The big complaint about Google Glass is, why would anyone want to wear them? Your phone has more functions. They don’t look great. Even people who need glasses often prefer contact lenses — or at least something stylish customised to their face.
But after looking at the Google Glass photos of Trey Ratcliff, a New Zealand-based travel photographer, you might be convinced that Glass could revolutionise photography just as thoroughly as smartphones have.
It’s hard to remember now, but back in the 1990s taking a decent picture required skill. Only dedicated hobbyists or professionals reliably produced images worth looking at. Now there are several phones with cameras that take pictures almost perfectly most of the time, even when used by amateurs.
What Glass does is allow hands-free photos to be taken — thus removing all the shake and wobble of hand-held photography. It’s probably one of the defining advances Glass will make in photography: Humans can hold their heads almost perfectly still while taking a picture; we can’t do that with our hands.
Ratcliff says the Google Glass camera is still fairly primitive. The device is in its early days and will doubtless improve over time. But look at how awesome the images are that you can already get from it.
This is the view from the top of CN Tower in Toronto. Note that Ratcliff is using his hands to hold on safely.
Ratcliff made this discovery later: 'Google's servers automatically made a panorama out of a bunch of Glass photos I took atop that tower in Toronto... I did not expect that, cool! And it looks like it did a pretty good job too.'
It's 'very handy in the streets when my hands are full,' Ratcliff says. Think about how many shots you miss simply because you didn't have time to reach into your pocket.
The camera in Google Glass is just the same as any ordinary camera ... here are the natural bridges in Santa Cruz, Calif.
You can even hack Glass to produce HDR (high dynamic range) photos that are saturated with colour, Ratcliff says.
This is the coast of Alaska. 'I grew up blind in one eye and this might have changed the way I view the world. I don't know. It's hard to be objective about the way one's brain was wired,' Ratcliff says.
'My work first became popular after I had the honour of having the first HDR photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian,' Ratcliff says on his blog.
Ratcliff is best known for his site, StuckInCustoms.com. On average, it gets a million views a week, he says, 'including a few from my mum.'
'My background is in computer science and maths, so I bring an algorithm-like process to capturing the scene in such a way that it evokes memories in a palpable manner. Whatever that means.'
Ratcliff's promise to his audience is 'one photo every day.' (Not all with Google Glass.) Here's his Glass view while 'arriving at some airport.'
'Here's the first photo I took with Google Glass. That's 30 stories down into San Francisco behind me.'
'I did edit many of them using other software tools, but I think that is pretty common nowadays!' This image was taken at a Billy Idol concert.
This photo was from a Google Glass photowalk. 'So, this kid on the right is 13. He loves Google Glass so much that he 3D-printed them!'
'Here's the X Factor for the Glass camera that no one ever mentions. It's head-mounted, which means it is a thousand times more steady than holding a mobile phone camera.' This shot: hiking up an old trail to an original part of the Great Wall in China.
'Many people know how shaky their hands are, and this of course degrades the quality of photos, especially in low light.' This giant metal hand is controlled by a human wearing a glove.
'But if you can keep the sensor steady while it collects light, then it just makes for a better and sharper photo.' This shot: a winery in China.
'The head and eyes have evolved for countless generations atop the gyroscope of the neck to give you a steady gaze, and the Glass system makes full use of that.'
Don't try this at home: 'It's really fun just to jump down on the tracks and tell it to take a photo! I feel so strange not carrying a camera ... Of course, I'm still gonna carry a regular camera most of the time!'
Here's another one of those shots you can only get if the camera is mounted on your head and takes shots instantly on command.
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