Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fear of commitment? Try a digital camera.

Given the content of posts so far, I think it's obvious that I've been re-bitten by the photography bug. This is dangerous as any photo hobbyist knows, as shooting film these days is not only expensive, but a bit eccentric as well. Try this the next time you're at your local Mega Food Mart: wander over to their photo department (if they still have such a thing) and count the varieties of film you see there. It's a pretty safe bet you'll see a few sparse boxes of the house-brand 35mm film at 400 speed, maybe some Kodak faux-B&W film (really color film without the color layers.) Less urban locations may be able to spot some dusty 110 boxes sitting on the shelf. I counted myself lucky when I found 200 speed at my local drug store for a second Argus experiment, since the shutter is too slow for anything much faster. Single use or "disposable" film cameras are falling by the wayside here, as digital has simply pushed everything off the shelves. Of course the whole industry has been transformed in this, the digital camera age. The CCD has done for photographers what the LCD has done for writers, which is exactly the problem.

Both remove the creator from the act of creation: writing and picture-taking are just a matter of pushing the buttons, and pressing "delete" for the odd instances when something goes wrong. A misplaced word or a palm tree growing out of Aunt Gladys' head can be easily removed on the fly, "in the field" without thinking about it. No whiteout or retakes needed, you can peck or snap away with impunity and not have to think very hard about it. "Oh, I'll clean that up later." The proliferation of cell-phone cameras especially has made everyone a photographer -- something that Eastman surely hoped for, if only so they would buy his cameras and film. Snap snap peck peck snap snap peck peck. Media-gathering and -dissemination has never been so easy!

Among my junk shop finds is a Kodak Duaflex IV, a camera that can charitably be called "minimal" in terms of features. It takes the long-abandoned 620 film format that -- with the proper amount of rejiggery -- is identical to the existing 120 format on skinnier spools. I've used 120 in real twin-lens reflex cameras, so I was itching to try it out in the Duaflex. One wasted roll of 120 and a sweaty half-hour with hands in a changing bag later, the Duaflex was loaded and ready to shoot... a massive 12 whole photos per roll! This is a step down technically even from the Argus, which at least offers such niceties as actual apeture and shutter-speed settings, and a (modest) prevention for properly spacing the negatives on film. With box cameras like the Duaflex, you have to wise up and pay attention -- watch the little number go by in the window, don't over-wind, etc.. You also need to pay attention, and slow down, and think. Every shot you're taking out there costs actual cash and took actual effort, it's not an intangible assemblage of bits in a JPEG that can be obliterated at a button-push, just as easily as it came into being. I have no zoom lens, no through-the-lens autofocus face-identifying mojo. It's just me, back to the sun, mentally compensating for the flipped image viewfinder, judging the light, getting a whole feel of the scene before that moment of commitment... *click*

I took approximately twelve pictures of the Duaflex to get the lens photo for this entry and the linked camera photo, and took them in a matter of minutes. Digital gives me the latitude to not fuss with lighting, or a tripod, or any of the paraphernalia that a decent film camera would need. That latitude has made me lazy, though. I'm not committed to the pictures like I was with the Duaflex. When a digital picture doesn't come out... eh, snap another ten or so. When a negative is bad... well, sorry. I should have paid more attention. Was the sun at a bad angle? Was that tree always behind Gladys? Worse yet, was I in such a hurry that I missed all that?

UPDATE: the photos are back. Quite a bit of softness in them, but I'm glad I took time to snap them. A sampling is online now.

7 comments:

Duffy Moon said...

Okay. You and Olivander and (to a lesser extent) Strikethru need to knock it off pronto. I'm already in enough trouble for bringing in every funky typewriter I see. Are you trying to set me off on CAMERAS now? Because I can't do that.

But my gosh that's a beautiful machine there. I gotta go.

mpclemens said...

Cameras are way teeny compared to typewriters. And to the uninformed, one twin-lens junker looks very much like the others. [innocent whistle]

Duffy Moon said...

la la la la la I'm not listening to you...

Oliver said...

A while back, the local news profiled a guy in Iowa who collects tanks. I am not kidding. Military tanks. Has half a dozen of 'em. Seems he's caused a bit of a dust-up in the community with his plans to open a tank obstacle course where other tank enthusiasts can bring their machines to drive over and/or through stuff.

I turned to the spousal unit and said, "You don't ever get to complain about my typewriters again or I'm taking up tank collecting."

Duffy Moon said...

A tank, huh? (*whistle*)...man, I've got to get me one of those.

Oliver said...

Would lend whole new context to "Mad Farmer Liberation Front" (added in tiny, handwritten letters underneath: "Now we have a tank. Ho-ho-ho."). :-)

mpclemens said...

It's true! It's all about perspective. The Mrs. has become distracted (disgusted? resigned?) to me acquiring typewriters, so showing up with a new Bakelite box camera periodically is less of an issue these days. Besides, she just saw some show about putting collections on display in the home, so now I'm getting objects d'art.

Tanks for the idea...