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2015/12/30

Photography of Plane Wreckage in Nevada

plane wreckage movie
I vaguely remember seeing the movie 3000 Miles to Graceland quite some time ago. It was not a movie that stuck out in my mind as anything memorable, even though I do enjoy both Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner in films.  I say this because I did not set out to go and find a scene from the movie.  In fact I just recently learned about the ghost town/old mining town in Nelson, Nevada from a couple of courses I watched on KelbyOne training.

airplane wreckage from movie
As I began to wander around the property at Nelson I came across the crash site. The sun was already low in the sky (because of the mountain range the lighting got to be tricky) but I managed to get a couple of pictures. Both images were shot with my iPhone 6s.

The scene from the movie is not an actual plane crash, but rather an explosion at a gas station. You can watch it here on YouTube.



Jeff Jones is a freelance photographer based in Gallup, New Mexico, and available for weddings, portraits and sports event throughout New Mexico, Northeastern Arizona and beyond.




2015/12/25

Golden Hour Skies

 For ages photographers have called the time near sunset the "Golden Hour". The light comes through the atmosphere and turns a warm yellow. The harsh shadows of midday vanish and we get to enjoy the complimentary colors of blue and orange.  Here are a few of the images shot during that special time of day - all with an iPhone.




2015/12/08

Unfair Comparison or reality of life?

I spend a lot of time each week on the Internet.  I look at trends in photography, and am constantly looking for new material in terms of tutorials to improve my shooting and to keep my classroom instruction up to date and fresh for my high school students.

One of the things that continues to amaze me is despite how important images are in American culture and the advances in camera technology, there are still an awful lot of people who accept mediocre (being generous with that label) photographs.  It is  becoming even more of an issue now with so many people relying entirely on the default apps on their mobile devices (smart phones are the most common culprit).

As my recent exploration into my photo a day project has been largely done with my iPhone I can say that the camera in the phone can do a lot if you understand how to work with it.  There are certainly times that a phone camera is simply not going to work. Theses are the times that you need to know the limitations of your equipment and how to cope with them - or else get better equipment.

Today I discovered a slightly dated, but still very relevant, blog about why a professional photographer is better.  The author did not stand on a soapbox and proclaim that a pro is better. Instead he set up a scenario where he let people on the street shoot with a point-and-shoot camera their way until they said they were happy with the results. Then he shot it his way.  The blog post has comparisons that are so vastly different in quality that no other explanation was needed. The pictures tell the story.

So, if you want to see some really good comparisons between an average person versus a pro with a camera, take a visit to Adam Sternberg's Las Vegas photography blog.

2015/11/06

Mike Makes His Mark


   

 
Nothing like trying a little bit of alliteration for a post title...  
9781608958870 The beginning of this year I shared that former Gallup Independent photographer and co-worker Michael Fagans had published a book about iPhone photography an some of the in-depth ideas involved with shooting and editing.  He has just been spotlighted for that book with an interview on the blog TurnAround.     
 Click the link and see what he has to say for himself.

2015/10/02

Night Light - football without a Flash

I have, throughout my entire career, used flash units when covering nighttime football games.  It has always been a necessity. High School planners seem to think that having lights on the field for a sporting event is somehow a crime, and they want to keep the fields (and gyms) as dark as possible. Or, perhaps they just enjoy tormenting photographers...

Over the last few years cameras have improved a LOT. The Nikon D200 that I have just retired (beyond economic repair....) maxed out at 1600 ISO.  The same with my Nikon D2H and my D80.  I did buy a Nikon D7000 and it has the ability to go to 6400 ISO, but I never really pushed it to see if it would work. After all, why gamble with the shots and risk having wasted my time.  Everybody knows that high ISO images get so grainy/noisy that they look out of focus, and I shoot with two cameras, so since I was strobing with the D200 I also strobed with the D7000.



Tonight I shot with a new camera.  I got a really great deal on a Nikon D7100 (look for factory refurbished if you are low on cash and don't want to gamble on used gear). I had the strobes in the bag, but since it was dusk, and not quite dark enough for the flash units I pushed the ISO on both of the cameras and kept shooting with available light.

Soon it was full on night, and I had ramped my cameras all the way up to ISO 6400, shooting at 1/500 second and f/3.2.  I zoomed in on the camera screen and the images actually looked usable.  Noisy, but usable. I decided to keep shooting.

Now back home I uploaded and did an initial edit.  The photos have noise all over, but using my old, secret weapon, Imagenomic's Noiseware, I got the images to look pretty good.  I still prefer shooting daytime sports, but it is nice to see I can shoot a sequence and not have to worry about the batteries on the flash depleting just as the key moment arrives.

As for the game itself, even though they were still banged and bruised from Saturday afternoon's game against St. Pious the Patriots showed some solid playing.  They charged out of the locker room to start the 3rd quarter by scoring 14 points in under a minute, including a 94 yard TD run on the first play by AJ Starkovich.  It wasn't enough though as they lost 49-31.

2015/09/29

Hipstamatic 300 - Nice concept, but . . .

Splash screen for version 300
A few days ago I was excited about the update to the Hipstamatic app. It has all kinds of potential. You can use the classic camera setup, or you can switch UI and use a new version which allows you to change aspect ratios, manually adjust focus, white balance, shutter speed and ISO.  Other improvements include putting your photos into the regular camera roll instead of dumping them into the Hipsta prints bin.

Another big plus right now is that everything, all of the packs and films, lenses and flashes, are free. This includes some of the promotional packs that were no longer available (like the Cowboys vs. Aliens pack).

If you notice in my first sentence I wrote that I was excited.  Past tense.  I suppose I am partly to blame for the issues I am having, because yes, I am still using a virtual antique of a phone. (My phone carrier will allow me to upgrade in December...).

So what is the issue? The same one being reported by a lot of users.  It is slow and it crashes. A lot. Like every two to three photos I take the app freezes, screen goes blank and then returns to the home screen.  Sometimes when I relaunch the app the photos are still in the processing queue.  Most of the time they are not.

New version of the Classic camera has some minor UI changes
Also be aware that this new version is a huge memory hog on your phone.  The old version took about 360 MB on my phone.  The new version is taking a whopping 1.1 GB. If you have a 64GB or even a 128GB phone this is not much of an issue. For me it is. Keep in mind that after my IOS I only have 5GB left on my phone.  Add in a few other apps like Instagram and a couple of camera and image editing apps (including Oggl) and suddenly I am running out of memory on my phone after just a few dozen images.

In defense of Hipstamatic,they already rolled out an update patch to version 301 that some users are saying fixed their crash issues.  For me, no such luck. I am going to try stripping off almost all of my other apps and see if having more memory available helps things run better.

Right now I feel that if I had the choice I would roll back my phone and revert to version 280. It crashed too, but it did not use up more than 20% of my total phone storage with one app that crashed.

The new camera view for Hipstamatic.
However, not all of us iPhone 4s users are unhappy.  I came across this review and the user, who also uses the iPhone 4s, is liking it.  He does not indicate if he is using the 8GB or the 16GB phone model though, so he may have more memory to work with.

Have you upgraded to version 300 yet? If so, what have your experiences been like?

2015/09/25

Finally here: 300! (iPhone Hipstamatic Users Rejoice?)


https://itunes.apple.com/app/hipstamatic/id342115564?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Those of us who use the Hipstamatic app on our smart phones have been hearing for a very long time now that there will be a new version coming "soon."

Today is "Soon."  If you read the details of the app it says that it is "Free for a limited time" and that it is for IOS users only.  They mock Android users "Sorry, not sorry, Android users."

A visit to the iPhone App store shows that Hipstamatic is being featured on the Best New Apps feed.  Version 300. Now I can only hope that it will bring about far less crashes than version 280.  I have loved the app when it runs, but when it crashes it often eats the photos that were processing on the phone, and I  am suddenly without my photos.  So here I am, crossing my fingers.... XXXX.

The new verions features some things that have been missing. I know that the idea of the hipster camera app was to be like the old plastic Holga cameras, but there are times when it would be really, really nice to at least control the focus point.  They have that option now.

The app lists the classic mode, plus multiple exposure and Pro Mode.  Not only can the Pro Mode control focus, but also exposure and white balance, and even aspect ratio.

I have been using other camera apps and importing the photos into Oggl to get the filter look I want. Now I may be able to ditch the other apps and just use Hipstamatic.  My old iPhone 4s has limited storage space after all, and dumping those other apps will mean more room for more photos.

What else is the purpose of an iPhone if not for photography?

2015/09/23

World Wide Photo Walk - Gallup Edition

http://kel.by/wwpw2014

On October 3, 2015 there will be tens of thousands of photographers gathering in cities all over the world as part of the World Wide Photo Walk event.  There are walks all over the place, including right here in Gallup, New Mexico.

I have been selected as the walk leader for the Gallup walk.  Come out, take a few pictures around downtown Gallup, make a new friend or two, and make some great photos of our historic downtown area.

The walk is free to participate in, but you do need to register. So visit the KelbyOne website and sign up.

After the walk we will meet at Sammy C's for a bite or a beverage and some more socializing.  Then share your best photos on the Flickr group page.

I hope to see you there.

2015/09/08

Counting and liking the hits?

 One of the traps that is easy to fall into while sharing creative work on the internet is trying to gain validation.  Does my work, my words, my ideas, expressions, any of it have value?  We are social creatures, and electronic media feed that idea.  We post bits of ourselves and hope that those pieces get instant approval. We look at the number of hits or likes, and we can feel some satisfaction in knowing that people agreed with our ideas. We did something good or right. 

But what happens when the likes and re-posts are not there?  When you put what you feel is a fantastic photograph on Instagram (or YouPic or 500px or.....) and there are no likes, no views? Does that mean that your image was a failure? Maybe that means that YOU are the failure...

I know I have done it. I have looked at other photographers and seen them racking up dozens or hundreds of likes or whatever the site you use calls the up vote, and wondered why it is that I don't have more votes for my own images.  It can be an easy trap to fall into.  My 365 Project is an example.  There are a number of photos on the project that only have one or two views.  Others don't have any views. Then comes the worst part of the trap - the self doubt.  "What am I doing wrong?" "Why don't people like me or like the work?" "Why isn't anybody talking about my work and having it go viral?" 

Take a breath.

First of all, does it really mean that nobody appreciates your work? There are a lot of images being shoved in front of our collective eyeballs every second. I am on several different sites and if you post an image to YouPic five minutes after I log off and move to EyeEm the situation is not that I didn't like your work.  I just never saw it.  Or maybe it was posted on Tuesday and you had a photo of a kid kicking a soccer ball that was pretty solid, but I just spent three hours photographing and editing images from a soccer game. I may be a little jaded towards soccer photos and may give it a pass instead of a like when I scan through the new images feed.

Let's move away from the not seeing my photos reason though. Maybe people did see my images and still did not click like. What does that mean? While you try to figure it out ask yourself this: Is the photo you are wanting people to like and validate really and truly a good photo?  Is it interesting?  Does it have good composition and interesting lighting? Does it do a good job telling a story? What is the contrast and color like? Is it like every other image you have posted in the last three months? Does it have anything that really makes it stand out where you can honestly say it is a good photo?

It does? Then ask yourself  who it is that you are showing it to.  If you have some psychedelic night skateboarding images and you share them with your mother and grandparents are you really appealing to the right audience? How are you getting your work out there - just spray and pray? If I post all over the place hopefully somebody will see it and love it. Maybe that is not the best plan.

If you are trying to market a business and the images you are sharing are not getting attention then you need to be looking at what is going wrong with your work.  What can you change to get more hits and more likes. Is your style right for the audience you are trying to reach? Do you even have a style?  And also ask yourself if your number of hits and likes really matters.  Are you keeping busy with clients and keeping them happy on the jobs you do? Then do those hits and likes really matter? I would submit then that those hits and like don't much matter. Maybe your business model can do without so much attention to social media and more attention to in person client relations.

What if you are not running a business, and just shooting photos because you enjoy it? If you are doing it as a way of self expression, as a pleasurable pastime like singing along with the radio in the car, then again I would suggest that those likes and shares are not of any importance.  Do it because you like the images you create, because you are touching on the emotions and meanings and messages that interest you at the moment.  Do it because you are figuring out your style and learning and are on a voyage of self discovery.  Take and make those images for yourself.

Be self involved in your images and find happiness in your work.

2015/06/02

Floral arrangement


This image is my post for today on my 365 project.  I had work to do at the church today, and while waiting for the glass company workers to finish installing the new window in the basement I spotted the arrangement of flowers in the front of the church.  It was left over from Saturday night's classical guitar concert.

I shot the image with a Nikon Coolpix P5000 (yes, if you work it right you can get decent results from a old point and shoot.) I began by placing the flowers on a table near one of the windows so  could have some nice, natural light.  Then I put the camera on a tripod, set the ISO down to 64 and put the aperture to f/8.  Then it was simply a matter of setting the self timer so I did not wiggle the camera and taking the image.

Back home I did some basic noise reduction using Imagenomic, then opened the Camera Raw filter option in Photoshop CC.  I have several presets that I tried, and decided that I liked the look of this one, called "Arkham".

The last step was to duplicate the layer, increase the canvas size about 1" around, then on the lower layer use a black paintbrush to create the jagged border effect.  Because the upper layer covers the background, none of the image itself was hidden by the black brushstrokes.

2015/05/30

Carnival of Lights

A sure sign of summer here in New Mexico is the arrival of the traveling carnival.  The carnival arrived this weekend and although I am not one to go on the rides much these days, I certainly wanted to head out to the event and made some time exposures and capture the neon lights.  Here are some of the images from the carnival.


This first image (above) was taken with a Nikon D7000 and Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens. 

 These next images were all taken with an iPhone 4s.  Most are using the Hipstamatic app for different borders and effects, with a few exceptions.  This image (above) was taken in the afternoon before I was certain I would be returning this evening to shoot.



 This image was taken with the iPhone 4s, ProCamera app and an optional eternal fish-eye lens.


 There are a number of long exposure options for the iPhone.  This swirling Ferris Wheel shot was done using  Slow Shutter Cam (by Cogitap Software).  I placed the iPhone on a tripod to keep everything still.


2015/05/20

365 - the beginnings

With more than a week done in my first 365 project I am already starting to notice a pattern to my shared images.  They are not the big, exciting shots like I would go for when covering events for The Gallup Independent or getting photos for the yearbook.  The 365 project is about what I am paying attention to, a personal exploration, and right now I am finding that the things I am shooting are small and intimate.  They are a lot quieter and more reserved than other images I have taken.

In addition to the images you can see at the site, I am adding a second gallery - an alternate album for second best shots.  The 365 project site only allows a single image for each day on the calendar.  If there are second choices they have to be put into a second album.  I also learned that I cannot swap out an image from the site.  If I post an image in the day and that evening find I have a shot I like better I cannot replace it.  So there will be times when I will be posting a second image on the project site in this secondary (alternate) album.

Other times I am happy with the image I shot, but want to share other images from the day - those images will end up being shared here. These are some examples of images that I liked, but did not make the cut to be the single image for the day.







*All of these images in this post were shot on an iPhone 4s and used Hipstamtic 280 camera app.

2015/05/17

Project 365 up and running

My original plan was to start my Project 365 next weekend, using the Memorial Day weekend as the launch. When I went to set up the web site for the project I did a test upload and then I added a few more photos to see how the whole thing was going to work and look.  That ended up being the start of the project. 

http://365project.org/jeffjones/365

Because shooting a photo each day for an entire year could become repetitive and draining I am not restricting the project very much.  The images will simply be images that I encountered throughout the day.  Not all of them are going to be masterpieces. And not all of them are going to be pictures of my dinner or self portraits.  Sure there may be a few - I have never been one to explore the self-portrait thing and I might decided to try it once or twice over the next year.

My point is that after decades of shooting for other people it is going to be a learning experience for me to be taking pictures that are about my own life.  Some of the images will end up here - especially the outtakes since the project site only allows a single image to be posted for each day.

It is a personal project. Somewhat like a visual diary, but one that I am willing to make public.  Consider becoming a follower of my project, and don't be afraid to leave comments and questions.

(A few outtakes from this week's shooting)




2015/05/15

Photo Social

Although Facebook is the ultimate image sharing site right now, it does have some issues with it.  One of the biggest is that they are claiming ownership of images you post on their site.  You still own your images, but although they say it is for them to be able to cover themselves legally in handling and hosting your images, there are stories that keep popping up of people's images being used by FB and other companies.

Also, Facebook is about a lot more than just photography. The real interests I have online are playing games to relax, and learning about photography - seeing the work others are doing and sharing my own work.  Since really becoming interested in iPhoneography I have spent a lot of time looking at phone apps and more recently image sharing sites.  There are a lot, and each has its own unique workflow and appeal for users.

The obvious ones include Instagram for phone images and then there is Flickr (1,000 GB free!).  What else?

There is my dilemma.  What is the best all in one spot image sharing site? I have not found one perfect one for my own tastes yet, but there are a few that I have liked enough to set up accounts on and share some images. 

My list includes:

EyeEm  - As other reviewers on the net have said, Instagram is about sharing your life and EyeEm is about sharing images that are interesting and artistic.  Plus, Instagram kills your image resolution to a poor 640x640 pixels and does not allow anything to upload except through your phone.  EyeEm welcomes photos from all formats of cameras and they have a marketplace where your images can be sold for real cash, not just photo credit.

VSCO - A lot of serious photographers that I know like this one, and even though I have given it a try several times and it just is not very intuitive to use.  The app on the phone has some nice filters, and the company offers some filters and presets for use in Lightroom and Photoshop that work well.

Mobitog -  This is a community hat also recently added a phone app. It is more like a forum discussion group in that you have to post images into a new thread and to view the images you have to visit the forums and lick on the thread titles to get into them.  It encourages more discussion about the images, but it makes for slow browsing and discovering of new images and meeting new photographers.  They are also VERY STRICT that the images must be taken and edited solely on phones.

Oggl (by Hipstamatic) - A pretty new site that allows you to use your purchased Hipstamatic film and lens paks for free (just import them) or you can use the basic films and lenses in the app for free.  They also have an annual subscription option for $10 a year that unlocks all of the filters (lenses and film paks). 

Gurushots - This site is one that is full of image competitions with real prizes and is free to use and enter.  Upload your images based on the category of the challenge and then vote for other photos.  Easy to see and use, and a lot of strong images there.  Want to know how good other people think your photos are?  give it a shot.

And the newest joined site for me is YouPic.  This site breaks things into categories and keywords, and is easy to explore new images, rate them (and give ratings based on content, composition, technical, and creativity.  It is becoming my preferred image sharing app.

2015/05/10

Light Chasing - projects and growth

In the mid-1990s photographer Jim Brandenburg was burning out.  He spent 10 years in newspapers, and 30 years working for the big leagues - National Geographic.  He needed to make a change and get to a point where he was taking images he wanted to take.  So he created a very difficult challenge: take a single image each day for 90 days.

In the old days it was not uncommon for people to take a single image here and there.  Rolls of film in people's cameras could have an entire year or more in those 24 or 36 frames. But Brandenburg is a professional photographer.  He would shoot dozens, sometimes hundreds of images each day.  Even when I was shooting film for the newspaper I would crank out as many as 8 rolls of film in a day (though my publisher did not like to see us using that much film on a regular basis).

Now with digital cameras and iPhones it is like everybody photographs everything, indiscriminately. Bandenburg was going the other way, and doing it on film.  He set his goal to be to only press the shutter release button a single time each day.  No bracketing or exposures, or changing lenses for a different view, and no chimping to see if he got the shot.  This must have taken nerves of steel and in the video about the project he admits he nearly threw in the towel a couple of times.

In the end his project ended up producing a book and a video, Chased by the Light.  It gave him a change of pace and made him reconsider his shooting.

Other photographers I know of have challenged themselves to shoot with only a single lens for a day or a week.  Imagine taking a portrait with a 300mm lens, or trying to shoot sports with a 12mm ultra-wide.


Why do I bring this up? When I worked for the newspaper I never even considered needing a personal project.  Sure, there were times I spotted something and pulled over to shoot it just for myself, knowing that it would never be in the paper, but I always had a reason to be looking to make images.  Since leaving the newspaper I took a break, working on my master's degree.  I continued to pick up my cameras for the school yearbook and for the annual calendar I create as Christmas gifts, but it was not a regular thing.  In fact, it was so irregular that I got rusty.  I found myself having to take time to relearn controls and double check camera settings whenever I pulled out my Nikons.

Christmas time 2013 my old cell phone stopped working and despite not wanting to spend the money for a data plan there really was no good choice for a regular replacement phone.  I decided to stop fighting the system and picked up the iPhone 4s.  It was not new technology, and I was not that excited about it as a phone or as a camera.  For almost a year I had the phone and seldom made any images with it.  Then several months ago something changed and I started looking at the possibilities of using the iPhone, trying a bunch of different apps.  The issue I was having was that I was trying to make my iPhone be my camera - using apps that would make the photos look the same as my Nikon bodies and lenses.  Then I started playing with the Hipstamatic app and it is really got me thinking about images not as reality (something that has been stuck in my head for a long time because of my journalism career) but as an expression of ideas, as art.


In a few weeks I will be having a birthday, summer will start with the Memorial Day weekend, school will be ending, and I feel like I need to push myself in a new direction.  No, I am not going to try to take on the Jim Brandenburg project.  But there are other project ideas out there.  I am planning to do a 365 project - posting a picture a day for a year.

I have not worked out the details completely yet - and it is okay.  I am not talking about taking selfies each day, or only using one camera and lens, or anything like that.  I am not even necessarily going to be able to post the photo on the day I take it - but I will shoot at least one image each day and share the image.

This type of project as potential to be frustrating, getting stuck in a rut, but then again it gives me a reason to make images and hopefully I can work through the ruts and come out on the other side with some great images.

I am going to try using a special web site for the project - but as I said I have not worked out all the details yet, and I may change my  mind.  For now I will be using this site to post the images.

2015/04/26

Lightroom 6/CC - maybe I can get caught up


  I suppose in the timeline of Adobe the latest update of Lightroom was overdue. I did not feel that Lightroom 5 was obsolete, and it really was not on my radar that an update should be coming until Scott Kelby shared it on Facebook.  For the good news of the upgrade:  They are still making LR6 a perpetual license for those not willing to spend money on the cloud services.


Image result for lightroom icon
Because I am already a Creative Cloud subscriber it was simple to update to Lightroom CC.  Just run the Creative Cloud program from my desktop and it installed it with no issues.  If you are not an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber  there are some benefits to justify the upgrade. The usual includes the newest version of Camera Raw that can handle raw files from the newest cameras. Also under the hood Adobe claims the new version is more streamlined and will run faster. 

The biggest deal here with the upgrade is the new Face tagging feature.  Although it is not really new, it has been part of Photoshop Elements for a while now, and also part of Picasa and other services. When you upgrade and convert your catalog expect to spend a significant amount of time letting your catalog scan for faces.  Those of us with overly large catalogs can look forward to having to let the process run overnight or longer as it finds all of the faces.

The bad news about the upgrade: After playing with the new version I went to install the update on a couple of my classroom computers which have the Creative Cloud license through the school, and after doing several restarts signing in and out of the cloud etc. I still have not been able to get the update to show up as an option.  That's when I remembered reading a few weeks ago that new versions of software would not be supported on 32-bit computer systems. Every computer in my classroom is running Windows 7 and 32-bit processors.  If you are running an older machine then Lightroom 5 is the highest you get to go.

I have mixed feelings about Lightroom, and although it seems more and more shooters are making it their primary, if not only editing software, it is still not a 100% natural part of my workflow.  Truth be told, not working for a daily newspaper anymore I don't really have a set work flow these days.  I bounce around between Lightroom, ACDSee Pro 8, Adobe Bridge and Photo Mechanic for my import and initial edits.  Then I sometimes adjust with Bridge into Camera Raw, sometime adjust in Lightroom after adding the images to the catalog, and sometimes I go directly into Photoshop CC.  I like the concept of Lightroom, but the real obstacle I have with it is my own lack of organization over the years.  I have over half a million images on five different external hard drives.  Many are probably duplicates, and there are also a lot of similars.  The reason I have a hard time with Lightroom is it takes a long time to load that master catalog and let me start working.  If I try and work in another program (like ACDsee) then I have to synchronize the folder later in order to see the image accurately.


So what is my point to this rambling?  Don't be like me.  Have a work flow, stay on top of it and be consistent.  I am going to keep using the new version of Lightroom, and hopefully it will be the tool that I can use to finally get my image library under control.

2015/04/08

Hpistamatic: Late to the Party - and now Oggl?

If you are not familiar with Scott Strazzante's photography, especially his street photography I recommend you take a look.  He works for the San Francisco Chronicle and has been incredible prolific in his street shots done in addition to his regular newspaper assignments.   He has been written about on NBC news, formerly worked for The Chicago Tribune, and a lot more.

The reason I bring him up is that like my friend, photographer and author, Michael Fagans, he uses the Hipstamatic app.  And as the headline for this post says, I am very late to the Hipstamatic party.

I did not even get a smart phone until Christmas of 2013.  Since then I have tried to use apps that made the iPhone 4s (yes, I am using an antique, but the price was right from my cell phone carrier) as much like my Nikon cameras as possible.  I like the ProCamera app because it gives me a lot of options in using the camera, including different crop ratios, adjustable and auto white balance, manual ISO and shutter speeds, HDR and some nice basic processing filters. IF I need additional editing then I turn to Photoshop Express, Aviary and most recently added Photogene4.  These have been good for straight forward image making.

Then I got my hands on Michael Fagan's book, The iPhone Photographer: How to Take Professional Photographs with Your iPhone. I noted that he uses the Hipstamatic app for most of his iPhone work, and I started playing with the app.  It is not very intuitive when you first start using it, but I have finally gotten the hang of it.  One feature of the app I like is that if you shake your camera/phone a few times it will randomly change your film, lens and flash filter settings to give you different looks.  I have been doing this to try to find look combinations that I like.

So far I am still adding film and lens paks to find the ones that I really want to use regularly, but I am finding a couple of options that I like more than others.

A true Hipstamatic hipster does not edit their images after they are taken, and I have removed several of my editing apps (mostly because I only have 8GB total on my iPhone 4s, and after loading some apps for other purposes I have less than 2 GB of space for images.  Apps that I pulled included Snapseed, ACDSee, ProCam (not the same as ProCamera - very confusing), Enlight, Darkroom photo editor, Camera+, and even VSCO camera.

Why would I dump so many apps that I obviously had room for earlier on my phone?  I shoot full resolution - I am not interested in low res thumbnails.  And I have found that one thing I dislike about Hipstamatic is that it keeps two copies of each image - so it can fill my phone quickly.  One image goes into the apps "Prints" queue, and the other copy - the identical file - goes into the camera roll of the Hipstamatic album in the phone's pictures section.  I can turn off that auto save to the phones pictures section and save space but the downside is then I need to go to the print queue and manually tell the app to copy each image to the camera roll and then manually delete each image from the prints queue. It is a bit tedious if you shoot more than two or three frames.

Overall I am liking the app and can see why some more serious photographers are using it. It is certainly going to be one I make a lot of use of.

Now comes a new dilemma.  There is a new app from Hipstamatic that is much more of a social platform instead of just a camera app.  It is called Oggl. The app is more like other camera apps and does not have the Hipster feel, but there are some interesting things - the main one being that all of the film, flash and lenses purchased for the Hipstamatic are free to add to your oggl app.  Then, in the oggl app (and this may be the part that is purportedly alienating he hipsters) you can take a straight image and apply the lenses and films like you are adding preset in Lightroom - mix and match and switch after the fact.  I can certainly see the appeal of having options, being able to edit after the fact - but to be honest, after using the Hipstamatic app for almost two weeks now I think I prefer it - shoot and be done, and what comes out of the camera is hat you get.  Maybe that come from my newspaper days where I did not ever edit the images for creative effect after pushing the button.  Maybe it is because having all the filters and choices after the fact is just too much to choose from. Or maybe I am just not creative enough to visualize how I can change the image to look better, and it is best to have the app dot it for me.

Hipstamatic costs $1.99 on iTunes, and Oggl is free (for the basics) or $10/year for a membership which gives you all the lenses and filters.  Check them out for yourself and tell me what you think.  Is Oggl really a good replacement for Hipstamatic? Do you like either one? What is your favorite lens and film (filter) combination?

2015/03/24

Looking at a few Photo Apps



Although the idea of putting a camera inside a cellular phone was first laughed at, the last several years have seen big improvements in the quality of the cameras included inside the modern “Smart Phone.”  In fact, cameras in phones are so popular that looking at the data among Flickr users has found that the iPhone has taken second place in most popular camera.  
Even though the cameras in the phone have gotten better, there are still a lot of things that are very difficult to get good results photographing with a phone – like sports and night time photography.  Even more difficult is getting good results if you do not know the abilities and limitations of your camera. 

I personally was one of the people who thought cameras in phones were worthless and I did not even have a smart phone until December of 2013.  Once I got my smart phone (iPhone 4s) I still thought that the camera was a worthless toy. Then I learned how to get the phone camera to do a few things – like focus where I wanted it and set exposure based on a specific area (you do these by toughing the screen to tell the camera those are the points to focus on).  I started to use the camera a bit more.
As I looked around I kept seeing some really solid images being done with phones, and I discovered that you can do a lot more with your phone camera if you use apps.  There are apps that allow you to adjust your ISO and shutter speed and that allow you to take long exposure images.  I also discovered a lot of apps that can edit the photo on the phone.  You do not have to move your images to your laptop and edit in Photoshop.

Here are some of the apps I use, and the benefits and drawbacks.  This is not a comprehensive list, just a few of the main ones.

Instagram:   I will start with one of the staples in social media for image sharing: Instagram.  When I asked students which photography apps they used on their phones it and snapchat were the top two. 

While I like Instagram for the sharing community and being able to tag images with multiple keywords (#hashtag) a lot of people do not realize that Instagram is really ruining the integrity of the images.  If you look at a photo taken with the Instagram app the file is 640x640 pixels square.  It makes sense that the files are that size since that is the resolution of the iPhone 4 and 5. Why make the files bigger? It takes time and money to have a bigger file.  If you upload and download larger files on your cellular data plan it takes longer to send and receive and uses more of your overpriced data plan.  So the small file size makes sense.  It also saves them money by not having to use up as much server space.

There are some serious drawbacks to doing it this way though.  If you ever want to see the details in your image, or make a print (like we are being warned to do by Google executive Vint Cerf ) then there are going to some real issues.  The recommended printer resolution is 300 pixels per inch.  So if you only have 640 pixels that means that your print size can only go to 2.13”.  But you have an 8+ megapixel camera that should be able to easily make and 8x10” print.  What happened?  To save space, data and speed up the loading, the Instagram app throws away the extra information from your camera. Once it is gone you cannot get it back.

To avoid this loss of image quality and size I recommend that you take your images with a different app (even the default camera) and save the file to your camera roll.  Then import a copy into Instagram and let it do its work that way.

Editing

If you are looking for some decent editing applications to get your photos to look the way you want them to there are hundreds to choose from.  Here are a few that I am familiar with and recommend trying.  I’ll start with the free ones (*many apps are free for the basic features, and charge money to unlock more advanced options – these  are called in-app purchases)

Snapseed:  One of the first apps I found was this one, made by Google.  It has a variety of filters and presets, and it gives some nice frame options to make the images look more finished as well.  Like many of the apps that are focused on the image editing, the camera part of the app is pretty basic.  All you can really do is select the focus point and turn the flash on and off.

The editing part of the app is simple to figure out.  Start by pressing the plus sign at the top left of the screen.  Add the image you want to edit from your camera roll, then select the adjustment category you want to use from the icons at the bottom of the screen. After that, touch the middle of the screen.  Swiping up and down will scroll through the menu options for that category.  Swiping left and right will vary the amount. When you are done click the check-mark on the bottom right.

When you are done editing the image click the icon on the top right which is a box with an arrow coming out of the top. This is the control to export your image by either saving it to the photo library at full resolution, or sending it to a social media app like Facebook or twitter.

PhotoshopExpress  I like this application because it is a free version of Adobe Photoshop. As with the Snapseed app, the camera option is basic, but it does include a zoom and self timer option.  This app also links with the Adobe Creative Cloud and the Adobe Revel online site so you can store and retrieve your images from the cloud.

Once you have selected the image to work with there are controls at the top of the screen to undo, auto-enhance, see before and after, and export.  At the bottom of the screen are options for looks (filter presets), cropping and straightening, corrections, red-eye fix, borders, and a blemish tool. Selecting the different tools brings up a second set of controls though icons showing a thumbnail of your image – like with the corrections icon you will see options for adjusting a range of settings like clarify, sharpen, contrast, highlight, and temperature.  There are a few options in the corrections tab that are in-app purchases, like noise reduction, but overall the app is free and easy to use. Just click on the icon you want to adjust and then a slider bar shows up to add or subtract the effect.
One of the nice features of using Photoshop Express is that when you go to adjust a detail like sharpen, the app automatically zooms in to see the details so you can carefully view the effects of the adjustment.

Like Snapseed, pressing the icon in the top right is the way to export the image when you have finished it. Instagram, Facebook, twitter and other options appear.

Flickr: The strongest reason I have for recommending the use of the flickr app is space. Flickr is a part of the Yahoo network and if you have the flickr app you get 1,000 GB of free image storage.  Compare that to the normal 2-10 GB of free space you get with other cloud based systems.  Flickr is also a great place to search for images that are creative commons licensed if you are looking to legally use other images in your own work.  

The flickr image editing section is very similar in design to the other apps out there, and with a list of filters to choose from it also allows for adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, white balance, and even features a levels control histogram much like you find in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
Once you finish the edits and click next the app invites you to write a caption, set privacy settings, and provides you with the option to share to Facebook, twitter and more.  It then saves the file to your online Flickr account at full resolution.

Aviary:  The final app for me to discuss in this session is the app which has been acquired by Adobe.  This free app has a lot of filters, frames and other add-ons. All of those add-ons cost money and can get to be a rather large bill to purchase them. Or, you can sign up for an Adobe id (which is free to get) and then the app gives you almost all of their additional features for free.  And occasionally they have had offers in the past when you can get everything for free if you sign in with your Adobe account.

If you are someone who likes to make memes then be aware that Aviary has an actual preset option to make memes from your images.  Just select the image, type the  text for the top and bottom of the image and click done.  



Conclusion: Smart phones have a lot of options to make them formidable cameras, and because they are so easy to carry they make a lot of otherwise missed photographs possible.  But do yourself a favor and learn how to use the camera and find apps that work the way you want to.  Other people have said the best camera is the one that you have with you.  I add to that saying not only have it with you, but know how to use it.