Mobile Photography: An Interview With David Baer


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Austin J. Hunt — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Bowling Green, Ohio) Photography has always been a part of people’s lives, whether as a way to capture images of friends, family and the natural surroundings, or as a profession that puts monetary value to the work of a select few. Whichever it may be, photography has mystified many and created a niche for individuals to express themselves, capturing some of life’s most rare and intimate moments. From the first days of the Kodak box camera to the development of throwaway cameras and the present-day digital cameras, people have always loved taking photographs.

Just recently, some photographers and hobbyists have dropped the traditional approach to photography and adopted a new form of capturing and sharing their images with thousands of people in an instant.

David Baer (@David_Baer), located in San Jose, CA, is one of many people taking a new approach to photography. He and many others around the world, dubbed the “Instagramers,” are using their smart-phones to capture high-quality images and are comparable to those photographs taken by professional photographers with high-tech cameras.

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Photo 1

"Shadow of Purpose" - Candid street photography is one of my favorite types. This was captured with Hipstamatic using the ‘Lucifer VI’ lens & ‘AO DLX’ film, and not edited.

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The Instagramers groups are a series of small, photography communities based around Instagrammers.com. The website is based in Spain and harbors the sub-communities from cites around the world. Each sub-community is assigned a logo and their own Facebook and Twitter account for use as their main form of communication. From these accounts, managers of each sub-group announce special hashtags to their members for use on the Instagram application as they photograph around the area and upload their mobile photographs to the app.

Baer is a member of the San Jose chapter of Instagramers. Many of the members of his local chapter participate in what he calls “Photo Walks.” The group of mobile photographers, made up of all ages and experience, meet up and capture images together. Along with capturing and sharing photos, the members bounce ideas back and forth, sharing different techniques and methods of mobile photography. The photo walks are announced a few weeks in advance with a special meet-up spot, along with a designated hashtag for the members to use and display their photos on the Instagram website. He said as many as 60 people have showed up for these walks, producing hundreds of images via their smart-phones.

Although there are a lot of experienced mobile photographers on the photo walks, there are also a few newbies just along for the ride.

“A lot of times, these photo walks turn into seminars and classes, which I really don’t mind,” said Baer. “People actually put their phones away and ask if they can just watch what I do. They actually want to see my screen, see what I use and how I do things.”

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Photo 2

"Spiral Photowalk" - Blending & Juxtaposing multiple images captured using Hipstamatic. This scene is multiple images from the Market Spiral in San Francisco, CA. Three images were blended together using Image Blender and then I juxtaposed the Hawks in from shots taken on a previous him in the woods. Six images total, were used for the final image.

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When talking with Baer, I was surprised to find how much goes into the photos that he displays on his Instagram account. He uses many different applications for some of his photos.

“Some of the applications are strictly for capturing, others are used for post-production and editing and some applications, like Instagram, do both,” said Baer. “Hipstamatic is probably the most popular capturing app, along with SnapSeed being great for post-production and editing.”

It was very clear after briefly chatting about Hipstamatic that the app was a clear favorite. The application is used strictly for capturing and doesn’t allow for later editing. Any filter or effect you want must be selected before you capture, making this app a hit-or-miss when it comes to capturing the perfect photo.

“It’s somewhat constricting, as it doesn’t give you the original photo to edit later. It also doesn’t have many bells and whistles, such as alignment tools,” said Baer. “So, when I really pull off a shot and it’s a winner, it’s a special shot to me, because it required me to capture it in the moment with no post-production. Hipstamatic has really made me a better photographer.”

Baer goes on to explain that, for some of his photos, sometimes more than a simple filter is applied to make them. His favorite editing app, SnapSeed  (originally $4.99 in the app store, but now free after recently being acquired by Google) does more than your typical Instagram filters. SnapSeed, for example, allows you to adjust the brightness, ambiance, contrast and saturation separately, giving the photographer exactly what he or she desires in their photo. Baer recommends SnapSeed to everyone who wants to do more with their mobile photos than just throw a couple filters on top.

Alright, so what happens to all of these photos after they are captured and edited?

“All of my best photos are uploaded to Instagram. With that, my Instagram photos are uploaded to my Tumblr, Facebook and just recently Flickr after their new update.”

As the conversation went on, it was apparent that this mobile photography idea was getting to be more and more about social networking and building a presence online that will lead to more down the road and into the future years.

“What I’m trying to do right now is really establish myself as a good mobile photographer and proliferate in that community and keep up with all the great stuff that is coming out of it,” said Baer. “Hopefully next year, I will be able to submit my best shots into art galleries around the Bay Area that actually feature walls dedicated to mobile photography.”

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Photo 3

"Stained Glass Sunset" - Glitch art images, specifically created with the Decim8 app, are also a favorite. This image was captured on the Santa Cruz wharf in November, 2012 and edited only with the Decim8 app using the ‘Kompliance’ effect within the app. It flipped the bird horizontally, but otherwise did not shred it like the sky behind it.

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This year, Baer wants to start printing some of his best work and build a larger presence on different social networking platforms. He has approximately 1000 followers on Instagram and is at mid-level when it comes to followers amount within his Instagramers group.

Baer has even thought about using his online presence in the online photography communities to teach workshops and potentially travel the world, using connections built through the social networking sites to meet up with friends he has made over the networks to shoot in different cities.

“To me, that’s the best part about the social networking. Tying everything I do online with Instagramers and such into the terrestrial; meeting and engaging with people that share the same passion that I do is fantastic,” said Baer. “These are people that I never would have met otherwise if it wasn’t for social media platforms. That’s what’s really cool about what we do.”

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Find other work by David Baer here:

Instagram: @David_Baer
Twitter: @David_Baer
Flicker: flickr.com/david_baer
Tumblr: dbsomedia.tumblr.com
EyeEm: eyeem.com/u/davidbaer