Friday, February 19, 2010
Nostalgic for the abstractions I used to make with my analog camera, the Olympus XA
Back before I got into digital photography, I was really attached to my Olympus XA. I took it everywhere. Surprisingly few compromises for a full frame 35mm pocket film camera: excellent 35mm, f/2.8 lens, flexible manual controls, etc.
And it had an endearing little quirk that practically forced me to make abstract photographs frequently. When you loaded the camera, there was no way to advance the take-up reel without making exposures. I would start a roll of film by snapping a couple "throwaway" shots since I didn't want to risk a "real" photo getting lightstruck from the loading.
To distinguish the throwaways from the rest, I would shoot them blurry and out of focus. I'd set the shutter speed at about a tenth of a second, focus on infinity, and then wave the camera around near a light source with a dark background. Abstraction ensued.
And it was always a surprise. Now matter how pedestrian the rest of the roll might be, I could always look forward to seeing my little quota of new abstractions when I opened the envelope of prints.
Could I do more or less the same thing with a digital? With the Coolpix P50, just about, although it's only partially manual and won't let me depart too far from the program. With the D90, sure -- but what's the point? It's just one more thing to preview on the LCD and then delete.
Part of the magic was the ritual. And waiting for the photos to be developed. The little surprise in each package of prints.