July 2007


Fritz Pölking

On The Way To The Land 
Of Digits

Digital Photography was, so to say, “in the air” since the turn of the century. But it just didn’t seem to move. Everyone knew that this is the future of photography, but no-one except computer and Photoshop freaks wanted to get on the band wagon. The cameras weren’t so great and couldn’t keep up in comparison with the SLRs, the auxiliary equipment was not exactly that great either.

But the main problem was: you just didn’t know exactly what to do with the data files. Publishers and editors were not enthused and the picture agencies still preferred slides. The magazines kept on reporting but somehow it just didn’t spark.

In the summer of 2002 I finally bought my first digital SLR, the EOS-60 D with about 6 mega pixels. In comparison with my analog EOS-1 V it was not much more then a tin can and it just couldn’t get me very excited.

In August of 2002 I had to go to New Mexico in order to take pictures 250 meters below the surface in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park . I worked with slides for a whole week and actually just had the 60 D along as toy. Work conditions were difficult: the limestone was illuminated with a neutral light, but gleamed in all different colors from brown to red and green and blue, depending on the consistency. The caves were black, the rock was white to yellow, the light was difficult and even with a lot of imagination it was hard to say what the slides would look like. There was no place to develop the slides within a distance of 500 km, so I was really glad that I could take some test shots with the digital SLR, digital Polaroids so to say, in order to see what effect the colors and the lighting would have.

That was the first time I discovered through practical experience what tremendous advantages digital photography had and i.e. would have.

Even in the fall of 2002, in the Acadia National Park in New England I continued to take analog pictures and a few digital pictures on the side. I just couldn’t warm up to this type of photography especially since I wasn’t really clear on the whole workflow and the market still did not really seem to want digital files. So why give up the fantastic analog SLR with the already established slides in order to take digital pictures with a clearly worse camera?

In the fall of 2003 I took a photo tour from Yosemite National Park through Death Valley and the Antelope Canyons all the way to Arches National Park . This time my idea was to take pictures parallel: everything onto a slide film with the EOS-1 V and at the same time data files with the new EOS-300 D. That was a bad idea. It was not fun for me, first taking all the shots with the full-format 1 V and its fantastic view finder and to then take the same pictures again with the  300 D. As it turned out, again I shot all the pictures as slides and only a few digitally.

At the end of 2003 information was publicized that Canon would put the first sensible digital SLR, called EOS-1 D Mark II, 8.2 mega pixels, 8.5 p. p. second with a beautiful, large and bright view finder as well as a solid casing on the market in April of 2004 specifically for nature/wildlife photographers.

That was when I made the following decision: In 2004 I would photograph digitally all year long; one reason was that I realized I couldn’t take pictures analog and digital at the same time and at the end of 2004 I would decide if I would work with film or data for the rest of my life.

As I said, the test phase was to be 12 months. But by April that year it became clear to me that I would never touch another filmstrip. For one thing because digital photography was so much fun and another because in the evening you could take a look at your daily harvest on your notebook, could immediately learn from your mistakes and pictures that flopped could be taken again the next day most of the time.

I had finally arrived in the land of digits.


In the Carlsbad Caverns
New Mexico, USA

My first digital picture, taken August 2002, 
with a EOS-D 60 (6.3 mega pixels) JPEG-format, 
with aperture of 11, 0.3 sec., ISO 100, tripod.  


I photographed the fungi 
two months later in fall with the same camera in 

the Acadia National Park of Maine
part of the “New England States”

There the fungi is called “chicken of the woods”.




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