Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Old Fashioned or Just Sour Grapes?

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.


Joyce said...

Your pictures are great!

I say you can't beat the 35mm. I have a Minolta SRT201 that I bought in 1977 when I had my first "real" job. I don't use it much anymore, but it takes gorgeous photos.

I like the digitals for the convenience. With the digital I don't forget to get the film developed until a year later when I take the camera out to use it again. Yes, that happened all the time.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Great stuff, Annette. Not too shabby at all. I still have my prized Minolta SRT-101. ( It was pretty advanced when I bought it in 1977. I have a number of high-end zooms and my favorite, billed as a girl watching lens, 400 mm fixed focal length monster.

I have doubler rings, macro lens spacers, gel filters for all kinds of special effects and my trusty old Vivitar flash. It all works as sweet as the day I bought it.

My daughter, a junior at Mizzou's School of Journalism loves to use it more than her nice digital. Interestingly, both my middle and youngest daughters have taken an interest in photography and both have used my Minolta and seem to love black and white.

All this reflection has me wanting to grab my Minolta, a roll of film and take pictures of my old studio-quality Thorens Turntable (record player to those non-audiophiles) and my vinyl collection.

By the way, I hate that digital lag.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, that is creepy.

Annette said...

Thanks, guys. Those Minoltas are great cameras. I didn't mention that I also worked in a camera store for several years, so I'm familiar with all the old brands.

Will, I wore out a half dozen Vivitar 285 flashes doing weddings, but they were always my favorites. And I love black and white. With no pretty colors to hide behind, it's just pure light and shadow.

Jennie Bentley said...

You've still got it, girl! Those area great photos. Article's in the bag!

Dana King said...

The 300 picture guy you described doesn't impress me. I know squat about photography, but I do remember the disappointment I felt the first time I noticd the photographers' well at a baseball game. I was always in awe of the photos in Sports Illustrated; then I saw how many shots they took. Let me take 1,000 shots of a baseball game, I'llb et I get a few nice ones, too.

Karen in Ohio said...

Annette, my husband has made his living as a professional photographer now for nearly 40 years, and he also misses the old school cameras. But the reality is that magazine and book publishers now prefer digital photos. Many of the younger people who work with them don't even know what to do with transparencies, and electronic submissions are becoming more of the norm than snail mail ones.

As for taking 300 photos--even with the old cameras, they took lots and lots of shots, usually framed via the f-stop. They do a lot of outdoors stuff (wildlife, mostly birds), and conditions change so quickly that you don't always have a chance to notice that the light has shifted slightly. They usually only keep about 10% of the shots they take, so digital has been a financial boom to the business. We no longer spend a small fortune on processing.

Good luck with the article. I hope you'll let us know where to look for it when it comes out. (Not "if" it does!)

Annette said...

Jennie, it's funny. I wasn't worried about the writing, just the pictures. Now that the pictures have turned out, I'm doing my usual freak out about the words to go with them!

Karen and Dana, you've nailed the one and only reason I really want a high end digital. The cost of film and processing when shooting large quantities of photos. Maybe if I could pick up a few more of these photojournalism gigs, I could afford it AND rationalize spending the money.

By the way, I had the film processed and put on CDs, so I can still do the cropping on the computer and submit electronically.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I've got a cheap little 8 year old Fuji S5000 (or something like that) digital camera. Records in 3 megapixels, shows output in 6 megapixels (I have no idea what voodoo magic it takes to do that).

BUT, for a $300 camera it has a 10X zoom, you can frame rapid-fire shots by f-stop, You can even rapid fire up to 5 or 10 shots. You can use shutter priority or aperature priority. Put it is continuous autofocus and the lag is minimal.

It's been around the world with me several times and I've taken some amazing shots with it. Even the banner of my website was taken with that camera.

Just proof that you don't have to spend a lot to get a good digital camera.

Annette said...

Will, you're absolutely right. The better of my two digital cameras is 12 mexapixels. The photo files are so large it blows the freaking mind of my satellite internet service when I try to email them, so I have to size everything down.

But it's just that damned lag. There's no good way to get action shots. Having said that, I did get quite a few of the kayakers by putting the camera on the tripod and tripping the shutter when the boat got to a certain point above the falls. By the time the camera took the picture, the boat was where I wanted it.

However, you have no idea how many shots I get of my cat walking away from me. She doesn't understand "DON'T MOVE."

Anonymous said...

I have to put in another word or two for digital SLRs. I sometimes take hundreds of photos in a day at a cost of $0. I figure the camera and lens paid for itself fairly quickly. And, there is no shutter lag. A good place for used equipment is Some people sell their cameras every year to buy the latest model.
By the way, your photos are good.

Annette said...

Thanks, Doris. And thanks for the link. I'm a little afraid to look at it though...

queenofmean said...

You did get some great pictures.
I loved my Canon AE-1 & used it for 20 years with great results.
Well, I finally decided 3 years ago to go digital. I went with the Canon Rebel. I take pictures for my son's soccer team & have no problem getting off 7 or 8 shots in a row. I know the older digitals had problems with lag time.
And as for the guy taking 300 shots, he wasn't waiting for good shots. He was simply snapping away & the odds were good that he'd get some. Hah! Anybody can do that.

Sherry said...

Annette, the pictures are wonderful! And here I was thinking of selling my old SLR. Hmmmm . ..


Patg said...

Wow, those pictures were great. I'm a lousy photographer, so I rarely take pictures when I travel. I depending on my fellow traveler and to get a download of what they took. I rarely regret it, but I did in Botswana. I bought a disposable, and my escort gave me several of her shots--wow, what a shocking difference.