Wednesday, February 13, 2013

iPhone photos?

Can cell phone photos be worthy as art? That sounds pretentious! I don't mean it to be. What I have in mind is this: pretty much any type of camera can be used to capture moments with family and friends, or a captivating landscape, or an imaginative abstract still life. The technical quality of the final product will be affected by the device used to create it, but if the framing of the scene works, if the exposure captures the brights/darks/colors you need, if the timing of the shot needn't be as precise as a moment of peak action...well, it's at least possible that the resultant image could be worth viewing regardless of the limitations of the capture device - maybe even of interest to people who weren't there sharing the moment with you. Actually, that goes for the finest, fanciest cameras: if there's nothing interesting about what you choose to photograph, the best machine and the utmost technical precision won't make a great picture. You might make a demonstration that's fascinating to gearhead equipment junkies (I'm describing myself), and there's nothing wrong with that, in my opinion, but that'll be the extent of the value. Of course when it all comes together, when an artistically imagined image is crafted with fine photographic technique, you can get a print that offers what I think of as a bonus value. It can be a sensory and intellectual treat, and also invite you to move in closer, see greater detail. That process of immersion in a high quality, highly detailed print can be part of the aesthetic experience for me. Only a part, but still nice.

There's a popular saying that the best camera is the one you actually have with you when an opportunity presents itself. Even when I'm not working as a photographer or on a photo expedition, I very often have a "serious" camera with me if there's any foreseeable chance for photo fun. On the other hand, there are plenty of times that I can't easily tote a bulky box because of the other stuff in my hands or in my care. What do I always have? A cell phone. It was chosen for its smart phone capabilities, not for the camera, and it's a few years and generations out of date. Nevertheless, it's there, so when I'm walking the dog and the sky gets really dramatic, the best camera in the world for me is - the iPhone in my pocket:

You can see how the sun, even behind a thin layer of cloud, "blew out" the exposure and caused a harsher line around it than the way the transition appeared to the eye. On the plus side, the limited dynamic range caused the trees to go black and gray, so pretty much the only color left is in the small areas of blue sky and slightly pink clouds. I like the effect.

When I arrive at a school for an educational concert, carrying my violin, with no time to pull out heavier camera gear, and the sun flare makes a nice abstract scene out of reflective windows, out comes the phone for a quick shot.

The phone camera has a fixed lens, and the image quality doesn't allow for much cropping, but in the opposite direction there is the possibility of shooting a series of pictures and stitching them into a panorama. The sky is boring in this one, and the pic is not that interesting anyway, but I'm showing it as an example of a technique that I will keep in mind if a good photo op appears around me, but seems to require a wider angle of view. By the way, I shot this while waiting to pick up a friend for a car pool. One can at least practice, to be ready for the occasion when it really matters!

Major cropping might be a no-no for images from a tiny sensor, but that doesn't mean I couldn't take a little off the bottom of this one to balance the composition:

It was shot when I stepped out of my car in a parking lot. You just never know when you'll spot a nice picture waiting for you to capture it.


1 comment:

  1. Being prepared for the time when opportunity may appear--- that's a good rule to live by! It's like a painter carrying a sketchbook or a writer carrying a notebook, and keeps your ideas and inspiration flowing.Your photographic sketches will remind you of the ideas you've had, and keep your eyes and mind busy searching for imagery.


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