On Peru, Perfection, and Procrastination


  2007-06-30_12-49-30 
  Originally uploaded by santiago_eric

I started college as a photography student in the days of film and
darkrooms. A few changes in majors and years of working later, that
creative spark was rekindled when I first learned … wait for it … Photoshop 4.0
(on Windows 3.1, no less). Finally, you could edit prints without
emerging from hours spent in darkness; half-blind and woozy from the
chemical fumes.

Fast forward several more years. The price of professional-level
digital cameras has dropped within reach of the average consumer. Up to
this point, I had been still shooting film and converting it to digital
with a Nikon Coolscan 4000. Aside from the obvious disadvantages of
shooting and carrying film, particularly in the remote foreign regions
I like to visit, the post-production process was tiring. Scanning at
high resolutions is not quick. Correcting for dust and grain is
cumbersome. So, when that price-point dropped, I got on the digital
bandwagon without hesitation.

Back in late June/early July, I hiked the Salkanty Trek to Macchu Picchu armed with my new Nikon D-50 and the highly coveted Nikon VR 18-200 lens
(6 months on backorder). Wanting to pack light, I was glad that I
wasn’t bringing 20 rolls of film and that my 2gb SD cards weighed less
than a single roll. Being able to preview your shots is the greatest
thing ever. With the altitude and strong sun, my shots looked washed
out on my LCD screen. Using the histogram, I was able to judge that I
needed to underexpose most of my pictures. With film, I wouldn’t have
found that out till I got home. Another advantage is being able to
change ISO on the fly. Often, I would switch to 1600 to avoid using the
flash where it wasn’t desirable; churches, candids, etc.

I did notice two interesting behaviors that carried over from my
years with film. I rarely deleted a shot. With film this is impossible,
of course, but with digital it’s a common practice. I guess I was used
to my "happy accidents", shots that turn out much better than expected,
so that even with previewing, I let it be. On the reverse, I was very
stingy with my shots. Accustomed to traveling in places where
replacement film is not readily available, I made a habit of rationing
my supply. Sadly, I returned from Peru only using one and a half of my
three 2 GB cards (and I was shooting RAW).

So, it has been 2 months since my trip and where are the photos?
Well what was intended to speed up my "digital workflow" has been
impeded by a quest for perfection. A common flaw among technologists is
that they will often choose the most efficient way of doing something
over just getting it done. I’m certainly guilty of spending days
writing code for a task that could have taken hours to do manually. As
was the case here. Where friends seems to blithely send out links to photos of trips they’re still on,
I’m concerned with naming conventions, RAW conversions, and site
evaluations. After much self-imposed stress, I finally let it all go,
signed up for a Flickr pro account and dumped all my photos online. Geo-coding be damned. Ooooommmm.

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