Tuesday, March 13, 2012

desert, jungle, palace, mountain...and 'bokeh'

I was flipping through the British magazine "Digital Photographer" the other day in the bookstore, and an article caught my eye: "Smartphones with shutters" (p. 58) In it, writer and photographer Dylan Baker highlighted these statistics (and the italics are mine): 

"Of the estimated 600 billion digital photos taken annually, over 60 per cent are taken on cameraphones--and the market for point-and-shoot cameras themselves remains flat. It seems that the point-and-shoot may eventually be replaced by the smartphone, with compact system cameras and DSLRs remaining the ideal choices for enthusiasts." He goes on to write:  "Since the launch of Apple's App store in 2008, and subsequent offerings such as Android's Marketplace, there have been more and more reasons to use a smartphone as your primary everyday camera. Apps have transformed the experience with everything from basic editing tools to programs that will emulate the look and feel of vintage cameras and film..." Also, there is the convenience: "The fact that you'll always have your phone on you is one of the greatest benefits of shooting with a smartphone."

So...on to some more snapseeding from the past week.

First, from last weekend's wildflower hike in Catalina State Park, just NW of Tucson. Last fall and winter gave us well-timed rains, and so the poppies, lupine, and paintbrush are putting on a welcome display in the desert--nice to see after last spring's drought-and-late-freeze-induced no-show.

I took this shot with my Canon, but then thought it would be fun to snapseed it, so I e-mailed it to my iPhone. (This was before I found out that Nik software just released snapseed for desktop--both OS X and Windows...but I still prefer the intuitive--and portable!--'swiping' on my iPhone.)

So, with a bit of tilt-and-shift, as well as the center-focus filter for the vignette effect,
voilà, a 'transplanted' and snapseeded desert wildflower scene:
I posted the photo, and immediately got a comment: "Nice Bokeh!" Well, thanks...except that it's not really 'bokeh.'  This photo effect (taken from a Japanese word), has always been reliant on lens and aperture settings...but now, with digital darkrooms, you can do a pretty good job of simulating it. It's amazing how easy it is to do with snapseed.


Now...on to Guatemala. Several years ago my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to visit the Mayan ruins in Tikal National Park, in the NE of the country, in the Petén region of the Yucatán peninsula. The temple pyramids in the jungle are among the tallest stone structures ever built in the Americas; not until skyscrapers arose in New York in the 20th century did construction reach higher! I had just bought my first digital camera--a 5 MP Canon point-and-shoot...still learning how to use it while trekking beneath the howler monkeys and strangler fig vines...From the top of Temple IV (about the height of a 25-story building), I took this view of the tops of the Jaguar Temple and the Mask Temple:

I've always had fun with 'my-feet-in-the-scene-shots,' but ACK!--the flash went off! 
Blurry feet and everything washed-out...
So--a fun 'remember-that?' shot, but not really anything to 'show'...
So, I thought I'd snapseed it:
some cropping,
more saturation in the sky, (using the 'drama filter'),
and a bit of tilt-and-shift around the temple-tops peeking above the forest canopy:
The sky's not perfect--but this 'transplanted' photo is a much better travel snapshot than the original, no?

Now, for the palace.
Covering 78 acres of hilly forest in the heart of Seoul, "Huweon," the 'rear garden' of Changdeok-gung Palace is better known by the city's millions as 'Biweon'--'the Secret Garden.'

Once exclusively for the Royal family, today it's a favorite spot for local couples and foreign visitors alike. In the early 19th century, the Joseon dynasty kings built, in the middle of this wooded enclave, a 'country-villa,' (part of which you see below), as a rustic respite from the duties of governing. Even royalty needed an oasis from the fishbowl of the palace, it seems.

I spent an afternoon alone here, contmplating history and family...a few weeks later, it was a joy to show my wife, on her first visit to Korea, these lush grounds, strolling in the summer rain.
I took this doorway shot quickly; my Canon's battery had died,
and all I had was my iPhone...
Months later--flipping back through my phone's photos,
this scene was crying out for some tweaking:
a bit of cropping,
some tilt-shifting to get the focus through the doorway,
then converting to black and white,
and then 'warming up' the 'white balance' in the 'tune image' filter,
I got this semi-sepia scene:
...walk into the past...


And finally, tonight, a scene from what was home for us during the last year we lived in Seattle,
when we returned from living in Nicaragua. On an early autumn morning, this scene of Mt. Rainier looming over the fog, from our apartment balcony:
This was taken with the same Canon 5-megapixel point-and-shoot 
that took the original Guatemalan scene above. 
So--another 'snapseed-transplant:'
I didn't tweak this one too much--
just some cropping
and a little bit of 'tilt-and-shift'
so that the trees in the foreground would blur,
setting off the distant fog and mountain in clearer focus:
When "The Mountain is out," as Puget Sound residents say, everything else pales...
This glacier-covered volcanic giant presides over the entire landscape.
When the fog blankets the valleys, urban and suburban sprawl disappear--
enjoy the feeling of being alone with sky and mountain, 
on top of the world, even if only for a morning.

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