Smartphone Perspectives


Not so long back a blog post by photographer John Steele on the pros of using a smart phone for taking photographs turned up in my timeline.

Of course, you’d have to live under a rock, and that rock would have to be in the middle of a very large and uninhabited space to not realise the dominance of smart phones in 21st century everywhere. Not just for the photographic capability, but also for their connection to the wider internet, and all their other conveniences. Let’s not forget the well worn trope of folks staring mindlessly into their screens 24-7.

I’m a bit of an Instagram nut as you already know, but when I’m not posting pictures there I can be found taking pictures of other things. Like John Steele, I also use Snapseed, but mostly on my iPad where I actually edit pictures taken with my DSLR. I decided I’d download the app again to my iPhone and try it out on my shots there.

I’ve used other apps for editing photos before, like Camera+, but I’m more familiar with Snapseed’s simplicity of use, and I quite like the colours and tones that come from the editing process. They’re not as smooth or natural as Lightroom on a desktop, but they can almost give an HDR effect.

Here’s a few recent spring type shots taken around Suwon, with a Gangwon-do cameo in there for added effect, that I’ve edited with Snapseed over the past week of two.

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As I am the proud owner of the humble iPhone 4, which is approaching vintage status at this stage, the pictures probably don’t have the clarity of newer and more advanced Smartphone cameras. When I put them up on a larger screen they could do with some more clarity as the graininess is pretty obvious. I could buy a new phone I suppose, but after dropping over 500,000 won on this one a few years back I‘m inclined to want to get more milage from this – I also like the idea of have a phone bill of a mere 30,000 won every month.

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And yes, I know that all of these pictures are in colour.

Giving Up on Colour…


I feel like giving up on colour. It’s not that I don’t love colour, in fact I adore colour, it’s just that monochrome is just a sure fine way for things to be viewed. It’s an aesthetic of course. We can’t give up on colour, and I can’t imagine anyone who would decide to do so. But in terms of a photograph, sometimes it’s hard to see why you would choose otherwise.

I won’t give up completely, I will admit, but I am finding it hard to choose colour over black and white. Even for those manic cherry blossoms which swarmed us for the first week or two of April I shunned the bright and bountiful pinks and fresh spring greens for the ambiguity of black and white, and all the greys that fill the in between. It was a chance at first, and then I saw it worked. I followed through allowing from bright white ceilings and later floors of blossoms. I couldn’t say I was trying to make the flowers less impressive, I was just trying something different, even if was with an iPhone 4.

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It has proven, to me and the few people who have applauded me if you could call it that at least, to be a wise decision. I turned my Instagram account to Inkwell with the occasional Willow for the sake of variety*, and despite the odd urge to revert to the variety of the vibrant and faded colour both wheel I am happy in my current state. Perhaps in time I will dispose of such variety in my other photographs, but for now it is unlikely. Variety is, of course, the spice of life.

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*Inkwell and Willow are Instagrm filter titles, for those uninitiated in the jargon of Instagram. Don’t ask me why they are called so.

Nimmanhaemin


I had heard Nimmanhaemin being compared to Hongdae in Seoul, and thought well this could be something. There is no doubt that Nimmanhaemin is something, but other than the fact that the street and neighbourhood is located next to a univeristy and is known for its artistic vibe, many of the comparisons stop there.

Don’t let that dissuade any Koreaphiles from the place, because what it lacks in comparison with Hongdae it makes up for in spadefuls with it’s own vibe which does a lot to add to the personality of Chiang Mai itself. It is not a tourist location, it’s more a place where people live hang out. There is a plethora of expats mixed in with young Thais enjoying the trendy culture Nimmanhaemin grows.

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Around these parts you have fewer Buddhist temples and those pesky (so-called) travel agents, and more places to chill and eat. It is a place to frequent, to hang about, and be a man or woman about town. The long street is always busy it seems, but branching off this thoroughfare are alleys, or Soi, each conveniently numbered from one upwards (odds on left, evens or the right), that have more bars, cafes, boutiques, and all sorts of other things, that make exploring a healthy past time on a warm January afternoon.

On Nimmanhaemin you have two sides; the hectic main street busy with not only purring tuktuks and songthaeus, but music and merry making from the assortment of patrons who have decided on this area for the day, and the lazy laid back alleys as green as a rain forest and as warm as a mother’s hug.

There’s a lot to see on Nimmanhaemin, and the best way to do it is just to walk around and get lost. Bring lots of money and prepare yourself for amazing dessert options even before you consider your main meal. They also serve some fantastic coffee in parts too. I’ve only been here during the day, so I can’t speak of the place after dark, but it has the look of devilment which I may subscribe to.

Today we spent a wandering about the Soi of Nimmanhaemin. Being me, I took many photos (mostly with my iPhone 4), and if it takes your fancy pop over to youtube and view this as a slideshow.

What about your neighbourhood? What sights and sounds abound?

A Year in Instagram


Here is my Year in Instagram. 508 Images, I believe, and over 9 minutes of wonderful filtered goodness.

Just in time for the new year I’ve come across a neat little app for the iphone called Flipagram. Essentially it collects all your photographs and allows you to organise them into a very simple slideshow, which you can then share across your various social networks, or whatever.

I had been looking for something like this to share my past year of photographs taken on Instagram, an app I’ve a lot of time for and one I enjoy not only posting but also looking at other people’s photographs. Of course it has it’s critics, but it also has its avid users (such as myself) who have taken amatuer mobile photography to a different level. For me, I use it as a photo-blogging or daily-photo tool (not that I post every day), as well as a convenient way of sharing photographs across multiple platforms.  I’ve spoken about Instagram a bit before so I’ll try and break new ground here.

You can read other Instagram related pieces here:

Instagramming My Environment October 2013
Italian Students Speak August 2013
In the Evening on the Twentieth Floor September 2012

What I’ve managed, eventually it has to be said, is to put together a slideshow of every instagram shot I’ve taken over the past twelve months, totalling over 500. I say eventually because this only came about after a number of mishaps which can probably be blamed on my slowly aging iphone 4, my dodgy internet connection, and faults with the app itself. I know there are faults because the person who made me wise to this app also expressed frustration with the actual processing.

It turns out that you can’t leave the app during the creating process, so I had to keep tapping the screen and to watch the percentage dial gradually progress towards 100%.  On more than one occasion my vigilance failed me and it was back to the start with my slideshow creation game, and by back to the start I mean all the way back.

That being said, both of us have created an almost 10 minute long slideshow with over 500 hundred shots, so perhaps it isn’t easy to actually develop an app capable of doing this fluidly. I think sometimes with the over propenderence of new tech and apps we just expect outright for things to work to our incredibily far reaching and rigid expectations. Nothing is ever really perfect, is it? But the more we see new things our expectations seem to spiral further beyond a reasonable level.

I could go about doing it the way I was actually considering doing which is to go through my folders on my computer and copy and paste all my backed-up instagram shots from the past twelve months. This would not only be frustrating, but undoubtedly one hundred times more tedious and prone to mistakes than this newer means of accomplishing the task at hand. Equally handy is the ability to go through Facebook albums to create a similar experience, and it is something I might do next.

The Flipagram app just about to process another slideshow,

The Flipagram app just about to process another slideshow,

In the end the final product came out rather well, and if I had some nice long piano concertos uploaded onto my iphone it would have been ideal. As it turned out I had no music at all. So once the slideshow was finished processing I had to save it onto dropbox, and from my laptop upload it to youtube where I used some of their ad supported music – the only free music they had was the Funeral March, which was not what I was looking for.

Do you use Instagram? Why not make your own Year in Instagram and share a link in the comments. 

Also, a big happy new year to all my readers!

Instagramming My Environment


Friend and travel blogger Steve Miller a.k.a. The QiRanger, has started a new October series of videos titled Eye on Your Environment. His aim is to look a little closer at the world around him, and to talk about what makes his environment special to him. I can see a lot of worth in this kind of post (and have tried myself before), but especially because Steve doesn’t live too far away from me and in an environment which is not too dissimilar to Yeongtong.

I thought after watching Steve’s video that I could do something similar. Regulars to this blog will know that I don’t really do video, although I do do photographs, in fact arguably too many photographs. Although that may be others opinion’s of me sneaking into my work, but still lots of photos is me, regardless of the quality.

One way of photographing I’m also quite passionate about is with Instagram. Now, frankly I don’t care about your opinions of the photo sharing phone application, as I have mine, and if it’s something you feel is close to the most evil thing in the planet then I imagine you should reconsider your priorities, or whatever.

I use instagram to basically chart my motions and impressions, although I limit it to those which I believe to be aesthetically pleasing (in my own eye) or particularly interesting. As I live in Yeongtong you can rest assured that a lot of my images make a big deal of trying to make Yeongtong look aesthetically pleasing. This may be the biggest challenge at times.

I stem from the belief in photography that there is a certain amount of beauty to be found in everything ugly. In fact, I find that so-called ugliness is in fact more pleasing to photograph as it is the effects of humans on the environment which interests me. And with regard to the environment which is itself a human creation, the effects of time and weather and lives interchanging in all the multitude of ways it does is where my eye will usually be drawn for a closer look.

Instagram, the social photograph sharing app, is ideal for showing what I see as unique, and worth letting others see also. Of course the fact that the app is linked with my twitter, flickr, tumblr, and facebook, and there’s the convenience of having it always with me on my phone allowing for me to be in a position to have a photograph taken, tweeked, and shared within moments. I think I do have a problem with over-tagging, but then one must do one’s best to try to attract more followers. This is the internet afterall and if I don’t stake my claim (which is basically the same as screaming my side of the argument as load as possible), who is going to listen?

Back to the QiRanger and what I started out to say.

Yeongtong itself is not a pretty place. It seems to constantly shape itself into a copy of everything else in the neighbourhood. It is a place where you can imagine everything constructed or used to construct sitting on a shelf with a pricetag. You can feel that all which was made here was in the imagination of an architect, and not a particularly good one at that. Everything was once shiny but now after fifteen or so years the price paid for the sparkle has proven to be a poor substitute for the more durable alternative.

The broken paving slaps and cobblelock tiles where the poorly levelled earth has come uneven. The benches have detiorated and but still usable. The footpaths are uneven and the streets are a mess of cars poorly parked and those basing the rules of the roads on their chances of not getting caught by the police. The facades of the buildings are long past any notion of contemporary, not just because of the red-blue-green neon flashing constantly, but typically tacky bad christmas decoration like attachments to the painted concrete. Lets not even start with the now unwashed glass that gives a eerie mottled effect to so many businesses. Let me not forget to mention the constant buzzing of delivery scooters.

But Yeongtong has its charm. It has its coffee shops and it has, for the most part, clean streets. It has restaurants and children ploughing the streets between hagwon hours and drunks jostling for each other’s shoulder space as the leave restaurants later in the night. There are parks and trees which fill with sunshine, laughter, and silence as the rest of the neighbourhoold rumbles around it arguing with car horns. There is an independence about Yeongtong in its many boutiques and restaurants which can be found away from the usual franchise filled streets. There are people who smile when you walk in and talk with you like a person, who share a story, and ask you about your day. And this may not seem like something to talk about but often you forget in some places that there are people working there, not just teenagers programmed to chirp 안녕하세요 in the same nasally annoying voice.

From where I work on the outskirts of the neighbourhood to my home on the twentieth floor, Yeongtong is a vista on a world in motion. Yeongtong was made to facilitate living both for the Samsung behemoth and Seoul behemoth. It is not a perfect place, nor is it so imperfect that you cannot live there. Its perfections and imperfections are in many ways subtle, and in that regard I feel that the immediate displeasure you may have here will soon be overrided by the time you find what it is that gives Yeongtong its own sense of place, and that is its livability. Yes all places are livable, but for me Yeongtong will never be perfect and I could not stand living in the perfect home.

Home is where we do our best to subsist and survive. It is where we go to escape from the outside, and where we delve into for our own pleasures, be they a favourite chair, a flatscreen television, complete silence, or every so often a stunning sunset or the brightest of sunlight streaming inside right into the late evening.

Yeongtong is where I live, it is my environment, and I document this with Instagram as my medium. Please join me for my so-called ride of living in the bellows of Korean suburbia.

Instagram: conzieinkorea

Please click on photos for larger images on flickr