Note: this photo was published in a Mar 11, 2014 blog titled "古いiPhoneの体感速度がiOS 7.1になるとアップすることが判明."
Unlike most of my other iPhone photos thus far, this one was not taken anywhere in New York City. Instead, it was taken in the Costa Rica airport (near the city of Liberia, if it matters to you), while waiting a few hours for our delayed flight back to New York City.
Interestingly, I had one of my other cameras (the pocket-sized Sony RX-100 MkII) with me, and I was wandering around the terminal area, taking dozens of photos of bored, restless passengers as they waited (FWIW, a subset of those photos have also been uploaded to Flickr, but they're restricted to "friends and family"; if you would like an "invitation" to see them, send me an email). But when I saw this scene, I figured that I only had a second or two to capture it before the little girl changed positions, or began chatting with her father (who was sitting just out of the frame of this photo). So I decided to use my iPhone instead ...
Obviously, a lot of people are using their iPhones these days to take "serious" photos, where it's obvious to them, and to anyone else who happens to be looking, that they intend to take a photo. But the vast majority of my street-photography scenes involve unplanned, unexpected, ad hoc, and somewhat "anonymous" (or "hidden") efforts to photograph a scene. And while the Sony RX-100 Mk II camera is indeed compact and unobtrusive, it still looks like a camera, if anyone (e.g., the little girl in this photo) happens to be looking at me.
OTOH, when you're holding a phone, you could be doing almost anything ... and I don't think it occurs to many people that you're actually pointing a camera lens at them and snapping a picture. Of course, this little girl wasn't paying any attention to me at all ... but I suspect her Dad (in his rightfully protective role as a father) was indeed looking, if only in a half-conscious "horizon-scanning" fashion. Hence my use of the iPhone...
A technical note: even though I shot this photo with an iPhoto, and thus should not expect any kind of miraculous quality, I couldn't resist tinkering with the results a little. I tend to crop color-correct all of my photos without even thinking about it; but I also sharpened this photo, and also used "NoiseNinja" to reduce the noise in the photo.
I don't know why there was any noise at all, considering that (according to the EXIF data provided by the iPhone5s), it was shot at a low ISO of 80. But It was also shot at a slow shutter speed of 1/30th second, and with a wide-open aperture of f/2.2 (all chosen automatically by the camera, without any intention or awareness on my part), so the post-processing of sharpening and noise-correction may have been helpful. The final result, shown here, is still obviously somewhat grainy and noisy, but I'm not trying to win any photo competitions; I'm just trying to show an ad hoc, everyday scene.
That being the case, I did decide to select this photo (among the many hundreds I shot that day) as my "photo of the day" for Feb 8, 2014. 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” phone 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.