Posts Tagged ‘national geographic’

National Influence

30 October 2009

Dear J-

I believe in photographic influences; my eye is informed by those National Geographic photographers working in the 1970s, shooting Kodachrome on Nikon F2s.  Something about the colors — muted yet oddly vivid in different ways — which may be a result of the printing process, in fact, makes me think that the world was softer when I was growing up.  Going back now has, for me, nearly the same effect as going back through old albums:  instead of Uncle Fred, though, there’s that article on Papua New Guinea, for instance.

One thing that strikes you immediately is how gritty everything looks, part of pushing exposures and high-speed film; it’s not that the world was that much dustier thirty years ago, more that the norm today is hyper-clean high-ISO pictures.  We complain if the camera’s noise performance is anything less than perfect at ISO 800, never mind that it used to be an exotic film speed only fifteen years ago (I still remember when Fujifilm came out with an 800 print film that didn’t look like crap).

Another part the way that those old Nikkors drew.  It may be why my eye picks out lenses of a certain vintage when I’m going back through pictures I took on film.  I picked up a book the other day, written at the height of film, saying that the F/2.8 lenses of yesteryear were amazingly fast, allowing for handheld shots on ISO 400 film in any light.  Modern lenses are spectacular, for the most part, allowing flexibility with a wider range of useable stops and focal lengths, but perfect is rarely charming.  I know that everything can be added in post-processing (grain, lens defects), but it still doesn’t match what I remember.