Smartviewfinder – Using an iPhone for prep work

iPhone 4S - Hipstamatic App Buclhorst H1 lens, Blanko film

Matt here,

If you stand in the street with your hands forming a rectangle and one eye closed, the other eye beadily looking through the aperture you have created, you’re likely be regarded with suspicion. Beyond that you might be sympathetically shrugged off as an old-fashioned cliché of a photographer, because these days we have smartphones and it is impossible to distinguish us from anybody else waving around their latest super-powered mobile. This is good as generally we prefer not to be noticed. It also gives us what we strain to get by closing one eye, a 2 dimensional representation of our subject matter.

The shot above was taken two days ago with my 13 month old son in one arm (try that with a dSLR). The clouds were racing along and there was a nice breeze amongst the reeds. I used the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone, predominantly because I wanted a square shot, but I kind of like what the retro settings have done to it, creating a diamond vignette and tingeing the sky cyan.

I resolved to come back under similar conditions with my Canon. Today the clouds were starting to look interesting so I went out at roughly the same time, early evening and set up. By the time I got there the clouds were not looking so playful and the wind had died, so I changed the shot a bit and concentrated more on the reeds, which you can’t see so well in the iPhone shot. Afterwards I cropped it to 5×4. It just wasn’t asking to be square anymore. It’s a very different shot, and perhaps the shed in the background is lost a bit, but I like the swirl of reeds in the foreground, and the detail that the full frame sensor gives me.

Canon 1Ds MkII ISO 50 f/20 1/13th 24-105mm

The clouds were amassing off to the right of shot and there was a good chance of something dramatic happening as the sun dropped, but this wasn’t the place to be. I had been planning to return to an old favourite haunt east along the coast and I was waiting for the right light. So I rushed off in my car. I arrived at the destination and the tide was right out, not what I’d planned (I usually use another app ‘World Tides’, which is great for planning coastal shots, but you have to buy the update each year and I hadn’t got round to it).  The low tide did reveal some interesting shapes in the old rotten groynes and abandoned crates. The sun was now threatening to burst the clouds so I had to get a move on. I got a few shots before the sun disappeared and the sky turned grey. Here’s one:

Canon 1Ds mkII ISO 50 f/18 1/8th 17-35mm

Neither location presented me with the shots I had planned, but you’ve got to remain flexible. In the end though, the preparations that I made sent me to these locations and  I knew that in the right conditions both of them would offer me something.

So folks, unholster those smartphones, practise seeing the world in 2D, and consider that these cameraphones might have more to offer than just remembering IKEA codes.

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