Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dock, 222/365

Here's the dock at Little Wall Lake, on my way to work this morning.  I took a similar shot years ago, but liked still liked this one better than the other shots I took.

I haven't talked about the technical stuff in a while, so I'm going to comment on this a little bit today.  When I took the similar dock picture at sunrise years ago, it was shot like a proper landscape sould be.  At that time, I had used a digital SLR with a larger APS-C sized sensor, with the camera on a tripod, etc, etc.  So, what's different this time?  This one was shot with a little Olympus Pen camera with a half size sensor.  I used a 20 1.7 lens, which is the equivalent of a 40 mm lens (just slightly wider than normal.)  More interesting though, it was taken hand held, no tripod, no monopod, no propping the camera on a post or tree, just hand held.  The Olympus has in-body image stabilization, so any lens I put on it is image stabilized.  Now for the amazing part, this was hand held for 1/4 of a second exposure.  I never would have dreamed of hand holding this focal length lens for that long, but this camera can pull it off.  

Now, as far as image noise, detail, etc., would a larger sensor camera have taken a picture with better image quality?  Sure.  The real question though, is, does it matter?  If I wanted to print the image at 11x14, then yes, the details would make a noticeable difference.  However, in the digital age, do you know how often people print their pictures these days?  Very rarely.  It's mostly web and screen viewing now, which is MUCH more forgiving than a high quality print.  Now, I'm not saying that this change in general photography is a good one, but it's the reality.  There are a lot of very, very good cameras out there.  And most of them are overkill for 95% of the photographs that the average person takes.  I've been telling people for years that in photography, we spend 90% of our equipment investment on the items that we need for 10% of the images.  Or, put another way, just about any camera would work for most of what people shoot.  That being said, the rule doesn't work very well for photo enthusiasts, who I admit, can be very particular about our equipment.

When we were on vacation in the northeast recently, it amazed me how many people I saw taking pictures with their phones.  And this is one that we've known has been coming.  Camera phones are getting good enough that they are going to wipe out the point and shoot camera market a few years down the road.  Most of the camera phones are not really that great of quality.  But, the generation using them most, doesn't care.  They are taking pictures for the fun of it.  They don't care if the images aren't good enough to print enlargements, that's not how they use images anyway.  I read recently that photography is going through a "revolution of imperfection", and I believe it's true.  If an image is good enough quality to post on Facebook or text to their friends, that's all they are interested in.  They would rather have fun art filters in their iPhone camera to create pinhole, grainy black and white, or other effects.  It's kind of funny how we now want the same effects that the photographic industry spent decades trying to eliminate, through technical improvements.  And this change has been in the works for years.  Even before digital, there has been a big following for Holga or other "toy" cameras and alternative processes.  I think part of it is that photography has gotten too good.  The images are too perfect, with edge to edge sharpness, no light fall off, no light leaks, etc.  Especially with digital, image quality has gotten so good that they are actually lacking something.  It's some character, or mood, or feel to the images that people want, so they are using vintage effects to try to create images that they love again.  So, as a very serious photo enthusiast, how do I feel about that?  I think it's wonderful!  If some photographic effect or process makes people passionate about taking pictures and motivates them, then I say, go with it!

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