This post is by Ron Dawson from The Online Photographer

It’s frustrating for me when I want to talk about a picture but it doesn’t have its own URL. I’m not allowed to reproduce it; and then I’m not able to link to it, either. I found some larger JPEGs of this picture, but I can’t direct you to them. Grump.

Anyway, here’s the closest we can come: go to this link on professional photographer Steve Boyle’s website and take a look at the first picture, top left. It’s a composite image of all the B.A.S.E. jumpers who safely and legally jumped off the New River Gorge Bridge in Victor, Fayette County, West Virginia, over a six-hour period on the third Saturday in October, either last year or the year before.

The other day I posted the picture taken outside of my first darkroom, as the space appears now, using a recent real estate listing. On the “‘No Animals’ Adams” post, two before that one, Craig Yuill pointed out that he takes 100% of his wildlife pictures using 35mm and crop-sensor digital, and that “Ansel Adams wasn’t really equipped for wildlife and bird photography.” Technological progress has been happening since the beginning of photography in 1839—actually since well before that—but it occurred to me that it would be an interesting organizing principle for a book or show to collect together examples of pictures that couldn’t have been taken or made (or couldn’t have been taken or made easily) before the era of digital imaging.

Some such techniques seem to have faded since their initial popularity. Do you hear much about Gigapixel images any more these days? I don’t think I do. That was a big thing for a while. Doubtless people are still making them, but I don’t hear about it. What about those pictures that are constructed entirely in Photoshop, without any help from a lens image? I don’t think I’ve run across one of those in years. (Of course those, like AI images, aren’t photographs.) Merged panoramas were a big deal when the capability first appeared in editing programs, but now that any smartphone can do the same thing automatically it’s a bit passé, except for those who are being creative with it. That effect with one color object in a field of B&W was popular enough that Steven Spielberg even used it in Schindler’s List (1993), but it seems we’re over it now. Except in the movie.

Some ideas go from fantasy to reality in a very short amount of time. Didn’t the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), feature oil paintings that came briefly to life as live images? Now, with “Live View” on the iPhone—no doubt there’s a counterpart effect on Android phones—that’s commonplace for a whole lot of people.

Of course, it couldn’t be reproduced in a book.

It would be interesting to collect or catalog examples of the various kinds of images we can make now, with today’s equipment and software, that couldn’t have been made, or couldn’t have been made easily, in, say, 1990, or 1980, or whatever year you want to designate as being just prior to the digital era. I’ll bet the list could be quite long. Although I find I can’t actually think of a lot of examples offhand.

Steve Boyle’s colorful, crowded composite would make a nice place to start.

Mike

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