Shutters and Nostalgia

A Tale of Aperture and Time


Peter Pickering

5/15/20243 min read

Once upon a recent yesterday, in the halcyon days of photography, life behind the lens was a dance of simplicity and anticipation. A roll of film, a trusty camera, and a keen eye were all we needed to capture a moment in time. The days of deciding on the ASA – a throwback term in today's ISO world – set a delightful challenge for us. Was it a bright and bold 40ASA film for those sunny beach scenes, or a gritty 400ASA for the moody jazz clubs?

Shutters and Nostalgia: A Tale of Aperture and Time

With the film chosen and the ASA set, the world was ours for the framing. Shutter speed and aperture weren't merely settings; they were our paintbrushes, our quill pens. Dialling them in, we'd juggle light and time to freeze a smile or let a waterfall flow into a silky whisper. We'd compose, focus, and then, with a soft click, capture a piece of eternity. Easy? Perhaps. But each shot was considered, every frame a tiny gamble against the light meter's solemn vow.

Admittedly, we had to linger in suspense, with our imaginations painting the pictures before we could hold them in our hands. The lab was our ally, our film's safe haven where alchemical magic turned negatives into glossy or matt artefacts. Oh, the anticipation! It was Christmas morning with every developed roll, surprises and stories unfurling with each print. No biggie? Maybe. But there was charm in the wait, lessons in the patience.

Now, let's wind the clock forward to today's megapixel mania. Our cameras – or should I say, our multi-functional, pocket-sized computers – make calculations in the blink of an eye that we once pondered over for minutes. Instant gratification, they call it. You snap, you swipe, you share. The world sees your breakfast before your taste buds do. This digital age has turbocharged the process, but has it enriched the product?

As I mull over the tech-infused bounty of today's photographic harvest, I can't help but chuckle. With all the HDRs, the auto-focuses, and the face detections, the craft still remains an elusive muse. The truth is, a camera, no matter how smart, can't see the world through a photographer's eyes. It doesn't understand the silent conversation between light and shadow, doesn't feel the rhythm of a scene, doesn't get the joke in a candid smirk.

And so, it seems, with all our advancements and gadgetry, we find that photos haven't quite leapt the bounds of quality we'd expect. Pixels are plenty, but the vision? Not so much. Many a camera roll is filled to the brim with shots that miss the mark – not for want of technology, but for want of that human touch. The eye that twitches at the perfect alignment of urban chaos, the heart that races before the golden hour wanes, the finger that trembles as it waits for the decisive moment.

It's a curious thought that in this age of immediate everything, photography – true photography – remains a craft of the heart, an art that demands more than just a press of a button. It calls for a dance, a sweet slow dance with light, time, and a touch of that old-world patience.

So here's to the days of ASA and darkroom secrets, and to the pixels and shares of the present. May we remember that, no matter the era, the best photographs are those where we, the photographers, are not just present, but profoundly engaged. And to those still striving to capture the essence of a moment? Keep clicking, for the joy is in the journey, and the best snapshot may be just a shutter's breath away. 

© Peter Pickering 2024.