Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Backseat Photographer

Backseat Photographer (1914, G12)

A very small article in yesterday’s paper made me think of this image.  The article referenced a recent poll that asked people what kind of device they used to take digital photographs.  The results – while interesting – were not all that surprising (once you stopped to think about it).  In a nutshell, it seems that 42% of adults use some kind of digital camera (DSLR, point and shoot, mirrorless, etc.), another 42% use their cellphone, 2% use a tablet (I think I’ve seen most of those folks), and 14% don’t take pictures at all.  What’s really changing, of course, is cellphone usage.

In this image (taken last September in Valley of Fire SP, NV) the guy sitting on top of the back seat of this convertible was using a phone.  We ran into them a few times while we were wandering around and I swear I never saw them stop.  It kind of gives “drive-by shooting” new meaning.  More importantly, I guess it means that the phones are winning.  Is there anything that we don’t use them for?  I figure it can’t be too long before somebody starts equipping them with a weapon of some kind.  They’ll become the ultimate Swiss army knife.  A gun that you can talk to.  Siri with attitude.  The world is changing……….

Speaking of change, I’m ready for it.  Winter has become that not-so-favorite relative who comes to visit and then won’t leave.  Fine.  Winter can stay, but I’m heading out.  Smack us around with another storm (due here Wednesday); I don’t really care.  I’m going back to the desert.  Heck, maybe we’ll see this guy again.  Unless he fell and hit his head……….


9 Responses to “Backseat Photographer”

  1. John

    It’s hard to accept that real cameras may become niche products – but I guess in the real world lots of things are niche. I can’t see cell phone imagery replacing the studio set up or sports shooter, but for everyday people who crave convenience over quality (even though that gap’s narrowing as well), the cell phone IS the new point and shoot.

    Was that guy parked on the side of the road or was someone driving the car while he was shooting?

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, it’s certainly true that for everyday use a cellphone works just fine. I’ve printed some images from my iphone and they look pretty good. If they ever get to the point where you can shoot RAW images and control exposure and focus they’ll be a real threat to “regular” cameras.

      No, he wasn’t parked – someone was driving. As I said, I never saw the car stop. They just kept driving around. Which, of course, meant that they missed most of the good stuff!

  2. John

    Wow…you did say they never stopped, I guess I just couldn’t fathom sitting on a moving car like that!

  3. Cedric Canard

    I like your photo Paul. It’s a fun picture to look at, makes me want to go on a road trip.

    I have read similar stats about the current state of photography and often the conclusion is that camera phones are eating away the market share of real cameras. But I am not so sure this is the case. Pre-digital I would say that the number of people with “real” cameras was no more (as a percentage of population) in fact probably less than, what it is now. I don’t remember a whole lot of people owning cameras back when I was young. When film point and shoot cameras came out (along with disposable cameras) than the numbers went up a bit more. Then when digital was born, more people got into photography. That number, the number of cameras sold just prior to smartphones making a dint in the market is what they compare things to. And looking at it that way, it’s true that smartphones have had an impact into camera sales but all it’s done I would say is returned the numbers back to pre-film compact camera days. The majority of people who take photos today with their phones are people who would never have taken photos in the pre-digital days. I have no proof of this of course.

    Anyway, have fun in the desert Paul. I’ll look forward to the photos and the stories.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. Yeah, it definitely is an image that makes me want to hit the road. And in 48 hours that will happen. If this damned blizzard goes away by then, that is. Have I mentioned lately that this winter really, really sucks?

      I don’t think that there’s any doubt that camera phones are cutting into the market share of “real” cameras. If you look at camera sales since 2009 it’s clear that they’ve declined significantly. Smartphone sales on the other hand are skyrocketing. And a recent poll indicated that having a “decent” camera was the second most important factor when buying a new phone. The Wallstreet Journal recently estimated that the current number of pictures taken (annually) with cellphones was 1.6 trillion. That number dwarfs the estimate for regular cameras. As Kirk Tuck said yesterday, it’s all part of a general “homogenization” process. People, in general, are going to do what’s easiest – and smartphones are fairly easy when it comes to taking pictures. I really don’t think that it’s just a return to some pre-digital status quo as you suggest. It’s a sea change.

      • Cedric Canard

        I didn’t mean to imply there was no change. There is no doubting that more people are taking photographs because of phones. I was only suggesting that the number of people who use “real” cameras is no less today than it was in pre-digital days. If anything it would be a bit more taking into account those people who discovered they really liked making photos with their phones and deciding they wanted more control, went and bought real cameras. Of course that could change. My daughter’s phone has a 41MP camera with a Zeiss lens, RAW capability, 3x zoom (reduces photo to 5MP) and full manual controls if she wants them. And I have to say the quality is outstanding in almost any light.

  4. TomDills

    I often marvel at folks I see driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway or through the Smokies with their cameras out the window or the sunroof, never stopping or even slowing down, sometimes. For the majority of people, though, the cell phone camera from a moving car is “good enough.” Lends credence to my twin theories that (1) most people never look at a photo again after they take/send/share it, and (2) for most people the quality of the memory a photograph gives them is more important than the quality of the photograph. Otherwise everyone would be carrying around big SLR cameras!

    • Cedric Canard

      Tom, I agree with both your points. The vast majority (who in the past never bothered to take photos) don’t care about quality (aesthetic or technical) and will not look at their photos again once they’ve been “posted”.

    • Paul Maxim

      I don’t disagree, Tom. And I’m sure I’ll see a lot more of these folks over the next few weeks. But they do puzzle me. If the “memory” is only going to be in your head – you’re never going to look at the photograph again – then why take a picture at all? Is it just some kind of digital “proof” that you were actually there? If you are going to revisit the photograph, or you want / expect other people to view it, then why is quality unimportant? I’ve seen people point their phones (or cameras) at the sun and merrily click away. If you travel all the way to the Colorado Plateau (or to the Smokies or Acadia or wherever), wouldn’t you want to get the best pictures you possibly could? That is, something a bit better than a bright spot in a washed out sky?

      The people that amuse me the most are the “sunroof shooters”. Sometimes all you can see is a camera or phone poking through the sunroof as the car whips along at 50 mph. I don’t get it. If you’ve made it all the way to a place like Zion NP to view 2,000 foot cliffs that are millions of years old, couldn’t you take a minute or two to stop and get out? Maybe even walk around a little? Walk a ways from the road and listen and smell and feel the canyon? I mean, you’re looking at a very large slice of history here, a place that was here long before men roamed the earth. A photograph taken from a moving car means nothing if you don’t know where you were or what you saw……..


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