Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Secret sauce for taking great photos with a phone

It's true. I use my iPhone to take almost all my photos. Why? Because if you learn NOTHING from this post except one thing, let it be this:

The best camera you have is the one you have with you.

And the one I always have with me is my iPhone.

I laugh at the tourists in Paris that have giant cameras slung around their necks. Yes, these giant cameras can take great photos, but they are heavy and after 8 hours of winding through this medieval town, even carrying a few extra coins starts to get heavy. So the next day, they leave their camera at the hotel. And that's that.

These days, there are so many great apps for smart phones that regular pedestrian photos can be turned into great shots. Sure, you can't zoom in like you can with the big fancy cameras. And the resolution is crap if you plan on printing your photo bigger than 8 x 10. But seriously, how many photos will you print? Let's be real.

I say, print something that will look good with what you've got. Print a series of small photos that work well as a collection like my new favorite Paris photographer, Nichole Roberston of the blog Little Brown Pen, author of Paris in Color and The Paris Print Shop on Etsy.
She is a pro photographer with a pro camera. But you can make stunning small size prints with your iPhone shots, too. More info on this photo.

This is how I create pretty shots with my iPhone.
  1. Take photos with the regular ol' Camera app that came with the phone. It tends to load faster than other camera apps.
  2. Import the photos into the Camera+ app and edit. Some people swear by taking photos in Camera+ because there are other fun tricks, but I like the speed of the regular Camera app.
  3. Save the photo in the regular Camera app to import it later into your computer. You can also post to Facebook and Twitter from Camera+ but I like to have all my final photos in one place and that place is my Camera app and later my iPhotos library.
(These tips were provided by my friend Chris O who is a photo-taking wizard.)

Optional collage options:
  1. For collages made on my phone, I use a photo collage app aptly called Photo Collage.
  2. For collages made on the computer after I've imported the photos, I use a website called Pixlr.
Enough instruction. Let's see this method in action.
Of course, photo taking is always more about the eye of the photographer than the lens of the camera. And it's also about taking a slew of photos. Taking many photos of the same thing is key. A slightly different angle can make all the difference between regular and awesomesauce. For example:

This may seem like a lot of work. All these steps. But the method is easier than you may think. I tend to walk around Paris and snap shots with the regular Camera app on my phone. Later, when waiting for the movie to start, the train to arrive, the coffee to brew, I whip out my camera and import a few photos into Camera + or Photo Collage. After a week of fiddling with my photos on and off, I import the slew of them into my iPhoto library and start fresh for the next week.

Go forth, young Jedi. May the camera be with you.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On being vulnerable

There are things I'm afraid to tell you.

There has been a movement slinking around the blogsphere. It's not new and I'm behind on blogging about it because I've been too busy posting pretty photos of my life in Paris on Facebook.

The idea behind the movement is that the rosy and wonderful versions we present of ourselves online can be far from the truth. So a blogger named Jess Constable wrote some of the other stuff on her site. The vulnerable stuff. The stuff she's afraid to tell you. I found out about it over at Little Brown Pen, and Oprah wrote about it, too. Then I watched Brené Brown talk about vulnerability at Ted. And after all this, my upper back seized up, which makes me cranky and makes me wonder what Louise L. Hay would say about all this. I think my back is telling me, "There is stuff to say, there is stuff to say, there is stuff to say."

So here we go. I'm offloading here and now.

The things I don't want to tell you:

Paris isn't always great.
It has rained three times a day for months.
And I can't make it poetic all the time
Because sometimes it's just cold and wet.
And when it doesn't smell like piss, it smells like smoke.
Aphids ate my geranium blooms.
I don't even want to get into that metaphor.
I heard you need to spray geraniums with soapy water.
There are still no blooms
But there are suds when it rains.
It'll have to do.
My rainbow bubble blooms.
Fragile and filling in while the buds simmer.
I think my hair is fine, but my Swiffer tells me
It's getting finer all the time.
I get overwhelmed by the number of photos I take.
I feel pressure to handle it all.
Skype is good but it's not that good.
My niece said yesterday
"the connection is down."
She's six and she's right.
I freak out about money.
How to make it, save it, mend it.
It's one of the many snags in my soul.
So much to see and do
So much to pay for.
I wonder about my painted letters
And think, c'mon, really? Letters?
This is how you're going to get it done? 
I have to breathe deep to find the strength
To reply with a quiet, "yes, and stop talking now."
The French language continues to distance.
When will I turn on the TV and understand?
I think I'd understand the same if it were on Mute,
Especially with dubbed-over American cop shows. 
I often feel mute when I walk around the city
But at least that TV show looks like a period piece
With a backdrop of bridges and statues and carved doors.
I jump a lot from sounds in my walls.
The invisible fleet scratching along the floorboards.
But then he walks in, looks at me and says,
"You love me still?"
And I look at him, nod and say
"When did you learn the word 'Still'?"
He's learning. I'm learning. We're getting there.
But for today we are here.
We crack open our beer and cheer another day.
May we be so lucky to do it all again tomorrow.
The good, the bad and the rainy.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After reading Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, about her hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, I will never ever again complain about my feet hurting. In the opening scene, she describes the moment when, half way through her hike, as she is sitting at a vista overlooking a mountain range, her hiking boot falls over a cliff. Irretrievable, she has no choice but to continue on without it.

It reminded me about a day last summer when it rained so hard in Paris that my well-worn walking shoes literally fell apart right there on my feet, right there on the street. I was lucky. I ducked into a shop and bought a cheap pair to get me home (The shopkeeper was likely horrified by my nude, dirty, wet feet). Cheryl had to hike for days until a replacement pair arrived at a lone outpost along the way.

Feet are a miracle. I've done more than my share of urban hiking over the last year. At the end of big hike days, as I lay in bed sifting through the daily harvest of photos, I wonder if my feet will ever heal from the ache. Sometimes my feet pulse with pain, the fresh blisters sting and the bottoms burn. Then there are the times I feel something crunching inside. Then I think I've really done it now. I've done something irreversible. And fall asleep worrying for my poor peds. But when I wake up, my feet are pain-free and I'm ready to take to the cobblestone streets once again.

Miracles, I tell you. The feet are miracles. 

The pharmacies of Paris have entire walls dedicated to foot care. Blister bandages and Dr. Scholl's products are available around every corner. And on park benches, you'll see shoeless ladies looking at their bare feet as they open their newly purchased boxes of bandaids. Two words: Ballerina toes. Yikes.

But we can't help ourselves. Paris is the most lovely, most walkable city in the world. Just today I walked down a street I'd never seen before. I was rewarded with another piece of street art from one of my favorite street artists.

Despite my extensive urban hike training, after reading Wild, I have no interest in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. One reason: She named her backpack Monster.

Non merci.
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