Participating in art shows and gallery exhibits provides me with an interesting opportunity: Photographer watching. No, I’m not dressed in Real Tree camo, lurking behind trees or lying in thickets of bamboo. I’m not taking notes or talking to an agent through a wrist mic. I’m a casual observer of people with cameras, how they use them and what they shoot. Once in a while, I’ll strike up a conversation with them, and glean a little more information. In the last year or so, I’ve noticed:

1. Why carry a big camera, when an iPhone (or iPad) will do: By far, this is the biggest trend. It seems people in droves are leaving their DSLRs, and in many cases, point and shoot cameras at home in favor of smart phones ant tablets. In a way, you can’t blame them – we’re not getting 4X6 prints made or putting images into photo albums anymore collect dust on our coffee tables (except for a select few). The majority of our shots nowadays are being housed on computers, phones, tablets or in the Cloud. Plus, the cameras built into the latest generation Apple or Samsung products are absolutely outstanding (note to Motorola: The camera in your Razr series is worthless). And there’s another benefit: they’re light weight. Why carry a pack full of photo gear, when you can carry a phone that’s a shade less than four ounces?

2. I want it all, but in a small and affordable package: Bridge cameras – the cross between the ease of a small point and shoot, coupled with a mongo lens (like 24-1200mm range) that’s wrapped in a compact body. Mostly carried by people who used to haul around an SLR and a couple of lenses, the bridge camera provides everything their kit used to, in a compact, lightweight package. Bridges are a jack of all trades, giving you a nice wide angle view for landscapes, and an extreme telephoto for capturing the kids down field at a soccer game. But they’re a master of none, meaning that you’ll get good images, but shutter lag is generally an issue, the telephoto drives are imprecise and they’re slow to focus. You can do a whole lot better with a DSLR and a couple of lenses.
3. Yeah, my camera bag weight 30-pounds, but my images will look great: These are my peeps, their numbers are small, compared to SPSers (Smart Phone Shooters), but they’re a dedicated bunch. They’re the ones with the Lowepro backpack strapped to their backs, carrying a Canon 5D MARK III or a Nikon D800 with a 24-70mm or 16-35mm attached. During the Humpback Whale season, you’ll see a fair share of 70-200 f/2.8 lenses bayoneted to a 1D MARK IV, or a 100-400 f/3.5-5.6 if more range is desired. Once in a while, there are the whale paparazzi with a couple 1Dx bodies, which shoot at a photo Gatling gun speed of 13 fps. One carrying a 400mm DO lens, the other with a 70-200. These select few solidly believe in the “no pain, no gain” ideal – you’ll come back with great shots, but it’ll cost a couple hundred bucks in massage therapy back at the resort, which a small price to pay if you come back with killer images.

So what does it all mean? Well, nothing, yet everything. Photography has moved from silver-smeared glass plates and tin, to all sorts of film, and now we’re capturing images as a mass of ones and zeros. Our darkrooms have transformed from a wet process (with a myriad of chemicals) to one of computers and desktop printers. Our cameras have shrunk from 8X10 film plane to cell phones with a quarter-inch lens.

We’ve seen a transformation of photography that’s unprecedented: From manually mastering the nuances of capturing light, to miniature computers that eliminate the thought process of making images. Our cameras have progressively gotten smaller, yet richer in functionality. Photography’s evolution has brought photography to the masses, albeit today, in-between sending a text or posting to your Facebook page.
What will we be shooting with tomorrow, a year, or five years? Almost anything you can possibly imaging. There will be one thing that will remain constant: The capture of light.