Monday, July 11, 2011

Something satisfying

I was recently given an amazing gift by a former amateur photographer:

I was more specific on Facebook about what all of this is; suffice to say it's several flashes of varying powers, three Olympus OM-2 series cameras (two of which are technically not functional), and a myriad of different lenses. Of course, these are old school - circa the late 1970s - and take expensive button cell batteries and - gasp! - film. There was a roll of heat affected film already in the bag, and the pictures on it likely won't amount to anything worth printing, but still. I have to admit.

There is something immensely satisfying about using actual film cameras.

It's something about that click of the shutter opening and closing, that faint and brief sensation akin to the backfire of a rifle for you gun enthusiasts out there. It's something about the need to physically advance the film, forcing it to move on to the next exposure - having complete control over it, instead of having a piece of admittedly amazing technology do all the work for you. There is something about learning how to properly put film into a camera such as this, advance and rewind it properly, and doing it right that is so incredibly rewarding. There is something about holding these 30+ year old lenses in your hands and knowing that while styles have changed, the general function has not, and that what I hold is somehow better than what's available today, because it's authentic, it's more real. Picking up one of these cameras with a full lens attached leaves bulk in your hands, and the weight seems more .. Realistic, somehow, than a digital camera.

When these cameras and lenses were released to the market, they were nearly top of the line for a home user - they were expensive, they were considered high-tech. Watching someone switch out these lenses and set the f-stop and ISO and select the film and whether or not to use flash used to be an art form, one that I think lost some of its glamour when digital cameras became the norm. Digital is unquestionably easier, because the camera will do so much of the work for you. A single HDSD card can hold thousands of pictures, depending on the size of the card. When it's full, you swap out - no film means no extra time lost rewinding, threading, and storing. Modern digital photographers have the right idea, for sure, in that they are saving themselves and their clients time and money by keeping the process of portraiture quick and clean. Darkrooms have been replaced with industrial photo printers and laptops; a photographer's keen eye by Photoshop. The need to take time to manually focus and position has been replaced by autofocus and, well, auto everything, down to delivery of photos via email and photo sharing sites.

But where's the glamour in quick and clean?

Why not get your hands a little muddy and take your time to enjoy the ride? 

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