digital never looked so analogue

Nelson Park

I love mega-trends. And I have been observing a trend in modern photography of late that I find particularly appealing and exciting.

It's Analogue!

Audiophiles are rediscovering vinyl records and tube amplifiers; photographers are rediscovering film and the idiosyncrasies of that medium and of lens and film types.

Kodak film was known for it's sometimes overly warm tone while Fuji and Afga film were known for their punchy reds and green-blue cast; Polaroid film has a unique colour range and response all it's own. Over-saturated colour cast images have fallen out of favor for some time now, yet today there is a strong revival in the casual, snapshot film photography that exhibits these traits and more.

At the centre of this is a revival of the cheaper plastic cameras popular in the 1990's, including that old favourite the Polaroid Land Camera, the lesser known Lomo camera (first made in the early 1980's and 90's in Russia) and Holga camera (first made in the 1980's in China).

The name Lomo is inspired by the former state-run optics manufacturer LOMO PLC of Saint Petersburg, Russia, circa 1914. Today lomography™ is the commercial trademark of Lomographische AG, Austria, makers of the Lomo, Diana and Holga camera's and marketed by lomography.com.

Lomography Pop9On a recent visit to shop at the Vancouver Art Gallery I discovered their "pop9" camera, a nine-lens plastic camera that produces Andy Warhol type image tiles with one click of the shutter.

The Lomography motto of "don't think, just shoot", reminiscent of the "Kodak Moment" trend, encourages spontaneity, close-ups, favouring a more informal, rougher technique and result. Lomography cameras are low-fidelity and inexpensive. Some make use of multiple lenses and rainbow-colored flashes, or exhibit extreme optical distortions and even light leaks.

Digital ... never looked so analogue

Another exciting recent innovation is the Hipstamatic iPhone app.

This clever app lets you choose your lens, flash, or film settings, offering eighteen different combinations. "Out of the box" you get three lenses (the John S Lens, the Jimmy Lens and the Kaimal Mark II Lens), two flash settings (the Standard Flash and the Dreampop Flash) and three film types (Ina’s 1969 Film, Blanko Film and Kodot Verichrome Film); there are also four additional combination packs that can be purchased.

It isn't so much actually using these cheaper cameras, it is the end result, one that is characterized by over-saturated colours, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and even light leaks, all resulting is some "aberration" in the image.

Evoking the Trend

Thankfully we don't need to throw away all our expensive modern, high-end digital gear and go analogue retro in order to stay "en vogue"!  Much of the retrograde look is easily achieved in post-processing using either Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom.

Because lomo is an aesthetic, the results vary widely; there is no single definition of lomo - and that's a good thing!

As I began preparing my latest gallery I had some fun playing with a few Lightroom presets that present various interpretations on lomography. a Google search turned up two major sources:

  1. from the lightroomkillertips.com website, "lomo arigato (mr. roboto)" is lots of fun, and
  2. the presetsheaven.com website has three lomo presets, and a whole lot more, including Holga and Polaroid presets.

Here on the left is the base, unprocessed image. The colours highlighted by the spatter of water in this absolutely stunning lily had me riveted as I played with exposure, ƒ-stop and composition to arrive at this most evocative and pleasing shot.

The depth and saturation in the dark reds and oranges are the central focus. By creating a shadow vignette around the corners of the image and bumping up black levels, contrast and saturation in Lightroom's Develop module, we can really make these features pop.

lily 'jaeming lomo'On the right, Jaeming from seabubble.com made this lomo preset - very dark and so saturated the pistils seem to glow with their own light. This a very electric, neon interpretation of the original colours.

lily 'matt lomo'

But Matt Kloskowski's preset, seen here on the left, shifts the darker portions of the image into the blue-green range by using Lightroom's Split Toning adjustment to create this other wordly beauty.

The outcome very much depends on the light and tone quality of the original image and the result envisioned. I've varied my approach from image to image in my latest photo gallery floral studies.

Have a look and let me know what you think!


3 responses to “digital never looked so analogue

  1. John, yes you are right … this is the very interesting thing with Lightroom 3, you can make more memorable shots with this..

  2. It had to happen!

    The “Holga D is a digital camera inspired from the extremely popular cult of Holga and other toy cameras of its kind.”

    “… it retains the qualities and simplicity of the original Holga camera and brings back the joy and delayed gratification associated with good old analog photography.”

    “… quality problems have obtained a major cult following among some photographers, and has become really popular in recent years.”

    Yet this plastic marvel offers a full-size sensor!

    More at http://www.saikatbiswas.com/web/Projects/Holga_D.htm

    ;-j

  3. As I was developing this post, the long awaited and much anticipated Version 3.0 of Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom was released.

    There are many new features in Lightroom 3, including improvements in performance. The most exciting improvements are the new camera RAW 6.1 adjustment panels, Lens Correction and Effects which, if I understand correctly, should allow us to introduce deliberate lens aberrations, one step closer to the lomo aesthetic.

    I’m exploring …

    ;-j

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