By Annette Dashofy
A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Ohiopyle State Park, one of my favorite recreational destinations. But this particular trip was a “business trip” of sorts. I’d received a green light on a story pitch I’d made to cover the annual Over the Falls Festival. The catch to the whole deal was that I was ordered to take lots of pictures. Photographs are what sell stories to this particular publication.
You may or may not know that I was a professional photographer in a past life. More than twenty years ago, I ran Dashofy Photography. We did weddings and senior pictures and family portraits and such.
I don’t talk about it much because people expect a lot from you when you make claims about having done that kind of work. And when I snap a picture with my dinky little point-and-shoot digital and it comes out looking like crap… Well, I can do without the threatening, sarcastic scowls.
Besides, these days, I mostly take pictures for fun. I admit it. I don’t put a lot of thought or effort into it.
But on the days leading up to that trip to the festival, I put a LOT of thought into it. I really WANT this job. The publication could (and would, if necessary) use pictures from other photographers. But I want them to use MINE. It’s a matter of pride. I mean, I used to be able to do this stuff!
The problem in one word is EQUIPMENT. I sold all the studio cameras and lights and backdrops. But I kept my beloved Olympus 35mm cameras and lenses. Unfortunately, I haven’t used them much lately. They’re old. A few years ago, I sent them both to the shop to repair their age-related issues. The repairs didn’t take. One of the cameras locks up when you trip the shutter. The other won’t synchronize with a flash.
I didn’t need a flash. But I had no idea if any new problems had cropped up. With film cameras, you don’t get to see the results until AFTER the film is developed.
On the other hand, I have two digital cheapy point-and-shoot. Well, maybe not so cheap. But not top end stuff. The one is 12 megapixel. I don’t know exactly what that means other than the pictures are supposed to be sharper than the older 3 megapixel camera.
Ask me about f-stops and shutter speeds and film ISOs and I can talk for hours. Megapixels? Not so much.
Loaded with film, the one 35mm Olympus that doesn’t lock up, the two digital cheapy point-and-shoot cameras, extra batteries, and a new tripod, I headed to Ohiopyle and set up shop bright and early on the observation deck. I attached the trusty antique Olympus to the tripod and waited for the action to begin. Those around me set up, too. With thousands of dollars worth of digital high tech gadgetry. One guy couldn’t stop scoffing at my film camera. He spent the next hour telling me why I had to go digital. Ten minutes after the first kayaker went over the falls, this guy told me he’d already shot 300 photos.
I soooo wanted to point out that if you’re good, you don’t need to shoot 300 photos. Nor do you need to do the extensive PhotoShop manipulations he bragged about.
But part of me knew I really wanted to shove him off that observation deck, not just to shut him up, but also to grab his camera equipment and run.
Hey, I appreciate nice gadgets as much as the next person.
Later in the day, I ran into several people who were using old 35mm cameras. We all fussed over our old antique workhorses and insisted the quality was so much better and who needed the instant gratification of seeing what you’d shot anyhow.
I almost convinced myself it was true.
Here’s what I’ve concluded. I love my old 35mm. I love the way when I trip the shutter, the picture snaps NOW, not three or four or five (depending on the age of the batteries) seconds later after the little digital camera determines focus and exposure. I love being in control of the focus and the depth of field and whether I want the action frozen or blurred.
And I can’t afford the digital camera that will give me all that.
On the other hand… Processing the film from that one day cost over $40.
It does make you think. Hmmm.
Well, while I’m still pondering the expense of processing versus the expense of new camera equipment, let me show off what the old antique dinosaur (and by dinosaur, I mean the camera, not ME) can do.