Thursday, July 23, 2009

Travel Reflections - Digital vs Film

As many of you know, I had a hard time giving up film and the darkroom and only surrendered to digital when it became apparent that supplies and materials I had used for years would no longer be available. Once I made the transition however, I found a renewed sense of excitement and passion about photography that took me by surprise.

Well, after taking my first big trip with digital cameras there will be no turning back now.

Many of the advantages of shooting digital while traveling are pretty obvious. As someone who shot 3200 speed film and high speed infrared, the fact that I don’t have to worry about my film going through the x-ray machine is huge! Try explaining to someone that only speaks Italian that “I would appreciate it if you could hand search my film but pleeeease don’t open up the little black canisters marked IR!”

At the beginning of earlier trips I would have an eagle eye on my equipment. Toward the end of the trip it was the film that got all my attention. Sure I was still concerned about hanging on to my camera bag but losing my film would have been a disaster! I actually started putting my film in the hotel’s safe while I was in Italy.

My general lack of patience puts “instant gratification” at the top of my list of “Why I love Digital”. One of my favorite activities was coming back to the hotel and uploading the images from that day. (Only photo nerds can appreciate this!) This also helped me relax a bit. If at least a couple images showed potential, I was very happy!

Of course there are possible catastrophes lurking when shooting digital as well. Most of these relate to storage of files. I try to learn from other people’s mistakes and was very careful about backing up my images. In addition to uploading and saving files on my laptop, I also had a portable hard drive where everything was backed up to. As soon as I got home they went on my desk top and then a backup was made onto another external hard drive. The small portable hard drive is in a fire proof safe which is the same place I store my negatives. I am thinking of looking into offsite backup, but for now I am feeling pretty secure.

Something else that came up for me had to do with my shooting style. When I was shooting film, which meant I had a limited number of exposures, I gave a lot of thought to each and every image I made. Throw in a tripod and things would really start slowing down. I happen to believe that this helped me develop my ability to “see”. I knew in advance that time with my tripod would be limited but I was surprised to find that when I wasn’t using it, there was a tendency to fall into “point & shoot” mode. When I felt that happening, I would put the camera away and start using my eyes and my heart to “see” and then take it out again when it felt right.

So now it’s time to start working on the images I captured in Paris and I am sure I will be overcome once more with gratitude and excitement over what digital photography has given me. In the meantime, here is one more “before” image from my trip:

Pont Alexandre III


  1. Christopher KoehlerJuly 25, 2009 at 5:55 AM

    Something to think about if/when you go Mac--Apple's Time Capsule, an automatic back up to an external hard drive. That's what I did after the Great Hard Disk Panic of 2009.

  2. Hi Dianne,

    Glad to hear you had such a great trip. Look forward to seeing the resulting images. Interesting thoughts about how shooting film ( and esp with tripod) slows you down and digital can have the opposite effect. I have tried to retain a "film attitude" in combination with digital advantages. One aspect is that , apart from checking for exposure information etc, I rarely look at the images as I am shooting as I think this can move you away from looking properly.

    Best wishes,

  3. Rhiannon, I love your term "film attitude"! Also, your suggestion to move away from looking at the images as they are shot, is a very good idea! Thank you!