Get Focused

When you’re up to your ass in alligators it is difficult to remember that your primary objective was to drain the swamp. —Unknown

I learned a valuable lesson early on in my career as an electrician: Get comfortable with the tools and stay focused on the goal. For example, if I had to drill a quarter-inch hole in a piece of metal I would need an electric drill and the proper sized high-speed steel drill bit. This is where too many choices, lack of experience, and inattention can overwhelm a person.

  • Do I need to use a Milwaukee, DeWalt, Black & Decker, Makita, Hitachi, Skil, or Bosch brand drill motor?
  • Does it matter if the drill motor has a 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, or 1/2-inch chuck?
  • Should the drill motor be a Pistol-grip, D-handle, or Angle-head model?
  • Should I use a corded 120 volt drill or a cordless model?
  • If cordless, should it be a 12-14-18-32 or 36 volt model?
  • If corded, is an outlet nearby or do I need an extension cord?
  • Will I need an power adapter (U-ground-to-Twistlok, for example) in order to plug-in the cord?
  • Do I need to have a forward/reverse switch (in case the drill bit binds)?
  • Is a variable speed model preferable (for thicker metals)?
  • Will I need some lubricating oil to help the drill bit in case the metal is harder than expected?

Let’s get back to basics: We need to drill a hole, not purge our souls. With the help of some more experienced men I learned to quickly navigate those questions and get to the job at hand—drilling a hole.

“I’ve got a Nikon camera. I love to take photographs…”

box brownie_lo res2I have carried that mindset with me into the field of photography, where the available choices for taking any photograph can be equally mind-boggling. SLR and DSLR cameras offer a multitude of lenses, filters, and accessories. Choices of aperture, exposure, focus, depth-of-field, and the focal length of the chosen lens can be daunting to even the most seasoned photographer. We have come a long way from George Eastman’s original Box Brownie camera.

Or have we?

Version 2I look at the iPhone camera as the 21st Century’s Digital Box Brownie camera. Steve Jobs and his talented staff at Apple turned the world of photography upside down with the first iPhone camera.

We are back-to-the-future in terms of the fixed aperture and fixed focal length lens on our Smartphones. Composition, light levels and focusing distance are the only controls that we can exert when taking a photo with our mobile device—and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The trick that I have discovered is to immerse myself within the limitations of my iPhone camera. I know that I can make only make slight adjustments with the exposure and shutter speed controls in the app that I use the most (Camera+). I know that my iPhone has a digital, not an optical, zoom (and that it isn’t worth a damn). I know that it doesn’t have interchangeable lenses and that the aftermarket clip-on lenses become obsolete whenever the device is redesigned and changes size/shape. I also know that if I put these factors to use for me, I can concentrate on making the best photo that I can with the equipment that I have—not the equipment that I wish I had.

I learned that lesson 30 years ago from a professional Travel Photographer and it reinforced what I learned first-hand in the Electrical Trade working with hand tools: Don’t waste time wishing for what you don’t have; Concentrate on doing the best job with what you’ve got.

Once you have the basics down pat, you can take great photographs with any camera—if you stay within the limits of said device.

Pixar co-founder John Lasseter says the next big thing for movies is the iPhone, the GoPro, and the other tiny cameras that we’re all carrying around. He even expects to see award-winning feature films made with them some day. —Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge

In the article referenced above, Mr. Lasseter outlines how he adapted the “plastic look” of the animation software of the time and used toys as characters to make the hit film,Toy Story. It is his opinion that filmmakers will adapt to GoPro and iPhone video cameras to tell stories and create a new “film grammar”.

It is an exciting time to be alive and to witness the creative genius that is flowing over/under/around/among us.

What are your thoughts? What do you think about films today and the direction of entertainment choices?

And now a bonus for making it this far

This video will show you how to make a significant advance in your Smartphone photography technique.

Related link: Camera+ app

  18 comments for “Get Focused

  1. October 12, 2017 at 6:56 AM
  2. May 20, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    Allan, I love the header. I’m knee deep in alligators just now, but saw this in the line up of unread posts and HAD to take a minute to see what you’ve been up to. Your iPhoneography is amazing. Thanks for the tips.


    • May 21, 2015 at 6:36 AM

      Thank you for your kind words, Stephanie. Good luck with the gators. Ω


  3. May 18, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    Simplify and focus. I like that. So Momma can throw my Kodachrome away…ay…ay ?


    • May 18, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      Hi Al,

      We don’t have to throw away the Kodachrome entirely. A few photo apps have a Kodachrome filter that provides the vibrant colors we know so well.

      CallmeAl OTW


  4. May 18, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    Thanks for the video tutorial. So true to use what you have and not worry about what you don’t.


  5. May 18, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    This is the sort of wisdom born only of long experience… and that means age 😉 I’m right there with you and agree that the real art is to work creatively and sensitively within whatever limitations we have, to get the job done with elegance and precision. I’m using a little Samsung camera, not a Nikkon or phone. And I’m not at all interested in the filters or lenses I played with decades ago with my beautiful Cannon. I happily trade digital for film photography, and don’t want to be burdened carrying around the ‘bells and whistles.” Besides, most great photos capture a fleeting moment. One must be prepared to capture the image quickly or lose it forever. Simplify, simplify 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful weekend, Allan. Best wishes, WG

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 18, 2015 at 8:10 AM

      Thank you, WG.

      About the concept of ‘simplify”: My next goal is to clear my mobile devices of the apps that I seldom, if ever, use. It is funny to me how I don’t think twice about throwing away a magazine that I have purchased and yet for some reason I will hold on to apps that cost a fraction of that.

      Food for thought—Ω

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 18, 2015 at 8:17 AM

        Actually, I did that about 2 weeks ago on my Nook Reader. I got rid of as much of the pre-loaded Google Apps and software that I could in an attempt to free up memory. I’ve downloaded minimal stuff myself. My issue is reluctance to archive e-magazines which I’ve read, but keep thinking I’ll look back over again someday… simplify is a great watchword for me right now, and I’m not very good at routinely living that way 😉 Yes, food for thought… 😉


      • May 18, 2015 at 8:31 AM

        What do you give the man who has everything? A container to put it in…. Ω

        Liked by 1 person

      • May 18, 2015 at 9:54 AM

        Which is what I am likely to give my father for father’s day- a multi-pocketed “fishing” vest to wear around the house and yard…. keeping all of his “necessities” close at hand and organized. Health issues continue to complicate his life, and this may make keeping up with things a bit easier, and reduce the instances of “lost” items. What do you think? 😉


      • May 18, 2015 at 12:25 PM

        Vests are a handy way of distributing the weight and shapes of everything we stuff into our pants pockets. It sounds like a good present.

        Sent from my iPad


        Liked by 1 person

  6. Sue
    May 18, 2015 at 4:40 AM

    Thanks for sharing this! I didn’t even realize there were camera apps for the iPhone – I’m going to download Camera+ for sure, and watch a few more tutorials. I use my iPhone a lot because I always have it with me, and when I’m hiking or biking, it’s so much easier to carry. You just widened my horizons!


    • May 18, 2015 at 6:17 AM

      Here’s to widened horiozns—what a view! Thanks for your comment and have fun with that app. It doesn’t take long to get comfortable with it. I look forward to seeing some of your photos in the future. Ω

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue
    May 18, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    Bang to rights, Allan! Concentrate on doing the best job you can with what you have available to you…. too many people agonise about pixels, the size of their sensors etc. just get out and take pictures, practice your craft!

    Liked by 1 person

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