Smokey the Bear has the summer to worry about forest fires.

Accountants are currently enduring their 7 day work week that runs through April 15th. Gary has camera season. Camera season is a twice annual event when every single digital camera maker launches, unveils, bows, discloses, reveals, and make public their latest and greatest digital cameras. The year’s first camera season starts at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show and runs through the PMA Trade Show – usually January 1 through March 1. The first two months of the year is marked by chaos, turmoil, and very little blogging by this guy.

Think that interest in photography has diminished during this down economy?

Through the first 8 weeks of 2010, I wrote about 285 new cameras. Yes, 285. I wrote A LOT. The cameras came in small shapes and big lenses. There are cameras that can be dunked underwater, that can be dropped in the snow, and can be thrown in the mud. There are green cameras and champagne cameras, there are pink ones, and another that comes with a backpacking strap. Pentax’ Optio W90 looks like it was designed by the guy who makes Coleman lanterns and General Imaging’s new camera line was crafted by fashion designer Jason Wu – who’s gowns have been worn by Michelle Obama (I researched this).

All of these cameras have kept me from blogging.

So, much like Stephen King’s excluded cabin tucked away in the New Hampshire woods, I have taken to the sludge of Lake Arrowhead to catch up on some blogs. However, before I recap the 2009 Hirooka Awards, announce the new categories that we have launched, and show you the world’s first gap app, please humor me by reading through “Gary’s Camera Season Part 1 Award” winners. This is the first time I have hosted a Camera Award show, probably my last, and the awards themselves are coveted by absolutely no one.

In the spirit of Four H Ribbons handed out at the State Fair:

Third Place – Yellow Ribbon

Sony Cyber-shot TX5. Sony’s first waterproof camera, the $249 Cyber-shot TX5 can be dropped in the shallow end, can take movies of VERY slow moving fish, and can be kept frozen in a block of ice – in case your in an avalanche. More than what the camera can do on the outside, it’s more about what the Cyber-shot TX5 can do on the inside that matters. The camera ships with a back-lit CMOS sensor that gives it 10-fps shooting speed, adds Sony’s very cool sweep panorama shooting mode, can record high definition video, and is operated by a touch screen display.

Second Place – Red Ribbon

Olympus SP 800UZ. For those who, like me, prefer to do their stalking from a distance, Olympus’ SP 800UZ is the Zoom King. The model is headlined by its 30-times optical zoom lens that has few equals (FujiFilm FinePix HS10). Outside of capturing long range subjects, the SP 800UZ can record high def video, ships with Olympus’ very clever Art Filters (see movie), and includes 2GB of memory – enough storage for a full day of prowling. Best yet, while other cameras with weaker lenses and less features are offered for as much as $499, the SP 800UZ is quite the bargain at $349.

First Place – Blue Ribbon

General Imaging Jason Wu Series. Why does a simplistic camera from a small camera company win my Blue Ribbon?

It’s not what the camera does, but how the camera was developed. General Imaging’s Jason Wu series is the first camera I can think of that has completely rethought the way a camera is packaged to the customer. Apple rethought packaging with its iPhone – giving the product such an elegant casing that it made customers feel like they just bought something very special. General Imaging’s Jas Wu series takes a page from Apple’s playbook and comes in an elegantly crafted box that would shine in the jewelry case at Nordstrom’s.

With its focused aimed squarely at Mom’s and gift givers, General Imaging designed the Jason Wu camera to be as simplistic as possible. The Jason Wu camera is fitted with just three buttons, on, shutter, and video, includes 4GB (no need for memory cards), and ships with a built-in USB plug that both transfers images and charges the camera. Flip turned the camcorder market on its ear by being the first to include a USB plug, expect the rest of the camera market to follow General Imaging’s lead. Trend setting packaging, fashion plate brand name, and truly innovative features – esteemed fashion designer Jason Wu gets my 4H Blue Ribbon.

I am sure he is thrilled.