They Once Walked Here

Big Bend National Park, Texas

The canyon has a wide flat floor with ample evidence of natural violence from flashfloods. In places it is more than a mile wide. Huge boulders cracked and carved by the elements litter the valley floor.

At sunrise and sunset when the light is at a low angle you can see the remains of dozens of fire rings. Each was warm security for humans. Deep stone mortars are evidence of bounty gathered over long occupation of the land.

We can’t know their lives in the distant past. We can know them as we know all people.


My Eye Is the Camera

eye_2Lately I’ve been reading articles about vision augmentation. That got me thinking about William Gibson Zeiss-Ikon eyes and other such fictions. Is there a future where journalists or average people can stream live video directly from their eyes? Will there be a time soon when we can store and reason using augmented visual information? Maybe but I have no knowledge of such things.

A quick internet search turned up someone who has a wearable artificial eye capable of streaming video. It is the ultimate point-of-view device at least until someone figures out how to integrate imaging with the visual cortex in full fidelity. Rob Spence, the gentleman who experimented with the video capable artificial eye may have moved on to more commercially viable ventures. In any case you can see for yourself what he accomplished at EyeBorg Project. It is quite impressive given the state of technology at the time.

It is rather extreme to even consider replacing your eyes with imaging devices. Perhaps not so extreme if the devices were genetically engineered replacement eyes rather than electromechanical devices. Either way, when they become available many people will opt for the prosthetics.

None of the devices I’ve seen even hint at anything like eye replacement. Current research seems to be about providing useful information for navigation. Finding nearby services just as mobile phones do today. One area where augmented vision has great promise is in complex manufacturing where product details could be highlighted as overlays directly into your field of view. That sort of technology combined with good speech recognition could have far reaching scope. However it is more likely that specifications and product guides will be available hands-free as a first step.

Vision augmentation poses the same sort of social and privacy concerns that were experienced by Google Glass users. The difference is that you can tell if someone is wearing Google Glass but you might never know if someone is scanning you with a more subtle device. We also need to consider what the government and military will do with such technology. It is a Brave New World.

Gear Up

Announcements of consumer photo gear are heavy at the moment. Mostly of products designed to make amateur photography click-simple. Many tout ‘Pro Features’ but the target audience for the majority of photography gear is advanced or not so advanced amateurs.

What is not mentioned is the exciting new tech that was announced just a few months ago. All that stuff is now old hat. The half-life of camera gear is short and getting shorter. On the other hand here is an extreme example of longevity from film days.

_DSF5749-S1_C_3The Argus C3 started production in 1938 and was produced until 1966. Gear had longer shelf life in the days BD (before digital). This one is displayed in my office. It looks rough but still works. Most digital cameras will be outmoded within five years. Judging from past performance some things announced today may well be replaced within a year. As long as digital technology is evolving at a fast pace we will not have cameras with lifespans of more than a few years. Fashion and marketing also play a role of course.

Should we buy the latest new gear? Yes indeed. Will the new gear improve the quality of our work? Not that much. Excellent photographs are not found in cameras. They are products of individuals using cameras effectively with purpose. Then again anyone can get lucky.

For most of us skill comes with practice. Some will show excellence immediately after picking up a camera. Some will never make a decent photograph. Most of us end up in the middle as family photographers capturing what used to be called Kodak Moments. Humble as this may sound it is photography with purpose. The photo album is an essential historical archive for many families.

My goal is to make excellent photographs. I probably need at least 36 megapixels and a new tripod just for starters.