The Capture is the Concept

The Salt Marsh Lines of San Francisco Bay, CA by Jay Goodrich
The Salt Marsh Lines of San Francisco Bay, CA © Jay Goodrich

I remember the days when getting it right in the field was the only way to create a successful photograph. I was shooting Fujichrome Velvia most of the time, with its great saturation, strong contrast, and beautiful color gammut. Those were actually my romantic years of photography. Head out to the woods in my spare time, during the best times of days, best times of years; on trips and even just in my own backyard. I purchased film by the brick from guys like Gary Farber at Hunt’s Camera. I worked my compositions, my exposures, my use of light. It was a learning experience and a time of figuring out how to make a far fetched dream become a reality. I sent those rolls to a number of labs that I managed to work out deals with for processing, most of which have either disappeared or changed their business model. The images housed in those little canisters were either good or trash. Ah those were the days. Or were they?

Then came this gimmicky idea of digital photography. You could see what you photographed immediately. Check your exposure and composition, instantly. Everything got written to a little card or even this thing called a micro drive? Images were 1 or 2 megapixels. White balance was in its infancy. Everyone shooting at the time had no idea what the hell to do with this stuff. Some up and proclaimed their love for film and said they would never change. How wrong most of us were. This all began a whopping 7 or so years ago.

Hit the fast forward button. Ummnh? What is film? Fuji what? Don’t they make digital cameras? Whoa. Take everything that you learned and figured out over the course of 15 years, throw it up in the air, and watch all of the pieces shatter into a million more as they hit the ground. A proverbially atomic explosion of the photography marketplace. Talk about “Termination” and rebirth.

Some led the right out of the gate with digital. Others are still holding on to the yesteryears, like you do your favorite t-shirt even though it is full of stains and holes. Maybe those increasingly strong detergents will eventually be able to fix even that failing fabric? They more than likely will just eat the stupid thing in the washer so you won’t have a choice but to pick a new favorite.

Now gear-heads fight over megapixels, hard drive capacities, and processing speeds. Who is coming out with what next and who is in the lead now. I just want to head out into the wilds, into the modern architecture scene, and on top of the ridge-lines of super steep, super massive peaks with 4 feet of untracked snow beneath my feet and create some images to share with the world. To excite you my reader, my viewer about life in general. Does digital help me do this faster, with greater ease, or much differently than before. Well, the answer is undoubtedly, yes. Is it better though? I truly believe it is. Creating the digital photograph is just the beginning. You can cross-process, over-process, back-process, forward-process, or whatever-process your raws however you like. The capture is truly the concept now. It is the theory that you can take in any direction, to solve any scenario that you can dream up.

Do I miss the romance? Hell no, I have more romance now than I know what to do with. Freedom of choice is undefining. Dream it up and there is a way of accomplishing it, so much some days that I need to step back a little and focus on something with just a bit more simplicity. Something like an iPhone. Really? An iPhone is thought of as simple? Did I mistakenly take the red pill or green pill like Neo in the Matrix? Am I hear to help all of you escape the chains that bind you? And as if this is all not enough now the manufacturers are throwing HD video into the mix. Can you keep up? God, I hope not. Remember, tomorrow the sun will rise and regardless of what the world is doing, I will hopefully be there photographing it. And, maybe, right next to you.


    Great post, Jay! I can totally relate to the Velvia, the favorite t-shirt, and the fact that although I was one of those reluctant about moving to digital, I can’t imagine going back to film. Digital has brought a level of freedom we couldn’t imagine 20 years ago, and shooting RAW really brings Ansel Adams famous quote full circle – “The negative (RAW) is the score and the print (master file?) is the performance”.

    Great post Jay,

    I too reminisce the days of wandering around the mountains before sunrise, with a couple camera bodies in a backpack full of both exposed and unexposed rolls of treasures, mostly Velvia but also a few ???just in case?۝ film choices, all protected from moisture, dust, heat, cold and x-rays as if it was a newborn baby. Imagining the photograph in my mind first, and then trying to go capture it on film. With film you had to get it right the first time, composition, lighting, exposure, depth of field were all factors in capturing that image, sending your work off to a Lab for processing, then excitedly hoping that a few of your shots were keepers, romantic yes but for me Digital hasn?۪t changed any of that, only now the vision of what the final image will look like isn?۪t bound to the limitations of film and instead of a Lab I use a Card Reader. With digital I can create images that I could only dream of doing with film, shoot grain free at higher ISO?۪s, no color shifts or color temperature issues, unlimited post-production choices and thanks to DNG, Metadata and today?۪s computer processing power, cataloging and archiving has become a dream, for me the honeymoon has just begun??_

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