#789. More Smartphone Fun

By Steve Mallett | Opinion

Nov 21

Pascal’s post #755, “In defence of smartphone photography, again” and more recently Adrian’s  post #786 Am I going Crazy? (Using an inexpensive smartphone), speak of “smartphone fun” and I thought I’d add my two penn’orth.

As some of you will know, I belong to a U3A camera group, (University of the Third Age) comprising members of a certain age and in varying states of decrepitude and ability. We meet fortnightly and the photographic part of the day is sandwiched between meeting for coffee at 10:00 and, for those that want, reconvening for lunch at 13:00. For many of our intrepid band the comestibles are at least as important as the image creation.  On days of inclement weather we convene in Fishguard Library, in a small room at the far end of the long corridor housing the tapestry celebrating the Last Invasion of Britain and on fine days we  wander about the county exercising our creative powers.

Recently we met at the West Wales Wildlife Centre, as they have a great cafe, before moving on to Cilgerran Castle for some photography.  Just as I was about to set off there was a minor domestic drama causing a few minutes of distraction and as I was driving, later than intended, to the cafe rendezvous I realised in the confusion I had left my waterproof jacket behind and it was looking like rain.

It turned out to be worse than that.  Flinging open the rear doors of the Mini I was confronted by a total lack of camera bag!  !****!, today is going from bad to worse.

Hastening to the cafe I arrive as the cups are being cleared away and I just have time to fess up to being deficient in the camera department to the tune of one but intend to use of my phone instead, before the rest of the group set off for the serious business of image capture, telling me, “by the way, we’re shooting in black and white today”.  I say I’ll grab a quick coffee and visit the gents (toilet facilities are also important to our demographic) and catch them up. In my mind I imagine the sniggering about using a phone on a photo shoot and possibly muttering about the failing memory of some of the group and being glad it wasn’t them.  In fairness to my compatriots I have to say this was entirely in my mind and they were unfailingly civil and supportive.

After said break I wander out into the Wildlife Park with my iPhone SE and start looking for opportunities.  I confess my natural competitiveness had kicked in and I was determined to create a few kickass images to show ‘em “it’s the photographer not the camera,” right?  After about 45 minutes I realise I have seen no-one from the group and it slowly dawns that whilst we were meeting at the Park the actual shoot was at the Castle.  S*1t. I have completely lost the plot today.  Rush to car park, drive to Castle, arrive just as the hungriest are heading to the pub. Never mind, out with phone and carry on.

The point of this ramble (at last, I hear you say) is that out of adversity came FUN!  I had an absolute blast with my phone and produced some images that I am really pleased with.

Photosplit, multi-exposure



When I shared these with Paul Perton his response was, “Yes, Steve (my ageing best mate!), but is it art?”

Photosplit, multi-exposure

My reply, “Art?  You’re asking the wrong person!  What I can tell you is that the images are nothing like anything the rest of the group shot!”

Photosplit, multi-exposure

To me, this style of image is photographic pop music (well what I think of as pop music), they are easy listening with a natty beat and a few have good hooks.  A very few will merit repeated listening in years to come but most will be liked for a while before being largely forgotten to be replaced with this seasons offering. Nothing wrong with that. Impermanence rules.

Photosplit, multi-exposure

The point is I have fun. I see the world differently for a while and engage with it using the tools to hand and what skill I can muster.  And in this instance pull a rabbit out of a hat!

Photosplit, multi-exposure

And a colour one for good measure.

Photosplit, multi-exposure

For anyone still interested, the Photosplit app does all kinds of stuff but I only use it for multiple exposures and it’s limited to square aspect ratio.  Having taken the images as you want there are then a series of blend options providing different effects. It can be a bit hit and miss but after a while you get a feel for which blend mode and intensity is likely to work with what sort of image.  Photosplit stores each of the images shot as well as the final one, all of which can be saved to the Camera Roll which then syncs to Photos on all devices. You may or may not think this is a “good thing”.  I’m told no such app exists for Android.  Sorry.

ProCamera is my favourite app for general purpose use on the iPhone allowing control of focus, exposure, ISO, WB, histograms, low light trickery, HDR, etc. but best of all it shoots RAW and jpg pairs.

Some weeks later we were set a new assignment; “Shoot an image of the Herring in Lower Town.”  On hearing this I groaned inwardly.  The Herring in question is a rather lovely sculpture of a shoal of fish erected in memory the long forgotten herring industry that used to thrive in Fishguard. I have tried to photograph it a number of times but found it impossible to find a point of view that does it justice.  This time I thought I’d try and get the fish in a watery environment rather than silhouetted against the sky which is how you mainly see them.

So out with my phone again in conjunction with an app called Enlight which runs on the iPhone but I prefer to use it on my iPad as it’s way easier to use given the larger screen.  Enlight offers more flexibility than Photosplit in that that aspect ratio can be altered, there are loads more blending options as well as an array of filters and so on.

This is the resultant underwater Herring.

Enlight, multi-exposure

And this is the urban graffiti version!

Enlight, multi-exposure


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  • pascaljappy says:

    Ok, so my opinion is biased. To me, this is brilliant !

    For one thing, the photographs are different and visually interesting. The one with people on a sort of balcony atop a cliff in particular has a mesmerizing quality.

    More important, you state that, after a while, you got a hang of it and results became a little more predictable. Meaning you could begin to create, think ahead, which so few of us do in our photography.

    Finally, and an extension of the previous comment, I love that you actually planned the Herring shot in a way that wasn’t possible with conventional photography.

    If that’s not art, and if phones aren’t great tools for creating art, then what is and what are?

    Brilliant. Thanks for sharing (can I swap one of these for one of mine ? 😉 )

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Thanks Pascal, glad you like them. I’ll happily swap, reminds of my childhood, collecting and swapping fag packets. My 20 Capstan Full Strength for your 10 Weights!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:


    A story of a real experience resembling those dreams where you are in a hurry and never arrive as lots of strange things turn you aside…

    Ending with some very interesting and very real photos showing dreamlike aspects of reality…

    Laurens van der Post in one of his books quoted a San man saying:
    “You see, there is a dream dreaming us.”

  • John W says:

    LOVE IT!!! LOVE IT!!! LOVE IT!!! In the words of the great Ernst Haas “I’m not interested in seeing new things in old ways. But I am interested in seeing old things in new ways”(paraphrased). What’s really important is you’ve found a way to reimagine the ordinary into the extraordinary … and there in lies the “ART”.

    • Steve Mallett says:

      Thanks John. If only we could have a bit more say over when we are able to see in new ways. But that’s the beauty of creativity; it’s mercurial. Catch it while you can.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Reading your ramble and seeing your photos, I was reminded of a film I saw about Pablo Picasso – in which HE explained why he chose to paint the pictures that made him so famous, and showed how easily he could paint an “impressionist” masterpieces, if he chose to do so.
    The function of many (most?) critics seems to me to denigrate attempts to chart new waters – and the function of true art could well be to explore them, in defiance of the critics.
    What I think IS important is avoiding pistachio – copy or imitation. Even if that struggles to be “art”, even if it manages to succeed, it will always be the “art” of the person who is being imitated – albeit the “work” of the plagiarist.
    PS when you rambled about “sniggering” and “possibly muttering” and how your compatriots were “unfailingly civil and supportive”, I couldn’t help wondering why this surprised you. Brits are notoriously well-mannered about other people’s failings – possibly sniggered amongst themselves, but hardly likely to make unkind comments to you! No matter what they thought! 🙂

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Oops – sorry – “pistachio” – I must have had my head in an ice cream bucket! 🙂

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Now I can see what has happened – and the damn thing did it again! – I’ve been inflicted this end. with a bloody interfering app that auto spells and anticipates, instead of doing as it’s told. The word is “pistache”, with one “i” and NO “o”

        • Steve Mallett says:

          Pete, you are obviously engaged in a battle with your speelling errol collector! I think the word is probably “pastiche” which I hope won’t change when I hit Post;-)

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            You’re quite right – and it IS a fight – I HATE the f***ing thing! It’s quite bad enough writing in English in the first place, without that crap chucked in. (Yeah – I know – pastiche isn’t english to start with).
            I have a “comforter” sitting behind me – the shirt I’m wearing tomorrow bears this slogan – <> (Ask Pascal what it means – he’s occitan! And this is supposed to be a group for people interested in travel.) 🙂

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Steve, you absolutely nailed both assignments! Definitely art and definitely “it’s the photographer not the camera.”

    Well done and thanks for sharing.

    • Steve Mallett says:

      Thanks Peter, I find it a challenge to admit to being an “artist”. From an early age I was quietly indoctrinated with being unable to draw, non musical and definitively not artistic. It’s a late flowering….

  • Johannes Hüttner says:

    I know its not exactly smartphone related but still:
    On a recent visit to an art gallery in Schwäbisch Hall (Würth collection) I´ve seen the first iPad drawings, printed big and hanging inside a museum. My first thought was: “This has to be from a young artist!” But lo and behold, the artist was no other than British painter David Hockney, aged 81.

    You can definitely create art on smart devices.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, the iPad drawings from David Hockney have received mixed reviews but they do prove the trend is there to stay. Cheers 🙂

    • Steve Mallett says:

      Johannes, some of Hockney’s iPad stuff I found inspirational. Of course it helps if you can draw, a skill in which I am singularly lacking!

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