At Kennedy Space Center, I entered the building housing the remarkable Saturn V exhibit, and looking up, this is the first thing I saw; intricate, astounding engineering on an enormous scale. I love this image, because I can remember that moment of awe, and every time I look at it I notice some new arrangement of shapes and mechanics, textures and tones.
Even more incredible, this is Stage 1 of a rocket that took mankind to the moon, and it is entirely built by hand. I admire such workmanship, and understand that it took many talented minds and hands to assemble such a feat of engineering.
My digital black and white images are all tuned “by hand” as well – I do not use plugins or presets, and instead rely on my own sense of tonality, contrast and composition to bring a certain mood and focus to each photo. It is a labor of love, and as a result this image has proven to be quite striking as a large print.
…is the one you have with you. If you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the past several years, you’ve heard this phrase. If you’re a photographer of any sort, from hobbyist to professional, you know without a doubt that it is true.
I’ve worked with SLRs since the age of seven, when my father entrusted me with a 35mm Minolta SLR body and a few lenses, providing an endless supply of black and white film for my early photography explorations. I also had a Kodak point-and-shoot through which I must have run hundreds of rolls of color print film. When it came time for me to start building my own SLR camera kit, it came in the form of an upgrade to an entry-level Nikon FM-10, which I still keep handy for those opportunities when a return to 35mm film for a few shots might be worthwhile.
With each camera, I learned very quickly to work with whatever equipment I had on hand. Didn’t pack the right lens for the occasion? I’d work with what I had thought to bring, and never regretted the lessons learned in those moments of artistic and technical problem-solving.
In the digital era, I once again found myself playing with the freedom and spontaneity of a newer Kodak point-and-shoot, while the bulk of my photographic work was created with a Nikon D80, which I managed to make effective in a wider-range of shooting circumstances than the manufacturers may have intended. I worked with the D80 well past the reported limit of actuations, and as the image quality began to degrade, I knew my beloved DSLR body had helped me to build an extensive portfolio as I explored different shooting styles and challenges.
I have now made the ultimate upgrade, working with a Nikon D800, and the creative flexibility and power it provides has opened up new paths for me, through visual and technical experience. It is an incredible piece of engineering, and I hope my photography will continue to evolve as I learn to make use of all that it offers.
What inspired this post, however, is a recent, smaller upgrade. For nearly 4 years, I’ve carried around an iPod touch as my “pocket computer”. I tend to be a late-adopter on principle, and did not see the need for an expensive data-hungry phone, when any wi-fi connection could connect me in an instant to the online world. With the iPod, I started an instagram account and enjoyed the spontaneous world of snapshot sharing. As the years have gone by, I have been keenly aware of how the quality of my low-resolution images compare to those made by newer smartphones and mobile devices. Yet I continued to share my world and in-the-moment photos in low-resolution, because in many instances it was the only camera I had with me, and therefore it was the best camera for that moment. I’ve now upgraded my phone, and while the camera can not compare to my DLSR, it offers me new creative opportunities as I share higher-quality images and may find myself even further inspired to capture those candid and intimate moments that every day has to offer. Join me on the journey!