A change in the photographic wind


Today, film cameras--especially sophisticated film cameras--are rapidly disappearing.

In 2002 one of our daughters got married on the island of Maui. I photographed the wedding and the trip with a Nikon FM and an FE. I shot about 15 rolls of film. Out of about 550 exposures I had 200 really good photos that were properly composed and exposed.

In 2007 we went to Europe, touring six countries. During the trip I shot about 1,000 photos with a digital SLR. When we got home I estimated I had at least 900 "keepers." I had edited as I shot, deleting the mistakes and replacing them with new photos as we traveled.

We spent most of our time in in Europe at the standard tourist locations--Venice, Florence, Paris and London. During our travels I don't think I saw a half dozen tourists with 35mm film cameras. And I saw very few using the disposable film cameras that can be picked up at any souvenir shop. Everything was digital.

I was one of the people who predicted film would continue to dominate for some time. The reason? When digital camers were introduced you had to have a computer and some computer savvy to take and process digital photos. If you shot film all you had to do was drop off the roll at the local Walgreen Drug and pick up the prints an hour later.

One day I walked into the local Walgreen with a roll of film to be processed. Another customer, a younger woman, was standing in front of a new machine in the photo processing department. She stuck the memory card from her digital camera into a slot in the machine and in seconds was examing her photos on a screen. She selected the photos she wanted printed, indicated the size and pushed a button. About 10 minutes later she left with her prints. At that moment I realized photography was already a digital world.

But it wasn't always that way. When I was growing up, the Single Lens Reflex 35mm camera was just coming into its own. In those days, cameras were mechanical -- made individually by highly-trained craftsmen. The photographer had to focus manually and compute the proper exposure in his or her head. When the shutter release was pressed, the camera went "click!" as all those gears and springs went through a mechanical cycle--the shutter opened and closed and the image was recorded on film.

There are still some people who don't want to depend on batteries and sensors to take photographs. They enjoy the thought process involved in operating a mechanical camera.

I have to admit I have turned to the photographic "Dark Side." Right after the Walgreen incident I bought a used Nikon DSLR, followed by a new body. Since then I think I have shot one roll of film--and it's still in the camera.

Don't get me wrong. I still appreciate mechanical cameras and have no intention of getting rid of my collection of Soviet rangefinders. But it's unlikely that I will be shooting much film--other than a few rolls of black and white to "keep my hand in."

 Although the times they are achanging, part of the the purpose of this site is to celebrate the days when spring-driven gears whirred and cameras went "Click!.

Site Visitors -- beginning 01/24/06

Copyright 2016 by C.W. Cornell