24 years of photos, 3 observations

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bikealps, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. For the past several weeks, I have been working on cleaning up the garage. I am now 90+% done and am now working on sifting through 24 years of color prints, b/w negatives and prints, and color slides. From these 24 years of photos (golly so much to sort through), I would like to share three observations:
    1. quality is not important, memories are -- From the huge quantity of photos, the most meaningful to me have been old friends, events, weddings, etc. I saved several prints with abominable photographic quality because they captured important friends (completely out of focus, grossly underexposed, horrendous composition) at important times in life. I found a few photos of dear friends who are no longer alive -- I am only 46 years old and I miss these people.
    2. the camera doesn't matter, having it with you does -- after embracing the SLR in the early 1990s, I let go of it in favor of point-and-shoots in the late 1990s through 2008. During this time period I found some really significant photos taken with junk cameras. Even today, I still take a lot of photos with a p&s because I like to travel by bicycle and cannot carry a SLR in my jersey. I also found some really great photos from business trips; on these trips I was able to bring a p&s but would not have brought a SLR.
    3. I loved APS -- At the risk of getting ostracized from photo.net, I will admit I used an APS camera in the late 1990s through 2001. Seeing the results, I love them and I really appreciate the creative freedom it imparts with 3 formats -- panorama, 4x7, and 4x5. Sure, we can crop any way we want these days with a DSLR, but having a cropping guide sure stimulates creativity.
    OK, I'm a blasphemer, but I just had to share these thoughts. I am now through all my color prints (prints or printed slides). Tomorrow I take on my b/w prints and 35mm slides.
    All of the above said, I still want to take the best photos possible. I don't imagine myself to ever be a famous art photographer, but I want to take the best photos I can of the important moments in life and the equipment geek in me is willing to pay for it.
  2. Only 21 years worth? I've yet to tackle the task, having *stuff* from 1969-1970 to the current date -- of the photographic nature to sort through.
  3. Every time I start one of these projects it's never long before I stop and just start laughing and then go on to something else.
  4. I think all of your points are well taken. Well said.
  5. One important aspect of a camera is that it is a time machine. I can look at a picture I took 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday.
  6. Great post, Allan. It's easy to get caught up on the daily grind and forget the true meaning and spirit of photography.
    Here's David Griffin of National Geographics on how photography connects us - a TED talk from a while back that complements your post:
  7. Its not the best camera or the best lens, its the best scene that we strive to preserve. I was at Borders in the local mall the other day with my daughter. She went off to buy some clothes and I sat down and had a look at some photography books (again!).
    The most stunning scene captures to me had to be those by Robert Capa and the early Life magazine shots. Technically pretty crappy but when you realise what had to be done to get the shots, stunning in their own ways. I also got to thinking about all these endless arguments about digital resolution and which camera has an edge etc. Who gives a rats?...I care about the story the scene is telling.
    Its clarified to me what I like anyway.
  8. I am going on 66yrs in February and going to retire to just photography or what ever. When I was about 5 or 6, my brother 8 or 9 maybe younger the owner of a local market took slide pictures of both of us with our mother. This was when markets in Los Angeles were not closed in. We were dressed in our complete cowboy outfits chaps and all. My mom became legally blind and under light she could barely make the pictures out as she got older. The slides had been put away and not viewed for over 30 years. I found them and viewed them clearly for the first time via my PC. I printed some of the best and gave one to my brother three or four years ago. To see us with mom when we were kids brought back alot of wonderful memories for both of us. As my brother says "Ma Barker and her gang ." Oh, moms in a heavy long green coat fashionable at that time.
  9. Spot on observations! My children (now aged 21 to 27) often request a slide show from their childhood when they are home on holiday. So out comes the Leitz projector and screen and up go the Kodachromes and Fuji Sensias.
    Also quite right on the camera front - the best camera is the one you have with you. That's why I can have a Canon compact, a Panasonic G1 and a Nikon D300. Each has its place and time.
  10. Wise words, Allan, thanks
  11. Very interesting topic. I agree and strongly disagree at the same time.
    The soul in the photographs is what matters, I agree. Friends, experiences, etc. are into the image, but...
    I`m lucky I have family photographs from the early photography days. Many of them are in bad condition, blurred (out of focus, motion blur), soft, etc. All are very beatiful pics.
    It`s a pleasure to look at the good ones (sharp, contrasty, well composed). These are timeless portraits. They are worthy of being hanged on an honoured place inside home. Not because are posed (I prefer non-studio backgrounds!). My 21 years old pics are pretty different... ugly, tacky, technically poor, etc. The oldest has been kept by my family like a treasure, the newest use to be hidden!
    You`re right taking the best possible photos. I have two photography approaches... the snapshooter and the thoughtful ways. Digital and classic, like music. I don`t stand out in neither, I`m afraid... ;/
  12. As someone who, relatively recently, lost a box of photos from a VERY, VERY important 2 years of my life, I cannot but agree with what the OP said. I don't really remember those photos which went missing, but I KNOW they contained memories and images my heart longs for and yet will never be able to see again. And this hurts more than I ever thought possible.
    These days I safeguard EVERYTHING to the point of being a bit obsessive sometimes and my photographic skill is now advanced enough to have pretty much only good shots of all those things that matter to me, but I would easily sacrifice a lot of that skill to have just one chance to see those lost images once again...
  13. Very wise words. I agree with Jose, and say that the sharp and well composed ones are nicer to view years later. I have some very precious memories that were taken on a plastic-lensed 110 camera. Whilst all those who are attached in some way to these photos see them as good, I cannot help but feel a bit saddened that eyes are reduced to mushy blobs instead of showing the sparkle that I know they used to show.
    So, at least now I take plenty of photos and make efforts to ensure they are of good enough quality.
  14. Well said. I just went through only a year's worth of digital shots this weekend, so much memories. That's why I shoot really, for the memories.
  15. Again I'm with Jose. I recently scanned a box of slides from the 1970s and early 1980 for my sister. I also moved some files between computers, and again got to see pictures of my parents taken with my first digital camera (they both died in 2003). It's good to have these photos, and bitter-sweet to look at them, but incredibly frustrating that they aren't of better quality. Another friend died earlier this year, and I'm very grateful that I have a reasonable number of photos of her - although it's still too raw for me to have gone through them (I must; I need to send them to her parents). But I do care far more about these photos than some perfectly-composed snaps of less emotional subjects.

    Oh, and I'll also own up to being pleased with some photos taken on APS - although given that the alternative was an Agfa e1680, I was probably spoiled by the quality.
  16. I think it comes down to whether you shoot for yourself or for others. Photos are great memory triggers, and it is in the associations that you make when looking at them that their true value lies. Beyond that, and for others looking at the same images - obviously other factors come into play, such as composition, subject etc. etc...
    For me, one of my regrets in life, is being perhaps too focused on landscape and non-personal projects. Looking back, I think I missed many opportunities for capturing important memories both for myself and friends / family. On that basis, perhaps a less 'precious' view of photography is of benefit.
  17. Don't know why this post is in the Nikon forum, but I'll agree, I have many photos in my archive that weren't taken with a Nikon SLR that still look great. I don't think anyone here ever said you have to use an SLR to make great photos. But an SLR does allow much more creative control. Blah blah blah.
  18. Allan,
    Thank you so much for sharing your three observations.
    After you finish sorting all your images, do you plan on digitizing them?

  19. Those are nice thoughts, Allen. Thanks for sharing. Point 2 is the key imo.
  20. My collection dates from the early 1950's, and my observations agree with yours.
    Thanks for sharing.
    - Leigh
  21. Allan: A wonderful statement, and perfectly true. This is why when I photograph an event I proof all of the photos I capture, unless they are extremely blurred, even if there is no chance of them ever winding up in a portfolio. You never know if what may look like a terrible shot to you may contain some significant meaning to a client.
    For me, one of my regrets in life, is being perhaps too focused on landscape and non-personal projects.​
    This is something that I try to keep in the front of my mind, I love creating wall-hangers without people, but try to remember to capture the people I am traveling with and not just objects.
    I also wish I had been bitten by the photography bug earlier in life, there are trips I went on without cameras to places I'll never be again, with people I'll never see again. I had access to an old EM with some pretty good glass that I had no idea what I was doing with back in high school, I have 2 rolls of t-max negatives of friends, I wish I had 20! If I had realized my passion, there is no telling what I would have photos of.
    I have spent countless hours restoring folded, torn, water damaged, dog eared, cracked family photos, some the only images that exist of people who no longer do.
    FWIW: I never leave home without a P/S that goes everywhere I do, a m4/3 with a fast prime in my bag, and enough lenses, flash, memory, and batteries to shoot an impromptu wedding if I needed to in the trunk of my car! The pro kit comes out if I plan to go photographing for fun, have an assignment, or know I'll be at a get together where f 1.4 and iso 3200 might be needed for candid fireside shots.
  22. Thanks for the invaluable perspective, Allan. It's a good reality check. The best photos don't necessarily come from the
    latest or fanciest equipment. They can come from keen observation, opportune timing, and our emotional interaction with
    the subjects.

    I hope that you'll consider scanning your precious prints and slides so you can keep backup copies (in multiple locations, of
    course). I would hate for you to lose such meaningful mementos.
  23. Keeping in mind that I approach photography from an artistic perspective, when I read the word "quality", I think not of sharpness first, but of the various artistic elements that are used to build a composition. With respect, I have to disagree with your first point: quality and memories are equally as important. One is weak without the other.
    I'll agree to your second point to an extent: I prefer to carry my moderately-sized SLR kit with me pretty well everywhere (it's the camera I have with me) Yeah, it's heavier than throwing a compact into a pocket, but it's worth it to have the versatility necessary to create exactly the image I've preconceived in my mind before even removing the camera from the bag, instead of being restricted by the limited use a point-and-shoot.
  24. Nice thoughts Allan, as usual.
    Allez allez allez! ;-)
    And you probably know, I can totally relate. To this day my biggest hole is from 1980 to May 1990. I might be lucky to have just 20 photos from that period extant. :(
    But still, you are spot on.
  25. The soul in the photographs is what matters, I agree. Friends, experiences, etc. are into the image, but...
    I`m lucky I have family photographs from the early photography days. Many of them are in bad condition, blurred (out of focus, motion blur), soft, etc. All are very beatiful pics.​
    I agree. Often, what was a fairly mundane photograph at the time gains some extra magic just by getting old. Fashions, cars and buildings change and the extra years add interest.
    Then there are the images of people who are special to you, long deceased family members and special places from your childhood.
    I now have my father's collection of slides after he passed away recently, most of them Kodachrome, from the last fifty years. Being the photographer in the family not many of them feature him and the quality is consistently good but the important things are the people and places from long ago.
    He used to have a family slide show once or twice a year and as soon as I sort through them, I intend to continue this tradition.
  26. I agree with most of the things mentioned here. But I do think quality matters.
    Of course I rather have a bad picture of a special 'memory' than a perfectly composed and sharp picture of something not interesting. But When you have both it is fantastic.
    Some years ago I had two important triggers, Once I went on a special holiday and took so many pictures of all the 'touristic' places that have been photographed millions of times and better. But I almost didn't have any pictures of the people I was staying with. Sometimes the ordinary things are more important, the rest you can download from internet.
    Another time I went to a wedding party and just shot some pictures, as it happened I took some pictures of a group and one of the pictures wasn't good or important to me. The weekend after that someone in the picture that I didn't know died and he was almost never in pictures. That was probably the last picture he was in. I didn't delete it. So I try not to delete too many that are ok. Maybe just burn them to a disc en remove them from the normal archive.
    Since then I have been starting to separate picture taking a bit. Especially on events and holidays I try to take some pictures as 'art' and try to make it a really nice picture. And the rest of the pictures are more of a registration of history. When reviewing pictures it sort of gives a history overview of your live. And sometimes even a readable streetsign in an otherwise terrible picture can be very important. Of course even with the 'history' pictures I try to make it a nice picture. Just my 2ct
  27. Great post!
  28. I am 30 years old now and have some photos of me and my family when I was 2 or 3 years of age. There arent that many of them I guess it was because the place and time I grew up in. I do wish I had more of those photos they are like the relics to me so many memorries.
  29. Allan,
    I love your post. I have been involved in scanning 12,000 slides that my father took from 1948-1988 and about 500 pictures that I found when my mom passed last year. Some are of poor quality for various reasons, but I am glad that I have them. Sort of the way I think about it in the following way: it is better to have the picture than nothing at all and a good quality picture is better than a bad quality picture. For me, I always strive for the good quality picture, but good memories embedded in a bad picture is better than none at all.
    Good shooting...
  30. Al, I think you now learned what George Eastman banked on years ago.
  31. Yes but Allen would a Photo Editor feel the same way you do ?
  32. Having recently completed a multi-year project that involved sorting and scanning all the negatives and slides my father took, and finally getting all of my film and digital pictures in some kind of order I can only agree whole-heartedly with you, Alan. My father passed away 11 years ago, but every time one of his pictures slide by on a random screen-saver I remember something about him, and the people that he enjoyed photographing around him. Not all great pictures, and sometimes I cringe when I see how badly out-of-focus-with-bad-lighting-and-worse-composition some of my pictures are, but the memories these trigger get me past that real quick.
    Great post. Thank you.
  33. 1. quality is not important, memories are
    For snapshots maybe but not for serious photography

    2. I loved APS
    All aps does is crop which you can do at the printing stage
  34. I've just been going through numerous photos on the computer with my mum. Just 'snaps' really. Mostly family photographs, some landscapes, some 'wildlife' photos. All of them are special for one reason or another but i kept seeing various flaws in many of them, composition, lighting and focus, etc. I kept saying mostly, 'That one's outa focus!', even if only slightly out. But still, many of the photos were pleasant enough, many of them still captured something that was almost beautiful! I wished that all of them were PERFECT!!! But that's not ever possible for anyone with any serious interest in taking very good photographs. We have to live with our imperfections. Maybe i get too 'hung-up' on outa focus pictures? I want them all to be in focus very strongly but maybe i should be a bit more relaxed when the inevitable occasion arises and photos aren't pin-sharp ..... Maybe i should just learn to treasure the moment that i have still captured and not be too overly concerned with the deepest technicalities of the photo? The moment is still special, after all ....
    Best wishes,
  35. Allan,
    Thank you for starting a very thought provoking thread.
    My first thought was about how we always (or should always) back up our digital files, but how all my childhood photos are "one of a kind" and should probably be scanned and backed up also.
    My second thought: I agree with you, the most important thing to remember is to ALWAYS have "a" camera with you. It truly doesn't matter what kind of camera. I have a Canon G10 p&s as well as a DSLR with plenty of gear. One is with me at all times.
    The third thought: Allan is not telling us not to take beautiful landscapes or technically perfect photos or to not create fine art with photography, he is simply reminding us to not forget to capture what is truly important in our lives.
    Great post,
  36. I agree. Great post. I'll try to remember these thoughts the next time I get a little bit of camera and lens envy!
  37. I have been involved in scanning 12,000 slides that my father took from 1948-1988 and about 500 pictures that I found when my mom passed last year.​
    You must have lots of spare time then!
    I have no intention of scanning my father's slides - at least, not as a whole. I might do the odd one or two if I want a print but I don't see the point in scanning all of them when the originals are going to outlast the digital files.
  38. thanks for the post Allan. people have always been the most photographed subjects, and likely always will. if you take the greatest images of all time, they nearly all feature people, and most of them aren't top quality ie.sharp, by today's standards (think Cartier-Bresson, Cappa, Frank). it's about the content and the feeling the image invokes.
  39. Regarding scanning slides, negatives and prints. Which forum is the appropriate place to discuss a project like scanning all the old family slides, negatives and prints?
    I wonder if David Cavan can comment on his experience with his project?
  40. Ofer, David -- I'd be really interested in any insights you have.
    I'm about to pull out my old lightbox and start looking at slides. This could take days. I'm not sure I can afford the time.
    My local camera store will scan slides, negatives, and prints for about $1 per image. There are also mail-away services for this. At what point does it make sense to buy your own scanner? Are these scanner automated so I can just put a stack of slides in, and then it scans them and outputs a bunch of files?
  41. I will mirror Louis Meluso's comment and say wise words. I have no experience with APS cameras, but I certainly understand your sentiment. The first and second point, however, I have direct experience with, and can only say, that I agree utterly and completely with your observations. I am only 27, and I have photos of lost friends and family, that stirr memories and emotions upon viewing. In addition, travelling alot, I cannot count (and wouldn't really wish to, for sheer terror of realisation) how many opportunities I have had to let go by, unphotgraphed, due to my lacking a camera at the moment.
    A lovely thread :)
  42. Mark L "All aps does is crop which you can do at the printing stage"

    APS also gave me a tool to visualize. The viewfinder showed me the frame in three formats and the automatic printing process encouraged me to use them. Agreed that a serious photographer should be doing this anyway, but APS brought this to the amateur snapshooter.

    In the early 1990s, I would go on photo trips with a friend who had a 4x5. I had a 6x6 TLR, which was similarly slow to set up and use. He made some pretty incredible photographs, particularly of grass. I tried to emulate him. We both carried cards, made from thick card stock with holes the size of our negatives. Before we set up our cameras, we would hold these cards at calibrated distances from our noses -- same as our lens lengths -- to help visualize what the camera would see before we set up the tripod.

    I wonder now if I should carry similar cards with me in the field... I could make them of different formats -- panorama, 4x5, 4x6, etc. -- to encourage me to think in those terms and essentially convert my DSLR into an APS camera.

    I just spend yesterday morning in the studio, using my strobes for the first time in 10 years. The strobes force you to work slower. The tripod gives you a similar discipline. All these new technologies -- 1600 ISO with very low noise, VR lenses -- make it easier to hand hold, and in so doing can distract you from the task of seeing.
  43. Allan,
    I started a thread here: http://www.photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00Xclk
    hopefully some people will chime in. good luck!
  44. I've been putting old super 8 movies on my dad's Apple TV. He had them transfered to DVD at Costco, but it was a pain to view them. They were chopped up, because he didn't organize them well when they were sent to be transferred. I "edited" them to group the various scenes together by category and chronological order. My dad loves to watch them and show those movies to people, even though they're silent movies. He has 12,000 digital photos he's shot over the past 10 years with various digital cameras. He likes to watch them on his big screen TV too. The Apple TV makes slide shows automatically from albums in iPhoto. (I convinced him to buy an iMac a few years ago.)
    Digital has done a lot for our photo and video/film watching experience. It's nice to see that stuff on a 60 inch screen, with music, sitting comfortably on a couch.
  45. Couldn't have said it better, from the perspective of a serious amateur... the memories are paramount; having equipment with you that you can use most anytime is hugely important as well! Thanks for the post-

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