“Photography gives me something to look forward to each day. I feel most myself when engaged in its craft. I can not imagine my life without it. A good photographic image can transform the literal into something extraordinary; something suggestive, thought provoking, heart felt. It is both revealing yet also elusive; it resonates on a variety of levels. Striving to find such images, and to hold on to them through photography, is as deeply personal as the passing moments of my life.”
David DeNagel’s rich body of work has been gracing our Apps Uncovered pages for a few years now. I am a big fan of his photography and have long admired David’s respectful sensitivity towards his subject, particularly the way in which he uses light and careful composition to craft the most beautiful photographs that emit a quiet, yet powerful intensity which I believe express some of his own personality.
Apps used: LOFTCam
Backstory: Using only LOFTCam and one of its filters I shot this still life I had arranged. I choose the aerial view because it was more expressive of the serenity I felt looking at it in the viewfinder.
As well as his quiet observational shooting style often featuring carefully composed still lifes, David has a great eye for street photography and particularly portraiture capturing wonderful characters on his every day journeys. All of the images featured in this article have been shot with the new iPhone 7 Plus but make sure you also pay a visit to David’s Flickr photo stream to see more beautiful examples of this master of light and composition shot with older iPhones.
David’s stunning work has spilled well over and beyond the pages of iPhoneography Central’s, weekly Apps Uncovered showcase having had his work shortlisted in the MPA contest finalist categories and recieving honorary mentions. Further honorary mentions have been recieved from the IPPA awards and earlier this year, his work was exhibited in both Picwant’s Best Exhibition and the Picwant & UWF exhibition in Italy.
His smart phone contributions on various Flickr groups have resulted in his work making frequent appearances in articles and showcases on such sites as the App Whisperer, Mobiography, RD Laing, Explore and of course here at iPhoneographyCentral – but David wouldn’t have mentioned it in this article unless I’d have asked him. David DeNagel is a modest man – with a huge talent!
I had loosely talked for ages about doing a feature on his work and he almost left us at one point (not related to not being featured) for a new life with an Android but I am happy and relieved to say that the lure of the recently released magnificent 7 (that’s the iPhone 7 Plus) has got David excited about photography again and luckily for us, he’s sharing the equally magnificent results of his adventures with the new phone on these pages.
iPhoneographyCentral readers, I am delighted to introduce you to David DeNagel, and his wonderful iPhone 7 Plus portfolio…
David DeNagel – iPhone 7 Plus Portfolio
I was born in St.Louis,Mo. Since childhood I have had an intense interest in the visual arts. As a small boy I took every opportunity to draw and paint. I also discovered my father’s Kodak Brownie. I was enthralled with this device and I remember, with joy of looking in the viewfinder for subjects. I studied painting and printmaking in college with the full intention of becoming an art teacher. However, after military service and some major changes in my life, I drifted away from all that.
Later, in the 70s I discovered photography again. I photographed with a View Camera, a Hasselblad, a Leica Rangefinder and numerous film DSLRs. However, I never got the chance to build a darkroom. So much of the creative control I needed was missing. So, once again I drifted away from photography. It wasn’t until 2003 that I discovered digital photography. I was hooked again. I added digital DSLRs, micro 4/3rds cameras and point and shoots to my repertoire. In 2012, I bought my first iPhone. It was a turning point. I became enthralled with iPhoneograpy. Although, I occasionally sampled other cameras, somehow,I always returned to smart phone image making.
Suspended Against the Heavens
Apps used: Hipstamatic
Backstory: Driving around time, looking for subjects. I saw this pair of shoes dangling the high electrical wires. I could only wonder how many attempts the individual(s) went through to achieve this. Maybe it took a hundred shots. Maybe just one. I associated it with the concept of luck, or even fate. Whatever the motive of the thrower, it created an almost surreal image, especially on this windy day, when the clouds were moving quickly, alternating between light and dark. I placed the morning sun in the lower quadrant of the image to somehow balance out the darks of the upper half. I shot with the native camera and processed only in Hipstamatic: John S lens and D type plate film.
I love color. I love black & white. I have no specific agenda. I try to shoot whatever stimulates me, photographically . I am not interested in test charts of brick walls or in spectrometer readings. I am only interested in a camera’s ability to make images that I can feel visually.
As a side note, I also believe that exposure to other arts such as painting, literature and music can enhance your camera work.
Photography gives me something to look forward to each day. I feel most myself when engaged in its craft. I can not imagine my life without it. A good photographic image can transform the literal into something extraordinary; something suggestive, thought provoking, heart felt. It is both revealing yet also elusive; it resonates on a variety of levels. Striving to find such images, and to hold on to them through photography, is as deeply personal as the passing moments of my life.
Apps used: Polamatic
Back Story: A foggy morning, a single boat, fallen leaves and the rippling lake created an image of a November morning. I used only Polamatic to shoot and process the image and choose an appropriate border within the app.
The iPhone 7 Plus
I have owned my iPhone 7 Plus for less than a month. My appraisal of the device is the result of a lengthy visual study of my photos taken with it. This article is based solely on still photography. I did not shoot any video. I’m sure many of these observations would still apply. My only credentials to write this review are my love of photography and the many hours I have spent in its service, trying to learn its intricacies and practising its craft.
The images selected for this portfolio were shot solely with the iPhone 7 Plus and edited and post processed only with mobile apps.
The iPhone 7 Plus differs, in a technical sense, from its predecessors, in several major areas: the dual lens capabilities, the DNG format, wider dynamic range, better color reproduction and the depth of field mode.
Dual lens capability: Having both an optical wide angle and a telephoto, working separately or in tandem, is a very welcome addition and opens up wonderful new areas of image capture. The wide angle is f1.8 vs the telephoto’s f 2.8. Thus the wide angle brings in 1and 1/3 times more light. This is significant mostly in low light situations. There is also a digital zoom feature up to 10x ( the normal telephoto extension is 2x ) but I would not recommended using it because image quality deteriorates rapidly.
Apps used: Hipstamatic
Backstory: This a preserved room in the Henry Shaw home in St.Louis. It is at the center of the Missouri Botanical Garden founded by Henry Shaw in 1859. It is a beautiful study of the light streaming into the room, illuminating the lovely Victorian objects, silently waiting, as if, for Henry Shaw’s return. The image was shot and processed with only Hipstamatic, John S lens, BlacKeys Supergrain Film.
At present, this dual lens capability is relegated primarily to the native camera app. A few other apps, most of which have also added RAW capture to their menus, also have access to both lenses. But switching lenses, is done most easily, for me, in the native camera app. I hope more apps will incorporate this essential feature.
Jpeg & DNG(RAW): For the most part ,the jpegs are more than adequate for many situations. However, for photographers wanting the largest amount of pixel information and the widest possible flexibility and latitude in post processing, the option of shooting in DNG RAW format is very important. And because Adobe’s DNG format is an open one, it is accessible to a host of developers.
The native camera only shoots jpegs. So to take advantage of the DNG (RAW) format, one must have a suitable app that shoots RAW (such as ProCamera, ProcCam,Manual etc) Also, one needs the proper app software to render and develop these images (Snapseed, Lightroom etc.).
DNGs always look flat compared to jpegs. That’s primarily due to the fact that they are untouched by the camera’s processing software, Hence the name “RAW”. So the image adjustments made automatically to jpegs, according to Apple’s algorithms, need to be manually selected and applied to DNGs in post processing. DNG RAW files need a commitment of time to make them sing. But then, so do most jpegs, which are rarely perfect straight out of the camera. However, with DNG you can push and adjust image parameters like tonality, white balance, sharpening etc ,after the fact, with much more latitude because the image information within the RAW file is uncompressed and larger. With jpeg, the image information is compressed and baked into the file. So jpegs throw away some image information in order to render the files smaller. This is also an area to consider as far as storage capability.
There were a couple of problematic issues:
Due to the small sensor of the iPhone, there is, inevitably, some noise, especially color noise, (even at low ISO) but strongest in the shadow areas or at higher ISO. This occurs in both jpegs and especially in the RAWs. which, unlike the jpegs, have had no noise reduction applied. So one will probably want to have access to some noise reduction software, either within the rendering app or in a separate app.
Also, the DNGs were a bit soft (even for RAW). Providing one has focused correctly in the first place, at first glance, RAW images almost appear to be somewhat out of focus. This is especially noticeable when compared to a jpeg of the same image, which has already been sharpened in camera. However, the DNGs do respond, for the most part, to sharpening in RAW software.
Some may find the jpeg’s in camera image adjustments not to their liking. For my part, I found them to be, on average, well balanced and with fine resolution.
Of course the technical aspects of any image are only important in so far as they enable the realization of your artistic intentions. In the end, which file format one uses is dependent on the photographer’s workflow and artistic goals. My advice is choose your format based on the photographic challenge at hand.
Dynamic range, Color and a brief note on Focusing:
I recently had a two month stint with the Samsung S7, which is renowned for its fine camera. I feel Apple has taken a different stance but in an equally impressive direction. Samsung’s images have a punchy, highly sharpened & bright feel to them straight out of the camera that is characteristic of the“digital“ look. Samsung color is on the warm side. The iPhone 7 Plus has a more film like quality, more subtle and highly responsive to post processing, with more neutral color, even at night. The P3 color mode that Apple is now using appears to be a winner. Also, the dynamic range is definitely expanded and is more representative of the tonalities in a given image, compared to the Samsung. A native Apple image looks a little flat compared to a higher contrast image in the Samsung, but the Apple’s highlights are clipped less and shadows are opened up more, both in RAW and jpeg.
Both cameras are very fast to focus. The Samsung, due to its Dual Pixel technology, auto focuses accurately and rarely misses. I have had a few misses with the Apple, but far more keepers than misses.
Neither phone is right or wrong; they both have strengths and areas to be worked on. One must also consider the apps that are available for each operating system. This point can not be overstressed and is one more reason why I chose the Apple.
Depth of Field mode:
Apps used: Snapseed, Handy Photo
Backstory: This is a portrait of Peaches ,my dog. It is a jpeg from the native camera app and post processed in Snapseed. Because of the deep shadows in the left corner some minor noise reduction could have been warranted here. But I found using HandyPhoto’s retouch tool smoothed out the shadow areas and cleaned up minor noise and the even more difficult artifacts that appear, many times with jpeg processing. A dark vignette also helped.
I would always rather deal with noise than jpeg artifacts. The best noise reduction software I have found up to now is PS Express or Lightroom Mobile (not really a surprise since they are both Adobe products, and Adobe wrote the book, especially,on DNG processing). With Lightroom,however, they want you to buy into Adobe Cloud, to enable full functionality. Still the noise reduction feature is free, in the details tab.
Apple’s depth of field mode is still in Beta. It only shoots with the telephoto lens & within the native camera app. It is labelled Portrait. The subject has to be within 8ft of the camera, must be reasonably well lit and not too close in range or else the camera will warn you of these conditions. Some images do better than others usually based on your distance from the subject , the subject’s distance to the background and the nature of the light. However, I found myself searching for every available opportunity to shoot with it. It works both with faces and inanimate objects. The simulated bokeh is lovely for a smartphone and it will, undoubtedly, be refined even more. Portrait mode is a personal favorite.
I’m sure that future updates to the software, both by Apple and other developers ,will expand all of the above mentioned attributes of the iPhone 7 Plus. During my time with it so far, I became thoroughly addicted to it. For me, it is the tool of choice.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY & PORTRAITURE
Apps used: Processed with VSCO with a5 preset; portrait mode
Backstory: These street portraits are just that. All of these people were unknown to me. I am basically an introverted and withdrawn person, so approaching these strangers and asking them for their image is stepping way out of my comfort zone. It is a personal trial, but I find, as I have grown older, it seems easier to do now, even when you are rejected.. So, in some irresistible way, I do it for the sake of my photography.
After photographing someone I feel I have shared a brief dialog with them. There is a saying I’ve always loved: “When you take a picture of someone, you capture their likeness. When you take a portrait, you reveal who they are.” A very real challenge.
When taking street portraits the subjects don’t know you and you don’t know them. And, given the time factor, you generally don’t have much chance to study their personalities deeply. Each subject is unique. Sometimes, given enough time you may get a glimpse of an unguarded moment when a impromptu shot is mandatory. You often find yourself looking carefully for that second that calls for a candid shot; or you, through composition and lighting, attempt to shoot the staged shot that is the most revealing. Ultimately, you are searching the outer man’s covering to see the inner man’s character. It takes experience to discern this but it can be made manifest in a persons features.
So when photographing a person, I do it in sort of a free fall mode; trying not to overthink the setup; relying on past experience as far as composition; trusting the camera settings I’ve set; and most importantly, shooting only with the heart.
Later, I edit with my head, searching for those images that even came close to my goal. And then to the joyous labors of post processing. I am rarely ever satisfied with my work; but with this image of a woman and her child, I still smile inside.
“When you take a picture of someone, you capture their likeness. When you take a portrait, you reveal who they are.”
Apps used: Blackieapp, Blackapp
Backstory: For many years I watched this elderly man cut and pile wood at the base of a hill, where he lived. Not an easy job. He then sold it as kindling for wood burning fireplaces and ovens. He was good enough to allow me some pictures. His name is Jack.
iPhone 7 Plus, ProCamera,Blackapp,Snapseed,HandyPhoto; Processed from DNG (RAW)
Apps used: Hipstamatic
Backstory: This old gentleman was a caretaker at the local Botanical Garden. He was good enough to let me take some formal portraits. Then he started talking about things in general. This is when, as we talked, I continued to take candid shots of his expressions. This was one of my favorites. Shot only with Hipstamatic, John S lens, BlacKeys Supergrain film. No other post processing.
Apps used: Processed with VSCO with m5 preset; Portrait modeBackstory: Another Street Portrait using the native camera app, jpeg and the Portrait Mode(Beta). I wanted to photograph this man, both with and without his sunglasses. I liked both versions. But the glasses, with the lake and myself reflected in them, gives the image another dimension. I also made sure I positioned the subject just ahead of some trees with autumn color.
A note on Depth of Field Mode
For those interested in the Portrait Mode/Depth of Field Mode, here is an excerpt from iMore explaining some of the technical aspects:
“Even though you’re looking at a photo as seen by the telephoto lens, the wide-angle is also working for you when you shoot in Portrait mode: It automatically measures the difference in distance between what it sees and what the telephoto sees, creating a nine-point depth map. This depth map is then used to create the most fun part of Portrait mode: artificial depth of field, which blurs the background and a teensy bit of foreground to create a DSLR-camera-like image.”
It is in beta stage so more development will surely follow. The term, “telephoto” is something of a misnomer. The lens is actually a 56mm which in 35 mm jargon makes it more of a slightly longer normal lens than a telephoto. But when compared to the wide angle lens at 28mm, the 2x optical magnification is the reason Apple calls it a “telephoto”.
Whatever the nomenclature, to my eyes its a beautiful addition.
Night Rain_Main Street
Apps used: Argentum Camera. GW Filter
Backstory: Hoping to try out the iPhone 7 Plus at night, I drove out on a rainy night and parked in the middle of town. I wanted to capture the traffic lights through the water spattered glass window of the car (a cliched theme perhaps). I shot many frames, looking for the right distribution of lights and darks as well as the clarity of the water drops on the glass. I knew beforehand that the image would verge on abstraction and that was what I was going for in this photo. This was one of the more successful attempts. Sometimes one can discover new visions which are personal and unique, at least within your body of work (even if the theme has been covered many times). I only used Argentum Camera with the GW(Gary Winogrand) filter. No other post processing.
Apps used: LOFTCam, Snapseed, Mextures
Backstory: Beautiful pumpkin gourds at a market. I took the image with LOFTCam, a beautiful app with very subtle and distinctive VSCO like filters. However, the interface is in Chinese. I certainly wish they would offer a translated version. But I recognized my way around the app, due to my familiarity with camera function symbols or by trial and error. I then applied a light texture in Mextures.
Apps used: Processed with VSCO with m5 preset,Snapseed
Backstory: Here is a portrait of Dorie, the pianist in the hospital.
She was a very soft spoken, genteel woman. I took her portrait with the native camera and post processed in VSCO and later added more vignette and blur in Snapseed.
Apps used: Argentum Camera. YK Filter Handy Photo
Backstory: My wife had to visit a doctor in a large hospital complex. While I was waiting for her, I took a walk inside the building, hoping for some photographic inspiration. I heard classical music and traced the source to this talented and kind woman, Dorie. I asked her to play some Chopin and told her I would be photographing her playing. Here I almost laid down on the floor, because I wanted an upward angle shot. I only used Argentum camera; Handy Photo was used to remove some distractions. The YK stands for Yosuf Karsh. Argentum filters take their names from noted photographers.
Apps used: Argentum Camera. IP Filter,Snapseed
Backstory: While walking in a local park at dusk I say these people, sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. I definitely wanted an image of the pair, presumably a couple. I asked them to get into a comfortable pose. I took the shots I needed. I was happy with the results. His name was Dan. Hers was Nancy.
I used Argentum IP filter(IP stands for Irving Penn) for the shot which I post processed for tonal balance and vignette in Snapseed. I also added some blur in Snapseed. Apple’s portrait mode was not yet available at that time.
Apps used: Argentum Camera. YK Filter
Backstory: This image is the result of the double exposure created in Argentum Camera. Argentum offers a separate double exposure mode. The app allows accurate framing of the two images, offering a type of gain control in the exposure compensation slider. There is no way to change the layering of the two photos except to reshoot the image.
Apps used: ProCamera,Snapseed. Processed from DNG
Backstory: It was the mid Fall and leaves were dropping everywhere. This particular arrangement was floating on a lake among the water plants. The central leaf had a lobe upwards catching the sun. For me, it is a bittersweet image; sweet in that this group of leaves is holding center stage and, because of this photograph, it is being noticed; bitter in the fact , that sometime, near or far, it will be pulled under the water, and be out of sight & eventually, gone forever.
See more of David’s work on Flickr.