Rapidly Melting Photograph - Idea Frozen Before It Completely Melts

In my posting, “Hipstamatic / Instagram Part 2” I touched upon how shooting with the iPhone has become a sketch pad for ideas.  Well, I just finished a piece that perfectly illustrates the journey from loosey-goosey Hipstamatic snap to a fully produced / realized photograph.  Here, look.  Having my images of kids on McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes all summer made me want to stick with little munchkins again!

In a nutshell, I’ve been noticing that the actual process of shooting with a mobile device is an act of exploring ideas.  So here’s a little stinker named Dorian (okay, my son) eating a ridiculously-priced ice cream / waffle cone at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  He wasn’t styled or in any way prepared for another one of Dad’s “extra dessert yielding” shoots.  The dude just looked happy.  And in the midst of an anti-photograph phase I figured he would take no notice as I pulled out my phone to take a few shots.  (I was right, of course.)  I didn’t think much of it until the end of the day when I reviewed the images from our adventures.  ‘Twas exciting to discover that the cap obscuring his eyes had eyes embroidered in to take their place!  It was then that I decided to take this idea further – with a band of miniature comrades.  I was now committed to producing a high quality image that told more of a story – while still maintaining that whimsical, magical, and unintended funny graphic with those googly eyes.

The first thought was to have a background that was nondescript / ambiguous, maybe even the same shiny blue tiles from the original shots.  But then I was “informed” again by another “phone” shot.  Here’s another “sketch” I took at the Berkeley Kite Festival.  I don’t remember what digital “film” or “lens” I was using but I was taken by the warm rosy, candy-like effect on the landscape and sky.  It was then that I decided a beach would be a perfect setting for this shot – with a similar color treatment.  (The dried grasses looked like golden sand to me.)

Now I had a good excuse to go to Stinson Beach for the day.  Stunning and perfectly crowded and free parking.

Then. . . . the kids.  The idea of having the parents bringing their kids to the beach (and a stylist bringing a mobile freezer to house the 12 gallons of ice cream) seemed ridiculous.  Too many factors!  Answer:  The studio.  Duh.  Putting five year olds to work is surprisingly easy when there's a triple scoop of ice cream involved.  During these last dog days of summer, I set up the studio lights, handed each kid a cone bulging with their favorite flavor, and told them to go for it.  There was a moment of stunned silence, then a messy attack.  I did a number of images with all the kids grouped together (in the same shot) and it actually worked out pretty well.  But I ended the session with those configurations - having the good sense to work with each kid solo first - before a giddy, messy dynamic could arise.  In the end, I used individual shots of the kids and composed it in post.  Sweet!

Looking forward to the next adventure in taking a "phone sketch" to a higher place.  I'll keep you informed.

Special thanks to supreme stylist, Peggi Jeung for her talent, kindness, and kid-skills.  On this day I called her, “the ice-cream whisperer”.  Also, a shout-out to Hilary Fleming who assisted me – and the kids.  Oh, and all the moms, too.  They’d kill me if I left them out.

The "ice-cream whisperer" Peggi Jeung.

Talking politics with the young and impressionable.  Photograph by Hilary Fleming.

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Hipstamatic - Instagram Part 2 - The ideal photographer's sketch pad.

In my last posting on the Hipstamatic, I railed against its “art in a can” nature.  Damn, my feelings have evolved.  To start, I’m intrigued (and thrilled) that as a professional image maker, this technology has become a virtual “sketch pad” for ideas.  The iPhone is with me all the time now, so I don’t miss anything.  While I sometimes find the final product / image “neat” or “amusing” or “cool and scrappy”, the tool’s real value to me is capturing ideas

Ideas come from all kinds of places:  the mind, a visit to a gallery, inspiration from compelling looking people, etc.  But now, ideas also come from playing around with your f * * * * * *  phone, taking “snapshots”.  In other words, the actual process of shooting is an act of exploring ideas.  There are a number of “phone” images that I’m now using as blue prints to create more produced and stylized photographs.  (Examples of these will be explored in my next posting on this thought.)  But here’s a seed of an idea I got recently (boy with Cookie Monster hat and ice cream).  I’ll show you how far I’ve taken this soon. . . 

Cookie Monster Boy

Often, advertising / editorial / commercial photographers put so much pressure on themselves (to a major fault) to produce new portfolio material that they become paralyzed in their excitement and fear of the desire to create something powerful and pretty.  For me, this new tool is a major breakthrough.  There’s no risk in playing with your phone.  No time or money commitment, no post processing action, no excuses.  In the words of Frank Zappa:  “Shut up and play yer guitar”.  In this case we’d say, “Shut up and take pictures”.

Family with doll. 

Jen Freebairn's CD package in progress. 

Guardian of the castle.

Arild mirror.

Oven lady.

Goose holiday.

Now there’s something else I’m loving about Instagram in particular.  People who aren’t even pro photographers (look up midwifekim on Instagram) are creating exciting imagery – and very consistently I might add.  Here are three recent images I love by my friend Kim the widwife. (But, there are also pro photographers who are consistently creating boring mobile imagey – doh, did I just say that?)  I like surprises in life.  And to discover that a long-time friend of mine makes bitchin’ images is a true delight.

Photograph © midwifekim on Instagram

Photograph © midwifekim on Instagram

Photograph © midwifekim on Instagram

And now here’s something I’m working on.  Shooting “from the hip”.  I’m trying to get candid images of people with the phone – and getting in as close as possible – without them realizing it and punching me.  I’ve got no problem approaching just about anyone and asking if I can take their picture.  But it always changes the moment.  If they say yes, they’re all of a sudden 100% focused on the fact they’re having their portrait taken, ruining everything for me.  So I’ve been practicing taking photographs while simultaneously making it look like I’m texting or talking on the phone.  The challenge, of course, is achieving the primo composition!  Here are a few hits and amusing misses.  (I get model releases religiously, but sometimes I bypass that when it’s personal work – like here.)

Wrigley Field program guy in Chicago.

Wrigley Field cop in Chicago. 

Waiting for Milton.

Until next time.  Maybe I’ll lose interest in this technology again – but maybe not.

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