The Best Camera

Durham Bulls Ball Park

Here’s the scenario: off and on rain all day, Durham Bulls game moved up half an hour because of more rain coming later, constant threat of rain delay or cancellation. Bulls tickets aren’t expensive, but neither are they cheap. Our seats were out in the open, uncovered, where we can be close to the action. We donned rain jackets, packed trash bags and a towel. I left my cameras at home, bringing only my phone.

Empty seatsIt was the sort of night full of empty seats and umbrellas. At one point, we got high fives from Bulls staff for braving the weather and coming out (but honestly, folks, it wasn’t that bad!)

A big fan of Instagram, that is usually my go-to app when out with my phone only and not shooting seriously. Recently, however, I have been spending more time experimenting with the native camera app, preferring to get the whole frame so I have more freedom to crop later. I then process in Snapseed, a wonderfully powerful editing app.

Isaac with Foul BallsBecause of the rain and the lack of camera, I didn’t really plan on taking any photos. At some point around the fifth or sixth inning, however, the rain momentarily cleared, and the sky went to gradients of purple as the sun set. As the sky darkened and the park’s lights shown brighter, suddenly there was a beautiful, colorful moment on this predominantly gray day, and so out came the phone.

The results surprised me. Though the lead image in this post has been more heavily processed–call it creative or cheesy or stupid, I don’t care–it wasn’t to mask the poor quality of the original photo. Indeed, below is a more naturally processed version, and though the image quality isn’t the most incredible, it is probably at least as good as what I could have taken with a camera a few years ago. Even better, I was able to edit it between innings and upload it minutes later, all from my seat somewhere between the Bulls’ dugout and the bullpen.

Sunset, Durham Bulls Athletic Park

The point here is not that the iPhone was the best tool for the job, or that you only really need an iPhone, or that you shouldn’t use other cameras. Rather, it’s that to me, the whole point of photos is to communicate something–beauty, emotion, movement, an ephemeral and fleeting moment in time. Photographs are about light, composition, color, geometry.

Warming up in the Bullpen

Whatever you’re shooting with, don’t lose sight of the important stuff. I can’t stress this enough, obviously, since I keep writing about it. I think the reason for this repetition, though, this incessant hammering home of the point, is because I am in the midst of a really fundamental change in my photography–how I see it, how I interpret it, how I seek to create it. Through the years I have used a variety of film and digital cameras, lenses, and accessories. I have pursued the latest and greatest, have sought the next great thing that will take my photography to the next level. Some of these have been shrewd choices, others have been dead ends.

But in the end, it’s the seeing that’s set the good photographs apart from the bad. It’s the preparation, the experience, the perspective that has changed, grown, evolved.

At some point, all the equipment falls away, and all that’s left are the images.

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