It hit me recently that I have neglected to look for the beautiful over the last while. Summer has edged into the coolness of fall, and I have been wasting my energy frowning at the fading light like an old grump rather than noticing the beautiful warm colour it gives to everything it touches. Fall is usually my favourite time of year, but it is easy to focus on the coming winter some days and forget about what is right in front of me.
Realizing that I should enjoy the weather before the Canadian winter takes over, I decided to become a tourist of my own balcony and document the beauty of fall in the container garden. The plants are already withering, but there is still life and beauty in them, even as they brown on their stalks.
If you have good light and decent subjects, even a phone camera can catch their energy, so, armed with little more than my iPhone 5 and the Snapseed app, I spent a good hour crawling through the container garden on my knees and elbows. Strangely, being down on all fours like that turns your forearms into a fairly steady tripod.
I ended up catching some nice shots while the evening sun warmed my back, and I started to notice the beauty I had been missing. The peppers and tomatoes have grown into rich reds, and their leaves have developed that depth of green that only happens in a plant’s last days. Even the bees weren’t done yet. They crawled over the pots, hoping to find a last flower.
I decided to use the Snapseed app while I was shooting, because it has become my most-used tool for taking and editing iPhone images. This is because it affords you a lot of versatility. It allows you to take photos in-app or import photos from other apps, and it offers not only basic features such as editing for brightness and exposure, contrast and colour, sharpening, and straightening and cropping, but it also allows you to add elements like retro and dramatic filters and tilt-shift and grunge effects. Snapseed meets most of your editing needs and more, which means creating beautiful photos doesn’t have to involve four different apps and an in-depth understanding of photographic theory.
If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about when I mention photographic theory, though, please do some reading. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to being able to mindfully craft rich photographs. To get you started on some of the basics of composition, here is a short Slideshare presentation: 10 Compositional Theories of Still Photography. Having at least a rudimentary handle on what helps to create a decent photograph will help guide your eye and choices of subject. Even a brief introduction to these ideas will noticeably grow your ability.
I have to admit that the container garden actually belongs to my neighbours with whom I share a balcony, so I was a bit nervous that one of them was going to come home and find me crawling around obsessing over their tomatoes with my butt up in the air. It was so lovely out there, though, with the steeply slanted evening light and the rustle of drying leaves that I couldn’t maintain my vigilance.
And so it was that I completely forgot I was on public display until one of the neighbours laughed hello at me as she walked by my crawling form to her back door.
Oops. I hope she enjoyed the view.
Despite my run-in, spending an evening crawling around a container garden with my iPhone was worth its weight in hours of therapy. I was warm, happy, and truly appreciative of the beauty sitting just outside my back door. I really had no idea what I had out there. In fact, I’m out there right now while I write this entry.
I urge you to grab your camera phone, DSLR, analog SLR, or what have you, and take a tour around a place that is familiar to you with an eye to seeking out its beauty. Even your own back yard or familiar road to the corner store will reveal pieces of themselves to your camera that you might never have noticed without the focus of your, and your world, the same old one that you walk through every day, will become more beautiful.
It’s a kind of therapy everyone with any old camera can afford.
About the author: Elan Morgan is a blogger, web designer and consultant, iPhoneographer, speaker, and poet who lives in Saskatchewan, Canada. She blogs and works at Schmutzie.com, spreads gratitude through Grace in Small Things, celebrates Canadian blogging with the Canadian Weblog Awards, and speaks all over. She believes in and works to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.
As an iPhoneographer, she has taught iPhoneography at conferences in Winnipeg, Toronto, and New York, and she contributed to Alli Worthington’s iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide. Her work was also showcased in Ubiquography, a physical exhibition originating in Barcelona and projected in 35 venues across the world in 2012. Most recently, her iPhoneography has been featured in the book Blog Design For Dummies.