Taking pictures, 2.0

Everyone now has a digital camera in their pocket, so what’s the point of owning a separate camera? Coming off of a succession of digital point-and-shoot and SLR systems up until around 2010, I increasingly was finding that the camera that works best was the camera that was always with me. The clunky, heavy SLR system with constantly interchanging lenses, paparazzi-style intimidation of family members, & small fortune required to build out a high quality lens collection was getting a little tiresome for a hobbyist like me. My SLR was making rarer and rarer appearances, until one day it sat in a camera bag in my bedroom and never re-emerged. All my images were captured through the lens of my iPhone camera for the next few years. 

I recently re-entered the digital camera market to complement my iPhone, and I’ve been really struck by how fun and creative taking pictures has become combining the latest hardware, software and Internet apps. 

The camera

The camera model I settled on was a Fuji x100s. Modeled after the old Leica and Fuji systems but with a lot of tech under the hood, its a wannabe-hipster-turned-tech-geek-dad’s dream. It wasn’t a cheap date, but good gear holds value - I bet it only depreciates $100 / year on ebay. I’ve found one of the best things about newer models - ISO speed so fast you never have to use flash again - so no more whitewashed, half-over/half-under exposed pictures. 

Digital workflow

The current digital & publishing workflow that I use wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, primarily because of Dropbox. All of my images are transferred automatically from an SD card to my ‘camera uploads’ folder in Dropbox. This is also where all of my on-the-go pictures on my iPhone automatically upload to via the app whenever I’m connected to wifi. I tested wifi SD cards - one of the newer advances in digital camera technology - but found the usability isn’t quite there yet - it’s significantly slower than just plugging in your card (I recently switched to a Macbook so have a SD slot built in). 

The onefinestay photography workflow is Lightroom-based, so I decided to give the software a try. I used to be a Photoshop guy but for what I need - photo selection, light touch-ups and editing, and fast exporting, photoshop is really OTT. However Adobe now has its ‘creative cloud’ bundle which allows subscribing to Lightroom + Photoshop for $10 / month (which includes Lightroom mobile, but I don’t use it), a price on par with my other digital subscriptions - Spotify, Dropbox, etc. Digital subscriptions generally I find offer unbelievable value - for the price of a sandwich, you can have ad-free music or a ton of powerful photo software. Total bargain. 


One thing that’s really come on the past few years has been filter software to simulate various film effects. I know a lot of photographers that swear against this stuff and are total purists - I am not one of these photographers. I find one of the most fun parts of taking pictures is the amazing post-processing that software has enabled. I personally use Alien Skin Exposure, which lets me unlock my inner Steve McCurry with amazing old-school Kodachrome filters (e.g. National Geographic magazines from the 60s). I’ve heard great things about VSCO pre-sets, too, although these are a bit more expensive particularly if you want the whole set. I went on a ‘Polachrome’ kick with some photos I had from a trip to India, which is really a grainy and moody treatment - lately I’ve been using more modern film simulations - e.g. Kodak Portra NC which is great for portraits and people. Alien Skin also has really rich black and white simulations - my favorites are Tri-X and Ilford HP-5. After editing and applying filters, I export my photosets to a Dropbox photo folders, which means I’ll never lose another photograph again (I wish the same were true for my pictures from my ’01 backpacking trip which are in a basement somewhere & glued into photobooks). 


The options to publish and present photos are amazing. A few years ago photo sets were shared through Ofoto and Shutterfly - nowadays Dropbox makes it easy to share slideshows with download capability. Tumblr is a great blogging & publishing platform, and auto-arranges photos beautifully. Recently I was tipped off to Exposure.co, which allows for the creation of really striking, captioned digital photo books - I use this to share stories from events and bigger trips. And Instagram is easy enough, too - I just save down photos from my dropbox app, run through the Instagram app (no filters necessary!), and share. I used to auto-publish from Instagram to Tumblr, but I don’t like the way it only has a square photo format and shrinks the size so that it doesn’t fill out the entire web page. 

Examples of pictures, below. 

Exposure.co storybooks - http://stories.motorwaystramlines.com/

India in Polachrome


Kodachrome Bermuda


Kenya overexposed


Alice in Tri-X