Sunday, June 23, 2013

"are smartphones killing memories?"...seeing like Monet?...and Arch views

Perhaps you've seen this piece, from a couple of days ago on the BBC:

If you're interested in mobile photography at all, whether as a part-time hobby or as an addictive avocation, these seven minutes are worth your time.

I've been thinking about this for while now, even before I dove into the iPhone-world...

There is so much to be said (ad nauseam) for 'being in the moment'...and yet so much to be gained from being able to document the day-to-day with such ease...

Perhaps you've heard the expression from Wordsworth--yes, the 18th-19th-c. poet, who spoke of the 'inward eye, the bliss of solitude'...the power of visual memories...

Does constant photographing enhance or diminish our capacity to truly look and remember, to learn how to see? There's the 'professional seeing' that photographers learn...but then there's the purely personal gaze--for one's own enjoyment and thoughts...With the constant distraction of documenting and (over)sharing, are we remembering what we lose when we only think we're gaining? Is our 'inward eye' morphing into a 3- or 4-inch screen we hold in the palm of our hands? When there's only the 'joy' of sharing on social networks, is there any room for the 'bliss of solitude?'

In our world of constant snapshots, we need to remember how to gaze purposefully, not just fleetingly.

Then again, I think of the photographers and artists who are using the medium of smartphone-cameras as a way to visually meditate, to freeze their deep gazes...or to keep them alive...

I'm reminded of the series of paintings that Monet created--the façades of the Rouen Cathedral, and the water lilies at Giverny. Those have become so well-known, clichéd even--but how many people today are able to look at one scene so deeply, over and over again? Obsession is a word that might be used, yes, but not gratuitous...

A couple of years ago, I went to St. Louis for a work conference. It was just a few days, but I had the mornings and late afternoons to myself--I found myself going for runs in the park along the Mississippi River, beneath the Gateway Arch. It's such an incredible structure--despite its visual familiarity, its audacity of form is just amazing--standing underneath its deceptive simplicity--no photograph can translate its scale...
...I did take a few photos, though, with my iPhone...

Recently, I've been going back to those scenes; as I've become more familiar and more comfortable with different photo-apps, I've been wanting to play with them--looking back and seeing the geometry and scale of the Arch and trying to, well, 'translate' the structure in different ways. Call it an obsession, if you want. But Monet's way of seeing--and I'm not trying to compare my edits to his work--but just trying to learn from how he saw...and how, even without brush, palette, and canvas, one can still learn how to see...and how the smartphone-camera can be involved...

(apps used, in addition to snapseed--picframe, scratchcam, laminar, distressedfx)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Bici en el Barrio Viejo" in this week's "Apps Uncovered"

This past spring, I went on a photo-walk in Tucson's Barrio Viejo...
...and one of the scenes from that day is featured in this week's "Apps Uncovered" by

"Bici en el Barrio Viejo, Tucson"

Backstory/Apps Used: Just south of downtown Tucson, the architectural soul of the city--
Sonoran adobe rowhouses from the 19th-c., unique in the U.S. 
(iPhone5, snapseed, iwatermark)

It's an honor to have this photo in this week's showcase; there is some amazing work in this week's selections!

The "Apps Uncovered" series is such a good place to learn from--the 'backstory' for each image gives you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look into the 'toolbox' the photographer/artist used.

For this particular image, as you can see, the only app I used was snapseed. (iWatermark is just used for my 'signature' in the corner.) I used the crop-tool to make the scene into a square, and then the 'drama' filter allowed me to bring out the texture of the wall. I used the 'center focus' tool just very lightly for a slight vignette. 

New apps keep coming out every week, but snapseed remains my 'go-to' app--even when I use others for different effects, I usually begin and end the process with snapseed.

Sunday, June 9, 2013 iPhoneography Central's "Apps Uncovered"

Last week, published the recent installment in their "Apps Uncovered" series...and I'm honored to have two of my 'snapseeded' photos included:

"Red Doors, Sokcho"

Backstory/Apps Used: --like stepping back in time, this seaside district of Sokcho, S.Korea; a relic of the Korean War--the houses of N.Korean refugees and their descendants in the "Abai village" neighborhood (snapseed & colorsplash apps used; this photo among the "Honorable Mentions" in this year's Mobile Photo Awards)

     For "Red doors, Sokcho"--I took this with an iPhone4 a couple of summers ago. Not far from the location of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, Sokcho, South Korea has a frontier-feel. (The setting is gorgeous--between mountains and the sea, but lax zoning laws have led to haphazard construction.) The neighborhood where I saw this streetscape is a relic of the Korean War--on a spit of land between a lagoon and the sea, refugees from what would become North Korea built makeshift dwellings, thinking these would be just for the short-term... When the DMZ was drawn in 1953, they found themselves stranded, and this neighborhood has now been home to a several generations of these N. Korean descendants. It feels like a different world from the wifi-and-caffeinated frenzy of Seoul. I used snapseed and the ColorSplash apps for this scene. ColorSplash allowed me to isolate the red doors and shirt stripes, converting the rest of the scene into greyscale. Then I used snapseed's 'tilt-shift' filter and the 'white balance' option found among the 'tune image' options. Combining the 'hyper'-sepia tone and the red accents reminded me of the traditional color scheme used in many older Korean scroll-paintings.

"Bear Canyon, evening"

Backstory/Apps Used: I took the photo with my iPhone5 a few months ago while on a trail-run in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the edge of Tucson, Arizona. Winter evening light is just gorgeous in the desert. I used snapseed to convert the shot into a black-and-white scene, then used ''white balance' in the 'tune image' to warm up the scene. I also used the 'drama' filter to play with the contrast. The 'tilt-shift' filter in snapseed and then the "BigLens" app allowed me to smoothen out the sky.