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Subject Over Quality Or “The Orange Smudge”

Subject Over Quality or “The Orange Smudge”

The first image of a black hole 2019 Photo:

The other day, the world was treated to the best that science can offer, with the unavailing of the first picture of a black hole. For decades, scientist, artists and Hollywood had speculated on what a black hole might look like; some getting it pretty much on the money, some missing the mark so badly they were clearly in another dimension.

So, what does a black hole look like? Frankly, a bit like and orange-yellow smudge with a black spot in the middle. From a clarity point of view, the photo isn’t going to top any sharpness tests any time soon, but that’s more than okay; it’s the content of the picture that’s important, not the quality.

The fact that it’s taken humanity until 2019 to produce the first picture of a black hole is a testament to just how hard it was to produce one. Scientists had to find a way to “build” a telescope that was capable to recording a black hole, an international effort that in part required the syncing of data to an accuracy of a billionth of a second. And it produced a smudge.

But you won’t hear any scientist complain, because this is the best that they have, and the content is far more valuable to them than image quality. And the same can be applied to photography in general.

No one complains that Ansel Adams, father of landscape photography, photographs lack the sharpness that can be achieve by todays cameras. Apollo astronauts were career test pilots, yet still managed to capture three of the most important photos of the 20th century, and no one complained about the amount of noise in that Oscars selfie that Ellen took a few years back.

Earthrise, taken by Bill Anders during the Apollo 8 mission Photo: NASA

Given a strong enough naritive, a photo can overcome any technical flaw…even of the orange smudge variety.

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