Photographs and Pictures

I don’t take too many photographs anymore. Don’t misunderstand me; I take lots of pictures. I have a digital camera – my fourth one actually – that I use practically every day. Anything that strikes my fancy, out it comes; a quick silent snap. On a special occasion, I take 20, 30, 50, 100 pictures; it doesn’t matter. I have gigabytes of space on my Memory Stick and even if I manage to fill that up, I can quickly dump out the contents and start fresh.

I have to admit that I was a little dismayed at the sheer number of pictures I was taking. In 1970, the year I was born, my parents took something like 200 pictures that year. They fill an entire album. Now, I was born in early February, so that works out to something like 20 pictures a month. When my son was born in 1999, I took about 800 pictures by New Years Eve… and he was born at the end of August!

And the numbers just went up from there. In 1999, I was using 35mm film and a Polaroid One-Step camera. Even when I bought film by the gross at Sam’s Club, the instant pictures from the Polaroid worked out about $1 each. On top of that, I probably went through a roll of film every couple of weeks. The old guy at the developing counter at K-mart knew me by my first name. I finally did the math and decided to invest in a digital camera around 2004. As the number of pictures I took ballooned into the thousands, the switch to digital paid for itself in film and development costs within a couple of weeks!

I think that digital cameras – by their very nature – lend themselves to a “quantity versus quality” approach. That is, when I knew I only had 24 shots on a roll of film, I tried to make sure that I had the focus and framing as best as I could get them before I snapped off – in general – a single shot. Now, with digital, I am less of a sniper and more of a saturation bomber.

But that isn’t a bad thing. When I look back at all the pictures that I took, I don’t think to myself, “Boy, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much film on my newborn son.” I have to admit that any number of pictures that I take with my digital camera never make it past the initial preview on the two inch screen. However, it tends to be a result of trying new things that would never occurred to me to try with film.

My son played basketball this winter for the Belvidere Park District. Basketball is fast paced and very unpredictable, especially at his age group. Adding to the challenge of capturing the action, the park district colored the gym in dark blue which sucks whatever light manages to eke out of the old refrigerator bulbs hanging from the ceiling. If I was still shooting film, I probably would have taken a shot or two and then given up. It’s too dark and the game is all over the place. However, with my digital camera, I shot something like 400 pictures in seven weeks. A lot of them were out of focus. The camera couldn’t tell which kid was supposed to be the center of attention. A number of the shots were ruined by an unexpected player in the foreground, covering up the action. An awful lot of shots were too dark and – surprisingly – a couple were overexposed.

However, after culling maybe 380 pictures, I ended up with 20 or so that I am proud of. They will never make Sports Illustrated, but they say something that a thousand words would never capture.



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