Wednesday, January 30, 2013

App Love: Afterglow

Have you seen photos by Simon Filip? No? You really should! Yes? Well, I suppose my further comments are not necessary, you know what I mean.

So when I heard that this guy had created his own photo editing app - Afterglow - I got super-excited. And rightfully so! 

Afterglow is currently my favorite photo editing app on my iPhone 4S. My best invested cents, for sure. It's just perfect. Okay, maybe nothing is perfect, but this one gets close enough. I really have no complaints. What I love about it the most is that it's so easy to use.

First of all, you can do some basic editing -  brightness, contrast, saturation etc. You can crop. You can share. Sometimes all I want to do is add some brightness and color. Nothing fancy-smanchy. I can do so with Afterglow.

Armastus kolme apelsini vastu...
However, if I wanna go all fancy-smanchy I can also do that! Versatile or what. Look what I did with a photo of dessert bowl (lovely apple green bowl by Iittala).

With Afterglow you get bunch of filters as you do with Instagram (read my thoughts on Instagram here). BUT (yes, it's an important 'but') you get to choose how strong you want the effect to be. That's awesome. So, you have full control over your photo. I only wanted a little bit of retro look on this photo of kids waiting for The Three Wise Men and free candy in Madrid.

Plus all kinds of other thingies... seriously, you just check it out here. You have a whole palette of tools to work with on your photos.

Moreover, must confess I am totally in love with the different frames it offers - seemingly simple and rather basic (just white), but irresistible. Some kitchen love below.

To sum it up - for me Simon Filip has managed to put that extra something special he has in his photos into an app everyone can enjoy. A little bit of on-the-go-photo-magic. 


Edit: These days the app is called Afterlight. It's the same thing, but even better with all the updates.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week 4: Glamour

Let's be honest, this week was not very glamourous (okay, I guess none of my weeks really include red-carpets, award shows and other potentially glamourous events), but I stumbled upon something amazing that made it possible to follow through with my little challenge to shoot some glamour. So yes, it is possible to shoot glamour anytime and almost anywhere. Moreover, guys, glamour loves us! ;)

Olympus E-420, 40-150mm


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Time-out: Art Journaling

Looks like I didn't manage to avoid the flu-season completely and therefore I am taking it slow for couple of days. Luckily there are enough things to do at home and I don't mean things like cleaning and washing (ahem, ignoring the dirty dishes in my sink, totally), but fun things like art journaling! 

I had this adorable owl-patterned A4 notebook and I needed to put it in a good use. Yes, my table is always somewhat cluttered (music sheets from 2004; and no, I can't even pull off "Be-bop-a-lula" that consists of two simple chords - so don't expect any musical entertainment when you pop over, at least not yet! ;)).
Olympus E-420, 25mm
I hadn't heard about art journaling before I read about it on A Beautiful Mess (one of my fave blogs, btw). I am a lover of all things colorful and I am also one of those people who always has pens, papers, glue and piles of inspirational(?!) stuff around. Kind of a pack-rat, yes. So I decided to purchase my first ever e-course - Art Journal All Year. Couldn't be more happier with my purchase. I am really savoring it for the "rainy days". So I can have my little crafty moments cutting and glueing. It has 52 sessions and I have gone through five first ones and I already have my own ideas on which pages I'd like to create. So I see there's a long-term potential for me and my art journal.

Olympus E-420, 25mm
Olympus E-420, 25mm
What I especially love about art journaling is that now I have this (seemingly) simple rule: cute and/or sentimental stuff goes into my art journal or it gets thrown out - less clutter! Yes, please. 

One of my favorite quotes
Olympus E-420, 25mm
I am pretty sure I will talk more about my art journaling journey in the future. But now it's time for some rest, more hot tea and flipping through "The Economist" for my weekly dosage of world news. And all that shall be "washed down" with some music by Arcade Fire.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

App Love: Instagram

A week ago I talked about my love for post-processing (read about it here) and while I intend to write more about Lightroom and shooting DSLR I would also like to talk about my favorite photo apps for smartphones. I have pretty much made a rule for myself that photos that I take with my iPhone 4S should be edited in the phone or on iPhoto. Fun, fast and hassle-free. Mobile. 

Today I am going to talk about Instagram - I suppose one of the most famous and talked about photo sharing app. I have been using Instagram for about a year now. While it can be a bit as overwhelming at times as any social media I still find it brilliant. From a social media aspect as well from creative aspect (yes, I said creative!).

You know Twitter has 140 characters, not much, right, but looking at a photo you need even less time to get the information. For example like this: "Hi there! I am in Brussels. It has a really gorgeous historic Town Hall with fancy lights and all. It looks a bit like Spanish flag at the moment with all the red and yellow. Blimey, check out their Xmas tree - it's not a real tree! It's a pile of plastic-looking cube-kinda things. But wow, it looks kinda cool when all lit up. It's green like a real thing. Oh yes, it is evening here, off to crab some mulled wine." Instead you can save some uncomfortable typing on a phone screen (mind you, your fingers are freezing 'cos it's cold out there) and just post this:

Of course sometimes you really don't want to sound smug and posting a photo seems more subtle. All I really wanted to say was: "I am in amazing Barcelona. Be jealous." However, I just posted this instead:

So instead of typing 140 characters (FYI: I do use Twitter and I think it is brilliant too, it's just less my kind of a thing - I am really bad at updating) I pop images of emotions and places to be shared with others. I am quite a bit into sharing, you know. 

Spelling the Starbucks way. Hi, I am Kaisa.

Call me Alyssa if you must. It won't change the fact that I was in front row at Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto tour in Madrid! 

Apart from social side I also love the easy creative side of Instagram. Hassle-free. I always take the photos with my phone camera and then crop them in Instagram. I love that for a change you get 1:1 ratio. The filters are fun and can add a touch of (sentimental) atmosphere. 

Trees were wrapped in lace and the silence fell.
Summer at Hiiumaa, Estonia.

Yes, you have less control of your photos (filters are pre-set and there isn't that much apart from the filters there), the photos are low-quality (you won't be able to make wall-size prints; because that's what you normally do, no? didn't think so ;)) and ever so often people look at them on a tiny screen. But who said Instagram is there to replace "conventional photography"?! Right?! Right. 

An unexpected encounter with beer-loving cats in Granada, Spain.

Most people just upload their photos straight from the camera, but now they get to have this small step where they see that one image can have many different looks and create different sensations. I think that's a tiny bit educative and tons of fun, too. For me taking photos is not only about being serious, being "professional". I think every image I snap is a small lesson. It is not possible to take your bigger better camera everywhere with you, but you can always have your smartphone. All in all, the subject, the atmosphere and the framing are SO important, so why give up a chance to practice that and share snippets of your life with those who care. Two in one, I'd say. 

The other day in Madrid I felt like walking in an English novel...

So, come on, make the most of your smartphone camera, be creative and meet other photo enthusiasts. 


Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Anybody Out There...

... feeling glamourous?! I wish this subject had come up during Fashion's Night Out in September. You know, free champagne and glamour for everyone. Right now I feel more like blankets and tea. Maybe I should invest in more glamourous blankets... and crystal tea cups. Food for thought.

iPhone 4S, Hipstamatic, Snapseed

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week 3: Love

On Monday I was convinced that this week will be challenging, because shooting love is like chasing the wind. Boy was I wrong. In the end love is all around. Am I overly optimistic and romantic? Not at all. Bare with me.

Here we go. I secretly had hoped that "love" will pop out of the tin on the week I am going to attend my friend's June wedding. However, life had other plans and the closest I got to any weddings this week was this.

Olympus E-420, 25mm

Okay, so well... what else screams out love?! Well, anything heart-shaped surely.

Olympus E-420, 25mm

I was cleaning out a storage box (I am a totally pack-rat) and found this - a heart shaped box filled with snowflakes.
This is definitely love, winter love!
Makes me wish we had some snow in Madrid.

Olympus E-420, 25mm
Also found this doodling in my notebook - the sound of love. How convenient for me this week.
There's also a lovely ticket from Nomada market - a market for hand made pretty things in Madrid.
All on top of a great photo book on London - one of the cities I love.

Olympus E-420, 25mm
London - one of the cities I love. Yes, so why not take photos of things I love. It is so easy and it is at hand and it proves that love is really all around us.

Some of my CDs, I own hundreds of CDs and some vinyls and a handful of cassettes. I love music. 
Olympus E-420, 25mm
Coldplay has been with me for over ten years. This must be love.
Olympus E-420, 25mm
I love finding quirky things from thrift stores and flea markets. 
Olympus E-420, 25mm
I love the splash of spring in my kitchen.
Olympus E-420, 25mm
Apple pie and cafe con leche for breakfast - I love weekends!
Olympus E-420, 25mm
I love Scandinavian design (Marimekko mug!) and freshly brewed morning coffee.
Olympus E-420, 25mm
This challenge became an easy one the moment I realized that I shouldn't  be chasing love with capital "L" (e.g. couples, babies, puppies), but find it in daily things. Just taking a moment and feeling it, feeling the love for small things in life.

Last, but not least I would also like to share a photo by my friend Laura. She sent me this when she read that I am chasing love this week. :)

I was lucky enough also to get a slice (or two) of this delicious cake the next day.
iPhone 4S, photo by Laura

Friday, January 18, 2013

ExEx as in Exciting Exhibitions

Over the past month or so I have been lucky enough to visit three great photo exhibitions in three lovely cities. Whenever I have a chance I try to check out potentially interesting (for me) exhibitions (art, photography, fashion etc). Living in Madrid it is not too hard, it's more like there's TOO much going on all the time for a normal person to grasp. Okay, but let's cut to the chase.

Elliott Erwitt, Personal Best @Elephant Paname (Paris, France) 

Last December I spent one day (yes, only about 12 hours) in Paris and I was stocked to find out there's Elliott Erwitt's exhibition as he is one of my favorite photographers. I say it was fate 'cos I found out about it on Instagram - I spotted a poster with the exhibition information as background to a photo posted there by a stranger. You know, tiny little Instagram pic on your smartphone screen. Hundreds of new pics all the time. And I was lucky enough to spot such a small detail. 

It was well worth it. I loved the gallery with its squeaky old staircase on a quiet side street in central Paris. Ever so amazing and inspirational. Me, couple of Asian tourists and some art students, no big fuss. Oh and the staff was so lovely and I got to practice my broken French a tiny bit.

Cas Oorthuys, Bruxelles 1946-1956 @City Museum (Brussels, Belgium)

It was a really chilly day in Brussels and while I was taking my super touristy walk from Manneken Pis to the see the Town Hall I felt like I need a little warm break and then I saw that the City Museum facing Town Hall is holding a photo exhibition. Needless to say I made my way in and enjoyed a fun photographic trip into the history of Brussels. Loved his work and how most of his work was shot in 1:1 ratio. Squares work so well at times. Even for street photography or maybe especially for street photography. 

Imogen Cunningham @Sala Azca (Madrid, Spain)

First of all I must say that Fundacion MAPFRE has always such amazing exhibitions and they're for free. It would be a sin to miss them. I had never been to Sala Azca before. It was in a bit of an evil location, in a mall (ahem, yes, sales want to get the best of me, but I try to resist). However, the exhibition was a lot bigger and versatile than I had anticipated. I am always in awe when I see that people took what to me seem like very modern photos already in the beginning of the 20th century. And to imagine that back in the days being a female photographer was rather unheard of. Very inspiring. From nudes to portraits to plants to street photography - Imogen was really creative (and obviously had great technical skills). Oh and she was born 100 years before me, I think that is a nice little fact.

So, yes, while photos often look very good on a screen and you can browse through thousands and millions of them online, I'd say they still look a lot better framed on a wall. Coincidentally all the exhibitions I saw had b&w photography. I am not saying b&w is easy to shoot, but I'd say it's easy to fall in love with it. The crisp clean images (even if they happen to be blurry or hazy they seem somewhat clean and pure) are mesmerizing. 

I have noticed one thing, the more I go to different exhibitions the more I want to go to even more exhibitions. No better (affordable) source for inspiration (and education). 


Ps. Click on the links, google the images, feel inspired!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm in Love with Lightroom

"OMG, don't tell me you have photoshopped this!" It's the sentence I have heard more than once. So I feel like I need to explain on how I see photos and why I consider post processing part of creating a photo very important. Oh might as well confess it - I am in love with Lightroom 4.

People often wish to see the so-called true picture. What you see is what you get? Not when it comes to releasing the shutter. There is a very easy explanation to it - a camera does not equal to an eye. It only captures a two-dimensional image of a real life situation. Camera is a technical creature with its many limitations. It cannot see the way you do. 

Of course you can master your camera, make the best of it and by doing so minimize the need for post-processing. Yay for that. Some daylight outdoor shots are perfect even when using auto-mode. However, most situations leave you with challenges, some of which your camera is not capable of solving, some of which you are not capable of solving (yet).

What I want to do with my photos is to pass on the feeling, the sensation, the mood I had when taking the shot. To present my truth, through my eyes and with the help of my camera. Not some kind of "objective camera truth" (that does not exist). 

Some pros of post processing (aka couple of simple easy things that can make a huge difference):
  • bring back some highlights, get rid of some shadows (or then add some) 
  • add some sharpness and color 
  • hide some horrible color noise with going b&w 
  • crop (why should all images be of the same size and shape)

In an ideal world you could plan ahead every shot you take. Change your camera settings for every frame if needed. For me it hasn't always been an option as my passion for photography really grew when traveling. Sometimes you just have no time or no right equipment with you, but the moments are there and you might never encounter them again. I don't want my camera to enslave me, but to be there for me to capture those moments of life. While saying that I don not mean that forget about the settings, go full auto-mode and create an image on your computer later on. I almost never shoot in full auto mode on my DSLR (that would somewhat defeat the purpose of owning a DSLR to begin with). I am saying that when you might miss something while in action you might be able to make some changes later on. 

Moreover, while using a photo editing software you learn so much about each photo you have taken, you get to see the "x-ray picture" of your photos. You learn more about images and photography, because you get extra quality time with single each shot.  

But sometime's it's all just for crazy fun like this photo below. 

A biker on a hot day in Valencia, Spain
Olympys E-420, 40-150mm

To sum it up, in these days I do in Lightroom what I would have done in a darkroom had I been born some good years before I did. I think no one questions the importance of photos being developed and "created" in the darkroom. So why should anyone oppose using photo editing software. If done right it can only better the outcome and help you create images you really had in mind when pressing the release button. 


Ps. For the photos from my DSLR I use Lightroom 4. For iPhone pics I sometimes use iPhoto, sometimes different iPhone apps. More about all that in the future. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week 2: Patterns

This week I was determined to see patterns EVERYWHERE. Well, I used my subject in a wide sense, so it wasn't that hard. In the end everything started to seem as part of a pattern. Without further ado let's take a look at what I got.

I started off with shooting streets. In Madrid sidewalks tend to be made of different tiles, not covered in asphalt. So the city is packed with patterned streets. Oh and they love to add colorful carpets in front of bars and restaurants.

iPhone 4S, iPhoto

iPhone 4S, iPhoto

iPhone 4S, iPhoto
The southerners aren't big on adding isolation (or central heating) to their buildings, so life in the office required some thermo socks and a small radiator. Hey, but fun patterns!

iPhone 4S, iPhoto
Wouldn't you say that modern buildings are all about patterns? Sometimes it sure does feel so.

Olympus E-420, 25mm

Olympus E-420, 25mm
Sky, lines
Olympus E-420, 25mm

Lines, interrupted
Olympus E-420, 25mm
 Sometimes fun patterns hide underground, found this fishy at a metro station. Patterns within patterns.

Olympus E-420, 25mm
Well, finding patterns in my wardrobe is easy.

Oh I just love patterns on my Nanso clothes. Yellow fabric with birds is a pillow from Habitat.
Olympus E-420, 25mm

Olympus E-420, 25mm

Olympus E-420, 25mm
I was home-bound for today and stumbled upon patterns in my kitchen.

Paper towels - the overlook kitchen lace 
Olympus E-420, 25mm

Some patterns are accidental (and delicious).
Olympus E-420, 25mm

My (empty) box of Belgian chocolate truffles on the dining table.
Olympus E-420, 25mm

Natural inspiration for man-made patterns perhaps?! Ps. The soup turned out delicious!
Olympus E-420, 25mm

Patterns really are all around us, sometimes we just need an extra moment (or a photo project) to notice them.