Possibly my friends with bigger and better cameras will chortle at my innocent raptures over my new camera – an “entry level” Canon – though I have been using my old lenses and filters the last couple of days – but I am absolutely and utterly delighted with my new Canon 1100D. I can’t tell you the joy with which I’m now going out on dog walks – it’s like a new lease of life.
Of course, I am no stranger to SLRs and I did endless hours of night school learning how to use apertures, shutter speed, depth of field, cross-processing, cropping, composure, close-ups, lighting, pinhole cameras, push processing, developing toners and filters. There is something magical in developing your own film, in choosing the temperature at which to develop the negatives, the chemicals, things that could forever alter the tone of your negatives. The darkroom magic of developing a great image was less about chemistry and more about art, though old-fashioned photography – like cookery – was a good combination of both. And like cookery, it was easy to ruin a thing.
But the most important thing? A good eye.
I remember doing a landscape project and going up to Scotland. I got lucky because it was good weather, but I still ended up lugging my tripod and all my filters, as well as b&w and colour film at 50, 100, 200, 1600 and 3200 with me. Life is not like that these days. If I want 3200, I only have to press a button (though I am yet to see the golf-ball-sized grain I’d get from Neopan or the joy of Kodak 400 TMAX.) That was the best thing about photography back then – it was a geeky little club of niche artists who had preferences for Superia or TMAX, Ilford or Kentmere – and even the best prints had flaws, no matter how much dodging or burning you did. You never expected perfection and it would drive you mad to chase it – sending you over the edge and ruining what you did, not unlike an artist who puts one stroke too many on their painting and ends up overworking it.
Of course, it is not like that now. It is no longer a club of geeky cagoule-owning darkroom experts. It’s been taken over by men obsessed with your zoom length and F2.8 aperture, by techies who know how to get the best out of Photoshop. All the sins you could commit back in the day are no longer an issue. Bad lighting, not cropping enough, too wide an aperture – all easily resolved in Photoshop. Got a speck of dust on your lens? Clone and replace. Lamp-post in the wrong place? Move it. Sky and landscape not suiting each other? Take two images and cut them out, make a collage and stick them back together again.
And let’s not talk about what they do to models and actors and musicians.
Anyway, I have put aside my borrowed digital instant camera and got out my big boy camera these last two days. Nothing stunning yet, but lots of stuff that is just quite nice. That’s the joy of photography – digital or not – you can’t predict when you’ll get one of ‘those’ images – the ones that make you cry with artistic joy. That’s the final element. Serendipity.
Oh, depth of field! Oh F4, how I have missed you!
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ my DSLR
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ birthday presents from family