Ohhh iPhone…How I Love Thee

Anyone who has read my various postings already knows I’m not right in the head. I’m “special” as my colleagues across the pond might say. I have a variety of hang-ups about photography, my abilities as related to photography, and in particular of the creative process that can be explored via software.

So why is it I love my iPhone and its camera?

Let’s be honest: as a camera it is mediocre at best. Granted, the 3GS model does bring larger sized images than did the 3G model, but I’m not certain there was any appreciable increase in the quality of the images. I could list all the flaws in the camera built in to this device, but what would be the point? Describing it as “mediocre” probably sums it up well enough.

Yet I find it completely irrelevant. I love using it. I love snapping pictures anytime and anywhere. This does not come as a surprise as I have often noted how much more I love being actually behind the camera as opposed to in front of the computer monitor, labouring with the process of editing, etc. And so I snap, and snap and snap every single day. Some I simply share via e-mail with family and/or friends, while other images are simply for my enjoyment.

But I have also found a strong and pleasant feeling that comes with playing around with my images via the numerous photo editing apps I have downloaded and installed on my iPhone. At this moment in time I have five different apps, each of which is solely dedicated to editing the images I take with my iPhone. I actually have a few other image-related apps, but they aren’t related to actually editing images.

Anyway….

I enjoy messing around with these apps in ways I have yet to be excited by the likes of Photoshop Elements. And I find this weird. Elements is such a powerful piece of software with the capabilities and abilities to do so many things, yet I have not embraced them. No doubt this is due, in no small part, to my lack of creativity. When I see my images I do not ‘see’ what I might do with them other than to correct exposure, add some contrast, etc.

Yet, I look quite forward to massaging my iPhone images through any of the various apps I have installed, preferring Photogene and Best Camera the most thus far. Why? Maybe it’s because I can do this…

I have been pondering this question for the past few weeks after I noticed how much I enjoyed working with my images on my phone. About the only reason I can offer is that these apps are really pretty basic and don’t actually require me to be creative, but instead to simply be satisfied with the results.

Most of the apps installed offer preset effects which are applied to your image. Best Camera ups the ante by allowing the user to layer more than one effect, which I’ve made use of one more than one occasion. Perhaps it is this simplicity, this “Don’t worry your head about it Forkie….we’ll suss it all for ya,” that I like, prefer and need?

Whatever is the reasoning, the opening splash screen for the Best Camera app states “The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You,” and they are spot on. I may love my 40D and Rebel XTi (400D), and I may lust for the Canon 7D, but I’ll be damned if my iPhone really isn’t the best camera sometimes…because it’s always with me in ways the others cannot.

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Really? Has It Been A Month?

Where does the time go, eh?

But I guess it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I haven’t been posting to this blog about photography when I haven’t really been taking pictures. But that isn’t completely true. I actually have a pretty large catalogue of unprocessed/edited photos sitting on my computer. I have the intent to boot-up the machine and sit down and go through them all, etc., but I just don’t seem to make it to the chair. I wish I understood why the trepidation. But for now I refuse to get too worked up about it. I figure that like many of my creative moments in life it will come to me when it comes to me and there is no point in pushing it upon myself.

That or I’m simply a lazy sod.

I think I’ll go with lazy sod.

But all this laziness doesn’t mean I haven’t been something of a shutter bug. Please note:

Charleston Falls

I have found myself making no small use of my somewhat recently acquired iPhone and its camera. My previous mobile blowers also had cameras, but neither (the Motorola RAZR and Palm Centro) were of any particular use for taking pictures that one might wish to share in a forum such as the Internet. But the iPhone does a pretty reasonable job all things considered. And there is a wealth of iPhone apps dedicated to photo editing and I have downloaded a fistful and make good use of each on almost a daily basis. The above picture was captured with the iPhone while I was hiking and then edited using an app named Camera Bag.

A worthwhile moment to mention here, on WordPress, is that I both entered a local photography contest and walked away with second place within the category I entered. I haven’t entered an actual contest until this one popped up so I’m quite surprised and excited that I actually won something! The contest was via Woodland Cemetery in Dayton and winners were announced last weekend on the 11th. I had entered this picture:

Winning Picture

It is actually a Photoshop Elements processed picture I took back in February (I think). It’s one of the first pictures I ever fiddled with in Elements, but oddly enough and as much as I liked it, I never posted it to Flickr. Probably part of being a lazy sod, you know? But still….second place. Awesome.

Here is a picture of me, looking rather rumbled and weird, next to my winning entry:
Contest Winner

After the winners were announced it became known to me that the cemetery was offering one of those walk-about type things where a guided tour is provided of some of the more important or interesting characters buried within the cemetery. At each of the graves of said folks there is an actor/actress who talks about the person as if they were the dearly deceased. Since I was already there I opted to stick around and take the tour, which lasted about two hours. During this time I snapped some pics with my handy Canon Rebel/400, but also clicked away here and there with the iPhone, thus obtaining this picture:

Cemetery Walk

It is actually a crop of the original (I removed the others on the tour) and I know…I know…he really should be in the left of the picture for a better sense of balance, but this was all done on the fly and from within the crowd of folks. The wasn’t a whole lot of time for getting the best angle, etc. so I’m lucky to have what I have. I made use of the iPhone app Photogene to perform the crop and conversion to something akin to sepia. I’m pleased enough with the results considering all things.

Lastly, the other day I was going through some pictures my cousin had uploaded to Facebook of a day trip she and her son took to some park near where they live. Some of the pictures were taken around the shoreline of a small lake and included lily pads. Lily pads always remind me of Monet, which always reminds me of the work of Impressionists. Wheels slowing clicking I emailed my cousin and asked for a full-sized copy of a particular picture, which included my nephew on a dock, laying, while playing with some of the lily pads in the water. Opened in Photoshop Elements (cuz I don’t have the grown-up version of Photoshop) I played around with it all morning to create an Impressionistic version of the image with the end result being thus:

Noel Upload

I actually created two versions and I still haven’t decided which one I prefer, but it was a somewhat fun way to spend a few hours this morning. I say “somewhat fun” because I really didn’t obtain quite the result for which I was looking. Both versions are close, but not quite there and I eventually grew both tired and a bit aggravated as my hoped-for results were alluding me. This might explain why I don’t particularly care to do this sort of photo editing, you know?

Fear and loathing in Adobe…

It feels as if it has been an age since I posted anything to this WordPress blog. I guess it has been seeing how I usually post every week and yet have only posted twice since 18 March (some 25 days ago). But it’s not my fault….really. Events have conspired against me. Truly. My little side job requires that I finish off the bits and pieces I have before I take my work back to my client in about 10 days. The daughter and her emergency appendectomy. Waiting for the new photo-editing software to arrive. Waiting to find the courage to install said software. Yep. Courage to install software. Sounds pretty lame doesn’t it? Well suck on this for a minute before I explain…

daffodils-at-home

I have discussed this before, but it begs for repeating: I’m afraid of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Believe me…no one is more surprised than I. I’ve always been one to jump head-first into new software. Always anxious to grab it by the neck and throttle it for all it’s worth. But for some reason I have been experiencing this incredible sense of trepidation when it comes to both Lightroom and Elements.

I’ve been using other photo editing software in the likes of Phase One’s Capture One 4 which I received for free with the purchase of a high end media card. It really is a nice bit of software: resource light, intuitive (for the most part), covers the basics well, and has an user’s guide one could read in an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Lightroom? The first hint it might be a powerful programme is one looks at the retail price of USD300. The second hint is the pdf of the user’s guide, which weighs in at 175 pages. The third hint can be found at the Adobe website, where one can find what seems like a million or more web pages dedicated just to using Lightroom. Yet, why should this cause me any hesitancy? I’ve used other applications that have large user’s guides and the like, but for whatever reason, this is different.

father-daughter

And then there is Elements! At least Lightroom only took a minute or two to install on the new iMac. Elements took something akin to ten minutes! And talk about intimidating! Over 300 pages can be found stuffed into the user’s guide. THREE HUNDRED! And, of course, there are tonnes of pages dedicated to Elements on the Adobe site, etc.

In a way I think part of the problem is that I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, one can open the user’s guide pdf and start plowing through, but that is, unfortunately, boring. Capture One 4 was so light and basic in comparison that it was difficult to go wrong. And even though one can fix “wrong” with Lightroom or Elements, it just feels far more intimidating to begin with.

Regardless, I finally took the plunge and installed both applications to the new iMac. I also took the liberty of watching a fistful of introductory videos on the Adobe site in relation to Lightroom. Just the first few so that I would have a clearer idea of how to import, catalogue, and develop pictures so that I could clear my camera’s media card and get some shit uploaded to Flickr.

mallard

So my first experience with Lightroom went reasonably well. Everything imported just fine. I was able to make the changes I wished without too much difficulty or fussing about. I was even able to make use of the Graduated Filter feature without much difficulty….at least on two images. A third one never worked correctly and so I abandoned the effect. Oh well. On the whole I will consider this to have been a reasonable success what with me just dabbing my toes into the waters of Lightroom. So to speak.

stamen-up-close

But now comes the really hard part…integrating pictures into Elements and getting creative!

I’m so fucked.

“Not to shabby,” he mused to himself

Odd.

No. Really.

I used to love to be in front of the camera. Never one to shy away I actually volunteered to be a model for photography classes at my local junior college when I was about 21 or 22 years old. I also volunteered to be a model for a local hair salon about the same time period.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not claiming that I was a model or anything close to it, but I liked to be photographed and I was rather unusual looking in that Peter Murphy of the 1980’s manner. But today I have little to no desire to be in front of the camera, which is bit of a pisser considering the potential for self-portraiture. However, I had been tagged on Flickr for one of those “16-things about you” and the tag indicated that I needed to include a photo of myself.

Well shit.

No one around here actually takes photos of me, which is odd considering the number of cameras in this house is seven. If anyone ever pulled out a “family” photo album they would swear that I never existed at all. But this is beside the point……

So I needed a photo. To be frank I really didn’t feel like turning this into some sort of major project and I wanted to get this little project done ASAP. Sitting here at the kitchen table I pondered to myself “Now what?” And then it struck me: take a picture of yourself right here, at the table, in front of the laptop upon which you have been for the past hour or so. And so I did.

Moi 16-things

Having taken and processed the picture into a JPEG I was about to upload it to Flickr and complete my 16-things thing when I was struck by how much I liked it. Wait. That’s not completely accurate. I took a fistful of pictures, if you will, and settled upon this one as my fav. It was then that I processed and converted, etc. The more I looked at the image the more I liked it. However, the more I looked at and enjoyed it, the more I realized that I wanted to do something to it.

“Do something with it? Like with software? Me?” Perish the thought.

But I did. I didn’t feel compelled to fool around with Photoshop Elements, but instead turned to my fav shareware app, Paint.Net. I duplicated the background layer and started messing around with some of the settings until I settled upon the general look you see here. But there was one thing that I did not like about the image after I processed it with Paint.Net: my eyes.

In my original photo my eyes stood out; just a bit. I do have some nicely coloured eyes. Sort of an icy blue. But in my processed version the colour was washed out. To bring back that particular component of the picture I used the erasure tool and ‘erased’ the duplicate layer over my eyes and suddenly all was right with the world.

I don’t really know how important it was for me to jump on this 16-things about me challenge, but I’m so very glad I opted to reply (for more than this reason though). It forced me to do something I really didn’t want to do, but found that it can have results that are far better than I expected. I may have to try this sort of thing more often.

Pointing and Shooting Isn’t all Bad

I have noticed that in the past few weeks I have been pulling out the trusty and handy Canon A630 point-n-shoot digital camera more and more often. Sure, the weather outside is unpleasant so I’m not out there shooting with the big ol Canon 40D, but I haven’t felt as compelled of late to drag out the 40D for taking pics around the house. It really is quite a chore to drag out the huge bag from the closet, affix a lens, monkey with the controls, etc. While the A630 doesn’t take as nice pictures (from a completely technical perspective I mean) and its flash is not particularly useful for doing anything other than over-saturating any given image (even if I do step it down some), it is nice for quick and simple images. And seeing how I am a simple-minded individual it would seem like a marriage made in heaven….or wherever good marriages are made when one is an atheist.

Squints in Repose

Shooting with the A630 reminds me of how very good is some software out there. I mostly use a freeware application called Paint.net for working with JPEG images that come off my A630. It is quite robust and has been very, very reliable; not a bug yet for me. In my opinion it is a slightly detuned version of Photoshop Elements, but isn’t missing anything that I need. On the contrary, it is far less burdensome on my computer’s resources and responds quicker to changes that I make. And it’s free. What more could one ask for. (you will have to install the Net.frame components from Microsoft to make this software run, but that’s no big deal anyway)

Little One

As much as I like my little Canon A630 (I also used to have the Canon A95, but I donated that to a pet adoption agency when their digital camera bit the dust), I confess that I have been considering purchasing a new point-n-shoot type model. My requirements aren’t great and I’m not looking to spend a chunk of change. The A630 has full manual controls, which is one thing I wish to continue with, but I’d like a p&s that responds faster, no, much faster to the pressing of the shutter release button. My single biggest complaint is that the camera takes too long to snap a picture and I can’t tell you how many I’ve missed (particularly of the dogs and cats) due to this shutter lag issue. And having RAW capability might be nice too, but I think that it would likely be an unnecessary additional expense for what are my intentions and core needs. But it is something to ponder. Canon G9 anyone? 😉

Happy Bug

You Didn’t Ask For It, But Your Getting It Anyway!

So last night I stayed up a bit later than I had originally planned because I had become slightly obsessed with the notion of playing with some software and doing something new and different. No. Not ‘new and different’ as in no one had ever done it before, but ‘new and different’ for me. Which means short of anything other than tweaking the pic it would be new and different.

So that I wouldn’t forget the new high I had gotten smokin’ that photo-editing software, I took a quick trip through my posted images on Flickr and looked for a few that I thought might do well with the same trick as I had done the night before. I found a few and check ’em out!

Andy Warhol Gas Pumps

Brilliant Butterfly

I’m actually very, very happy (and proud) of both these images. I think I picked the best pics possible for this treatment. And they are pretty much stock images (I worked from the actual uploaded JPEG files on Flickr) as I only increased the saturation for the butterfly to really make him stand out and left the gas pumps alone.

The funny thing is that while I was looking through my pictures I was thinking about the sorts of issues that I was discussing in my other entry from yesterday. I was considering what would be the impact of my actions with the photo-editing software and trying to ‘see’ it and then decide whether or not I thought it would fly as an image. Drat. I’m on the road to artist, aren’t I? I’ve sold my soul and it’s all over. Oh well.

Also, I gave the simpler b&w only treatment to a picture of the daughter, as seen here:

Bug in b&w.jpg

and I feel that this one didn’t work. Or didn’t work as well as I had hoped and/or expected. In other words: my vision and output didn’t match. So the question is, “What did I do wrong?” To that end I have placed this picture in a special Set titled Your Assistance Please on my Flickr site. Like a fellow photography enthusiast I know, I opted to create this set for pictures I wish folks to offer some help and/or guidance. So if you have any ideas or thought, please feel free to comment as such as I’m looking for opinions.

The gods of Flickr have not taken to my burnt offerings and have smited me

If you are a regular reader of this tome you have likely noticed a tendency for your humble narrator to see the world in the glass-is-half-empty manner.  It’s true.  I won’t try to deny it.  I won’t even try to defend it.  It is the way my poor brain works.  And while there certainly are factors and reasons that may go a long way to explaining why I’m like this, WordPress isn’t the forum for such discussion.  Well….at least not this particular WordPress blog.

That said, my last blog entry (found here, which you had better read because if you don’t you’ll grow hair in strange new places that you won’t like one little bit) was more on the upbeat side than usual due to some good things happening with a foray into using some RAW image file editing software.  However, there were some pictures (of flowers) that I could not get to look right in the software I was using that evening.  While I have RAW image editing software liberally sprinkled between my PC and laptop, I do not have my heaviest hitter on the laptop, but only on the PC.  And as I was working on the laptop….well….you get the picture.

Today I took those more troublesome image files of the flowers to the PC and opened the monolith that is, and please do not laugh, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.  I know……I know…..’heavier hitter’?  Elements 6?  Hey.  It was affordable and does a lot of nifty things and who was I to purchase Lightroom until I was certain I could make full use of it?

The upside to my relocation to the PC and the more competent and capable Elements 6 (from the laptop’s Capture One software, which I really, really like – don’t get me wrong – it does a really good job at the more basic and necessary RAW image editing stuff) was that I actually managed to wrangle the images into what they needed to be!  Nothing really over the top mind you.  Strong reds and purples seem to overwhelm the camera’s sensor and become to harsh looking; unnatural.  I needed a way to reduce the vibrancy of the red and purples without butchering the colours, saturation and vibrancy of the rest of the colours in the image.  In the end I obtained the results I wanted and even figured out how to use Elements 6 to create a JPEG version of the image in the size I use for upload to Flickr.

Double happiness all round.  It’s all sunshine and bunnies from this day forward!  Can you feel the love in the air?

But see….the story isn’t complete, is it?  Nope.  For now I have these lovely web-ready JPEGs all set for upload to Flickr.  And it is here that the cosmos strike with its usual vengeance, just to show me that sunshine and bunnies can easily turn into thunderstorms and that rabbit from Monty Python’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.  Or something close to it.

Feeling emboldened, smug and secure in my new-found abilities with Elements 6 I activate my just updated to version 3.0 Mozilla Firefox web browser and steer the mighty Forkboy ship towards Flickr.com.  I sign in, select to upload images, select the four images from my computer’s hard drive and then click upon the magic icon that will begin the upload……only to find nothing happens.  Nothing transpires.  Nothing occurs.

After about 60-seconds the little line that races across the screen to inform me that a file is uploading actually races across the screen, but instead of the lovely, lovely checkmark appearing I instead receive an angry little yellow triangle thingy with an exclamation point within its confines.  Sort of Flickr’s way of giving me the middle finger.  Or, for you folks across the pond, the ol pumping v-sign.

I retry the process to no avail.  I sign out of and back into Flickr, but again it’s the angry little yellow triangle thingy of hate and malice.  I once again sign out of Flickr and head off into the world of the Internet for a few minutes just to return to Flickr and yet again begin the process of trying to upload these most gorgeous images of flowers that took me no small amount of time to render into useable images for uploading to the web.  But it’s no dice folks.  The gods of Flickr have not taken to my burnt offerings and have smited me. (As a side note, my original title for this posting was “It’s all sunshine and bunnies,” but after I typed that last sentence I just burst out laughing thinking it one of the funnier things I have written in some time.  So I changed the title.  So sue me.)

So what is a guy to do under these circumstances?  Shrug it off as ‘one of those things’ and try again in a few hours, or maybe tomorrow?  No.  Not this time.  Flickr gods be damned.  I’m in the right and I have the power and glory of those four gorgeous flowers behind me.  We’re going to get these four fucking pictures uploaded if it’s the last thing I ever do!

Long story short:  downloaded and installed the Flickr uploader.  Used it.  It worked, but with a minor glitch: it rendered my description twice for each image uploaded.  But it worked.  I had thwarted the angry gods of Flickr and used their own software to bring them to their knees….or whatever it is they have.

So I sit here calmly at my PC, typing up this blog, with a pleasant smile on my face, knowing that I had triumphed more than once today and that it is…..really…..all sunshine and bunnies.