2017 Chinese New Year and Experiments in Simulated Analog

Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas

Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year – Austin, Texas

I’ve thought a lot about what makes a compelling photograph. Certainly the subject, the composition, the expression and the mood play a big part. But it occurs to me that the technical quality of the image is really not that important. The classic (comparably) low fidelity of the masters like Cartier-Bresson, Frank, Erwitt and others are still relevant today. Their photographs are still significant and appreciated even though their image quality doesn’t match the high quality, colorful and high-resolution digital photographs of today.

Perhaps, in some sense, the quest for ultra sharpness and perfection may deter from the image. Because ultimately, I believe that a photograph is merely a visual reminder of a personal or shared societal memory. The image evokes an emotional response, which is what we appreciate, rather than the photograph itself.

There is a good post on “The Online Photographer” called The Revenge of Analog. Mike makes a good point, and here a snippet from that post:

Analog anything always has the potential to be good enough, no matter how bad it is, whereas nothing digital is reliably ever quite good enough, no matter how good it is.

While I’ve dabbled with film recently, I’m really not a film lover per say. Though I do believe that color film has a certain richness that digital seems to lack, at least without extensive post-processing. What I’m interested in, is to create images that have a feel to them. Sometimes they have color and high fidelity, other times, grainy black and whites.

So in this sprit, I’m experimenting with the built-in black and white on the Olympus PEN-F. The image quality is certainly low with not much dynamic range. I admit, as a hedge, I also shoot in RAW, which gives me a full color, high quality hedge. But I’ve noticed that I haven’t lost any of the spirit of the image in these black and white photographs. In some respects, black and white simplifies and makes things more graphic. They become more abstract, obviously not attempting to capture reality.

Perhaps this is a load of BS. That, despite my denials, I’m just aping a particular look just to fit a historic convention. I find it hard to decide which it is — am I rebelling against the constant escalation to perfection, trying to make emotive images or bowing to convention. Maybe it’s all three. Either way, I’m not so nostalgic, or a purist, that I need to shoot film, though I do from time to time. I’m certainly satisfied to simulate particular looks using modern technology.

With that long backdrop, I present scenes from last Sunday’s Chinese New Year celebration. I shot behind the scenes, mostly, and enjoyed it quite a bit. The finale, the Lion Dance and firecrackers, was almost anticlimactic by comparison. Here’s a small sample of what I captured.

Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas
Behind the Scenes, 2017 Chinese New Year - Austin, Texas

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8 thoughts on “2017 Chinese New Year and Experiments in Simulated Analog

  1. Great post and images. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you seem to see, think, and feel differently when you shoot in those black and white modes. You are more than capable of taking a good photo with any camera. This set though goes much deeper than a pretty face or clever composition in an urban environment. Some of these capture something much deeper. You captured some genuine moments. If the analog looking black and whites is what puts you in that mind set then run with it. It’s not BS. Don’t overthink it. You’ve got something special going – “feeling” photos instead of “thinking” photos.

    1. Thank you again, Mike. You certainly encourage me to continue exploring and experimenting with this style. So much to learn and do in photography.

  2. I like all these photos very much and your sentiments in this post are by no means, BS.

    My daughter (17) has only fairly recently started working with film for her still photography and she is hooked. That’s got to be saying something when a “digital native” thinks analogue is worth the time and effort. Like me she likes the look of the images, the tonality, the contrast and perhaps more importantly, that undefinable something, that indescribable feel that film gives to the subject matter.
    As the quote from the Online Photographer implies, there is a general opinion that digital requires to be ultra sharp, ultra high dynamic range, ultra noise free, etc. Back in the days of film, those technicalities were rarely discussed. The technical aspects of a photograph were always good enough if the image worked in terms of aesthetics or subject matter.
    I would say that today’s digital cameras are all pretty much on par where technical quality is concerned, at least for the less specialised styles of photography, and as the advancements start to slow down, I believe that we will see a return to where technical quality is not discussed as much.
    Anyway, there is one other aspect of film photography which for me beats digital: The print. There is something about getting a roll of film back as printed images that touches the spirit. We rarely see our digital images in print. We see them on backlit screens and for some weird reason, it simply does not offer the same… shall I say, connection?
    Anyway, good work on these photos.

    1. Thank you, Cedric. Good for your daughter. Great to hear she is into photography, especially old school film.

      I try not to get too sentimental about film And honestly, when I shot it, I wasn’t a good or a serious photographer so I just made snaps, usually with flash, with a point and shoot. I really didn’t like the photos I created but never worked any harder to make better images.

      It was digital that got me into photography. But now that I circle back to film, as more of an enthusiast, I’m seeing its merits. The rich colors, the tonality and a larger emphasis on images on paper as opposed to perfection on screen at 100%.

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