#TBT: A Journey Into the Early Days of Digital

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Northern California Coast

#TBT… Throw Back Thursday, the internet hashtag event where you post a photo from recent or more distant past. I haven’t participated much before, as all my really old photos worth sharing are actually my dad’s, and he has them filed away somewhere on strips of this stuff called film. I didn’t take many photos myself in those days, and the black and white contact sheets I have from darkroom classes are mostly forgettable.

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Hanna, Half Moon Bay, California

Something–curiosity, maybe–prompted me to go back through some photos from my 2004 honeymoon on the California coast… these photos, taken with either a 2mp HP point and shoot or a similar Fuji, represent some of my first, basic attempts to take good photos. They also represent the early days of digital photography, before it had really started to catch on in the mainstream. 2004 was the year Nikon released the Nikon D70, which was the first DSLR that I would learn on, and the camera that would eventually propel me onto this path I still walk.


Pacific Coast Highway

Of course, when I took them and originally viewed them, I didn’t have Lightroom, or Photoshop, or really any sort of photo editing software at all. I am shocked, in fact, that these photos don’t have digital date/time stamps, novice as I was. What I have done, then, is to go back to these grainy, small JPEG photos from a mere decade ago, and process them with the powerful editing tools I now have at my disposal–Lightroom, Photoshop, Analog Efex. I have processed them for myself and my own aesthetic, trying to get a look I want while not pushing these fragile pixels too far.


The result, for me, is both an opportunity to revisit my honeymoon in and around Bodega Bay, and also a window into the recent digital imaging past. It is fascinating and sobering to see how far we have come so quickly. These images are barely downsized for the web, their dimensions just fractions of what we have available today.

Ashland, Oregon

The hills around Ashland, Oregon

Though they are imperfect, I find myself drawn to them–for the beauty of the scenes, for the memories, for those moments past. I’m tempted to print one big, poster size, just to see how it looks. I suspect at the right distance, it would look just fine. It reminds me that whatever medium we are using currently is already obsolete and inferior. We can chase pixels, resolution, dynamic range, and high ISO performance all our photographic lives, but we are still constrained by what we have available to us today.


Even though what we had yesterday isn’t as good as what we have today, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, or that it wasn’t useful, or that we couldn’t make memorable images. These photographs still transport me, still do the work they were intended to do. And I love them, with all their rough edges.


Muir Woods, California


Cairn Building

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