I said, somewhere, that I was going to start posting things that I write for 750words.com on my various blogs, and this seems like a decent enough place for this one. This is rougher than I would like, but I’ll work out the editing kinks later.
My first SLR was a Rebel too. I think it’s still sitting in my closet somewhere (along with my favorite SLR I’ve ever owned, the EOS A2E). I love the smell of Dektol in the dark, and, as much as I love digital, I miss film.
I think the difference may be that of poetry in pen vs free verse on a word processor. Churn enough words and you might end up with something pretty nice, and shoot enough pics with a fancy digital SLR and you’ll probably end up with a few good pictures. But the film medium, like writing your verse in a nice fountain pen, doesn’t lend itself to taking 5000 shots and selecting the best. It requires, or should anyway, a little craftsmanship. You should understand what an F-stop means to your picture, and what the ISO rating combined with the lighting is going to do.
I do love the egalitarian nature of DSLR and how so many more people can take so many “better” pictures. And I hope that it brings more people to look at the photographic craft and art. Ultimately I think it’s mostly just that, as I’ve aged, I’ve grown to appreciate more the things that require a little effort to do, and do well.
For me, the film was a pleasant and slower medium. I think the digital SLR can be that, but it is far too easy to lapse into “just shoot a bunch and capture the moment” mentality instead of framing and thinking the shots through. I have very fond memories of my days as a self-styled photographer, and the sense of accomplishment when a picture did turn out right. I’ve tried my hand at the photoshop realm, but never taken to it. I miss the tactile nature of setting the timer on equipment in the dark room, sliding the paper into place, and then watching an image appear on that paper as it jostled in the chemical bath.
Recently I’ve done a bit of painting and sketching, and there is some of that tactile experience in those forms as well, but nothing has compared to that magic of film. I never delved into color photography, so I imagine my photographic education is much like my guitar education: I learned just enough to be semi-functional. Likewise my puppetry experience, and knitting, and sewing, has been enough that I’m functional and can “do” stuff, but not to the point of being a true craftsman at it. I think most of my hobbies have fallen into that realm: I reach the point of semi-functional (at least in the building phase, I’ll give you I was never a really functional RC Pilot, though I warrant I was getting there), and then it lies fallow and drops off my radar.
So yes, a few paragraphs back I said I like things that require effort to do and do well, and then I have to admit to myself and you that I tend to only get to a point where I can do them vaguely well and have apparently not put in the requisite effort to achieve mastery. This probably says something about me that my wife would gloat over a bit too much for my comfort. Of course I would counter that I’m attempting to reach that ideal somebody lay before me in high-school of being, or at least growing towards being, a “renaissance man” who has a breadth of knowledge and skills.
How many of us ever get beyond that “good enough” phase in any skill in our lives? How many of us push through to a level of mastery? And, is this the real question anyway, is it only those few who achieve some level of fame in a given field, who have done so. Is that the benchmark for fame/legend/whatever? What does the “famous X” vs “Mastery level” venn diagram look like? I’m not talking “real” fame even, just internet fame, or perhaps with the realm of your given field of interest fame. Phillip Huber is “famous” as a marionette artist, but the number of people who would consider him “famous” is probably pretty small, probably non-existent if you stepped outside of the puppetry community. In many fields, puppetry for example, there are super stars like Jim Henson (or even Kevin Clash) who cross into the realm of *real* fame, but there are many master craftsmen who qualify as “famous” within their circle of influence.
Have I just delved into Malcom Gladwell - Outliers territory?