2023 Image of the Year
As readers of this blog well know by now, 2023 came with health challenges that limited my ability to get out and about with a camera. This image, however, represents a bigger story than my personal travail, and heralds a shift in how I go about getting my photography fix.
Yes, it is a nice image. Not a great one, just a nice one. Why so notable then? Ah, that is the story. If you are into photography at all you know how expensive the gear is. Prosumer camera bodies typically run $3K and higher, with each lens costing anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. So yes, it is a pricey hobby. Put it all together and a new camera and set of lenses and filters can easily run $10K - $20K. My ancient DSLR (2009 vintage) is far behind the curve, so I've been hankering for new gear for years now.
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An unexpected benefit
But it looks like I may have outlasted the need to get all that gear, at least for the kind of occasional outing I normally take on. I found the answer quite by happenstance when I decided to upgrade my smart phone. Driving home from the store, I noticed a nice sunset developing and diverted to our local small lake to take my first shot with the new phone/camera, just to see what the image would be like. And there it is.
The key to this development is the sensor. In the digital world, images are created from data captured on a sensor, not film. Instead of going into a darkroom, photographers boot up their post-processing software and get to work creating what their creative eye saw in the field. My new phone camera has a sensor with four times the resolution of my DSLR, and it shoots in RAW format allowing full use of the software's capabilities.
The real story here is technology
Phone cameras are making the leap, but it isn't all about the camera, and it isn't all necessarily good. Like it or not, however, it is the present and future of photography.
On the plus side, the cameras are smaller and lighter, obviously, and phone apps expand capabilities beyond the phone's native set. When I went to New Zealand a few years ago, I had to cart along all that gear. Now, I need my smartphone and a tripod. Better. Much better. Drastically improved lenses and filters for phone cameras are entering the market, and the combination of sensors, lenses, and software is narrowing the gap between smart phone cameras and pro-level gear. Side by side comparisons of large format prints are surprisingly close. And, with the advent of AI image processing software, editing workflows have become streamlined. So far, all good.
But maybe not everything. Depending upon your perspective, AI's incursion may have gone too far even now. It is a boon to basic editing and especially helpful for those who want to produce realistic images or provide a bit of punch for artistic effect. But some photographers struggle with the notion that we can now use generative AI to instantly add foreign elements to the scene or expand the borders of the scene complete with added context and interest points that simply do not exist in reality. People have always manipulated images to make them look better, but now we can create the unnatural and make it look like the natural. We expect this when we think about images used for marketing purposes, but when we view a beautiful waterfall or nature scene, we typically want to see the real deal.
To each his own
It is a conundrum possibly without solution. Some people like black and white, some like it natural, and some like their photography bright and intense. I am in the "it's up to the shooter to exercise discretion and be true to themselves" camp. To that end, I am looking forward to getting out with my new camera this year. There is a lot of beautiful country to see, and I plan on capturing some of it.
If you would like to see more of my photography, visit my SmugMug site and hit the browse button.