Saturday, October 21. 2006
Photographer and essayist Oleg Novikov owns a DSLR but finds film offers a "fundamentally different driving experiences." Here he explains how the explorative experience of shooting leads him to use film for serious work:
What should matter to an artist or someone who at least has artistic aspirations is whether the overall workflow dictated by the medium, film or digital, as well as the character of the final outcome, stimulates his artistic intentions and creativity.
[T]o take full advantage [of digicam files] one has to be quite knowledgeable about colour science and very experienced with RAW converter software, as well as spend a lot of time in front of the computer monitor....With (colour slide) film, on the other hand, one gets perfect colours straight away [because] Fujifilm and Kodak spent decades improving and fine-tuning colour reproduction of their films.
There also are other technical aspects such as archivability and its reliability, dynamic range, capturing long exposures, viewfinder size of DSLRs with APS-sized censors, etc., where film is still very appealing.
Digital invites to shoot more. This is not a bad thing per se but, unfortunately, indulgence generally results in more quantity and...less quality. [Q]uantity...fundamentally changes both shooting and post-processing experience.
There is also the question of whether our artistic intention actually benefits from the ability to immediately view what has been shot....And even such a seemingly unimportant difference as having your photographs in the form of a tangible roll of film or ethereal bits on a CF or SD card has an impact on the photographic experience, too.
Digital also requires much more fiddling with in-camera options and settings. In my experience one can dedicate only a given amount of attention and/or concentration to the process of taking pictures; this amount, even though cannot be measured and expressed numerically, has a fixed value which is dependent on one's dedication and artistic abilities in general as well as state of mind and external inspirational factors at the time of shooting in particular. When photographing, we have to consider two aspects - technical and aesthetical; obviously, the more attention the technical side as an inescapable necessity gets the less dedication aesthetics receive. The essence of the inexpressible and evasive beauty of such systems as Leica or Hasselblad...lies in that it lets one concentrate as much attention on the aesthetics and enjoying shooting experience as possible.
[W]ith the advent of digital photography the misconception of “the one who shoots more is a better photographer” has been brought onto an entirely new level....In the digital [age], some “well-known” photographers claim to take (and they, most likely, actually do) over a thousand shots in a day or several dozen thousand shots in a month....Given the fact that they only post several new photographs in a month at the most, it inevitably makes me ask the question - what on earth do they shoot? I reckon some of them would be better off by buying camcorders and not messing around with DSLRs .
The ability to immediately view results on a DSLR's LCD display provides one with a great opportunity to improve his/her photographic skills much faster....[However], I have a very adverse feeling towards the very same immediacy of results when exploring a subject in a serious manner or on an intensive photographic exploration. I do not want to see what has been shot until I feel that my creative perception of the place has been exhausted or the trip is over. Reviewing digital files at the end of the day in the hotel on a computer screen somehow eats away at my creativity....The result, of course, is important; however, I would not want it at the cost of missing the process of exploration....
[F]or the most passionate photographers [pre-visualization] is a faster way to manage and know the outcome than viewing a DSLR's LCD screen....
[I]n the areas where the total time from when a shoot is finished and one gets the digital files ready for output, digital workflow is faster....For most photographers who are not under the pressure of deadlines, however, this is not necessarily true. As mentioned above, when using a DSLR one tends to photograph more thus producing and having to deal with many more shots [but] post-processing RAW files is...not any faster than scanning carefully chosen slides.
On, say, a three-day photographic exploration I am likely to shoot several hundred RAW files if using a DSLR and about a dozen rolls of 120 film if using my Hasselblad system (note, though, that if I have both available the DSLR always stays in the bag - and no, I am not racially prejudiced ). Personally, I by far prefer viewing slides on a light table and then scanning a dozen chosen pictures (in a rather straightforward manner) than browsing trough a gazillion digital files onscreen and then tweaking RAW files....
[B]oth film and digital capture get you there in terms of image quality but offer fundamentally different “driving experience”....Try both, choose what you genuinely like (including the sensible compromise of using both for different purposes) and learn to be more accepting and live with the fact that there are many ways to skin a cat.
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