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Stylized Instamatic 104

24 Jan
Stylized Instamatic 104 by rsmithing
Stylized Instamatic 104, a photo by rsmithing on Flickr.

I dig the convergence of technology and time here in one brief second, now extended to the world and infinity. Here’s a snapshot of one of our modern photographic ancestors I modified with the amazing ToonPaint iPhone app, after shooting with Hipstamtic (a modern-retro simulator, no less). I found the camera at a sweet vintage shop called “Ideas” on Burke Street, Winston-Salem, NC. Original here.

What do you think? Do you see a connection between analog cameras and today’s mobile photography? What apps or camera discoveries have you made lately? Let us hear from you in the comments.

What Smartphone Apps Have Changed Your Life?

10 Jan

Has the way you live evovled by way of a smartphone app? What’s a non-standard add-on (besides maps, texting, etc.) that’s changed – hopefully for the better – the way you conduct daily life? Not necessarily saying they’re the very best, here are my immediate top three:

Instagram App1. Instagram

This app has literally changed the way I see the world and connected me with people from all over the globe through a very user-friendly interface, turning ordinary snapshots into art with the barest minimum of effort. I now see the world through “Instagram Eyes” and have gotten so much from what it offers Although the recent spam influx and terms of service update now have me exploring elsewhere, there’s no denying Instagram’s impact.

Dragon Dictation2. Dragon Dictation

This app listens to what you say and turns it into text. It’s like magic. It’s fast, intuitive, and lets you easily email, MMS, or copy and paste what you say. I’ve used it for years to handle texting and  composing blog posts, and it accurately gets the job done every single time. It’s been life-changing by by bringing my phone new functionality with incredible convenience and capability. Now that speech-to-text is built into the iPhone, I’ve been using Dragon less, but they were the ones to get it right first.

Pandora3. Pandora

This is the mobile version of the already robust website, but I mention it here because of how it’s impacted my enjoyment of music. Pandora is streaming radio where you create stations based on artists, songs or themes. It serves up related music, and gets better over time as you thumbs-up or thumbs-down what plays. I couldn’t begin tell you how much great music I’ve discovered this way. It’s a simple premise: “if you like this, then you might also like this” — and Pandora’s highly personalized  approach wins the day for me, even though I also enjoy similar services like 8Tracks. Even TheStreet.com says Pandora has “rendered terrestrial radio, on a grand scale, obsolete.” Consider how long radio has been in our lives as you consider that statement.

What do you think? What apps have made a difference in the way you do things? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Flickr to Instagram: It’s ON!

12 Dec

I just had my first whirl with the new Flickr mobile app. And… woah. It’s good. I mean really good.

The New Flickr App for iPhone

Flickr’s New App. Shown here with the “Mammoth” filter. Look out, Instagram

The new Flickr app for iPhone sports filters, easy browsing, a nice uploading interface… all on top of Flickr’s superb online Pinterest & Twitter integration. Overall, I must say it looks like Instagram got Flickr to step up its game. To that I say, well-played, Flickr. Well-played indeed.

Instagram in the crosshairsOperation: Target Instagram

If Instagram feels like it’s in the crosshairs, it’s with good reason. I had long been a fan of Flickr for general storage, but gravitated toward Instagram for the image discovery & immediacy of sharing. I have a feeling that’s going to change. And not just for me — I know more than a few folks who have been less than pleased with and seeking alternatives to Instagram lately thanks to spam or yanking its previews from Twitter.

This is not to say it’s perfect. It’s still not as snappy as Instagram, since applying filters and edits takes a bit longer — but you can do meaningful edits right from within the app like adding text, brightness/contrast, and basic retouching. You have to use a separate 3rd party app at present to do any of that for an Instagram upload. Conversely, features like the ability to tag people in photos, browse your favorite groups, and do batch uploads (thanks, Emily @_@) were already baked into Flickr. Having these tools now in the mobile app — along with just basic functionality like being able to zoom in — makes Flickr’s app superior to Instagram on a number of noticeably important fronts.

Given the massive leap forward of this latest edition, I’m optimistic that things will only improve further for Flickr going forward. Here’s a closer look with video of the new app from Flickr’s blog:

 
What do you think? Are you a fan of Instagram or other online photo networks? What’s your experience with Flickr been like? Let us hear from you in the comments.

If you like this, share it on Twitter (and thanks).

A New Way For Music: Eno and Soundcloud

7 Nov

I’m a total news junkie. Always reading, listening, scanning; it’s fun for me. And I’m a music geek — that’s practically a religion. So of course I was interested in this story about Brian Eno reported by MarketPlace Tech Report, available via SoundCloud.

Brian Eno

Photo: Brian Eno | Edit: rsmithing | Click for original

Eno has just launched a musical app, Scape, that gives listeners a new system for interacting with the sounds. Interestingly, Eno & his team developed the concept for this years before we all had smartphones and tablets. He describes it as:

…the move from one type of composer to another: the “let’s push the boat out together & see where it lands” type.

Scape

Scape App

So as listeners, we have the opportunity to be something more, while using an artist’s input to make our own creation. Not unlike Instagram, or audio mashups like those by John Boswell, aka Melodysheep.

Who is Brian Eno?

I’ve never listened to much Brian Eno music, but I thought I’d give this interview a chance. Wow, am I glad I did. Eno is a deep musical thinker, which makes for a highly interesting listen, especially considering his perspective, having worked on such a breadth of projects. Many of my favorite artists have either worked with or referenced him regularly (Depeche Mode, NIN, Devo).

The guy is quite eloquent. Here are some quips from the full interview:

  • On his new album: “A closely-guarded secret launched onto an ocean of indifference.”
  • On using Scape: “You’re making an ecosystem of sounds. You’ve got quite a few creatures you can put into this little garden here.”
  • On curation: “We’re going to have to come up with this type of system to short circuit the vast amount of material that’s out there for us to look at now.”

Putting curation into practice, Eno has a friend whose taste he admires send him a mix CD of new music each month… but doesn’t get the list of artists and songs until one month later, in order to “listen without prejudice,” since as a professional musician, he isn’t necessarily listening to as much music as he might be creating. It’s an interesting concept, especially to hear Eno himself describe it (at about 15:32)…

 

SoundCloud: I Like It

Besides the content, what really motivated me to blog about this interview was the opportunity to explore SoundCloud at the same time. SoundCloud is a site I’m becoming more pleased with every time I interact with it.

I started listening to the interview on my iPhone through iTunes, having subscribed to the podcast previously. In the brief 4-minute story from the podcast, the host referred listeners to the extended version at the MarketplaceTech.org site. I keyed that in and found a link to the full interview, which played on my phone effortlessly over 3G, streaming through SoundCloud. Having previously registered at the site, I was able to add it to my list of “likes,” and embed a clip here on the blog afterward, since I emailed myself a link and tweeted about it from the site’s mobile page:

It’s great to discover and interact with something new — successfully, enjoyably and consistently like SoundCloud.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Brian Eno’s music? What other collaborative art examples does this bring to your mind? Do you have any experience with SoundCloud or similar sites? Let us hear from you in the comments.

The Met goes Online for the Photo-Sharing Masses

24 Oct

Instagram, meet your ancestors: an exhibit’s digital version bridges the generations of old school photo manipulation and our social media-fueled image sharing obsessions.

There’s an astounding display of pre-computer-era photomontage and photomanipulation now exhibiting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. It’s got everything from vintage trickery to surrealist expressions, all done before the advent of digital tools like Photoshop. In a beautiful irony, the exhibition is made possible by Adobe, makers of the Photoshop software.

But you don’t have visit NYC to see it…

What’s amazing to me, and what inspired this post, is that there’s an equally astounding digital representation of the works available for your browsing pleasure – more than 200 in all. Online, for free. Which is pretty darned sweet.

Faking It - Manipulated Photography before Photoshop at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's website.

Click this link at the site and enjoy.

An innocuous “Works in the Exhibition” link just above the fold at The Met’s website takes you to an incredible look at what’s inside. I call it incredible not just for the content (which is beyond incredible to me), but because it exists online for our easy perusal and sharing. I’m thrilled not only to see such amazing art here, but also to see The Met’s embracing of the digital community in order to promote the exhibit.

The site features an elegant photo slide show, complete with sharing functionality to Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon and other networks. They even offer hi-res jpegs of some of the works for extra-close viewing or downloading via fullscreen mode.

Download select images from the exhibition

There’s an app for that, of course

Perhaps you would prefer to view these works on your iPad? No problem. The free iPad app accompanying the exhibition offers easy browsing of a handful of the included works and an interactive quiz exploring the motivations and techniques.

There's an app for that.The app’s target audience seems to be the kids, and I bet this would make a fascinating case to a young creative mind about the power of photo manipulation as art and the importance of questioning what we see – with the latter becoming ever more important considering the issues raised by digital photo editing and popular notions of beauty.

More than just “fakes”

Long before Instagram or Photoshop, there was darkroom wizardry. What got me interested in the exhibit in the first place was its inclusion of amazing photomontage art from the likes of Jerry Uelsmann (my all-time top inspiration) and Angus McBean:

More than just "Fakes"

Jerry Uelsmann, “Untitled,” 1976.                       Angus McBean, “Christmas Card,” 1949,

In my opinion, the app and companion website add tremendous value to the whole endeavor, allowing people to connect and interact with historically relevant art in ways that are common these days because of experiences like InstagramPinterest – and especially Photoshop. Huge props to Adobe for sponsoring this.

Thanks to the Met’s generous actions in the digital realm, I’m even more inclined now to physically visit the museum, see these works in person and probably buy a catalogue in the meantime (and speaking of catalogues, check out these other more than 300 Met Museum catalogues downloadable for free).

Having been a graphic artist for many years, I’ve practically lived in Photoshop as an operating system, and working there is my favorite part of design, more so than typography or arranging layouts – leading right up to today with my own iPhone photomontage creations:

The Aha Moment - Richard Smith

“The Aha Moment”
More of my stuff at Pinterest or 500px.

I’m happy to have signed up for a My Met membership thanks to this excellent digital representation, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of what’s to come – something I hadn’t much considered until discovering the online component of this exhibit. Props to The Met for harnessing and embracing the power of the Internet for cultural benefit. Now go visit The Met’s site, metmuseum.org and discover something cool for yourself.

What do you think? Does such open sharing increase or decrease the value of museum offerings? Or is that a non-issue in our world of mobile photography, photo-sharing networks and interconnectedness? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Microsoft Office Haikus

8 Sep

Microsoft OfficeBloated MS Word.
Can’t copy and paste freely.
I’ll just use Notepad.

Good Ol’ PowerPoint.
Bullet points and so much more.
Poor man’s Photoshop.

Microsoft Excel.
Remember the Chart Wizard?
Harry Potter style.

Outlook rules our lives.
Lost without it, slaves to it.
My mailbox is full.

Like this? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday… MARS!

2 Aug

I have a fascination with aeronautics, aerospace and aviation. I don’t claim to technically understand much about them, but I think aspects of these fields are fascinating and important. That’s why I’m excited for Sunday, when NASA will be living through a very real seven minutes of terror vividly portrayed in this video about landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.

 

This video is just over five minutes long, and it’s exciting – but not as exciting as the seven minutes of burning anticipation a team of dedicated people are going to have to endure Sunday night (10:31 PST), wondering if their baby has made it to its destination, safe and sound as planned. Props to the NASA PR / Outreach / Education teams for bringing this story to us with dramatic flair.

Mars: Our Generation’s Moon Landing

Since I wasn’t around for the work leading up to the moon landing, this is my guess at what that must have been like. In all the years leading up to Americans walking on the moon, there were many missions like these just getting the logistics figured out. And wow – there are plenty of logistics.

Just think about it: we can see the moon from Earth, even observing features of its surface with our unaided eyes. With Mars, there’s a 14-minute delay from the time signals are sent until the they’re even received here. Thank goodness Curiosity is on Twitter:

NASA Peeps on Twitter

Here are some more cool NASA folk on Twitter – check them out for updates on Curiosity’s mission, and keep following for more news about space, science and exploration:

  • Adam Steltzner – head of NASA JPL’s Mars landing team
  • Lauren Worley – Press office at NASA
  • Stephanie Schierholz – NASA Social Media Manager
  • NASA JPL – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages many of NASA’s robotic missions
  • NASA Social – Announcements on social media & for info about upcoming NASA Socials
  • NASA – the News from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, themselves

Go, Science!

That we’ve ever been able to set anything on Mars’ surface, successfully navigate its terrain, take pictures from multiple angles then transmit them back them before our eyes on Earth is nothing less than astounding. And this Sunday, it can happen again. Unless something goes horribly awry – which is always a distinct possibility… but if it were easy, anyone could do it. My great respect goes to the entire Curiosity team and everyone at NASA for their work on this project.

Let’s hope all goes well for the Curiosity team this weekend.

What do you think? Will humans ever make it to Mars? Or Pandora? Did you ever fantasize about space travel? Are there aliens out there? Let us hear from you in the comments!
Video

Dried Flower Video Montage

3 Jul

Here’s a montage-style movie I assembled using the Splice app on my iPhone. I noticed this dried flower on my porch, and thought I’d have some fun making a video of it. I shot these images and some video elements with a Photojojo macro lens, some with the Hipstamatic app. I’m still blown away by how easily and effectively Splice lets you tap your way to a video production.

What do you think? Do you do any video edits on your smartphone? Have you ever set photos to music? What’s your impression of the process? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Vintage Cameras Are Cool

13 Jun
Old School

Photo taken at Cookie’s Shabbytiques, Winston-Salem, NC. via iPhone.
Click to see more of my iPhoneography at Pinterest.

There’s a lot to appreciate about old cameras. I think they’re an art form unto themselves, having to achieve a goal (photography) in a certain way (conveniently, effectively), with a certain set of rules (workable by human hands). The more I explore photography, the more I’m drawn to these classic designs as a way of connecting with history.

Collecting Classic Cameras = Cool

I left the above comment on Down The Road, a blog by Jim Grey in Indiana. He did an excellent post earlier this year on why he collects vintage cameras, and I re-read it again today. Since that time, I’ve taken the above photo, and have become even more obsessed with photographic shooting techniques, cameras, iPhoneography, photo apps, artists… the list goes on. I say even more obsessed, because I was already far gone in the first place. Here’s what Jim says in return:

These classic designs are absolutely a link to history. Imagining what the world was like at the time one of my old cameras was new is part of what makes me collect!

I like the idea that mechanics, functionality and design all come together in these devices from the past, each of which were the height of technology at some point, and that we can still appreciate them today. And even now, as I’ve pretty much ditched my point-and-shoot camera for my iPhone, the trend continues. I view these vestiges with respect and fascination.

What do you think? Ever owned or operated a vintage camera? Do you collect any vintage gear such as these, vintage suitcases, or any other type of antique? Let us hear from you in the comments!

3 Instagram Alternatives: Beyond Facebook’s Instabillion Buy

9 Apr
Disturbance In The Force

Join me and together we will rule the galaxy!

Did anyone else sense a disturbance in The Force recently?

You may have heard the news: Facebook Buys Instagram for $1 BillionMoves Operations to Secret Volcano LairIgnites Hipster Outrage.

I’m not afraid to say I love Instagram, and I anticipate continuing to enjoy it as a casual consumer for some time to come. It’s opened up a world of mobile photography and photo editing via smartphone that I never would have considered before. It’s been just enough of a social network to add engagement and hold my attention, while also making it easy and rewarding to discover some great images and have fun interacting with fun people.

I personally am encouraged by this news, since there’s only so much Instagram’s 13-person operation is capable of, and since their monthly hosting bill alone must equal the GDP of a small country. I think having the vast resources of Facebook will ease more growing pains than it will create, and I don’t plan to change how I use either service, for now anyway.

Instagram’s New HQ (rumored)

That said, this opens up all kinds of questions about whether your Instagram content is now Facebook’s content, if Instagram will now have ads, or if the whole Instagram experience goes down the tubes.

Whatever.

I’m not so concerned, because, simply, Instagram is not the only show in town. It’s service is one of the most streamlined, accessible, and, ironically, the most connected with other networks. I think that’s ironic because it’s these other networks that offer so much of what Instagram already does: easy photo sharing, mobile apps, and interaction with like-minded folks. They also come with web interfaces – something you only get for Instagram through 3rd-party sites like Gramfeed or Statigr.am.

These other networks might not have filters at the ready, but most of my photos don’t even use Instagram filters, since there are so many apps far more capable of turning everyday snapshots into appreciable art. And once you’ve become handy with some photo editing apps that suit your taste, here are three other photo-sharing networks to consider:

If you find this useful, share it on Twitter — thanks!

Flickr

While more general-purpose and slightly more complicated to use than other networks, Flickr is a fantastic value (2 videos and 300MB worth of photos each calendar month for free accounts) and has a very robust web interface for organizing your images. You can use collections, sets, adjust privacy levels for each, and plenty more. Just like Instagram, there’s commenting, favorites (likes), followers (contacts), groups, but then there’s still more beyond that. And they have a wacky sense of humor (big points from me for that). The Flickr mobile app is also a great way to browse images and see those of your contacts.

Hopefully, this could be the business model Facebook anticipates, where the service is practically independent from its parent: much-beloved Flickr is thriving, unlike much-cursed Yahoo. It might take a little more searching to find arty pics here, but it’s worth a look if that’s your thing. If mobile art specifically is your thing, you might like…

iPhoneArt.com

Designed by artists for artists, iPhoneArt.com has an inherent elegance to the interface, both on the site and the mobile app. Full disclosure: I’ve been featured as artist of the day there, but as I’ve noted earlier, it tends to make Instagram look like MySpace, since one major distinguishing feature is that you can only upload five photos per day. So they’d better be good. You won’t find the deluge of mediocre snapshots all over the place highlighted for their so-called popularity, but you will find a talented community of creative folk who are into pushing the limits of what can be done with mobile photography as art. If art beyond the mobile platform is what you’re after, you might like…

DeviantArt

No, liking it doesn’t make you a deviant (let’s hope), but DeviantArt does offer an enthusiastic community and tons of content, all sortable and searchable depending on what your interest may be. DeviantArt is truly a social network for creatives, with a slant toward the artistic. There’s not a specific app, but that’s a non-issue, since their ultra-slick mobile-friendly version of the site gives you the same experience and functionality as the full-site version.

I’m already on Instagram; Why Reinvent the Wheel?

Good point. You don’t have to abandon ship. And I, especially, am not eager to learn a new photo-sharing interface just because of an acquisition – heck, I just recently figured out Pinterest. But one thing to consider is that unlike many other photo sharing apps or networks, these particular examples are very well-established – either in terms of how long they’ve been around, the depth of experience they offer, dedicated user base… or any combination of these and other factors that are of proven appeal to many Instagramers.

So if you think the party is over for our beloved Instagram, have a look at these other, less-likely-to-be-purchased-by-Facebook networks serving up their own style of social art.

What do you think of Facebook’s Instapurchase? Are you already on one or more of these networks? What has your experience there been like vs. Instagram? Is there another network (not app, but network) you would recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments!
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