The End of the Digital Nomad?

We’ve all watched them, and probably follow them. The Youtube channels and the Instagram feeds from the people who have no fixed base and travel constantly, living in airB&Bs and running their digital busineses from laptops. They do great travel photography. They spend a month here taking amazing images of fantasic places before boarding a plane to somewhere else to do it again. They’re great, they’re informative and even though for most of us they’re not aspirational then we at least get to vicariously travel to these places with them. I’m not knocking any of this, I subscribe to loads of them.

But.

With the climate emergency, how much longer can this lifestyle last?

There is no doubt among pretty much everybody who isn’t a politician that the climate emergency is real, it’s clear, present and dangerous. The simple fact is that flying is about the most damaging single thing you can do for the climate. All that cycling to work and turning off the lights you’re not using gets pretty much wiped out in your annual return ticket to your holiday villa. The simple fact is that if you really, really want to do something about the climate emergency then don’t fly. So where does that leave the digital nomads? Their lifestyles rely on them flying, a lot. They have built lives and careers around jumping on a plane to somewhere to run a workshop, or speak at a conference, or go to an Influencer press event. To be blunt; their lifestyles are at the expense of the future of the planet. Now, to offset that they don’t own much so they only rent a car when they need to use one, and the airB&Bs are always studio apartment sized, so in many other ways they’re pretty low carbon. But all those air miles almost certainly exceed the savings.

So ultimately, how much longer, morally, can they continue with these lives in their current form? Should they be making their lives look so aspirational for the next generation, are ‘Could You be a Digital Nomad?’ videos socially acceptable now? Fairly soon are they going to have to settle down, or at least be nomadic within the confines of bus or rail travel? Are the (few) people who currently go on their photo workshops in Patagonia, or Iceland, or Vietnam just going to have to forgo that? Is that going to be a problem. Most people run digital business from offices somehwere. Most of the great photographers lived before cheap air travel, I think I’m right that Weston and Adams never left the American continent, Cartier-Bresson was solidly european, Bailey could have done equally well just in London, and Avdeon’s masterwork is The American West rather than People I met in Various Countries .

Is a life based around easy, fairly cheap, air travel not going to be an option much longer?

Advertisements

San Francisco Coast on Film

In april we spent a fortnight touring San Francisco, Yosemite and Highway One. Along with my digital camera I took an old Yashica 35 and some Portra 400 for some casual film snapping. Portra took to the bright sun and coastal colours wonderfully.

Totally rethinking

I’ve been to California.

I’m not just bragging here about my latest foreign jaunt, amazing though it was, there’s a really important photography learning moment to this. We had a couple of days in San Francisco, saw the Monterey Bay Aquarium, drove highway one, saw Yosemite, visited Alcatraz. We did the tourist stuff (though as one local chap pointed out “the reason it’s tourist stuff is that it’s cool stuff man”). I took photos I was happy with, had a great time.

But, for a photo nerd moment, two things stood out. The second was visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite and seeing his photos, actually printed by him, not mediated by a reproduction for publication or anything, actually printed in a darkroom by Ansel Adams so you can see the image exactly the way he meant it to be (some are also printed by his long term assistant who Adams said knew the negatives as well as he did), and actually seeing them in Yosemite in a building he knew and worked in was pretty awesome. But, the stand out, OMG moment of my trip, was a visit to meet Kim Weston in the house on Wildcat Hill where Edward lived and worked, I have to admit I was almost embarrassingly star struck by this. Kim and his wife Gina are lovely people who made us feel super welcome and gave us a great tour. We saw that pepper photo, and that portrait of Tina Modetti, actually as photographic prints on the wall, saw Edward’s darkroom, saw Kim’s darkroom (the latter has an enlarger, Edward’s didn’t) and Kim’s studio. It was all great fun and absolutely one of the highlights of trip for me (even Sue enjoyed it and she’s not a photographer).

What I came away with though, and this is something which has grown on me in the weeks since we got back, was that Kim shoots on film, with a Mamiya 6×7 which he inherited from his father, and a couple of lights. He’s up there in the Carmel Highlands producing amazing work with equipment which is probably older than a lot of photographic Youtubers. So I sit there and watch my favourite Youtube photo channels, which I really enjoy, but they’re using this combination of graduated filters, and they’re selling their presets, and discussing if they should make the move to mirrorless, or comparing one really expensive lens to another….and somehow I keep seeing Kim’s studio in my head and wondering why bother?

Now fortunately, I’ve never been a gear nerd. I have very little ‘stuff’ compared to probably most keen photographers, a fair bit is second hand, or that I’ve owned for years, and I’m happy with that and frankly never want to buy new shiny things. I’m also not going to fall into the trap of ‘gear not mattering’ as Mamiya medium format is really nice and Mamiya glass is stunning (I know, because I own some, well I will if the chap I want to buy it off ever gives me a price so I can buy it). But it does bring home the fact that actually you really don’t need new stuff, or a lot of stuff. Investing in something simple but good is frankly all you need.

The key thing is to do what Kim, and his father, his uncle and his grandfather (and his son, and various other relatives) all did. To take photos a lot, to think about the photos you’re taking, and to really, really care about the whole thing.

Am I doing this? You know, I wonder if I am….

A Cat Can Always Be Counted Upon for a Descisive Moment


It is a fact universally acknowleged that one of the two main uses for the Internet, a technology which can communicate instantly across the globe, is the sharing of cat photos (the other being starting fights with random strangers). The reason is, I think, more than the fact that moggies tend to be very photogenic…it’s that generally their desicsive moments are less than, well, ‘moments’ and more like descisive hour or twos. Unless of course they are doing something very, very photogenic and you have to go and get a camera, in which case they’ll decide that they need to move just as you set the autofocus point; another reason I suspect for their popularity on Instagram as generally you can grab your phone and get the shot. Which is what I did here, black and white cat, white windowsill: monochrome conversion, who needs it?

Biscuit the Dog, and his Owner

With the new scanner, I can continue my occasional walk down photgraphic memory lane – yes it’s a ‘photos from my past’ post

Oddly enough, this pack of negatives were actually dated, so I can say with confidence this is 1980, and also therefore that it’s taken on my K1000 (though I can remember which camera I used when I took them). If you notice the super hard shadows you can also tell it’s done with flash, which was a more primitive technology then than it is now (also I wasn’t very good at it). They lived a couple of doors down the road and I needed to shoot off the last few frames on a roll of film. I wanted to take some more of her later on but she wasn’t up for sitting. Biscuit was also the first Weimarana dog I ever met, they weren’t as common then, and was a fairly pleasent pooch…though he is one of the only dogs to have bitten me, albite accidentally. The lack of dynamic range, and with photoshop I’ve managed retrieve a lot of dynamic range which gives you an idea of how far out they were, was due to a misreading of the temperature when I processed the film.

Yashica 35-ME and a Plustek Scanner

A while back I picked up a Yashica 35-ME (the link is wrong by the way, it’s not a rangefider, it’s zone focused) for very good money in a deal with an Olympus Trip.

It all seemed okay so I took it out in London and shot with it, processed the roll of film….and my scanner broke! Given that it was nudging 10 years old this probably wasn’t surprising. After much thought I decided, rather than get another flatbed I’d go for a proper film scanner and bought a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE. So after a hiatus of several weeks, I can now share some of the photos from the Yashica. I dont’ think they’re as good as the ones from the Trip, but for a camera to keep loaded in my pocket they are, as my old dad would have said, good enough for a coal boat.

Remix – Harpist

I’m going to try something along the lines of scanning old photos from years back but with some of my digital stuff – in a manner akin to a musician remixing their old tracks, I’m going to find images from my early days with digital, process them the way I would now, and post the two together to see the difference.

So this first image is one I took years ago in the Mussenden Temple at Downhill in Northern Ireland (definitely worth a look if you’re there). The biggest issue with the original image is that I didn’t know how to lock a focus point then so it’s missed her eyes and gone for the harp frame, but not by enough to really spoil it. Remixing it now I’m a lot more confident making big edits to light and shadow areas, and using layers to bring out selective bits – also I have no idea why I didn’t want to crop it in tight like that originally. I remember being a bit meh about the image when I took it, but I’m a lot more postive about it now.