Old Tech. New Tech. No Tech.

The two images above are from a campaign I did a while back for the Austin Lyric Opera.  At the time my camera of choice was the Kodak DCS 760.  I guess this would have been back in 2002 or 2003.  I was using hot lights so I could have complete freedom of choice for apertures while using the Nikon 105 f2 Defocus Coupling lens.  It was a wonderful combination.  The six megapixel camera could be used without an anti aliasing filter and that was fine with me.  But while the camera was capable of giving me very sharp images the lens was equally capable of taking the edge off.  We shot tethered to an aluminum Apple Powerbook and the shoot was wonderful and very productive.  

Time marched on and I've been thru many cameras since in a silly search for the "holy grail" of cameras.  But two Summers ago, just to do something different I charged up the aging batteries and shot a kid's swim meet with the DCS 760 and a Nikon 180 2.8.  It brought me back to the idea the cameras are never really obsolete if they still do what  you want them to do.  The files were wonderful.  The pictures, even better.  

I came across the camera in a drawer in the studio last week and immediately re-bonded to it.  Five pounds of picture taking potential.  I went on line and ordered two new batteries (which came yesterday) and I've been shooting it ever since.  New rule:  Never get rid of old cameras.  

That's my version of old tech.

Below is new tech.
I was doing a book on the business of Commercial photography and asked three really great photographers to contribute some photographs.  I was writing profiles of them because each, in his own way, defined what I thought was great about commercial photographers.  The gentleman above is the best living portrait photographer I know ( and it pains my ego to admit it.....).  His name is Wyatt McSpadden, and his book on Texas BBQ is amazing.  But even more amazing is the body of work he's assembled over the last 25 years.  To my mind he defines "master photographer."  Go and check out his website:  Wyatt's Website and tell me I'm not right.  On second thought, don't bother telling me because you'd be wrong.

Anyway,  I was tested the latest Phase One camera,  at the time a 45+s and making files left and right.  I love the way it handle skin tones.  And this is my example of New Tech.  Super sharp, super accurate and more expensive than both of my cars.....

But I always come back to no tech. 

The above image is an actor I shot years and years ago on 120mm Kodak Tri-X film.  I souped it by hand because that's just what we did back then.  When the film was nice and dry I made contact sheets and then sat around with a cup of coffee marking my selections with a grease pencil.  I'd draw quick circles around the keepers and then go back and draw three lines under the "must print" frames, two lines under the "under consideration" files and one line under the,  "go back and re-look if the other frames don't enlarge well" files.  The I wandered into the darkroom and made a bunch of test strips and test frames and then work prints and then a few final prints.  When they dried down I looked at em and went in again and did one more round of printing.

It's sad to show you this image on a web browser.  It's like describing what it's like to drink coffee instead of giving you a hot cup full.  It's like telling you how exciting it is to drive a sports car at the limits instead of putting you in the driver's seat and letting you take a few laps.  Well, I think you get the analogy.  I look at a 16x20 inch print of this and I'm still amazed.

We can do things quicker and cheaper now.  Is any of it technically better?  I don't think so.  Does it really matter?  Not if the image is good.

Old Tech.  New Tech.  No Tech.  Doesn't matter if it serves your vision well.

the holidays are upon us.  I humbly submit that a good book about photography will be most welcome by the photographers on your list.  Here are a few suggestions:






Matt Buntyn said...

"Old Tech. New Tech. No Tech. Doesn't matter if it serves your vision well."

Well said Kirk.

Douglas Urner said...

Just wondering about the "the holidays are upon us. I humbly submit that a good book about photography will be most welcome by the photographers on your list. Here are a few suggestions:" teaser that has been at end of recent posts. On my end it is always empty. Am I missing something?

Douglas Urner said...

Please let us know where you got your batteries for the DCS-760 (and what you think of them). I've been looking for some and would appreciate some guidance through the forest of online vendors. For what it is worth, they seem quite happy to work with a 4 GB CF card in a PCMCIA-to-CF adapter.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Douglas, Got them on Amazon from a vendor called "ZZcell". They came quickly, are NiMh instead of NiCad (hurray), charged in the standard slant top charger in four hours. I've shot about 200 frames with one battery since then and it still show almost a full charge. Nice to have the portability back. I'm also waiting on new batts for the SLR/n (which is a great portrait camera.)

Unknown said...

"I souped it by hand because that's just what we did back then." Am I really that old?

Great post and wonderful portraits. Many thanks, Kirk!

Lanthus Clark said...

I really liked Texas BBQ, but I do like your portraits better. Just a question of taste I suppose.

The old tech is kinda special, if I ever find a DCS-760 for sale I will be tempted to take it for sure.

I agree that new tech is faster and more convenient, but I can still equal what I get currently with my old F801s and some good film. Sometimes I dust it off and haul it around for a few days just for the sheer fun of it.

Just as much fun to go back to my old Olympus Trip 35 or DC 35 rangefinder, it's good for the soul I think.

Time for a cup of coffee, ciao!

Robert said...

Daryl, that in itself doesn't make you old. I'm only 33 and I've been the time bandit known as a dark room once or twice. You go for what feels like an hour, and come out 6 hours later with that perfect print, and a funky smell about you.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

..."Old Tech. New Tech. No Tech. Doesn't matter if it serves your vision well."

Very true. Some Tech is essential in photography. Enough Tech to get the results you want is all that's truly important ... Deciding what 'enough' consists of is where most of us are challenged and make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

"Tuck Tech" seems to work well across time and platforms. Nice work. Nice words.


Michael Ferron said...

Kirk you have to love the last tri-x shot. Digital does color so well but My B&W film efforts have a look I can not get from my digital cameras. A touch of grit and grain is just what the doctor ordered.

Unknown said...

I'm not a subscriber to "the camera doesn't matter." I think you nicely illustrated how all kinds of great pictures can be taken with all kinds of cameras - each with their own characteristics.