From the days of yore when cameras were mostly used to take pictures of dead people, to today, where we click pictures of everything under the sun, photography has changed a lot. But no more so than in the past decade, fueled by tech innovation. Thanks to technology and science, several specialised fields of photography have emerged – astro-, underwater-, aerial-, etc.
Cameras, however, aren’t just limited to documenting scenes anymore, but in fact, are helping us drive, park, take off in drones, really take off in space exploration, and also for things like security and various sensors. Cameras and photography are headed for new frontiers, and whilst we cannot predict what will happen to photography in the next decade, we do have an inkling about the immediate future…
Ever since Google Cardboard became a thing, and Facebook also jumped on the 360-degree bandwagon, we’re pretty sure that every single one of you has already seen a 360 degree video or picture. You’re going to see a lot more of them. When the first precursor of the 360 photo, Photosphere, launched in late 2012, with the Nexus 4 (It was built into Android 4.2, but was first available on the Nexus 4), it had only a lukewarm reaction. Sharing it via Google Photos wasn’t ideal and the photos took a long while to process and stitch, so people just didn’t bother with it back then. As hosting and sharing became easier with Facebook spearheading it, it received a huge burst in popularity and it’s poised to go even further. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, which came out recently, allow you to stream your life in this fashion by pairing your phone with a Gear 360. Andy Rubin’s Essentials PH 1 which is going launch soon, takes this one step further – as an attachment that clips on to the phone to make the process even simpler.
Shooting from drones
We mean the harmless kind. Aerial views are nice. It’s why so many of us want window seats on airplanes. Drones give you that without the cramped legroom and bad food, and with better imagery and control. You’ve no doubt seen some stunning aerial shots of landscapes, cities, beaches, etc, which used to only be possible by renting ridiculously expensive helicopter rides. Manufacturers like DJI have packed quality hardware into their offerings, allowing even beginners to get quality footage – and the price of entry is going down constantly too! While those sub $100 drones won’t shoot any jawdropping footage, they do pretty well for most use cases. People are now using drones to map and survey real estate properties (Not to mention shooting some sick shots for the ad promos), shoot footage of guests at weddings and other events, scout out paths and clearings for treks and strolls outside, monitor animals like whales and much more. This is definitely one of the most rapidly burgeoning frontiers of modern photography and we can’t wait to see where it reaches next.
Using photography for security is not new. CCTV systems have been around from the late 1940s. With camera hardware improving rapidly, it is becoming cheaper and more viable for everyone to have a full-fledged security system made up of hi-resolution cameras. The real excitement, however, is happening on the software side. With how good we’ve become in teaching AI to look at and recognize different things, we are getting closer to CSI’s vision of being enabled to “ENHANCE” a picture 20 times to read licence plate numbers and identify faces. Big Brother conspiracy theorists will not like how smart CCTV systems are getting. They can accurately track faces from half a mile away, and even run facial recognition scans!
However, that’s for more widespread security use. What about something much smaller, such as your car? Dash cams are also rising in popularity – at least in rest of the world. As they get cheaper, we can expect us Indians to also get them installed, given the amount of minor accidents that occur on a daily basis, and not to mention the weird stuff we see happening every day on Indian roads! Insurance companies will certainly find it easier to resolve cases using footage. However, there’s another device with a camera that’s already (often) placed on your dash. We’re talking about your mobile, obviously, which is often on the dash in a holder giving you driving directions via Google maps. Whilst the screen is facing you, the phone camera is facing the road! With just a few minutes of tinkering around, you can repurpose your phone to become a dash cam. Look into it, and stay safe when driving!
Space photography really has to be one of the coolest things humankind has achieved. We mean, think about it! Capturing photons emitted by a star millions of years ago is just cool. Period. Ever since the aptly named ‘Stargazer’ went into orbit around the Earth in 1968, humans have been fascinated with capturing photos of the cosmos, free from the limitations posed by Earth on such a feat – stuff like light pollution and a pesky atmosphere that we, unfortunately, need to survive. But the breakthrough truly came through only with the launch of the Hubble in 1990. Here were never before seen photos of galaxies and stars in stunning detail. The Hubble has taken some memorable photos like those of the Pillars of Creation and the Monkey’s Head Nebula and the James Webb Space Telescope is going to (hopefully) give us even more! The JWST packs a larger light catchment area that lets it peer back further in time than the HST, while also being farther away from Earth – HST orbits the Earth at about 570 kilometers out, while the JWST will orbit Earth a whopping 1.5 million kilometers away. But JWST isn’t going to be a perfect replacement for HST because while the latter focuses more on the optical and ultraviolet capabilities, the former will focus on infrared. This means that the nature of photos taken will be radically different and it’s going to perhaps show us a whole new side of Space we haven’t seen before.
Overall, cameras and photography are going to find all new avenues to thrive in, because they are needed, and necessity is the mother of invention!
This article was first published in the July 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.