Despite all the problems in the world, photography had a pretty darn good 2008. While my data is merely empirical, it seems that interest in photography is on the rise. How many people do you know who do NOT own a camera? I can’t think of a single person.

We get hundreds of questions a week and the response on the forums is amazing. We’ve given thousands of dollars worth of prizes in our contests. Our advertisers have had great success, and we know first hand that we’ve helped lots of photographers improve their imaging.

On the industry front – New hardware and software gadgets were produced and sold at a record pace, despite a terrible U.S. economy

On the hardware side, most of the new cameras are simply amazing. There are some high points and low points to be sure, but the overall quality of the cameras being sold today far exceeds anything I could have dreamed of even 10 years ago

Canon’s ground-breaking 5D MK II, the Nikon D700 and the Panasonic LX3 were just three cameras that have us smiling. The ridiculously-expensive D3X was a let down.

We saw video come to DSLRs – first on the Nikon D90 and then on the Canon 5d MK II.

On the software side, all the major players updated their programs, making it easier and faster than ever to produce great images in post. Aperture and Lightroom became a bigger part of the serious photographer’s workflow, propelling digital asset management to new heights.

The Internet continues to expand the opportunities for photographers to get their work seen by many. And social networking like Twitter and Facebook has become the preferred way to share photos. Blogging remained important to photography and mobile technology like the iPhone allowed photographers to share their images with a larger, more diverse group of people.

But there are some low points. The war on photography is stronger than ever. It seems our society needs to have a common enemy and anyone with a long lens will do.

Everyone from badge-heavy cops to nosey old ladies and in between has decided that photographers must be terrorists or sex offenders.

Movie stars beat up photographers and nobody cares.

Photojournalism has suffered this year. More photojournalists were killed covering the war in Iraq. Many newspapers and magazines went out of business, leaving very talented photographers with no income

Despite the negative stuff, I will remember 2008 as a great year for photography. I’ve seen some amazing images come from our own community. I’ve gotten lucky and made some prize-winners myself. In fact, I think that overall, the quality of photography in general (unlike most things on this planet) has improved.

I think interest in photography will only increase, as the recession deepens, people will look for ways to use their cameras to enjoy free time rather than taking that expensive golf or fishing vacation.

Whether or not people spend like they always have on gear will remain a big question mark for 2009.

But going forward one thing is for sure. We all have lots of memories that we protected in 2008. I am glad we did it, and I look forward to photographing more in 2009.

Happy New Year everyone. I am surprised to find myself still here. I’m happy that I am, and hopeful for another chance to make that next great picture.