In Jan 2020 I went to the Dublin Bowie Festival and I was capturing the people, sights and sounds of the event imusing my iPhone 8 Plus.
I had planned to bring my Panasonic TZ70 travel zoom compact but a few days before departure, it developed a fault (for the second time). I didn’t want to bring either of my DSLRs so I headed for the airport on 6 Jan with just the iPhone in my trouser pocket.
I wondered how I would get on with only a smartphone. All in all I wasn’t disappointed, despite the limitations, which I already knew about.
Here are the plus points of the iPhone, which will also apply to other types of smartphone.
It’s extremely compact. It slips into your pocket and is always available.
Its picture quality is extremely good, in some respects superior to most DSLRs
It handles contrasty scenes better than most conventional digital cameras, as it can adjust exposure in different areas of the image.
The Live View feature is revolutionary, as you can choose the moment of capture after you have taken the picture. This is great for photographing live music.
Its portrait mode can work very well indeed when photographing people. In fact I got to take several portraits of David Bowie, though sadly not the real David.
It can also shoot high quality video, rendering colours very well indeed.
The quality of the microphone is remarkably good, and it’s also possible to connect an even better quality microphone.
There are of course some disadvantages:
The picture quality is of course not as good as the DSLR camera like the one used by the official photographer of the event, and you don’t get the benefit of a variety of high quality lenses.
Still the iPhone is very versatile and the most recent iPhones are even better.
So let’s take a look at what I did with the iPhone at the festival.
This video presents a short sample of the in conversation event with Bowie associates Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey. I shot the video from the front of the auditorium about 6 metres or 20 feet away from them. The sound and picture quality are good and it’s possible to zoom in by a moderate amount without loss of picture quality.
The London Boys are a Dublin band who play David Bowie’s early music, from around the mid-sixties. By chance I got a seat directly in front of the band and was able to take some great close up images with the iPhone. Red light often poses a problem for cameras but the iPhone has coped well. They are a great band, by the way, giving an Irish spin on David Bowie’s very London-centric songs from this period.
Another shot of The London Boys is a panorama. I took a series of overlapping shots from left to right and then combined them by hand using Photoshop. If you look closely you can see the joins.
I recorded this interview with Sara Captain, London-based artist who specialises in producing paintings and illustrations of David Bowie. I was so impressed with her work that I wanted to interview her to find out more about the paintings. I recorded this short interview on the iPhone 8 Plus, and edited it on the phone using iMovie. I used still photographs I took of her paintings and used the Ken Burns feature to zoom in on each picture. It took me about 10 minutes to edit the entire video and another 5 minutes or so to upload. It’s liberating to be able to produce videos without having to use a computer.
The images above and below are of sculptures of David Bowie, both made by Italian artist Maria Primolan. They’re incredibly lifelike and capture the subject perfectly. Though they don’t depict a real person, it’s possible to used the iPhone 8 Plus Portrait Mode to great effect.
By the use of software it finds the areas of the picture behind the subject which are slightly out of focus and defocuses them further, simulating the effect of a prime lens at a wide aperture. The effect is not quite as good as a real lens but it’s still effective. The iPhone was able to cope well with the different types of light source.
The Dublin Bowie Festival was an amazing experience and I was glad to be able to capture it using the amazing iPhone 8 Plus. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival and hope by then to have the newest available iPhone.
For more information go to www.dublinbowiefestival.ie