The Old Question – Digital vs. Film

Over the years, as I lecture about my book The Lewis & Clark Trail American Landscapes, I am always, and I mean always asked, did you shoot that in digital? Well, the answer is – for the book, no. I used 35mm color transparencies, mostly Fuji Velvia film. A few are digital as I bought my first high end digital camera (a Canon EOS-1Ds) when it came out half way through shooting for the book. I then tried to shoot both as I was not sure what I would use. But the fact is, digital does look a little different. In my case, the rich royal blues of the sky wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, and I didn’t want there to be two looks in the book. However, since then I have switched entirely to digital.

Now we could go through all the motions of answering the questions of resolution power of film versus digital and the technicalities of both, and these days digital would probably win every argument. But the biggest one’s are made with your eyes. Which do you like more? OK then, there is your answer on what to shoot.

Myself, I have embraced digital fully. I love it! It free’s me from some of the technical sides of photography, especially when I am inside a company or manufacturing plant and have different light sources, with different colors spectrum’s to deal with. White balance it and begin! Voila!

The other piece of my puzzle on this subject is when I go to make my fine art prints. Even at a photo lab these days they will make a scan of your transparency and then make a print. Many of the images from the book have been scanned by both me or my assistants, in my studio, and by John Stinehour at Stinehour Press on his million dollar scanner. Depending on the size of the original scan they can make beautiful 20″x30″ prints. But I have found generally speaking that if a digital original from the 1Ds is available it will make a better looking print. We’ll talk about digital fine art printing later.

The downside of digital is the archival side. Backing up files, disks and the huge amount of space involved is time consuming. But, the big advantage is you can also take a set of them off site and have a backup set no where near the studio , in case disaster strikes. With film, you have a file cabinet and maybe a few images in a different location. Call me paranoid, especially since I have not yet had a problem with this, but it helps to know my images are safe in two places! But it is also a possible problem. With film it sits in a drawer until needed. With digital, you have to keep up with technology. Will the disk with a set of images on it be able to be read in 10 years? What about 50 or 100? Will we have kept our image files up to date or lost a great part of our culture, or family history, to the digital age? Only time will tell.

So share your experiences with us here! For me digital is a great tool for a photographer, and smells better than a darkroom as well, yet every so often I walk into my darkroom just to take a little sniff and remember.

Richard or

In The Beginning…

Well, blogs are all the rage now, especially in the publishing world, where it is said, “if you don’t have a blog you can not hope to make it”, or something very close to that effect. Now I don’t believe anyone cares about what I eat for lunch on any particular day, so that kind of thing I won’t write about. Instead i will try to answer some of the typical questions I get during my lectures I have done about my book, The Lewis and Clark Trail American Landscapes. They pertain to photogrpahy questions like digital versus film, what do you use to make your prints, travel questions like during your travels what did you do as far as hotels or camping along the trail, how did you decide to do a book at all and what pitfalls did you encounter.

So our subjects will range from travelling to various places with a bend toward best places to photograph, as if there really is a best place, to the technical side of photography. We’ll also be talking about the publishing industry and how you can either publish your own books, or find a publisher for your book. There is much to learn about that alone! And having been through it now for the last two years with this book, I know at least a bit more than before and can talk about the pitfalls and highs of publishing.

This should be an interesting trip and I hope we’ll all have a lot to say! I look forward to hearing from people about the book, interesting places you have been and other insights!

And now we begin…

Richard Mack