The Confessions of a Digital Immigrant

Bakarwal Gujjar 1989 - Photographed on slide film. I am guessing Ektachrome given the blues.

Bakarwal Gujjar 1989 – Photographed on slide film. I am guessing Ektachrome given the blues.



A Gujjar buffalo herdsman – 2012. Photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III


There are two terms today that seem to categorize the world. Two terms that describe the entire world as we know it; they are digital native and digital immigrant. 1 In short, digital natives are those who never knew the world without the internet and digital immigrants are everyone else. Some of us immigrants speak “digital” like a native, while many of us are still trying to figure out Facebook. We may be fluent, but we are no natives.

As digital immigrants some of us are in a unique position to comment about both sides of the digital divide and how we see these changes affecting us. Some of us on the other hand are much like the frog in the proverbial pot of water, as the heat slowly increases we don’t see the change as it is so gradual. Mind you I am not trying to comment on what is good or what is bad with our current digital world, I’m just highlighting some of the changes this migration has seen.

I migrated to the digital world from the analog world along with all the other digital immigrants my age. If I had to identify one area that was the biggest barrier to my growth in photography I think it would simply be money, not technology. As a young photographer I struggled with the huge investment in camera gear, darkroom gear and the biggest cost of all film and processing unlike young photographers have to deal with today. Photographer Nevada Wier and I don’t see eye-to-eye as to whether the digital world is really cheaper or not. Check out my interview with her on the “Depth of Field podcast where we talk about this issue. (She takes issue with me on this point at 6:55 on the timeline.) I’ll stick to my guns on this. I still believe overall it is cheaper to get into photography today than ever before. Cameras and lenses are better and cheaper than ever. Yes, some software is pricy, but with options like the subscription model for Lightroom, you can get a month’s usage for less than two gallons of Milk (in America 😉 ).

Let’s think about this for a minute. The cost of chrome (slide) film and photo processing in 1976, the year when I graduated from high school, was somewhere around $15. A roll of 36 exposure Kodachrome would cost somewhere around $10 to $12. The processing was often only 2 or 3 dollars after that. So call it a total of $15. Today that same $15 is inflated2 to $63.46! Just buying and processing two rolls of Kodachrome is more costly than a year’s subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop today. Given that price, there was very little chance that a kid of my means would be able to experiment with frame after frame of trial and error to learn from my successes and failures. I got as good as I could through high school classes and later in university classes through a slow and costly process. But today, you can shoot as much as you want and waste as much digital data as you like at virtually (pun intended) no cost. By the way, that process of learning from your successes and failures took at the least a week or more as you waited for your slide film to be processed and returned. Today as we all know it is instant.

But here is a thought. As a photographer today I can shoot until I run out of memory, then delete and shoot some more. With this “digital excess”, if you will, are we really learning as much from it as we can or are we becoming sloppy and lazy. Reality is that creativity thrives under constraints.

“…the imagination is unleashed by constraints. You break out of the box by stepping into shackles.”

Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works

When we put limitations (intentionally or unintentionally) on ourselves like time and resources we unleash creative juices we never thought we had. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not for one instance saying that the digital revolution has stifled creativity as a whole. But I do think that it might work that way with some people. The amazing wealth of information can also serve to be overwhelming and distracting. Remember a few years ago the book that was making its rounds in the creative community? It was titled, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He talked about how so many things fight for our attention. At the top of this list has to be the internet —  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in particular. I am not alone in this observation; article after article is written about how the internet is stealing our time. With the ease of photographing and processing all your thousands or tens of thousands of images at home on your personal computer comes the risk of distraction or as Pressfield calls it “resistance.”

For me, being a digital immigrant has been a huge blessing.  I would never go back. Gear cost is less than ever. Photographers have been given complete control over over the creative process. I never would have been able to clone, dodge, burn with the detail I can do with Photoshop. If I choose I can leave my graduated filters at home and use Lightroom’s graduated filters and more. The digital era has made all this possible. Light, a company who uses new camera technology has a touch screen user interface that uses sophisticated depth-mapping technology. Meaning, you adjust focus and depth of field even after a photo is taken, all the way to f/1.2!

I love being able to look at the photo I just shot, critique it on the spot and shoot again. It has opened new doors for me to do the same with others in workshops across the globe. I would never want to return to the days of analog.

My migration continues as I have moved from shooting large heavy DSLRs like the Canon 5d MK III to lighter weight and stealthy cameras like the mirrorless Fujifilm X-T1. As tech continues to get smaller and lighter and more efficient, this movement to mirrorless cameras allows less attention to be drawn to the photographer as they are much less intrusive and nondescript.

Change is never easy. Every immigrant is uncomfortable for a period of time. But there is no going back, that boat has sailed. As a Digital Immigrant I can either complain and be a curmudgeon or learn to navigate in the digital world. As I do, I quickly uncover the treasures that await.



Fujifilm X-E2: A Real World Review In The Philippines



Just days before leaving for Christmas in the Philippines with my in-laws I traded my Canon EOS 5D Mark III for a Fujifilm X-E2, a Fujinon 23 mm f/1.4 and the Fujinon 55-200 f/ 3.5 – 4. If you recall from a previous post I had a few fears about selling my full frame gear and jumping headlong into the X-System cameras. I had heard so much about the X-E2 and how fast the AF was that I decided to risk one 5d MKIII body. I have not been disappointed. In fact, the the contrary, I have been amazed. Continue reading

Nizamuddin, India

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These are photos from yesterday’s shoot in Nizamuddin. Nizamuddin is a small Sufi, Muslim community  within the boundaries of New Delhi. It is always alive and bursting with energy.


These next images are from Humayun’s Tomb, just across the street from Nizamuddin.

Old Delhi

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Most of my time in and around Old Delhi today was spent shooting video with my 5D MKII. It was a new and challenging for me. Nate seems to think I got some good footage. We will have to wait and see. For now and over the next few days I will try to post a few still images from each day. Here are scenes from Old Delhi shot today.


New to Me 1Ds MK III

If you are an avid reader of the you know that David sold off most of his Canon gear when he switched to Nikon. I bought his Canon 1Ds Mark III and it just arrived in my mailbox a few days back. This is an amazing camera and one that I have dreamed of owning. So when David offered it to me along with some other gear at a “friends rate” I couldn’t resist. The 1Ds Mark III differs itself from my Canon 5D Mark II in several ways. Even though the cameras are shaped very similar, the 1Ds seems to have a better fit in my hand. Frankly, I was surprised that there would be any difference in the way it felt. The 1Ds Mark III also sports several other differences that are much more significant than just the touchy-feely. The camera is completely environmentally sealed, giving me a bit more peace of mind in nasty weather. When I say completely, I mean that there are rubber O-rings around the controls and compartment doors. In total the camera has no less than 90 environmental seal points! Honestly, I haven’t given weather a lot of thought in the past. The 1Ds Mark III has enhanced auto focus capability with 45-Point TTL focusing points. It also sports 63-zone exposure metering, 19 cross-type auto focus system. But my favorite feature is the multi-spot metering (up to 8 readings). I haven’t used a camera with built-in multi-spot metering since my old OM-4Ti in 1986, that was 25 years ago.

The day after I got the Mark III I had a photo shoot scheduled with a client. It was a simple shoot, just a few shots for their website. We went to the historic Eastern & Orient Hotel (aka E&O. Eastern & Orient sounds so much more romantic than the initials E&O.) here in Georgetown. The light was soft and beautiful and the camera did it’s magic. Could the 5D have handled it? Of course, without a doubt. But I had just removed the bubble wrap from this thing and I had to use it. After the way it felt in my hand, the first thing I noticed was that he Mark III has a distinct shutter sound, unlike the 5D. The 5D’s shutter sounds clunky, almost tinny. The Mark III is loud and solid. I literally felt giddy every time I took a shot.

This is not a camera review, this camera is far to old for that and I risk embarrassing myself by talking about shutter sounds and feeling giddy. (Geez what a geek!)  If you want to read a comprehensive review of the 1Ds Mark III you can go HERE. People are already asking me would I buy another or would I sell either or both of my 5D Mark IIs? My answer is… maybe and I doubt it, and in that order. I might buy another Mark III if it was priced like this one and I had the money and I doubt I would sell my Mark IIs, they have too much going for them as well. There are rumors bouncing around that a new 5D Mark III and a 1Ds Mark IV both are in the works. So there is no way I would buy a brand new camera at this point. But the value this camera adds for the price I paid was well worth it.