Friday, May 15, 2015

"Mobile" Photography

My trip in Colorado last weekend really saw the quiet, underlying affinity I have for mobile sharing metastasize in a fun way. For a long time my biggest dislike in the greater photographic process has been the post-process. In the context of outings with specific images in mind, sure, it makes sense to run through Lightroom and DXO and Photoshop until the image looks precisely how I want, but when you're snap shooting at an event or venue with no higher art considerations in mind it's horribly taxing to then be saddled with the chore of curating, editing and uploading. It may be that my baseline for the minimum standards of how an image looks after edited and how it is shared upon upload has spoiled the process for me. I tend not to like batch edits or the application of presets, yet I dislike images until they've been treated with specific attention to detail, and even then once that attention is given I'm still extremely likely to discard it for not measuring up to a higher standard. It's a rare thing that I'm ever able to quiet that inner demand and simply share.

That all goes out the window when it comes to editing and uploading while still in the field, however. My first experience publishing from the field was during the 2012 Raven's Superbowl Win Parade in Baltimore City. I picked up an Olympus PENPAL just before the parade, knowing that I wanted to rubber stamp "FIRST" on everything happening that day. And barring technical issues due to an antiquated tablet, it went swimmingly. RAW files quickly processed in-camera to a usable JPG, fired to the tablet and promptly uploaded to Facebook. Those quick, sloppy uploads had exactly the effect I wanted, and for a day I enjoyed the fleeting sensation of being a veritable fame monster.

Since that event, however, I haven't dabbled nearly as much in mobile uploads. In 2014 I regularly bombed a convention's Flickr page to get my photos up on their monitor's live feed of the event, but returning home I promptly took them down because... well, they looked awful. Nowhere near my typical standard, and having them published to Flickr felt like a compromise to the integrity of the portfolio I treat my Flickr page as these days. The catch in that, however, is that they only looked bad to me on my computer monitor. On the lobby TV screen, on a cell phone, they looked fantastic, and really that is the de facto standard display medium on which people are going to view any image today. For better or for worse, the display medium has lowered the bar, and at least in my case the only interruption to a steady flow of on-the-spot, mobile phone edited works being thrown up to my Flickr gallery is an almost arbitrary concept of minimum quality that nobody else seems to share. Honestly, it's probably holding me back more than I care to admit even when admitting it to begin with.

Lately that conceptual barrier has been breaking down, though. Instagram, social media juggernaut that it is, quickly appealed to me for sake of its relative ease and simplicity in content sharing. More so, it's an almost exclusively phone-based medium, nearly guaranteeing the content uploaded is seen on a cell phone screen and thus not nearly as revealing to quality flaws that would otherwise have me gnashing teeth. Snapseed has proven to be both a fun and remarkably powerful editing tool. Anymore, I'm wondering why I bother with the begrudged Lightroom grind, wherein the standard set by a large, calibrated monitor spoil my ability to enjoy my own photography. And that's really what it's supposed to be about, isn't it? What's the point in practicing photography if you aren't enjoying your own work?

Armed with the E-M1 today, it's not even a conscious thought to throw shots to my phone for quick edits via WiFi. Lately, that passive practice has resulted in a strangely complete catalog of my trips to breweries, renditions of artistic photography I like better than the Lightroom edits later produced, and significantly more complete timeline of my life than I ever expected to assemble.




Arbitrary standards of quality be damned. I had more fun in the experiences surrounding the above 7 photos than in the hours of labor I'd have otherwise spent trying to turn shit into gold with ISO 5000. That is the definitive differentiator in these two workflow methodologies, the traditional geared toward optimal print quality and the mobile geared toward immediate sharing of content. For me, at least right now, I garner happiness from the mobile process, whereas the other has rarely come without compulsion driven by copious amounts of depressed and lonely drinking beforehand.

That's been the trick as of late, finding avenues in which I can indulge my compulsion to photograph without inevitably coming to a point of misery staring at a catalog of images and experiences I'll never have adequately shared. For a long time I've been distracted by the pointless numbers game of the web, trying to maximize favorites and page views or likes or upvotes. I recognize the pointlessness, the fruitlessness of such superficial attention, but being raised on video games it may as well be ingrained in my behavioral centers to always seek the high score. I recall watching a documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters", following an historic rivalry between celebrated champions of the original Donkey Kong arcade game. The greater takeaway I had from that documentary dealt with the degree to which competitive nature eliminated the capability of enjoyment in what was difinitively an enjoyable distraction. More often than not these days I see myself going down that road, and I'm trying desperately to sidestep my competitive nature and simply revel in the enjoyment of photography for the fulfilling pleasure that it is.