Lesson 103: Sunrise and the iPhone

The greatest thing about an iPhone (or any smart phone, for that matter) as a camera is that most of us don’t go out the door without it.  It takes forethought and extra effort to pop a lens on my DSLR, check to make sure it has space on its memory card, check the battery charge level, and look at what settings are on it.  I don’t think about photography at all when I grab my iPhone before I head out the door.  In fact, I have to remind myself that I have a camera with me because I carry my iPhone for so many other reasons.

When the clouds look interesting, it’s hard to resist getting a shot, even if the colors aren’t unusual.  The iPhone, for better or worse, makes it possible to capture all of the sunrises I happen to see.

On this particular morning, the bank of clouds in front of the sun caught my eye.  As usual, I was out walking my dog.  This means I was at the mercy of his bladder, trying to get to a position where I had a view of the bridge and river before the sun got too high, but not wanting to rush him through his morning routine.  There is a reason you don’t see professional photographers toting around their gear while holding a leash with a dog at the other end.

I used two different apps for these images.  First, I used the Apple Camera App (the one that comes installed on your iPhone) for this image:

Then, when I finally made it down to the river, I used it again for this image:

But, I switch to Pro HDR for this image:

Here are the two different exposures Pro HDR used to combine them into the final image above:

The result is better exposure of both the water and the sky in the same image without looking over-processed.  This is one way to deal with the bright sun–I’ve covered the Pro HDR app in earlier lessons.  See Lessons 9, 18, 20, and 66.

A word about composition:  Compare these two images side-by-side:

Notice that in the one on the left, the sky takes up the majority of the frame.  The clouds in the foreground at the top enter the frame.  In the image on the right, the water occupies the majority of the frame.  The sunlight reflected in the water adds more depth to the image and the clouds seem secondary to the composition.  While one isn’t necessarily preferable to the other, in this particular example, in spite of my obsession with clouds, I prefer the one on the right.  The reflection in the water helps draw my eye into the bridges, sun, and clouds more than the extra clouds add to the image on the left.  Which framing do you like better?

Your Assignment:  The next time you’re out at sunrise or sunset, remember that you have a camera in your pocket.  Try taking a few shots with the default camera.  Try turning on the HDR feature in it as well (for a comparison of with and without HDR in the Apple camera app, see Lesson 72).  Then try Pro HDR and see if you like the results you get–remember you have to hold still until it takes both exposures (watch the screen prompts).

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