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mobile photography

  • Mobile Photography Sites & Communities

    Here are a few of my favorite communities, sites, magazines in the mobile photography space I find showcase inspring work. They host fabulous photographic work, some showcase just as much writing or prose, and all of them offer up a ton of inspiration for beginners and veteran shooters alike. They are online and/or in print. Check them out and let me know what you think. If you've got recommendations, share! 

    Mobile Photo Network
    http://mobilephotonetwork.com

    Grryo.com
    http://grryo.com

    Shooter Magazine
    https://shootermag.wordpress.com

    Mobiography
    http://www.mobiography.net

  • Grryo.com Publishes Transversing Trails and Frontiers

    In July 2014, the collective of mobile photographers and artists at grryo.com published my essay and photo series, "Transversing Trails and Frontiers." See the text and photos by clicking through the image or here. Photos taken with iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 5 between 2013-14. 

    http://grryo.com/2014/07/transversing-trails-and-frontiers/

  • Photo Series and Essay Published by Kwerfeldein

    A short essay and photo series of mine has been published by German magazine Kwerfeldein. Thanks to the editing and writing staff for their work in putting together a superb translation from its original English to German. All photos taken between 2013-14 with iPhone 3Gs and 5.

    From the copy:  

    Über Pfade und Grenzen hinweg

    Vor etwas mehr als zwei Jahren begann ich, meine Zeit zwischen Seattle und dem ländlichen Pacific County, etwa 230 km südwestlich der Stadt, aufzuteilen. Der Landkreis ist einer der ältesten im Bundesstaat Washington. Die Gründung durch die Regierung des Gebiets Oregon geht zurück auf das Jahr 1851. Die Gegend erhält ihre Dramatik durch den Columbia River, der hier in den Pazifik mündet. To see and read the rest, visit:  http://kwerfeldein.de/2014/09/19/ueber-pfade-und-grenzen-hinweg/

  • iPhone Photography Workshop

    I'm teaching an iPhone photography workshop for Edmonds Community College's "ARTS NOW" in May. Seats are limited to 15. It's 6 hrs, spread across three 2-hour sessions and will be fun!

    Checkout the course description and sign up here: http://www.campusce.net/edmondsarts/course/course.aspx?C=424&pc=47&mc=55&sc

    The Wall

    Photo credit: "The Wall," Seattle 2014, with iPhone 5

  • My Images Are Me: Visual Language and Comfort

    My Images Are Me: Visual Language and Comfort

    I learned to speak English when I was about 5 years-old. My first language was Vietnamese, but life in the United States in the 1970s left little room for multicultural education or a bilingual one. My parents (American and Vietnamese) agreed that my mother would stop speaking Vietnamese to my brother and I when we started American elementary school. The decision was to protect us from linguistic discrimination, to eliminate as best we could a spoken accent so we could pursue opportunities in America. Quickly, I lost my first language and grew fluent in my second.

    I’ve made an education and a professional life in the field of English: composition and rhetoric, marketing, teaching. But it’s always a struggle, using English, trying to find the right word for the right meaning or correct usage. Sometimes my mind just goes blank–nothing comes up that will mean or say what I am thinking about. I have to ask others for those words.

    Before they’re on the page, before I can see them as a collection of letters–words, in their first life, are images. They are pictures floating in my mind: sharp and dull, changing and still, vivid and faded. My words are approximations, though, the best I can do but seldom exactly as I am. Words imitate and mime. They pretend to be images or ideas by comparison or remembrance, evocations of other stories, an approximation by association. I use metaphors a lot to explain ideas or feelings. It is how I actually see ideas–as pictures. Unlike words, my images are ideas, and they are real. They are mine and say most directly what I am thinking, say what I am feeling. I lose the struggling and straining when I photograph. When I take a photo, I don’t need a translator, as my words sometimes are.

    My images are me.

    Photo: "No Smoking," iPhone 3Gs, Sept. 2010

  • Geometry of Stories

    Geometry of Stories

    Everything goes away, and we fuss about it. How long will this be here before it goes? What comes next?

    Mornings and evenings. Beginnings and endings. They are what grab our attention, what we tend to remember, what we want to fill or extend.  Middles are a little more complex, a lot less tidy. Everything changes in the space between arrivals and departures. What fills the gaps between the two are the stories we live and tell–about how we move from starts to ends, what we find between, forces with and against us and within us, where we work the angles.

    A spattering of disparate moments, dots on this white page, scattered here and there, are the many middles of this life. Flashes, afterimages floating across the eye. One after the other, they make little sense. They bounce. Collapse causality, segue to coincidence, ride the serendipity of chance.

    It’s in this flux of scenes that fade in and out that I consider the plausibility of my life not being quite as chaotic or random as I had imagined, not senseless or obscure. Maybe these dots don’t arrange themselves into a level line; maybe I should stop trying to force their geometry. All my ends and beginnings are middles, and it’s okay. Our collections of middles make living round.

    Photo: Bow/Edison, Wash. iPhone 3Gs in 2011

  • Mirror

    Mirror

    Sometimes what comes back to me startles. It shakes me from deep within. Upends assumptions. Corrupts my absolutes. Shatters.

    I find sometimes the images I make are ones that might best conform to what I expect to encounter, what I anticipate seeing or what will be come (within a frame) a photograph. How do I see what I expect not to see? How do I begin to peel back the layers of my own influence upon the subject. What is possible and what is not possible? There is as much erasing in a photograph as preserving, a disappearing, perhaps of independence or autonomy. Maybe it’s ego that the photograph reveals — my own that is. Maybe that’s the shaking I feel when I look for the first time at what I thought I saw, grappling to recognize the forces within this exchange of looking and being looked at.

    As the image attracts, it does so, in the end, by attracting us to ourselves in a kind of mirror, our own not-quite-accurate reflection of ourselves that the photographic image projects and to which we reach, which pulls us. Maybe it’s a revelation that shatters, like the mythical Narcissus falling into the reflective pool of his own self-importance. We can, collapse–devastatingly–into what is, in the end, not reality or beauty or truth but an image.

  • What's in My Camera Bag?

    I’ve been sharing image/text stories on Backspaces, a social network with web and mobile presence. I like the ability to use more frames to tell a story and have the ability to  include (or not) text to accompany photographs. The largely minimal U.I. is easy to use, mostly intuitive, good-looking.  I also like the ability to easily explore other stories and share  links to them via other social networks. I appreciate the simple feature of being able to just copy the link, too, which is convenient when I’m on my mobile. In fact, the website’s splash screen has the ubiquitous “suggested users list,” but it also features the stories/images themselves. I love the way the work is showcased and not jut the user or creator. Backspaces isn’t a camera replacement app, so users can happily shoot/create as they like in the style or size they prefer. No filters, either, just a place to compose stories.


  • Work Flow for Monochrome iPhone Photos

    Work Flow for Monochrome iPhone Photos

    Processing a standard iPhone image into a pleasing monochrome photo involves a simple but powerful workflow as well as attention on getting the best possible image you can at the start.

    Capturing
    First, there’s the camera app. I seldom use Apple’s native camera. Instead, I use ProCamera to capture photos. It’s just about perfect: ability to select preferred ratios, independent exposure and focus with ability to lock each, burst mode, image stabilization, and so forth. The key to a good finished photo is taking the best possible image you can. No amount of editing can overcome a badly taken photo. Period.

    For people who do use Apple’s camera, and want to instantly improve their smartphone photo, tap on the screen to set focus and exposure beforesnapping the shutter. I know a lot of people who think that box on the screen is focusing or expos using their shot. It’s not; the box is for facial recognition. Also, when shooting in challenging, low-light situations, monochrome is far more forgiving than color.

    Second, shoot with the intention of converting to black and white or shoot with an app that captures in monochrome. I prefer Vint B&W MII, when I want to capture in monochrome or several of the Hipstamatic bw filters. Now, Vint BW also features the ability to import via the camera roll. Treating monochrome as an after-thought or a filter choice isn’t sufficient. Pay attention to form, structures, patterns, and always, the light. In photographing people, it’s their expressions that will come through, rather than apparel for example. Pay attention to gray tones, shadows, mood, etc. as you’re observing the scene.

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    Captured in ProCamera and post-processed with Vin B&W MII

    Editing
    I use 3 apps for processing: Film LabPhoto FX, and Snapseed. These apps have independent adjustments for their features, which is a must. Each does something very well that the other, in my opinion does not. I happen to prefer the look of film photography, so I’m less concerned with sharpness. That’s me. I like strong tonal contrast: inky blacks and bright whites most of the time. So, I my editing goal is to achieve my aesthetic “look.”

    I also take notes of what I choose, the degree of the settings, and more or less stick with these. The reason for this attention is I want to replicate the style. It can be disappointing to place your monochrome photos together and realize later that you haven’t a consistency in tones: some bluish, some brownish, and so forth. Repetition is a form of cohesion, helping photographers to achieve a a discernible style across a body of work.

    In Film Lab, I desaturate the image, stripping it of color and leaving a monochrome image. I  select one of many bw filters to apply. Then, I import into PhotoFX to fine tune and adjust tones. I’m trying to increase contrast most of the time, without blowing out or overly darkening any important information in the frame. In Snapseed, I adjust brightness, sometimes crop or level, and others depending if something is needed. Often, the image doesn’t go into Snapseed at all.

    It takes me about 5-10 minutes to edit. I’m less interested in post-editing work, so I try to keep what I do after image capture to a minimum. My interest as a photographer is in observation, composition, and framing.

    Sharing
    I’ve reduced my share spots to FlickrGoogle+EyeEm, and Facebook. I don’t always share the same photos in the same places. Of these, it’s mostly Flickr that gets all of the publicly shared images, both from mobile photography and other formats. Partly, this is because it serves as a kind of “off site” back up and also because its the engine for images on my blog.

    Let me know what your tips are for shooting/editing monochrome photos.

  • What's Up in 2014?

    Golden Gardens

    Photo:  Seattle's Golden Garden's Park on January 23, 2014, with iPhone 5

    Happy New Year! 

    The last half of 2013 was focused on reflection rather than starting new photography or writing projects. It was a planned retreat but one sprung from necessity. Moving forward for any lengthen of time, for me, tends to stir a compulsion to look back, be still, hunker down in quiet. 

    I spent a considerable amount of time photographing with my RIcoh GXR, a compact digital camera I've had for a few years, and some time not photographing much with my iPhone. I found that switching between the two wasn't helping me but leaving me with dissatisfaciton in both mediums. I renewed  interested in depth of field and lighting, as a result. The switch also temporarily moved me away from the speed and hurry of street photography, too, choosing instead to spend time with quiet still life. 

    In August and September 2013, I started a for-hire business for my photography that invites me to work with others to realize their creative visions. I've turned attention toward documenting clients' programs or activities as well as conducting portrait sittings for people and their beloved pets. These projects force me to step outside my aesthetic comfort zones to explore possiblities arising from communicating with others, stirring new possibilities that arise from collaboration.

    The new year brings new excitement and adventure, too. In the spring and summer of 2014, I'll teach my first local  mobile photography workshops. I'm a professional instructor of writing and literature, but this will be a first: to tackle the visual! I'm excited and looking forward to the spring workshop:

    "Shoot, Edit, and Share Great iPhone Photos"
    ArtsNow/ULearn Edmonds Community College
    6:30 pp-8:30 pm 
    May 27-June 10 (3 weekly session)
    Tuition: $75.00

  • What's in my Camera Bag?

    Camera replacement, filters, and editing apps tend to receive the attention in mobile art and photography space. In this round-up, though, I pulled together apps that have become just as important to me. They may fall under the category of “utilities.”  As much as possible, I want to work with my image files on my iPhone–not back and forth with my desktop.

    There are tons of such utilities, and I recommend asking around to see who uses what. Here are some I use fairly regularly.

    May 2013 in South Bend, WA, iPhone 5

    Apps: Hipstamatic, PicFrame. May 2013 in South Bend, WA, iPhone 5

    Reduce: to batch resize images and photos for iPhone and iPad. I use this daily to shrink images for posting to social networks. I like the independent controls, including jpeg quality and pixel size, as well as ability to strip EXIF data among others. I use to use SimpleResize, which has fewer controls and options but does the trick, too.

    PhotoSize: to reveal pixel dimensions of any image in the camera roll. Simple, limited in scope, and free. I find this very handy.

    PicFrame: to combine photos into collages or diptych, triptych and so forth. The app includes several image ratios and a bunch of pre-set frames as well as ability to add text, adjust styles, widths, etc. I use this app when I want to combine several photos into a “set” or collection. I also use Frame Artist, which has photo templates but features the ability to custom design frames.

    iZip: to help manage, compress, secure files.

  • Tips To Avoid Blurry iPhone Photos

    Here are a few tips for capturing photographic momentos that are clearer, sharper, and focused, when you’re using an Apple iPhone. I’m directing this post to informal but posed group shots–not candid or portrait work or anything serious.

    1. Slow down. It’s worth getting everyone you want to remember in the frame.
    2. Look at your light and move toward it if you need to. Most of the time, I try for side light or shade for the group shot, since I don’t like the iPhone’s flash for fill, and I don’t want all of my friends squinting into the camera on sunny days.
    3. Ask everyone to squeeze in closer together. Pull heads together, wrap arms around each other, whatever it takes, but get in close.
    4. Ask everyone to stay still as you take the photo. I sometimes say, “hold the pose.”
    5. Take a horizontal shot. I see all kinds of people holding their phones vertical. Often a horizontal shot is easier to frame, especially for these fun group shots, as your frame spreads out a bit.
    6. Hold your smart phone firmly but relaxed. Use whatever grip you like but make sure your finger isn’t covering the lens in the upper left corner and that you aren’t letting your forearms, wrists, etc., sway. Stabilize yourself against a wall, a table, someone else’s shoulder, a chair.
    7. Tap on the screen to focus and to expose for highlights or shadows. In the newer iOS, the box that appears in your frame isn’t focusing–it’s trying to recognize faces. I’ve had people tell me they assumed this was the focus. Nope. You can tap and drag to move the exposure/focus across the screen. I focus every shot I take myself, unless I’m using an app that just doesn’t have this feature at all.
    8. While shooting, do not move your arms or wrists toward the subject or back toward yourself as you take a photo. Keep your upper body and arms still.
    9. Look at the photo to ensure you have everyone in frame and focused. If not, do it again. Don’t just hand the phone back without checking.
    10. Think about post-processing to monochrome; it really is forgiving of bad light.
  • Head Space & Photo Walks

    Head Space & Photo Walks

    Thank you to everyone who came out for this past weekend’s ”Be Mobile: End of Summer Photo Walk” produced by We Are Juxt and KING TV5 in Seattle.

    The event drew about 100 people, which is my guess and a last minute change in weather from the morning’s clouds and sprinkles to the afternoon’s warmth and sun. It was  a perfect evening in lovely Olympic Sculpture Park with views of outdoor art, the dazzling Olympic Mountain range, sparkling blue Puget Sound, and what appeared to be at least 3 wedding parties taking advantage of the environment.

    I don’t have a chance to participate often in community photo walks. It seems I’m either out of town or madly trying to finish up a creative project on weekends, which is when most walks are scheduled.

    Photo walks are about community: let’s shoot photos together. These two things, photography and conversation, are challenging for me to do together. Shooting with multiple photographers is challenging. When a subject sees 4-5 people snapping away at an object (or at them) it alters the scene. The photographers become as interesting as the interesting moment, which is odd. I usually take photos alone, especially candid street photographs. I’m also an introvert, specifically an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs tes. I am naturally shy and quiet. I am especially so when I photograph and when I write, quiet that is. I’m in my head.

    So, I’ve learned being in my head and being on a photo walk are hard to do at the same time, like chewing gum and walking. The community aspect draws me out of my head-space, and sometimes that can be uncomfortable. But, I always have a good time meeting others who have a passion for what I do. Our conversations are jump-started in that respect, because there’s little translation required of the type sometimes necessary with others who aren’t as knocked out by walking slowly through the city taking photographs of what appears sometimes to be nothing all that special.

    In the digital era, there’s also excitement about meeting people I’ve perhaps only known via social networks or their photographs shared on-line. Shaking hands or hugging strangers who aren’t really strangers is a powerful feeling: familiarity and newness all wrapped up in one. What I like especially is looking through event tags after-the-fact to see how others captured the day on their cameras, whatever their cameras are. Same place, same objects–widely different photographs. The multiplicity of experience and perception is astounding, at least to me.

    So, here’s to making more room on my calendar and my head-space for community photo walks, pushing myself to develop as a photographer.

    Photo: “Untitled,” Seattle Sept 2013 with iPhone 5 at Olympic Sculpture Park
    originally posted Sept 10, 2013 

  • Street Photography

    Street Photography

    I am attracted to the improvisational aspects of street photography. I find different aspects rewarding,  not because of some false notion of preservation or accuracy, but because it makes so clear the subjectivity of the photographer toward her subject, the relationship between seeing and being seen, and the prominence of storytelling. This is true of found urban still life as well. If a camera is operated by a human being, then the camera (and the images it produces) are not, can not, be objective. As I’ve said before, the documentary photographer isn’t necessarily preserving her subjects; she’s preserving her perspective. She’s preserving herself.

    In my writing life, I compose poems and personal essays. This is also how I experience my photographic life: to collect stimuli in observation and compose some meaning to what assembles within the frame.  I like to work with few instruments (such as light, props, etc), and more with what I find (light, circumstances, weather, challenges).

    At its simpliest, street photography is about collecting observed, candid information (as detail) in public settings and composing them in a frame to communicate with others. Street photography is improvisational photography and reminds me a lot of jazz, particularly bebop. It’s finding a photo amongst the mundane moments and details of public life and making it come alive via composition and framing, and less, if any, post-editing and processing.

    My aim in exploring this genre is to practice relinquishing control. I have few elements other than myself and my camera. Light, space, even subjects: these are uncontrollable. Street photography is about problem solving, about figuring out what I’m going to do with what I find. It is also about human judgement and decision-making.

    At its core, street photography is about deciding when to take a photograph and when not to. It is about the spaces we find between who we are when we know others are looking, and who we are when we think no one is. It is about the pauses between action. It’s about the shadow the light casts as much as the light itself. It’s about mistakes that reveal insights. It’s about the beats of human life lived in public and the degree with which we are and are not in synch with one another. It is also about the backbeat, the off beat. If “all life is but a stage,” then perhaps street photography is about trying to find those moments when stage lights are dim.

    I do not necessarily think that fidelity of the image is the only or most important element in a fantastic street photograph. I am for expressionism, vision, mood, and emergence of energy between seer and seen that is mutually respectful, and hopefully, insightful. I am equally drawn to aesthetic value in the image. For me, the value and philosophy of what constitutes “beautiful” is both wide and deep, rather than narrow and prescriptive.

    No one is made more noble because of any candid photo I take of them; however, I can certainly make them less so with my  decisions, which are moral and ethical, as well as mechanical or aesthetic ones. Everything is not meant to be photographed. Some things must be left out of the frame for what is in the frame to make any impact at all. Details without a frame and composition? That’s life. And a photograph is not life.

    It’s for these reasons that I subscribe to the position that “truth” is subjective, multi-facited, complex, and unstable. A photograph’s meaning is dependent upon its context and its viewer (and his/her context). A multiplicity of subjectivity is likely to get me to closer to some sense of “truth” rather than a flawed certainty of “objectivity.” One’s use of “truth” can be a short-hand for other elements or values: accuracy, authenticity, meaningfulness. When, as a viewer, I say a photograph rings “true” to me, what do I mean? Do I recognize it is an accurate depiction? Do I mean the photographer has presented the scene with a degree of authenticity? Do I mean that I with the photograph established some degree of meaningfulness? I’m not trying to present a truth. I’m taking a photograph. Other judgements? Those are left to viewers.

    I love the poetry of street photography.

    Photo: "The Man with the Black Balloons," Seattle 2013, iPhone 5

  • Come As You Are

    Come As You Are

    We drove north along the Washington coast to a check out a  town recently featured in Sunset Magazine, Seabrook, which is advertised as a “new beach town,” by the Seabrook Land Development Company.

    Looking around, I was reminded of Disneyland’s Main Street or a Hollywood movie set, except without  fake facades, just cottages and houses that look like them. The development has its own store, trendy restaurant, playground, park, and rental cottages (for those less ready to commit the $299,000 to start vacation homes). The tiny lots and close-in proximity of neighbors are a striking contrast to the dramatic expanse of  landscape  outside: tall Douglas Firs, a roaring Pacific Ocean, rolling fields, wide skies that carry blustery weather in winter.

    I prefer the old, established, worn-around-the-edges town of Pacific Beach just 2 miles north, where everything is more run down, slow, dented and scratched. I wonder if the folks in the two towns mix, and something tells me they don’t. Gritty isn’t included in the amenities of Seabrook, as much as insularity from the local environment, its community, that surround the magical wonders of a McTown plopped on the Pacific Northwest Coast.

    As we returned to Seattle, I took the photo above driving through Hoquiam, a city in Grays Harbor County about 2.5 hours west from Seattle. Highway 101 to the Washington Coast passes through Hoquiam and its neighboring town, Aberdeen, on its way to the Pacific. The indigenous peoples of the area include Quinault, Humptulips, Wynoochee, and Chehalis Indian tribes. These are old places, built by logging and forestry. These are working towns with an earned patina surrounded by lush and expansive landscapes. Aberdeen was Curt Cobain’s hometown, and the sign that welcomes visitors now also reads: “Come As You Are.”

    The coastal communities, and those just inland, struggle, hanging on in much smaller scale to industries that thrived in the previous centuries: forestry and lumber, fishing. They have rich histories, quirky charms. Maybe it’s me? I’m nostalgic. For me a visit to the coast means clamming, crabbing, charter fishing, camping, dodging rain and wind, and camp fires: decidedly unglamorous and utterly Pacific Northwest. These communities could use a shot-in-the-arm and a boost in their economies from new generations of tourists, travelers, settlers — like the ones now being drawn to Seabrook, which looks a lot like some beach town, just not any on the Washington coast.

    Here’s to finding ways to strike a balance between growth and sustainability, something short of abandoning distinctions of place and culture for the comfort of conformity. To travel somewhere means also to journey from what one knows (and who one knows) to discover what else is out there, who else there is to know. What lays beyond the shore of our familiarities or the sea of our interiors?

    Photo: “Green Means Go,” Hoquiam, WA in August 2013 with iPhone 5