Here’s a scientific phenomenon based on absolutely no facts whatsoever: you take better photographs in the country.
Perhaps because you’re in the most natural of settings and, if you’re timing’s right, you’re working with natural light you couldn’t possibly recreate with any number of switches and really long extension cords.
How can you not capture a sunrise right in front of you? You just need to aim your iPhone at it and keep clicking at it till it’s risen – or your finger falls off. Or it gets too dark to see anything – which means you have clearly been there way too long anyway and should probably go inside. You’ll get something decent amidst those clicks.
The same goes for the other end of the day. Sun goes down, go with it. Aim and press, lots. It’s not like we’re talking about aperture sizes or anything.
Back in prehistoric times, I lived with a bloke who took photographs for one of the best newspapers in the country. He was a nice fellow, although he walked at an angle because he always slung his camera gear over his right shoulder. He was quite tall with long, dark hair down to the bottom of his back – and loved turning around to say, “thanks mate” to whomever whistled at him.
He would carry at least two cameras, and enough lenses that, if you joined them together, could probably make it to Sydney and back, boxes of film (yes, it was a while ago), another camera for spares and a motordrive that sounded like it was on life support. And the other spare cameras. Also lots of bits of paper with people’s names written on them – mostly by the people themselves because photographers always get names wrong. (Unless, of course, your name is Michelle Kroll* and you are Region Media’s photographer.)
As a strong silent type, he didn’t offer much advice except to say, “film is the cheapest thing about photography, so keep shooting till you get it right”. The ‘more is less’ theory applies today more than ever – just keep shooting till you get something good.
If, for example, you live on large sheep property somewhere like the Yass Valley, it seems almost a crime to not take your iPhone out for exercise first thing to see what you can capture. One of my favourites pics – because a good friend told me it was worthy of inclusion in The Land – was a sheepish family portrait. I mean, how hard can it be? I was there, the sheep family was in front of me, not moving, and I had my iPhone. Ewe could tell it was a good pic from a mile away.
I love taking pics of inanimate objects, mainly because they’re inanimate and easier to get them into focus. My favourites are trees, well, it used to be one in particular until someone chopped it down – for allegedly dying.
It’s also great to shoot anything old because they almost always make a great pic. If it’s already started to fall down, more’s the better. Your pic will look like you shot it that way, with interesting angles and bits protruding from unusual places. I mean old things, not old people. You can get into trouble for shooting old people and a lot of them are quite nice.
I also love taking pics of my stack of firewood (it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside), more trees, priceless op-shop finds (mostly snowdomes), things that make me laugh (family and friends) and cry (brown snakes), and always when the river rises and I have hours to wait till it recedes so I can get home again.
And then there are my dog pics. If they could talk, they’d tell me to go away when I try to get shots of them sleeping/being awake/staring at me/staring at something else or if I’m really feeling creative – or press the wrong button by mistake – videoing them. I have learned, though, that it’s better if you’re in front of them. Otherwise, you see rather a lot of their bottoms. Not a good look.
But for the real picture, we asked Region Media‘s photographer *Michelle Kroll for her top tips when taking iPhone pics:
First, and most importantly, she says, is to wipe the phone lens. When you pull the phone out, it’s likely you’ll put your fingerprints on the lens. Give it a quick wipe and your photos are likely to be crisp and focused.
Speaking of focus, tap the screen where you want the subject in focus. Also, don’t forget your phone comes with editing functions so you can enhance your pictures.
And finally, when in doubt, read the instructions.