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Inspired Artistic Temple Shot By Paul Barr
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iPhone 4S at an effective 35mm — 1/390 sec, f/2.4, ISO 64 — map & image datanearby photos
Outlying Temple Building
iPhone photo and processing by Paul Barr

Rarely does a photo take my breath away, but this rendition by Paul Barr does it every time I come across it. I don't know what it is about it, but if you'll excuse the pun, I'm really drawn to it.

Paul recently got an iPhone 4s, and to complement its camera he loaded a few photo-processing apps, and spent some time over coffee futzing with the apps to get a feel for them. He ended up with a jumbled mix of results, almost all of which are interesting (though one really creeps me out), but the one above really strikes me as exceptional. I intend to frame it for my wall.

The temple building itself is fairly generic and I didn't recognize it, but it turns out to be from our trip to the Jingoji Temple last month. Apparently I was standing next to Paul when he took the shot, though I was in the process of photographing a different building at the time.

Paul isn't sure which app he used to process the photo, but suspects it's PhotoForge2, an app that Stéphane Barbery recommended to him.

Paul normally shoots with a Nikon D3, but he was also using his iPhone at times because he wanted to get to know the iPhone camera. Frankly, after seeing the low-light prowess of my Nikon D700 I can't see myself ever using a point-n-shoot like the iPhone except when I don't have a “real” camera around, but Paul shows that skill, patience, and perhaps some luck can go a very long way.

Regardless of the source of the photo, there's also Paul's inspired processing. Paul says that he doesn't know whether it's luck or genius that he came up with this, but it's my guess that it's luck that allowed him to get there, and genius that allowed him to stop there.

I'd like to be able to do this kind of thing myself, but I'm scared for the amount of time it would take, and how I'd feel about the outcome. I've dabbled a bit with “artsy” processing from time to time, and usually feel that by the time I'm done that it's started to get a bit cliché. I think it's just lack of artistic confidence: I'm a scientific geeky guy, so “art” is totally foreign to me.

I do very much like the “artsy” art I printed for my home office (photos processed via Corel Painter Essentials, as written about last year and in 2007), and I think the “Impressionism in Lightroom” shots from last fall are impactful. Among other recent artsy-fartsy endeavors are “A Few Stylized Shots from Bunny Island” which I also like, and “Context for the Bamboo-and-Leaf Photo, and Some Crazy Post-Processing” which perhaps was more useful for the experience than the results.

Then there's the whole realm of black & white processing, which is much more complex and artistically varied than you could possibly imagine if you've never really looked into it. I use it sparingly (of note recently here, here, here, and here), but if you want to get an idea for just how complex it can be, watch Martin Bailey's walk-through of Silver Efex Pro, a B&W conversion application by Nik Software. I have resisted getting it because my head would explode at all the possibilities, and I have enough on my plate as it is.

Update: Paul put up the original photo from which the result above was derived.


Comments so far....

Well I’m knocked out with it too.
Just fantastic.
Well done iPhone plus human futzing!!!

— comment by Annie in London on January 5th, 2012 at 4:50am JST (2 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

I don’t know why (I am not a techie) but when I tried to look at the original photo by clicking on the link, I just got an error message on Google telling me I don’t have access to the site??? Anyway, I’m just astonished at the quality of the photo—from an iPhone!

It didn’t have permissions set right, sorry. I’ve updated the link to one that will work now. —Jeffrey

— comment by Marylis on January 5th, 2012 at 12:58pm JST (2 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Your phrase “…it’s luck that allowed him to get there, and genius that allowed him to stop there” says a lot in a few words. As to Silver Efex Pro 2, you really should try it. I promise your head will not explode.

— comment by David C. on January 5th, 2012 at 10:49pm JST (2 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for fixing the link as it got me a bit too. Hmmm and isnt the pencil just so much richer than the “real” thing!
Congrats to Paul B and thanks for posting it up Jeffrey.

— comment by Annie in London on January 6th, 2012 at 4:26am JST (2 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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