Thoughts on the Change From Film to Digital Photography


In 1903, there were two cars in the state of Ohio. They promptly ran into each other. The newspapers sensationalized the event, without pictures, reporting how the vehicles dashed around emitting loud noises that frightened horses and disturbed the domestic tranquility. Some labeled them weapons of destruction, and a menace to society. During the next year the president declared that no one should have to go faster than fifteen miles per hour. (The speed of a good horse)

That same year, the Wright Brothers flew the first powered aircraft to make a controllable flight to a safe landing at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina. A high tech, light weight gasoline engine had been developed by Orville and Wilbur to successfully power the craft. A previous airplane, the Langley Aerodrome, powered by a steam engine, had crashed in Chesapeake Bay on it's first attempt to fly, a sobering event that did not go unnoticed by those in the race to be the first to fly. A photographer was there on both occasions to record for history what these men had done. In July,1969,some of us watched on our home television sets as a former test pilot with the NASA High Speed Flight Station (now Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base stepped down from his spacecraft to the surface of the Moon. The Chinese Government said it was trick photography, but Neil Armstrong brought back the proof with pictures of Earthrise above the horizon of the Moon.

We watched the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997 as the Lander's rock-sniffing sidekick, the Rover Sojourner, roamed around the surface of Mars taking pictures and processing soil samples, to gather data to learn if life had ever existed on the red planet. By the year 2,000, 80,000 images, 50 times more detailed than any previously taken from orbit, had been sent to earth at 5,000 pixels per second from the Mars Geographical Surveyor. The digital data streaming back to us from the fringes of our galaxy were no more than a string of ones and zeroes that, when reassembled, revealed the evidence scientists needed to start to interpret the history of the planet. Just photographs, to be sure, but what photographs!

This year, the Sinar Cyber kit, targeted at fashion, architectural, and event photographers, was demonstrated on the streets of Monte Carlo. Quoting Terry Murphy in PEI Magazine; "It is a small, robust, battery powered CPU that makes high volume, high-speed digital image capture possible without a Laptop or AC power. Worn on a special belt along with a battery pack, the Cyber Kit has LCD touch screen controls and a 2 GB hard drive. Connected to the Sinar back with a proprietary fiber optic cable, the unit allows the photographer to capture up to 1,400 one shot images as fast as one image per second before downloading the files to a desktop or laptop computer. The captures are stored in buffer RAM before they are saved in the background via fiber optic cable to the units hard drive. The touch screen controlled software displays real time contact sheets of the captures. Any of these images can be viewed full screen or larger, and rotated from vertical to horizontal, and vice versa.

A histogram and exposure controls provide optimal control over image quality by allowing the photographer to correct the lightness or darkness of an image. Unusable pictures can be deleted immediately. After a shoot or when the hard drive is full, the image files can be downloaded to a computer via fiber optic cable or accessed on a network via an integrated Ethernet port." Digital imaging is trickling down to us, just as the automobile, the airplane, spacecraft, satellites, and many other inventions of the 20th Century did. It's exciting to be one of the New Millennium Photographers and learn how to use the new medium. We need not abandon the craft we know for the one we wish to learn, rather, we hope that we may use our prior knowledge to aspire to greater achievements in our digital photography future.

 

Lyle

 

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