Photography for a student in the 1960’s was an expensive business – particularly if you were on a fixed income. I was very fortunate – I got a good 35mm SLR as a present during my last year of high school and I was attached to the school yearbook team and had access to a good little photography darkroom. The developer and fixer was free…
Still left the business of the film, though, and the fixed income. The school only permitted $ 3.00 allowance to be paid to the students per week to prevent troubles and I had to make that $ 3.00 work for the movies, the soda fountain, and the film counter. It was a juggling act – one week malts and movies and the next a couple of rolls of Plus-X. In retrospect I could have done without the malts and put more of it into film.
One thing about the limitations – they made me careful about what I shot and how I shot it. With 20 chances only on a roll, you aim steady. It’s like shooting a muzzle-loader.
So where does this leave me now, with nearly unlimited shooting resources on a digital memory card – anywhere from 360 to 3600 shots on one card and some 400 shutter presses on one battery charge? It leaves me out there taking more shots but sometimes making poorer ones.
Oh, it’s a matter of discipline and organisation and vision and all the other stuff, but the ability to rattle off shot after shot without pitching upon a good focus, exposure, or composition in any of them is a trap. Too often these days I am taking that easy route. This is not to condemn the studio practice of developing a shot by testing exposure and composition before settling upon the final version. I do this willingly, as I did when I was firing off $ 10 shots on the large format camera – only in those cases I was using Fujifilm instant film to check the thing before committing to the sheet film. Still dear, but sure. Nowadays I might have a development sequence of 3-4 shots before signing off on the keeper. The discipline now is to ditch the runners-up and not clog the hard drive with them.
Ah, but the event shots. There’s the rub. Poor focus, bad lighting, bad composition, bad timing – all perfectly possible even with the capabilities of the mirror-less camera systems. And all because I can just press that button and get one more. Perhaps it is time to press the button less…
Tonight is a dance show. I’ve been promised a seat down front. It’ll be an 18mm to 135mm shoot and I won’t be able to shoot everything well – the bad lighting, high speed of the dancers, and awkward angle will ensure that. So I am going to deliberately shoot less – shoot with high ISO to obviate the use of flash if I can – and shoot individual dancers as opposed to troupes. Some poor girls are always masked by their troupe sisters in front rows who have a knack of blocking at all critical moments. I think it is the use of malevolent geometry. But I will do my best to feature them tonight.
Less, not more, and better, not average!