Tag Archives: iPhoneograpy

The Story of my ‘Shot on iPhone’ Photograph

The past five days have probably been the most exciting days of my life. Seeing an image I created on the iPhone going on display on giant billboards in different cities all over the world has been beyond my wildest dreams.

My photo on a billboard in Hollywood, Los Angeles

My photo on a billboard in Hollywood, Los Angeles

It all started back in Copenhagen last October. I was there on a week’s visit to the University of Copenhagen as part of an exchange program from my own university. Before heading out there I had arranged with one of my friends on Flickr, Thomas Toft, to meet up for a photo walk (which in Copenhagen means a photo cycle). I had seen one of his images from Copenhagen of this  location with crazy curved white lines on the black tarmac. The way Thomas created the image with the strong contrasts of the black and white lines and with the shadow of the lone man really impacted on me. When I travel, opportunities to get out shooting are always highest on my list of priorities and if I know of a good location, it gets me excited. So you can imagine how I felt about having the chance to go shoot in this quirky place. I was so looking forward to it.

I had only ever been in contact with Thomas via Flickr email, but once we met, we hit it off immediately. We hooked up on a late autumn evening in October in the centre of Copenhagen. First, he brought me to this beautiful building that had an amazing spiral staircase and elevators without doors that never stopped – you just had to hop on and hop off – carefully. After this, we got on our bikes and joined the hundreds of other Copenhagen cyclists on the many cycle lanes that the city has, and we made our way out to the Norrebro area of Copenhagen where this park, know as Superkilen Park,  is located.

Very often when you get to see things you have only ever seen before in a photo in real life it can take a while to take them in. This was the case when we arrived. Those long, curving white lines got my eye and I found myself following their path. It really was a cool spot! After some time shooting a few frames, I got the idea of how I wanted to create an image there. The lines lead the eye on a journey and to best accentuate that would to be compose it from an incline. We headed up this little hill for this different perspective. The shot below which I took with my DSLR shows  this perspective and from where I took the iPhone shot.

King of the castle

King of the castle

Standing now in the position where the person is in the image above, I knew would allow for the kind of shot I was looking to get. We stayed up on top of this little hill for about 25 minutes, chatting and getting some images. It was a quiet evening and there were not that many people passing through. Knowing that I wanted to get the human element in the photograph, I waited. Photography can require a combination of patience and luck at times. Fortunately, for me four people entered the frame, three walking and one on a bike with the lines twisting down to meet them as they went on their way. Reviewing the image after I had taken it, I was reasonably happy. I knew I would later convert it to black and white to bring out the contrasts of the lines against the black surface. Here is the original image.



Later in the evening, I used the iPhone app Snapseed to convert to black and white and play a little with the contrast.

God will send a sign. When he does be prepared.

God will send a sign. When he does,  be prepared.

Now, here’s a funny thing. When I posted it to Flickr on October 31st, I gave it the title – ‘God will send a sign. When he does, be prepared.’ I am not religious, but I do have a God shaped socket with no plug to fit it. I seem to recall that the image made me feel that the four characters in the frame were just going about their daily business, each unaware of the other, but that maybe some day they would need to react and they would need to be prepared. I like giving titles to my images and while it can be hard, when it does work, it adds a dimension to the photograph. Does this title match the image? I am not sure. But it sure has gotten me thinking!

The photo received a great reaction on Flickr, getting thousands of views and some great comments from my Flickr contacts. Time moved on and the image lay there in my Flickr stream like all the others. Then out of the blue in December I got a Flickr mail from a person who had zero photos asking me to contact them about a research project. I ignored it. It was spam. But when the person sent the mail again urging me to be swift in response, I replied. Details were sketchy. There might be interest in my photo, would I be interested? Ehm… OK.

Then to my amazement I saw the name Apple and I was definitely interested. They were interested in two photos, the above one and another from I had taken in Berlin. Through the jigs and reels and many emails later we arrived at the end of February and I got an email congratulating me on my image being part of the Apple World Gallery. I was thrilled! Later, I got a phone call to congratulate me and I thought I heard the woman say that as part of this my image would be on billboards and posters in 70 cities in 24 countries. She couldn’t have said that, though. No.

Monday came and the page went live on Apple. What a buzz to find my image there, and in fifth place as you scroll! It was so great to see the other images selected. One after another and I was going wow, wow, wow. They all looked amazing. Apple had done such a great job in choosing these. Really impressive.

Later that morning, I got an email with a list of cities where, I was told, my image was on billboards. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, Bogota, Hamburg, Berlin, Milan, Kuala Lumpur. Ya!? Really. Could it be? So, she actually had said that. Wow! How super cool!.

But how could I get to see them? As you can imagine, I wanted so much to see them. I got on to Flickr. Checked the locations of my friends there. Were any in these cities? A few. Anton was in Berlin. Dirk was in Hamburg. Nigel in LA. I had a chance. I set about writing emails. Please, please if you are anywhere these locations can you find if my image is on a billboard there? Of course, came the reply and the next day, Anton had located my image in Alexanderplatz Train Station in Berlin. It was true! My photo was on a billboard.



It was hard to take in. I stared at the screen, eyes wide with amazement. Wow! A few short months previous I had been standing on that very platform in Berlin and now there was this huge billboard with my photo.

On my social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, things began to get a little crazy. So many messages of congratulations. Then I began to do a search on the #shotoniphone hashtag and lo and behold images of mine started to appear from New York and Boston. Then I found someone had set up a Twitter account @shotoniphone6 and that they were tweeting images of people’s shots from around the world. From that I got to meet some of the other photographers whose images were chosen. This has been a great thing also in that we can share our excitement and awe of finding our shots in the wild. Thanks to Ryan Healey for sending me this image.



On Tuesday night, I hardly slept. There were so many updates on Twitter, and then my friend in LA, Nigel sent me a shot of my image on a billboard in Hollywood. Hollywood!

Hollywood, Los Angeles

Hollywood, Los Angeles

I got this about 5 in the morning. There was no chance to get back to sleep. I was exuberant. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. It is beyond cool. I was working early on Wednesday and I had already told my boss about it and she encouraged me to share the news in my university. She kindly wrote a little piece with the accompanying photo from Hollywood and this then appeared on my university’s social media platforms. This thing was gaining momentum.

The next day was probably the craziest. It the space of about 20 minutes, I got a request from a Danish journalist for an interview, an email from Apple’s P.R person about an interview with the Irish Independent and then this came in:

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya, Tokyo

Now anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Flickr will know that I absolutely love Tokyo and that if I love Tokyo then Shibuya I  a d o r e!  I immediately rang my wife. ” You can’t believe it!. It’s in Shibuya! It’s in Shibuya! And to make it even more cool was the fact that Laurence had created such an amazing shot of it. I was so delighted.

Later in the day, I did the interview with the Danish journalist and Adrian from the Irish Independent. Here is the Danish piece. Still waiting to see of the Independent publish the interview.

On Twitter, more and more images began to appear of shot on iPhone ads from around the world, but no new ones of mine, unfortunately. Apple is so clever. They don’t sell products, they sell experiences. The hype surrounding their product releases is something to behold. An Apple product launch is headline news. This latest campaign of theirs has those involved in it on a treasure hunt. We do not know when the campaign will end. We don’t know exactly where our images are appearing. We have to scour the net for them. Sure, some photographers are lucky that their images are on billboards in their hometown, or they are like Austin Mann who gets to film the unfurling of his awesome ad (this is well worth watching), but I am from Cork, albeit the home of the European headquarters of Apple,  there is no promotion here. But I guess it all adds to the excitement. If anyone reading this comes across the photo, can you please send it to me?

On Thursday night, I tweeted the image Nigel had sent me of the billboard in Hollywood and it got retweeted so many times. From this, the Irish Examiner contacted me and did this piece on me. From that, numerous people got in contact to congratulate me. Then on Friday morning, I got a tweet from the Dave Fanning radio show. Now, anyone around my age would have grown up listening to Dave’s iconic radio show. This was before the Internet. Dave is Ireland’s John Peel. He gave bands their big break. U2 have a lot to thank Dave Fanning for. Anyway, back to the story. The radio station were enquiring as to whether I would be interested in talking to Dave about my experience of being part of the Apple World Gallery. Of course, I would. I spoke with one of the researchers and as I write this it is only about an hour before I go on and talk to him on his Saturday morning show. I could never have imagined all of this.

Later on Friday, a good friend of mine living in San Francisco, Jon-David messaged to say that he had found my photograph on a poster in Van Ness train station in San Francisco. I wrote back telling him to get me as many shots as he could, but to make sure he got one of himself standing next to the poster. My wife has come up with the great idea of having a wall of framed photographs of the image from around the world. It will be great to have friends of mine in the images too. Thanks JD.

Jon-David in San Francisco

Jon-David in San Francisco

As it turns out, my brother is in New York this weekend and someone has told me that the image is in Port Authority train station. I really hope he can get a photograph of it with himself beside it. That would be super cool. Even more super cool, will be next weekend when I fly out to Milan to try to find for myself one of my billboards. My wife decided this was a too-good-to-miss opportunity. So hopefully I will get a photo of myself in front of a huge billboard of my own photograph. Unfortunately, we cannot get a babysitter for the kids. I really would love if she could come with me.

And where do I go from here? I had never expected all of this. Photography is my hobby. It is what I do for fun. The iPhone puting Phun – iPhunography. Maybe I can sell Apple that slogan! Where do I go from here? Back to enjoying photography – back to having fun. And who knows where that will lead to.

One of the most lovely things about all this experience has been being able to share it with family and friends. Their reaction has made it so special. I always try to make myself realise how fortunate I am; I have an amazing, loving family, and I if my kids grow up to have just one friend like I have, I know they will be OK in life. I need more than one hand to count the great friends I have. Thanks!

Thanks to all who have sent photos, congratulations and kind words. It means so much to me. Thanks to Jen Pollack Bianco who sent me that great panoramic shot above. Thanks Jen!

You can read Part 2 of this here and Part 3 here.



Posted in iPhone, My own favourite photographs, My Story of my 'Shot on iPhone' Photograph, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Mobile Photography

The most popular camera on Flickr is the iPhone. How crazy is that? The camera which is the most popular was not even made by a camera company and is a device that only has a camera function. It is not a stand-alone camera.  Imagine how the Nikons, Canons and Fujis must feel about this? Like so many innovations, those leading the field are so often taken over by others. Look at Paypal, Netflix and Spotify. None of those giants came from the world of banking, film or music. Those industries did not have their on the ball and have been left floundering.

Photography has exploded. Everyone has a camera now and everyone takes shots and shares them. Mobile photography is turbo-charging this growth in the popularity of photography. But hasn’t photography always been mobile? I think the mobile part of mobile photography will soon disappear. The quality of cameras, lens and apps on smart phones has improved incredibly over the past few years and we are not too far off a DSLR quality camera on a phone. It will happen and a time will come when mobile photography will no longer be considered an emerging genre or even a genre of photography.

For this reason, I am so happy to be around at this embryonic stage. There are some really great people out there pioneering the genre and promoting its acceptance into the mainstream. One of these is Andy Butler from England. His website – mobiography.net – and electronic magazine Mobiography is one of a kind. It has fantastic features, tutorials and showcases the work of some of the leading lights in this field. I really believe that in years to come, students of photography and those with a passion for it, will look back at this publication and website and it will serve as a valuable historical document of how photography went from being a hobby which was costly and only enjoyed by a comparative few to an activity enjoyed by millions. It is such an exciting time for photography. How will it continue to evolve? If we cast our minds back five years and consider how different the landscape was then to now, imagine what it might be like five years from now!

Being a part of this is something I take pride in. I was very pleased when Andy asked me to write a little piece on the image I am most proud of this year. I sent him a different photograph initially, but then closer to the deadline submitted the image below. It is exciting to think that in years to come people looking back at the time when everything changed in photography might come across my favourite image of 2014 and the little piece I wrote about it. I got to say thanks to Andy for this.

You can read about it here.

There are a few others out there who are doing incredible work promoting photography which at the moment is classified as mobile. In no particular order I strongly advise you to check out the sites of:

The App Whisper’s website – this is a one-stop-shop run by Joanne Carter. Everything you want here.

iPhoneography Central – another excellent and comprehensive website for everything to do with mobile photography run by Nicki Fitzgerald and Bob Weir. Also, check out their great book on mobile photography.

And to complete the list – iPhone Photography School – another excellent resource for everyone interested in photography run by Emil Pakarklis.

And the world’s best competition for mobile photography – Mobile Photographs Awards run by Daniel Berman.


Faint heart never won fair lady

Faint heart never won fair lady


Posted in iPhone, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

August 13 2014

One more image from this series of blurred out passersby. It’s funny when I took these shots back in April, I remember feeling quite frustrated. It is a feeling I encounter a lot when out shooting. You cannot magic photographs. So many elements have to collide to create a good photograph when you are on the streets shooting. I have never been hunting, nor would I ever want to be, but I guess the sensations do have parallels. Your senses are alert and heightened. You are constantly scanning scenes, searching out a shot. You are ready. Shots appear, but may become obscured as soon as you see them. Your camera, with all its different settings, may be not be set up properly. It can drive you crazy.

The day, which was a combination of shopping and photographing, had been, thus far, frustrating. I had imagined the type of shots I wanted to get, but none of them were appearing for me. Then I found this boarded up shop which gave the backdrop and all I needed was passersby. Looking at the images on the small screen of the camera I felt they were just ok. I left them and only came back to them this week and on the big screen of the computer they look so different.


Buttonhole slips

The iPhone image for today is all about putting the phun in iPhunography. I do not know why Apple does not run with that play on words. Photography is a hobby that is so much fun. We have iPhoneography and all it needs is a little mispronunciation (always fun to mispronounce things – so many new words come from that) and we get iPhunography. This shot is of a climbing wall. The atheltic woman on the wall is my sister in-law. I took a shot of this two years ago with my athletic father in-law and daughter climbing the wall. It is always so much easier to stand back and photograph than to jump up and climb.

photo (8)


Posted in Daily posts to Flickr, iPhone, photograph posts, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |


Rain in Tokyo and an evening to myself, I decided to head to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi to visit the Andy Warhol exhibition. I have always been fascinated with the work of Andy Warhol, but not such a great admirer of his art. How the rich pay multiple of millions for one of his pieces baffles me. For me, art has to have beauty or honesty in its core and there is a lack of this in the work of Warhol. I get his interpretation of the times he lived in; I get his intention, but it leaves me cold.

Roppongi in Tokyo is skyscraper territory. Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is one of these skyscrapers which houses the Mori Art Museum and has this iconic spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois outside its main entrance. I had seen photographs of it before and one of the attractions of visiting here was the chance to photograph the sculpture. But how? I experimented with many different angles using both the iPhone and the DSLR, but none seemed unlike a cliche shot to me. Eventually, I managed to get one I liked with both the iPhone and DSLR. The iPhone one is washed and processed a lot, but I think it suits the sculpture to be treated like this.


Louise Bourgeois Spider, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

The DLSR is a cliche shot, but I like it. There is always competition for position around often-photographed places. This guy had walked over me as I lay on the ground getting the iPhone shot. I was pleased he stayed around as I continued to try to get another shot.


Mori Art Museum, Tokyo


The exhibition was, like so many things in Tokyo, crowded. I entered with the iPhone in my hand and the DSLR hanging around my neck. After one quick shot of a Warhol portrait I was surrounded by staff who reprimanded me and reminded me that photography was strictly forbidden. A pity. I really wanted to get photos of people looking at the art, not so much of the art itself.


Andy Warhol

The exhibition itself was moderately interesting. They had recreated Andy’s studio and it was fascinating to imagine the comings and goings of the rich and famous people of Andy’s time. He sure was a trailblazer in getting us all obsessed with the lives of celebrities.

After picking up some souvenirs in the gift shop (I love art galleries’ gift shops!), I headed to the observation deck to check out the views of the sprawling metropolis that Tokyo is. Raindrops formed their own lines of traffic on the windows and the ubiquitous jazz music playing in the background created a beautifully melancholic mood to view Tokyo as the evening light slipped away.



There is a wonderful calming quietness that comes from viewing a monster city from high up. The city appears free of its manic momentum. I love these buildings and the vantage points they provide. I love to stand back and observe others as they take in the view. It makes for great photographs. Photographs that exude a dreaminess. One of the themes I keep coming back to in my photography is distances. Distances, physical and emotional. Especially in couples. What can you imagine from this couple based on their proximity?


Distances (iPhone)

How about this pair?


Distances (iPhone)

I spent time lurking (sounds worse than it was) behind people framing them taking in the Tokyo skyline. This couple spent minutes apart lost in thought looking out on the cityscape.



Then came together for a moment.


Distances [2]

Only to part again.


Distances [3]




Posted in photograph posts, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Mobile Photography Awards

Last Wednesday, the results from the Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs) were announced. This was my second time entering the competition. Last year, I did not place. This year, I got two honourable mentions for the photographs below. This is a competition I really like. It is exceptionally well-organised and there is so much quality in the winning images and those which received honourable mentions. Mobile photography is innovative and has real momentum. There is a thriving mobile photography community and some extraordinary people driving it forward with passion. Daniel K. Berman, the founder of the Mobile Photography Awards, is one of these people. The MPAs, I believe are helping photographers to emerge and to gain recognition. And also, the competition is inspiring photographers to learn, to experiment, to innovate and to have fun.

Photography is a hobby for me. I remember reading something from Eric Kim (I tried to find the quote, but couldn’t) where he said that as a hobby photographers bring more passion to it than professionals whose income depends on it. Eric Kim talks a lot of sense and his Street Photography blog is, for me, one of the very best blogs on the net. I have learnt so much there.

And you know, he is right. As a hobby, it is about fun. And a lot of fun involves competition. By nature, we are competitive. We contrast what we can do and how we do it with the things others do and their methods on a constant basis. Photography is a fine example of this. I have learnt more from the photography of others than from my own photographic practice. Viewing and studying the images of others’ feeds and informs my evolution in what I want to see and how I want to see and present it. This learning can be considered a derivative  of competition. When I see and admire photographs, I want to be able to shoot like that, but I want to put my own stamp on it. I aspire to get to the level of expression these photographers have. It motivates and inspires me. It gets me competing if you want, and the process of imitate, assimilate and innovate begins. 

I do not agree with those who are against competition in life; those who say it is not good to foster a competitive spirit in children. I don’t agree. We need to learn to compete, to learn to win and more importantly to learn how to lose. Along the way, we can discover the fun, the enjoyment, the satisfaction that comes from pushing ourselves, from wanting to realise potential.

I have entered a few photography competitions now, about 5 in total. In hindsight, the hardest part is selecting the images to enter. I have learnt that it is best to trust my instinct on this. A hard thing to do. In submitting images, I find I am trying to second guess the judges and I try to enter images that I hope they would like. Then when the results are revealed and I learn I did not win, I tend to feel guilty and regret putting in images that I connected with.

And there is the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.

What a hobby photography is. What a community has sprung up in the past decade. Am I right to think that before photography might have been an often- lonely and solitary pursuit? Now, with all the social media sites for photography, there is a vibrant community sharing and learning.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.



A new week

Posted in iPhone Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |


It might be 2015 by the time I get this end-of-year review finished. Work always seems to get in the way of the important things in life.

November was a fine month for mobile photography. What? It was a fine month for photography, full stop! I am not a fan of that term – mobile photography. Since when were cameras not mobile?

Anyway, back to November and back to a month that saw the first of these type of images. I posted a blog before on the technique of creating these. In fact, it is quite easy. The corridors in my workplace are a little treasure trove for photography for me. I have taken so many images there of the students passing along the long corridors. The light can be so good there. The two tone floor of grey and white and the grey of the walls allow for a minimalist look that I love. To get the inky brushstroke images of people walking along these corridors is easy. The trick is to get them in motion on the white-coloured portion of the floor; have the iPhone pointed down and then turn it up quickly as the shutter is released. This gives the blurred-out form to the figures. I then import it to Snapseed; turn up the brightness and contrast and convert it to black and white. This gives a black figure on a white background. Then import it to Instagram; use the willow filter and hit the brightness button and it all turns grey. And you’re done. It is simple and fun.

The photo I am choosing for November is the first of these. In the corridor, I noticed this tall and skinnyish guy standing outside one of the classrooms. I knew instantly that he would make for an interesting form in a blurred-out image. I snapped and apped and was going to go with the background as white until I hit the brightness button on Instagram and the creamy grey background appeared. I was smitten. In the weeks ahead I managed to get more shots like this. The second image below has proven to be my most popular photograph ever. It got to Flickr’s Explore, hit number one for a short while and gained thousands of views and hundreds of faves. While it is a nice image and one that I have received a lot of positive feedback on, it is not my favourite. The one of guy is a better image, I feel. There is more left to the imagination about it. The woman is elegant and graceful, but there are so many images that look like that.

As I said, November was a fine month for photography. Looking at the archive I can see many images I am proud of. And this is invigorates me to get back out and shoot more. And that is just what I will do this morning.

Have a great Sunday. Thanks for passing by.




Always leaving

Posted in A Flickr Year, My own favourite photographs, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Heading into autumn now and the month of September. Looking at the archives for that month, I see a number of images that I really like, especially the candid street shots I took. Seeing them now gives me the itch to get out and take more photographs. It is all about the next photograph.

To pick a favourite from September’s iPhone images is not so easy. There is this photograph I took on the way to the All-Ireland hurling final replay in Dublin of a muslim woman having an intense phone call on one of the city’s main streets. Her two-tone head scarf and the theatrical poster in the background really got my attention, and in mid-conversation with my brother, I stopped to snap the shot. I remember him saying to me that one day I would get into trouble for doing that.

Another I really like is this one of a man lost in his own thoughts and looking so sad on the streets of Cork. I like to think that the streak of sunlight behind him gives him hope. Similarly, there is this elegant, graceful but melancholic looking older woman who is also lots in her own thoughts. Then there is one of two young girls walking down Dublin’s main street, O’ Connell Street. This one hit Flickr’s Explore and got thousands of views. Crazy how many views you can get now if your photo hits Explore.

But the one I like most is this one of a child being carried in her mother’s arms. I was collecting my own little girl from school when we caught up with this mother and child ahead of us. The child, so beautiful with such piercing eyes, captivated me. I had to get that shot. It is something I struggled a little with, to be honest, afterwards. I was thinking would I like someone to take a photo like that of my own child. Had I intruded, invaded her privacy? I do not know. But the result is beautiful, I think.

And that is my favourite image taken with my iPhone in September. Hope you are enjoying the series.




Posted in A Flickr Year, iPhone, My own favourite photographs, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |