In June I went to New York for only the second time, the first was 37 years ago. It was a great place then but this time I had chance to appreciate it at greater length.
New York, like Birmingham, is being continuously renewed with new people moving in from all around the States and the rest of the world. And, while you had to explain to Americans where Birmingham UK was 37 years ago, now many more know about our city.
It was the restless feel that got me taking pictures. I had a Nikon with me but I wanted to capture some street photographs in the style of the great shooters like Elliott Erwitt, Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander and Gary Winogrand.
And it turned out I had the perfect camera in my pocket the iPhone 4S. Trust me this is now a very usable photographic tool particularly in the good light you get in New York. And New York is quintessentially the place to do street photography.
As well as everybody being on the move they are also mostly in their own space and of course these days most are on their smart phones talking to their invisible friends. So having an iPhone in your hand is pretty inconspicuous. And now the iPhone camera can be triggered by the volume plus button it’s pretty easy to hold it in one hand using your thumb to fire it down at waist level. You have to get a feel for holding it level but with street shots it really doesn’t matter if they are not level and the randomness of what is in or out of the frame adds to the effect. Even the odd intrusion of your finger into the shot seems OK.
I use CameraBag a lot as an iPhone or iPad app or the desktop version. And rather than the one size fits all effect from Hipstamatic I find that I can see photographs that will fit and work well with the processing effects from the app. Far from being a cheat shooting on the iPhone and processing in the app feels similar to shooting film, imagining the image and then processing and printing in the darkroom. The filter I use most is Lolo as it enhances colours and turns pictures into almost abstract art. There are some examples of using this effect at: www.brianhomer.com/galleries/iphone-squares/
But for the street shots it immediately felt right to convert to black and white. At first I used the 1962 filter which apes old black and white contrasty images. On the iPhone these looked fine but on closer examination back in the UK they looked far to contrasty and I disliked the crop the filter had used.
So I re-edited and re-processed the original images using CameraBag 2 on the Mac. It produces exactly the same results but means you are not cluttering up the iPhone with multiple versions. This time I used the straight Mono filter with no cropping. I could have used Photoshop but I like the effect and it seems to suit the images well.
As well as grabbed from the hip street shots, some are more conventionally shot using the screen but I think they hang together as a set.
Back here in Birmingham I’ve started taking street pictures again with the iPhone. There’s a sample from the Jewellery Quarter below. Since I took it I have discovered another cool iPhone feature – you can trigger the shutter using the volume control on the headphones and I’m eager to try that out.