Focus on innovation

Anyone who's spent time in both the traditional and digital darkrooms knows that the freedom afforded to photography by digital electronics has completely changed the landscape of photography both as an art and a craft. Photography has become affordable and less time consuming. Pixels are free, as they say, and the nature of a digital medium means more time can be spent behind the lens and less time behind an enlarger and chemical baths.

One of the major leaps forward that digital technology allowed for was the ability to change ISO on the fly. Suddenly encountering a low-light situation can be compensated for with the turn of a thumb-wheel. This feature meant far less missed opportunities due to the speed with which one can change sensor sensitivity compared to swapping out a roll of film.

While digital advances allow for less time in the darkroom, they also mean new creative abilities in the digital darkroom. The current generation of digital imaging devices allow the user to change the color temperature of an image since the RAW data can be captured and manipulated in postproduction. The future of photography will produce even more creative freedom. As this video demonstrates, microprocessors now have the ability to handle so much information that we can shoot an image which contains far more information about the captured scene than ever before. When we keep this information and manipulate it through software, the image can take on many new forms.

More after the video…

I made two points earlier that may seem to be a bit contradictory:

1. Digital photography allows more time behind the lens and less time in the dark room
2. Digital photography allows for more creative choices in the digital darkroom

but I’d like to drive home an important point in regards to these statements: The Digital medium removes procedural tasks from the photographic process and provides additional opportunities that film simply can’t offer. Just like film speed (ISO), focus will become more controllable. Missed opportunities become beautiful captured moments via a slider on a GUI. I don't believe, however, that focus manipulation will be limited simply to correcting human error. Take the advent of HDR processing and the extended dynamic range of modern sensors for example. By capturing an extended range of luminance, a whole new kind of image is created. Processing a photo often times leads to a different interpretation of how the moment was originally visualized. Or, in the case of HDR, how the moment can possibly be visualized by the human eye. Focus can now be one of the tweakable variables in that creative process.

Certainly there are purists who will insist that such so-called advances will only promote laziness in photography. They're probably right, but let the lazy laze and let the creative create.

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