Film has benefits

July 17, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Emerald Bay Summer Here's an image that is NOT digital.  This was made with a 50+ year old folding view camera using 5x7" Fuji Velvia 50 slide film.  What you see here is pretty much what you'd see looking at the slide directly - little post-processing after scanning the slide.  Definitely not a point-and-shoot; setting up for this shot took about 15-20 minutes.  Patience is a virtue for landscape photographers!

Emerald Bay is located in the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, one of the few completely enclosed inlets around the lake.  It's probably one of the more photographed scenes of this area because it is easily accessible from the road circling the lake.  I visited this area at least three times during the week spent photographing the lake and realized quickly I would be unable to get a truly unique perspective.  Not that I didn't have options.  Behind where I've set up here is a steep, rocky slope I could have climbed for a perspective looking more downward, but the gear I used for this shot is clumsy and difficult to hike with.  There is an easier trail leading down from this spot to the bay's edge but I wanted this seen-from-above perspective.  All in all this was the best spot for the image I wanted, which was to be more of a postcard view of the bay. 

I wanted the full view all in focus, from rocks in the foreground to the distant mountains.  I especially wanted to get the color of the water, which is why this was made in the early afternoon.  With the sun high in the sky it's light penetrates deeper into the lake, reflecting back as this deep, cobalt blue.  And this perspective gives more layering than the more traditional view looking right out the bay.  Here I've got the foreground, then the bay, then the sloping shoreline beyond, and finally the distant mountains.  The perfect final element for this image would be big puffy clouds in the sky but the whole week all I got was clear, alpine air.

What probably made it unique for the people around that day was the equipment.  I got several intrigued comments from the tourists milling around - you don't see many people with view cameras these days, photographers with a black cloth draped over their head and a magnifying glass in hand to check the focus on a ground glass screen.  You actually don't see many photographers using film - digital is the convenient tool of choice for the casual image maker.  I use film because I know it forces me to think more about a scene (do I really want to haul all that gear out for this?), it provides a tactile connection to the process of photography (setting up, focusing, adjusting exposures, etc.) that helps engage the creative side of my brain, and the resulting image provides me more detail than I would ever get from my digital equipment.  It also connects me to the photographers of the 19th century, people who designed and developed the craft we so casually take advantage of today.  Being a part of that heritage is important for my photography.

 


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