Until recently I have been totally captivated and absorbed by the production of images on slide film on a large format panoramic camera. There is nothing quite like seeing a perfectly exposed image on the lightbox. However times seem to be changing, based on the cost of acquiring slide film (R100 a film) coupled with the costs of devlopment and processing (R50 a film). Though film will always remain my first love as a medium because of its granularity and the ability to shoot in one shot, only having the ability to make 4 panoramic exposures on a roll of 120 film, makes the costs seem to stack up. I have therefore been experimenting with a transition to digital panoramic photograpy. Whilst this is quite a learning curve from a single shot of film and requires stitching of multiple images (up to 15 at times) I belieeve it is the more immediate and cost effective route to take. Having both options available is great but I seem to be leaning in favour of digital though the jury is out as to option which produces the higher resolution image. a 6 x 17 cm image shot on a Fotoman Camera with a 90mm Rodenstock F6.8 lens scanned at 3200dpi on an Imacon Scanner is legendary. But then so is a multiple stitched image shot on a 35mm f2, 50mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 lens on a 10 megapixel sony camera. However there are a number of dificulties in shooting film. Accurately metering and predicting the use of ND Grad filters to avoid burning out skies can be tricky particularly when one needs to manually use a light meter and compensate for center filters and polarizers and warm up filters and the like. Using digital I can instead create a preview of the first images in the series taken from the brightest part of the photograph, set manual white balance and exposure and shoot images with a 20% overlap. Shoud the images both film and digital not turn out as hoped or expected they can be enhanced via Lightroom 2.0 and Photoshop CS3. Most notably the addition of ND Grad filters of any colour on Lightroom 2.0 is most welcme and has enhanced many of my photographs and eliminated the need on occasion to set up ND filters on the camera itself. Is film dead ? defintely not, however I think the places where you can get it developed, certainly in South Africa are more limited.
One problem I currently see is that I need more hard drive space to cater for images in the regions of 100MB-1GB! Yes, those are massive images and I am waiting for that opportunity to produce a 7m billboard and or set up a gallery to display them…Time will tell. More musings on digital v film panormaic photography will follow in future posts