According to my little fantasies (and I have many), I strive to devote this humble blog to all things photographic, or at least many things photographic. Or some. Though from time to time I've wandered (both literally and metaphorically) off topic a bit, my intent has always been, like a finger aiming at the sun, to at least point in a generally recognized direction. So today, we talk technical. But stay with me, it may start to make sense, because I'm going to try to answer a puzzling question posed to me this week. It seemed innocent and even a little naive at first, but there were intricacies embedded within it that gave me pause: what can you express with a jpeg?
This was not directly a question of RAW vs jpeg. This strikes right at the heart of what we do: can we find a way to meaningfully express our thoughts, our feelings, our world, in a mere 256 shades of gray? It seems like such a limited scale, 256 discreet steps ranging from deep black to pure white, but all digital cameras, of all makes, models, and manufacture speak this language.
And what a language it is. The entire universe -- the one outside, the one within -- exists within those 256 shades. From them, the camera's sensor (and a subsequent dip in the Dektol of photographic software) interpolate all that into a rich rainbow of colors or a powerful range of black & white values. Therein lies all those mountains and streams, the portraits, the nudes, the skylines, the beautiful art and the shocking images; they can all be found there. Heck, Christian Grey limited himself to just 50 shades, and look what he ended up with -- sequels and Jerry Garcia ties, presumably, and an interesting girlfriend.
English has but 26 letters, and it gave us Shakespeare; Spanish, with only one more, gave us Cervantes. You have a camera and an equally expressive language on a shelf right behind you.
Go jpeg the hell out of something.