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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Future Of Nature Photography


The Next Generation • Show Me The Money • The Crystal Ball • Too Much Of A Good Thing

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
The Crystal Ball
Q Where do you see the field of nature photography going in the future?

A Three interrelated forces drive the progress of any art form (or craft, as I usually refer to the practice of photography). The first driving force is an individual’s creative vision and the need for tools to express it. The second is the values and priorities of the society within which the individual functions, and the artist’s inclination to resist, reflect or interpret those values. The third is technological advances that enable new means of expression by removing previous limitations. I’d venture a guess that those working in nature photography will adapt high-speed, high-res imaging technology developed for national security and intelligence-gathering purposes to document and share the beauty and spirit of the natural world, to reveal new knowledge through the capture of intricate detail and fine movement, and to expose the forces that threaten the future of life on earth.

Well, okay, that’s my prediction and hope, and maybe not yours. But the point is that new technology is driven by somebody’s need to solve a problem, and consumers then adapt that innovation to their own uses. Widely adopted technological advances move us as a society into the future, for better or worse. For my purposes, I’m looking for a few key improvements. I want to be able to shoot a stream of images that, together, make a movie, but that, individually, are top-quality stills that can be vertical, horizontal or square. So that means I need my DSLR to capture at 24 frames per second on a large, square, 40-megapixel sensor. Or I need to be able to capture in video mode with the same quality and orientation options. To gather the information, I want optics that will resolve all the data that the camera can use. Is that so much to ask for?

I think that future photographers will be thinking outside the 8x10 box of paper. Images can be huge and at super-high resolution, printed directly on walls and in three dimensions. Printed work already can last 100 years or more, making the image on the wall an enduring treasure. High-quality video is now accessible to everyone, not just filmmakers with huge cameras and crews to handle them. I can’t begin to imagine all that will be discovered when millions of photographers—carrying equipment with capabilities professionals didn’t even dream about 40 years ago—are on the assignment to document their unique visions of nature, and in the process, help others to know and care about the natural world.

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