What really matters?

Where we were - the San Mateo Bridge

When I was in college, I had some really awful periods when my wrist problems flared up. It was really depressing because I was working a degree in math and computer science, so I was not only faced with having to adjust my routine, but the possibility that my chosen career path would be taken from me. And the problem is, I realized that most of my goofing-off activities were also involving the computer keyboard or my guitar, so I had some problems figuring out what I'd do with myself.

The thing that sticks in my memory is having a conversation with a girl I was dating at the time, when my wrist problems came to a head, that started with her saying "Now, don't get mad, but..." and ending with me getting mad, which really didn't help me dealing with the palatable problem that my hands were twitching and I was worried I might have to give up a good sized percentage of the things I loved to do.

I ended up learning to be functionally ambidextrous (or, in my terms "ambimousetrous") and got rid of some of my leisure activities involving the computer, like playing video games. I started wearing wrist braces.. but only to bed, because you can cause your muscles to atrophy if you wear them all the time, and that makes the problem worse. At the time, I felt like I could either give up the guitar or video games, and that decision was easy. Being creative is innate. Were I to have given up the guitar, I'd go nuts, so I gave up video games.

I was having a conversation with my friend Emily the other day while she was in town. We hadn't had a really good chat in months, so it was just fun to sit and talk with her while we took long exposure photography. At some point, the subject of what I might do if enough of my favorite films went away and I told her that I'd probably just go digital, except that by the time I'm sick of film or can't get it anymore, I'll be able to get a pretty fancy feature-loaded digital SLR with all of the quirks worked out.

She told me that she could never see me going digital. I found this funny because I'm actually a fairly digital boy. I have no vinyl records. I spent a long long long time waiting for the mythical day where there was a full-frame digital SLR with enough megapixels at a low enough price. I was using my 35mm SLR camera as a temporary step before I could get a digital SLR. It's just that I got a little sidetracked along the way. And I discovered that I really like medium format cameras.

I told her that some parts of my artistic vocabulary would be gone for good, were I to "go digital" and that some parts of my artistic vocabulary were already gone because I couldn't get the right stuff anymore. For example, there's absolutely no fun for me to take a shot using a color camera and convert it to black and white.

We started talking about what is the essential core of things, artistically. See, I can't get High Speed IR anymore. When I run out of my stock, what do I do if I want that look? Do I just say "forget it?" Do I shoot other IR films and be content with the lack of the HIE-glow. Do I shoot other IR films and simulate the HIE-glow in Photoshop? Or maybe a digital camera modified for IR use, so I don't need to carry a changing bag and use a tripod.

Clearly, there is some level of cheating where you've gone too far from the essential core that you've missed the point. Like carefully dodging and burning an existing black and white image to make the dark foliage in what the camera captured light and the bright sky on film dark. Or taking a color image in Photoshop and running it through a filter that selectively darkens blues and lightens greens. Then I won't get the actual somewhat unpredictable effects of infrared photography. The green foliage is going to be brilliantly white, whereas the object painted green will be gray. So, clearly there's a reason to use a real infrared camera, which can be either be digital or film.

On the other hand, I am not enough of a purist to deny that one should use tools just because they lack some sense of purity. I tend to draw a line between people who are more photo-illustrators than photographers. For example, I've seen a number of people where their initial shots are fairly plain, but after they've finished editing them, it's a new work of art. And I don't consider this as being somehow a lesser art, but more just a form of art that I haven't got too much interest in practicing at this point in time while I can explore other areas.

There's a more subtle question, which I haven't quite answered to my satisfaction. It is very clear that once I'm out of rolls of Ektachrome IR, I'm likely never going to be able to do anything remotely similar again. I accept this. It's also clear to me that it's really not worth trying to get a whole set of 81 series "warming" filters so that I don't end up adjusting the color balance later in Photoshop after I've scanned shots. However, I'm not quite sure about some other techniques.

I saw, on Flickr, an image where the photographer had trumpeted their lack of Photoshop and proceeded to go into heavy detail about how they'd accomplished the shot. They used several Cokin colored filters, plus tweaked the settings of their RAW converter, to get the results. I looked at it and wondered why the heck you'd bother. It's photo-illustration either way you do it, and it's not nearly hard enough to get points for doing things the Rube Goldberg way.

But I still haven't decided what will happen when I run out of High Speed IR.


I'm not very good at dealing with what happens when things really need to end. I really kinda wonder what the heck I was thinking when I stuck with that girl for so long because the bad memories of the extended breakup kinda washed out the memories of all of the good times we had before that. My wife describes it as "sleepwalking" through the relationship.

My parents kind of liked her, so they were encouraging me to stay in touch, in case she changed her mind. Which turned out to be about the worst possible piece of advice I could have ever received, actually.

In the same way, it is much more likely that I'll have one last roll of High Speed IR and one last roll of Ektachrome IR sitting in my fridge for the rest of eternity because I won't be able to let go.


I found, in the end, that it boils down to swimming. And cycling. If I don't swim often enough (And by swim, I mean laps) my wrists will give me problems. If I don't cycle enough, I get depressed and gain weight.

Recently added Photos: