I don’t need a thousand images to make me happy. I just need a dozen. I am super frustrated looking through the thousands of digital images which I snapped without the worry of wasting film, trying to select and delete them. What the hell? I don’t need this pain! This is another one of those times when I just feel like giving up all my digital cameras and concentrate on film.
I am already using digital cameras much like I am using my film cameras without snapping mindlessly and constantly previewing. But somehow, they still end up thousands. I understand the advantages of digital cameras in capturing action and expressions, the supreme advantage of clean high ISO for lowlight shooting, but I still prefer film.
The limitations of film cameras, the lack of film choices today made the craft of photography more enjoyable. Yes, “craft” is the word. It’s not just about moving your finger behind the computer to get what you want with some sophisticated photo-imaging software. It’s about a lot more hassle (and fun!).
After so many years in photography, I still get more “wow” pictures from a roll of 12 or 15 shots from a medium format camera than a memory card of images. I end up happier shooting film than digital. I don’t need the previews, they are distracting. I don’t need batteries. Remembering to charge them up and the fear of not having enough batteries for the day is painful. I carry “enough” film for the day and if I finish them, I stop. It’s no longer about “missing the moment” but “capturing the shot”. Like I said, I don’t need the thousands of repeated, similar, mindless, mediocre images to make me happy.
But the mindset of shooting digital makes you keep wanting to shoot more, shoot another frame, just in case. And so, we end up with 3-4x more images than usual, maybe more. We lie to ourselves we are good when we post a worthy shot out of a few hundred lousy shots. The only person who knows the truth is the photographer.
The above shot was taken last week at a waterfall with my Mamiya m645 and I accidentally fell into the water with my camera. The first thing which crossed my mind when I got out of the water was “Thank God I wasn’t shooting with my digital cameras!” The Mamiya m645 is a fully mechanical camera and it operated just fine after I dried it with a towel. (It was just a quick dip but a non-weather-sealed electronic camera wouldn’t have survive it.) I continued on with another roll.
Having said all that, I know my digital cameras still come into good use for some commercial purposes. I am always treading on the thin line of pleasing myself and my clients. And I am thankful that most of my clients don’t really care what I use to shoot with. They just want “The Images”.
Sometimes, you don’t need a reason why you love a photograph. It’s just like sometimes, you don’t know how to explain why you love someone, why you like something or why you enjoy certain moments in life. God gave us two sides of the brain, the right side for emotions and creativity, the left side for rationalization in which everything must come with a reason. Just imagine if you live life entirely on rationalization, how would life be for you? (vice-versa of course)
But in photography or paintings, I find that there’s really no absolute way to explain why you love a photograph or a painting. I have taught many students photography by now, but I still find that there’s something in photography which can never be taught. It is what’s deep inside you. Your character, personality and the way you express it.
A sharp eye can often tell a photograph that’s made from the heart apart from a photograph that’s made from the mind.
I love the photograph above. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a dad who’s often not around. I remember my grandma being the closet to me when I was young, and then my two sisters who are much much older than me.
My memory of my dad consists of certain times when he would bring us swimming at the old East Coast Park Lagoon in Singapore, early hours at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where I picked up tadpoles home to see them turn into frogs (probably my mum’s idea), and the rest of it are probably scoldings when I turned Christian during my teenage days.
I guess my dad is not too bad after all cause I still have some memories of him spending time with the family.
Today, I am a dad myself, pretty much a “hands-on dad” (recently got lazy though). I was the first one to hold his little palm when he was born, and I pretty much stick around him most of the time. He’s six now. Time flies.
I love the intimacy in the image above. The silence, the quietness, the look in their eyes. It’s as if their thoughts are crossing each other, communicating in silence. Jun Ching and Michelle, thanks for making this picture happen!