Late Night Conspiracy Theorists was uploaded to Flickr

Late Night Conspiracy Theorists

West Loop in the rain

embiggen by clicking
Late Night Conspiracy Theorists was taken on October 13, 2012 at 3:49 AM

Notes on Instagram after Using It for A Month or So

Tired Of Keeping Track
Tired Of Keeping Track

I signed up for an Instagram account on October 26, 2010, but I didn’t use it very much until September of this year.1 I’ve always been more of a fan of Hipstamatic, which is by far the better camera app, and of course, I am an especially active Flickr user.

Instagram is a mature app now, it even works on second string smart phones2 and yet its’ filter options are quite limited. I currently have 30 Hipstamatic favorite settings defined, and there are plenty more I could create. Instagram has a black and white filter, and a couple of filters that add retro tones, basically that’s it. The only advantage I find with Instagram is that the social network aspects are more established. As a mobile camera, there is no contest – Hipstamatic is an “A” app and Instagram is a “C+” app.

These are the Instagram filters, as described by Wikipedia:

  • X-Pro II – Warm, saturated effect. Emphasis on yellow.
  • Earlybird- Faded, blurred, focuses on yellow and beige.
  • Lo-fi- Slightly blurred, with yellow and green saturated.
  • Sutro- Sepia effect. Emphasis on purple and yellow.
  • Toaster – High exposure
  • Brannan- Low key. Focus on gray and green.
  • Valencia- Highly contrast, slightly gray and brown.
  • Inkwell- Black and white filter with high contrast.
  • Walden -Washed-out color with blue overtone.
  • Hefe- Fuzz, with focus on gold and yellow tones.
  • Nashville- Sharpens the image with magenta-purple tint. Framed with a border
  • 1977- 1970s flair
  • Lord Kelvin- Super saturated, retro photo with scratchy border.

Hipstamatic has a much, much richer feature set of films and lenses. I don’t own all, but I do own most. I’ve taken thousands of photos with the Hipstamatic app, and I still don’t know all of the possible combinations. Instagram is a lot simpler – some photographers might even prefer the more limited palate, but I like options and variety.

So how did Instagram become the smart phone camera app behemoth? Being bought by Facebook helped, but Instagram’s social media infrastructure was already well developed, and that’s probably a key reason Facebook purchased it. Being available for Android phones probably also contributed to Instagram’s growth. As a side effect of this growth, there are a lot of spammers who take advantage of Instagram’s audience, and offer to sell you “likes” or other sleazy tactics. 

Anecdotally, if I use hashtags (#), my Instagram shots get a lot more views/likes. I’m guessing a lot of Instagram users search by hashtags. 

I’ve found a happy medium though – take photos with Hipstamatic like I always do, and then share them, unedited, on Instagram. I’m less selective on Instagram than I am on Flickr, thus I end up publishing a lot of food and drink photos, and snapshots of my cats…

Oh, using the magic of, all Instagram photos3 get automatically posted to my blogger page, here.

  1. When my phone got wet, to be exact, and I borrowed my sister’s phone for a couple of photos []
  2. again, in contrast to Hipstamatic which still is only available on the iOS platform []
  3. and photos I liked on Instagram, and Flickr faves, etc. []

A Little Sigh

A Little Sigh

My feeble attempt to emulate Jean-François Millet and the Barbizon School. There were no peasants nearby unfortunately. Perhaps I could superimpose one, if I found a peasant anywhere in Chicago.

Better if viewed in Lightbox

Photo taken with the Hipstamatic app1.

  1.  Lens: Melodie, Film: Kodot XGrizzled []

Through My Eye, Not Hipstamatic’s

Robot, living in the future

Damon Winter ((warning: Flash based portfolio)) got some flack for his award-winning photos of soldiers in Afghanistan, photographed with Hipstamatic, and first published for the Sunday New York Times. He has some interesting thoughts on the subject.

What has gotten people so worked up, I believe, falls under the heading of aesthetics. Some consider the use of the phone camera as a gimmick or as a way to aestheticize news photos. Those are fair arguments, but they have nothing to do with the content of the photos.

We are being naïve if we think aesthetics do not play an important role in the way photojournalists tell a story. We are not walking photocopiers. We are storytellers.  We observe, we chose moments, we frame little slices of our world with our viewfinders, we even decide how much or how little light will illuminate our subjects, and — yes — we choose what equipment to use. Through all of these decisions, we shape the way a story is told.

Let’s look at how the images have been processed by the application. This is not a case of taking an image and applying a chosen filter later. A photo is taken and then you must wait up to 10 seconds, while the image is processed, before you can take the next one. In processing, every image receives what seems to be a pretty similar treatment: a color balance shift, the burning of predetermined areas of the frame and increased contrast.

These are all fairly standard parameters in Photoshop. And they can be done on a color enlarger. The problem people have with an app, I believe, is that a computer program is imposing the parameters, not the photographer.

“No content has been added, taken away, obscured or altered. These are remarkably straightforward and simple images.” — Damon Winter But I don’t see how this is so terribly different from choosing a camera (like a Holga) or a film type or a processing method that has a unique but consistent and predictable outcome or cross-processing or using a color balance not intended for the lighting conditions (tungsten in daylight or daylight in fluorescent, using the cloudy setting to warm up a scene).

(click here to continue reading Through My Eye, Not Hipstamatic’s: Damon Winter Discusses the Use of an App –

I’m of the firm opinion is that what matters is the artist, not the tool the artist chooses to use, or use incorrectly, or even ignore. Critics have a right to their opinions, but complaining about the tools the artist uses is a weak, meritless criticism.

Full disclosure: I love Hipstamatic, and have taken hundreds of photos ((if not more. 546 have been uploaded to Flickr, so I’m probably in the thousands by now)) with the photo app.


Not In my Backyard Syndrome

Not In My Backyard Syndrome

Snow day in the West Loop. I’m old enough to remember when winter meant actual snow accumulation on the sidewalks. This winter, like the last winter, and winter before that, snow only sticks for a day or so before melting.

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone1


  1. Lens: John S, Flash: Off, Film: BlacKeys SuperGrain []

When I Wake Up

When I Wake Up
When I Wake Up, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

first real snow of the season, a little later than normal. Photo better when viewed in Lightbox.

Winter finally arrived in Chicago (today’s high is below freezing, so the snow is still visible in most places.)

A Notion I Cannot Forget

A notion I cannot forget


Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone

Lens: Salvador 84

Flash: Off

Film: DreamCanvas

Self portrait, taken in the bathroom mirror1

I’m going to use this on the back cover of my third album.

Title borrowed from Al Green, by way of David Byrne and/or the Talking Heads

  1. no jokes please []

Dream caused by the flight of a bee near Presidential Towers

Dream caused by the flight of a bee near Presidential Towers

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone

Lens: Salvador 84

Flash: Cadet Blue Gel

Film: DreamCanvas

Lightbox version for your viewing pleasure.

Title stolen from Salvador Dali’s painting: Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944

Evening rush of dreams

Evening rush of dreams

New Hipstamatic add-ons include a multi-exposure lens called Salvador 841, and a film called DreamCanvas which adds a bit of texture and some weird edges to photos. I like them both a lot.

This photo is of the evening commute on Randolph Street, in a hail/sleet storm, the first frozen particulates of the season, and always worth celebrating.

Lightbox version.

  1. i.e., Salvador Dali, duh []

When The Air Does Laugh

When the air does laugh

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone1

Lightbox version

Yesterday, the Chicago media started drumming up fear and awe for a storm front that was rolling in, with stories such as:

A combination of strong thunderstorms, followed by violent and destructive winds, will make for one of the Midwest’s most dangerous storms in 70 years. The temperature Monday hit the 70s under partly sunny skies. But when Tuesday morning comes around, the Chicago area will be slammed with furious thunderstorms as a cold front passes over the area. Damaging winds will likely be a component of the thunderstorms, and there is a risk of tornadoes,

The severe storms are expected to sweep into the area between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday, coming in the form of a squall line, which often means strong straight-line winds. The storms will be at their heaviest during the Tuesday morning rush. The rain and severe storms will pass out of the area by midday, but at that point, high and dangerous winds will roar into the area. The winds will maintain a sustained speed of 35 to 40 mph, and may gust to 55 mph or more. They will be most severe north of Interstate 88, particularly along the Wisconsin border, Kleist said. Over Lake Michigan, hurricane-force winds are possible.

The National Weather Service reports that based on its records, this will probably be one of the most powerful storm in 70 years, Kleist said.

(click to continue reading Storm To Be Among Worst In 70 Years « CBS Chicago – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic, and the Best of Chicago.)

Of course, when the actual storm arrived2, it was mild. There were a few gusts of wind, and a splash of rain, but nothing End of Times-esque, as the media had promised/threatened.

The photo above was taken out of my window, during the worst part of the deluge. I liked how the light caught the water droplets on the window screen – they look like pieces of gold.

  1. Lens: John S / Flash: Off /Film: Ina’s 1935 []
  2. by me anyway []