I bought my first digital SLR camera in 2005. It was a Canon Rebel XT a.k.a the 350D, with a modest 8 megapixel sensor. Modest by today’s standards – at the time it seemed like a wondrous thing. That hooked me into digital photography, and it wasn’t long before I added a slightly better camera with similar specifications, the Canon 30D, to my collection. This photograph of a boreal lake in Ontario was taken with the 30D in the summer of 2007.
It’s one of no less than 181 almost identical photographs that I took of the scene. 181! Why did I take 181 photographs of a pretty but entirely average landscape view?
Partly it was because I could. That was a trap – still is, in many ways – of digital photography. No longer limited by film and its parsimonious allocation of frames, you can go hog wild with a digital camera. I did – and not just here. It wasn’t until I returned to film photography in 2014 that I seriously began to reconsider my photographic overload and to comprehend that tens or hundreds of photographs of the same scene added nothing to the artistry of the shot. In contrast, it often obscured it. You become pinned to a particular view and rather than wait for the best light or consider changing your position, you just click away, telling yourself that one of these shots will be a masterpiece. Even though they are all pretty much the same and when you come to view the collection on your computer, they take on a dreary homogeneity that dilutes even the best images.
In photography, less is more. If instead of the 30D, I had a large format field camera, I would have spent a lot more time seeking out the best viewing point for a strong composition and I would have waited for good light and if I didn’t get it, I wouldn’t take the photograph. In other words, a lot more considered thought would have gone into the image and the ‘spray and pray’ mentality that is so strongly encouraged by digital cameras would have been absent.
I don’t have a large format camera. But I do have 35mm and medium format film cameras and I use them frequently now. I take far, far fewer photographs. But more of them are worthwhile. The discipline gained using those film cameras has transferred to my digital photography as well. I am very much happier with the results.