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Posted by on Dec 17, 2011 in Arts & Entertainment, Miscellaneous | 15 comments

Photography Without Silver

Photography has certainly changed.  Just a few short years ago much of the silver mined went into photographic film and paper.  Today most of the world camera makers don’t even make film cameras.  Point and shoot cameras have resolution that you could only get with large format cameras like the Hasselblad.  I have been a photographer for over 40 of my 65 years but I retired my darkroom about 10 years ago.  Initially I continued to shoot film because the cameras had poor resolution.  I scanned the slides and negatives and made prints on a quality photo printer.  I also scanned  many of the slides and negatives taken with my beloved Hasselblad over 30 years.  I could make very good “straight” prints from the digitized images:

But I also discovered I could do things that I had only dreamed of in the darkroom.  I could isolate parts of the picture and edit them:

I could also turn day into night – the original of the picture below was a black and white picture taken during the day.  It was a very nice picture except for a very boring sky.

The boring sky was replaced with a moon and the scene changed from light to dark.

Digital photography does have a downside – it’s too easy.  Since I got my first digital SLR about six years ago I am taking more pictures than ever.  I also find I’m am taking fewer good ones.  A large format camera on a tripod required some discipline – you were more likely to look for a photograph.  Thank God for those old slides and negatives.

More pictures can be found here.

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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    those are great Ron!! I still have my pentax that went all over the americas, north, central and south america with me in the 60s. I just closed my darkroom this year, the chemicals had become harder and harder to find and more costly. It was a curtis/steiglitz/lange-ian time. And others. Like you!

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    i should also add, I am pitiful, for I know nothing about digital anything craftwise. I’ll try, but am worried I cannot figure out all the ‘stuff’ of it. I hope you’ll take my calls if I need advice, Ron?!! And I really dig the day into night pix you took and then made; creativity is the heart of it all, even as ways and means change. You’re doing great. I love images.

  • SteveK

    Well, Annie Leibovitz has gone digital and that, along with Ron’s beautiful photos, is good enough for me BUT…

    BUT now (hat tip to NPR) there’s a digital camera that you focus your shots AFTER you take them.

    Yes, absolutely. Every year, we give one of our top 100 the distinction of being the innovation of the year. And this year, that glorious honor goes to the Lytro light field camera. This camera has the potential to revolutionize – yet again – that thing that so many of us do all the time, which is take pictures. It actually kind of reverses the sequence of taking a picture. You don’t have to worry about focusing until after you take the shot. The Lytro has an array of micro-lenses in between its primary lens and its sensor that splits the light into thousands of different paths and basically creates thousands of different images, so that when you open up that image in its software, you can determine where you want the focus to be anywhere on the picture.

    Here’s a page with a few Lytro photos with focus point you can play with… Amazing.

  • SteveK

    Here’s a YouTube video of the Lytro light field camera in action.

    After watching it I think that even the dr. e’s of this world would go digital.

    EDIT TO ADD: Downside for us PCer’s… so far it only works with Mac computers. Windows version of software is in the works. Darn… I was ready to buy one.

  • @SteveK
    I saw Lytro Camera – it is interesting. Depth of field is important in photography and my complaint with modern cameras is controlling focus and exposure is difficult.
    @ Dr.E
    You know where to find me. As a side note the great Ansel Adams was always willing to embrace new photo technology. If he were still alive he would be writing books on how to take advantage of digital photography – the zone system meets 1s and 0s.

  • JSpencer

    Nice work Ron. There are some real beauties in there.

  • dduck

    Well, Ron, I have to compliment you for a change, you are a very good photographer.
    I now shoot digital, just got a new Lumix GH1 (a 4/3 micro camera) and am still wading through the thick manual. My wife is a dying breed and shoots Tri-X and she uses a darkroom at our summer rental.
    Scanning some of my stuff from 1954 makes me appreciate my old 35mm work, but is so time consuming and you sort of have to be organized (which I’m not).
    BTW: for people with old fast glass (lenses with apertures below 2.8), adapters are made so you can get that depth of field back, although you have to use manual controls.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    wow, you guys, you are all with it, ron, dduck and others. I feel like a luddite. lol. I was thinking dduck, maybe they will make a old school camera in digital that’s ready to go with depth of field and fast fast take of night, and so on, so not so much fiddling. It seems interesting that so much digital, in order to approach old sharp standards, has to have add-ons and manual sets… for then it’s sort of like using my pentax 33mm again. lol

    thanks ron for offering to help me. If you see a person with 55mm lenses for eyes and asa tattooed on her arm, that will be me. lol. On a more serious note, I shall write you down the line here to ask your thoughts on what hardware/which hardware to consider buying. But too Ron, it may be just the thing to write an article for TMV on what you recommend. My hunch is many people are putting off buying hardware bec they are overwhelmed by the camera displays at stores that sort of look like alluring girlie shows in the fields of farmers. lol

    dduck, hang in there with the manual. I’m still not all the way through my vcr manual and my mac os 9 manual… oh, I forgot, that’s ancient tech too. lol. I dig that your wife shoots tri-x. There are also, I hear, software apps for Windows too that make it a snap to organize jillions of shots. I use iView Media Pro (which has since been bought up by another co, but is very much alive), it’s very straightforward, very easy to see and find all. Much preferred over iphoto. Much. I think that’s cool you were shooting in ’54. That’s archival.

  • dduck

    BTW: 35mm is actually a high resolution medium if you can find the film. B&W is OK, and I think Fuji is still doing color negatives.

    The other advantage of digital is smaller size and weight. The 4/3 micro cameras (sensor about 1/2 a 35mm negative) and the APC size cameras (about 3/4 sensor area), offer a good compromise on size, quality and price.
    If you don’t mind size, the beginner DSLRs are not too expensive. But it’s the better lenses that catch your wallet for all of these cameras.

  • Allen


    What do I do with my Yashika medium format 2 ¼” and my 1981 Oly? I hate getting old.

  • Allen
    My first medium format camera was a Yashica, I loved that camera. I’m not sure but I think the top picture may have been taken with the Yashica. I sold it when I bought the Hasselblad. I have often regretted that sale – there was something about the twin lens reflex camera. I remember I almost bought a Rolliflex TLR instead of the Hasselblad SLR but in the end it was the interchangeable lenses that sold me although multiple film backs was also a plus – I could shoot color and black and white at the same time.

  • dduck

    Allen, if you have an oly Pen F, the lenses are desirable for those with 4/3 micro cameras.

    “I hate getting old.” With the alternative, you don’t need to worry about cameras.

  • dduck

    Ron, there is a digital back for the Hass.:

  • Allen


    My Oly is before digital. It’s got a power drive and several lenses, filters, etc.. Since it still looks new and still works, I guess I’ll just put it in the glass case with my old Japanese records and my other antique smarmy junk. Thanks though.

    Loved my “Yashica” 2 ¼”..but I have not seen any 120 roll film in years. Made absolutely excellent 8×10’s. I had a Hasselblad too, but I sold it and my Lieca range finder many years ago. Glad I did too. Got good money while they were still useful. Did you ever see the gold Lieca range finder? Just like that only not gold. 🙂

    Nice mood shots Ron.

  • dduck

    Allen, thanks for the courtesy of a response. I know your cameras are not digital, but the lenses can be mounted with adapters onto digital cameras. I had an Oly half-frame film Pen F that had lenses that would have worked very well (small size) with 4/3 micro digitals.
    Check ebay for your lenses prices.

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