BitDepth 551 - November 21

At New York's PhotoPlus Expo the answers for photographers were as elusive as the questions were confusing...
Photography's digital dilemma

Digital futurist Tom Wujec fields questions from photographers after his keynote session. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

According to a press release from VNU Expositions, the producers of this year's PhotoPlus Expo in New York early this month, 27,000 photographers attended the show, viewing the wares of 280 exhibitors. Of that group, 2600 attended the more than 100 seminars offered.
One thing was certain, all the visitors, whether they were pros, amateurs or simply curious wanted to know one thing, what's next.

Tom Wujec, a former photographer and now a committed futurist took a stab at the issue in his Studio 2020 keynote session, examining the future of photography by evaluating the changes of recent years as emerging, evolving and disruptive technologies.
Emerging and evolving technologies are the ones that we're working with today as photography abandons gelatin and chemistry for data streams and pigments.

The disruptive technologies that Wujec discussed include plenoptic, three dimensional lenses that allow photographers to place focus in an image after the shot is taken, insect eye lenses that capture images through millions of single pixel capture nodes and other photographic research possibilities that left the audience silent with a wonder that seemed rooted in equal parts confusion and alarm.

Along with Wujec's extrapolations of petabyte drives and oceans of RAM processing multigigabyte camera files captured by cameras still undreamt were some trends affecting photographers today.
Wujec identified the low barriers to entry in the field, increased use of the Internet, photographers needing to diversify and workflow automation as key to the immediate horizon for change.
Many of these issues were being addressed, sometimes crudely, in solutions offered in the seminar menu and on the show floor.
In seminar sessions, authors of books addressing once obscure aspects of digital photography were now at centre stage. Andrew Rodney, author of Colour Management for Photographers and Peter Krogh, who wrote The DAM Book, guided photographers through the labyrinths of colour profiles and digital asset management.

On the show floor, websites like MPix and PrintRoom were offering online solutions for print preview and ordering targeting portrait and wedding photographers shooting for clients more likely to browse their images on web pages than in a sample album or studio presentation.
Even the smaller booths, which included products that offered solutions for placing photographs on odd surfaces and substances, were focused on pictures that started as digital files.
Film wasn't on the agenda as a part of these discussions except as a curiosity, a sideline to be pursued by committed artists or hobbyists devoted to the new camera obscura of chemicals and light sensitive paper.

The key challenge at PhotoPlus Expo 2006, indeed the buzzword at the show, was "workflow". At least five seminars tackled the subject head on and solutions from Apple, Adobe, LightZone and iView Multimedia were being flogged to attendees, with Apple and Adobe taking the lead offering continuous seminars with practising photographers who showed their work and lauded the value of their sponsor's products in their workflow.
What's workflow? Oh, that's the old problem of getting images out of the camera, through a processing sequence and into customer hands efficiently.

For digital photographers (that should just be photographers now), it's a problem that's moved from caring for negatives and getting accurate prints to something that requires engaging a new field of study, incorporating some of the craft of the printer, the soul of a good darkroom technician and all the expertise of an IT professional.

For working pros, there were answers aplenty at the show, but for those on the fringes even the solutions raised too many questions and you could see it on the faces of a few photographers as they left the sessions early, shaking their heads.
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