The Future of Photography

The future of photography – one photog’s point of view.

Photography; more specifically the camera, is one of those great technologies that I have had the privilege of watching evolve [and use] over time.  I’ve used several different types/styles over the years and have welcomed and very much enjoyed each new advancement.  There is much speculation lately as to where the camera market is headed.

JphoneThe camera phone was a real game-changer.  The first cell phone with a built-in camera was manufactured by Samsung and released in South Korea in June of 2000 ||read more||.  The game started out at .35 megapixel; today The Nokia Lumia 1020 features an impressive 41 megapixel.  Megapixel alone is not the measure to end all measures.  If you don’t already know, photography isn’t all about the megapixel despite the marketing blitzes related to recent DSLR [and now seemingly smartphones].  megapixel races…It’s plain nonsense.  You can create some amazing photography at 10-12 megapixel (or even less) and even print it.  Don’t be fooled by the hype.

Having said all that said, with a camera phone at a moderate megapixel count, the need for a DSLR or bridge camera or point and shoot is seemingly non-existent.  Seemingly; not absolutely.  This depends on your level of need/use of course.  I am referring to the general to moderate enthusiast users.  With smartphones being commonplace, is there really a need for bridge or point and shoot cameras anymore?  You can push on even further from that question and ask what role, if any, will entry-level DSLR’s play going forward?

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Manufacturers of DSLR’s have loaded current models up with 1080p HD video, rotating LCD screens, high megapixel counts, and other new/interesting features, however, the entry-level DSLR market continues to decline.  Manufacturers have made great strides in regards to size and weight, but there is difficulty contending with the smarts phones of the day that can do the same job, or I suspect in some cases, an even better job and can be carried more easily.

The constant demand for faster, better, more features, smaller footprints, get things done, effortlessly and now is answered quite nicely with the smart phone.  The first photograph took 8 hours to expose – today, you can take a picture and distribute it to the entire globe in seconds.  Even though these magic machines evolved from phones, I am sufficiently convinced that they should be renamed to smart device or magic thingy or something more appropriate than smart phone – the phone role is a pretty small one these days.  More texting and other forms of communicating are happening instead of the spoken word I suspect.  Social media has no doubt played a significant role in this big picture trend.

These super-duper smart devices are not only dampening the camera market.  The personal computing (PC/Laptop) market is taking a hit as well.  I haven’t really seen how these devices are affecting tablet sales.  Where is this all going?  Smaller and lighter – I am not necessarily a fan.  Eventually; with current technology, the smaller you go the more of a performance hit you take – especially where camera sensors are concerned.  This is where I see new and great things being developed.  Take a brief moment and read all about Google Glass.

iphone-5-cameraMost everyone will have some form of these smart devices (if they do not already) in the no-so-distant future (1-3 yrs.).  I finally gave in after years of limping along with my Samsung flip phone.  I have very much enjoyed the in-device camera features of my iPhone 5S.  Pro:  Convenience is huge for many and depending on the situation; I can get on board with that notion.  Photo editing tools on these devices work surprisingly well.  Con:  I am not a fan of relinquishing the exposure control and settling for auto mode.

The only room for a point and shoot camera in my life is for instances where I don’t want to risk damaging my phone (e.g. kayaking) or have a desire to instantly share a photo with the rest of the world.  I’ve carried a DSLR while kayaking in the past…that can be risky and I’ve had a few close calls.  With phone insurances like Square Trade, I may not worry about the phone getting wet or sustaining any other damage.  You would have to deal with the hassle of getting the device replaced.  I think for the most part, the point and shoot will suffer a slow and quiet death.  It has had its place and time in history.

My personal wish for the future of the DSLR…

Dear camera manufactures,

Please quit making so many models and the addition of megapixel does not a great upgrade make!  Please focus more on the sensor technology and camera features – thanks!  Included in a minimal model offering – please make DSLR’s without video.  There are some of us that will never use it and don’t want to pay for it.

The DSLR is a tool of a trade/art.  While most are completely satisfied with their smart phone as a camera, others desire a lot more.  Exposure control and Interchangeable lenses are top of my list, although the latter is available for smart phones now and is surprisingly good (more on that later).  I like the feel of a beefy DSLR in my hands.  I like all the controls/settings at my fingertips (I very much despise digging in menus to change settings).  In my perfect DSLR world, I see entry-level models gone altogether.  I have no clue why people want to spend $500-$1000 on an entry level DSLR that has no more features than your smart phone.  Consumption is based more out of want than need for a lot of folks if I had to venture a guess.  Who hasn’t gone a bit overkill on a perceived need?  I’ve always considered myself to be very technically savvy, but that isn’t the whole picture – there is cost involved here.  The bleeding edge of technology is no place for the meek; even the cutting edge has become a titch scary for me.  My hope going forward is for a more limited offering of crop-sensor and full-frame models.  Having a higher price point, in my mind, garners more commitment from the consumer in their purchase and having less models hopefully would steer the manufacturers to being more innovative rather than just adding more megapixels.

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I recently purchased a full-frame camera and am quite happy with it.  I didn’t go to the farthest edge of current technology, but rather settled in with the tried and true.  I passed on the Nikon D800e for two reasons:  1.) price and 2.) I do not need 36 megapixels.  I went with the D700 as 12 megapixels is quite adequate and the $1200 price tag was very welcoming.

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The evolution of photography is far from over.  Change is one constant we can all be assured of.  Photography is no different from most things – there isn’t a magic button to push that will cover all needs or interests.  The diversity in camera styles and technology is what fuels the photographic creativity of the future.  I can’t wait to see what someone dreams up next.  Is mirrorless the next greatest thing?  We shall have to wait and see.

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2013: Weeks #45 Photography

Goodbye week 45.  Short and sweet today – much to do before we depart for some fun.

Here is what I saw through the lens this week.  I will mention one thing – the little old lady in short (November in MN) that just walked right into traffic cracked me up!  Have a great weekend everyone.

2013: Weeks #44 Photography

It was a slow photography week.  I managed a few shots; here they are.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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The license plate says it all
Huh?  I've never seen that bread before.
Huh? I’ve never seen that bread before.
From the former rows of corn, a substation under construction appears
From the former rows of corn, a substation under construction appears – Hwy 52
Early morning - St. Paul, MN
Early morning – St. Paul, MN
Customized car emblem - now that is detail.
Customized car emblem – now that is detail.

Less than optimal exposure…what can you do?

How many times have you looked over your shots and found images where the exposure could have been better?  Happens to me more often than I would like to admit; especially when I am shooting my D60 on auto ISO.  It is early in the morning.  A fair amount of the time I am driving down the road or just hanging out the car window.  I usually do not use a tripod in these situations. Needless to say, I get some less than optimal images.  That is o.k.  Sometimes.

I am not debating that the goal should be to get “it all right” straight from the camera.  That would be prefered, but what about those times when that doesn’t happen for whatever reason?  For me, if it is a shot that I really like, I will lean on a bit of post-processing to revive the situation.

The image below was shot right out of my car window on the way to work one morning.  There was just something about the farm shed, the sunrise and the sunrays that worked for me.  There are several ways to approach this correctly, but I didn’t have time or tools in hand to do so (more time than anything).  From past experience, though, I know I could work with the exposure I captured.

Original – ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 1/125 @ 46mm

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In Lightroom there are a number of things you can do, most of which do not do much for me in regards to this image.  You can pull shadows, drop some highlight and pop a bit of clarity.  It really brings out the noise nicely.  Too much playing around and things look real bad real quick.  Like this…

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My very next instinct would be to go black & white.  It is easy enough to burn in those areas where the grain is pretty extreme and still preserve enough detail in the image to make it interesting.  With any black & white, I also try strive to portray a full tonal range.  That isn’t always possible; if I hit 8 or 9 out of the 10 zones I am happy with that.  Silver Efex Pro can work miracles at times.

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There are many other option besides black & white.  It just wasn’t working for me on this one.  Cyndie and I use Pretty Presets for portrait work; these presets also work great for landscape and other types of photography.  The application of the preset takes all of the low lights and creates a silhouette.

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I don’t mind this at all, however I would like to see some detail in the low light.  That is accomplished easy enough – pull some shadow out and there you have it.

Final Image.

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How can you ingnore this information?

SOD
A quick break from photography to highlight a huge and every-growing issues that concerns many, including myself.

With so many that have been and continue to be so vigorous in their efforts to combat GMO’s – how does this continue?  Watch the video and see how Monsanto has become an absolute monster beyond mythic proportions.  This movie is an hour and nineteen minutes; it is an hour+ well spent.  Put Candy Crush aside and inform yourself.

Minnesota North Shore – The In-Between, Day 4

Day4This was finally the morning where there was no fog to speak of.  Although waking up at 4:30 a.m. while on vacation seems a bit crazy, sometimes it pays off.  The Grand Portage Trading Post (gas station) is not open at this hour.  You are stuck with the coffee in your room.  We made our way to Hollow Rock Resort for a sunrise shoot.  It is a very short distance from the casino.  It was a cool morning and the mosquitoes where a titch unruly, but manageable…at times.  Our Hallow Rock Point sunrise shaped up nicely – no fog, clouds on the horizon and beautiful color.

Grand Portage National Monument was next on the list.  There is some amazing history to learn about there.

The journey didn’t end here.  We ventured into Canada.  I have never been into Canada from this entry point and finally my curiosity was going to be over.  Not far in we spied a cheese sign and had to check it out.  Thunder Oak Cheese Farm was a nice little pit stop along our way and certainly filled the void during snack time, which happened to be at that very moment.

We made our way through the city of Thunder Bay on our way to find some Amethyst.  There are a few veins of the purple rock North and East of the city.  Amethyst Mine Panorama is where we ended up (B on the map above).    The mine is about 80 miles from Grand Portage, MN and 63 km from Thunder Bay, CA off of the 11/17 Trans Canadian Hwy.  How exciting this destination is – is directly related to how much you like Amethyst.  The mine tour is pretty minimal.  You exit the office and walk by some really big Amethyst rocks and then stand there overlooking a hole in the ground.  The gist of it is that there are two miners picking out the premium Amethyst.  What they don’t want (the not-so-premium stuff) they dump in an area where you can go and dig around yourself.  That is precisely what we did.  They have tools for digging and buckets to collect your treasure in.  When you are done with all of that, there is a washing station to scrub your gems clean to get a closer look at them.  Once you have decided what you cannot live without, it is a short trip to the office to pay $3.00/lb.  Cyndie found some really interesting specimens; for $12 we got to bring them back home.  *WARNING* — *BEWARE* — crazy Canadian blood-sucking vampire gnats abound in the treasure hunting area.  We suffered a bit of a casualty that beautiful July afternoon.  Cyndie was bit in the eyelid a few time – enough to make her one eye swell almost completely shut and there were also a couple of swollen welts on her neck.  There were a few eye patch and pirate jokes.  She was a trooper.  The gnats didn’t bother me, but the crazy Canadian blood-sucking vampire mosquitoes were all over me tapping me for much O Negative nectar.

Here are some shots from our visit to Amethyst Mine Panorama

We had a pleasant excursion into Canada.  We had planned to visit a couple of provincial parks, but didn’t make it there.  We made our way back to border crossing and then back to Two Harbors.  That was a long day (just shy of 3oo miles), but we saw a lot of beautiful country.

Here are my shots of the Minnesota North Shore – The in between, Day 4

Minnesota North Shore – Cooter Pottery

DSC_4502As we traveled along the North Shore on our way to Gooseberry Falls State Park we stumbled upon an interesting destination.  Cooter Pottery is located a few miles northeast of Two Harbors, MN; the turn is just past Betty’s Pies – look for their sign.  On the sort 3 mile trip off of the beaten path you will drive right by the Northern Rail Traincar Inn on your way to Cooter Pottery.  The rail cars appeared plenty cozy.  We may have to stay there some time.

Dick Cooter

My pots are fired in a 125 cu. ft. wood-burning kiln inspired by traditional Korean kilns.  The kiln much be stoked with wood every 10 minutes for 36 hours until 2400 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.  Pots emerge from this river of fire with a richness of surface that cannot be duplicated by more modern means.

The pots are sturdy, simple and reflect the processes of making them.  I intend my pots be used for storage, serving and preparation of food, display of flowers, etc.  I hope they bring pleasure and joy to the rituals of daily life.  They are free of toxic materials and are dishwasher and microwave safe.

I follow the tradition in which making a pot is a collaboration among clay, fire, potter and user.  The potter seeks the tension among them so that each element has its place and none dominates for too long.

Dick Cooter’s studio is open daily 10-5 year round.  The next time you are in the area stop by and see his pottery.

Dick Cooter Pottery | 2046 Fors Rd., Two Harbors, MN 55616 | 218-834-5242

Here are my photos of my recent visit to Cooter Pottery.

Vergas Baby!

That’s right Vergas; not to be confused with Vegas.   Vergas is a little town in Otter Tail County in Northern Minnesota.  Their claim to fame – World’s Largest Loon.  It is a beauty…all twenty feet of it.  I had the pleasure of seeing the sites here on my way to Detroit Lakes for work this week.

100 Miles of something

http://www.mississippi-river.org has a great website with information on where to stay, eat, shop, and things to do – all around Lake Pepin.  There are several 100 Miles of… links: vistas, boating, birding, fishing, history and even garage sales.

The big big big 100 miles of garage sales was May 2-4 this year.  Cyn & I didn’t get out for a drive until Sunday and by that time most sales where over and done.  We found some stragglers still open though.  I was more interested in the drive, but the potential for an awesome find is always around every corner.  The super-find of the trip was an old produce crate in the dumpster outside of Reads Landing Brewing Company.  I spied the little treasure as we sat on the patio sipping our fire-hot bloody marrys.

Prior to landing for refreshments we spent a significant amount of time roaming around the little river town of Stockholm, WI.  There are several unique shops to wander through.  Among them is a fantastic bakery – Bogus Creek Cafe & Bakery.  The cranberry walnut bread is out of this world.  You may have noticed in past posts…if there is a bakery in the vicinity  I’ll be sampling the local fare.

Stockholm is great small town to spend a few hours just walking around.  There is no shortage of interesting art.  Be sure to check out Adobe Stockholm.  Juno & Me has some of the best candies I’ve had is awhile and their pet product are worth browsing.  For more information on additional shops, see Stockholm’s official website.

Here are a few other shot I took around town before we got on our way to the next town.

There is so much to see and do around Lake Pepin.  Hwy 35 on the Wisconsin side boasts some spectacular views as does Hwy 61 on the Minnesota side.  You are never board around here – take a drive around the lake!

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Reunited and it tastes so good…

The last Sunday in April Cyndie and I went to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market – the alley edition.  The full farmer’s market was set to open the first weekend in May.  To my surprise and delight, LoveTree Farms was selling their absolutely wonderful goat and cow cheeses partway down the alleyway.  I no more than saw the name on the table and the memory of their cheese and pizza filled my mind.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with the goat cheese we purchased…make some semi-homemade pizza.  Yum.  Far from wood fired, but still plenty good.

Pizza 001 Pizza 002

Pizza 003

I first tasted this delectable cheese back in late October of 2011 at LoveTree Farms in the Trade Lakes area of Wisconsin (Approx 15 minutes Southeast of Grantsburg).  They make wonderful wood-fired pizza (Pizza by the Pond) on Sunday’s (after Memorial Day) from 2-8 p.m.  I didn’t make it back to LoveTree Farms in 2012, but am hoping to get their this season.

I live in a great area full of gems and wonderful surprises like LoveTree Farms and the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  If you are out and about, check out LoveTree at their farm near Grantsburg, WI for Pizza by the Pond or at the farmer’s market –   you won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few photos from my original trip in 2011.  The original post from October 2011 is here:  Hugo, MN to Grantsburg, WI.