Let me say up front that I love my high end DSLR’s and my collection of lenses from a 12-24mm zoom to my 300/2.8 plus 2x converter. This gear gives my lots of control when I’m shooting seriously, and I can’t imagine being a photographer without the flexibility and quality of this kit.
But when I’m out for birds with my big rig (a Nikon D300, the 300/2.8 AF-S lens, the Nikon TC20E III 2x converter, a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod with Really Right Stuff ball head and Wimberley Sidekick), I rarely have the energy to drag along another D300 and short zoom lens for any other type of subject.
As I’ve written before, I’ve started to rely upon the simple camera in an iPhone more and more when I would have otherwise used an 18-70mm zoom on the D300. I am lucky enough to have a friend who donated his old iPhone 3GS a while back when he upgraded to give me access to the useful applications. And another friend just passed on an iPhone 4 when it was replaced by a 5C.
So when I visited Boyce Thompson Arboretum state park earlier this week to work with some vagrant birds I had the iPhone 4 in my pocket “just in case.” Conditions were so pleasant that morning in the Demonstration Garden that I reached for the iPhone so I could show my wife when I got home.
I admit at first I was skeptical about taking photos with a cell phone, thinking that the results just couldn’t be all that good. And also lamenting the lack of control such a camera has, with no way to select focal length, or aperture, or ISO, or to be able to shoot in raw format.
But then I realized that I still had control over how I composed the scene on the display, and that I still selected the subject and the point of view for the image: these are fundamental aspects of photography that no amount of automation has been able to displace. And I also recalled that I still had some control over point of focus (by tapping on the image) and that by doing so I could control where the iPhone camera made its exposure determination.
The lesson of all this is important: the photographer’s vision still trumps the technology. Even the tiny sensor in a smart phone camera can capture some interesting images if only the photographer is willing to treat the simple camera properly.