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When I visit Brooklyn to help my wife care for her elderly parents, I often visit Coney Island. I take my “real camera” and my iPhone. The Hipstamatic shots I take work well. That AP seems designed for Coney. The beautiful beach and funky boardwalk the crowds and fast food — the rides — all great subjects for me and my non-camera with its creative APs.
I learned a lot about using my iPhone for photography from Dan Burkholder. Dan is a deep well of knowledge and a great resource if you want to learn the skills for great iPhone work.
Here are some samples of my iPhone images:
The creative potential of the phone with these APs is vast. Resolution is adequate for large prints (11 x 14″ at least). Wide angle and macro lenses are available (I have a nice set– $69) so the only camera I need is on my iPhone.I have an iPhone4. The 4s and 5 have better cameras so I’ll upgrade in January when Verizon will let me. I’m not going to give up on real cameras — yet — but I find myself using the the iPhone more often lately, especially at Coney Island. Nice to have a camera, software and computer in my pocket!
Apparently I can go home again. I revisited my first home last week — I lived at 14 Avenue J in the Midwood section of Brooklyn from 1943 until we moved from Brooklyn to Queens in 1948. Last week I got off the ‘F’ train several stops before the Avenue ‘X’ one — got off at avenue ‘I’ so I could revisit that first home and take some photos. The neighborhood has changed of course — its been 64 years. The lumber yard on the corner of avenue J and MacDonald is now an auto repair shop. The very elegant (in my memory) free standing house across the street is run down. Our house is a brick row house that seemed so big to me when I was little. The pickle factory around the corner where I used to steal pickles from lightly covered barrels is no more.
The street is short and ends in a T intersection — I thought of it as a court yard when I was 4 or 5 — traffic was pretty brisk last week and came fast around the corner. I had to wait for openings before taking photos, several shots from various angles. I’m into using my iPhone camera with some cool apps like Hipstamatic and ProCamera to see what results i can get so that’s the camera I had with me. As I waited for a clear shot a car pulled up and someone went to the door at number 14, to make a delivery I guessed. When he opened the storm door to knock on the inner door I saw something I did not expect — “Welcome Back” was written on the door in white paint – large letters white letters welcoming me home! As I tried to get a shot with all the letters (I failed) the door opened and a young woman in a purple and while head scarf opened the door to complain about my picture taking.”I don’t appreciate your taking all these photos” she said. “I used to live here 65 years ago” I blurted. “Oh then that’s ok” she said.
I should write at greater length about my first home about how I was so jealous of the baby across the street in its beautiful carriage with a lace coverlet protecting it from flies that I tried to do it harm, about the time my new cowboy gun was stolen by a neighbor boy and my parents did nothing about it, about how my teenaged aunt used to love me and play with me like I was a doll, about my first girl friend Dierdre who lived two or three doors down – her Mom used to take us to Coney Island beach and pack a picnic lunch of sandwiches and milk in a baby bottle that we would drink from with a straw. But for now I’ll post photos stay amazed at the welcome back sign painted on the door of my first home.
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.