Tag Archives: viewpoints

cellphone camera test

After having lived without a cellphone for the last two centuries I finally took the leap. Not only did I get a cellphone, I got a smart phone. The iPhones have been all the rage for a while, but I ended up selecting an HTC MyTouch serviced by T-Mobile.

As someone who’s a bit of a Luddite and who’s loudly protested cellphones and cellphone culture, I’m almost ashamed to admit owning the device. Still, something about the combination of a device that is part-phone, part-camera, part-wireless router, part-web browser, part-music player, part-camcorder, part-GPS unit, part-nanny, part-godknowswhatelse seemed compelling.

The view looking north, up past Scripps Pier

Last week a good friend came to visit for a few days. A tourist trip up to the top of Mount Soledad, the high point of coastal San Diego, seemed like a good idea. Thursday was a break between winter storms, which meant that the visibility could be pretty stunning.

Yes indeed. The views were terrific. Also, a lot of native plants surrounding the little pad of green grass and parking at the top of the mountain were breaking out into bloom.

Did someone say “photo-op?”

Scarlet monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus, but judging from the focus the camera was more rapt with the view of La Jolla below.
Deerweed, Lotus scoparius, also frustratingly out of focus, no matter how hard I tried to get the camera to focus on the flower instead of the background foliage.

Since I didn’t have my real camera this seemed like a good test for the camera feature on the new handheld device. (Really, can you call it a phone anymore?)

Here’s a short stack of snapshots I took up there. And yes, I consider them snapshots, only snapshots.

I’m used to cameras with lots of controls. For controls, this model has a moderate zoom option and the ability to turn the flash on or off or on automatic. That’s it for options. So, it does make for a simple-to-use camera, but it’s simple to the point of being simplistic.

Coast sunflower, Encelia californica, showing both focus and exposure issues.

The flowers of lemonadeberry, Rhus integrifolia. Unlike my other attempts at closeups, this shot came out clear and crisp--but still blown out in the highlights.

Achieving good focus or getting an exposure that doesn’t overexpose something in the frame can be a challenge. These are limitations for lots of point and shoot cameras, so I don’t know that it’s any worse than some of them. Lens flare when you shoot into the sun can be a problem, but that happens with even the best of cameras.

The phone designers probably realized that the camera would be liable to shake as you took a snapshot. To compensate they applied a fairly extreme level of in-camera sharpening. For some images it’s barely noticeable, in others it’s so obvious it hurts.

So as not to seem like I’m a total Mr. Negative, there were a few things I did like. The wide 9:16 aspect ratio of the image–similar to the current generation of televisions–is kinduv cool and cinematic. The 2:3 aspect ratio of old-school 35mm cameras is harder to work with and often feels unnatural.

A view with encelia and lemonadeberry in the foreground, as well as the ever-present coyotoebrush, baccharis.
That view again, this time with some chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum, in the foreground. I still have trouble deciding whether I'm in coastal sage scrub habitat or maritime chaparral. The presence of chamise tells you that you're in chaparral.
A view to the south. You could easily see a couple dozen miles into Mexico that day.

Colors looked pretty true to life.

And in the end there’s the much better chance that you’ll have the cellphone camera handy when you’ve left the dedicated camera at home. You may never miss another photo op again.

So…has life changed with a cellphone? I can’t say that it has that much. It was handy to have when I was trying to navigate Philadelphia a couple weeks ago. It’s handy to keep in touch with people when you’re away from the landline. And I guess I feel just a little bit more hip. Like, now, when people talk about angry birds, I realize chances are that they’re most likely talking about the app and not what happens when you disturb a nest.

on the road–part 2

Late on the night of Day 2 I roll into Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument. Like Yellowstone it showcases some striking volcanic feature, in this case recent eruptions along the local rift zone in the Earth’s crust. Here are a couple shots from Day 3, images of an intense wildflower bloom and of residual ice in Indian Tunnel, a lava tube you can explore.
Blooms at Valley of the Moon N.M.

Snow in Indian Tunnel, Valley of the Moon N.M.

Then it was on to Yellowstone. Here are some of the pics from there, in no real order.

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River:Upper Fall, Yellowstone River

Tourists at Artist’s Point overlooking the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. The artist in question is Thomas Moran, who used this vantage point for his famous image of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Tourists at the Lower Falls of the Yellowston River

Tourists at the Lower Falls, Yellowstone River

Spring thaw beginning on Yellowstone Lake:
Spring thaw, Yellowstone Lake

Clouds and ice, Yellowstone Lake:
Clouds and ice, Yellowstone Lake

Sunset Lake, Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone:
Sunset Lake, Black Sand Basin

A couple shots from Midway Geyser Basin, from the brink or Excelsior Geyser:Midway Geyer Basin, Yellowstone

Midway Geyser Basin

The Jeep didn’t care for the cold, wet weather, and took its own vacation by the side of Yellowstone Lake.
Broken down next to Lake Yellowstone

Viewpoint at Ledge Geyser, Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone, with some of the only sunshine all trip:
Ledge Geyser overlook, Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone

The worst of the trip’s bison jams, this one when a herd of about five dozen was moving from their breakfast to lunch grazing locations:
Bison jam, Yellowstone

Algae in the geyser runoff at Norris Geyser Basin:
Algae at Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

What? No pictures of Old Faithful? Sorry. There’s a couple hundred more of these tourist pictures but I’ll spare you. Once I start printing up some of my more “serious” photographic work and have something to show I’ll post a few more images.