25 October 2008

More Thoughts on Technology and New Visual Journalism

I truly believe there is potential for creation of an online media publishing system centered around the style of visual journalism cameras like the G1 can create. The rhythm of shifting from video to still photography in the hands of a capable, creative visual journalist, could be expressed through an architecture and presentation suited to it. The combination of video and still images have the potential to create in the viewer a sense of surroundings, a picture of the whole event, seen two different ways.

The mix of still and video is suited to the idea of "quick-slow" development, where first captures can be uploaded for rapid presentation with little or no information and then later, more images can be added, stories added to flesh out the first blush images. Video can be edited to explain and give context to the event or stories can be added to give context to the visuals. The combinations are endless, given a sufficiently flexible system.

Brief posts of video or stills can flow onto a stream of consciousness, blog-like, photostream-like, until there is time to reflect on the event, compose stories to give context and explain the images by adding them later. The needs of journalism, immediacy and reflection are met.

By the way, I feel that Flickr represents, not a "photo sharing" phenomena, but a "photo looking" one, which essentially fulfills the function of the great picture magazines, Life and Look. The popularity of Flickr, I believe, is due to the same phenomena, an audience who enjoys learning about the world and getting their information visually.

Panasonic G1: A Camera for the New Journalism?

I am very excited about the Micro Four-Thirds format and the G1 camera from Panasonic. I have not decided whether I will purchase one or not, since my decision depends on the specifications and performance of the lenses. I am intrigued by the possibility of mounting the 7-14 ultra wide angle Panasonic has in their roadmap. It could make one of the most compact, lightweight and portable ultra wide angle kits to be found in any camera system. The 4/3 sensor size and lens design could provide very good edge sharpness for UWA work.

I truly believe the G1 (and G1 with HD video) could be an online journalist's dream machine. With its articulating LCD and Live View, it can easily move between video and still photography. It is extremely small and lightweight, perfect for carrying all day or unobtrusive photography. The twisty LCD and live view means images can be had from all angles and heights. It is the perfect combination for online photo and video journalism once it can shoot HD video. This camera would be a great way to record events and then quickly upload both video and stills for distribution online, through media sites, blogs or social networks.

Not only does it promise to be a camera for the new journalism, it has the potential to satisfy creative photographers wanting to work with legacy optics. With the right set of adaptors the m4/3 cameras may be able to mount a greater variety of lenses from different manufacturers going back a half century of lens production than any other format in the history of photography. And it may very well do it with better quality.

The EVF promises quick and critical focusing for manually focused legacy lenses. I hope it will be simple to navigate the frame, choose a focus point, click a button and zoom in 10x for critical manual focus, then click and zoom back out for composition before tripping the shutter. Currently, most digital SLRs and terrible at manual focusing because of their small viewfinders, lack of focusing aids and autofocus orientation. The G1 could be a manual focus dream.

As the image quality of the electronic viewfinder improves, I believe they will come to replace optical viewfinders. I hope to see viewfinders with "heads up" displays offering live histograms superimposed upon the scene as well as other information, selectable at a touch of a button, just as the rear LCD screen offers today. Who needs autofocus and old fashioned exposure meters when you have live zoom and a live histogram? Well, maybe that's not for everyone, but it would make a cool camera for photographers who like to drive their cameras the way driving enthusiasts drive their sports cars.

I am very interested in the possibilities m4/3 opens up for the new journalism. In concert with all the new photo sharing, microblogging and social media websites, this category of camera could really add up to something revolutionary. I envision there may be online tools created just to suit the kind of journalism made possible by compact, hybird still/video cameras, the first of which is represented by the G1. We are not talking about taking still captures from a video camera as an afterthought, but a tool specifically designed to operate in both regiemes, easy to take anywhere, use any time by any citizen journalist, the captures ready for distribution through the network. The output of both video and still images from the same event, captured as the journalist thinks appropriate, create the potential for a new kind of presentation and visual narrative. We may see the rise of online versions of the great photo magazines Look and Life, where generations learned about the world through pictures before television chased them from the newstands.

(Some links: Panasonic, AnandTech, Imaging Resource, just google around and you will find a lot of buzz on it).

22 October 2008

The Sound of Melting Snow

Through the window comes
the sound of melting snow--
a warm breeze.
-sek, Oct 2008

It may seem a bit odd, a haiku about early spring just as we are heading into winter, but this one is based on an idea I've been kicking around for some years, trying to capture the experience of listening to the sound of snow melting from all directions through my window on a warm later winter day. I wanted to capture that feeling of prescience and anticipation and only now was able to compose a haiku around it.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves arranged
on black branches--
exquisite in the rain.
-sek, Oct 2008

Also, more in the Western tradition:

Yellow leaves arranged
on branches stained
exquisite in the rain.
-sek, Oct 2008

The use of rhyme is not typical of haiku.