New Medium, Same Message

I am from the “old school” of photography.

Expose a new perspective.

When last I actively used a camera to make my living (along with my meager ability to write), I was a Marine Corps photojournalist covering actions, exercises and operations of Marines.

I trained in the medium of film. There wasn’t any digital technology, at least not for the working masses.

There wasn’t the immediate gratification of knowing you had shot a winning photo–or at least the knowledge that you had created a useless image.

Timing was everything. We had to learn to anticipate action, because few of us had the motor drives that shot five frames a second. One shot, one picture.

Auto fire was as many times as we could click the shutter release and advance the film.

My last camera was a Nikon FM2. It was a very simple camera, all mechanical, needing no battery other than that used for the light meter, which you didn’t need as long as you understood the relationship between shutter speed and f-stop.

It was built like a tank, able to withstand small nuclear blasts and still function.

After I left the Marine Corps, I worked in municipal government and only occasionally took pictures.

It was only within the past few years that I got one of those small point-and-click digitals.

At first, I was reluctant to go digital because, well, just because. It just wasn’t “real” photography. “Real” photographers used film, planned their shots, wasted little film.

Then one day a friend asked me to take a picture of him with his digital camera. He gave me a 10-second lesson and I shot.

His camera had the viewing screen where you could compose the picture and shoot it without ever looking through the viewfinder. I remember thinking how amateur that was.

But when I took the picture and could immediately see that someone had his eyes closed and I had to take another, the evils of digital began to embed themselves into my puritanical photographic point of view.

I recently returned to photojournalism full-time and needed to upgrade my pitifully dated photographic gear. I read up on the technical aspects of digital photography, and to my surprise, I discovered something amazing.

Digital photography isn’t a whole lot different from film photography! It still comes down to understanding the basics of how light, time of exposure, framing, composition and timing all combine to make good pictures.

Digital is just a different medium from film, but the message, the end result, stays the same.

The change seems drastic to me because there were several years between my old system and this new system. During those years, because of other things demanding my attention, I wasn’t heeding the signals that were harbingers of the coming change.

Digital photography is a lot like life. Things always seem to change quickly and drastically, but they really don’t.

True change normally comes gradually, if you know what signs to look for and have the time and inclination to look for them.

I think this is important to understand as we approach the eve of 2011 and the dawning of 2012.

The year 2011 was full of changes all over the world; some good, some bad, some we still don’t know.

Most of the changes seemed to be unanticipated, drastic, life-changing. But if you look back on the events that preceded the changes, there were indicators and there were people prognosticating the changes.

It’s just that most of us got tied up in our own lives and problems and tended to not pay attention.

There was a time in our world where we could do that. It didn’t much matter what happened on the other side of the world, or even on the other side of the mountain. As long as it didn’t impact our world, we didn’t need to know about it.

But that world is no longer valid. Modern communication and technology have drawn the world together. Now, what happens half a world away often has quick and certain impact on us all.

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