In Creativity and Inspiration, Images, Influences, Photographically Speaking, Thoughts & Theory, Vision Is Better by David27 Comments

Impression I, II, III
All three photographs were made with my iPhone 4, cropped to 4×5, and processed with the Magic Hour filter, all in the Camera+ app. I tweaked curves slightly, and added borders in Photoshop after import.

One of the first things I did when the Ottawa Hospital finally let me have a Day Pass to go wreak havoc in Ottawa was make a bee-line for the National Gallery with a friend. What I most wanted to see, and hadn’t for a few too many years, was the work of the Group of Seven. I could stand in front of them for hours. I’ll let you look them up when you have a moment, but I strongly recommend you do. They were my first love affair with impressionism, and if you have time, and ever find yourself in Kleinburg, Ontario, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has what I believe the largest collection. But I’m getting off track.

There’s something about the impressionists, and I’ll as happily spend a day in Paris’ Musée d’Orsay which houses a lot of European Impressionist paintings, because they feel like something. More than mere illustration they illicit, at least in me, stronger emotions. I never studied Art History; I probably should have. But I know what I like; I know what moves me. And standing in front of paintings of Algonquin and the north shore of Lake Superior, I wondered how I could put that kind of mood into my own work, in ways beyond the obvious. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks.

And then last Friday we drove Corwin, my manager, back to the airport and it rained and rained. I spent the entire drive with my iPhone pushed up to the window, having more fun creatively than I have had since the moments before I fell off the wall in Italy. I don’t know that I’ve accomplished what I wanted, but I’ve found clues. These three photographs feel the way I feel about the countryside I grew up in, at least on certain days. And to me, the ability to express those things is increasingly important.I’ve said often that photography is a way of pointing, of saying “Look at that!” It’s also a way to to say, “I feel ___________about that,” in the hopes that others might see it, and feel it that way too.


Tuesday is June 28, and we’ll be releasing A DEEPER FRAME, my first eBook in over 6 months. Everytime we release an eBook, we offer discounts for a few days. Well this time the discounts are, um, well, deeper, I guess. Join us here tomorrow for that announcement.


  1. Very nice pictures! I like the fuzziness, the delicate colors and the distortion very much. The feeling to me. is warm, cozy and a little bit strange. I appreciate that you use “low tech tools” too.

    Also I was inspired once and again by painters, some times even more than by other photographers. At last Jackson Pollocks work helped me to broaden my photographic expressions i my new series “Still living beings”: The photographic moment of time becomes a field of time, several perspectives blend together, documentation is avoided in favor of interpretation.

    I like to see unusual photos, thank you for showing yours and sharing your visual travels! I red almost all of your books and they too were great inspiration and encouragement.

  2. Hi David,
    Great evocative images! I am familiar with all the painters that you speak of and would also suggest that you look at the American Tonalist painters. I think you will enjoy and appreciate their work.
    Glad to see that your spirit is remaining strong as your body heals. You are remarkable!
    Take care, Anna

  3. Wow! I like them! They do look like impressionist paintings! :c) And I agree with JAmie Willmott, they would look great on a wall! :c)
    As for the emotions paintings evoke in us… I’m also wondering how can we incorporate that in a photograph without overprocessing it. I wonder if it’s not a lot about the way we see things but there must be more…

  4. Interesting thoughts!
    So nice to see what can be acomplished with “low tech” equipment, you really get the message threw.
    Impressionistic art allways made me think and sense, actually FEEL the mood in the scene. Ofcourse, it would be MY feelings or associations, and it may be far off from what the painter felt. Strict figurativ art seldom make me feel this way.

    photographs have the greatest impact on me when I get imediate associations to a place, mood or situation. Does this meen that our ability to elaborate on a picture is limited by our experiences, knowledge and fantasy? If so, is there still some commonalities that we as humans share and recognize when we see them? Would it be a skill to identify those commonalities? I dont know, but you David allways manages to make me start thinking, whether it is through your books, photographs or posts. Thank you!

    PS. English is not my native language so my writing will have misspellings and funny sentences in it, sorry for that.

  5. Very good work, David. The shots are well-composed, and the processing is frosting on the cake.

    I’ve got a ton of photo aps on my 3GS, and I’ve found that I play around with them for awhile, and after awhile, I get a guilty/unfulfilled feeling because the ap is doing all the work, and I’m just pushing a button. Turns out I really like taking that RAW frame all the way through Camera Raw and Photoshop to the final print. I guess it’s the craftsman in me. (I’m also a spinner and weaver and I make my own marmalade and chutney.)

    Having said that, I love these aps and get a ton of fun out of them — all for $1.99 (mostly). I firmly believe that ANYTHING that let’s people express their creativity is good.

    (Off to buy the Magic Hour app…)

    P.S. Do you find that a lot of these apps are becoming repetitive? Funky frames, faux light streaks, ersatz cross-processing, etc.

  6. I would really recommend the study of art history for all photographers. I have added to what I like the more I understand the where and why’s of all art.

  7. Intending a photo to communicate a feeling is something I’ve been pondering quite a bit as well. Here’s a question I’ve been pondering for myself: Which inspiration comes first for you, the emotion or the scene?

    I have an inkling that understanding to sequence can help communicate the feeling better. Sequence usually implies priority and that can help you determine what tools and techniques can most effectively communicate your experience. I need to experiment more. What has been your experience?

  8. I like those. iPhone impressionism.

    I have studied art history David and it wouldn’t help you much IMO. Like ‘regular’ history it tends to be taught as names, dates movements, etc. Dry stuff. An art appreciation course can tell you what the artists were trying to achieve, but it is your own gut that tells you whether they succeeded.

    When teaching or mentoring others I have found that 99% of the questions I get deal with technical details but the success of an image depends almost entirely on its ‘feel’. Did the artist or photographer capture how the scene felt? Technique can help you do that but it can also get in the way. Photographers see. Cameras only record.

  9. David, love the photos and the impressionists. I’m impressed. ;-). You’ve inspired me to use my iphone 3g (yes, not even 3gs!) and have been using camera bag for in phone editing. Awesome experience. Not sure if this will come thru. iphone_southerncross.jpg

  10. Lovely David, I also like the impressionists, have you seen the work of New Zealand impressionist photographer Eva Polak she also writes about her techniques which are done in camera.

  11. Hi, David, just wanted to say I love your work no matter how you come about it. I still get amazed how the simplest devices can come up with the most intriguing results.

  12. yes, was just at D’orsay, Giverny, Marmottan — and thought alot about my camera; and about how those guys were really messin’ with the POV and the light in ways their predecessors didn’t. i was mesmerized and couldn’t get enough. my current screensaver is Monet’s breakthrough piece. for the image, for the inspiration in how DIFFERENT it was than what came before. talk about voice and vision…

  13. Hi David if you love group of seven then before you leave ON you have to go to
    McMichael Art Collection, Kleinburg. Just north of Toronto. look it up.

  14. I appreciate having found your blog. I look forward to learning more about both photography and art. The photos in this post make me think of home in the sling. Thank you for invoking such fond memories.

  15. Hi David, I too like impressionist paintings and these pictures illicit the same feeling I get when viewing a painting. You’r right it doesn’t matter what you took them with be aide the beauty is in your vision.

  16. I’d encourage some study on the impressionists, if you haven’t. It’s all about light. Likely why you love it. It conveys an essence and encompasses a feeling through color. Monet, my favorite, I’m certain you know about his series and how he painted the same scene at different times of day to capture the different colors that prevailed in different lighting scenarios. Great stuff to make you feel. Glad to see you are thinking creatively with any camera in your possession and haven’t lost any fervor! (PS Chicago’s Art Institute has the largest impressionist collection in the US.)

  17. Author

    Craig. Totally agree with you. Except that my blog is a teaching platform and while the last thing in the world I want to encourage is more of this iPhoneography nonsense, I do want my audience to understand that if they have a camera – literally almost ANY camera – they can create beauty. The iPhone is as basic as it gets. So, yes, when I hang these – and I will at some point, I suspect – there will be no mention of the device or exif, etc. But in a teaching environment I think this only backs up my message. And that matters even more to me than that people take my art seriously 🙂 Still, I agree and I’m grateful for you taking the time to connect, as always. Thanks.

  18. I’m very interested in seeing more of your work with the iPhone David and even look forward to an ebook from you about it.

  19. I just saw your Tweet about this post so I’ll offer a quick thought before heading out for a Monday morning bike ride.

    The first thing I noticed about this post – and it may be because of some of your tweets on iPhoneography recently – was the caption where you mention they were shot on an iPhone and processed in …

    In some ways, knowing how you shot them takes something away from their existence as art and creativity for its own sake. In terms of presentation, I think it may be stronger and more in tune with the idea of art if technical descriptions are either left out, or added in fine print after the post. I don’t believe it matters what tools a photographer (or any other artist) uses to create with and as such, those tech details are better left to tutorial type posts.

    My 2c. 🙂

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