Throughout the last months of the year 2002 I took pictures
two ways. With the EOS-1V on slide film material and with the EOS-D60 on a chip.
If this was just about the job of taking a picture, I would immediately work
with only a digital camera. The advantages are many and it is very enjoyable to
take digital photos.
First of all, you don’t have to take masses of films with
you any more and it saves a lot of money in the long run. On flights you have
much less weight in your hand luggage and the fear of the x-ray screening
machines at airports is gone.
Second, you get much better pictures because you can check
them directly after taking them. Not especially well on the small camera screen,
but nevertheless. Maybe one should acquire a waist level finder that includes a
built-in magnifying glass from a 6X6 camera and take it along in order to better
judge the picture on the back-side of a digital KB-SLR.
Then in the evening, in the hotel you can check the picture on
the larger screen of a laptop or notebook in order to be sure that you did
everything the right way.... or not.
For that purpose I took the JVC Mini-Notebook XP-3210, that
weighs only 850 gram and is DIN-A5 size, with me. Of course you can check your
e-mails from all over the world (just about) if you have a tri-band Cell phone
A working example: In September I was working in the Carlsbad
Cavern National Park situated at 230 Meters in depth under extremely difficult
light situations. With the digicam you can check the effects of the existing
artificial light along with the added flash directly and correct any setting you
need accordingly. Using film material you would have to first find a photo-lab
that will develop your slide films quickly (what exactly is quickly in a little
village in the boondocks of New Mexico??) so that you can test-check them. (See
the Nature Photo of the Month November 2002, and the portfolio "Carlsbad
So from a photographic point of view "yes". It is
easy and lots of fun to take digital photos, you always have a secure feeling
and you don’t have to wait for weeks to see the results and then determine if
and which impossible to re-take shots you messed up.
But you have to view taking digital pictures two ways. First
the actual digital photography and second the additional work. That is where the
fun just leaves.
You have to view all takes on the laptop, erase them or save
them on the hard drive and – just to make sure – burn a CD for back up. Each
one should be titled very carefully. So after you have opened 250 files, used
PhotoShop to work on them, titled them and closed the file, you really have to
love working with a computer in order to consider it fun.
Later, after you are back home, you have to build a digital
picture archive, constantly update and save it on a back-up CD, because there
are photographers known to have entire data bases lost in the digital Nirvana,
never again to be found.
Until all of that works and runs smoothly, you need a lot of
money, time, an extremely strong nervous system and professional help.
I see the whole thing basically rather simple: If you take
pictures for your own private pleasure in nature, just for your own use and are
an absolute computer freak, then you should be using a digital camera in any
case. If you just do whatever is necessary with the computer because you have to
and not more, you should continue to use film material. The time needed to work
digital nature photography on the computer is enormous.
The market itself will, in the final analysis, decide what
professional or semi-professional nature photographers need to use in the future.
At present I am surprised to see that there is almost nothing I can use the
digital files I have from the past months for on a professional level and that I
actually really need slides.
Sometime in the future I see that nature photographers who
wish to be published will need to use both: data files and slides. It certainly
will not be the same as with photographers of sports events who will one day be
notified by their editors that "starting on the 15. of next month we will
not accept slides any longer, only digital files". So the sports
photographer has the choice of either switching to digital photography or change
Currently there is an overwhelming majority of publishers and
agencies who are asking for slides. I am not exactly certain if (many) agencies
won’t continue to prefer working with slides in the near or distant future. I
have a hard time imagining that an agency would be so much happier receiving 300
digital files, each in a different format, with different fonts and quality when
they can take slides all of a common standard and have them scanned by a single
professional with a first rate drum scanner.
The picture agencies will sooner or later be confronted with
the decision of placing their priorities either on an excellent quality or
reducing personnel and workload, thus producing mediocre quality, reasonable and
On an occupational level it is safe to say that on a mid-term
basis it is best to offer both ways. Which brings up the question of what is
better: to take digital photos and if needed have slides made or to take slide
films and if needed have the pictures scanned into a digital file.
I personally have chosen the second variation for myself for
the time being, for the following reasons:
First of all, I would rather not spend more time then is
already necessary in front of the computer.
Second, at this time I need about 95% of my work as slides and
5% as digital files.
Third – I can very well, cost efficient, easily and with
minimal time (thanks to my batch feeder) produce high grade digital files with
my Nikon 4000 slide scanner; whereas first rate slides done from digital files
are difficult to get and seem to be very expensive.
At the moment (2002/2003) I get the impression that the best
solution for me is to continue working with slide film material and to convert
these to a digital format with my Nikon 4000 slide scanner, burn them on a CD
and send this to the customer on request. So I will just wait quietly and see
what happens, how and which way the market will go and just how quickly.
The industry will not be overjoyed about us just waiting, but
we will certainly not be under so much "digital pressure" as for
instance the press or sport photographers.
So with this "wait and see" position (secure by
using slides and a scanner) quite a bit of money will more then likely be saved
since all the things needed for digital photography will get less expensive,
better and easier to use each year. So why spent so much money for so many
things you really don’t need at the moment and which will be less expensive
and much better at a later date? Just in case you have to or want to switch
methods later on, even though I do not see the future of digital nature
photography as exhilarating as I did a few years ago.
In any case, I do have to say that digital photography is a
blessing for our guild. It gives the market flourish, motivates the industry to
invest and at the height of our time shows us to be one of the most modern forms
of media in general. If for instance I take a look at the last Photokina in
Cologne, October 2002, and imagine for a moment that it would have been only a
Film-Photokina without the many diversified digital innovations, the show would
have been a total loss and photography would have ended up as being placed as
yesterdays form of media like, for example, the black and white photography and
in the end it would fade away.
So currently I do still think that it is fantastic to take my
wildlife photos with Sensia-100 and my landscapes with Velvia-50, in order to
preferably offer these as slides to publishers who print calendars among others
and for the rest I just take my Nikon Coolscan 4000ED with the batch feeder and
(fully automatically without my presence) turn 50 slides into a digital file at
54 MB each.
In a few years it can be redefined if this concept is still
the best choice or if, after having been to see the Photokina 2006, it would be
best to completely switch to digital photography.
It will all be ok.......
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