Long way around to get there

I admit to having a few cameras, probably more than I really need.  But as I learn more about my craft I’m discovering you get certain results when you use certain tools so I’m not giving up any tools just yet until I feel I’ve pushed myself to the limit in learning how to use them.  As one character in The Big Chill says, “it’s a juicy justification.”

The senior citizen in my gear kit, senior in the sense of having owned it the longest, is my Olympus OM-1.  I’ve looked at the brand’s newest offering attempt to bring back the tradition this camera started and it just doesn’t have the essence of the OM-1.  Something about the fit and finish, or the way all those buttons intrude on your grip, or the really tiny viewfinder – I don’t know, it just isn’t the same.  So, when I feel drawn to trying out the new Olympus model, I just pick up my OM-1 and get back to basics.

And I mean basics.  This is a manual camera (I threw the battery away years ago) – for film.  Manual focus, manual exposure, manual zoom (with the right lens) – did I mention you have to add your own film?  Not for the timid but then also satisfying to anyone challenged by doing is all yourself.

OM-1, Fuji Provia 100, 35-75mm lens

OM-1, Fuji Provia 100, 35-75mm lens

OM-1, Fuji Provia 100, 35-75mm lens

OM-1, Fuji Provia 100, 35-75mm lens

This post’s title comes from the round-about way these images arrived here.  Shot on color slide film, they were processed by traditional wet chemistry, scanned to digital format, loaded into Lightroom, converted to black-and-white using NIK Silver Efex Pro, exported as JPEGs and delivered to this site.  If I simply used my digital camera I could have cut out almost half those steps.  But the images wouldn’t look this way and I wouldn’t have had fun getting them to this site in the way I want them to look.

In addition to the craft of using a manual film camera, there is the craft of scanning film.  Scanners are notoriously temperamental, both in operation and results.  They each seem to have their own mind about color balance and sharpness.  Regardless of the software driver you use and the settings you put in place, you still have to adjust the image after it is digitized, not to mention cleaning it up to remove dust, scratches, etc.  But any translation process has these issues.  Talk to welders about metals, flux and rods, or carpenters about blades, woods and grain.  Part of the craftsman’s job is to know the tools and how to use them effectively when confronted with differing materials.

My aim is to connect with the forefathers of photography, not just via compositions or effects or attitude, but also by the actual technology.  Anyone holding up an image device, be it cellphone or DSLR, continues a tradition almost 200 years old – the continued interest in capturing a moment in time and taking what was into what will be.  Just as craftsmen today print their own books on paper made by hand with types carved one at a time, some photographers enjoy the hands-on adventure of shepherding what they see in front of them into a permanent image through tools the founders of photography would recognize.


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