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Two things happened in my photography life recently – I decided to use my iPhone as a camera and do so a little more seriously than before. Then I picked up a copy of Peterson’s Photographic Digital Photography Guide, a magazine. The issue I picked up is volume 13: “Create great images with your iPhone.” It’s a special issue devoted entirely to iPhone for photographers.
What I’ve learned so far is that the power of a smart phone is vast. And the image quality possible from these smart phones is excellent. Beautiful images can easily be created using the camera and available photo apps. The apps I’ve downloaded cost between $1.99 and $2.99. If you are interested in the technical specs for the iPhone 4 camera (not the new 4s — that’s even better) try this blog.
I’ve always tried to use cameras with a lot of build-in capabilities. Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras with fixed lenses and lots of capabilities have been my chosen companions more often than a camera system with interchangeable lenses. I like to travel light and be able to take photos wherever and whenever I am so moved. I do own a Panasonic Micro four thirds camera and three lenses but use it much less often than my super P&S Panasonic LX5 with its excellent Leica lens.
(Note: Answers.com defines a Point and Shoot camera:
“Of, relating to, or being a camera that adjusts settings such as focus and exposure automatically. Read more.” But this definition doesn’t really cover cameras like my LX5 that have fixed lenses but full manual controls. It is the most used term for such cameras tho. A micro four thirds camera uses interchangeable lenses like an SLR, but has no internal mirror using an electronic viewfinder instead of through the lens viewing. This design makes the cameras smaller — in some cases much smaller than an SLR but with excellent image quality that rivals that of most SLRs — Single Lens Reflex — if you need a definition please Google it.)
The iPhone smart phone is a powerful palm sized computer that has a photography system built into it. The system can be augmented with applications (apps) from third party vendors at a very low cost each. Using this system it is possible to create beautiful images of very high quality. The phone can create image files as large as 18 mega pixels (18 million pixels). Enlargements as large as 16 by 20 inches or larger are possible. Instead of trying to load a large, powerful program like Photoshop into a small computer, developers have created apps that do one or a few things — such as crop a photo — so a number of apps are needed for building your iPhone photography system.
But before I thought about the photography tools available inside an iPhone, I took some photos and posted them to my Facebook wall and used one or two here in my Photography Blog. They looked good but not great. Then I came across Peterson’s Photographic and the excellent series of articles by Dan Burkholder. Dan is a master printer and photographer and he runs workshops, including a series in iPhone photography. From his website ):
“The images on this page were captured and processed on an Apple iPhone through an assortment of inexpensive imaging apps. The iPhone is more than just a tiny camera on a cell phone. For the first time we have both camera and darkroom in the palm of our hands. Dan’s iPhone workshops will cover the steps used to capture and process images like these and then print them on fine art digital paper and canvas.”
Dan not only captures high quality images using his phone, he also processes them using sophisticated techniques right in the phone itself, using it as a digital darkroom. His images tend to be over processed for my taste – I like simpler – “straight” photography. But there is no doubt that his images are beautiful and are evidence of lots of processing and artistry.
Right away I was able to use an app recommended by Dan – PerfectlyClr. I also looked for and found another one on my own – Crop. You see, I was in Brooklyn helping my wife help her nonagenarian parents and wanted to take some photos in their neighborhood at twilight because the sky was particularly beautiful. I did and I posted one to Facebook getting some applause. But a little later I came across the magazine, downloaded the PerfectlyClr app – processed the image with a single click – and presto – it was an improved image — and as Dan promised all within the phone. In addition to a one click mode, PerfectlyClr has “Pro” controls giving the photographer control over things like contrast, color vibrancy, sharpness and noise. A mini Photoshop?! I haven’t achieve anything like great results yet but good results show promise of getting better still.
In addition to PerfectlyClr I purchased and downloaded an app which may prove to be even more useful. Its called ProCamera and it replaces the camera app that comes with the phone. ProCamera gives the photographer much more control over focus and exposure and has other helpful features including a level. Using various apps one can also do HDR (high dynamic range) photography, can stitch multiple images together (that’s how large files are created) and use creative processing techniques such as adding texture and other artistic, painterly effects — all within the iPhone.
So my next steps will be to do more photography with the iPhone and see how much post processing I’m comfortable doing with it. It might be easier to simply download the images to my computer and use Lightroom or Photoshop (powerful computer photo editing software) on my wide screen monitor. But sometimes all I have is my palm computer, a gateway to the Internet and with the camera system — the real world.
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats. In fact I’ve been thinking I should try to do what the poem describes – to the degree possible – and see what happens. Or maybe just go into the woods and recite the poem six or sixty times. What do you think? And do you love this poem? And can you tell me why? Is it a hold over from childhood or a foreshadowing of death? Any ideas?
Here it is.
The Song of Wandering Aengus
I WENT out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
Do you love it? Or is it strange to you. What do you think?
People (John Hanson Mitchell for one) have walked to Walden. Today we walked around Walden, as millions of others have done. The spirit of Henry David Thoreau was palpable as always. Because of his life and his writings this insignificant pond is one of the world’s famous bodies of water. Amazing! He wrote:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
To live deliberately means to be aware of one’s life each minute, every day I think. Are you? Am I? Probably not but its an idea worth remembering and striving for. Henry started the movement to save the planet when it was not obvious that it was in danger — “In wildness is preservation of the world.” What a concept — one we need more than ever now.
Here is some of what we saw today:
Hey I wanted to share a really cool photo I took yesterday. We went cycling on the Nashua River Rail Trail about 10 days after the storm that hit New England in October. For a while I had a camera around my neck. I usually like to be stationary when I make photos but thought — why not try my skill at shooting on the fly? So I set my camera for a fast shutter speed and started shooting as I rode. One result is above. I like it! — You?
Much of the trail was as above but crews had done much work to clean things up — yet the trail was still closed. Obviously a little yellow tape will not stop the dedicated cyclist — all of it was down and quite a few riders were there. Riding on a trail like this was like being on an obstacle course — a little extra mindfulness and you are home free.
The photo above was made with my iPhone — I had more trouble controlling it than my Panasonic LX5 — maybe because I take far more photos with the LX5? Dunno — but I do know that the iPhone one captures the motion and chaos — so in some ways it superior. But I like my self portrait on the fly best!
Gary Synder wrote that the wildness of Nature is everywhere.
From “The Etiquette of Freedom,” an essay in Synder’s book “The Practice of the Wild” –
“But wildness is not limited to (places formally set aside on public lands). Shifting scales, it is everywhere: ineradicable population of fungi, moss, mold, yeasts, and such that surround and inhabit us. Deer mice on our back porch, deer bounding across the freeway, pigeons in the park, spiders in the corners. There were crickets in the paint locker of the Sappa Creek oil tanker, as I worked as a wiper in the engine room out in mid-Pacific, cleaning brushes. Exquisite complex beings in their energy webs inhabiting the ferile corners of the urban world in accord with the rules of wild systems, the visible hardy stalks and stems of vacant lots and railroads, the persistent raccoon squads, bacteria in the loam of our yogurt……Civilization is permeable, and could be as inhabited as the wild is.”
Nature, wild Nature is the culture we swim in — it supports us even as we try to destroy it. We try to weed it out and debug it. But it persists. People move into cities looking for a better life and often they bring Nature with them because of old habits and ways of life. Many Chinese people and other orientals have moved into the Gravesend section of Brooklyn where my in-laws have lived for over 60 years. If they have a few feet of ground many plant squash and other crops. This is natural habitat for lots of wildlife including many sorts of insects. I’m guessing that my friend the praying mantis called the nearby squash patch home. But for some reason he was standing on the painted cement of the backyard (the whole yard is cement).
An even less natural section of Brooklyn is Sunset park near the docks. 53rd street and 1st avenue is where I took the photo above. Railroad tracks and warehouses, factories and stone — the doorway attracted my photographer’s eye but I didn’t pay much attention to the green sprouts coming up, as they always do, through the cracks below. Given time they would cover the building. Abandoned towns and cities soon are recovered by wild Nature.
The disease of European civilization came across the ocean during the age of exploration. Looking for natural resources the explorers started the ruin of North America’s Nature. But the resistance persists. Unbridled civilization will not work. Nature will out. If not we are doomed, I think.
Better late than never!
This harbinger of Spring usually arrives in late winter. The photo above was taken near Snake Meadow Brook in Westford Massachusetts just the other day — April 2nd. Its a nice Skunk Cabbage one — they do make nice photos when they are sprouts!
The unity provided by religion, that is.
Here is a post I just made to Talisman9, a Bahai oriented discussion group:
It was written, “I doubt that religion — the most divisive force we have ever had — will unite us.” Yes this has been written many times and recently by me. Your comment that this is like saying unity is divisive points to a paradox and sets up a question.
If religion unites groups large and small why can’t it be used to unite the world?
The answer and more questions lie within the quote from Abdul Baha that you provided — as is often the case with his writing. He often provides answers that also contain challenges.
“After the moral aspect of humanity becomes readjusted, then the greatest unity will be realized; but without this moral readjustment it is impossible to establish harmony and concord, for it is a fact that war, conflict, friction and strife are but the visible results of deterioration of morality and corruption of character. But when the morality of humanity is beautified with praiseworthy virtues there will be an end to war.”
Here AB doesn’t say that religion will change the moral aspect of humanity (not in this quote) — he says that once the readjustment has taken place — then unity will occur.
I agree with this completely.
Abdul Baha was an enthusiastic supporter of many religions. He said to Elbert Hubbard that his trip to the US would have been worthwhile if it had accomplished nothing more than introducing him to Christian Science. He told many Baha’is who where troubled by the thought of a father or daughter who held onto their birth religion that they should be left alone because their faith was serving them well. I don’t believe that he really thought that everyone would become a Baha’i or that this was necessary for the establishment of a new world order and world peace.
The readjustment that Abdul Baha wrote about will occur one person at a time. There will always be many religions in the world, some making more sense and being more useful than Baha’i. But Baha’i and many other religious movements will continue to help improve the moral aspect of humanity. This does not depend on a particular belief set or particular mythology. Many belief sets and mythologies work well to move people toward Abdul Baha’s vision of moral readjustment.
The paradox of unity is divisive will be undone when people are willing to share and work together with folks who believe differently from them. Many Baha’i’s do this today, some with no intention of converting their colleagues in other religions
What is needed is not one over arching religion designed to unite the world, what is needed is a readjustment of the moral aspect of humanity. This will be done one person at a time through education, communication, study, prayer, philosophy, poetry, religion, literature, painting, photography, altruism, good causes and all of the other positive forces in the world.
The world shrinks more everyday. We know of the suffering of people on the other side of the world in minutes. People are mobilized to help. They join forces even though they probably have differing views of the heavens and earth, of the existence or non-existence of god or gods; of life after death or oblivion. As the Buddhists believe — these things are irrelevant to the readjustment to the moral aspect of humanity. It is the readjustment that is important.
In the end it is love that will unite us, or nothing will
Joel is a visionary photographer, and in more ways than one. Here is another page from an old publication — this time Aperture magazine and this time an ad. Its an ad for Photoshop and its in Aperture number one hundred forty-four, Summer 1996. The ad makes a simple but at the time revolutionary claim: “Adobe Photoshop did a much better job than my darkroom in expressing everything that naturally occurred in the original negative. Especially in bringing out the subtle colors and details of the photograph.”
In 1996 almost no one was using digital imaging for straight photography. When I joined the local photography club in 2004 and told the members I would be using digital technology — they thought I was very strange. Of course at that time they were being backward. For Joel to be so clear in his support of digital darkroom technology simply demonstrates that he is one of the true leaders in the world of photography. I’m so glad that he is continuing to push his personal visionary envelope!
Aurora and I went to see and hear Sonny Rollins at Symphony Hall in Boston on Sunday the 18th of April. He will have completed his 80th year this fall so this was billed as an early 80th birthday party. Man he wailed! Played non-stop for 90 minutes. He is the only horn in his group — the band included Bobby Broom on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Kobie Watkins on drums and Victor See-Yuen on congas. Its a great ensemble but the show was 95% Sunny. He played six long numbers, constantly improvising. He started out playing “Patanjali,” a three note anthem and he repeated the notes several times, then improvised, then went back to the notes. Powerfully. Clearly. Sounding out the notion that Sonny had come to play.
And play he did. You can read about it in this Review in the Boston Phoenix
The crowd had people who looked to be about eight years old and those who might have been ninety. Sonny was elegant, dressed in white and just slightly stooped showing his age a bit. But his music and creativity never did. There was no encore but Sonny did promise to return to Boston “soon, real soon.” We hope he keeps his promise.
What does F8 and be there mean to me? I ask that question because it came up in a discussion thread on http://www.shutterpoint.com, a stock photography web site I belong to. A new member was introducing himself and getting some advice about camera shake and other technical issues in photography. So I thought I’d give the new guy my take on the photographic middle way. Here is what I wrote:
“F8 and be there” means that one of the most important ideas in photography is to have your camera with you when you see something that would make a good photo.
F8 is a mediocre setting — or at least some people think that way. Its not wide open to create bokeh — the artsy blurring of a background that makes an object (flower, butterfly or person) stand out; nor is it stopped down to create seemingly limitless depth of field as in a landscape where everything in the image seems to be in focus. No, F8 is useful because it is a compromise between these two extremes. Its a simple setting for simply capturing reality. Or for simply capturing reality.
But being there — being wherever you would like to be to capture a ‘decisive moment’ — being there is the most important thing of all. Oh except that you need to have a camera with you.
There have been photo contests called the best camera contest or words to that effect. The idea is that the best camera is the one you have with you, so many entry’s (or maybe all of them) in the best camera contests are cell phone cameras.
The idea is that if your gear is so bulky and complicated that it sometimes prevents you for getting out and getting the shot or if you find that you can’t take a photo you’d like to because you left your bulky, complicated camera home — remember “F8 and be there!”
(I think the term F8 and be there” is an old one dating back to the days when Ansel Adams and others formed a group called F64 — it was dedicated to maximum depth of field. Some people reacted to this with an F8 and be there way of thinking. In reality, as Buddha taught, the middle way is best. Sometimes you want maximum depth of field — sometimes you can be quite happy with an F8 and be there attitude. My advice is not to be doctrinaire about either idea.)
Of course if you want bokeh or endless depth of field F8 will usually not do it for you. Until recently most point and shoot cameras (cameras without interchangeable lenses and with some ‘idiot proof settings that automate photographic decisions) had F8 as the smallest aperture. That’s changing but it symbolizes or embodies the F8 and be there esthetic, I think. Funny thing is because of the geometry of small sensors found in P&S cameras, F8 yields good depth of field when using these cameras. bokeh is more difficult to achieve because of this, but it can be done at least to a degree.
Really fine images can be made with your P&S or even with your SLR set on F8 — maybe with a walking around lens attached — for many this is a 28 to 105 zoom — kinda like the range of the whole Leica rangefinder kit many well heeled photographers of 50 years ago used. But that’s another story.