Look up. You might be surprised at what you see, and what you can shoot.
When I stepped out of my car about 6:30 pm on March 14, National Pi Day (though I didn’t know it at the time), I looked up. It’s a habit I have. Sometimes the best stuff to see is up. As it was that evening.
What I saw made me lunge for my iPhone (the only camera I had, thus the best camera to shoot with) and begin to shoot. The panorama above was the best of the batch; the numbers were painted in the sky by a team of five perfectly-synchronized skywriting airplanes, and were vanishing shortly after they’d appeared in a long, long trail that spelled out 3.141592 . . . and so on. Later, I learned these weren’t the winning lottery numbers; they were a stunt by an aerial ad company for Pi Day. It was my lucky day—there aren’t too many photographers who can claim a photo of Pi in the Sky Writing.
You can retrain your eyes to see above and beyond where you’d usually point your camera. Again, the camera you have is the best one to use. It’s probably your iPhone, not that slick pro camera you spent the big bucks on that’s weighed down in your pack back home. Make the most of your iPhone like so:
- Use the HDR setting. And the non-flash setting. Never use Auto when you have a choice.
- Try a pano. A really wide one (as in, it takes a long time to make the shot), or a shorter one.
- Tap to set exposure and focus: Don’t shoot until you’ve tapped the most brilliant area on screen. That’s the spot your iPhone will use for focus and exposure.
- When you’re shooting up, it’s really important not to shoot into the sun. Turn your body until it’s behind you instead.
- Shoot some verticals, some horizontals, some squares. It’s so easy. And unlike the old days of film, it’s free. So shoot a lot.
- Take a lot of shots. (Can’t say it enough.) With an iPhone in bright sun, you can’t see the screen well enough to know what you’ve got. So you must shoot a lot, with a lot of variations of the above.
- Use an iPad app to enhance. Here’s where the fun begins. You don’t really know what you’ve shot when you’re out in the sun with your iPhone. You can do a quick iPhone edit on the spot (in a shadowed space), or wait to sync up with your iPad later, and get a better look at what deserves the app treatment.
- Apps I used here include: the built-in iPhone app for cropping and auto-enhance, Google Snapseed and Afterlight for saturation, highlights, contrast, sharpening, filters, frames. Since different apps offer many different options, some complex and some quick fixes, it’s important to keep a few on board.
A few days later, while waiting in my car to pass under an arch, I looked up to see more Sky Writing (below), and I was at it again. Looking up never looked so good.
You’ll find more of my photography HERE.