On the merits of using a phone-camera…

(…or whatever small portable camera you always have in your pocket).

I just wanted to say a few words about this because, although I do have a “proper camera”,
I increasingly use “snaps” I’ve taken with my iPhone on my web portfolio and also to paint from.  Its not just that the phone is always there when I need it – although that’s a big plus.  Going through my massive backlog of photos today, as I tend to do in the school holidays in an attempt to catch up on myself when my ability to paint is pretty much on-hold, I found that the vast majority of interesting pics that I decided to work on and upload onto my website came from my phone.

In part, that’s something to do with the immediacy of the subject-matter.  I literally see something interesting, pull my phone out and snap it.  That enables me to grab those really eye-catching moments as the sunlight hits the dew or the frost, or pops out between the trees, first thing in the morning when I’m out walking the dog.  There’s no fiddling with lenses.  There’s not even the premeditation of having taken the camera out, in search of “a shot”, in the first place and so I’m not walking along looking for something to take a picture of, it just happens!  For that very reason, there’s usually an element of surprise as a stunning view captures me unawares and I snap it because its jolted me into a “wow” moment and a quick grab of the phone-camera out of the back pocket.  That’s exactly what happened when I took these sun on frost shots at The Ridges, and the success of the pictures is often a direct result of that element of surprise, which causes a breaking of all the photographic rules as I dare to point the camera straight into the light, capturing moments like these where sunlight hits beads of water on the fence wire and the diffused light breaks into a radiance of colour.

There’s also the possibility, with the ever-ready camera in your pocket, of capturing those comedy moments, such as this tree trunk with the obvious face (I promise you there’s no trickery involved in this shot at all).  I must have walked past the same tree a hundred times but this was the one and only time I ever noticed a face, before or since, and so it was a complete “opportunist moment”, made possible by having the phone in my pocket!

Of course, those moments when the tree comes into blossom or the mist drifts over the lake in a particular way are always on the days when you forgot to bring the “real” camera with you and that’s where the phone-camera comes into its own, like the day I captured this gorgeous pussy-willow at its best – a couple of days later, it wasn’t nearly so stunning and so there was no chance to return to take “better” shots. In that way, my phone-camera becomes my walking diary of moments in nature that, if missed, won’t simply hang around for me to return with the real camera on my shoulder and because of that, I grab a lot more photographic opportunities these days than ever before.

There are also those unexpected shots when you are concentrating on other things and so least expecting to take a picture of anything.  Only today, I watched a fairly bland afternoon of overcast skies  evolve into a magnificent weather front brewing across the horizon, as I stood watched my dog rufty-tufting with his favourite Dalmatian in an otherwise boring recreation park, and so I managed to grab this unexpected addition for my ever growing collection of dramatic sky shots. Which just goes to show that, as a photographer, you need to be ready for anything, all of the time.

Finally, from a painting point of view, I find the very limitations of phone-photography can make the results more appealing to work from than some of the more detailed shots I could have taken with other camera equipment.  Perhaps its something to do with the fact the resulting picture often lacks great sophistication in terms of colour diversity or detail which goes some way towards making the material easier, somehow, to translate into paint.  For the same reason, I feel that the resulting material often has an aesthetic quality, even as a photograph, that a more sophisticated shot may have lacked so that I actually find I “play around” on Photoshop less with phone-shots  than I do with my other photography, except perhaps to sharpen or tweak the exposure, and the often quite simplistic results in terms of colour, combined with the snap-instinctive composition, where there are only seconds to decide how to take the best shot, seem to produce really satisfactory results over and over again.

But then, in my opinion, that’s the same with any artistic pursuit…the more we leave to instinct, the subconscious, which needs next to no time to nudge us in the right direction and which is the truly inspired part of our consciousness, and therefore the less we deliberate over the outcome, the nearer we get to the most inspirational results. And so, in a nut-shell, that’s why grab and shoot photography, with a device we nearly always carry around, really works!

For more recent phone-photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/helenwhitephotos

About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
This entry was posted in Art, Art technique, Landscape art, Nature, Painting, Photography, Walks, Woodland art and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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