The dizzying pace of technological advances in digital photography has been a boon to amateur photographers and budding filmmakers everywhere, often to the dismay of purists and professional photographers who invest considerable amounts of money, time and dedication to ply their trade. While it is true that technology has greatly empowered aspiring photographers to achieve amazing results with little effort, advances in digital photography are also making significant contributions to the field of combat photojournalism.
When combat photographer Damon Winter of the New York Times took third place at the 68th Pictures of the Year Awards earlier this year, critics came down hard on Winter’s use of an iPhone and the popular Hipstamatic app to take pictures of American infantry soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. The use of photo apps, critics argued, adds a layer of gimmickry to combat photojournalism. In a fair rebuttal printed in the New York Times, Damon Winter pointed out that using Hipstamatic is no different than choosing a particular camera, type of film, or compensating in the photo lab -or even in Photoshop- for poor lighting conditions.
Winter is not the only combat photographer to use iPhone photo apps. David Guttenfelder from the Associated Press used the ShakeItPhoto app to achieve a Polaroid-like effect which makes combat photography more personal. The gritty photos taken by Guttenfelder of infantrymen assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in Afghanistan are gritty and striking. According to Guttenfelder, combat photos that look as if they were taken by the Marines themselves using cell phones or cheap cameras leaves a meaningful impact.
The work of one of the world’s most famous combat photographers is being restored thanks to what the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper calls “game-changing digital photo tools.” When Robert Capa hit Omaha Beach in 1944, he braved German machine gun fire and artillery to shoot over a hundred photos of American soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy with his Contax II cameras. More than 90 photos were accidentally lost in the developing lab, and the surviving eight frames came out blurry. Thanks to a new “deblurring” technique developed by Adobe, Robert Capa’s surviving D-Day photos are being rescued.
Digitally removing the blur from Capa’s Omaha Beach photos calls into question the cause of the blur itself. Life magazine printed the blurry photos and explained that they the motion blur and lack of focus was due to Capa’s unsteady hand during D-Day. As an experienced combat photographer, Capa denied the magazine’s statement. The rest of the negatives were lost due to high temperatures which melted the emulsion, something that also affected the extant photographs. Technicians who have digitally deblurred Capa’s D-Day photos claim that the blur kernel reveals that while Robert Capa did his best to keep his Contax II steady on Omaha Beach, his hand may have suddenly moved before complete shutter closure.
Guest post by Author Matthew Warren who is a photographer for the ecommerce site Sci-Fi-Stuff.com.