Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: google snapseed

6 Tips to Make Great Photographs with the iPhone 6

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

When you leave home and hit the road, be it for work, play, or pretty much anything you set out t do, you should always carry a camera. There is a photographic axiom that says, “What is the best camera? The camera you have with you!” and that is undeniably true. The camera you will sling over your shoulder is going to change over the years and a new camera can stimulate you and put you into a photo-taking mood by simply being new. The technology changes, and even the great masters used a range of cameras across thier careers.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

But sometimes you leave your camera at home because it’s just too heavy and cumbersome. Compositions and photo movements abound, just because you don’t have your camera with you doesn’t mean you aren’t seeing and the photo opportunities are not present. Three things you don’t leave at home that are non-negotiable are; keys, wallet and mobile phone. The camera & phone combo may be the greatest technological achievement of the 21st century because it allows us to always have a camera with us, and the ability to share our images.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

My only ‘photo-phone’ experience so far has been using the Apple iPhone, so if you are going to call me an Apple fan boy, go ahead, I accept that moniker because I believe in the iPhone and started off with an iPhone 3 in 2007. The first photo I took was a homeless person in a atm bank lobby. Later I would shoot what might have been the first IPhone wedding of NY fashion designer Michele Korn using only the IPhone 3. I fell in love with the device, simply because it was always in my pocket! Dutifully I went from iPhone 3, to 4, to 4s, skipped a 5 and got the 6 early in 2015. The progression has been upward, but the 6 was a big leap in quality from its predecessors. All images shown in this blog post were taken this year with the IPhone 6.

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston's pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls ;-)

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston’s pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls 😉

So here are my 6 recommendations:

One- Wipe you lens off each time you go to make a photograph. That lens is tiny, and you need it as clean as can be to maintain sharpness. A finger print will substantially soften the image and lower contrast. An actual smudge or what we call “schmutz” in New York will diffuse your image to the point of total failure. Use your t-shirt, a tissue, or whatever you have handy. Of course a micro fiber is the best choice. My wife Barbara keeps her iPhone in a micro fiber pouch to protect it in her pocket book from scratches and that makes a great way to keep the lens smudge and scratch free.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and did cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

Two- Be touchy. Your phone does have auto-focus and auto-exposure, but it can get fooled. Compose your image first, and then tap on the subject of your photo. Once you have a focus and exposure lock, you can then drag your finger up or down to adjust exposure. Very useful for backlit subjects and in that case, touch up for + exposure. This will come handy when you are shooting at the beach or in a snow scene.

Little_round_top

View from Little Round Top over the Valley of Death at Gettysburg, PA. This is a great example of working the exposure. I tapped the cannon and then had to further adjust the exposure due to the setting sun in the photo.

Three- Capture with the standard camera setting. Don’t bother with the HDR mode, it’s better to adjust your image later in a post-processing app which we will talk about later. The standard photo is a 4:3 ratio which will give you a standard image. You might want to consider shooting in square mode if you plan on using instagram, since instagram forces you to use square compositions. This will save you having to crop later and perhaps missing a part of the image that you wanted in or is needed for the composition. Getting it as close to perfect in the capture, then fine tuning later in post is a great rule of thumb.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, they are all on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, All but one (who is eating) are on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

Four- Turn the flash off. Yup, unless it is really dark, like the inside of club or outside at night and you are shooting a subject less than 7 feet away, the flash (which is really a led light and not a flash at all) will make a crappy photo. There are three settings, off, on, and auto. By default it’s on auto out of the box, you will want to set that to off. I never ever use the flash function, I hate the way it looks. A trick to use if you must shoot in the dark, is have a friend hold up their iPhone and use it as a flash light. This way, the angle of light gives shape as opposed to your flash right next to the lens making a flat over exposed image.

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can't shoot your dish in good light then just don't. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can’t shoot your dish in good light then just don’t. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

Five- Use minimal if any zoom. Any zooming you do by pinching the image will digitally zoom it, and it’s better to just do that in a post app. I advocate if you are good with composition to use a little bit of zoom if you can’t physically get closer, like a shooting a building across a busy street, but really cropping should be done in post to maintain quality. When you have to 8 to 12 megapixels like the iPhone has, you have plenty of pixels to crop in post. Also, your focus can be tricked if you zoom heavily.

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don't get a ticket ;-)

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don’t get a ticket 😉

Six- Use the best app ever invented, and that is Snapseed. Invented by Nik and then acquired by Google, Snapseed does it all. I love Snapseed because it’s free, and it’s spectacular. I used to advocate Adobe PS Express and Camera bag but Google has super charged Snapseed into a beast of an app. And did I mention it’s free? Every image you see on this page was captured with the iPhone, then opened up with Snapseed and edited. I suggest you subscribe to this blog, I’ll be posting a Snapseed tutorial soon.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

Well there you have it. Six tips to make you iPhone experience rock. Keep shooting!

~David

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70's. Bradley Beach.

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70’s. Bradley Beach.

ArmsLength

And lastly, my two favorite things to shoot, Barbara my wife and the Raven Wing my Harley Davidson.

wooden bridge and harleyvespa

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Day of the Dead in Mexico: A Photographic Exploration Of Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

Day of the Dead Boy, Zacatecas Mexico

In the fall of 2013 I attended the Morbid Anatomy Day of the Dead Field Trip called, “Death in Mexico” exploring Dia De Los Muertos. I had seen photographs of this holiday from my friend and mentor Harvey Stein and I was certainly interested in learning more and turning my cameras eye to capture the macabre beauty of the celebration. Accompanying us on this trip was Salvador Olguin, a Monterrey born historian of Mexican cultural artifacts with an emphasis on studying the relationship of Mexico and death. He was our Beatrice as we travelled into the underworld and offered insight into the history and artifice of the Day of the Dead.

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Salvador Olguin in cemetery, Guanajuato

Background of the Day of the Dead

Mexico is wonderful country that has its share of issues and grandeur. Faced with a complex history of tyrants, corruption, poverty, and of course drug trafficking Mexicans are acutely aware of death and have the most interesting way of negotiating what we in the USA put at arms length and treat with abject distance. Something completely unique to Mexico’s Day of the Dead is that is has a sense of humor, a moribund smile of sorts.

Sculpture, Zacatecas

Sculpture, Zacatecas

The holiday is celebrated on November 2nd and can be confused with Halloween, which it is not. Day of the Dead is about honoring the deceased by building altars, visiting grave sites, and offering (ofrendas) foods, flowers and drinks to the departed. This all adds up to a festive environment where children paint thier faces in sugar skulls and adults arrange parties in the cemeteries and cities. The festival has its origins linked to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl who presides over the underworld and rules the afterlife. She a flensed goddess and is often depicted with a skull agape. Very fitting since in death, our bones remain as all that is left of our mortal trappings.

Sugar Skull Girl

Girl with sugar skull and instant photo portrait, Zaccatecas

To gain access when needed or to just pass on good photo karma to my subjects I also used a Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 instant camera. If you want to charm your subjects and get them to open up to you, a smile and an Instax shot is your ticket.

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

Man with sugar skull and military costume, Zaccatecas

You could find altars to the dead in civic building, markets, universities, and even just occupying a niche in the street. This altar was nestled between a parking lot and a major street in the city of Zacatecas.

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Simple altar on the streets, Zacatecas

Mexico is practical, they don’t feel the need to be modern, if it works, they will adopt it to suit their purpose. Using a mule to carry your cactus drink across town for thirsty denizens is not for a tourist show, the man has a work mule and it does it’s job better than anything else the man has, so he uses it. No license, no department of health, just a real world application. I imagine we could have found this same image 200 years ago, but a modern car would not be parked across the street!

mulevendor

When we were planning this trip I considered what I wanted to get out of it photographically. I wanted to capture the spirit of the day of the dead and the people of mexico. My parents brought me to Mexico when I was 13 years old and what struck me was the sincerity of the people. Shooting with a super sharp lens I walked about with a smile and pointing at my camera to my subjects in order to make these images. I found a purity in the shooting of these mexicans on their holiday, and went for a wide open aperture to soften the background so to make the attention fall on the subjects while hinting at the environment.

Jicama, lime, and chili  snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Jicama, lime, and chili snack man, rest stop between Monterrey & Zaccatecas

Our trip took across four cities and I found interesting subjects at highway rest stops, in alleyways, and on the streets. As I shot the images and edited them I began to fall in love the subjects. Take for instance this father daughter team, it was taken at the Festival of Skulls and it may just be the most honest image I have ever made. The affection is evident in the fathers closeness to his daughter and the child is innocent in a way that North American children have lost in our modern age.

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

Festival of Skulls father & daughter vendor, Aguascalientes

The celebrations culminated in parties in the cemeteries. Families would gather in a festive way on the graves of their dead ancestors. These little girls were above their grandmother. I believe that no matter where the spirit of their grandmother is, the smiles of her descendants warms her soul.

girls at grave

Young girls celebrating over grave of grand parent, Guanajuato

breadofdead

Selling Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) on the street, Guanajuato

Mexico Sunset on highway between Zacatecas and Monterrey

The landscape could be ominous between the cities as seen in this sunset.

We visited the Mummies of Guanajuato, where well preserved mummies from a cholera outbreak were on display. These images were shot through display glass and I had to keep the lens touching the glass to avoid reflections.

mummyhead2

Mummy Head

To see more of this work, I have created a book with 76 plates and resources on Blurb. It’s not a cheap book, its $120 dollars but it is 12″x12″ and I’m quite proud of it. Please take a look here, I have the full preview permission set so you can see the entire book.

 

My Day of the Dead Triptych is also available on Fine Art America. This site allows you to choose varying sizes and presentation styles. I have priced them very affordable, so if you’re a fan of this work,  you have a choice of ways to own the photograph without breaking the bank.

Art Prints

The work I shot during the Day of the Dead was photographed exclusively with a Fujifilm XPro1 camera and three lenses; the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, Fujifilm 18mm f2.0 and Fujifilm 35mm f1.4. Settings were raw+jpeg, b&w mode, auto iso to 6400. All jpegs were imported into an iPad and final processing was done using Google’s Snapseed.  This is a workflow I have been using for over a year now and am very excited to present it in a new seminar at the B&H Event Space December 30th at 4 pm.

Resources for learning more about Death in Mexico

Morbid Anatomy – Brooklyn based blog, library and cabinet, museum, and educational collective that survey the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture.

National Museum of Death – A museum in Aguascalientes dedicated to the culture of death in Mexico. A must visit for those with an affinity for the macabre in art and culture.

El Museo De Las Momias (“The Mummies’ Museum”) – A museum exhibiting The Mummies of Guanajuato that consists of naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak around Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. The bodies appear to have been disinterred between 1865 and 1958. During that time a local tax was imposed requiring relatives to pay a fee to keep their relatives interred. If the relatives were unable or unwilling to pay the tax, the bodies were disinterred. Ninety percent of the remains were disinterred because their relatives did not pay the tax. Of these, only two percent had been naturally mummified. The mummified bodies were stored in a building and in the 1900s began attracting tourists. Cemetery workers began charging people a few pesos to enter the building where bones and mummies were stored and eventually a formal museum was founded.

and lastly, here is the entire tour from Morbid Anatomy’s Death in Mexico field trip. A wonderful trip, with wonderful people and the opportunity to make great photographs of super interesting subjects.

The tour group photo picture.

~David Brommer

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