Welcome to the Essential Light Photography Blog By Jim Sabiston

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sidewalk Processing

Technology manifests itself in some interesting and often unexpected ways. For example, you can now do photo processing on the go. I don't mean in the sense of having your notebook computer in the field with you, ready to process your latest and greatest DSLR image. I'm talking one handed, in the street right on your phone as you take the shot. Crazy.

In my prior blog post I went on about having fun with some of the new iPhone camera apps. Well, frankly, I underestimated just how much fun these little programs could be, particularly the odd little Hipstamatic app. It's actually gotten to the point where I haven't taken my little Leica out since I bought the Hipstamatic app and started using it. I even find myself using it alongside my big DSLR 'just for kicks' when doing a serious photo shoot. This happened just this past Sunday during a pre-dawn shoot on a fairly inaccessible bit of beach near my home. I was doing long 15 to 30 second exposures of an abandoned and badly deteriorated bulkhead just off the shoreline in the bay. Behind me was a very large expanse of salt marsh. The DSLR was firmly ensconced on my tripod as I worked through a series of exposures on specific parts of the bulkhead. Suddenly I heard a honking of geese behind me and turning, spotted a large flock coming across the marsh in my direction. I took a quick glance at the DSLR, tripod, long telephoto and all and quickly realized there was no way I was breaking the setup down and getting the camera on target in the very few seconds available. So I went for the iPhone mounted on my belt clip and keyed up the Hipstamatic app just as the geese came in range. I panned and caught six frames as they went buy. True to form, the app captured some nice atmospheric images of the flock of geese in flight over the bay.
(click on image to enlarge)         Geese in Flight
One of the drivers here, as mentioned in the earlier post, is the serendipitous nature of the results that the software delivers. Each image is a surprise and my curiousity simply gets the best of me. I'm pretty sure of the image that will come out of the DSLR, after all, that is what having all that control is about. I can never be certain of what the iPhone camera will deliver via the Hipstamatic app. The result is that after I finish my main shots with the pro gear, I find myself pulling out the iPhone to see what it delivers - click, click, click. Oh, cool!
(click on image to enlarge)          Life in Motion - Jamaica Station
As seen in the story above, one of the great advantages of the iPhone camera is that it lives right on my belt clip. It is always right there, a quick reach and snap and I'm taking pictures. I put the app icon right on the main screen for quick access and on a couple of occasions have had the app loaded and ready to go on power-up. I can go from belt clip to shooting in just a few seconds. Even the Leica requires that I remove my pack, pull the camera out and then remove the lens cap, then switch the camera on, all before composing the image and all of which takes considerably longer than the iPhone. The result is that the iPhone gets used more and more because it is so easy and accessible.

The only down side is that the quality of the image files is extremely limited. A so-so camera coupled with heavy jpeg compression will only get you so far. I would love to see, at minimum, RAW capability added to the iPhone to avoid the biggest issue, and maybe a much better camera on future iterations of the iPhone, which excels on so many other fronts.

But I digress.

I have discovered that all the iPhone camera apps save the image files in the Camera Roll directory. Easy enough. I have also discovered that the Camera Genius app can access any jpeg file in the Camera Roll directory. This means I can use the Camera Genius App to edit/process any jpeg taken with any of the other camera apps on the iPhone, including the Hipstamatic. Just to see if it would work, I even emailed myself a large jpeg image and saved it on the iPhone. The Camera Genius even worked in this larger file, although it was no rocket. This opens yet more creative possibilities! If a Hipstamatic image is a bit 'off' for one reason or another, say contrast, I just open it up in Camera Genius and adjust it accordingly.
(click on image to enlarge)           Gotham Perspective
I have found myself walking down the sidewalk, snapping a quick shot with Hipstamatic, checking it out and deciding that "the 'Lomography' preset in Camera Genius is just what the image needs to really be cool, and that standard border treatment is getting pretty old hat - one of the borders from Camera Genius would really spruce this up a bit." I'm doing the processing while walking to work and I've done this on several occasions already. But I've become deeply concerned.

I'm worried that somewhere on a Manhattan sidewalk there is a sign post with my name on it. I can really see myself so wrapped up in an image that I walk right into a post or, worse, out into Manhattan traffic. This, as they say, could be very bad for one's health. I think I'm in trouble here. Has anyone trademarked the 'Roadkill Photography' name yet?