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Duncannon: Return of the iPhone!

I was in Duncannon recently with my friend Kevin when we spotted this trawler up on the beach.

It had been brought in to be painted, as we discovered when we went down to take a look – and we were far from the only people whose atttention it grabbed.

It was a great photo opp due to the setting, the unusual sight of a boat “washed up” on the beach and the fact that it was a really beautiful day.

Of course I hadn’t my camera with me, so I returned to my trusty iPhone, which – as a means of capturing images anyway – has been rusting in my pocket lately!

But, as I have blogged before, it was the iPhone that was instrumental in sparking my interest in photography again. That and the good influence of the talented Claire Hefferon, who is now doing her thing in Canada. I captured a lot of moments and images over the past 18 months that would have otherwise slipped by.

My iPhone really wasn’t able for the blazing sun that day in Duncannon, but in some ways I kind of like what happened with these, admittedly poor, images:

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Should I take the leap?

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” – Lewis Hine

I love photography.

Looking at it mostly, but this year I’ve also started taking some photos again following a protracted period of hibernation.

And what rekindled my dormant interest? Well, the iPhone, sort of. I got it in February and it’s the first phone I’ve had that it’s really been worth taking a photo with.

I can’t remember what started it, but I saw something, I took out the phone and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the image (I am, of course, referring to the camera’s capabilities, not my own).

From there on in, I’ve been taking my pocket camera out on a whim. The instant availability appealed to me I guess and as I don’t have what you’d term a “proper” camera I finally had a substitute that I almost always have with me.

So, for example, if you call down to your sister’s and her kids are playing with a bubble machine or on a trampoline you can try capture the joy!

But what really sealed the deal for me was Spain and, in particular, Seville. It is a stunning city and I was compelled to reach for the camera phone countless times. The banner on this blog contains part of one of the many photos I took in Seville.

The colours in Seville (like a lot of things there) are truly amazing and this also really got me going on the Instagram app, which is for sharing photos with others, but also allows you alter them.  The first two photos in this post have been “Instagramed”, the third hasn’t.

Instagram is a phone app that allows you run your photos through a selection of different filters . You can do a lot of things, from emphasizing colours in a variety of ways to going black and white if you like, it all depends on the photo you have to work with really. A lot of people would suggest it’s a Hipster app and I won’t argue with that, but it’s definitely fun!

I generally find some photos cannot be improved with filters (when you get it really right or get lucky), while others can be spruced up quite nicely. This photo of a phone box in Ranelagh/Saoirse Ronan poster is an example of an image I took and then made more striking through Instagram.

As well as occasionally admiring phone boxes, I am also an avid people watcher. We’re a fascinating species really! A lot of the time when you see people who look really interesting or are doing something really interesting, social etiquette/manners/fear will stop you capturing that image, but sometimes you can (safely!) indulge your interest. I love when that happens.

If you’re feeling really brave you can even take photos of people’s underwear…

Best to disregard that last piece of advice!

So I have taken photos in lots of places and of lots of people in recent months and I have really enjoyed it. But there comes a point when if you want to move it on a step you’re just going to have to go and invest in a good camera.

I got thinking about this today when talking to Mick Harpur about a competition I was urging him to enter. Look at photos like this and you’ll see why.  Looking at the Clean Coast website you’ll see the standard of the competition entries from last year. They are fantastic.

Now Mick is one of those people who really knows what makes a great image and has a sharp eye for an opportunity. You can’t really teach someone that I reckon. And just because you have a good camera doesn’t mean you’ll take good photographs.

As good as the iPhone camera is, it’s still a phone camera and I see a lot of images I just can’t capture with it. But I’m not sure if I have the required ability or interest to justify the “proper” camera investment (in terms of time and money).

Will those images I can’t really capture due to the limits of the iPhone really be that much better than the ones I’m getting with it? Will I devote enough time to it to make it worth it? Will I progress enough to make my new camera sing?!

I do think I would really enjoy it. Maybe that should be among my most important criteria when making this decision? If you’ve taken the leap feel free to pass on your advice.

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My Secret Shame

Ladies and gentleman, I should hire a sniper to shoot me.

This is if I hold myself to the same standards I expect of others that is, which is what we all should be doing, right?

Well, in London recently, I succumbed. I donned my hypocrite’s coat and I joined the ranks of the masses who I routinely pray to the musical Gods will be struck down – or shot – where they stand.

I took out my iPhone (note: not just a “phone”) and recorded. A whole song too.  “So what?” I hear you ask.

Well I have now made my contribution to the continuing assault on the sanctity of live music. I often pray for snipers to be introduced to venues when I find myself looking over a sea of phones and cameras, all getting the same poor footage and all missing out on the same potentially great live music experience.

That connection between artist and audience is surely diluted by experiencing a gig through a little LCD screen? You could argue that they allow people to capture memories, but what use are these memories if attempting to preserve them leads to a much lessened experience?

Also, the quality (sound and picture) of most photos and video footage captured on phones and cameras is generally awful, as anyone who uses YouTube to search out music already knows.

Now I don’t mean a photo of you and your friends that takes all of a few seconds or even a quick shot of the blurry, distant stage – fair enough on both counts.

But at the Tallest Man on Earth in Vicar Street recently, there was a fella just in front of me who had a camera in the air for almost the entire gig. What for? There are countless videos of the Swedish troubadour out there already, live and otherwise, and this guy was missing out on what was taking place right in front of him.

And that’s all leaving aside the fact that your annoying loads of other people with your pointless, extended filming of gigs.  It makes me pine for the quaint days when the people clapping on the offbeat were the ones you’d roll your eyes at.

I think that constantly filming a gig is not just disrespectful and distracting for the artist, but also your fellow audience members. If it annoys and distracts me, at 6′ 4″ (thanks Naomi for the reality check!), I can only imagine what it’s like for people craning their necks to see the stage.

So what possessed me to abandon my principles so meekly? Well, the Rural Alberta Advantage.

We went to see them in Bush Hall. At the end of a great gig the band came out right into the middle of the crowd to sing us a lullaby before sending us all home happy. They stopped to sing “Good Night” right beside us. So close I lost my better judgement it seems.

I took out the phone and recorded it (offending footage posted below – in much lower quality). I was looking at it from over the phone too and just held it, so I wasn’t too distracted, but that’s not to say it wasn’t bugging the hell out of Nils Edenloff.

Having participated in the act I hate having to put up with so much, I can report back that it’s the memories of that gig I cherish (like many others) and not the footage. I have no photos or footage from Primavera last year, just memories of a wonderful week.

So sorry Nils (whom we met afterwards and seems a really down-to-earth, lovely guy), Paul and Amy. And sorry to anyone else there I inadvertently distracted during a really great moment at the end of a really great gig.

To the rest of you camera-phone=happy music heretics, I say this: “Shed your electronic prism and carpe diem!”

Interestingly, some people think snipers may not be needed as the copyright conscious music industry and Apple may be about to neuter the offenders.

This recent report from the Irish Times suggest that iPhones may soon be equipped with technology to make the recording of gigs difficult, if not impossible, as the phone will be able to determine if what’s being recorded is copyrighted material and then disable itself (the recording function) accordingly.

However, it seems the report is more than a bit sensationalist. Apple files a huge amount of patents they don’t follow through on, but don’t want others to either. They filed this one 18 months ago. Plus if you put your phone in Aeroplane mode you could bypass this straight away or if that doesn’t work people will quickly find another way.

Seems like bullets could still be the best way after all…