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News & Insight

Don McCullin – Seeking the light (…and switching to digital)

By Matthew Saville on November 13th 2012

British photojournalist Don McCullin is famous for his gritty, dark images of war and urban strife.  His photographs speak volumes, and according to him his life as a war photographer has mad him a “dark” person in general, with his current work in landscape photography being perpetually moody and deep-toned.  Suprisingly however, until now apparently Don has never tried a 35mm DSLR.  Such is the premise of Canon Europe’s newest video feature titled “Seeking The Light”.

So, what happens when a 77 year old photography veteran picks up a DSLR for the first time, with renowned wedding photojournalist Jeff Ascough as instructor?  Watch the video HERE and find out

Personally, I came away from the video with mixed emotions.  On the one hand, it is clearly a Canon-funded “infomercial” or “biomercial”, or whatever you want to call this sort of subliminal marketing tactic.  Canon is the best!  Yay!  …And it is understandably light on technical tips, in case anyone is wondering if they might glean any gems about how to best use the 5D mk3 from such a wise, experienced photographer.  Unfortunately, the technical highlight involves an overly simplified explanation that pressing the AF-ON button on the back will make the camera focus for you.  There are a few other things that make me feel like this is an overly-dramatized first experience with a 35mm DSLR, considering that Don has already been using 35mm equipment for decades and probably already has a thorough understanding of things like focal length and shutter speed.


On the other hand, however, I found Don’s determination and wisdom as a photographer to be quite refreshing and inspiring.  His primary concern was that adopting new technology could possibly have a dramatic effect on his overall shooting style and imagery, and throughout the video he and Jeff Ascough discussed ways to keep your vision true while adopting “new” digital technology.  One thing DOn is quick to point out is the downfall of many digital photographers these days-  if your’e chimping, you’re missing moments!  Stop glancing at every single shot you take, and just keep your camera to your eye.  (I wonder if Don shoots in Aperture Priority or another automatic exposure mode very often, as some photojournalists often do?)

And the major take-away is definitely this-  Equipment is only a tool that helps achieve a vision.  New equipment is nice, and very helpful indeed, but vision and experience will always come first.

Take care,

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting

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  2. Ed Rhodes

    your takeaway sums it up perfectly

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