Those of you (probably most) who have never dealt with large format film, a view camera, a Polaroid back and multiple strobes should count yourselves fortunate—or perhaps not. There was a certain satisfaction in getting it right on one sheet of film despite the time, effort and expense involved. When the only way to check what you were shooting was a sheet of Polaroid and you didn’t see the final result until processing, you were careful to get it right—like this example of cryogenic gear in a tray of dry ice. One shot, no computer processing, no fixing it in Photoshop.
How different it is today. Much has been said about the debate between film and digital. But few would want to go back to the days of film.
Camera Stabilization Is Still Necessary
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to steady the camera for certain shots. Whether it’s a large format camera on a heavy studio tripod or a mirrorless digital on a pocket size tripod alternative, the concept is the same—camera stabilization. The difference today is that results can be seen immediately. This opens up the possibility for experimentation that goes way beyond anything that could reasonably be attempted on film.
Painting With Light
An example is painting with light. Adding light during a long exposure at night can significantly enhance a scene. The source can be anything from a strobe to a flashlight or even a cell phone, as this excellent tutorial from Digital Photo Mentor demonstrates. The key is seeing results immediately and making adjustments as needed, something not possible with film.
So be glad you are shooting in the digital age and take advantage of the opportunities it provides. Some of these, like painting with light, require dependable camera stabilization. If you are not fond of lugging a tripod everywhere, HandlePod is a lightweight camera support that lets you explore the long exposure advantages that digital photography provides.