Filed under: life — jaydublu @ 7:22 pm

So here’s the thing – I heard some Lou Reed on TV last night and I realised I hadn’t heard Transformer for far too long, so this afternoon I decided to finally get around to digging out and plugging all the various bits of my good-old-fashioned analogue hi-fi together again after far too long.

Having got over that fact I seem to have mislaid Lou Reed, the first album that caught my eye from my cherished vinyl collection as I scanned for something to put on was Fairground Attraction “The first of a million kisses”.

So I breathe a deep contented breath, close my eyes, lean back in the chair and wonder why the hell it is that I haven’t done this for … probably a good 10 years!!! My mind wanders further, and I realise that I’ve had this album for almost two decades, and although a few tracks on side one are like old friends I don’t know if I played the whole album more than a couple of times, but it’s great. So what other gems are in the modest collection of 200 odd LPs that I once put so much thought into? Given that most of the music is probably more than 20 years old – what have I missed in the mean time? Yikes – there can’t be enough hours in the day to find out what I’ve missed or am missing!!!!

But then I realise I have the same thought when I browse through my boxes of old novels looking for the next book to read again, and discover an old favourite, or something I once bought and never got around to reading, and also when I look for a film to watch out of the DVD collection (at least I finally threw all the videos away after they went mouldy or I’d have them to worry about too).

Half way through side2 (oh how I love vinyl – so tactile!) and I’ve decided that I don’t care. In all the various collections I have squirrelled about in cupboards or sheds, on shelves and in boxes (and don’t get me started on tools, or bits of electronics) I’ve got more than enough to keep me fully occupied and amused for the rest of my life even if I worked at it full time – what does it matter if I’m missing other stuff – what I’ve got already is more than I will ever need and it’s all just fantastic even if it is often more than 20 years old!

As I mellow with time, it seems I’m becoming content with what I have – the grass is pretty green over here so why worry about the other side of the bridge?

I love vinyl!

Digital vs Analogue

Filed under: life,photography — jaydublu @ 10:32 am

Nature is analogue, our senses are analogue, once upon a time the way we interacted with the world was analogue, and life was great.

But then, with increasing power of microprocessing, a steady creep of digital representations of an analogue world has beenRega Planar 2 invading our lives, ready to take over control.

My first encounter with an almost moral objection I have to this process came in the 80’s with the introduction to the mass market of CD players – at the time I was deeply in love with my Rega Planar 2 turntable, Akroyd Coniston speakers and Nytech Obelisk amplifier – not extreme HiFi, but certainly enough for me, and I just couldn’t face the thought of losing the pure simplicity of an analogue system by introducing an alien technology in the heart of it.

To this day I’ve still never bought a CD player as a component – although my Rega isn’t hooked up to anything at the moment I still hold the view that the ‘proper’ way to listen to music doesn’t involve any sort of digitisation or digital signal processing along the way. Hissing and scratches are all part of the analogue world, but some of the weird noises you get when digital signals corrupt are just not ‘right’, let alone the ‘concert hall’ type effects that can be applied at a whim. But yet I have an iPod, because isn’t it so much more convenient carrying your entire music library in your pocket?

Olympus OM2 image by Martin TaylorNext came photography – I’ve still got a pair of Olympus OM2 bodies with a selection of lenses, and I have a crude but functional mono darkroom in boxes on a shelf that I keep meaning to set up again somewhere. I had a blast trying out the various methods described by Ansel Adams etc. where you can almost ‘touch’ light. Yet all the photographs I’ve taken in recent years have been digital, because it’s so much more convenient than lugging round a bulky large format camera.

I’m a hypocrite – I want to remain in an analogue age, yet when it comes to the crunch I listen to my iPod more than my Rega, pick up my Fujifilm F700 instead of an Olympus OM2, and put up with all the other insiduous digital invaders like Sky+ because it’s so much more convenient.

But there is more to it than just convenience – the ‘miracle’ of technology opens up new possibilities to the average punter undreamt of in the analogue age. I never got into movie-making, but I know you can do an awful lot now with a digital camcorder and a PC for not a lot of money, compared to what you used to have to spend in the Betamax days. And if I were a composer or a musician I might appreciate the capabilities of the recording studio I could set up without needing a big win on the Premium Bonds (before the days of the Lottery!) like you used to need to afford all the gear.

But here is my real dilemma – digital technology offers almost limitless possibilities and potential for creativity, but I’ve found personally that my limited creativity is at its best when constrained – too many shiny spangly distractions get in the way of achieving simplicity and purity.

Back to photography, the limited number of variables available don’t stop the ability to produce stunning images. On a manual film camera, ignoring for the sake of this argument issues of composition, lighting, choice of film etc. you really only get to play with shutter speed and aperture, the combination of which creates an exposure on the film. Take that exposure into a simple mono darkroom, and you have a few more variables available to you, but it’s still somehow on a ‘human’ scale – how you process the film, what paper you choose, how long you expose the print, any dodging and burning effects – it’s all done mostly by hand and feels very natural.

I’ve recently upgraded my copy of Macromedia Studio MX to Adobe CS3 Web as it’s now marketed (must blog some time about my love/hate relationship with this suite of software) and I spent some time yesterday playing with Photoshop CS3 which is included in the package. Feeding it a RAW file from a digital camera is very similar to cooking your own film in a darkroom, but my initial feeling was being totally overwhelmed not just by the things you needed to do to make a technically correct image – that’s just me having to ‘pay my dues’ by learning a new set of techniques – but also by the unbelievable scope of creative tools that are made available, not only familiar ones like dodging, burning, filters, masking etc, but also control of things like tonal curves beyond the wildest imaginations of a simple darkroom setup.

HDR ComparisonOut of interest, here’s a comparison of a straight shot from my F700 on the left; on the right is a Photoshop manipulated union of an overexposed and an underexposed image which is starting to approach the dynamic range of the human eye (and incidentally a good photographic film!). Technically interesting, but it’s certainly not ‘art’. Is digital manipulation any more ‘wrong’ than what I used to do in a darkroom, or did I get any less satisfaction from it? Let’s just say it’s ‘different’.

OK, my interface to this analogue world is now mostly digitised, but I still can’t remember a sense of ‘inner piece’ listening to music on my iPod like I used to with my Rega, and although I get a buzz taking pictures with my F700 I’ve never felt as satisfied with the end result as I have when taking the time to construct an image on an OM2.

Thinking about it as I have been whilst writing, although I seem to be blaming the technology, I think it’s how I’ve been relating to it – digital devices and techniques seem to be too cheap and easy, I don’t put in as much time, effort and thought that I used to in a purely analogue world – there you used to think harder every time you pressed the shutter release, or picked an album from the shelf, because you knew you were going to have to put up with the result for a long time – you invested in the outcome much more.

I still seem to yearn for the analogue life, but yet for convenience my life is mostly digital 🙁