Unintended consequences


Being an appaholic means I download and check out a lot of apps. I am particularly entranced by photographic apps for the iPhone 4. I have settled on a few as default, or go-to, apps. That said, I am always on the lookout for apps that can expand my iPhone’s photographic capabilities.

As background, my love of photography goes back to the film days, and was developed with my good and faithful friend Elizabeth during our salad days at the U of S, she a BFA student, me a BSc. My approach to iPhoneography is very much informed by that experience. For instance, I have carried over several habits from the film-shooting days, one of which is a tendency to not look at my images until after I have completed a session. (Another is the use of “in-camera effects,” the idea that the best way to accomplish special effects is to do them in the camera as opposed to in the darkroom [because darkrooms are — or were — expensive and you wouldn’t always have access to one.])

Today, many errors of basic technique can be smoothed over in post processing, so my clinging to the in-camera effects will probably be considered “old school”. (I am about to knock down a strawman, here!) I disagree. I believe images should be processed as little a possible to be considered “art” in the photographic sense. Where, for instance, is the art in wiping a pseudo depth of field effect onto a snap shot?

My belief, for the moment anyway, is that the goal is to achieve the performance with an iPhone that could be achieved with a 35 mm film camera with a fixed-length lens, which boils down to focus, aperture and shutter control.

20120805-093832.jpg One app that I have been checking out is something called HDR Photo Camera, a camera app that captures “HDR” images. What, you may be asking yourself, are HDR images and why should I wish to capture them? HDR images, or High Dynamic Range images are images created digitally by combining several images of the same subject matter at different exposure settings to maximize contrast and dynamic range of midtones in each of the color channels. (Dynamic range refers to the absolute difference between the top value and the bottom value in a data set.)

Necessarily, these multiple exposure occur over a given stretch of time and then recombined, algorithmically, to produce the final image. Something implied, but not explicitly noted in any information about this process, is the requirement of subject matter that does not move over the course of the multiple exposures. I discovered this for myself, in this photograph. In this image, my intent was to evaluate how the app handled the subtle shading of the light falling off and, likewise, I was interested in how the app captured the white balance.

In the case of this image, I was amazed.

20120805-104721.jpgGhostly Doug. HDR Photo Camera image.

Doug’s Arm Detail. HDR Photo Camera Image.

When I zoomed in, I was even more amazed by the ghostly effect of the living versus the inanimate., as seen in this detail.

Which got me to thinking…


I was out on my bike a few days later, getting reacquainted with my city, taking pictures along the way in hope of getting inspiration for my blog. I was just riding, taking side streets as they looked interesting, with a general direction of the Christie Pitts in mind. I mention this to underscore how utterly random the next ∑∑location was… I had no idea such a place ever existed or that its remains were in such good repair.

I love type and the art of typography. The rise to ubiquity of inexpensive publishing systems has led to the near death of the beautiful typesetting of yesteryear. My surprise at finding this place led me to want to photographic it to share it with Christiane, my friend and colleague, the lead proofreader in our shop, who shares a passion for type. And then I remembered.

The following are HDR Photo Camera shots using three different lenses on my iPhone 4 with the Ōlloclip lens adapter. In these shots, everything is intentional and was captured in camera… no post processing outside of that done by HDR Photo Camera app to assembled its data files.

1. Regular iPhone 4 camera

2. Ōlloclip Fish Eye Lens20120805-112612.jpg

3. Ōlloclip Wide Angle Lens20120805-112758.jpg

All of which are a bit on the poignant side, in my opinion–the ghostly image of times gone by. A proper staging of the image would be to use an iconic vehicle of the era, the heydays of the mid-70’s to mid-80’s of the last century. This auto choice would more directly bring to mind the notion of things passing beyond their time frame. [Classic American muscle, the Challenger, the Judge; Camaro, Firebird or the Goat: imagery all the more poignant in the aftermath of the 2009 takeover.]

As they are, however, we get a more dismal, if ethereal, suggestion of the fleeting nature of human life in times of profound cultural and technological change, a suggestion menacingly underscored by the ages of the vehicles used: not of the period of the subject’s peak activity, but of the era after it would have been shut, but not of modern-day. [Simply put, the cars are OLD but not old ENOUGH.]

I hate it when I lapse into “art speak”.


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