The ART and SCIENCE of photography – Will the balance cease to exist?

[This is a re-post of my thoughts from an earlier blog (Photographytalk.wordpress.com), dated 2010/07/07]

"Texas Rodeo"

Panned capture of a Rodeo event.

I have been pondering on this topic for quite some time now; so I was really very amused when I learnt about the recent announcement of the concept “Wonder camera” from Canon at the Shanghai Expo 2010 [See at engadget if you have not seen it already].
It is claimed that it will have massively high resolution (undisclosed as of now), a single lens capable of zooming from macro to 5000mm and take only video in which every frame will have everything in focus and in “perfect exposure” from near to far.
What are potential implications, if and when this concept becomes a reality? Each frame in the video will have technically accurate exposure of a scene that one shoots. So, zooming (simulation of lenses with different focal length/zoom), framing (composition), depth-of-field (simulation of aperture, object distance, etc), exposure (simulation of under-exposure or over-exposure for artistic control), etc, etc will all be done using the computer sitting at home/studio. In my opinion, theoretically, all the above effects are possible to simulate, assuming the camera also captures depth information along with the raw video data. (Although I am not sure about the simulation of perspective). Does that mean that every one of us will start making “great” photographs and so its specialty as a creative art form will not exist anymore? It is interesting to quote the narrator of the Canon Wonder camera demonstration video – “Like calligraphy, it will eventually become an irrelevant artistic endeavor whose time of relevance has come and gone, because something better and easier has come along”. Although very poetic, I don’t necessarily agree with his thoughts.
There is no doubt that photography has benefited much from technological advancement since its very beginning. Auto-focusing, metering, image-stabilization, digital storage, noise-reduction, HDR, live-view etc, have not only allowed us to overcome the limitations of the medium but also expanded artistic possibilities, limited only by our own creative vision. It requires skill and creativity from the photographer to produce a good photograph. I agree that “skills” will have to evolve with time to match the possibilities offered by technology. But the ART will only be produced when the creative vision of the artist is properly balanced with the SCIENCE. So, I think we must embrace the technological advancement in this field instead of worrying about whether the automatic camera will take our place in the artistic endeavor.

What do you feel?

Update (08/14/2010): I found the following related post discussing a number of future technologies to be very interesting:

Photo industry braces for another revolution

Update (04/15/2011): Another interesting entry I came across in Carl Zeiss’ blog on photography:
How will we take photographs in 120 years from now?

No matter what technological advances we encounter in the future, whether we end up becoming permanently connected with all senses or whether technology is eventually implanted inside our bodies – we will always need mechanisms that can register matter visually. Today’s major trends are 3D movie theaters and compact camera systems that keep getting smaller, more mobile and more versatile. One day, it may even be possible to produce films on a computer. Perhaps we’ll no longer need actors, sets or scenery. Perhaps people will no longer go on long trips but rather take short travel experiences simply by visiting a movie theater. It’s conceivable that Carl Zeiss will then offer complete optical solutions of a totally different kind. But one thing’s for sure: as long as humans are around, good pictures will always have an ability to touch a viewer’s heart and soul. “

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