Monday, September 18, 2017

Infinite Monkeys With Infinite Cameras

The Shot Seen Round The World: This is probably the most famous selfie on the planet, and perhaps one of the more controversial. For this post, it suffices to say that a relatively random photo, taken by a monkey, can be elevated to a level of technical excellence, thanks to the inherent smarts of a digital camera.

I can't help but compare this to the "infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters" theorem, and if we simply substitute the words "macaque" and "cell phone" respectively, we could draw a similar conclusion concerning great digital images. Hardly a square inch of this planet hasn't been digitally immortalized by an camera or cell phone, and of the trillions of digital images made daily, one shot might prove noteworthy, but would probably be completely unexpected.

I want to make two points. First, if enough photos are made of a particular subject on a particular day, a good image MIGHT be created, based on the law of probability. With autofocus and autoexposure modes, the probability increases significantly. Possible? Yes. Likely? Maybe not.

The other point has nothing to do with probability and everything to do with the craft of photography. If we could know exactly when an interesting moment was about to occur, we could simply walk to a spot, point our camera at a specific direction, and wait for the action to come to us. This never happens - I've never met a truly clairvoyant photographer. But I've met many who where very analytical in their approach, and with some hard earned experience, learned to anticipate where something interesting was about to occur. Setting the camera to the appropriate shutter speed and aperture in advance, the photographer watched and waited.

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Experience plays an important part in this whole process. After all, experience is the name we give to our mistakes, and the more of them you make, the more experienced you'll become. But remember to analyze the good and bad points of every photo you set out to make, and file them away for future reference.