Story and photography by Don Komarechka
There has never been a better time to be a photographer. It’s easy to say that photographers have had access to unlimited creative choices and possibilities, yet somehow new technology always pushes those limits farther. New camera sensors, lenses, software and countless gadgets allow us to pursue ideas and concepts that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
It’s important to remember that all of the powerful images that inspired me as a child were created with what would be considered antiques today. As technology evolves, so to do photographers, but the fundamentals of our craft have always been the same. We are visual storytellers, we help showcase the beautiful world in which we live, and we reveal aspects of our environment that inspire others. Photographers have documented the atrocities of war and the devastation of natural disasters, creating images that dare us to take action. This has been true since before I was born, so how has modern photography evolved with the technology that we use to create our images?
Photography is more accessible than it has ever been in the past. Smartphones possess incredibly capable cameras for their size; this has made us a more visually communicative society than at any other point in history. The ability to instantly share our work across the planet to any audience allows sensational images to go “viral,” and we can likewise find inspiration from photographers in all corners of the world. While I’d almost always rather be shooting with my professional equipment, mobile phones have changed the face of casual photography forever.
While the technology in the latest smartphones is cutting edge, things get much more interesting when you look at larger cameras. The latest mirrorless and DSLR models contain features and abilities that make every camera exceptional. Long gone are the days when you could blame a bad picture on a bad camera, and your success as a photographer is less associated to your equipment than it has ever been. A better camera doesn’t produce better images; it simply provides you with new creative opportunities and choices.
I distinctly remember when I first realized what my equipment was capable of shortly after the purchase of a Canon 5D Mark II. With a resolution that was the top of its class and the ability to shoot at obscenely high ISO sensitivities, the ideas and concepts started flowing. In what new ways could I photograph the night sky? How much detail can I capture in macro photography? Can I modify the camera for infrared photography? So many possibilities and creative ideas that pushed against the limits of my equipment.
Creativity always flourishes against limitations. Limit yourself to one particular lens or subject and you’ll find your work far less “ordinary” after the first few compositions. This creative enhancement can also be found when you push against the limits of what your camera gear is capable of. You find yourself asking, “What if?” far more frequently when you explore the cutting edge of technology as it endlessly pushes forward.
These advancements are also abundant in the software we use to process and share our photographs. Simply pressing the shutter button has always been a step along the creative process, with many film photographers telling tales of hours spent in a darkroom “perfecting” the shot. Post-processing is now more accessible and powerful than ever, giving us the ability to transform our images. I’m constantly amazed at how much detail is hiding in the shadows, and how much vibrant colour is simply waiting to be revealed. Cameras are getting closer and closer to the dynamic range of human vision, and HDR processing can take us there. Focus stacking allows for us to push past the limitations of diffraction for incredible detail in macro photography, and photographing the movement of stars in the night sky has never been easier.
Watch this new column for descriptions, tutorials and musings on the latest advancements in technology and how we can use them to our creative advantage.
The hardest part of photography remains the same: you need an idea, and you need to make the most of it. Images being made today couldn’t have even been imagined a decade ago, and it’s thrilling to see where technology is going to take us over the next decade and beyond. Photographers complained for many years about how difficult it was to capture something completely new as everything has already been photographed. Such comments are no longer valid. It’s going to be a wild ride.