I’ve been recently messing around on Picmonkey. I’ve got a deep and passionate interest in photography – and although my SLR is often in a cupboard – film is really dying a death – I can develop my own shots and know more about aperture and shutter speed, depth of field and focal points than is sensible. It’s only ever on manual focus and I love how it’s an artistic tool as well as something to record stuff.
I’ve also got a great little autofocus digital that my Mum, brother and sister bought for me when I came out to France. I’d had my last one stolen from my hands – thanks to some English teenagers who really know how to instill love in the heart of residents – although it doesn’t do half the things I can do with my SLR. I’ve not been rich enough to get a DSLR – though now a lot of people are selling on their superb bodies to buy a marginally better body, I might save up for a reconditioned one. I should be able to use my lenses and my filters with them all – but digital means an end to all of that. I can understand why people go digital. I’ve been on photo trips up in Scotland where I had colour 100 ISO, 200 ISO, 400 ISO and black and white 50 ISO, 100 ISO, 400 ISO and 1600 ISO, as well as a wallet full of filters and a bag full of lenses. You load up 100 ISO for a lovely sunny shot, stick on a wide-angle lens, then the sun goes in and you want to shoot moody light in black and white. So you waste 34 shots just to get through the film.
On the other hand, there’s nothing like the magic of the darkroom and the surprise of getting your shots back. Toning, bleaching, push processing, cross-processing – it’s all a magical chemical process a little akin to alchemy. The chemical smell, the enlargers, the baths, the dryers – rows of chemicals in tubs – all fantastic.
Anyway, until I get to buying a DSLR, I mostly use the little snappy digital. Its autofocus drives me bonkers. The shutter speed/aperture programmes on it make not the slightest difference, but it makes me rely on having a good eye. I like photoshop and all the digital manipulation packages only in as much as I would do things in the darkroom. I use tints and sharpen colours and light – just as I would by picking Fujifilm or TMAX – or using warm or cold paper tones or whatever development chemicals. Previously, I relied on intuition and science as well as lots of reading and knowledge. Now I click a button. Not quite as magical.
Anyway, I’ve fallen in love with picmonkey, an online play site. Here, you can do simple stuff to play around with your pictures. I’ve used a range of sites before, but this is my favourite. It seems a whole lot more artistic than others. Anyway, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been playing with:
Original shot… average still life. I had bracketed the shot and this was the best of the three.
After, I played around on picmonkey, just to see what I could do. I’m not going to show you all of them, because I did loads and I’m not trying to put you to sleep!
Here’s the same shot with a border and old-fashioned colour saturation – it’s a lot warmer
Black and white and grainy… just how I like it! With a vignette as well
Cross processing – one of my favourite techniques for playful photography
And this is one I was just playing with myself, altering saturation, contrast and light
So until I get that DSLR – which I feel an increasing need for – I’ll be picmonkeying. And even when I get a DSLR, I’ll be picmonkeying too.
I think what I miss most is manual focus. It makes everything so easy. I can focus on what I want to focus on – not have the camera struggling to focus when I want to do a close-up or a sky shot. I also really, really miss being able to really change the aperture – it makes such a difference to be able to blur out stuff. This is something that’s really hard on photoshop because you have to be so patient. It’s a lot easier with a pen or stylo but even then, it just doesn’t look as good.