Tag Archives: timeless

Is it worth learning about film photography?

In a world where regular commercial photography is moving more and more toward digital photography, is it worth the time investing in learning about film photography? The answer is a resounding, Yes. And, I will explain why.

Recently, I acquired a book on photography. The author is primarily a film photographer but this edition of his book has been updated for the digital photography era. So, it discusses elements which are important to both film and digital photographers. However, in reading about the book I have learned a lot more about the zone system and its uses beyond simply taking a properly exposed print. I have learned how the differences in proper exposure for different objects in a scene can be harmonized through the zone system and how the zone system translates into a system for properly developing the prints. I have also finally realized why persons choose to expose for the highlights most times than to underexpose the images.

The book also goes on to explain the use of coloured filters and their significance to black and white photography. It also explains how the effects of the filter can help to help adjust an exposure to ensure that all elements within the frame can be rendered within the dynamic range of the film (digital sensor). It will be very unlikely that I will use coloured filters to generate toning effects in my black and white. I will more than likely resort to using basic software for those purposes. But, even for photographs which I will never convert to black and white, I know how to correct more of the colour balance in those photos.

I agree that I will never put a great deal of the techniques to use, but it is good to know where the common dos and don’t of photography come from and what their purpose were. I think it is important to understand whether those concepts still hold their own in the digital era of photography or whether they have become antiquated.

If anyone is interested in learning a little more of what I am talking about I recommend picking up the book “The Art of Photography – An Approach to Personal Expression” by Bruce Barnbaum. I will warn you early that it is a long read and a lot of it is based around the author’s tastes and interests but he certainly explains in depth the significance of different practices in photography, where they originate and how they can be applied for artistic expression.

The Timlessness of Photographs

Ever look at a magazine cover and you are immediately awestruck but after the third review the photo has lost its impact. But then, there are some photographs you see in some magazines or calendars which are always able to spur your emotions no matter how many times you see it? That is a timeless photograph.

We have seen many examples of these photographs. Dorothea Lange gave us “Migrant Mother”; Ansel Adams gave us “Moonrise, Hernandez, Mexico”; Garry Winogrand gave us some visually amazing photographs, some if which were untitled. Despite the fact that these photos were taken long ago, these photos have a quality which continues to make them worthy of admiration and review. What is this quality/qualities that make these images enduring?

Is it the monochromatic tone, the composition, the quality of light, the fresh point of view? Perhaps it is all of the above. Certainly the photographer’s excelled at those areas and in many more and provided us with a new way of seeing things. A vision which has endured for decades without fading.

In spite of the flood of photographs I see being produced by amateur and professional alike, few tend to have that timeless quality of the masters. My argument here is not that the photograph needs to be black and white or made with a medium format camera or made everyday. But, I think more photographers need to think a little more of what they are shooting when they look through the viewfinder in making a photograph which fits their vision.