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The Cheat

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In: Columns > Pro Dot Con

By Peter Fielding

Published on March 26, 2002

When I was a child, my father taught me how to use a camera by handing me a solid body Canon TE-1. "Here is a complete tool," he said. "Now learn to shoot what you see, and what you can't yet."

As with many designers, I use photographs prominently in some of my work. I enjoy the challenge of integrating an already created base into a dynamic design. There's something very pleasing about creating a good photo and then seeing "more" into what it can become. I spend countless hours going over contact sheets and file folders of photographs, both digital and hardcopy. When all is said and done, sorting through endless stacks of photo paper can get old.

So I cheat.

Yes, I cheat, and I'm lazy. It's remarkable how much time I save by reviewing each shot right after I've taken it. Going through reams of film becomes passe when you can edit or delete every exposure mere seconds after taking it. Of course to the purist mindset that I so often sport, this is cheating, hands down.

Now, where I come from, cheating has a cost. The easy route is always fettered by the reality that the end product will be somehow less than if you'd struggled to create it. Nowhere was this more prominent than in the realm of digital versus SLR cameras. Digital photography was forever marked by heavy grain, impossible focus levels, and the inability to shoot with anything outside of a stock lens type--all digi-shots seemed to be tossed through a 52 mm lens on what would have looked like bad pentax shots from years gone by. A decent digital camera seemed little more than a perverted webcam with a snapshot body construction.

That was then.

It's amazing to see how digital photography has advanced in terms of hardware, software, and output quality over just the last few years. With Sony, Nikon, and Canon boasting massive pixel resolutions, huge memory stores, and more compact yet laser precise lenses, it's no wonder that digital photography is outstepping SLR in interest and sales increases.

In an age where we synchronize our Palm Pilots to our desktop machines and laptops to keep ourselves on schedule and in line no matter which workstation we're at or where we might be traveling, digital photography is booming. The ability to edit on the fly and develop on the desktop is practially a holy act for designers and graphic artists. USB has brought the nirvana that is photo-manipulation straight into the tech-century. For the first time in history, a photographer needn't be steeped in chemicals, or waitinwait an exorbitant amount of time for film to be developed. No developer, fixer, canister work shall be done. One simple cabling, or memory stick reading, and the world of the lens is open to all your editing and printing needs.

It still feels like cheating.

We've discussed my puritanical ways before. I'm a stickler for the tried and true at times. Now I don't want people getting the wrong idea, I'm a technologist, and loving photography the way that I do, I'm overjoyed at the leaps and bounds that digital imaging is taking. I'm not foolish enough to even think for a moment that digital suffers to SLR in precision or adaptability, but it does suffer in that one shaded part of my heart. The truth is that I enjoy the lunatic times in a dark room, sniffing far too many toxins, and wearing the big rubber smock. There's something fulfilling in realizing that another roll is fully shot, and needing to rewind it by hand. If there's anything I ever miss when taking digital shots, it's the click and advance, and the knowledge that I've just captured a moment without having the ability to take it back.

Yes I'm waffling, but that's why I write a column. The digital/SLR debate rages on inside me, pitting techno-terrorist against puritan-righteousness. In the end it all comes down to the photographer though, knowing that the old quote still lives: "The hand is no different from that which it creates." Knowing that, I look over at the TE-1 sitting at the side of my desk and realize that it will always have a place in my heart, andin my camera bag.

However if someone wants to donate a Sony DSC-F707 to the ProDotCon fund, I might be willing to write a sterling review.

Next month, Making the web work . . . and twenty other easy solution topics. I'll see you there.

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Peter Fielding makes the pretty things for Pixelflo.com, while he hunkers down in the frozen tundra of western Canada. Receiving his email by data dog sled, he is most often found lighting miniature garbage can fires for the homeless baby seals that power his cpu, and lobbying for the inclusion of Full Contact Page Design in the next Winter Olympics.

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