Smartphone photography keeps marching on — and why not. After all, cameras, screens, and battery life are the key distinguishing features of most phones, especially in the Android ecosystem. And that is why we continue to see Android hardware makers — Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others try to one-up each other with camera technology and megapixels. 

Samsung will soon launch a new Galaxy (23) model featuring a new 200-megapixel camera sensor. The new sensor, the ISOCELL HP2, will pack 200 million 0.6-micrometer pixels in a 1/1.3″ optical format. This isn’t the first 200-megapixel sensor made by Samsung. The higher pixels allow for “pixel binning,” which allows the sensor to perform better. So, for instance, four pixels can be binned together to create 1.2μm size pixels to output 50-megapixel images. Bin 16, and you get to a 12.5-megapixel image, which can lead to a better quality of images. Apple’s iPhone also uses Pixel Binning in the latest iPhone 14 models. Apple uses Sony sensors.

Samsung says it has a new technology –Super QPD that leads to faster and more accurate auto-focusing, especially in low-light environments. In addition, Samsung says the sensor uses a “Dual Vertical Transfer Gate” that leads to better colors, less overexposure, and fewer washed-out colors. 

Since Samsung supplies these sensors to others, such as Xiaomi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see new phone models show up with these sensors. What will distinguish one phone from another is how the software harnesses the capabilities of these new sensors.

Pixels aren’t the only thing, for image quality improves with sensor size. Larger sensors have better dynamic ranges and less noise. But don’t tell that to those who create marketing hype around the notion that “more pixels are better.” It would be cool to see Apple introduce phones with one-inch sensors. It was done before. Leica has collaborated with Sharp to make two such phones that feature a one-inch sensor.

You move, Cupertino! 

January 18, 2022. San Francisco

Here is my take on what happens to traditional camera makers in the long run:

The camera industry is going to become an industry of niches. The likes of Leica, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne will have a lucrative, albeit the smaller, higher end of the market made up of brand loyalists and those in need of specialized devices. Others will depend on working professionals — wedding, sports, and event photographers — to keep the home fires burning. And that isn’t that big a market.  It will be a bruising battle for the enthusiasts who like landscape, urban, and wildlife photography. 

Time has a strange habit of slinking away. It does so quietly that we don’t notice it till it’s too late. And what you are left with are fragments, or what we grandiosely call memories. You remember some days, a few moments, and a handful of faces, and they all add up to become your past. Today is one of those red letter days — fifteen years ago, I faced mortality, and somehow I came out on the other side. Looking back, what seemed like a dark period in my life has turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me.

It taught me the lessons we learn late in life early: excess, perfection, and accumulation are fair-weather friends. I learned that by giving time to play its hand, I would stop being impatient. Life, as it turned out, has been much better than how I had planned it. And more importantly, you are better off finding comfort in the company of imperfection.

For the past decade and a half, one day at a time, and one step at a time, I have slowly learned to embrace my own imperfections. What has been harder is letting go of judging others. because of their imperfections. This is an ongoing process, made harder because emotions like love carry the weight of expectations. A journey’s final destination has to be a place where everything and everyone has space to be less than perfect.

I woke up today wondering how I would remember the past twelve months. Would my work-life transition be part of the memory? Or the amount of time I spent in contemplation? Or the books I read? Or the place I visited? Or was it the time I spent with family and friends? As the rain beat down on the window and I looked through the thousands of droplets of rainwater streaming down, it all became too clear: my photography was a visual manifestation of my journey on the road to embracing my own imperfections.

“Photography is painting with light!,” Czech artist and photographer, Miroslav Tichy once said, adding. “The blurs, the spots, those are errors! But the errors are part of it, they give it poetry and turn it into painting.” This is such a liberating insight — for photography in specific, but also for life in general. It is one of the reasons why I stopped identifying where I clicked the camera, instead focusing on what I felt.

Over a decade ago, when I was making my way back from a tryst with destiny, and finding the road unclear, one of my friends gifted me Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren, a book that helped me so much in my creative process. It was through this book I was exposed to the ideology of Wabi-Sabi. According to Wikipedia:

Wabi-sabi is a composite of two interrelated aesthetic concepts, wabi () and sabi (). According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophywabi may be translated as “subdued, austere beauty,” while sabimeans “rustic patina.”[5]Wabi-sabi is derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō), suffering (苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, ), however, originally the concepts were seen as two distinct concepts.[6]

Wabi-Sabi is about coming to terms with the imperfection of life itself. Koren reminds us in the book that “reason is always subordinate to perception.”  At least for the artist or creator. For a person of science, reason and logic has to take precedence. In a weird way, as someone living on the edges of science and creativity, it has allowed me to look at our changing world without judgment and with a bit more clarity about what really matters.

“Things wabi-sabi have no need for the reassurance of status or the validation of market culture. They have no need for documentation of provenance. Wabi-sabi-ness in no way depends on knowledge of the creator’s background or personality. In fact, it is best if the creator is no distinction, invisible, or anonymous.” 

Leonard Koren.

In 2022, my visual vocabulary found appreciation for error and blur, and, more importantly, I learned that reality is just a perception. I don’t know whether it is my own internal growth or my mind’s reaction to a world emitting too much information, and the only way to deal with it is by abstracting it all. Or it just is that I have found the by-lane I need to veer in order to continue on my visual journey.

Here are some of my favorite photos from 2022.

December 27, 2022. San Francisco

If interested, you can order these prints on my photo-only website.

Good morning my friends over here! Earlier this morning, I got a message from another friend that someone was imitating me on IG by stealing my photos. I sadly had to go there and report the account. It was one of my first visits to IG since I quit the service in 2020. And the visit to IG made me realize that the reasons I quit the service and the negative feelings it brought up are still in place. I reported the account and came back here.

In sharp contrast, the calm and zen of my new photo community, Glass, makes me appreciate it even more. It is almost like living in a community where everyone knows and cares about you and what you share and create. Thank you, team Glass. On another note, we had a rainy weekend, and that meant an amazing morning of fog, mist, and rain in the air. Obviously, it is my kind of weather.

I have been playing with a new camera and a new focal length, so the look of these photos differs from my usual combination of a Leica SL and a 50mm lens. These are wider — almost the focal length of the typical iPhone camera. I did an additional B&W conversion and found that it is different enough from color and was worth sharing.

I hope you enjoy these images!

November 7, 2022. San Francisco

Utah 2019. Leica SL2.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll

Today is the first day of November. We have officially started marching toward the winter. The time when there is snow in the mountains. And my favorite time to put the camera to use. I wanted to share this photo I made in 2019 when visiting Utah during mid-winter.

November 1, 2022. San Francisco

It has been a minute since I shared new photographs. I was traveling to India, and when I returned, I got an infection that rendered me useless for a few days. Now that I am back in the saddle, I wanted to share some photos.

I had a tough time finding things to capture in Delhi. After all, it is hard to find moments of silence and simplicity in a chaotic city like Delhi. At the edge of a little pond, I found tiny reeds poking out of the water (above.) I felt compelled to capture the feeling. While waiting around there, I found a dragonfly hovering over the reed. It was perfect.

River Yamuna flows through Delhi. I have many distinct memories of the river. It used to be clean, pristine, and a force of nature. At some point in my life, it flooded and caused significant damage.

Many bridges built over the river are signposts of the city’s development, opening up distant areas for further growth. But over the past two decades, it has become a shambolic symbol of the failure of civic infrastructure.

It is polluted, and it stinks. I have no idea how and when all the clean-up efforts would have an impact. On my recent trip, I went down to the river — on one of the many ghats. It wasn’t much of a morning — phelgemic is the best way to describe it.

The smell/stench was overwhelming, and I didn’t feel quite creative. I was shocked to see folks take a dip in this water and do their morning prayers. I didn’t want to be there. Till I saw this man take his boat across the water, and then everything clicked in place. One day, I hope the river returns to its pristine state and, with it, comes back the wildlife.

October 9, 2022. San Francisco