Grand Central panorama, Mar 2014 - 03
I was on my way to a business meeting in mid-town Manhattan this afternoon, and my journey took me through Grand Central terminal, out onto 42nd Street, and then south onto Park Avenue.
As I walked through the passageway from the main terminal of Grand Central to the exit on 42nd Street, I passed the huge open lobby area -- which is normally filled with rows of wooden benches, but which for some reason was stripped of all furnishings today, and virtually empty. Well ... almost empty, except for a few stubborn individuals who felt that they just had to invade this empty space.
So I stopped and pulled out my iPhone, and shot a handheld panorama shot. It's not as sharp as I'd like it to be --but hey! It was handheld, and indoors, and I figure I was pretty lucky to get it at all ...
In case you care, by the way, this is the eastern side of the lobby area -- i.e., facing in the general direction of the East River, and Long Island in the far distance. After shooting another panorama with a young woman walking through the lobby at the same time I took the picture, I wanted to get this "empty" shot just because ... well, just because. So there.
Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, it’s hard to walk around with a modern smartphone in your pocket, and not be tempted to use the built-in camera from time-to-time. Veteran photographers typically sneer at such behavior, and most will tell you that they can instantly recognize an iPhone photo, which they mentally reject as being unworthy of any serious attention.
After using many earlier models of smartphones over the past several years, I was inclined to agree; after all, I always (well, almost always) had a “real”camera in my pocket (or backpack or camera-bag), and it was always capable of taking a much better photographic image than the mediocre, grainy images shot with a camera-phone.
But still … there were a few occasions when I desperately wanted to capture some photo-worthy event taking place right in front of me, and inevitably it turned out to be the times when I did not have the “real” camera with me. Or I did have it, but it was buried somewhere in a bag, and I knew that the “event” would have disappeared by the time I found the “real" camera and turned it on. By contrast, the smart-phone was always in my pocket (along with my keys and my wallet, it’s one of the three things I consciously grab every time I walk out the door). And I often found that I could turn it on, point it at the photographic scene, and take the picture much faster than I could do the same thing with a “traditional” camera.
Meanwhile, smartphone cameras have gotten substantially better in the past few years, from a mechanical/hardware perspective; and the software “intelligence” controlling the camera has become amazingly sophisticated. It’s still not on the same level as a “professional” DSLR camera, but for a large majority of the “average” photographic situations we’re likely to encounter in the unplanned moments of our lives, it’s more and more likely to be “good enough.” The old adage of “the best camera is the one you have with you” is more and more relevant these days. For me, 90% of the success in taking a good photo is simply being in the right place at the right time, being aware that the “photo opportunity” is there, and having a camera — any camera — to take advantage of that opportunity. Only 10% of the time does it matter which camera I’m using, or what technical features I’ve managed to use.
And now, with the recent advent of the iPhone5s, there is one more improvement — which, as far as I can tell, simply does not exist in any of the “professional” cameras. You can take an unlimited number of “burst-mode” shots with the new iPhone, simply by keeping your finger on the shutter button; instead of being limited to just six (as a few of the DSLR cameras currently offer), you can take 10, 20, or even a hundred shots. And then — almost magically — the iPhone will show you which one or two of the large burst of photos was optimally sharp and clear. With a couple of clicks, you can then delete everything else, and retain only the very best one or two from the entire burst.
With that in mind, I’ve begun using my iPhone5s for more and more “everyday” photo situations out on the street. Since I’m typically photographing ordinary, mundane events, even the one or two “optimal” shots that the camera-phone retains might not be worth showing anyone else … so there is still a lot of pruning and editing to be done, and I’m lucky if 10% of those “optimal” shots are good enough to justify uploading to Flickr and sharing with the rest of the world. Still, it’s an enormous benefit to know that my editing work can begin with photos that are more-or-less “technically” adequate, and that I don’t have to waste even a second reviewing dozens of technically-mediocre shots that are fuzzy, or blurred.
Oh, yeah, one other minor benefit of the iPhone5s (and presumably most other current brands of smartphone): it automatically geotags every photo and video, without any special effort on the photographer’s part. Only one of my other big, fat cameras (the Sony Alpha SLT A65) has that feature, and I’ve noticed that almost none of the “new” mirrorless cameras have got a built-in GPS thingy that will perform the geotagging...
I’ve had my iPhone5s for a couple of months now, but I’ve only been using the “burst-mode” photography feature aggressively for the past couple of weeks. As a result, the initial batch of photos that I’m uploading are all taken in the greater-NYC area. But as time goes on, and as my normal travel routine takes me to other parts of the world, I hope to add more and more “everyday” scenes in cities that I might not have the opportunity to photograph in a “serious” way.