"A Sand County Almanac"

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"LOOK DEEP INTO NATURE, AND THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING BETTER".....Albert Einstein


Saturday, April 1, 2017

What Do Old Photographers and Coal Miners Have In Common?

It might seem an unlikely comparison; especially if the reader is young, with few life experiences for reference.  When I first became interested in photography during the late 1960's 35mm format was just gaining a firm foothold in the industry.

Sure, 35mm was widely used by amateur photographers and photojournalists, but 4x5 format Speed Graphics and view cameras were still the film of choice for wedding, portrait and commercial photographers.  At the same time coal mining was largely done by miners using hand tools to load coal into carts or conveyors to be moved to the surface.

When I was hired at my first photography job I was introduced to 120/220 film.  This meant learning new cameras, new processing techniques and the ability to load the larger film onto reels for developing.  We still used 4x5 sheet film for certain applications and everyone looked forward to improvements in 35mm technology so that we could use the smaller, lighter cameras.  There were changes in coal mining as well.  Blast mining, the use of explosives to loosen the coal, was replace by innovative machines that could remove the coal with less risk to the miners.

Just when many photographers of my generation were entering their middle-aged years a new dawn was on the horizon...digital photography.  The Sony "Mavica" was the first digital camera that I saw and used.  It recorded analog images on two-inch floppy disks and played them back on a video monitor.  Print quality was very poor.  The Mavica was not a real digital camera, but a still analog version of the video cameras of the day.

Another challenge to the photographic industry was environmental concern about the disposal of the chemicals used in photo processing which were commonly disposed of in sewer systems.  The coal industry was facing challenges about the air pollution caused by burning coal and the damage caused by coal removal techniques to the earth.

Fast-forward to the modern age of digital photography.  To utilize the full potential of the cameras one must be computer literate; often using several software programs to obtain the final image.  Many of my colleagues were intimidated by computers.  They clung to the old technology until it became difficult to obtain film, or a laboratory to process it.

According to Wikipedia many in the coal industry have encountered the same problems:
"Technological advancements have made coal mining today more productive than it has ever been.  To keep up with technology and to extract coal as efficiently as possible modern mining personnel must be highly skilled and well trained in the complex, state-of-the-art instruments and equipment.  Computer knowledge has also become greatly valued as most of the machines and safety monitors are computerized."

Those photographers who have been active for several decades have learned to adapt to changes.  "Re-invent themselves several times over" as one friend lamented.  Coal miners are faced with the same dilemma today.  In the fast changing world we live in we all must become life-long learners or be left behind...destined to become relics of our not so distant past.

Thanks for visiting, be well, and come back soon.







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