Along for a Great Ride
by Steve Rosenblum
What is interesting to me about the responses to "What's Your Whack?" is that most people have not included the price of their computer equipment in their estimates. I suppose that one could argue that we all would buy a computer and monitor anyway to use for other purposes, and so perhaps we need not count the cost of the computer equipment with our photographic costs any more than we count the cost of the mortgage to pay for the house that the computer sits in. However, I think that is probably a false way of thinking about it.
The biggest expense associated with photography in the digital age is Moore's law. Not so long ago the only "hardware" you needed was a camera, body, lenses, and a darkroom. The only "software" you needed was film, paper, and darkroom expendables (or you could pay someone else a modest sum to do this for you). Arguably, once you acquired a good set of "hardware" you really never needed to replace it unless it actually broke and could not be repaired. You certainly could keep using the Leica M3 and 50 mm lens that you bought in the '50s even now and keep updating it merely by trying new films, chemicals or paper—a very inexpensive proposition. The film was the "sensor." The darkroom was the "processor."
Now, of course, if you want a new sensor you need a new camera body and perhaps new lenses to match the new sensor. I am just an amateur, but my DSLR path has been Canon D30—>D60—>20D. Then I decided to shift to lighter "prosumer" models and went for a Digital Rebel—>Rebel XT. I have used each of these cameras for perhaps +/- a year, and then sold the previous body at a substantial discount. I have steadily worked my way through the Epson wide carriage photo printers as they have improved. I am on my second dedicated film scanner and third or fourth flatbed scanner. I am on my 3rd color profiling package. Because of the quality of the Macintosh computers I have used, I have been able to upgrade them "only" every 3–4 years. It is true that I would still need a computer even if I was not a photographer, however I am sure I would make do with my laptop, and not go to the trouble of having a powerful tricked-out desktop computer. I am also on my 5th version of Photoshop.
I have no idea how much all of this has cost me (I haven't even mentioned the lenses) but it is easily tens of thousands of dollars. There is no way I can justify what I have spent on this stuff based upon my creative output during this time. I shudder to think of what my per print costs really have been for true "keeper" images. I am fairly certain that I could have kept a top notch fine art photographer and a master printer on retainer to photograph and print whatever I wanted during this time for what I have paid.
So why have I done it? I am not sure. Obviously, I can afford it or it would have ended long ago. But, I think the real reason is that I have really enjoyed the ride. I have lived through and been a small part of a genuine technological and creative revolution and it has been truly energizing and very stimulating. I feel as though I have lived through the progression from horse and buggy to manned space flight all compressed into a mere 5 years or so. So, I may not be a hot shot test pilot, but it has been thrilling to have a seat on the plane, even in the back. And it has been, and continues to be, quite a ride!
Posted by: STEVE ROSENBLUM