Technology – are we there yet?

ISO 100, 86mm, 1/500 sec., f/6.3

I’m having some computer problems with my photo editing system.  Astoundingly since I’ve been using the Mac platform for well over two years and only now am seeing issues.  Probably all the upgrades that have come through in the past few weeks.  I’m sure all the programmers are out there scurrying to get the latest and greatest upgrades into their systems before Christmas so all those freshly purchased computers will have the most brightly scrubbed and polished applications.  Unknown to most purchasers, the first thing they will do when they start up their supposedly new machines is to download 30-60 minutes of updates that have been created over the weeks prior to Christmas shipments.  Funny thing, 99% of those “gotta-have-this-in-there” features don’t apply to the vast majority of users.  All the serious users want is a stable application that works when you want and every great once in a while adds on some truly amazing feature that improves an existing workflow – not something you have to totally adjust your process to just so you can keep doing what you’re doing.

Imagine every time you buy a new car that every few months you have to take it back to the shop to have the drive train replaced, and then spend a few days learning how to drive all over again.  All you want is to get from point A to point B in a manner under your control.  You probably could care less about the new purple tint to the dashboard lights or the WiFi port now stuck in your glove box that requires you to connect an air hose to the spare tire in order to work.  Think people would keep their old cars around a little longer if that was the design mentality in the automotive world?  I love those comparisons to the semiconductor world – “If cars were made like chips a Rolls would cost $1.59 and last 100 years.”  Yeah, only you wouldn’t be able to drive it without a PhD in mechanical engineering along with refresher courses in driving every six months.

That’s the great thing about film photography.  All the kinks, upgrades, updates and new features were pretty much baked into the technology almost 100 years ago.  I mean, once you have the process of getting an image onto paper effectively what’s left to do?  The big change in photography was going from glass to acetate as a carrier for the emulsion.  Yeah, yeah – I know there have been significant advances in film design and manufacture but all of those were incremental to the original purpose.  The primary difference between a really slow speed emulsion on a glass plate and a really fast speed emulsion on a continuous roll is the length of time the shutter has to be open.  What’s ironic?  I read about a class the other day teaching wet plate emulsion process.  Still valid after all these years.  Gives me a sense of optimism, actually.  In the future, when we have no tools to actually view the digital images we’re all making these days because the formats are wrong or the programs are still being upgraded or the print ink doesn’t match the latest dried buffalo skin art paper – film photographers will still be able to make images and share them with others.

Read an interesting statement by Kirk Tuck today, a photographer whose blog I follow.  He said, “Buying better and better gear is a way of trying to manage risk.  And managing risks is the perfect way to suck the absolute passion out of your art.”  Bravo.

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4 thoughts on “Technology – are we there yet?

  1. Thanks for turning my onto Kirk’s blog a few months ago Mel. I read the post you cited and really appreciated his stand on gear mania. It was a nice perspective to read from a talented photographer. Love the playground image as well! It is incredibly anthropomorphic.

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