This image has a special value for me. It is almost 30 years old and it took quite some effort to convert it. It’s original format is a 35mm Kodacrome slide. I have attempted to scan it several times without real success. I got to a point that I even considered go back to Scotland and take it again. But there is a reason I’m attached to this one in particular and take it again won’t do.
The uniqueness of a moment
It was the summer of 1989, I had just finished secondary school. This was my very first adventure outside Italy. In 1986 the “Highlander” hit the cinema and indeed took my adventurous heart by storm. This trip was about finding the Highlander Castle. Unfortunately is not located in Glenfinnan as the narration of the movie goes. It is important to understand that google map did not exist then. The internet was not yet available to everyone, never mind surfing it.
I relied on an article I found on the National Geographic. I also used a variety of maps and indeed the locals for insight and direction. My spoken english was dire. I relied on the english of my travel companion (thank you Razza for your patience and endurance). We traveled by train, flying was too expensive then. It took us 14 hours to cross Europe from Milan to Bruxelles. After a short train commute to Oostende, we crossed over the english channel by boat then to London first and to Edinburgh by train again. The entire journey took a good part of two days.
After a much needed rest in Edinburg we pushed on to Inverness and then Kyle of Localsh a week later. When we set camp in a luscious forest along the shore of Loch Duich I made my acquaintance with the voracious “Highland Midges” (Culicoides impunctatus). We ended up hitchhiking to Dornie and finally we were right in front of Eileen Donan Castle. I cannot describe the sense of excitement I felt then.
I took a lot of pictures on that trip. I came back home with about 14 rolls (36 frames each). Very far away from the thousand of shots we are used to take today with digital cameras.
The boundaries of technology
We sat down along the shore munching on scones, butter and jam. It was then I notices a flock of gulls hopping on the seaweeds covered rocks. I Knew if I walked towards them, they would become uneasy with my presence and fly off in front of the castle. At the time I owned a second hand Nikon FM with a Nikkor 50mm f/2. By then I had loaded my very favourite Kodakcrome which only comes in ISO 64 and I had kept for the purpose.
There was no “Auto” in front of any of that camera features. It was manual focus, manual exposure, manual rewinding of the film and curtain reload. I walked towards the gulls while refocusing constantly. I was using aperture f/2. Given the dark day and the low ISO the shutter speed was much lower that it should have been. I did not have any vibration reduction on the system.
When the gulls took off and I managed to take a couple of shots. As I review them today on the digital format, they are less sharp than they look on the slide. The depth of field is very shallow and the edges are very soft. Despite the ISO 64 film as I scan the tiny slide, noise creeps up.
So I’m still not happy with the way the frame converted even after trying all the tricks I can think of.
But it is a picture that reminds me of a wonderful adventure, my first true adventure. It took some effort to take it and it was one of the first frames I spent time thinking about, composing and planning. In a way it is the picture that defines who I am and what I hold most dear in my life. Of course I will go there again and take some new versions of it but this one single frame it is irreplaceable to me.
As I write, something becomes very clear to me. What we truly value is often very different from what we actually seek. I value this one picture for what it represent. For the effort that went into take it, for the experiences and moments that lead up to it. From the focused determination of reaching a very specific goal. Yet like most of us I do look for the latest technology. I get enticed by what everyone else does and have. I tend to go with the herd. All because it is convenient.
We can see how economy revolves around generating convenience, making it easy to live. It appears human kind’s desire for certainty, security and convenience is a priority. That same priority also limits its ability to find happiness, satisfaction and fulfilment.
What would we do when…?
Social science teaches us that we tend to value most what is less available. What would we value when all we can have is conveniently in our reach?
Social science teaches us that our happiness, the deceiving state of “Flow”, is dependant on our ability to challenge ourselves. Where would we find happiness when everything has become easy?
Social Science also teaches us that our sense of purpose drives our motivation. What would we do when the meaning of our existence is encased in a pre-manufactured virtual world?