In 1979, I owned a Pentax K1000 film (of course) SLR camera with a Pentax 50/1.8 lens and a Vivitar 70-300 tele-zoom. It was all the kit I ever thought I’d need and because I was headed off to college, where I hoped to shoot for the school newspaper (not knowing I would be co-photo editor by my Sophomore year), and had very little spending money, I shot… let’s say judiciously. Film was, for me, quite expensive. I often shot black & white mostly because I had a darkroom and had perfected my processing skills enough to save some serious money. I bought film in bulk and loaded it onto spools so that I could shoot 24 or 36 images at a time without having to purchase commercially available canisters at retail prices. Occasionally, I’d use color print film which meant incurring development and printing charges at the mail order processing plant. It all cost money and because you couldn’t see immediately any results on a LCD screen in the back of the body, I was very careful. 24 or 36 would last all day. Or longer.
All in all, it made me a better photographer. I would choose my compositions and exposure carefully. I would pay attention to critical focus. Remember, the K1000 was an all manual camera, so paying attention to these things was not only helpful, it was completely necessary. In a word, I shot deliberately.
Now that it’s… a few years hence… and we are graced with marvelous and heavily automated capture tools, I’ve learned to shoot differently. Incremental film expense is a thing of the past and the cost of a bad photo is zilch. You just shoot again (sure, you might miss THE critical shot, but as a landscape photographer, I note that the mountain will still be there for another few seconds longer). Autofocus, electronic metering, automatic white balance, auto ISO selection, etc. Bam: you just press the shutter button and spray all over your intended subject. 5 shots? No problem. 10 shots? Sure. 100 shots? Whatever. Cheap and easy.
A few days ago, I wrote about 5 lessons learned in the process of reviewing, image by image, my entire 44k+ image library. I’d have to say that the biggest lesson, bar none, is that it’s time to go back to a more deliberate, a more 1979 style, of shooting.
I’m sure my photography will be better for it. The 17, 000 or so images I trashed speaks to that fact.
So, I’m endeavoring now to shoot far less images when I head out. My goal is to get just as many keepers, maybe more, and to slow my pace down so that I pay attention to what I’m actually capturing. I expect it will be difficult at first, but I will keep at it. It’s my 2014 photographic resolution.
You’ve heard the famous Ansel Adams quote about making, not taking, images. It has finally dawned on me exactly what that means.
And so, off I go.