Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Times, they are a-Changing!

You know how it says, "sporadic musings" on the header? Today is one of those days!

Today I read a short post on Facebook by someone commenting about how it used to be when we were kids: how we would go out and play, ride bikes without helmets, play games with sticks and other sharp objects and have our mothers yelling at us that "you'll put someone's eye out" and somehow we never did...

It evoked a train of thought I've had on and off, even in the middle of the night when I have been literally scared to death and filled with wonderment and hope all at the same time. There's been a lot of change since those days... and

Our world is on the cusp

There's a new technological revolution coming. No one can argue that there have been new products that have changed the world we live in but when there are a number of advances that occur at the same time, a confluence will occur that will bring about a massive shift in the way we live. Here's a small example.

I saw a clip where they showed some kids a Walkman and they were dumfounded. Another one with a dial telephone. 20 years from now, kids will be interviewed and shown, I don't know, an iPhone and they'll have a hard time grasping what it was for. That's a given, But I was reflecting today on a number of things going on right now:

Personal Drones

I just watched a video on John Nack's blog that was really impressive. If you're going to Africa, take a GoPro camera and a quadcopter with you! Check out this clip shot in the Serengeti: Link Here.

I think these drones (let's call them that for brevity) are going to represent a real revolution in our world, not only the photography game. We've all read about Amazon playing with using drones for deliveries, but seeing videos like the one above, and with all the other technology coming into place like YouTube-like capabilities, increasing bandwidths and storage, remote controllable electronics, makes it clear that we're going to see a real change coming.

Just on the photography front, since the payloads of these RC copters is getting up there, and since cameras are gaining a lot of remote control capabilities, I could see a huge proliferation of aerial images. Put a new generation mirrorless camera with some good optics under one of these.

Imagine, if you would, a world in which there are not just a handful of these flying machines out there, but thousands of them. You're standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon in a few years. Or Yosemite or Yellowstone or, closer to home, Algonquin Park. Think you'll be getting calm wilderness landscape shots? Not unless your Photoshop skills are honed and you're able to clone out those sky machines. Imagine the traffic jams in the sky!

There will come a point in time when manually controlled drones will not be allowed. Everything will be computer regulated. Sure, the kids today with the skills they're honing playing video games will be able to fly these things but when there are thousands of them in the air at any given time?

This is an invention that is going to revolutionize our lives. Mark my words! Maybe you didn't read it here first, but I'm definitely hopping on the bandwagon. Am I going to get one? No, not yet. I'm not really into video and it's not there yet for me, but I probably will in a few years! I know a couple of people who should be getting into this right now, though (talking to you, Howard, and Gary, and others... you know who you are!).


You can buy this DJI Phantom Quadcopter complete with a GoPro Hero3 camera for under $800 at B&H Photo.


Fuel Sources

There's a rumour about an experimental VW that gets 300mpg. Apparently it's a diesel/electric hybrid. And I'm sure there is a breakthrough out there involving quantum entanglement to step up the power available to us by orders of magnitude. There will be a day when fossil fuels will no longer be needed although I think we'll be in a hybrid state for quite some time to come, but it's coming.

Driverless vehicles

Again, the technology is on the cusp of being there. There are only a few out there, being developed by the Googles of the world, but it won't be long. Safety concerns will rear their ugly heads, politicians will lobby for and against the technology, there will be accidents, but slowly when computer reliability approaches 99.99999% or even more decimal places, it will become a non-issue
There will be roads on which you will not be able to drive without onboard computer control. More and more of them... And you KNOW the next step will be the world of the Jetsons. How long will it be before people will be scooting around in the sky? Yes, you need training and a pilot's license to do it today, but add computer control into the equation and a child will be able to control a vehicle, whether it's on the ground or not. The first time I saw a hovercraft, I realized that the days of our reliance on smooth surface routes are numbered.
Here's a scary thought: would you fly in an airplane built by Microsoft? The "Blue Screen of Death" might take on a whole new meaning! Today I had another one of those on my desktop computer, imagine if it was controlling your flying car! 

Direct computer connections

Google Glass is a fleeting fad. The next step will be contact lens technology where images can be both captured and viewed without external eyewear, but the step after that will be direct connection to the brain, where the sensor will be the eye itself and images will be transmitted directly to the optic nerve.

There's a TV series called "Intelligence" where an agent with a microchip implant is directly connected to the cyber grid. Far fetched? I don't think so. We're almost at the point where if someone can imagine something, someone else can make it real: look at Star Trek – except for warp drive and the matter transmitter, pretty well everything is out there or on its way (did you know that Transparent Aluminium exists?)!

So how will it all come together?

I'm not a futurist. There are far more qualified people out there who can predict where we're going – Dr. Michio Kaku comes to mind, read his "Physics of the Future" (which was written in 2011 so it's already obsolete!). I don't know. I think if we all sat down and thought about what the world will be like, even in as little as the next decade, we'd all come up with different answers.

But you have to be blind not to see that our kids and grandkids are going to live in a technology-driven world that we can't imagine. I may live long enough to see it but like my 92-year old mother who uses her iPad to play solitaire and nothing else, I imagine I'll be a relic who will only be able to gape with wonder at what the world has become.
Another reflection on computer crashes: remember when you first got your latest computer (or in fact, when you got any computer in the past)? My recollection is , "wow, this is so fast!" and "look how great everything runs". What happened? Why do we get Blue Screens, why do we have endless issues? It's usually not the hardware: it has to do with installing updates and upgrades. Why can't we just leave well enough alone? Set up a computer to run program "X" (let's say Photoshop), then block all updates, especially from Mickey$oft and Apple (if that's the way you go). Won't it continue to run great, just like when you first got it? 

Updated Fine Art Gallery

Since my laptop computer crash, I've been restoring programs and utilities one at a time. Today I set up the SmugMug link in Lightroom and took the opportunity to update my Fine Art Limited Edition Prints Galleries. Here's the link: there are two galleries, "New and Featured Images" and the archive that shows all the prints I have available.

Enjoy the images, and if you want a fine art print, prices start at $1000. Just kidding, they're reasonably priced and would look fantastic in your home or office!

Speaking of upgrading...

It's that time of year! Spring has sprung and visions of making pictures that don't involve snow are dancing in your heads! Time to learn about how to use that camera better, or to get a handle on that incredible program known as "Photoshop" or penetrate the mysteries of Lightroom. Come do a workshop.

I've updated my workshop pages at www.photography.to/workshops.htm. I changed a couple of the courses to reflect what people seem to want, but I still  don't show any dates because I'm very flexible (Although I did publish some course dates because they needed it for the Summer Guide in the Highlands). The most popular course has been the 2-day DSLR, but I'm now showing a 1-day basic skills session and coupling that with an optional 1-day field session.

Because I teach to small groups, even one-on-one, you get to choose what you want to learn and how long you spend doing it. Just want a theory session? Or would you prefer to do a field trip and get some real-world experience? I'm easy, I can make the time if you can. Let's Talk!

If you don't feel the need, I'll bet you know someone who does! Please share!

Lots of words, not a lot of pictures!

Yeah, well... time to fix that!


While dinner was cooking, I thought I'd try to capture the essence of the small prime rib roast I was cooking on the BBQ. I used my flash off-camera (about 1m to the left and slightly above, with the Gary Fong diffuser). I tried a couple of shots using a reflector to add some light to the dark areas, but I thought this simple version had a better feel to it. I turned up the burners momentarily to show them, and even cloned in an extra strip to see it better. For the record, it was delicious, properly medium-rare!


So there was this blue jay in the tree. I've taken so many pictures of them, I thought I'd try to make this one a little different. I used a Topaz Simplify preset on this one. One day I'll put all my black background images together somewhere! 


Out near the white water preserve, there's this old church cemetery. Now I think this is the original old church itself, although there's another building across the road that seems to be more current (but still old and rustic). This is hand-hewn log construction and seems to still be weathertight. This is a 5-shot HDR and I used the 10x ND filter to make the exposure times range from 1 to 30 seconds, to try to get some motion in the clouds.  


Generally speaking, this is my least favourite time of year because of the almost monochromatic browns and beiges that paint the landscape. So drag the shutter to 1/10 second and move the camera while the shutter is open and voilĂ , a really nice abstract emerges, ready for large scale printing on canvas or matte paper! You want one. I know you do. Let's Talk!

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