A little series of images shot on my last trip to Tokyo, in and around Shibuya. All photographs made with Nikon D7000 and edited in Lightroom.
A little series of images shot on my last trip to Tokyo, in and around Shibuya. All photographs made with Nikon D7000 and edited in Lightroom.
2017, and we are still hearing that.
At the recent 8 x 8 Street Photography Conference in Bangkok I gave a talk on how the limitations of the iPhone resulted in my experimenting and pushing things creatively. It was a fun talk, but a talk that had impact. One that got people thinking, and one that has encouraged people to embrace mobile shooting.
For me, moving from film to digital changed the way I shot simply because I was able to review the images immediately and shoot more. Result being I made more mistakes and I learnt more. But once I began to embrace shooting on the iPhone it changed the way I see; it changed the way I think. Why? Again, it is simple I went from a situation of having a camera – a big, heavy DSLR (that I love to this day) sitting in a drawer only taken out on occasion, to one where I had a camera with me 24/7. Gone were the times when I would see a scene and say to myself:
“Oh, I wish I had a camera with me.”
I always had a camera with me. And instead of passively happening upon photographic opportunities, I was now actively seeking them and actively creating them. I began to see, think and create photographically.
Sure, there were limitations. Small sensor which meant poor quality images in low light. But this allowed me to experiment and create images like this in low light conditions.
No zoom? Ya, and that meant I had to zoom with my feet and get in close getting the shot. I also began to discover how perfect the small and discreet iPhone was for street work.
A fixed lens? Again, this resulted in more considered compositions. More awareness of what to leave in and more importantly what to leave out of an image. When I look back now at the images I shot with the iPhone I can see how particular I was about composing images; the attention I gave to what I was photographing in an image, and what I was not photographing (what to omit) in a frame.
No changeable lenses? Well, there are add-ons – great lenses like the Olloclip ones. But again, I did not want to use them straight up. No, I wanted to experiment and see what else they could do. Macro lens portraits? Ya, why not?
And the latest imperfection that causes people to say: “But it’s not a real camera, though, is it?”
Portrait Mode is Apple’s attempt to mimic the bokeh effect that real cameras can achieve. It creates a depth-of-field effect blurring out background and making your subject in the foreground stand out. Can a phone camera really do that? Sure it can!
Again, it is something I can achieve with so much more ease on my Fuji or my Nikon, but for some reason it feels differently on those cameras. Working in Portrait Mode with the iPhone is frustrating. You get notifications from the camera telling you to move closer, mover further away, place your subject within 2.5 metres until the DEPTH EFFECT in bright yellow appears. I imagine in years to come we will look back at these notifications and marvel at them. For now, it is slow. It is frustrating. It is hard to use in low light. But here’s the thing: because it slows you down, you become more considered about composition paying more attention to what to leave in and what to leave out of the shot. You become more deliberate about getting things in focus to achieve that depth-of-field bokeh effect.
And it has changed how I shoot on the street. It brings me closer to the those I am photographing. I have to get close and I have to slow down. Where before I was in close but I was on the move, now I am close but I am with them. This has meant a change. Before I would rarely talk with people on the street. Sure, I would exchange a smile, at most a small few words. Now, I find I am engaging, exploring, getting to know the people I am making portraits of. I could not have imagined this before getting the iPhone 7 plus.
Take this one encounter from last Saturday’s MojoCon photo walk in Galway. I saw this man approach. Before I would have slalomed towards him, got in close and shot a burst of images, not looked back and carried on to the next character who caught my attention. This time, I went up to him, introduced myself and asked if I could take his photo (I think the make your portrait or take your portrait thing is nonsense – it is not the collocation of words – it is how something is said and the manner it is said). Sure, he said. I thanked him and began to compose the frame. I told him I was from Cork, up in Galway for a conference and asked him where he was from. He was from Oranmore, about 10 miles from Galway. He had come up by bus. Usually did, he said, on a Saturday afternoon. What did he like to do here, I asked. Place a few bets, have a few pints. Today was a bad day, he said. He had lost and he now had time to kill before he headed back to Oranmore, but at least it was a fine day. Did I like Galway, he asked. I told him I did. I showed him the photos. He nodded his head as he looked at them. I thanked him. We shook hands.
It is a departure for me to engage so much with people on the street. I never had much problem getting in close to get the shot, but I was, could I say shy or even embarrassed to engage with people. Shooting on Portrait Mode has caused me to slow down – focussing takes time – it is frustrating and you do miss shots. But on the plus side it results in a new, fresh approach in street photography for me and it is invigorating.
But it’s not a real camera, ya? No, it is so much more than that. It’s a wonderful springboard for creativity and experimentation, fun and learning. Embrace its limitations.
Kiss the future…
2016 was another great year for my photography. I had some wonderful opportunities to travel and shoot in places like Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, Kyoto, Vienna, Hong Kong, Delhi, Ladakh, Varanasi, Mumbai, Seoul, Daegu, Shanghai, Dublin and of course, Cork. Thousands and thousands of photographs shot on iPhone 6s, 7 plus, Fuji X100T, Nikon D7000 and Sony Xperia Z5.
It has become customary for me to select my favourite photographs of the year over the past number of years. It is something I have really enjoyed, but it is time consuming. Christmas can be a good time for this, or as I have found this year it can be the worst. All I want to do is chill out, watch TV, play with kids and eat and sleep. Oh and drink a little too.
Each morning I wake up and say today will be the day I get it done and each night I find myself saying: Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll do it.
So, tomorrow has arrived, the year has almost ended and it is time to present my favourite iPhone photographs of 2016.
I rarely post photographs of family. Am protective of their privacy. This one, shot with the Olloclip macro lens is one that I particularly like. My wife is a patient woman. I know, if roles were reversed, I would never wait while she tries to get the shot. Full series here.
This photograph, shot in the Glucksman gallery in Cork, is one I use in workshops to demonstrate the need to examine the borders of your images when composing your shots. I was focussing on the girl in foreground and her reflection when I saw this man appear in the top left. With a quick reconfiguring, I got him into the frame and adds a little more to the shot.
March was magical. Invited by Monogram Asia to come to Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta to present my photography was an incredible opportunity. I met some truly wonderful people on the trip and made lasting friendships. This shot was taken on the docks in Jakarta. These workers were taking a short break. More here.
Blur will save the world, you know. But I still don’t know how. This shot is the result of frustration. Image stabilisation has improved so much on iPhones. I just can’t blur like I used to. But with the Olloclip Studio case and its lanyard holding the iPhone safely I violently swooped and shot in burst mode to get this shot. You can see the whole series here.
This is where I begin to cheat a little and choose images that were not taken in the actual month. This is another from Tokyo in April. I have a series of images of people in transport, shot through glass to create layers, distortion and reflection. This bus driver was stopped at the lights in Shibuya and standing in front of him I saw it appear. I knew at the moment of shooting that I would convert it to black and white.
Sometimes I am stuck. Both look good, but you dilute by posting both. Choose one. Black and white more often than not wins out.
Here are some recent shots that I loved both in colour and black and white, but ultimately only posted one version. All shot in Shibuya, Tokyo on a Nikon D7000.
Which do you prefer?
I read once, that those you see in your dreams are those you have seen in real life. Those passersby whose faces may never have registered with you, but somehow make their way in and resurface in dreams. Makes some sense, doesn’t it? The shutter of the eye snapping relentlessly and searing them to memory and they seeping into dreams.
How many people have I passed in my life, I wonder? How many faces? Millions perhaps. Sufficient stock for endless dreams, no doubt.
Tokyo is a bit like that with the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. In any given time up to two thousand people cross. Two thousand faces. There is about a four to five minute interval between the red man and the green man at the crossing. With the green man, there are two minutes for those two thousand people to hurry across. The waiting crowd swells and surges as soon as the green man signals. It is an electrifying feeling to be amongst it.
It is endlessly engaging in Shibuya.
So many faces.
How to work out a workflow for thousands images?
Yes, that is right, I have thousands and thousands of images all shot over the past 5 months in Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Toyko, Cork, Dublin, Vienna, Bratislava, Hong Kong, Delhi, Leh, Varanasi, Mumbai, Seoul, Daegu, Geochang, Shanghai and Jeju island.
Thousands of images shot on four different cameras: mainly iPhone, then Fuji X100t, Nikon D7000, and then some on a Sony Xperia Z5.
Where to begin?
I have series in mind, sure. Have begun on some of them already. But the main problem I have is storage. I back everything up numerous times: Google Photos, Flickr, MacBook, external harddrives. But the main devices I use are my iMac and iPhone for storage and, more importantly, editing. And I am constantly getting notifications of Storage Almost Full.
What to do? It took the best part of three days to get all the images (and videos) off the devices and on to the iMac. Before doing this, I had to delete over 100 gigs of photos just to free up space. And I am still nearing capacity on a 1.2tb on the iMac.
The way I like to organise things is like this: I import all photos onto iPhoto. I like the way it creates events and I can give them titles. It is easy to find images from certain locations then.
Then I go through the selection process of choosing (non iPhone – all of those are done on the iPhone) images to edit. The ones I like, I drag over to Lightroom and do the editing there. From that there is another selection process for images to post to my various social media platforms.
This is the way I have worked for years, and there probably are better ways to organise it all, but people do what they are used to doing.
One of my favourite quotes is this:
And for me it is this blog post. This articulation of what I am feeling. It clears a little space – just like deleting gigs on the computer – and allows me to take the next little step.
My father gave me the best advice in life: Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Very often I feel I should have the answers myself; that I should be able to cope, and that perhaps asking for help or advice is an admission of failing. It is not.
My wife gives me the good advice.
I asked her. I said: I do not know where to start. I have too many images.
She said: What is your favourite place that you have been in the past five moths?
I said: Tokyo.
She said: Start there.
I am starting.
When Pompidoo Bags invited me to do some work with them, I jumped at the chance.
Straight up I am not a fan of those big bulky traditional camera bags with logos splashed across them. I have inspected some of them in camera stores and they’ve always struck me as being just too cumbersome and even a little ugly.
I tended to opt instead for a messenger style bag; one that fits comfortably. Sure they are not designed for cameras, but you can get a camera into them. However, when I saw the range of bags from Pompidoo, I knew these were bags designed by people who have the awareness of the needs of a photographer and the creative ability to come up with a bag that actually is functional and stylish.
Being on a trip in Asia in the past few weeks, I have used the Tokyo bag (I just got to love the name!) all the time. From Hong Kong to high up in Himalayas to the streets of Seoul it has been with me. What I love about the bag is that it is not flashy. For the type of photography I do, the last thing I need is to look like a photographer. The aged-looking raw leather is soft and even if it does pick up a scratch or two along the way it will only add to the look. The bag is minimal in style. There are two compartments which easily accommodate my Nikon D7000 and my Fuji X100T. There is a front pocket which is perfect for other accessories like extra batteries, chargers, SD cards and so on. The high-quality European production is built to last and serve you through the years.
The padded inserts in the bag offer reassurance when packing my suitcase. I can just put my gear into the bag and the bag into my suitcase. No need for bubble wrapping like I used to do before.
All in all, the bag has two things which are winners for me: It doesn’t look like one of those flashy, hey-I’m-a-photographer-with-a-big-bag-of-gear bags; no it is discreet and stylish. And the second thing is that it is that it does the job.
So, if you are like me, that you do not want to be a walking advert for a company with a big, bulky camera bag, Pompidoo’s Tokyo bag is for you. Check them out.
Pompidoo offer a range of stylish and functional camera bags on their online store. Go check them out and if you like one, here is a 10% discount code – Brendan10%. It is valid until August 31, 2016.
Which of these photographs are iPhone 6s and which are Nikon D7000?
Imitation series: Tokyo, April 2016. Images shot on iPhone 6s and Nikon D7000. All edited on Snapseed on iPhone.
I was on a business trip to Japan last week and while I spent most of my time in Tokyo, I also travelled to a remote area called Shonai. When I was asked by others in Japan of where else I was visiting very few knew of this location.
I took a flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport – the city’s second airport. Now you would imagine that a place that is relatively unknown and, as I would later discover, only have a population of about 11,000 people would not be serviced by regular flights. But no, there are several flights each day and on the outward and return flight, both were full to capacity.
Flying into Shonai, it was hard not to be impressed by the beauty of the snow-capped mountains. Having coming from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, I was struck by calm and beauty of the location as we made our way to the university, some 20 km from the airport.
Before returning to the airport in the evening for my flight back to Tokyo, I had a little time to take a short walk to the river bank near the university. The air was fresh and crisp and the only sounds were those of birds chattering and the wind blowing in the trees. When I am away from home, I really try hard to make myself take in the reality of my surroundings. Time passes so quickly and often I find myself looking back and thinking: “Was I actually there?”
An hour from landing in Tokyo, I was back in Shibuya, back on the crossing. Again, I stopped to make myself take it all in and I could not help but feel that I had dreamt being out in the wilds of nature that afternoon.
On January 1, 2015, I posted this to Facebook: Everything will happen. Believe – achieve! When writing that I could never have imagined the magical experience that was about to begin for me. Looking back at 2015 through the lens of the iPhone there are so many highlights and accolades: being part of Apple’s incredible Shot on iPhone 6 global campaign, speaking at the world’s first ever mobile journalism conference – MojoCon in Dublin last March, winning many awards for my iPhone photography, being invited to London to be interviewed by the great Dan Rubin as part of Apple’s Meet the iPhone Photographer, visiting Tokyo, Porto, Amsterdam, Vilnius, Milan and London, giving iPhone photography workshops in galleries in Cork and Dublin. But throughout it all, I knew the thing that would stay with me was the experience of sharing all this with my family and my friends and also the making of new friends on the way. I realised how fortunate I am, not just in receiving these accolades and experiences, but also to see the joy it brings those who love me. Seeing the wonder in my mother’s face as she saw photos of my Shot on iPhone 6 photo on billboards around the world, hearing my little girl scream with glee when she saw me interviewed on TV, and
I like this little activity I have each year when I look back and choose my favourite 12 images I posted to Flickr throughout the year. It is an interesting document to see my photographic journey over the previous 12 months and gives me an idea of where I am heading to.
OK, I am going to be honest, looking at the iPhone shots I posted to Flickr in January, none of them stand out for me. This allows me to choose 2 from another month later in the year.
February was a sad month for me. My good friend Liam passed away. A day has not passed that he has not entered my thoughts. This photograph of the sun shining through a leafless tree is for him.
In March, everything changed. My photograph went up on huge billboards all around the world and I absolutely loved it. For about two weeks, I could not sleep. The excitement of it all was too much. I was doing newspaper and radio interviews and my stats on all social media spiked. I was lucky to be able to get to Milan with my wife to see the billboards for ourselves. This photograph tells the story of how exuberantly delighted I was to see my photo on a billboard.
April and I was in Tokyo. It rained non-stop for 3 of the 4 days I was there. Only having 4 days, I intended to make the most of it. This photograph, shot in Shibuya, was taken only a short few hours before my early morning departure flight. It would go on to win 3 competitions in 2015. You can read more about how I got this shot here.
April was a great month. I also got to go to London for Apple’s Meet the iPhone Photographer. To be honest, this was my personal highlight of the year. Everything about this experience (read my blog post about it here) was wonderful. I got up early on the morning of the event and was blessed with the fine weather. I got out early to shoot and on that morning, I got so many good shots. This one here, that I posted to Flickr in May, is one of my favourites of the year. I stood on the road as I waited for a passerby to enter my frame. The graphic shadowed patterns of Blackfriar’s Bridge were so serendipitously complemented by the black and white runners of the woman who strode past. Click!
I am attracted to light and lines. This shot, posted in June, is from a wonderful photo walk at Mojocon in Dublin in March stopped me in my tracks. I love the simplicity of it.
July was spent in Ireland. We had a family holiday in Sligo. Mullaghmore is one of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches. I was walking on the sand dunes behind the beach when I saw my little girl running towards her mother and brother. I can still hear their laughter.
For August, I am cheating a little and choosing two photos. The first is one is of my little girl on her 8th birthday and the other is from the trip to London. I could not leave either of these photos out.
In September, I posted another of my favourite shots of the year. This is one that I ran across traffic to get to in Amsterdam. I saw this guy sitting on a bus stuck in evening traffic. He had this most intense glare. This shot is part of an ongoing series.
It seemed to start to rain in October and has not stopped yet. I was sitting in the car waiting for my wife to get back from the supermarket when I saw this guy leave and battle to hoist his umbrella. I had to snap!
In June, I got to travel to Porto – my prize for winning the Mira Mobile Prize. I was met by Manuela and Joao, the organisers of the competition. Their kindness and hospitality will stay with me for a long time. Porto is a wonderful city. It has it all. This photograph, posted to Flickr in November, was taken just outside Porto’s iconic Majestic Cafe. I got as close as I could get to get this portrait of this wonderful Porto gentleman. You can read my travel article published by Ireland’s state broadcaster – RTE – here.
In December, I upgraded from my beloved iPhone 6 to the new iPhone 6s. Late to the party, but still hoping to get to dance, I have been battling the elements and getting out shooting. This photograph shot last Monday (29.12.15) was taken in a hurry. We stopped at Ladies View in Kerry to look down on the Gap of Dunloe. It was wild. Storm Frank had landed and the wind and the rain were ferocious. My friend Richard stood taking in the vista. I stopped behind, framed the shot and snapped. We spent another a minute or so there before rushing back to the car.
And that is it! Bringing to close what was the most wonderful year ever in my photographic journey. Thanks to all whose inspiration, love and kindness drives me on.
Here’s to 2016! Everything will happen. Believe – achieve!