Selfies and Dingo

Selfies are huge on social networking sites. The word selfie was declared by none other than the highly respected Oxford Dictionary as the word of the year for 2013. For those of you who don’t know what a selfie is (there are some people who don’t), it is, according the Oxford Dictionary, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” There are even selfie derivatives now with my favorite being a belfie or an image of your posterior.

2014-04-10_Dingo Watching NOVA
Dingo watching an episode of NOVA’s Inside Animal Minds, a series about the science of animal cognition and how it is changing what we know about the intelligence of animals. Check your local PBS station for dates and times.

I think that a large percentage of the selfies I see are, to be totally frank, self-indulgent and egotistical exercises of the photograph art. I really don’t care to see you eating dinner or dressed in a cheerleader outfit or diaper or sitting on your toilet. (Yes, they are out there.) However, I can’t say that I have never shot a selfie. I do so very occasionally to document a moment but even then I don’t post it on Facebook.

Despite my general feelings about selfies, I have decided today to make one exception to my general rule of no selfies: Dingo can make selfies. Dingo is my above average dog and she watches NOVA (see the image with this post for proof) and Nature on PBS, Ceasar Millan on Animal Planet, and any animal show on the National Geographic Channel. No cartoons for Dingo. She can also convince any of my office colleagues to part with their lunches with just a look.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to train Dingo to take selfies for two reasons: (1) she needs to learn some tricks and (2) I get to spend quality time wither her sharing my love of photography. (It has been difficult to train her to use Photoshop or Lightroom because, without opposable thumbs, she has trouble using a mouse.) Dingo can be stubborn but responds well to food. So, she should learn quickly following the training outlined in this Photojojo article; it is based on the use of positive reinforcement, i.e., use food to incentivize the dog to take its picture. I also need to buy a new app, Big Camera Button, for my iPhone.

I will report back in a few weeks and post some of Dingo’s selfies. In the meantime, what do you think of selfies and dogs and cats…



I Might Just Change My Mind…

Image of rusty lightI have never been a big iPhoneographer. I have occasionally taken images with my iPhone in the past but I have generally looked at the iPhone camera as an “emergency” camera to only be used in the absence of one of my big Nikons. I crave the control given me by my Nikons to set the set the f-Stop, shutter speed, and ISO independently as well as change lens. Thanks to the efforts of our iPhoneographer instructor, Joyce Harmon, a students, and an investment on Kickstarter, I think that I might just change my mind about iPhoneography.

First, Joyce introduced to a camera app that is really good. ProCamera 7 has, among other things, three distinguishing features for me: (1) separate focus and exposure control; (2) TIFF file format; and (3) night/long exposure controls. With ProCamera, I can set both the focus point and the point in the image at which the exposure should be measured so I can focus on my subject and expose for a bright background to prevent the highlights from blowing out. TIFF file format allows me to capture high quality images or, at least, uncompressed files and the night/long exposure settings gives me some additional tools for long exposure. Is it perfect? No but it is a heck of a lot better than previous camera apps.

Second, a student recommended the Vivid HDR app to me. I simply have never gotten the results that I wanted from any of the HDR apps that I have used in the past and, because it is so easy to blow out the highlights with these cameras, HDR is literally a “must have” for me. Vivid HDR, unlike many of the other HDR apps, takes three images rather than two and blends them together very well and quickly. I am particularly impressed with its ability to handle motion, removing my dog from several image sequences where she shouldn’t have been (like any dog). Beyond that, the colors are good and the app is fairly intuitive.

IMG_1575-editThird, I participated in a Kickstarter project for a universal lens adapter and rig called the Beast Grip. The Beast Grip allows me to mount lens with a 37mm thread on the iPhone and expands the size of the iPhone. The iPhone has always been a little small for me to hold comfortably so the increase in size is a welcomed change.

Moreover, with the above, I have found iPhoneography to be a pleasant change from lugging around a lot of equipment. Its biggest impact may be one that is hard to measure: I feel free to experiment when I use the iPhone. When I pick up one of the Nikons, I always feel as though I have to get the perfect image and then, when working on an image from one of the Nikons, I am reluctant to experiment with different software effects. I am not sure why this is but it is. iPhoneography might just be another way for me to exercise my creativity.

– Brian

Editor’s Note: Joyce Harmon will be teaching a course for the School of Creative Photography on iPhoneography on Saturday, April 5, in Sterling, VA.