Photography is About Time October 31 2009, 0 Comments

When I began in photography two decades ago, I had an all manual camera. I burned a lot of film learning how to set the exposure, set the shutter speed, accommodate glare, movement and a host of other environmental forces. Studio work was predictable because the light was set, measured and completely controlled. In all of this, time was the factor we took most into account. One waited for just the right light, used a hand held light meter, something I still do, and set the camera controls by hand. No-one looked down to see if the shot was on a screen, or set the camera on a fully automatic mode hoping that the camera would capture what was needed or wanted with the thought that it could be “fixed” in Photoshop if the image, rather the person taking the image, fell short.

I continue to be amazed in the digital age, although I don’t know why, at what passes for professional photography. I sat in a conference this past week listening to person after person hold forth on how they charge thousands of dollars to photograph weddings only to turn over an unedited CD to the wedding couple. I asked how the images were taken and in what format. Quickly, I was told, “JPEG”, leaving half of my question unanswered, and half of it unfortunately answered. What kind of photos were these wedding couples receiving for their money? How were they then being processed and printed? I was left to assume that given the format, the cameras were being set on an automatic mode without even setting the color temperature.

The same is true for so much of what passes as landscape photography. I see skies that have blues that even Crayola hasn’t invented yet; hues that cross the line of what the human eye can naturally see. I often wonder how many of the folks sitting at computers generating this stuff could actually explain the principles of light, replicate an image taken by first measuring the light with a hand held light meter and then setting the exposure manually or explaining how aperture and shutter speed work together.

Photography is about timing. It is about understanding light and the light of visible spectrum.It is time
consuming. It is as much about waiting for the light as it is documenting a true reality. It is a skill, an art that is studied. I suppose I am one of the “old timers”, one of those that still wants to see the truth in the work I do and present to others. I am far less impressed with someone who can push a few computer buttons than someone who can capture an image correctly in the first place.