Friday, May 15, 2009

Old School versus New Wave

I began taking photographs for newspapers way back in 1968 so I am very familiar with the "bathroom" technology we relied on in those days _ a room with running water and a lock on the door so the dark didn't leak out.
Nowadays, of course, everything is digital and darkrooms are a quaint historical reminder of the way things used to be done.
I'm frequently asked which process I prefer and truthfully, tradition film and digital imaging have their advantages.
From purely a selfish view, the ability to go into a darkroom and lock the door behind you for a couple of hours each day sometimes was a welcome refuge from demanding editors and other distractions.
In addition, there is a certain "feel" to a film image that is lost in a digital translation.
However, in an era when everyone in a newsroom is expected to do more with less, the speed and efficiency of digital imaging allows us to get so much more done.
I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit to some trepidation and concerns about being an old dog learning new tricks. The transition to digital imaging steepened the learning curve a bit but in the end, of course, a good photograph is a good photograph, regardless of how it was made.
I am something of a traditionalist: I still prefer to hold a sheet of newsprint in my hand to read the news of the day.
But the advent of the Web and newspaper Web sites has expanded the possibilities for photojournalists, as well.
Reproduction has always been an issue for photographers because newsprint is not the optimum medium for capturing the colors and nuances of an image. Photographs displayed on a glowing monitor always look much better.
And since our digital images are basically just a code of zeros and ones, there are not the space constraints to limit the number of photos we can post on the Web.
As a result, we frequently can offer more photographs of an event like the bird banding Thursday at Rasmussen Woods.
Only three were published in the Free Press, but we were able to post 10 of them as a photo gallery at our Web site.


Bruce P. said...

I can appreciate the points you made about the "traditional" methods of photography, but now that I've gotten a taste of digital photography, I don't know if I'd have the patience to go back to film & printing. I really appreciate the fast results, opportunity for post-production, etc. But I'll say this: I have a great deal of respect for photographers who produced so many amazing shots using the old methods.

John Cross said...

I agree on both counts, Bruce. Images taken on conventional films have a certain "look." Compare a feature film shot on film compared to an industrial film shot digitally, for example.
And I think there is something to be said for the "journey" one has to take to arrive at a finished image.

But particularly in the newspaper business with its daily production demands, digital imaging allows us to be that much more efficient with limited time and staff.

And there is something about being able to "peek" at what we just shot to know whether or not we actually captured the moment. In the darkroom days, one was never certain until the negatives were spread out on the light table.