recent images taken with an iPhone 3Gs

When I was younger, the teen years I guess you’d say, I was quite a bit more “athletic” than I am these days. I used to play a lot of sports, and did things then that make me exhausted now just thinking about them. I remember a basketball practice where we didn’t even see a basketball, we just ran and ran and ran, ugh, like I said, tired from thinking about it. I just don’t exercise as much as I should now a days. Sadly I did a full day shoot not too long ago, and when I woke up the next day I felt like I had run a marathon. Well I guess it kind of was a marathon, just not the conventional kind (there’s some foreshadowing there to some future images & behind the scenes video that are currently in the works). My plan is to try and find some time everyday, even if just a little bit, to do some exercise. So I developed a plan to trick myself into exercising….using photography.

Ok, Denis, if you are reading this, please stop. I don’t want you to think you are subconsciously being tricked into exercising….. cause you’re not. I swear….

Is he gone? …..Good.

Alright then, so I generally get a half an hour for lunch at my full time job. Not a lot of time, but I decided a 30 minute walk is better than no walk, right? Also at my part-time job, where I do retouching, I usually take an hour, so I figured I would take 30 minutes of that and walk. So I set off on my first walk, plugged my headphones into my iPhone, blasted the music, and put my left foot in front of the right. Halfway through I thought, “why the heck didn’t I bring a camera with me?”, and then I realized I did. I had a 3megapixel camera in my pocket. While some of you are scoffing at me right now, “oh my, just 3megapixels, that’s too bad, too bad he didn’t bring a real camera” shame on you for scoffing (isn’t scoffing a fun word?)  Photography has nothing to do with the camera, sure it can help, but if you can’t compose, forget it, your big SLR won’t save you. Not to mention I have done 8×10 prints from the images I’ve taken with my phone and people are always very surprised to learn what they were taken with. (A friend of mine Martin Cormier had a great recent blogpost on camera phone images check it out here).

Recently I have started shooting film again. I have a growing collection of old cameras, all film cameras. Most of them work great, even though some of them are over 50 years old (can’t imagine my digital will still be working in 2061). A few of my customers at work know that I collect and from time to time will generously donate a camera. Recently I have been mainly using 3 cameras: an Olympus OM-10, a Norita (an SLR style medium format camera that shoots square format, that I have borrowed from a fellow collector), and a Ihagee Exakta II which was a customer donation (a German 35mm camera with Carl Zeiss optics). Instead of these cameras just sitting on the shelf, I decided I would start using them, the less valuable ones of course. The one thing I have always been disappointed with in the digital age is the ability of modern cameras, software, and printers, to reproduce black and white. While it is getting much better, it still doesn’t compare to shooting b&w film, and then printing in a darkroom on fiber based paper. The tonal range and general overall look just isn’t where it needs to be as of yet (in my opinion anyway).

With my iPhone images I am currently working only “in phone”. The images are taken, edited, and even combined into 2-3 image montages all in the phone. I find it incredible how much phones can do now a days. The thing I probably use my phone for the least is making phone calls. I read something a while ago that cell phones have more computer power in them than NASA did in 1969. Amazing.

So on my walks now I take 2 “cameras” with me, my iPhone and an old camera loaded with b&w film. I find it interesting that I shoot very different things with those tools, compared to if I had my digital SLR with me. Also if I see something that draws my eye due to color, I won’t shoot it in b&w. The walks have almost become an exercise in vision. I am always looking for different things to photograph, things I may not normally shoot while using digital. I find I somewhat get lost while I’m out, totally involved in creating and being visually aware. The other thing I find interesting is that I shoot less with those tools. The other day “a good walk” consisted of 12 film frames and 6 iPhone frames. I am much more picky in what I’m shooting. What I have noticed is since I started doing this, I have become more picky while shooting digital as well. When I first got into digital I was just like everyone else, shooting without a care in the world. It would be nothing to go for a drive for an hour and shoot 200 frames, if you break that down it’s an image every 18 seconds (I think my math is correct there). That is a totally ridiculous amount of images, and also totally unnecessary. I became lazy with my photography because of that.

Since I stopped playing music and my focus is now solely on photography, I have made a more conscious effort to be more disciplined in my work. I think a lot more about the image I am about to make, rather than just shoot it now and think about it later. It’s very easy to shoot an image, not really thinking about it, and then take it home and think about it then. How often do you shoot something, then go home and straighten your horizon or heavily crop it or take out a power line or something like that? These are all most likely things that could have been corrected while you were shooting it. Being more aware of the image before you fire the shutter will cause you to be more disciplined in your photography and you will grow in your work. In-camera-vision has somewhat become less important, as too many people will simply “crop it after”. Don’t get me wrong, Photoshop is a very useful tool and I do use it, but don’t let it define your photography. Could your photography survive without Photoshop? If the answer is no, you need to rethink the way you work.

Challenge yourself to work within you camera, you will find yourself being more disciplined, and also you will spend less time in front of the computer. Less time in front of the computer means more time out shooting, which is the goal. I assume you didn’t get into photography because you thought your monitor was cute and that you wanted to stare at it all day long.