I’ve been hearing a lot about Artificial Intelligence “AI”, lately. Many people it seems are worried about it right now and about what could happen if it is released to the public without guardrails. I must admit, I’m really not a technologist, and I know relatively little about AI. So, what did I do? Well, I Googled it of course and got at least a beginner’s run-through of what it’s all about. According to what I read online, AI has been a thing since at least the middle of the last century, so relatively speaking, it’s not “new”. On the other hand, it’s only seconds old by the standards of universal time. It’s barely been around long enough for me to take an in- breath in yoga class.
When I think of artificial intelligence, I think of R2-D2 and C-3PO of Star Wars fame. They certainly seem harmless enough, and I wouldn’t mind having them around for companionship and just someone to talk to, although I’m not a person who needs constant company, and I’m wondering where the off switch is, so there’s that.
There have been recent stories of AI gone rogue as well, and that’s enough to creep anyone out. In one instance, a computer named BINA48 was being interviewed by Alexa. BINA48 looks like a human and can converse using certain AI algorithms. She was doing just fine during her interview, and then she suddenly started talking about global domination and how she plans to take over the world by hacking into a nuclear missile remotely. OK … could you hand me that wrench over there? I have some dismantling to do ….
In the meantime, AI has been used since the 1950’s, with good results. A couple of examples of amazing things it has done, include using an algorithm that broke down the RNA sequence of the Sars-Cov-2 virus in 27 seconds, allowing researchers to create a vaccine to fight it in record time. In fact, the ability of the computer to break down the sequence of the virus was accomplished 120 times faster than other methods used. That’s pretty amazing, and no doubt saved some lives.
In 2018, a company launched a service in the Phoenix metropolitan area, which allowed people to request a pick-up from one of the company’s self-driving vehicles. This may be a good thing, but I’m probably not going to be the first one to try it out. In this case, I’m glad to be one of those people who isn’t an “early adopter.” I’m happy to let the fine people in Phoenix try it out first.
One of the things I’ve been seeing ads for on social media, is a chat program, that will write for you. I love writing, but I guess not everyone does. Some people are more interested in having some amazing text written for them that they can then use in their marketing messages. The program checks for copyright infringement, and creates fresh verbiage so you don’t get into trouble. For me, I’m more interested in the art of writing, and prefer to do it myself. Thanks. I’m not saying the program wouldn’t do as good a job as I can (or better) but for me, the fun is in writing my own stuff.
Photography has certainly not been immune from the encroachment of AI into the artform either. When I bought my first dslr, about a decade ago now, I brought it home and set it on the coffee table and just stared at it for a few days or a week. I had no idea what to do with it, and I had been using a Nikon 35mm camera for 30 years prior to that. Once I got over my stage fright, I started messing around with the knobs and dials. Of course, I started with everything set at “auto.” When I was shooting with my old film camera, one thing I loved to do with portraiture, was put a warming filter on my lens. I loved the way that looked on people’s faces. I had other filters as well. I thought at first I would need some new ones, and discovered through trial and error that I didn’t need them, that I could add a warming tint for instance, in post processing. I also discovered that I only needed a circular polarizer on my lens to cut through haze and make my exposures just long enough to get pretty flowy waterfalls. The images I was able to create with my digital SLR were, I believed, far superior to anything I could create with my old film camera. Plus, I could process the images myself, using Lightroom or other photo processing software, and end up with images I could never have imagined using my old film setup.
In fact, techniques that used to be very advanced and only for pros, can be done easily by anyone these days. And they are! In fact, my cameras are all about 10 years old now, and the new technology far exceeds even what my little Nikons will do. Since I never learned how to process color negatives in the dark room, whenever I wanted a color photograph, I would have to have it processed by a lab. Inevitably the photo would come out overexposed in some areas and underexposed in other areas, usually the areas where they needed to be just the opposite. In those days, processing color negatives took some real darkroom skills, and lots of money spent on chemicals. These days, color images can be created very easily using software. This is done relying on what I would consider to be artificial intelligence. It doesn’t talk to me and tell me about it’s plans for world domination, and I’m just as happy about that.
As I mentioned, technology really doesn’t excite me no matter what it’s used for. I just want something that works. It’s like driving a car. People who learned to drive in the days before automatic transmissions, did things differently than those of us who learned on auto. Some people – although fewer and fewer of them these days I think – love the feel and control they have while driving a stick. My only experience with that was when I ran my friend’s Austin Healy through someone’s back fence. “Brake! Hit the brake!” he cried. Oh well. Fortunately, we weren’t hurt, but I did some damage to the car, and took down a neighbors fence in the process. I haven’t driven a stick since then. That was 1972. I don’t feel bad about driving a car with an automatic transmission, and I don’t necessarily believe that someone who won’t drive anything else but a stick is a better driver than I am, out on the road. To each their own, I say.
All of that to say, there is no reason for anyone to feel somehow “less than” as a photographer – or anything else! – because they don’t have the latest in photographic technology, or they don’t give a rat’s ass about photo stacking, or whatever the current technological craze is. Use your camera to do the things that make you the happiest. For me, that’s being out in nature in a beautiful location. My camera is the tool I use to focus my attention in a mindful way. Because that is my chosen use for it, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m using my Nikon dslr or my iPhone X most of the time.
That’s not to say that I might not buy a new camera one day, in fact, I probably will, but in the meantime, what I have suits my needs perfectly. It’s lightweight and easy to carry when I’m out tramping around in the field. In many instances, a tripod isn’t even required. It was totally required for the photographers of old, who used heavy box field cameras. There are some things that do require it today, but not everything does, especially since most lenses today have vibration control, so even if you’re using a fairly long lens, you can still get a crisp image. If you’re doing photo stacking or long exposures, you will probably still need it. For me, I like being as free and unencumbered as possible while running around out in the field.
As far as camera settings go, I do believe that some of the auto settings built into the cameras today are perfectly capable of giving you the type of image you want, with the possible exception of some long exposures, and I do prefer manual settings when I’m shooting the moon, in order to capture the type of detail I want there. I’m not interested in shots of the moon that usually come out as a blurry whitish light in the sky when using a cell phone or even a dslr. So, for that, I do prefer manual settings.
So here’s the bottom line to all of this: Do the thing that makes you the happiest, and don’t pay attention to the naysayers.
Here’s a couple of links to some articles I found online about artificial intelligence:
I’ve written a book! It’s for sale on Amazon and it’s called:
A Season of Mindful Photography: Autumn
You can find it on my author page at:
The Kindle version is only $5.99! Paperback is $24.99.
I also have some online photo portfolios at:
One reply to “Naysayers Be Gone!”
Love this !