Ghumakkar Insights – Do more with Smart Phone-Camera in Hills

Capturing special moments, places, people, cultures is one of the main things I do while travelling. I have read Camera-derie by Devsmita and I enjoyed the conversation about exploring a place and how camera can be distracting. There are various views about this and we always have great justification for the style each one of us follow. And every Ghumakkar feels that his/her own style of travelling is the best. I think it depends upon what gives you satisfaction, and this may be different for everyone. As I said, I love capturing places and this allows me to be focused when I am exploring a new place. And camera plays a very important role in my explorations.

Monastery of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Institute, Chauntra

Aside: When I clicked the picture above, I had an SLR as well as my HTC Desire with me. I was amazed at the results my HTC Desire delivered is a single, simple click. To produce similar results with my DSLR, I would have to make so many changes to the settings.

Usually I use a DSLR but that is of course not the only way to click good photographs. As many of you must have heard that Photography is not about the equipment or technology, but more about the way you see beauty beyond obvious things around you. These days my best buddy while travelling is my Phone-Camera. I use HTC Desire HD camera quite frequently and it’s extremely useful while travelling. Apart from the obvious difference in size and portability, there are other reasons for which I need to thank the brilliant person who thought of putting a camera in a phone.

View from a parking lot at Dharamshala, Himachal

Aside: At times, when you are least expecting or prepared, spectacular sights jump at you from nowhere – like these shades of the sunset viewed from a parking lot at Dharamshala. I wasn’t carrying my DSLR but was so glad to have my Phone with me

Many times, we can’t carry bulky cameras and Phone-Cameras offer the best flexibility. Most of the cameras in latest Smartphones offer great picture quality. Some of my MobileGIRI Pics can be checked out HERE. All of these are clicked by the 8 megapixel camera in my HTC Desire, which never fails to give great results. Many other phones by Samsung, Nokia (Lumia series), HTC, Sony Experia etc offer great quality. I know I missed one very expensive and very popular phone in this list. It is completely is intentional. ☺

A quick capture during the Mughal Rally 2012, Kashmir

Aside: I find the camera in my phone very helpful even in the High Speed captures like this one during the Mughal Rally. I was in the team of photographers covering the event and was fully equipped with all the required equipment at this time. I still enjoyed sneaking in a couple of mobile shots every now and then.

Recently I have been using my Mobile-Camera a lot and it’s been quite easy and hassle-free to capture videos & stills with great quality. I belong to the hills and love to roam around the hills, which are often surrounded with clouds. Many of you would be able to relate to some of the common challenges we face while clicking in Hills. One of the basic one is to capture the frame with maximum details around you. Since it’s so contrasty all around, either the photos come out too bright or too dark. It is difficult to do justice to such a scenery with any type of camera, as it is related to light dynamics in Hilly areas. Even the best SLRs fail at times. But surprisingly, Smartphone Cameras are the best for capturing such high contrast frames.

Booking.com

With mobile phones comes the possibility of connecting to the Internet at any time, and almost anywhere. So you can click, touch up, and share instantly. There are many applications available on the net to help in each of these steps. For example, to get better results while clicking a photograph, you can download applications that capture one frame thrice and then merge the three shots into one to get the best out of all exposures captured. For those who aren’t too familiar with photography basics, such applications are known as HDR (High Dynamic Range) applications and the resulting photograph is commonly termed as an HDR. These applications are especially useful when there are several clouds with interesting patterns around the hills. Is it possible to download applications into other cameras? No. Not yet anyways.

The road snaking through the hills, as seen captured by my camera phone

Sunsets and sunrise are the two most common sights that are photographed in the hills. We also get impressed with the breathtaking views of valleys or rows of hills covered with snow and feel that nothing can capture the view better than Panoramas. It can be very easily done with normal cameras. But can we also do it with Phone-Cameras? In May this year, I was in Srinagar in Kashmir to cover the Mughal Rally. We happened to visit a place called “Pir Ki Gali” that has amazing panoramic view. At that point in time, I felt the urge to click a panorama. I wanted to test whether my phone-camera could give me good results in panoramas as well. I found and downloaded Panorama applications from the Internet and created several panoramas. A good Phone-Camera and a companion application make the job quite easy and the results too are nothing short of impressive.

On the road

Dynamic weather in hills sometimes makes the life of us photographers more difficult than we expect it to be. These situations demand more flexibility in dealing with your Camera. Latest smart phones come with features like ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation etc. ISO can be very useful in low light conditions, Exposure Compensation can be a great help when your Camera is unable to judge the light around. White Balance is used in different ways to get the right colors or some magic in overall color scheme of your photographs. Many of these Cameras come up with different effects and some of them can be interesting to use while travelling. Flash capabilities are increasing with time and can be helpful in some critical situations.

Sunrise at Dal Lake, Srinagar

Since we are talking about Smart-Phone Cameras, we can’t miss out iPhones. Although I’m not particularly fond of the device, but at the same time we can’t deny the kind of quality they offer. But I also have a possibly conflicting opinion about all the hype around the quality. 80% of the folks can’t make out a any difference between the quality of the photographs clicked using an iPhone as opposed to the ones clicked using other phone-cameras. This is a study done by me. ☺ But the reality is that many small companies manufacture external lenses for iPhone cameras. Can you imagine a tiny little zoom lense that can be attached to the minuscule phone camera? This is a new side of technology advancement which is revolutionizing the way people click using Phone-Cameras. Imagine for a moment that you have an iPhone with different lenses for capturing natural beauty around you – be it wide lens for landscapes, macro lens for capturing small elements of the nature or Zoom lens to click flying birds etc. it’s really amazing to see such advancements and travelers can fully appreciate such developments.

Another aspect, which I mentioned earlier, is instant sharing with your family and friends. Only Phone-Cameras give you the flexibility of clicking and sharing at same time. While DLSRs & other Point-n-shoot cameras restrict this, phone-cameras gladly step up to serve you. One does not need to wait to reach home to start downloading and then post on social media sites like facebook etc.

A few sips of chai and a couple of clicks to begin the day

Aside: At Sinthan Pass, J&K, the action of the Mughal Rally was yet to start and the weather was cold. Nothing can beat a hot cup of tea in such a setting. Colourful mats, a good contrast, and a handy camera-phone are all that you need to make the moment perfect.

I have mostly used the examples from hills here and that is because of the closeness to these amazing geological structure. But Phone-Cameras can helpful anywhere in the world. In fact speed of these devices is so fast that they produce wonderful results even when clicking from moving vehicle. I have tried this many times. Initially it used to be difficult for me to digest that resulting photos were sharp and that there wasn’ t any sign of a shake in the picture. My phone-camera never fails to spring a surprise or two.

The food for thought…

Aside: During the live cooking session with the Chef Raman Kohli of Cheri One Qutub, New Delhi, for a fraction of a second, the alignment of all the interesting elements – food, alcohol, smoke – was perfect. There was no time to prep my DSLR, whose strap you can see in the picture, so I clicked with my Camera-Phone. And it didn’t disappoint me.
Warning: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health

So happy clicking and keep sharing the moments you have lived at a particular place with different people, cultures and colors of live around you.

  • Dear Ripple,

    Being a photo enthusiast myself, I admire your photographs which are simply superb. However, I am not equally sure about the textual matter here. By the time I was through first 2-3 paragraphs, I forgot I was on Ghumakkar.com. Instead, I felt as if I was reading a brochure produced by HTC for its Desire phone model. Or at best, a review of the phone-camera by HTC people.

    I also happen to have an HTC but it is Wildfire. It has got a useless camera in it which boasts of 5 MP. I am always disappointed with its performance. On the other hand, my son’s HTC (Don’t know the model number but its name has X in it and is Icecream Sandwich) with 8 MP camera does give stunning results.

  • nice pics on your htc.

  • @ Sushant – I would let VJ answer the technical questions but “Ghumakkar Insights” is our monthly column where we try to go deep on a topic which is relevant for Ghumakkars.

    You can access all ‘Insights’ here – http://www.ghumakkar.com/category/insights/

    Probably this one is much more focused on a particular brand since VJ is using HTC but the intent is to talk more about phone-camera. I am sure in the ensuing discussion, we are going to discover more gems about this topic.

  • Hi Sushant,

    Thanks for going through the insight-article and sharing your thoughts about the same.

    I am a photographer and have been using DSLR for most of the travel projects. At the same time, I discovered that Phone-Cameras can be very useful while travelling. Here my intent is just to focus on usage of Phone-Camera and how these can add extra values in comparison to DSLRs or point-n-shoot cameras. Since I use HTC Phone, that’s why I mentioned it. This is not really a Ghumakkar Story but more around the fact that Phone-Cameras can add lot of value to our travel experiences and can ,make a big difference in sharing with world. Going forward your feedback will be helpful for me to better frame my words. Thanks !

    Regarding your Phone (HTC Wildfire), I have not used it so can’t comment. But even small MP cameras can be useful in some specific situations. I guess your phone-camera should be way better than Nokia E63, which I have used. I would suggest to try exploring some of the capabilities of your Phone-Camera while travelling and you will start loving it. It’s an android phone, so you can get some free applications which can add more value to your pics.

    Since all of us carry our phones every time, this is the greatest advantage of capturing special moments anywhere, anytime. For last two years, I am heavily dependent on my phone for clicking photographs and some of them can also be checked at – http://phototravelings.blogspot.com/search/label/Mobilegiri/ncr

    Regards,
    VJ

    • Dear VJ Sharma,

      Thanks for replying to me with admirable patience. As long as I have a better equipment in my hands, I don’t try to use mobile camera. I wish to return home with the best possible visuals that I can manage to get. The noise due to artificial gain is worrisome to me – esp. indoors where ambient light is not at desirable level. In bright daylight, the quality is much more acceptable. My HTC Wildfire behaves as if there is still some transparent cello tape over the lens to protect it. Lens does not have resolving power with the result that details are missing in the photographs. Moreover, whenever I zoom in, it is only digital zoom and not optical zoom. However, the news of add-on lenses for mobile cameras is indeed great. Recently in Amritsar, after my standard equipment retired for want of battery power, I started using my Nokia Asha 202 instead of HTC Wildfire and this humblest of the humble Nokia camera put HTC Wildfire to great shame.

      I am afraid I belong to the VIEW camera days when we used to record our images on 5″ x 7″ negatives or even larger ones ! When I learnt photography, roll film cameras were the standard equipment in every studio. (Yashika 635 or Rollieflex Auto used to be the most popular equipment with the photographers). I first proud possession was Asahi Pentax MX.

      I have tried to keep myself abreast with the latest technology. In the year 2002, I was perhaps the first person to purchase a Canon Powershot 3.1 MP for Rs. 48,000/- with 256 MB card which used to be considered huge in those days !!!

      I shoot in manual mode, prefer to focus manually. Even on my PC, I prefer keyboard commands over mouse. I do know that mobile cameras offer the benefits of instant sharing but I am never in a hurry to share my pics. I am with my laptop almost always and after a little bit of photoshop, I share my pics through my Photon device. A few hours’ delay is not worrisome to me.

      So, dear VJ, I hope you can easily understand my impatience with the mobile cameras and will forgive me for my sharp tongue. :) It was my first comment to your post and I behaved real bad.

      Sushant Singhal

      • Sushant,

        Great to know more about your deep interest in Photography and really appreciate your thoughts about quality of photographs. Yours concerns are valid and it’s all about right priorities. Every devices has pro n cons with respect to situations, light etc. It’s really great to see people using different devices and not under-estimating Mobile-Cameras…

        Would love to see your photographs.. so please share appropriate links.

        Cheers,
        VJ

  • Thanks Vishal !

    Apart from decent camera, it’s also dependent on the way we use it with different softwares available for Android Phones.

  • ashok sharma

    great pics with phone camera.i too use Nokia N-95 phone camera,but never got such vibrant colors,not even with my DSLR. I think its some software application that makes such great photos with fine details, of course capturing the right moment,with angles,lights and moods are the basic requirements.any way your photographs are great.I once again congratulate you.such pics are very rare on ghumakkar.keep it up.

  • Thanks for commenting Ashok !

    I frequently use HDR-Camera app in very contrasty situations which give nice texture and colors. At times, some of them also go through post-processing in Lightroom. But most important part is to shoot the frame which makes sense and then plan the processing steps.

    Nokia N95 has also a good camera, but not sure how easily you can get Camera apps on Nokia-Store (OVI)

    You may want to check out more Mobile clicks at – http://phototravelings.blogspot.com/search/label/Mobilegiri/ncr

    Thanks Again !
    VJ

  • D.L.Narayan

    Hi VJ, thoroughly enjoyed your insight article about mobcams. Some of the snaps posted by you are truly stunning. I also enjoyed the dialogue between you and Sushant about the relative merits and demerits of this particular genre of cams. I belong to Sushant’s generation and I too have trudged along a similar path to his in the world of photography.

    To add my two cents worth to this discussion, I have found that the built-in cams of HTC are capable of giving amazing results, far better than the results I usually get with my iPhone4s. The reason for this is not the hardware per se but the software used by HTC for converting the digital information into high quality images with vibrant colours. Maybe this is what gives HTC the edge.

    While it is undeniable that a DSLR is unmatched when it comes to quality, the gap is narrowing fast and one can come up with some incredible visuals with mobcams and point-and-shoot cameras. In addition, DSLRs are relatively unwieldy and by the time one is ready to shoot, the moment might be irretrievably lost. With mobcams, the response time is much faster. I personally travel with all three types of imaging devices.

    • Hi Mr Narayan,

      Happy that you liked the photographs shared and I completely agree with all you have mentioned. I also carry three set of cameras while travelling and with time Mobile-Camera usage is increasing.

      Regards,
      VJ

  • Nice insight into the mobile camera world VJ. I still remember my Sony Ericssion K750i, what a brilliant camera phone it was.

    • Deependra – I am hearing something else here :) .. For your good photographs, you are giving credits to camera :). We use cameras for clicking our decided frames in our own way, their job is to get it done for us and some of them can do their job brilliantly :)

      Anyway would love to see your travel photographs.

  • Nirdesh

    Hi VJ,

    Great photos!

    I have enjoyed the dialogue between you and Sushantji.

    My mobile does not give these high quality photos. So if a moment offers itself, then it is a mad scramble to reach into the backpack, locate the camera bag, unzip it, take the camera out, switch it on, check the setting. By this time the bird is gone!

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

  • Nirdesh – Thanks for summarizing my words in excellent way :) … Ease of capturing the moment is THE thing with Phone-Cameras.

  • VJ,

    I have always felt that a phone-camera is handy and most useful in capturing some sudden , yet beautiful moments. I am not at all for bulky SLRs though I am head-over- heels in love with the quality it produces :)

    At home, there is a sort of competition now between my clicks from a mobile (whose brand you have intentionally missed ;) ) and the clicks from a Nikon DSLR which my husband proudly flaunts! I must say, it is great fun to see the results :)

    A very well written post. I loved reading it :)

    Cheers!

  • AUROJIT

    Hi VJ,

    real nice ‘Insight’ stuff for many reasons…

    firstly, photography is an essential aspect of Ghumakkari and any tips on the subject is more than welcome.

    secondly, tips coming from such a Pro like you makes it further valuable.

    thirdly, despite wielding my 8+ GB mobile all around, I have hardly used it during the trips. Now I know that I have let go of many picturesque occasions because I was not holding a proper camera and never thought of the mobile as camera.

    And of course, this is one aspect which is rarely covered by typical photography magazines/ sites…..

    Thanks for making us optically aware…..

    Auro.

  • These days an exhibition is going in Delhi with all Photographs clicked with Mobile-Camera. If interested, visit APEX Vasant Kunj Market (near Priya Cinema)