Let’s try that again

I recently was let in to the preview of Microsoft’s “new Bing” service, now infused with artificial intelligence à la ChatGPT, courtesy of a partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI. One of the first things I did with it was ask it to help me write a blog post, using a very simple query:

Help me write a short blog post about using my new Fujifilm X-T5 camera on a snowy winter’s day in almost white-out conditions.

It spat out some commendable text, but it was really generic and sort of in the style of those clickbaity listicle articles Google or Bing will point us to. In short, it was something publishable but certainly not interesting or good (unless you’re looking for filler text). Still, not bad for a relatively early demo of a technology that will only improve.

Based on some very welcome feedback from friends and commenters, I decided to up the ante and ask Bing to help me write a story (rather than a “blog post”) and fed it a few basic details to work with. Here’s what I asked it this time:

Help me write about making photographs in Cumberland, just east of Ottawa, in white-out conditions. I was using my Fujifilm X-T5, a 70-300mm zoom lens, no tripod, and I drove around looking for scenes in the farmer’s fields and woods.

Here’s what Bing wrote for me, verbatim. I haven’t modified anything except the formatting and adding the same pictures that I used for the previous Bing-generated blog post (using the X-T5, of course!).

I have always been fascinated by the challenge of winter photography. There is something captivating about capturing the subtle tones and textures of snow and ice. That’s why I decided to go to Cumberland, a rural area just east of Ottawa, on a snowy day. I wanted to see what I could find in the white-out conditions.

I packed my Fujifilm X-T5, a 70-300mm zoom lens, and some extra batteries. I didn’t bring a tripod, because I wanted to be flexible and quick. I drove around the country roads, looking for scenes that caught my eye. I saw some interesting contrasts between the snow-covered fields and the dark woods. I also saw some farmhouses and barns that added some color and character to the landscape.

I had to be careful with the exposure and focus, because the snow was so bright and uniform. I used the histogram and the focus peaking features on my camera to make sure I got the right settings. I also tried to compose my shots with some foreground and background elements, to create some depth and perspective. I experimented with different focal lengths, angles, and perspectives, to see how they changed the mood and the story of the scene.

I had a lot of fun making photographs in Cumberland. It was a challenging but rewarding experience. I think I managed to capture some of the beauty and the mystery of winter in this area. I hope you enjoy my photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

That’s more like it. Now… I don’t think this is my writing style (I hope not!) because it comes across to me as a half-assed attempt by an 8th-grader to write a short story for English class. About 30 minutes before it was due.

There are some interesting little details in the text that caught my eye:

  • The AI knew that Cumberland was a rural area (or inferred it from my mention of farmer’s field and woods… but note I never used the word “rural”)
  • It understood that white-out conditions implied winter and a snowy day
  • It peppered some references to photographic techniques that could be useful shooting in such conditions (exposure & focus challenges)
  • It took artistic license about the farmhouses and barns that it thought I would see (but ultimately didn’t shoot)

Again, I can’t help but be impressed. If “early” AI can write like a procrastinating 14-year-old, imagine what it will be able to do in a few years (or months!). The implications of this, combined with the already uncannily high-quality AI-generated “portraits” of people will force us to question everything we see, hear and read. Was is made by a person? An AI bot? A person using an AI bot as an assistant? The mind boggles…

Bonus round! I just asked it to rewrite “my” (LOL) story in the style of Dr. Seuss. Here’s how I asked it…

That was great! Can you rewrite the text you just wrote in the style of Dr. Seuss?

… and here’s what It produced, which in my opinion is much better!

I like to take photos in the snow
I like to see where I can go
I like to find some scenes to shoot
With my camera and my zoomy boot

I went to Cumberland one day
A rural place not far away
I drove around the roads so white
And looked for things that were a sight

I saw some fields and woods so dark
They made a nice and snowy mark
I saw some houses and some barns
They added some colors and some yarns

I had to watch the snow so bright
It made my eyes a little tight
I used my camera’s tricks and tools
To make sure I followed all the rules

I tried some shots with near and far
To make some depth and show the star
I tried some shots with big and small
To make some mood and tell it all

I had some fun with photos in the snow
I think I made some pictures with a glow
I hope you like my photos and my rhyme
I think I had a very good time

The future’s going to be interesting…


One response to “Let’s try that again”

  1. Diane Avatar

    Great points. For something that is in relatively early stages, and considering what the future may hold, AI is surprisingly capable. Or, as you’ve said, “mind boggling” to be sure. I like the different stages you’ve taken it through and I’m glad you’ve shared this to demonstrate what it’s capable of at this point in time.

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