Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mount Woolley with an iPhone

This past summer (2013),  I had an opportunity to hike to Woolley's Shoulder in the Canadian Rockies.  This hike was extremely challenging and even after months of training, I was completely drained by the time I got to the top.  The full story can be found in a previous posting.

On this trek, I found the physical demands were such that while underway, I just didn't want to dig my Nikon D800E out of my pack, mount a lens, setup a tripod, and then shoot.  Instead, I decided to enjoy the experience and capture a few memories with my iPhone.

On returning from the trek, I was anxious to look at the images captured from my D800E.  This was of course a trek that was driven entirely by my passion for photography.  Since I was very pleased with what I got from the Nikon, I only gave the images from my iPhone a quick glance.

It was only in the past week that I revisited some of these iPhone images and to my surprise, many of them were remarkably good.  Of course, they're not the same quality as a pro series camera and lens but it is quite impressive what a tiny little phone camera can achieve.  Image resolution and colour were good.  Dynamic range is not nearly as wide as a pro level camera so you'll notice that in scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, the highlights will tend to be blown out.

The iPhone's panoramic feature is surprisingly good.  I've included a few panoramas below.  The iPhone just makes shooting a panoramic so easy.

In today's camera crazed world, it seems that everyone is looking for a better camera.  The industry leads us to believe that a better camera will produce better images. While this is true, time and money are often better spent on learning rather than gear.  I'm sure there have been plenty of people that have spent a pile of money on a camera only to find that the images don't look much different than the ones they were getting with their previous camera.  Learning the craft and to use tools like Lightroom will have you cranking out better images than spending a few thousand on the next greatest camera.

If you have an iPhone in your pocket, you're already equipped with a pretty decent camera. Given decent lighting, an iPhone can produce images that will make you proud, and suitable for smaller 5x7 prints and sharing on the web.

The moral of the story is, you don't need thousands of dollars worth of gear to create compelling images.  Yes, if you want to print studio quality images, you will benefit from top notch gear, but if your goal is to produce decent images that capture the moment and are worthy of sharing on the web, the iPhone (and just about any compact camera today) will do a pretty good job.

All of the images below were shot with an iPhone 5.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

B&W vs Colour

I have had fellow photographers and enthusiasts ask, "for any image, how do you decide whether to render it in black and white or colour?".  The answer isn't always clear;  it's not black and white as they say!  Sometimes its subject matter and how I feel about the subject.  I will ask myself which better portrays the feeling of the moment.  Does colour add to the image?  Does it help tell a story or in the case of a portrait, does it help portray who a person is? And other times, it's more about lighting.  Soft, low contrast lighting tends to work better for colour images .. especially portraits whereas high contrast tends to work better for black and white.  It's always on a case by case basis but here's a few examples of black and white vs. colour, where each works very well for the respective shots, and the inverse would not.

For portraits where there is a lot of play in lighting, I generally prefer a black and white rendering.  Where there's soft even lighting, I generally find that colour will work better.  Of course with any of this, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Very directed lighting in this shot with a lot of fall off; high contrast.  Shot with window light, Leica M9 w/50 Summilux

And this shot, with incandescent lighting.  Very soft, low contrast front lighting.  Nikon D800E w/Nikkor 85 1.4G

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Frozen Swamp

On this 18th day of February, I head out to a nearby frozen swamp to get adjusted to a new pair of snowshoes.  Despite an adequate 30" platform, I sink to my knees in over 3ft of very soft snow.  The day is beautiful.  Though it's still -10c, the bright February sun offers a bit of warmth (perhaps only in my imagination) and makes for a crisp but enjoyable afternoon.  With my lightweight Sony A7R and a tiny Zeiss 50mm, I make yet another attempt to capture the feeling of this place.  I have been here before and shot it a few times, but the results were never to my liking.  This time I come closer than ever before. On past attempts I had ventured only to the perimeter of this frozen swamp.  This time, equipped with snowshoes, I venture deep into the swamp and find the images that I was looking for.  

A few of these are shared below in this post.

The late afternoon sun delicately highlights the sculpted snow surface.  As I compose this shot of a small plant poking through, I am drawn to my shadow and see a story unfolding in an image.

Surrounded by the frozen tree trunks of this swamp, I capture a 120 megapixel panoramic image that will print at over 50 inches wide.

This little scruff of plant creates a delicate symmetry that stops me in my tracks.  Poking through the deep snow, it catches the setting sun and casts its shadow alongside that of much larger trees. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow and more snow

It's been a good old fashioned winter with loads of snow and frigid temperatures, but when the storms stop, the fresh fallen snow makes for beautiful scenery, and on this day, I was able to capture a bit of it. As the late afternoon sun pushes through an opening in the clouds. this old barn lights up as though highlighted with studio lights and a contrasting backdrop.

Shot with the Sony A7R and Voigtlander 50mm, f1.5 at f11