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How the camera is changing

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When the first camera was invented, it took over eight hours of light exposure to develop and only lasted a short while before fading away. Now, we hold up a smartphone and are able to take hundreds of images in minutes and view them instantaneously. DEON PRINSLOO, Mobile GM at LG takes us through the evolution of the camera starting with the first camera ever made – the Camera Obscura.

Picture yourself taking a selfie, holding up the camera, tapping through to the front-facing camera, trying to keep your hand steady, laughing and shaking but finally getting the shot. Now imagine you tried to do the same thing 100 years ago. It was a whole different story, involving drawn out poses and development time. It wasn’t so long ago that the digital camera completely replaced the film camera, but that doesn’t really give us a full appreciation of just how much photographic technology has changed in a few hundred years.

Of course, we don’t have many pictures lying around from way back when, but cameras themselves provide the perfect example of the way technology evolves over time.

The earliest version of what we’d loosely consider a camera existed around 1000AD, in the form of the Camera Obscura. This was the device used to take the first photograph centuries later in 1827, when Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce produced the first “sun print”. Unfortunately, one successful image took eight hours of light exposure to produce, and only lasted a short while before fading away. It took over a decade for Louis Daguerre (another Frenchman) to reduce exposure time to 30 minutes, and to keep the image from vanishing.

Even with the added speed of development though, the process was still far from perfect. To take a single photograph, groups of people would huddle together and pose stiffly for what must have felt like ages. Any sudden movements could ruin an image, so although they were participating in the use of incredible new technology, it was hardly any different than the posing done by the subjects of paintings for generations before. The entire process was arduous and drawn out, a far cry from the user-friendly experience of snapping a selfie today.

Things got a little better in 1889, when George Eastman developed the first flexible roll-up film, which anyone born before the 1990s may actually remember using. It took another 50 years for Kodak to produce colour film in the late 1930s, but black and white photography still persisted through the next decade. It seemed that even when we had access to new technology, it still had to share some real estate with the ghost of the thing it would replace. The first digital camera fared similarly when it debuted in the 1980s, taking two full decades to effectively replace film cameras.

Through all these changes in technology, our reason for taking photographs has remained the same. We record images because we want to remember important moments in our lives, to revisit them and to tell stories about them. Over the years we worked to develop the camera, people found better ways to speed up each step of the process, but it was always in an effort to streamline the effort it takes to share our stories

This has never been more apparent than today, where photography has become the most powerful storytelling tool in the arsenal of every single user on the planet. Smartphones have provided users with the perfect crossroads between communication and education, existing alongside the ghosts of landline telephones, desktop computers and photographers packing pounds of DSLR gear in backpacks and hanging from every available limb. And just as older cameras have had to evolve with the times, so too have smartphone cameras, evolving from simple low-res devices to the focal point of many devices.

Including cameras in smartphone devices has actually grown users’ interest and understanding of photography as an art, and so users are looking for more from their devices. More control, versatility and higher quality images are all important to users, which is why we’ve made improving the camera a focus with each new device.

Smartphones are now equipped with cameras powerful enough to capture professional quality images. LG’s G4 even offers an 8MP front facing camera, transforming the selfie into a high quality portrait. That’s on top of the phone’s manual mode, which offers users increased control over the shots they’re taking, allowing them to toy with aperture sizes and other specs before taking a shot, and to edit their images before sharing them online.

Today we’re light years away from the eight-hour development times and long, stiff poses of the 1800s, but up until now, smartphone cameras seemed like they were at the absolute peak of what they could do. Turns out users had other plans, and even what seemed like the best thing we could do was just a stepping stone along the way through history. Now picture yourself taking a selfie a hundred years from today… what will the camera look like then?

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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