Friday, February 17, 2017

Using the iPhone 7+ As Your Only Travel Camera!

Panorama View of Hong Kong at night from The Peak. Colors and intensities are well balanced.
     I just spent two weeks in Hong Kong. Its my third trip in two years and yes, my best trip yet. What made it even more wonderful was that for the first time in my life the only camera I took was my iPhone 7+! No more separate chargers, no more batteries, no SD cards, no, just the phone that remains a lifeline to me health wise ... something that I have to carry with me each and every day!
     I will never forget the trip of my lifetime ... the trip to Egypt at Christmas 2009, a dream I had had since I was exposed to Egypt in the 6th grade. Finally, almost 50 years later I was standing at the entrance to Karnak and my wonderful Nikon D40 wouldn't take a photo. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to work. Yes, I stood there and cried. Here, at great cost I might add, I was fulfilling a lifelong dream and I couldn't even record it. I will never forget this moment nor forgive Nikon for the poor quality of their lenses. For you see, the motor in the lens failed, but I wouldn't know that until I returned home and took it in to be fixed ... not once, but twice for the same thing. What did work and took over 2400 photos was my very small Canon Elph camera, smaller than a pack of cards, that I threw in my camera bag at the last minute and discovered would easily fit into my pocket or palm for a large panorama or smaller, intimate shots, barely causing a ripple on the scene. My wife was very happy about this development though I wasn't at the time.
Plate image shot through plate glass
Detail of plate above using the iPhone 7+ at 10x
      It wasn't until I published a book of my photos that I realized that at only 10 megapixels and a 3X zoom, that tiny camera, in most cases, did exactly what I needed. I never took my big DSLR on a trip with me again.
   This wasn't the only revelation regarding iPhone photos and DSLR's. When I had an ETSY store online, you were encouraged to post 5 photos of what you were selling. I dutifully did and hit upon using a black background that made my brightly colored birdhouses, trays, etc., pop! The problem was that the DSLR, a Nikon 3200 by now (I guess I'm a slow learner) would try to make the background 18% grey and I would literally spend hours in PhotoShop trying to make the background black again and retain the brilliant colors of the original item. Someone asked me to send them a photo of one of my items so I snapped a photo with my iPhone 5 and was stunned at how it recorded the scene exactly ... pure black background with brilliant colors the way it was setup. I never used the Nikon for ETSY again.
Once you master the panorama mode its hard to go back! Now you have a one additional step of magnification.
    A trip to Europe a few years later taught me the iPhone would take amazing panorama's so I began to use my phone more and more. When I graduated to the iPhone 6 I found it took even more amazing photos, discovering that night shots were often better than with a small digital camera.
     Which leads me to the iPhone 7+. I have owned an iPhone since I was at MacWorld and it was revealed to the world in January of 2007. Disbelieving it really could do what we were being told, I became convinced when I heard David Pogue talk about the iPhone he used that belonged to Steve Jobs ... a working prototype. When I took it to Europe a month after it was released I was stunned to realize everyone there knew what I had and had no problem getting someone to take photos with it.
     I remember using it in Egypt and Jordan again being stunned that it worked better there than it ever did on the AT&T network at home. When the AT&T guy called, as we were standing in front of the Treasury in Petra, asking us where we were and if we knew what our bill was at the time, we didn't as the AT&T store assured me the phone "wouldn't" work, he reduced our $600 phone bill to $60 and explained how to not use the phone! Pogue told us that the iPhone would change everything ... we know now he was definitely right.
A big complaint is that you don't get much detail
from a cell phone. This was taken at 10x, 15 feet away
       So on this trip I took my trusty, well tested before I left, iPhone and was ready to really see what it could do. You know what? I wasn't disappointed.
     Hong Kong is a photographers paradise. New and old, sometimes very old rub side by side and just beg you to snap a photo. As hilly as it is (a billy goat might have problems) there are panoramas that really do need to be taken. Out comes the trusty iPhone, move the screen to panorama and snap away. There is even and arrow for you to follow for some semblance of keeping level. New on the 7+ is the ability to double the size of the panorama.
     Another new feature, still labeled "beta" but working just fine is a "portrait" mode that is simply amazing. You get two photos ... one of the scene as it is and one with the item you want as a portrait (it works not only on people but things and flowers I discovered) and the background magically is out of focus.
This figurine, shot through glass is
the regular view

The same figurine shot with the Portrait mode
keeps the figure sharp, fades the background
 Night shots are amazing with black nights against all the colorful illuminated signs that litter Hong Kong like a child's scribbling. There simply is nothing like it.
     We took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Kowloon to watch the light show and using the video feature was amazed not only at the quality of the video but that it clearly captured the music being played on our side of the harbor! Ferries glided by as the lights on the buildings played out a symphony of light being recorded on my phone. My first day there I saw not one but two Lion Dances in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Even candlelit scenes are not a problem
     It is said that nearly 90% of all photos today are being taken with smart phones and Apple says over 50% of them are taken with an iPhone. There certainly were a lot of them around me in Hong Kong everywhere I went. Yes, there were a few diehards lugging DSLR's around but for once I didn't feel jealous and can say without too much of a doubt my photos may well have been as good as theirs and my camera fit into my pocket, would make calls, surf the Internet and text friends.
Architectural detail is simply amazing!
      So, if you have ever wondered, take a look at my photos and see for yourself. You may well own one of the finest cameras around, it just happens to be with you all the time in your phone!
     One word of warning though, when you backup your phone and download your photos be prepared for very long download times, hours even ... or at least it was pretty long on my iMac. This is unacceptable. Even SD cards don't take this long and the DSLR images are about two times larger at least. To be fair, my iMac is older and that could have easily been the reason it took so long. Again though, an SD card is much, MUCH faster! So, I plugged my iPhone into a newer and faster MacBookPro, downloaded the images, put them on a flash drive and loaded them into the iMac. I'm sure a newer computer would have handled it in one fell swoop. It isn't as elegant but it worked.
     You can see though, that the iPhone can handle any number of photo imaging quite nicely and the best part, it fits easily into a pocket or purse! You have to take it with you so use it for a camera too!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed!

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