Photographic trends I just don’t understand

It is no mystery that I have a passion for photography. Having published two books and posting regularly on my Flickr stream, and knowing the theory of optics in addition to just snapping around, I think I know what I’m doing. Mind you, this does not mean I consider myself an artist. It may sound cliché, but I am strongly convinced that artist is a definition that others should cast upon you, rather that something you call yourself. In fact, despite what I am often told, I do not feel like my photography is that good. It’s not false modesty: I really don’t think so.

However, ever since the introduction of cheap compact cameras (and, god forbid, cheap reflex cameras), photography became mainstream. There is nothing inherently wrong with it – the more the merrier, right? – yet there are some trends in photography that I simply do not understand, and some that are just plain bad. Needless to say, these annoyances are most often perpetrated by hipsters or (gasp!) wannabe hipsters. Now, it has to be clarified that my concept of hipster includes not just the traditional, American-ish hipster, but more generally all those “subcultures” – trust me, quotes were never more appropriate – that strive to be alternative and ultimately fail to be unique. This includes, admittedly due to my cultural vantage point, the decadent leit-motif that seems to permeate the life of Italian teenage girls and young women. I may write specifically about this matter, as it’s not specific to photography.

So, without further ado, let me present a roundup of the most annoying trends in photography today. It goes without saying that this is merely my personal opinion.

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Back me up, store me away, and do so redundantly

I, like many others, have had my fair share of hard drive crashes; and like many others, I have my tastes when it comes to brands. My favorite brand is Seagate, my least favorite brand is Maxtor. This poses a big problem because they joined into Seagate Maxtor, so I usually lean towards Western Digital these days. The point is that you can love a brand as much as you want, but hard drives can and will fail. And will do so at the least appropriate the moment.

The best case scenario is that you have a very recent backup. The worst case scenario is that you don’t have any backup, and you lose valuable data, from either an emotional or professional point of view. Often, from both. This usually leads to nervous breakdowns, extensive cursing, going through a list of past, present and future deities to blame, and possibly weeping. I’ve done all of that, and I’m not ashamed of admitting so.

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The only problem with Blu-ray is BD-J

Unlike Steve Jobs, who claims that Blu-ray is a bag of hurt, I think that Blu-ray is great. I’ll take instant 1080p24 at 40-45 MBps over 720p at 10 MBps without hesitation. In fact, I had originally bought a Playstation 3 mostly as a Blu-ray player rather than as a gaming rig, and I recently sold that in order to get a simpler yet stand-alone player. It supports BD profile 2.0, so it can do all the fancy things such as downloading material off the internet, provide real-time updates about the characters of the movie you’re watching (if the disc supports that, of course) and so on.

Everything is great on paper, but falls short in practice. The reason? It’s slow. Really, really slow. And this is not just about my Samsung player, because the PS3 did the very same thing. Something is inherently wrong with BD-J. Certainly processing power is not lacking: decoding a 50-megabit stream in full high definition takes a whole lot of CPU. Can’t such big processors handle the new menus? And it’s not a problem with the network either: if 8 megabits aren’t enough for the menus, I don’t know what it is.

While the disc menus are still acceptable, BD Live in particular is unbelievably slow. It takes time to download the content, and that’s surprising considering how limited the interface is. I don’t know exactly how it’s developed, but a website with a similar interface would be measured in the tens (or hundreds at most) of kilobytes. Why the same thing has to take so much through BD-J is beyond me. Perhaps the bytecode is huge? (Or maybe Java sucks? Hmm… tough one there.) And then again, why is navigating the finally-at-last-downloaded interface such a pain? You press a button, and it takes well over a second to register. Again: this also applied to the PS3, so it’s not exclusive to my relatively low-end player, which incidentally also has “Internet applications,” and they are just as slow. Probably it’s just local BD-J stuff.

Oh, and as a side note: my parents’ Blu-ray player has no internal memory. Mine has 64 MB — megabytes — of flash. On the other hand, my ebook reader has a solid gigabyte. Why not toss in a little bit more so that users are not forced to use USB thumb drives to access online content? Perhaps they want to make it harder for users to notice how slow BD-J is?