120 to 1: the evolution

Richland Creek Community ChurchWith the advent of digital photography, the argument has often come up that a person tends to put less work into a single image because there is no relative cost factor every time you press the shutter. Maybe, but I would like to argue the other aspect of it and say that the advent of digital photography has allowed the craft to reach new levels of quality and creativity.

I recently was asked to take a few shots of a church building for a design piece. I needed only a handful of shots, they needed only one. I got up early to get the morning sunrise coming across the building. In the course of roughly 30-40 min I snapped off about 120 shots of the building. It may seem a bit excessive, but for me it was a constantly changing scene, and I was constantly seeing something different between where I was standing and where the light was shining. Because I was working with natural light I had an ever changing scene.

What did I get with my 120 images? Yes, a lot of work to dig through in post, but the reality was that I didn’t have to do that much, I either liked the shot or I didn’t. But what I noticed was that as the light changed and as I hit different angles and locations on the building, I liked my shots more. The first several shots I took weren’t that great, the lighting was a bit too muted and the building just didn’t pop like I needed it too. As the shots rolled on, I started to realize the angles I wanted, I got the light where I wanted it, and all things came together.

If I were shooting film and had 24 frames to shoot, it would have been much more difficult. I would not have realized I didn’t like the play between my angles and the light. I would have fired off my 24 or 48 frames, packed up and gone home. With digital, I can rattle off the shots and figure out what I need to do to get the shot I really want.

The argument always seems to go to someplace like Ansel Adams and the amazing things he did with film, but I would argue that the creativity of photography has come a long way since Adams was amazing the world. Please understand, I’m a fan of film work. I have two film cameras, one medium format and one 35mm. There is a certain aspect to film that isn’t the same as digital. I love the natural grain and imperfections of film, but digital photography has made the world of photography a better place and brought creativity to a whole new level, and I am excited to see where we will continue to progress.