The Netherlands via Instagrams

I got back home to Austin yesterday. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in several days of photography and as you might expect, I shot like crazy. Even though the Fujifilm X100S was my primary camera and the Olympus E-PM2 my HDR on tripod camera, I still found some time to shoot iPhone Instagrams.

Did you follow my little excursions in the Netherlands on my Instagram? I’m posting my favorites here like I did my Singapore Instagrams. And in one sense, posting these shots is tacit acknowledgement that I now consider these images on par with my other photographic creations. They may not match the same absolute technical quality, but the creative energy behind them is no different from using my bigger and more expensive cameras.

I’ve learned to enjoy Instagram as its own form of social photography. It’s light weight, casual and immediate. I would shoot occasionally, post processes and instantly upload, all on the iPhone. It gives me a visual diary as the trip progressed and it’s a fun way to pass the time on trains. To truly appreciate them, they’re best seen on modern high-resolution retina smartphone screens.

What’s unique about this form of photography is that the image capture, processing, viewing, distribution and sharing all happens on one device. For people who have an iPhone 5S, their view of the photograph is exactly as I intended. There’s no screen calibration or color matching issues. As an artist, that’s awesome.

Computers are notoriously inconsistent image quality wise. They all have different monitors, video cards and color profiles that conspire to alter the artist’s originally intended image. When I occasionally view my photos on a lesser computer, I’m aghast at how terrible they look. The colors are off or they are incapable of reproducing the full sRGB gamut. How many people color correct their screens using special hardware? I do and I can’t claim that my profile is that accurate either.

The gold standard for photo viewing has always been the print. I’ve actually been (secretly) experimenting in this area, which I’ll eventually talk about in future posts. Seeing my prints large on 13″ x 17” paper is fantastic — you see details that you miss on-screen. The downside, of course, is that you, the online viewer can’t see them. The other major downside is that I don’t get to post process the look of the image directly on the paper. There is a time-consuming and imperfect process of color calibrating the monitor to the printer in the hopes of producing output that resembles the screen. The dirty little secret is while the camera can shoot in sRGB, and the good monitors can display in sRGB, printers can’t print in sRGB.

So in one sense, while my iPhone produces technically inferior images to my expensive dedicated cameras, the post processing and display pipeline is clearly superior. The small but high-res and colorful screens don’t impress like a large print but they have the advantage of always being with you. These Instagrams become colorful jewels that can be shared with the world which have enough details to jog the imagination.

Ultimately, isn’t that what counts? You view images with your eyes but you see them in your mind and feel them in your heart. These small square photos have a surprising ability to evoke feelings and memories, if not for strangers but certainly for the photographer. Perhaps that’s why Instagram is so popular.

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13 thoughts on “The Netherlands via Instagrams

  1. Just a point of reflection here:
    “while my iPhone produces technically inferior images to my expensive dedicated cameras, the post processing and display pipeline is clearly superior.”
    But the superior post processing of an inferior photo doesn’t add nothing to the photo itself… perhaps you were meaning that the post-processing pipeline is more straightforward and wysiwyg?
    On a site note, I’ve always tought that in the right circumstances, today smartphones can produce images as meaningful and compelling that any
    specialized camera – it is that I just find Instagram processing too much destructive, and every cameraphone app today let you upload your photo instantly to a vast choice of other “social” sites with a click.

    1. Yes, under the right circumstances, smartphones can do a compelling job. Especially when viewed at the proper resolution, which Instagram does so well. I’m sure there are worthy alternatives to Instagram but what I like about this service is that it was created and optimized for mobile photos. I agree that Instagram’s processing can be heavy handed, one that I rarely use these days. I use other iPhone apps to post process and just upload the photos to Instagram.

  2. Excellent photos, once again proving that it’s the eye and execution that make the picture. Also confirmation that the current iPhone camera is an elegant solution. Looking at these blocks of four images within the Safari browser on an iMac offers very pleasing color and resolution. The Fuji and Olympus shots should be nothing less than stunning.

    Please share in detail — the failures, frustrations, and ultimate successes — encountered in your adventures with printing. I’ve hit them all with the exception of the successes. I’ve come to the conclusion, but have yet to implement it, that custom profiles made from controlled samples sent to you as digital files by a profiler, seen on your screen…then printed on your printer and returned to the wizard to conjure up a profile matching your screen and printer to the paper…are the real solution.

    At least one paper maker in the U.K. apparently offers this service at a nominal cost, but their papers aren’t sold through normal channels in the U.S.. I don’t know enough about providers of this service here to comment on any, but would certainly like to know about your experience with them if you ever go that route. It sounds convoluted, but since most of us wind up using only a handful of different paper stocks it may not be an outrageously expensive extra step. Beats wasting all that paper and ink.

    1. Michael, thank you for your kind words. Yes, I need to talk about some of my printing experience, but haven’t gotten to it yet. So much to blog about and not enough time.

  3. I expected wonderful pictures and you sure produced them. I don’t follow anything on Instagram. I’m having enough trouble finding the time to take a peek at the blogs I follow and occasionally glance at news headlines. But love your pictures, however they were taken!

    1. Thank you. It’s easy to take great pictures in such a picturesque country. My Instagram world is just on the iPhone and separate from my computer/blog time. Two different worlds really with only slight cross over.

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