John Deering's Strange Brew hits me at just the right moment.
Digital photography is making it easy to take good pictures, and even easier to take bad ones. GIGO was never more in evidence.
I had to deal with one photo this week that had a date/time stamp on it. It wasn't even the right date.
I tell the kids (A) it's like having the tag of your underwear sticking out (current fashions make this argument of dubious impact) and (B) you don't need it with a digital picture, because the date and time are recorded as part of the record.
It's generally not hard to clone those out, depending on the background, but I hate making any in-frame alterations to a picture. I have to remind myself that the date/time stamp is not actually part of the picture and that the only time it would become an ethical issue would be if the photo itself were the subject of the article.
Incidentally, here's the ethical summary on cloning and other alterations in journalism: You can't change the picture except in ways that you might have at the time you took it. That is, you can sharpen the focus and tweak (but not alter) the lighting -- all of which your brain does when you're looking at something in person -- and you can crop the image more tightly. That's pretty much it.
The date/time stamp issue comes under this rubric: Had you scratched the negative during the developing process, you could try to remove the scratch in processing the picture, because it's not inherent. Ditto, IMHO, with a date/time stamp.
I tell the kids that this is why you take lots and lots of pictures, because, if you only take one and there's a guy in the background picking his nose, you can't just clone him out.
The fate of the second photo that made me crazy this week remains up in the air, but is potentially more heartbreaking, because she got a terrific shot of a mountain goat on a green hillside against a gorgeous blue sky with fluffy white clouds, in absolutely sharp focus and with perfect lighting.
And processed it through one of those dumbass photo programs that reduces everything to postage stamp size so that you can share it quickly. In print, the picture would be about 3x2.
Fortunately, the article could be held. I'm hoping she still has the raw photo on her camera and can retrieve it directly rather than through that helpful, destructive program. We'll see.
Meanwhile, let's talk about Ansel Adams and his cell phone.
Cell phone cameras are getting better and better, and it's hard for me to judge at what point the quality of the optics becomes a bigger factor than the serious intent of people who use their cell phones instead of a "real" camera.
That is, if you're out and you see something amazing and you whip out your cell phone, you may end up with a very good pic. That's great. But, if you're headed out on a family vacation, I think taking along a for-real digital camera makes sense, if for no other reason than that the lens on a cell phone can pick up crud easily and you won't know until you download the pics and see them full-size. It's easier to check the lens on a camera. I would also argue that it's easier to line up your pic, to steady your shot, to see what you've captured.
But, hey, let the arguments begin.
Most newsrooms switched to digital a decade or more ago, which, by the way, took a lot of toxic chemicals out of the waste stream. But what you save on developing fluids and suchlike, you spend on the front end, because, at that level, a good-enough digital camera is quite a bit more expensive than a good-enough film camera. (Though reporters can be sent out with $250 cameras and produce useable pics, in good light, up close, without too much motion involved.)
I don't know what Ansel Adams paid for his cameras, but I'm sure he wasn't using a Kodak Brownie, so Deering is making a funny, not a serious comparison. It's a cartoon, remember.
However, I don't think that this is like the digital vs. analog argument in music, where a good record played on a good phonograph can have more warmth than a digital recording played on a good audio system. Or not, depending on the listener.
I think capturing light is different and that, if a good film photographer and a good digital photographer were to go head-to-head, then mix their results anonymously, it would be hard to tell which photo was taken by which method, and equally hard to say that one medium was significantly and consistently "better."
There are, of course, artists who use film and even wet-plate cameras because they want to, and that's pretty cool, but I once went to a convention of Stanley Steamer buffs and that was beyond awesome.
I don't think it means we're going to see a resurgence of steam-powered cars anytime soon.