This continues a series of guest columns on how technology is reshaping hobbies and passions – basket weaving, rugby – whatever.
This time it is Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, Inc., a company dedicated to reducing software and IT implementation failures. He also writes a popular and influential blog on IT success and failure for ZDNet.
In this segment, Michael describes his passion for photography. In addition to his self-photo on the left he generously allowed me to pick and showcase in the column 3 photos from his gorgeous collection - one of molten glass, one of trolley tracks and one of a box of chocolates. Click on each photo to enlarge and admire.
“For me, photography is a highly intimate form of expression. I love photography precisely because it's such a magnificent method to engage with one's surroundings and communicate feelings, moods, concepts, metaphors, and sensations non-verbally through images.
My photographs reflect a personal vision of the world that's almost embarrassing to share publicly. But share I do, and the world is richer because so many others do the same.
For me, photography is all about people, whether taking snapshots in remote Tibet or explaining why I’m trespassing on railroad property to the menacing engineer of a passing freight train. My silliest photography story occurred online when creative news website, Fark, picked up my boring photo of a cat staring at a garden gnome. Very skilled Fark members created a stack of cool variants based on my humble photo. It’s absolutely hilarious, so check it out.
Every few years some social event pushes interest in photography to a new level. Paul Simon did so with his hit Kodachrome; Clint Eastwood did it with his character of a National Geographic photographer in the movie Bridges of Madison County. Still, I can’t recall a time when there has been so much global interest in this art form.
Photography, of course, is inseparable from technology, even though we have long evolved from the pinhole cameras obscura of our ancestors. From those days to the present, photographic technology has lived with this specific goal: simplifying visual communication within the bounds of cost, physical packaging, ease of use, and the laws of optics.
From the earliest film cameras to today's digital wonders, magic arises when skilled photographers work creatively within the limits of technology. Achieving this skill requires understanding cameras, lenses, image processing, and picture sharing.
Cameras. Everyone knows that the fundamental technological transformation of photography in recent times has been replacing film cameras with digital memory.
In college, I took pictures with a traditional film camera. The process was elaborate and expensive: buy film, take photos, screw around with chemicals in the darkroom, and finally use an enlarger to print on special, silver-coated paper. Black and white was relatively easy; color went way beyond my skill level and was completely unattainable without serious commitment.
For years, camera manufacturers have tried to make photography easier and less complicated. For example, many of us remember 110-size cartridge film of the 1970's. This sturdy, small, format enabled Kodak to produce Instamatic cameras for the masses. Polaroid made the first self-developing film, which created images without either a dark room or commercial processing lab. I have fond childhood memories of snapping Polaroid images, and then using the supplied applicator brush to coat the photos with a messy fixing agent.
The transition from film to digital has revolutionized photography. Manufacturers have embedded low cost digital photographic equipment in cell phones, computers, and even portable music players, making this art form conveniently accessible to everyone. For surprisingly low cost, one can purchase digital cameras with truly fantastic image quality.
Modern digital cameras are actually special-purpose computers with attached lenses. True to their computer roots, each new generation of digital cameras is typically smaller, less expensive, and contains more features than previous generations. Higher mega-pixel resolution, more focus points, and faster repeating shutter speeds have all trickled down from professional to consumer cameras during the last few years.
At the moment, I use a Nikon D90 camera and my current favorite lens is a 60mm Nikon macro lens. The macro lens is super sharp for ordinary photography, but also lets you get up close and personal to objects like flowers. My other favorite lens is a Nikon 80-400mm telephoto zoom with vibration reduction. Here’s an example of a warm photo taken on a cold night with that lens. In my experience, lenses come and go, but the best stick around like old friends.
Lenses. Unlike cameras, the cost of lenses has not generally declined dramatically in recent times. Although features such as vibration reduction (also called image stabilization) are beneficial, lens design is subject less to Moore's Law than to the laws of optics and physics. As a result, most serious photographers may have a higher investment in lenses than in their camera body.
Single-lens reflex cameras use interchangeable lenses, giving photographers great flexibility in matching lens performance and characteristics to a particular goal. Amazingly, Nikon recently celebrated 50 years of its F-mount system for connecting lenses to cameras. With some exceptions, any Nikon F-mount camera can mate with any F-mount lens, regardless of when either was manufactured during this time. In its wildest dreams, the computer industry has never even imagined such levels of forward and backward compatibility.
Image processing. Capturing an image is not the same as viewing it. In film days, image processing meant going into the darkroom or sending exposed film to a lab for slides or prints. Either way, the process was expensive and time-consuming. Sure, one-hour photo labs are fast, but there's still a cost associated with every photograph.
Computer-based image editing is the equivalent of a digital darkroom. Common software packages, such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, use traditional photographic terminology throughout their user interface. Digital editing terms such as burn, dodge, and crop come directly from the world of film. Of course, digital image manipulation means no darkroom, chemicals, or cost associated with taking a photo, once you've purchased the camera.
Picture sharing. The digital world has opened the door to image sharing on an unprecedented scale. General social networking sites, such as Flickr and Facebook, host millions of images for subscribers. Specialized photographic sites, like 1x.com, offer a juried selection of fine pictures representing among the best on the Internet.
I host my photos with Flickr, because it's cheap, easy, and the community is large. I love sharing my images with others around the world and seeing theirs in return. Recently, a restaurant in Malaysia saw this image on Flickr, and asked to buy a copy for use as a wall mural. Yes, the Internet has come to photography in a big way!”