Challenging Some Digital Assumptions

Point Of View

Photos © 2002, Michael Mackay, All Rights Reserved

Photography is a wide-ranging field that engenders passion in its practitioners, and like all great forms of expression creates opinions formed through experience and reflection. In its early days one of the great debates was: Is Photography Art? This was the subject of many essays and heated discussions among players and spectators. Today, issues such as film vs. digital, format choices, the validity of computer generated images, photography as exploitation or revealer, and even the merits of ink jet vs. silver prints cause similar debate. We are opening this department up to readers, manufacturers, and retailers--in short, everyone who lives and breathes photography and who has an opinion about anything affecting imaging today.

Here's how to get involved: write us an e-mail at or send us a letter with a proposed topic and a synopsis of your idea. Once approved, we'll ask you to send us about 500-1000 words on the subject chosen. The idea here is not to push any product or wave any flag, but to create discussion about photo and imaging topics of the day. We reserve the right to edit whatever you send in, although we will never edit intention or opinion but only for length and, hopefully, for clarity. We reserve the right to publish your work on our web site as well, so you can join the archives and be a resource for opinion for years to come.
So, get thinking and writing and share your Point of View.
--George Schaub

There's little doubt that a state of the art digital camera may produce fantastic imagery. But I do not wield a $10,000 professional pixel packer for the same reason I don't drive a Formula One racecar to work. I'm an amateur photographer, which just so happens to be Webster's definition for Shutterbug. Realistic constraints of mortgage payments and college tuition limit my camera's prestige factor. But amateur need not mean neophyte.

For Film Results, Pick...
As a free-lance supplier of sports photography to the local school district, my pictures must transcend the theoretical limit of: Good-Fast-Cheap, Pick Any Two. Fortunately, I've discovered a cost-effective method to capture photos which match the resolution, clarity, and saturation of color film. It's called...color film! Reasonably priced prosumer digital cameras suffer from slow shutter lag and cumbersome electronic viewfinders. Conversely, film SLRs benefit from a mature technology curve and stiff market competition. A few hundred bucks will purchase a camera body capable of all but the most demanding (and mostly obtuse) capabilities. Development costs are admittedly expensive, but look at all the money I'm saving on digital storage cards, batteries, printers, ink cartridges, and photo quality paper.

Lens Bag
My arsenal of glass looks equally austere. A simple 100-300mm f/5.6 zoom and 500mm f/8 catoptric (mirror lens) for well-lit outdoor venues, coupled with a 50mm f/2 prime for indoor events fill my camera bag. Yeah, I know, none of these lenses possess the glorified "bokeh" so desperately sought by elitists. However, none of them required an equivalent weight of gold bullion for purchase. Great sports photos must capture the essence of emotional competition while complying with basic axioms of exposure, clarity, and composition. Everything else remains superfluous to the thrill of victory.

Please don't misinterpret my point of view. I love to acquire new equipment, and my background as an optical engineer gives me a deep appreciation for all things photographic (analog or digital). Do not limit your creativity because you own Grandpa's old Kodak clunker. Proper technique, familiarity with the subject, and attention to detail go a long way to compensate for a lack of gee-whiz equipment loaded with useless gew-gaws. Mix in a little innovation, and the possibilities are stunning. Good enough to get my photos published in a magazine? You be the judge.