I am part of the digital evolution

In the last three years photography has been finding itself in the middle of an experiment, one that has evolved into a Neo-Renaissance and introduced us to mobile photography. It is no different form the French Impressionists’ who pioneered a new style of painting and familiarized us with Plein Art and a new way of looking at the world around us.

But before digital photography was part of mobile phones, digital technology first made a distinctive impression on publishing, giving the everyday person the tools like Letraset’s Design Studio or Aldus’ PageMaker to democratise individual thinking, and allowing us to write and publish our own books. 

Original photograph with no post processing

At the same time Anthony Yerkovich, creator of the fast pace, action pact television series Miami Vice, defined a generation, as Don Johnson playing Detective James Crockett and Phillip Michael Thomas, Detective Ricardo Tubbs, entered our living rooms to the music of Jan Hammer. Music notations that replaced analog musical instruments with synthesizers and samplers, providing musicians with the tools to orchestrate and compose the melodies and sounds in their head.

All though consumer digital DSLR’s have been around for a decade, allowing even the youngest of children to explore photography without a parent reminding the child that it costs money to process film and make prints; more individuals began experimenting with taking pictures then ever before. Also social websites helped fuel the excitement of photography by sharing images with ones friends and strangers. Adding to the proliferation of snapshots reflecting what we are doing at the very moment, further redefining today’s meaning of photography.

Post processed using Photoshop

There have been many changes since Eastman Kodak invented and released the first ‘simple to use’ box camera in the summer of 1888, permitting the average amateur to take pictures of the families daily activities. Now it is Apple  Computer’s iPhone and visionary software developers/designers of non-darkroom applications, developing post production technology mobile artists are employing that is changing the concept of photography today.

While we find ourselves in the midst of a visual revolution, the principles of photography remain the same. Without a solid understanding of this art form, our photos can be no more than mere snapshot and when we do manage to capture something worthy, we can only chalk it up to nothing more than pure luck.

Original photograph with no post processing

Post processed using Snapseed

In order to improve our photographic skills, we must first learn how to observe. This means being able to dissect a scene and analyse a multitude of factors before taking the picture. It also means to anticipate the moment, including learning to be patient, waiting for the right event to occur, some refer to as the Henri Cartier-Bresson Decisive Moment.

While good photography is not all about examination, composition or one’s technical ability in using the equipment, or to manipulate the image afterwards, it is equally important for the image to be telling a story. A photograph which has nothing to say, is a photo with no purpose and therefore cannot speak to the viewer. Yet a photograph can also be mysterious or ambiguous in it’s meaning, raising more questions then providing answers. Above all, it is essential for the photograph to be authentic in spirit.

As we begin to develop our own style, our own identity, we cannot dismiss the influences which have shaped our own creative vision. Not only the influences of other photographers, but also that of cinematographers and painters to whom we have been exposed to. We cannot help but first walk in the shadows of the past as we move forward, stepping into our own light.

Unfortunately, this is all only the half of it. While we learn from observation and reading articles on photography, we need to get out of the house and start taking pictures. Not just a couple dozen frames a week, I am talking about taking a lot of photographs.

Original photograph with no post processing

Post processed using Snapseed

Try a dozen photographs while on the way to work, especially if you taking public transportation, which should make this assignment really easy. Or how about when you stand in line for that special cup of coffee, try quietly taking several exposures of what is happening around you. Just pretend checking messages or choosing a play list. When you are walking down a street and looking at a store window, aim your mobile device to capture the reflective image of the surroundings and the display.

Original photograph with no post processing

Does a building seem interesting to you, a person on the street corner or a flower bouquet display at a local market. Take a picture of  it. Begin to also explore your own environment for things to photograph. Even playing tourist on the weekend by going to the city or a drive into the country, visiting a small-town community and capturing it’s local essence and ambiance. 

This is not only an exercise in learning to see potential photographs, it is also in learning how best to use your mobile device, including what camera applications provide the results you are trying to achieve. 

Post processed using Snapseed

Once the images are on your computer, begin studying the results. Look at each one closely, comparing similar photographs with each other and see what works and what does not. Give also some thought to what could have been accomplished differently to achieve a better photograph then the one captured. As you learn also from your mistakes, learn also from your achievements.

The more you use your mobile phone for taking pictures, the better your photographs become, but also, you will become more comfortable and confident in taking photographs. This to can be very critical when finding yourself in a situation were confidence and a good dosage of guts is needed in obtaining the image you’re after. Remember photography is no different from painting or playing an instrument. It is about practice, keeping both mind and body sharp and in shape.

NOTE: This article first appeared in The iPhotographer Magazine, October 2013

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

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