More street photography with the iPhone and VSCO Cam [Street]

"The best camera is the one you have with you".  Truer words have never been spoken, and I have to say that I'm loving the combination of my iPhone and VSCO Cam for street photography.  The day I forgot to bring my camera with me over my lunch break was one of the first times I thought "Know what? I'll just use my iPhone.  I have this pretty cool app that I can process the photos with, so why not?"  Man, this works.

The thing that gets me the most is when I carry my phone no one pays any attention to me.  They don't know I'm taking their photo at all, and if they do, they certainly don't let on.  

I was in a forum recently and mentioned the incredible burst-mode in the iPhone, and was surprised by the response that "That's why iPhone photos have no soul". I call bullshit. 

The truth is that using some basic stealth shooting techniques and making use of the wide angle lens, I'm getting very soulful results, in my humblest of opinions anyway.

Do you suppose people would be as loose and expressive if they knew I was taking their photo?  

The honest truth is that I'm not sure that I would have access like this with a full size camera.  I don't think people would let me in.  When I walk past them, finger on the trigger, I smile, say hello, and then I'm on my way.  I haven't been intrusive at all, and the expressions I get back are honest rather than posed. 

As for the app, VSCO Cam is brilliant.

The basic app is free, available for both Apple and Android devices.  You can take photos through the app, but sadly it disables the volume control as a shutter button and doesn't support burst mode.  Because of this I stick to the iPhone's camera app then import the images to VSCO Cam for editing.

The app comes with some number (I've forgotten how many) basic presets that give you a starting point for your photos, and they look great, not hipstagram-ish.  You can edit lots of global settings like exposure, contrast, shadows and sharpness to name a few.

 I went and bought the rest of the presets that didn't come with the free version, and it only cost me $7.  Once you get your head around the editing tools and find the filters you like to use the best, image creation becomes effortless.  I've actually filled up my iPhone's hard drive already, and need to make some more room very soon.

If you would like to see more of this kind of work, feel free to visit my "Grid" at  This is a small collection of the photos that I take and share using my iPhone and the VSCO Cam app.

More updates coming soon!

Daily Photo: 30/09/2013 - Rockabilly Guitarist [Events]

Camera: Canon Elan 7e
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 II
Film: Ilford Delta 3200
Settings (Approx): 1/125, f/2.5, ISO3200
Location: Bearly's House of Blues, Halifax, NS
Process: Developed in Ilfotec DD-X, scanned with a Canoscan 5600F.

For this photo and the rest of the roll of film I was going for a very classic film-grain vibe to make the images look authentic and contrasty.  I got what I was after!  Shooting the film wasn't too difficult, though after seeing the results at 3200 from my 5DII compared to the Delta 3200 results, I should have overexposed a bit or developed a little more. 

Daily Photo: Center of Attention [Street]

Technical Information:
Camera: Canon Elan 7e
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 II
Film: Ilford HP5+
Location: Halifax, NS
Process: Developed in Ilfosol S, scanned with a Canoscan 5600F.

Public Gardens seems to be a gathering place just before prom. It's a fantastic venue to get your photos done while you're all dressed up and ready to celebrate the final days of High School.  I had no idea that the event was planned when I went out, nor did I expect to see so many people. Another example of "Luck favours the prepared" or I suppose, "f/8 and be there". 


A Very Photographic Saturday (Part 1: Scott Manor House)

It was gearing up to be a very busy Saturday for me, with two events on the books, one of them stretching long into the night. 

The Sackville Photo Club put on a display of images and a slide show at the  Scott Manor House to encourage people to come out and see what we're all about.  We would also be handy on Saturday to show people, if they were interested, how to use their cameras.  The turnout was so-so, but that allowed me some time to talk a bit with some of the guides.  Of course, I asked if I could make a portrait or two, especially with them in their 1800's garb.  

The photos were all taken in the sitting room, immediately to the right upon entering the old house.  Generally, you aren't even allowed to sit in the furniture, but we made a phone call to ask if it would be alright.  

I did my best to keep the lighting simple and clean, but the sun outside was causing some problems.  For the two shots by the window, it was a matter of waiting for the sun to come out from behind the clouds. I contemplated putting up a softbox outside the window, but I was really hoping to get away with minimal equipment.  In the end, for both the photos above, I used a single flash, balanced to be just barely there, off camera right and gelled warm to simulate a tungsten bulb. It really doesn't matter much in the black and white version, though I wasn't 100% sure I was going to take that route in post. Better safe than sorry.

For the final shot, things got a little dicey.  I had to introduce a softbox camera right to get the lighting levels where I needed them, but the added challenge of lighting two faces in opposite directions had me doing some footwork.  In the end, I added a second flash, off camera left to help push the levels up and get some light where it needed to go.

The girls needed very little direction at all, I just told them to gossip and they were doing everything I was looking for in the shot.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which involves a creepy abandoned hotel, coastline, stars and galaxies!


Old Photo, New Tricks

Almost a year ago, at the end of April, 2012, Jess and I set off on an adventure.  We traveled to the U.S.A. and visited places like New Hampshire, Boston, and New York City.  From there, we trekked through upstate New York to Niagara Falls.  Finally we worked our way back home, stopping in Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.   The journey was about 2 weeks long.  I took a massive amount of photos.

When we got back, I started to edit the photos and arrange them into a book using Apple Aperture.  I have the book mostly completed, but due to time and financial constraints I never actually printed it.  I think it's time to revisit the trip and make up a photo book!

Here's one quick sample of a photo I took while we were in Boston.  I had originally used Aperture's black and white feature, but since last week's announcement from Google, I have access to Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. Here's the result:

Adding the film grain and black and white processing helped make this into one of my favourite images from the trip.  I'm going to go through the rest of the photos and reprocess all of them to put in my book.  Then, you know what?  I might actually print the damn thing!


P.S.  Stay tuned for a blogpost later this week featuring my biggest shoot to date:  A fashion session at a wonderful boutique furniture store.  Sneak preview is here, check it out!