Three Thoughts For The Older Photographer

DSCF0090This weblog column is aimed at all ages – from the juniors just starting out in photography to the seniors who have done it for years. It has equipment reviews from someone who has had his hands on the actual devices – rather than someone who has just written a précis of press releases. ( Note: I confess to doing that sort of post for the shop column I write but it is done under direction – sometimes there is no more than a wholesaler’s blat to go on and the management want some sort of notice taken of it…)

Today the message goes to the people my own age…60+.

Firstly, folks, the photographic world is now officially your friend but it is a new friendship – a lot of the old acquaintance has been forgot, and in many cases you would be advised to never bring it to mind. There are eBays full of old equipment and S/H bookstores full of old instructions and ideas but the basic materiel of the art is starting to dry up. You can still get a fridge full of film and buy B/W developer, stop and fixer and you can still get darkroom paper but remember that the firm that supplies most of this to the western world is periodically sold to another group of backers and wobbles somewhat before stabilising on its axis and continuing to spin. Factories wear out and machinery stops working, and if there is no money to fix it…

What I am saying is – if you have not yet found a way to pursue your art in the digital realm, search one out. It need not be a full-blown conversion and you can stand firm in the bastion of film and chemistry to your heart’s content, but have a very small Plan B tucked away.

Secondly, light has not changed. The Sun is still up there and the sky is still blue in the parts of the world that are not Beijing or Prince George. You can still project light onto a subject and make it to be anything you want. The only thing that has changed is the way you soak up and display the image that you can see. The bad news is the sensor in the digital camera is an idiot and the good news is that you are not…actually film was always an idiot too but no-one cared in the old days.

The sensor sees life for what it is. If the emperor has no clothes, it will show no clothes. If the light is yellow, you’ll get yellow – if it is blue you’ll get blue. You and the camera maker must come to an agreement how to deal with this and fortunately the makers generally put in a n automatic setting that works. Don’t be ashamed of Automatic – if it is good enough for the Toyota it is good enough for the Canon.

Thirdly, you are old enough to have seen it all. You might not have seen it in person but you have been reading magazines and watching movies and television long enough for every darn visual idea to have been in front of your eyes at least once in the last 6 decades. Unlike the teenagers, you are aware that the world in not governed by super-heroes and petrol explosions. You are finally certain that there are no unicorns, leprechauns, zombies, Roswell aliens, or Lords of The Rings and I’ll bet you couldn’t care less about them…

Celebrate this gritty old rationalism by taking pictures that are real. Real people, real landscape scenes, real hot rod cars. Real still lives, nudes, product shots, and architecture. ( Note: If you are trying to sell real estate you can make the images as fantastic as possible. Everyone does and the customers aren’t fooled anyway.) Real birthday celebrations and weddings that do not have a fully dressed couple standing in a paddock at seeding time.

Leave the nonsense to the younger photographers – show real. You know it and if you do your job well, they will get to know it too.

A final note for older photographers. Carry lighter and less equipment. You’ll be able to carry it further and have more energy when it comes to the actual shooting. Save the big and heavy for your home computer processing room.



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