Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

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Haiku Review: Canon 70D

Canon 70D

Micro phase detect
Finally a new sensor
Great for video

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Technology has automated the craft of photography, how about drawing?


With the advent of advanced picture-taking computers, aka digital cameras, part of the craft of photography was automated. Photography has always been a combination of craft and creativity. In the old days, the act of making and printing a well exposed photograph was more challenging. Digital has simplified this tremendously to the chagrin of old-time photographers. But how about other creative pursuits, like drawing? What if the craft of drawing can also be mostly automated?

I have little skill in drawing beyond what I did in the 3rd grade. But I recently found this fun little app that runs on the iPhone. It takes a photograph and magically transforms it into a watercolor, one of many styles, that you get to choose with a push of a finger. My apologies to true artists but for a hack like me, this tool is fantastic and amazing. In a sense, it takes the craft of drawing and automates it with a set of canned computer algorithms. Certainly rudimentary for anyone with true ability, but for me, it looks pretty damned good. I’ll be happy if I can draw like this.

So what if we automate the craft of drawing or photography with modern tools. We, as human beings, still own the creativity. Perhaps this is just the Instagraming of drawing but technology will inevitably improve. The competitive angst that photographers feel will move to other creative professions. Do you know that there are computer programs that write technical documents that are now indistinguishable from the human created documents?

As you may know, I’ve always had an interest in architecture. That interest has naturally bubbled up in my photography, something I didn’t even realize until a couple of people pointed it out. The thing is, I don’t have the ability to draw those neat looking illustrations like an architect. Perhaps I like this $1 application so much because it sort of creates instantaneous architectural renderings.

Take a look at these. I shot the originals on my iPhone at the Singapore and Dallas-Fort Worth Airports. I captured the images, post-processed them (originally for Instagram) and then used the Waterlogue app to transform them into these illustrations, all on my phone. I picked these styles because they look like architectural renderings.

Drink and Click Watercolor #1 - Austin, Texas
Drink and Click Watercolor #2 - Austin, Texas
Drink and Click Watercolor #3 - Austin, Texas

Waterlogue in not limited to photos shot on the iPhone. I took these with my Fujifilm X100S at the Drink and Click event and transferred them to the iPhone. I used the app to transform these too, using a more impressionistic setting, one of a dozen available styles.

Drink and Click Watercolor #4 - Austin, Texas
Drink and Click Watercolor #6 - Austin, Texas
Drink and Click Watercolor #6 - Austin, Texas

Even in my widest dreams, I know this isn’t real art. Art requires creativity and originality, not just executing an algorithm. But I find it compelling nevertheless. The illustration at the top, a watercolor conversion of a snapshot I took with my iPhone is a little memento from one my recent business trips. The comforting glow of warm light makes even a business hotel look inviting.

I can imagine, not too long ago, an artist hired for a Hilton Hotels ad by some Mad Men. The copy would read “All the comforts of home, away from home” and would feature this image. Now the entire art department fits in a pocket, technology trying to supplant craft. Until the singularity is achieved however, I feel comfortable that the real creativity and art still remains with us. If predictions hold, we can maintain human creative edge for at least 25 more years.

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I applied the watercolor effect to photographs using the Waterlogue app.


A visit to the graffiti wall with the Fujifilm X100S

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

Observations at the graffiti wall – Austin, Texas

Several of my friends, including Kirk Tuck have posted pictures from the Graffiti wall in downtown Austin. I’ve said in the past that I’m not a fan of graffiti. I call it public defacement. Part of the negative conditioning I got growing up in New York City back in the 80’s, when the subways were filled will this “artistic” form of self-expression. But things are a bit different in Austin.

There’s sort of a sanctioned place for graffiti called the Hope Outdoor Gallery. An old, defunct condo foundation became a huge three-tiered concrete canvas. It’s actually in a nice part of town near 11th and Baylor streets.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

With my new Pedometer app (Pedometer++ for the iPhone 5S, highly recommended) encouraging me to step away from the computer and start moving, I finally decided to visit the wall yesterday. I figured a photo walk through downtown was a lot more interesting and creative than circling the block in my suburban neighborhood.

I took one camera, the Fujifilm X100S, as my light weight companion. With slowish focusing but excellent color, I figured the X100S would be perfect for a non-moving wall of graffiti. I was thrilled.

I shot mostly at f8, which is rare for me. As you know, I typically shoot at night, wide-open. And while even f2 on the Fuji is quite sharp, at f8 and ISO 200, the detail and color is fantastic. The overcast day was perfect and the even light made everything pop.


The Hope Gallery is ever-changing. Layers of paint and creativity follow a cycle of destruction and renewal. Look at the video Kirk made of the place back in February. In two months, everything is different. Even the graffiti artists have succumb to the speed of this modern, technology-driven, change oriented society. Like the online world which demands a steady stream of new content, this physical wall also obliges.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

The place is popular with many taking or posing for photos.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas
Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas
Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

It’s hard to judge the scale of the artwork. These 3 photos are closeups. Look at the leaves for reference.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas
Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas
Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

But these 3 cover an entire wall.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas
Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

I saw several artists adding their mark. Christina and a friend created a multi-colored Diana Ross courtesy of a home made stencil. Another created stylized words more reminiscent of what I remember from those NYC subway trains.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

People are friendly in a typically Austin fashion.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

Here you can see the scale of this place. The angles and the foundation fed my predisposition for buildings and architecture. The ruin surely taps into my urban roots. These colors are something you don’t see in the U.S. It’s like looking at a Japanese game show with its unbelievable juxtaposition of color.

Observations at the graffiti wall - Austin, Texas

Make it up to the third level and you are rewarded with a commanding view of downtown Austin. The Texas State Capitol on the left along with the older high-rises makes the city look quaint. Hidden out of view to the right are the new, taller condos that appear to spout up with increasing regularity.

More views of the changing city in a future post.

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3.

Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.


Two talks by professional photographers, which do you identify with?

I don’t watch TV any more. I head to YouTube, not for cat videos, but education and inspiration. I came upon two videos from “Talks at Google” that couldn’t be more opposite. One was by Art Wolfe and other by Vincent Versace, both professional photographers.

One says the great impressionist painters is his inspiration. The other rejects 17th century composition theory.

One says he only knows how to use 5% of his camera. The other starts by talking, even bragging about gear.

One strives to create something different. The other shoots solid but conventional images.

I wonder if their attitudes and perspective affects their art? Absolutely. Which photographer do you identify with? Perhaps there is a bit of both in all of us. For me, I’m only inspired by one of them.



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Haiku Photo: Visitor’s Center

Visitor's Center, Mission San Jose - San Antonio, Texas

Patterns and shadows
Architecture becomes art
Leading lines command

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