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Photograph On a Mossy Path by Richard Keeling on 500px

On a Mossy Path by Richard Keeling on 500px

For reasons of convenience only, I took my digital cameras with me on my summer holiday to the United Kingdom.

Convenience because of not wanting to deal with the hassles of trying to avoid my film being X-rayed by airport security or, simply, having to carry rolls and rolls with me.

However, I miss it.

I miss the tangible process of loading and unloading film. I miss the concentration that using film brings to my picture taking. I miss the delightful delayed anticipation generated by the time between taking and developing the film.

So it’s back to the old ways. If ways established only over the past ten years can really be considered ‘old’.

Except it’s not.

This surprised me. I expected that once I reentered my digital mode, my thinking would revert as well. To some extent it did. I’m back to chimping and histogram examining, habits I cheerfully and thankfully abandoned with a film camera and which continue to irritate me as I reestablish them. However I’m using them a little differently. An clearly unsatisfactory picture gets deleted immediately in camera now. No longer am I going to spend a lot of time working on a substandard picture in Lightroom to bring it back to some sort of life. That’s a relief – and something I would not have done before I took up film photography again.

I’m taking fewer pictures. A lot fewer. Perhaps only a quarter as many as I took on my last trip to the UK. I can already judge that my number of true keepers is going to be higher this time around even though my total will be a lot lower. That change is entirely due to the discipline taught by returning to film.

One might ask – why bother with the discipline? After all, filling up a memory card costs nothing. But the reality is that less time devoted to taking a photograph is more time devoted to being in the moment. I now realise that a minute or two spent taking a single considered photograph is worth far more than half an hour spent accumulating dozens of nearly identical images in the pursuit of that ‘just right’ image. How many galleries do I have from the past of tens or even hundreds of such images? Too many – and each accumulated at the cost of not looking around and truly seeing.

This is a revelation. One to embrace.

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