Something of a ritual for me when planning a visit to Eiko’s family in Japan every two years, is to re-evaluate the way I take photos.
Although these days I am taking less photos than I used to, visiting Japan is a sacred photographic expedition as I am allowed, even expected, to walk around with a camera. No matter how often I visit, it always feel like I have entered Mario’s Tiny-Huge Island where things are either miniature or giant. The mix of old and new fascinates me as well, especially when there is evidence of preserving the old — not always a beneficial activity in a fast-moving, onwards and upwards world.
So before leaving, as I covered in my last article, I wondered about using an oldish but capable Fujifilm x100s (digital mirrorless APSC), or an oldish iPhone 6 to play the part of third eye. In the article I talked about my positive experience with an iPhone 8 plus two years ago, and lamented not being able to upgrade my phone again before this trip (blaming time spent in indie game dev, a fairly fruitless if not pleasurable activity!).
Lo and behold (predictably) I was able to upgrade my phone and had a blast with the iPhone 11. In this case, the only real drawback was the lack of a telephoto lens, but in order to have got one I would have sacrificed screen space and spent a lot more on the pro models. Both options are not worth it so I did the best I could with the 28mm (equivalent). This was ideal for the close streets of Japan, but less than ideal for showing cityscapes. However this focal length would be the one I would have chosen out of 50 and 28, but I would prefer a 35mm equivalent over both. 28mm will do though as the convenience of the phone format for shooting, editing and sharing is so … convenient.
There is also a super wide angle camera, which was fun to use although not nearly as good as the 28mm lens. I did use to and a few of the shots below are through that.
I used VSCO cam again, an app that helps edit and process images as well as publish them in ‘journals.’ VSCO is irreplacable for iPhonography as far as I’m concerned. I only really use this app extensively when I’m in Japan, for whatever reason, probably because it really makes photos sing but is an extra step before publishing. Also because I am focussed on photography.
I have no real nitpicks with iPhone 11's camera. It’s still not as good as a larger sensor on a dedicated camera. Also the photographic process is far less controlled than it would be on a camera, but the results of this lack of control are getting better. Ironically as the control you have on a phone gets less, your ability to concentrate on the shot itself increases. As romantic as they are, cameras are tools and thus work best when they do their job unnoticed.
What is their job? Creating images. Creating memories. Creating windows.
Let me show you some below. These are just screenshotted from VSCO but they are linked up to their respective journal entries there.
A note on resolution, noise etc. These to me are secondary to the subject, composition, and tones. The iPhone does really well at preserving the tonal relationships in a scene, which is really the most important thing in capturing how-it-looked. The extra computational stuff being touted (and done) improves this.
A note on the journal entires — what I am trying to do now is use on VSCO filter for one particular excursion, or scene, to unify the images more, even when the option might not be optimal for each photo. This is way more fun though and does result in better feeling journals.