Radiation Dose Chart
iPhone camera photography: A primer
Believe it or not… the majority of the photos that I’ve posted from Japan, Barcelona, and Copenhagen were taken with my iPhone. I guess it’s true, that the best camera is the one that you carry with you.
I’ve been a camera aficionado for years, always bringing the big cameras with the interest in getting the best quality photos. To be honest, I was one of the people that would scoff at people who would mediocre cameras and cell phones, knowing that a photographic opportunity would be squandered by the shortcoming of their equipment - lack of resolution, light sensitivity, ability to focus, etc. However, over the past year or so that I’ve been using the iPhone 5, I’m really surprised at the remarkable capabilities of the camera on the phone. Given appropriate conditions, end use of the photo, and the rights apps and technique, I’ve realized that a good phone camera can largely supplant larger, heavier, and more expensive equipment.
So what are these appropriate things?
1) End use: I’ve found that its increasingly rare to print my work or even use it in high resolution. Work published online or on the blog only really demands at most a few megapixels, so those 20-30 megapixel SLRs are really quite overkill. High resolution gives you the latitude to crop heavily, whereas cropping iPhone photos will kill your image.
2) Light conditions: iPhone cameras take great photos in good light. However they quickly become useless in marginal light conditions: in low light or in artificial light. A lot of what one pays for in weight and expense when purchasing an SLR is the ability to photograph in marginal light conditions, with more capable cameras doing better than entry model cameras. So, on a nice sunny day with static subjects, a camera phone takes pretty much equivalent photos as a $3000 DSLR.
3) Apps: Holy cow, the future of photography! No time and place has it been easier to expand the capability and do post-production edits of photos. For example, AveCamPro takes multiple photos at low sensitivity and merges it together, creating a single photos that can be increased in gain without the high-sensitivity noise. It can also be used to create motion blur. HDR mode on the iPhone can dramatically improve dynamic range without any effort. Post-processing apps like VSCOCam, Snapseed, and Afterlight can be used for color grading, image adjustment, and local adjustments in a way that is, to me, so much more intuitive than many desktop programs like Aperture, Lightroom, and Photoshops. JotNot Pro, a phone-scanner app has an incredibly clever feature (and much easier than on photoshop) to correct perspective distortion, especially useful for architectural shots. While phone apps have its limitation, its use of touch screen and instant feedback is incredibly fun and effective.
4) Technique: Just like any camera, a little dose of technique goes a long way. Wipe the lens before the shot - a lot of the blurry camera phone photos are because of smudgy fingerprints over the lens! Give the phone time to focus. First compose the shot, then tap and wait for focus to lock, then gently tap for capture. Most out of your focus shots are because of impatience or because you’re prodding the phone like a neanderthal. And lastly, know when to give up. If you’re too far away, cropping and zooming wont help. “Zooming” on the iPhone just makes your images blocky and ugly. Walk closer or give up. When its dark out and you’re at a party, the photos are going to look like crap. Put the phone away and enjoy yourself.
Spicy Szechwan cucumbers
Many of my favorite summer dishes involve cucumbers. They’re in the height of their season right now and are so so refreshing. I especially love the smaller ones, often called Japanese or Lebanese cucumbers at the grocery store, which has more crisp, a more herbaceous fragrance, and only tiny tender seeds.
This week I tried out a quick recipe from Szechwan Chinese cuisine that compliments the cool and refreshing cucumber with the pungent flavors of Szechwan spices. First, I cut up the cucumber into 3/4” pieces, smashed them lightly to let them better absorb the flavors. Then I tossed it with some salt and let it sit to remove some of the water. After about 15 minutes and discarding the water, I mixed in lots of minced garlic, black rice vinegar, white vinegar, sugar, salt, sesame oil, and chili oil. Finally, in a hot pan I lightly toasted some dried red chili and Szechwan pepper before grinding it up in the mortar and pestle and tossing it in the mix to marinate for 5 minutes. The dried chili gives a pungent heat while the Szechwan pepper gives a numbing and citrusy flavor that Szechwan cuisine is so famous for.
So easy and so tasty. Just be prepared to smell like garlic afterwards.
While I’m not much of a fan of the brand Rolex, I am very much keen on its sister brand, Tudor. For the last few decades, the Tudor sub-brand had languished as the cheaper, “poor-man’s” Rolex, with identically designed and cased watches, but using cheaper materials and outsourced ETA movements. However, a little further back in its history, Tudor has actually produced more many designs and variants that are only now being used as inspiration for their new offerings.
My favorite of these older models is the Tudor “snowflake” submariner, distinctive for the unique shape of the hour and second hands. I love this quirky design touch, which sets it apart from the standard, ubiquitous, and often counterfeited Rolex Submariner. I’ve been on the lookout for a good vintage Snowflake Sub for some time, especially delightful with its bubble acrylic crystal.
The past two years has witnessed a strong comeback of the Tudor brand, now culminating in the re-introduction of the brand in the US market (as of early September 2013), where it has been absent since 2000. I think a lot of the new-found interest in Tudor is due to its efforts in differentiation from the Rolex brand for the past few years, particular in its heritage-styled models. The Pelagos, released in 2012 was the one that I found the most intriguing: it’s design is reminiscent of the Submariner but has distinctive touches. Tudor has brought back the snowflake hands that I love so much, and matched it on a very sharp looking matt black dial. The bezel is ceramic like current Rolex Subs, but also done in a matte finish. The 42mm case and bracelet is made from titanium, giving it a warm brownish grey, and has an exceptionally high quality brushed finish and edge bevelling. The Pelagos also has a helium escape value, a dive-watch feature that’s not even in the standard Rolex Submariner, but only the Submariner Deep Sea. The bracelet clasp has a wonderfully designed sprung expansion and tool-less micro-adjust.
I never expected myself to actually purchase any Rolex products, but here I found myself falling for the Pelagos. At less than half the retail price of a Submariner, I also think it’s also a fantastic deal. It’s heartening to see that Tudor is rapidly shedding its reputation as the “poor man’s Rolex” and developing a strong sense of brand identity.