Qui tangit frangatur.

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Less is more

I continue to be astounded by drop in prices for memory media.
My first digital camera is a Canon A510, purchased in fall 2005.
Costing me US$200, its maximum resolution is 2048 x 1536, or, in (predictably, less than honest) marketing math, 3.2 million pixels.

As the stock 16 MB memory card only holds 9 pictures at maximum resolution, I spent another US$29.90 on another 16 MB memory card. (Yes, I am old school; still operating on the price-of-camera-to-price-of-one-film-roll ratio.)

Capacity     No. of Pics       Purchased On        Price Paid
 16 MB               9 pics                Fall 2005        US$29.90
128 MB            69 pics             Winter 2006        US$48.00
256 MB         150 pics            Spring 2006        US$29.90
    2 GB        1192 pics        Summer 2007        US$25.90

This is nothing short of amazing.

I must admit that (with a little embarrassment) the affordability of massive storage has degraded the care with which I take pictures. When I had to make do with 18 (two 16 MB cards) or 69 shots (a single 128 MB card), I would scout around for the best vantage point; compose the best frame; shoot, examine; and, if necessary, delete and retake — come rain, fog, hail, wind, snow, sleet, or dusk. Every picture had to count (and you know what? Curiously, they did).

However, once I had the luxury of storing shots in the triple digits, I became complacent, even lazy: I would shoot a barrage of pics at whatever remotely interested me, secure in the knowledge that I would have the luxury of sorting them out later on the computer; or, I would demur from getting off the trail (and risk ticks, thorns, and rattlesnakes) but instead take the picture from far away, knowing full well that with the higher resolution shot, I can zoom and crop the picture later on the laptop.

Now, with ability to hold 1192 shots in my camera, I wonder what will my picture taking routine degenerate to.

I gravitate towards purists.
I tend to fall in love with the ideal.
(Or maybe I'm just an incurable romantic.)

Thus, bracketing (taking many shots of the same subject, from the same perspective, in hopes that one will turn out good) shots ranks very low in my esteem. And that, is what I found myself doing of late.

Gorgeous photographs are — and, in my humble opinion, should be — painstakingly composed, framed, and then finally taken with just one shot. That was how Ansel Adams did it, lugging a bulky and heavy large format camera (one shot per sheet film holder) up and down the hills, vale, dale, and cliffs of Yosemite. Despite hordes of tourists, photo-enthusiasts, and professionals with 12+ megapixel SLRs; image stabilized, multi-coated lenses; spirit-level tripods, and 8 GB memory cards; crowding the valley today, no one has bested Adams' images.

Adams couldn't be lying (Adobe Photoshop™ didn't exist until 1990).

Or, was the world simply more beautiful then?

Or, is it just us?

As soon as I saw the moon coming up by Half Dome I had visualized the image. …I have photographed Half Dome innumerable times, but it is never the same Half Dome, never the same light or the same mood. …Half Dome is a great mountain with endless variations of lighting and sky situations and seasonal characteristics; the many images I have made reflect my varied creative responses to this remarkable granite monolith.

Ansel Adams made this image at 4:14 the afternoon of December 28, 1960 with a Hasselblad camera and 250mm Zeiss Sonnar lens, releasing the mirror before operating the shutter to minimize vibration.

One shot.


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