy 2 hour drive from my home in Raleigh, although it was the first time I’d been to the beach in a while. I suspect that’s fairly typical. Like most wonderful things easily accessible from one’s home, we rarely take advantage of the proximity, knowing it’s always there if we do decide to visit. For example: Born and raised 15 miles from the Statue of Liberty, I’d never been until a few years ago, when I took our Italian exchange student for a visit. It’s also why I silently discount friends who live in NYC and justify the insane costs of living there by citing the proximity to various cultural opportunities or gourmet bagel places not available to us out in the sticks. [Right…when was the last time you went to MOMA or the Opera or the Whitney? And how much did it cost you in time, money, effort, and all the other petty harassments that come along with it? And who gives a shit about your bagels anyway? I meanwhile, can ride my bicycle out my back door onto beautiful dedicated bike trails to our Museum of Art (free admission), or to the museum on the campus of NC State (free admission), or can walk downtown to the Museum of Natural History (free) or to catch a bite to eat at one of the restaurants run by the chef recently awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Nation, or I can jump in the car and easily access the myriad cultural offerings of Durham and Duke University or Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina, all without constantly feeding 10 dollar toll charges to disembodied arms extended from gas-fumed toll booths, and I can do it all from my beautiful 100-year-old home set amidst 4 glorious ancient Oaks which probably costs me less per month than a shared 8×6 closet with chamber pot in some roach-infested walk-up in a Lower East Side neighborhood where preternaturally thin women with artificially stretched faces carry yoga mats and $12 spiced lattes. But I digress…]

My real point is not to denigrate New Yorkers (although I find them laughingly easy targets) but to tell you about my holiday. I figured I’d use the week as an opportunity to ‘document’ my trip, if for no other reason because I’m running out of things to write for Leicaphilia and none of my readers bother to send me content, preferring to free-load. The plan was this: I’d bring 10 rolls of Fomapan 400 with my M5 with 35mm and F5 with 50mm, and my Sigma DP1 Merrill. I’d take a bunch of pictures, post the best, and see if it made any real difference whether I shot film or digital and if it did if I could articulate the difference and/or could show the difference in my output.

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Unfortunately, I’ve not gotten around to developing the 8 rolls of Fomapan I exposed. Even with an 8 reel tank, it takes time to develop 8 reels, hang them to dry and then bulk scan them and edit them down for a few keepers. You’ve got to be pretty dedicated. Hopefully, I’ll find the time to get to them in the next few days and they won’t get thrown in a bag with 80 or so other rolls still waiting to be developed. It didn’t help that my M5 shutter stuck at 1/500th an 1/100th of a second, which means I didn’t shoot much of anything with it but instead shot 7 rolls with the F5, most of which were close-ups of my dog and wife in various states of repose. I never took either film camera out of doors.

Which left me with my Sigma DP1 Merrill, which proved remarkably useful even at base 100 ISO given the amount of light available. It accompanied me both on the beach, off of it, and indoors. The output is really beautiful, but it’s not really appreciable when viewed on the web, where you’re viewing downsized jpgs. Trust me; the RAW files developed with Sigma’s software are stunning. The problem is the slowness of the RAW software: it took all afternoon to download 121 files, given that the software crashed 4 separate times before I got them all downloaded. And then I had to convert them all to TIFF files so they could be read by Lightroom. That took an hour or so. And then, of course, I had to find the keepers and edit them in Lightroom.

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I also took my iPhone 8, which I take everywhere given it’s my lifeline to the rest of humanity. I hadn’t even thought of using it to take photos, stuck as I am in the out-moded mindset that requires dedicated photographic equipment in order to properly photograph things. But given it was always on me, I ended up taking photographs with it – not the planned kind, just records of spontaneous experiences I wanted to preserve on a whim. Point, shoot and forget, which is pretty much what I did. No convoluted thinking about aperture, or light, or even composition; certainly not film speed or type.

Out of curiosity, the morning we left I took a look at the photos I’d taken with my phone. I plugged a few of the ones that caught my eye into an app I had on the phone that applies “filters” to photos, chose a few random filters and saved the ones I liked. The whole thing, beginning to end, took about 5 minutes. The photo of my brother-in-law that leads off the piece is one, as is the one above and the ones below. All the others – the 2×3 format photos, are from the Sigma.

So, tell me again, what exactly was the point of the film cameras…or the Sigma for that matter?