#686. Monday Post (8 Jan 2018) – Peak photo?

By Paul Perton | Monday Post

Jan 08


The pundits continue to wrangle; have we reached Peak Oil, or passed it. Does it matter any more as new deposits continue to be found and slowly declining demand keeps the price around $60/bbl?


Consider that the world’s bovines fart and belch infinitely more in the way of ozone-damaging gas than our hydrocarbon usage produces and yet their future remains unthreatened. So, I can’t help but wonder whether Global Warming isn’t, at least in part, a concerted effort to discredit and devalue Big Oil. They do have a lot to answer for after all.


Oi! Photography!


What? Oh yes, photography.


With camera shipments continuing to slide, do we see our livelihood/hobby/passion at risk? Are we at or past Peak Photo?


On the most simplistic of research – based on visiting hundreds of Web sites, I’d say that eighty to ninety percent of photo bloggers and photographic opinionistas have shuttered their portals. Many have simply walked away, leaving a last post dating back to 2010, or 2014 as a dead-end and farewell.




Of those left, the wide audience appeal sites; those supporting rumours, a specific brand of camera or lens, or both, are now just listings of discounts and special offers, with an occasional opinion or news item shoehorned between the deals.


Even sites with a more specific appeal like diglloyd and photo Web stalwart, Ken Rockwell have followed suit, littering their pages with the same financial inducements found elsewhere. Neither has much to say. diglloyd is currently torn between boosting photo and computer add-ons, telling us about his new Mercedes travelling photo studio, finding fault with Apple’s new iMac Pro and on a crusade to highlight the flaws in Nikon’s D850. Ken R has pretty much disappeared and whether you like his quirky style or not, he does represent a significant resource for many and his truance is a loss for us all.


That’s just two sites. Lots are still functioning. Late last year, Nikon maven Thom Hogan did warn readers that his attentions were likely to be elsewhere (read; making an income) for a while, but even so, it’s been several months since I’ve been able to visit his site every few days and benefit from it’s author’s erudition.


Ditto Ming Thein’s site. Standing on the sidelines, I’m imagining him as a seriously clever guy who marketed his Web activities into all our bookmark lists. He has a Web presence, Flickr pages, and photo workshops. He also writes camera and lens reviews and takes fine images of watches and high-end consumer kit.


So successful was he that I’m guessing adding his own watch sales and a consulting job with Hasselblad to his CV was just one or two items too many. Posts on the Web site have become less frequent and much more introspective. He no longer shoots with cameras most of us have/want and with his workload – to say nothing of a young family – I’m hardly surprised.





A former boss once told me that (joining his thumb and index finger to form a circle) we can only swallow so much at a time and too much going through that little aperture was likely to cause at the very least a serious blockage. It could even be fatal.


Kirk Tuck’s Visual Science Lab is a site I visit most days. As a working pro, Kirk seems to have struck a solid balance between his corporate head and shoulder, brochures and annual report gigs. On the days he writes about video, I move on.


The days he discusses his photographic work, I read. He is unashamedly a camera wonk, changing entire systems as his needs and experience evolve and new kit emerges. In recent times, he’s been through Nikon(s), Sony(s) and is currently working with several M43 Panasonics for both video and stills.


Were I to meet him, I think I’d like Kirk. He is pragmatic, is quick to pull his own leg and at ease with what he does. He does it very well and on the few occasions he’s been absent, for whatever reason, I’ve felt just a slight pang of loss, missing out.


OK so what am I really saying?


I’ve been blogging on various fora since the early ‘90s, when I discovered the father of blogging Dave Winer and Scripting News. It was clear then that blogging required commitment, an ability to write halfway decent copy and more than anything else, a flow of content.


You’d be forgiven for a couple of posts that didn’t titilate, or deadlines that were missed. The Web was young and there weren’t a thousand other sites saying much the same as you. That changed pretty quickly and the spectre of getting your message across quickly and concisely lest the reader went elsewhere, arrived.


That threat has only ever increased.




Today, bloggers still come and go, quickly out of good ideas, or stamina after just a post or two. Some hang around and hopefully, those with something interesting – dare I say unique – to say, prosper.


Back where I started, we probably are past Peak Photo. According to stats site, DMR, some 25 million images a day are uploaded to Flickr and fourteen times that number (350 million) to Facebook. My guess is that in neither case more than 1% to 2% of those are shot with real cameras.


Few of those social media posters will be asking us for advice, ideas, or camera buying suggestions. Much less buying expensive – at least in comparison to a phone camera – DSLRs, or mirrorless offerings. They’ve re-defined the market – now a world viewed through a 12 square inch portal that can deliver surprising colour, ultra modern mathematically enhanced images and absolute portability from Flickr, to Facebook, Instagram and everywhere else.


The day a phone manufacturer delivers a camera with just enough image quality to use in a brochure, or annual report – surely not very far away now – the rest of the industry will probably lose another chunk of its customer base.


Looking back to last week’s wish lists, you’d imagine the major camera developers and manufacturers were deep into implementing GPS, longer battery life and saner menus.




I’m not holding my breath. Peak Photo? Yup. Done and dusted – we’re busy doing it to ourselves.



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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Global warming – four possibilities, two of which bare rate discussion.

    Those two are there is NO global warming and we do – or don’t – do anything about it. Clearly doing nothing about nothing rates no further discussion, and wasting your time doing something about nothing is pretty typical human behaviour anyway. Like collecting pet rocks.

    The other two are the serious pair. There IS global warming and we do – or don’t – do anything about it. I’m with Apple on this one – I’m not going to debate it, I’m just going to do something about it. Have fun on the alternative world, I don’t want any part of it. I’m much more concerned about pandas, polar bears and platypuses than I am about oil companies and buffoons like Dumbo Tramp and his scaly mates in the GOP.

    For those who still support big oil, I would warn you that their propaganda machine is based on the successes of the tobacco lobby’s advertising and propaganda, which delayed their exposure for a good half century. In the fullness of time, I expect to find idiots running around bawling about the demise of their gasoline & diesel world, just as farriers and chaff merchants did a hundred years ago.

    I still eat meat – but I am hypocritical enough to object to big oil farting life on this planet into extinction.

    Bloggers going into extinction? No way – they seem to divide into two groups.

    One, that takes pleasure in sharing their knowledge and experience with other photographers (professional or amateur – without distinction) and inviting readers to participate and share their own comments and experience. There are heaps of them. I don’t know all of them, I don’t think anyone could, and I have a tough time keeping up with all their posts.

    Another – a group suffering from “opinionitis”, sharing their opinions, rather than knowledge. They’re OK – so long as you don’t let them get your tail feathers up. They have a function and a purpose, too – although they do invite more trolls than the first group – and you don’t get as much out of their sites.

    DS is a classic of the first group – a lot of guys contributing a great deal, a lot of readers, a lot of ideas, and a lot of sharing. Not so much sharing of “techo” stuff, like Rockwell’s did and others still do. But sharing nevertheless, and I for one have derived a great deal of benefit out of my membership of this group. I have actually been able to see the improvements I’ve made – even if everyone else still thinks I’m a luddite and a jackass.

    Equipment manufacturers are a problem. There is “good gear” out there, but for the life of me, I can’t see any one manufacturer who’s dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And you can’t plug a brand X lens into a brand Y cam. Dunno why – seems to me they should have standardised YEARS ago, so the whole market benefited from being able to buy stuff across the whole range, and it’d all work. I’m quite sure it would have increased the size of the market, and they have only themselves to blame for the market’s flagging interest.

    But I don’t see it as a catastrophe yet – there’s PLENTY of demand out there, and heaps of people taking only snapshots with their smartphones, but buying “cameras” when they want to get serious about their photography. There are 7 billion people on this planet (till global warming starts killing us all off), and that’s one hell of a market. So what if 6 billion only ever take photos on smartphones? – did Pentax and the others care, when disposable Kodak cams and Polaroids were the cams of choice for the complete amateur?

    What these manufacturers have to face is that we are nearing “perfection”. There’s a heap of gear out there now that’d be pretty hard to improve on, no matter what. Sure, they can increase the number of pixels and all that rot. But so what? – it’s going to make so little difference to the end product (a photograph) that nobody will ever be able to see the difference. And some of these ideas might very well blow up in their face.

    Example – why didn’t Nik put a screen that folds all over the place on the D810? – and having sold me a D810, why would they imagine I’m now going to ditch and buy the D850, to get a screen I CAN use to photograph the ceiling of Sainte Chapelle? I won’t tell you what I think of that – it’s too vulgar, and you’re not old enough.

    Seriously – I know I need these companies to stay in business but I cannot feel sorry for them – because they keep doing the wrong thing. I’ve caught practically ALL of them doing it. So if their sales are flagging, they should look in the mirror, instead of blaming consumers for drifting elsewhere.

    • Job H. says:

      You mention something I have been saying for years: standardizing lens mounts. What if the PC world had not adopted standard interfaces, including those for internal extension boards? PCs have become what they are today because of this standardization, despiite the latter’s obvious disadvantages. Not having to develop lenses themselves, startups could have created tremendous innovation, I think.

  • NMc says:

    Happy New Year Paul and all DS contributors and readers,
    To answer your question about have we reached peak photos? ; is really asking ‘Have we reached peak vanity, hubris, egotism and narcissism? 😉
    I hope so; just don’t expect a collapse anytime soon.

    Ok seriously if you are watching social media metrics or any other new media self published data, you have lost sight of photography, besides it only takes a small stuff-up from Google, Facebook and similar for a disruptive newcomer to shake things up if they get the timing right.

    But don’t worry because your photos show that we still need to take a little time to see the small and large beauties of the world, and that is one of several reasons for this sites survival (besides dedication, hard work, mutual support, camaraderie, etc etc from all the team).
    Thanks again Noel

  • pascaljappy says:

    Paul, let’s get the obvious out of the way first : some stunning images in this post. As I wrote to you privately, the last one is just drop dead gorgeous.

    Secondly, peak oil … I’m guessing we’re past a point where the actual cost of extraction doesn’t matter as much as societal approval. Our new liberal government (bitter joke) has just hiked petrol prices by a whopping 15% give or take. I just spent more on a tank fill up than ever before in my whole life. Dinosaur juice is just out of fashion and electricity is the new coal. Just a few years ago, official doctrine in France was that nothing was greener than diesel. Politicians lie and manipulate, that’s what they do.

    Peak photo. Super interesting concept ! And I’m pretty sure one that is being manipulated for us just as much as energy. Not by powerful lobbies and flabby governments but by trend-following media and … well, our natural inclination for what’s instantly rewarding. Digital cameras (remember digicams) kicked film cameras off the road even when they were far less capable technically. Phones are now doing this to digital cameras in spite of the technical summits they have reached. Ease trumps quality.

    I’ve no doubt some source of information will capitalise on this tectonic shift but it may not be a blog. Reading ? Seriously ? 😉 In-phone apps maybe ? Dunno, but I’d really like to bridge the gap between the creative community we already talk to and the smarpthone community. Creativity transcends tools.

    Great post.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Some great photos!
    I especially like the Red wall, the Grey/red unsharp and the Yellow/black/white.

    Thanks for your tip of Visual Science Lab!
    I spent quite some time reading many of Kirk’s posts yesterday.

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Paul, some great images (again). Love the last one especially; had me peering and twisting my head around! As for Peak Camera, Peak Oil etc..I dunno, but I have definitely tipped over Peak Stuff. There’s just too much Stuff in my life and it acts a psychic and emotional weight. This is the year of Less Is More (or should that be Fewer?). Downsizing, resizing, shrinking, call it what you will but a major clear out is the order of the day. Hundreds of books have already gone, DVDs on their way and even my precious vinyl collection is facing a severe culling. Possibly even fewer lenses.

    Over Christmas several folk asked me if they could borrow books. I said “yes” as long as they promised not to return them. Maybe it’s an age thing; in the last few weeks two dear friends have died, another is dealing with terminal cancer. Yesterday I received am email from an old pal in California. Not heard from him for two decades but the bush fires raging all around suddenly made him focus on what he thought was important and it wasn’t lost stuff.

    Given my frame of mind more pixels etc. don’t figure highly. Oh yes, photography! I’m more interested in getting a lot out of a little and being satisfied with what I have.

    Peak Veganism. Is that a thing yet?

    Happy New Year All.


  • Brian Nicol says:

    This is now one of a handful of blogs I now read. Most sites were incompetent reviews and a waste of time. I unfortunately renewed my subscription to diglloyd a year ago and days later wished I had not. He loves to bash Leica and Sony which were my two systems at the time. I tried to give him constructive feedback just after I renewed and got a rant that told me I was “full of shit”. Anyway my wallet will vote – he has become even more irrelevant over the past year wit his focus on medium format and sales and computer info which I did not sign up for…
    As for peak photography, the market will converge to smart phones and a relatively small market for enthusiasts and professionals. Photography for the masses was made easy by automation but they will migrate to the cell phone. Only those dedicated to the art and craft of photography, will be buying cameras and the idiotic pace of camera rollout will slow – it already has started to slow.
    We have so many wonderful options for chasing light that anyone who complains should go back to the film days where the cost to learn was not trivial.
    I am focusing on growing my skills rather than reading incompetent sites and reviews. Most sites miss that it is all about the image and its emotional connection and why you took the magic moment.
    I like this site because when it does review glass, it is all about the rendering and it helps me decide whether I want to add that paint brush to my tool kit.
    By the way, I did enjoy the images in this post! I enjoy looking at great photographs as it stimulates my creative juices to expand my photographic sandbox.
    I prefer to stay out of politics but “global warming “ is not a fact but a theory backed by “big money”.

    Again, thanks for the stimulating images!

  • Klas says:

    Perhaps more like Peak Blogging? I imagine a content creator to choose a medium, like blogging, and sticking with it during his/her career. The new generation is not choosing to blog, but instead to vlog. If you look at the photo related content on youtube, the conclusion is very different. Channels, subscribers, viewers for photography related content are exploding there.

  • Scott Edwards says:

    Thank you, Paul. There are some brilliant observations in this piece…

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