virtual landscapes



As part of the online iPhoneography class I’m taking, I worked this week with apps that simulate the look of painting or “distressing” the image. We had to apply three different looks to two pictures, then choose one to finish editing–of course, I couldn’t pick, so did two final versions of each image. I also made a quartet of images showing the original picture (with basic editing applied) plus the three variations. The photo above was taken in my front yard of a butterfly bush, and doctored up with (clockwise from top right) DistressedFX, ArtistaOil, and PhotoCopier. I’d already worked with DistressedFX and knew that I’d have some fun with its filters, which basically retain the look of a photograph, just add layers of color, texture, and faux light-leaks. Of the two painting apps, I felt more of an affinity for PhotoCopier. It offers an array of color presets that emulate the style of painters, photographers, and film directors–sounds cheesy, but it’s easy to play with and created some interesting effects, especially with the relatively generic landscape pictures I chose to work with first. Here is the final result from DistressedFX, using the “birds” and “pith” filters: 


And here’s a version altered with PhotoCopier, using the Monet Haystacks effect:


With each app, you can vary the intensity of the effect using sliders, and of course you can go back and do additional editing afterwards. 

For my second image, I had a specific goal in mind; my dog Oliver is great at posing, and we had some beautiful light coming into the windows that morning. I had the idea of borrowing the look of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” for a portrait of my pup. It was no problem to get him to sit still; light was spilling onto a beat-up leather chair that he loves, and he happily complied with my request to “hop in your chair,” where he proceeded to assume a  noble, patiently dignified facial expression and even draped his paw elegantly over the arm of the chair. I liked this composition best and applied the same sequence of apps as with the earlier image, although with different filters:



Again, I preferred the process and results of the DistressedFX and PhotoCopier apps. Here are enlargements of the final versions. The Distressed filters were Ansel and Vanilla:


And the Photocopier look that I liked bestwas, surprisingly to me, based on Paul Gauguin:



 With this image, I found that once I had applied the painting or distressing effect, it was hard to go back and re-edit when I noticed an overexposed area on the right. The filters made that glare-y spot more obvious, but I should have corrected it prior to adding the special effects. In this case, I ran out of time and wasn’t able to go back and re-do; I could fix it now by starting from scratch, but I thought it was an interesting case of “lesson learned” and probably more illustrative an example when left alone. Both of these pictures were pretty straightforward and not necessarily something I would have spent much time on as generic iPhone pictures, but the painting apps give them a layer of interest that brings something new. I’ve always liked toning and hand-coloring images, and this is a similar process, elevating something that might have been mundane and making it into another kind of artwork altogether. As a bonus, it’s really fun!

Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, digital photography, dog, iphoneography, landscape photography, photography, rural virginia, VA | Leave a comment

an app (or two) a day



I just don’t seem to be able to stop playing with new apps for the iPhone. This week our class assignment was simply to experiment with several of the painting and texturizing apps–more on that to come in a day or two–but our instructor also mentioned an app called “Koloid,” which simulates actual hand-developed plates and lets you roll around the virtual developer by tilting and swirling the mobile device.


Ridiculously fun, and you can use it to shoot a new image or apply the effect to an existing one. I had a great time fooling around with it yesterday and found that for my own work, it creates the best effect with high-contrast light (or a contrasty color image).


Keeping in a similar vein, I turned to the tintype Hipstamatic filter (Tinto) when a big thunderstorm blew through in the late afternoon. After documenting the storm clouds using the more journalistic “Lowy” lens in Hipstamatic,


I switched to the Tinto/D-Type plate combination to shoot a few more images of the rain.


I’ll definitely be keeping these faux-old-school methods in my photographic toolbox!



Posted in Albemarle, black-and-white photography, Charlottesville, digital photography, photography, rural virginia, vegetation, vision | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

exploring Hipstamatic (even though I’m not remotely “hip”)


After so much immersion in editing my iPhone pictures, it’s refreshing to return to Hipstamatic–one of the first phone apps I tried three years ago–with an eye for what I want to make. It was really helpful to organize the damn thing, for starters, and I deleted about 20 accidental “favorite” combinations and stuck with a few that I like, plus added a couple of new ones. Now I can tap the little star and have a half-dozen distinctive styles to choose from, for situations where I want that particular look and don’t have time to indulge in lots of editing and “stylizing” afterward. My newest experiment is the “Tinto” lens, which simulates the look of tintype photography.

2014_Hipstamatic_TintoC5I actually have an tiny family tintype of a couple of great-uncles, and I love its silvery glimmer and subtle tonalities. The colorized Tinto app (using the C-type “film” in Hipstamatic) is not an exact replica, fortunately, but has a unique look and somewhat unpredictably shallow depth of field.



Here are a few examples, shot around the house in varying light–I actually prefer the low-light interiors, but am interested in hearing what other people think about this approach.



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a walk to the lake


Here are another few iPhone pictures from Red Hill: the quarry lake, the railroad, the dogs barking as I cross the boundary of their invisible fence. Seems like I get my nerve up just a little bit more with each outing and go beyond my own boundaries, altering the images and growing increasingly comfortable with the apps. These were shot with ProCamera 7, Hipstamatic (Jane and Blanko Freedom 13), and an app called SlowShutter that lets you blur motion. Editing apps included Photoshop Express for all, followed by PhotoToaster and Distressed FX. It’s quickest, and feels most spontaneous, to edit on the iPhone, but I definitely prefer the increased control and visibility I get from editing on my iPad. It’s just so addicting….



Posted in Albemarle, digital photography, iphoneography, kudzu, photography, railroad, rural virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

down the rabbit hole



As my iPhoneography class continues on into week six, I find that the tools and techniques we’re learning are becoming a solid part of my photographic vision. It’s easy to get caught up in playing with these apps, and before I know it I’ve spent 45 minutes or more down the editing rabbit hole, transforming and combining images and taking more risks with special effects and radical changes (well, radical for me!).


I’m still getting used to these ways of altering “normal” images, though. Why has it always seemed acceptable to me to use old-school methods of playing with pictures–toning, hand-coloring, applied emulsions, etc.–but felt like cheating to do these things digitally? Even the digital borders seem just a little bit wrong. And yet, I like–even love–the way they look, and I am able to create new images quickly in a way that I simply can’t if I’m relying on chemical photographic methods.

photo 1

Without further commentary, here are a selection of pictures, taken around Red Hill (mostly), using Hipstamatic, Autostitch, DistressedFX, and Phototoaster to alter the images. With all of them, I did an initial edit using Photoshop Express to correct clarity, sharpness, and exposure, just as I would with DSLR images using Lightroom on the computer. No matter what cameras and methods I’m using, I continue to love making pictures in the place where I live.


Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, digital photography, iphoneography, kudzu, landscape photography, photography, railroad, rural virginia, south, VA, vegetation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

a road trip and some summer pictures

After a week-long bout of bronchitis and a trip to Atlanta (helping my daughter and her husband finish moving into their first house), my brain’s a bit foggy. But my online iPhone class is tonight, so I’m trying to get back in the photography zone. Our instructor has been walking us through editing steps, and our assignment this week was simply to recreate one of his edited images using a specific series of apps. While I can see the benefit of this exercise, I felt exactly like a high school kid being required to go through the motions of a homework assignment in which I had no personal investment. Fortunately, our teacher is positive, patient, flexible, and encouraging, so my frustration dissipated once class underway.
It’s great to learn about all these new tools, but even more interesting and challenging to figure out which ones to use–and WHY–in order to create specific effects in our personal work. The decision to alter a picture doesn’t come naturally to me. With that in mind, here are a few new experiments. As with my last post, these are about playing with the process–I don’t view them as “art,” or necessarily as finished products, but I’m having a lot of fun learning!







Posted in atlanta, Charlottesville, digital photography, iphoneography, personal history, photography, road trip, south, teaching photography | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

a time to play

a time to play

This summer, I’m taking an online course (an experiment in itself!) on iPhone photography. Called “iPhone Artistry,” it’s taught by Dan Burkholder through ICP in New York, and I’m scrambling to absorb and understand the many apps and techniques we’re learning every week. I’ve never been big on altering photographs, but I’m trying to let go of my usual way of seeing in order to figure out how to incorporate new methods into my work. The iPhone is a fantastic sketchbook; it’s that cliche, the camera you always have with you, but it’s also incredibly fun to play with the images and try things that you’d never do otherwise (at least, you wouldn’t if you were me). In that spirit, and in an attempt to get my blog going (again!), I’m going to start posting iPhone images regularly. Feedback is welcome, and questions (as in “How’d you do that?”) are welcome!

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