Posts Tagged: art

Camera Phone Photography: Celebrating Constraints

To follow up on last week’s post, 2,045 Days with a Camera Phone, I would like to write a bit more on why I have loved camera phone photography and mobile blogging so much in the last 5.5 years and that can be summed up in one word: constraints.
The old adage in design, photography, and many other arts is that it is not unlimited creative freedom that sparks the best in a designer or artist, but it is limits and constraints that the artist or designer has to push at, be challenged by, and get around that create great art and design or at least cause the artist in question to grow in their craft.
It has been very easy the last 8-10 years to hone one’s craft with a DSLR camera almost to the point where too many photographers get obsessed with megapixels, lenses, and processing in Photoshop than the actual act of taking the photo becomes secondary or farther down the line.
By choosing to shoot more than 90% of my photos of the last half decade with a small camera phone and then choosing to send them directly from the phone to the internet with no stops at Photoshop, means that I purposefully chose to constrain myself to a small camera that in many cases had less megapixels and less of a lens & digital sensor system than the contemporary point & shoots, not even considering what the comparable time period of DSLRs could do.
But the magic of setting the self-imposed discipline of the constraints of a camera phone plus no or very little post-phone processing seriously, meant that I had to really hone my eye, my composition, my observation of the scene, and then just shoot and shoot and shoot. I have shot a lot of bad photos in the last 5+ years, but I have also shot a lot of good to wonderful photos with my camera phones.
And it is the discipline of the constraints of a camera phone that make the great photos all the more sweeter than when I shoot a good photo with a Nikon film SLR or DSLR.
All of that being said, I have some to quite a bit of trepidation about the next generation of camera phones, particularly the Nokia N8, as it really is better than the point & shoots out on the market right now. The photos from its big 12 megapixel digital sensor & Zeiss lens are extraordinarily good.
After 5.5 years of pushing, working around, thinking, changing the angle, doing whatever I could to capture the vision in my head with a camera phone, to have a camera phone that will be not just good enough, but great… …that is why I said in the last article that I started to think seriously about film rangefinders or purchasing a high end Nikon. My thoughts were – if the Nokia N8 is so spectacular then I won’t have much in the way of constraints, then whole rubric for why I have shot with camera phones since 2004 will be over.
Yes, as I said in 2,045 Days with a Camera Phone, the Nokia N8 is the arrival of the maturity of camera phones as a photographing instrument and the pioneering era is mostly over, particularly if one was shooting with camera phones from the perspective of constraints or enjoying the toy quality of some camera phone’s imagery.
But I am not going to run away. Why? Because I trust Damian. I trust Mr. Dinning’s vision that he has had the last 6 years to push the technology of camera phones to meet that of the highest quality levels. He and I had several interesting conversations over meals at the big adventure in May that gave me an insight to his desire to make the Nokia Nseries line of cameras cross from good to great. Damian and his team have not failed me in the Nokia N86 or any other Nseries camera phones that I have taken photos with since 2004.
So, I will let go of my imposed constraints and walk into a new era and see how good camera phones can really get for the photographer who wants a camera on one at all times, with the N8 I will just have to find a few new challenges to set for myself.
Here’s to the future.

Hackers and Painters, Re-Read

Project 52 : Week 5
If you haven’t read Paul Graham’s essay “Hackers and Painters” yet, and you are a maker / creator / creative, go read it.
I read it about 4 or 5 years ago for the first time and reread it this morning. Today it resounded as I have been frustrated at myself for what I perceive to be my failure at software engineering, as I when I code, I think of how I would apply paint. When I get stuck with trying to code in Python or PHP, I draw in my sketch book until I can get unstuck. Many times if I can’t solve a problem, I do something else or go to bed and my brain will serve me the answer or solution while in the other activity or when I wake up.
Much like Mr. Graham describes in the essay, I build web apps and web sites much like I would build a painting or a whole dinner, I think about the whole idea, I get the ingredients or supplies ready, and then I start to make | code | create | sketch | paint. Scrub out what does not work and repaint | recode. I don’t plan it the app out extensively before hand, I code in the browser. I am not the type who writes out pseudo code beforehand, or does wire frames, or designs in photoshop.
For a couple of years now, I have jokingly called myself a ‘Professional Art Weirdo’ whenever someone asks what I do for the living. This title always confuses other web professionals who know that I am a web / mobile developer. In 2007, I found myself at a programmer’s conference full of Java folk, while in a small group setting everyone said their names and very detailed descriptions of their Java skill sets, when it was my turn, I cheekily said, “Hi, I am Jen and I am a painter.” Then I passed on to the next person.
All jokes aside, I was delighted and relieved to read this essay this morning, as Mr. Graham quite nicely makes a defense for the intersection of programming and art as creative | maker disciplines rather than programming as engineering or science. I would love to see more artists learning to program and more programmers learning to paint.
Go read it.

Farewell to NaBloPoMo for Another Year, Unless you are Doing December…

November has been both a good month and a bit of a struggle. The struggle has been family/holiday/death related, as blogged about here, and the Good has been friend/family/art/music/mobile/travel/wedding/baby related.
The three bits about November that were really delightful are as follows:
1) The weather *finally* took a turn for the better. Better in my book is colder. I am happiest when the days are 55-65 F (10-17C) and when the nights are 35-50 F (3-13C). For a lady who loves a good bout of chilly weather, I am not sure why I live in Southern California. The weather here in SoCal will be happy for me through December and then will unfortunately warm up in January. Gah.
I am still interested in working in London if anyone has an opening.
2) Milestones: Lauren and Dave’s wedding weekend in Seattle was lovely. I am very glad to see them married. It was also delightful to see Cindy & Matt that weekend as they were fresh of the married dept themselves. And even more delightful is that Seattle’s weather was in the 40s F all weekend!
3) November has been a very creative month for me, both in terms of professional web dev/coding bits and in my creative art life of mobile photography, writing, and drawing, as well as day dreaming.
It was also inspirational, funny, and heartening to read/watch my various friends and friends of friends daily blog posts or vlog posts for NaBloPoMo or the other variations on the daily creativity theme thereof.
So all of you who participated in NaBloPoMo or NaNoWriMo or NaVloPoMo officially or unofficially, Bravo! Good job and keep up the good creative work!

A Fun Friday Evening : Gracie’s Three Month Birthday Party

Amelia Grace Callis, aka Gracie, Three Months Old
Ryan Callis Sharon Shubert Jeremy Callis Earl Buck Tammy and Gracie Gracie and Magnolia Yum, Cupcakes! Tammy Callis Sharon and Earl Magnolia and her Camera Dan and Ryan Ryan, Gracie, and Tammy Magnolia and Papa Dan Nana Terri and Gracie Abbey and Terri Scruffy either looking worried or not wanting YET ANOTHER photograph Ryan and Gracie Trust

All photos taken by Ms. Jen with a Nikon D70s.

Fri. 08.28.09 – Magnolia, aka Bird, aged 3.8 years old, decided yesterday that she was going to organize her first ever party on the behalf of her sister Grace’s three month birthday party this evening. Magnolia and Tammy made cupcakes, Magnolia & Gracie were all dressed up, and Magnolia passed out Mardi Gras beads and other fun jewellery to all party attendees.
Upon arrival, I ran back to my apartment to get the Nikon D70s that Thomas lent me so that I could take photos. I had a fun time testing the D70s in a high ISO with no flash and a Nikkor 50mm 1.8F portrait lens. I am quite happy with the above photos.
All photos above were batch resized in Fireworks but no other processing as applied.
As a side note, Dan Callis and I are going to take over hosting the bi-month Seal Beach Salon along with poet Chris Davidson.