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Some phone pictures from a sunny hill weekend (and a few thoughts on photo note-taking)

Alex Roddie
Alex Roddie
3 min read
Some phone pictures from a sunny hill weekend (and a few thoughts on photo note-taking)

And now for something completely different. If you want to understand my approach to photos as a working outdoor writer then 35mm film (which I gush about on this blog all the time) is only a third of the story. Another third is my full-frame digital camera – no surprises there. The final third is my iPhone.

'But Alex!' I hear you cry. 'I thought you hated the iPhone aesthetic.'

To quote myself from last year:

We all have cameras in our pockets – smartphones – that create pictures with a very specific 2020s aesthetic. Increasingly, some people are finding this aesthetic bland and mediocre. (Personally I'd call it slapdash and hideous, but let's be charitable.)

I very much stand by this, but it fails to account for the fact that I use a phone camera in a different way. When I'm out on the hill, I don't use my phone to take considered, well-composed images that I plan to print or file forever. This doesn't mean it isn't important, though. I use my iPhone's camera as a visual notepad.

Most of the time, when I'm out walking I know that the trip will eventually make its way into print in some form. That may be a feature, a gear review, or a mapped Wild Walk in TGO. Even if I don't have anything specific lined up, there's a high chance that it will end up being used for something in a year or two.

So I take pictures of stuff: waypoints, objects of interest, anything that I might need to refer to later. For example, is there signage at a path junction? Is there a vague path heading north from the summit, not marked on the map, that the walker needs to follow for a bit before it disappears? Am I testing a tent and need a visual record of how it looks when pitched? Taking quick snaps of these things can really speed up my job later on.

My iPhone's camera is ideal for this because it has three fairly sharp lenses (ultrawide, wide, and medium telephoto) and it can create a usable image in almost total darkness (even handheld shots of starfields and the aurora if necessary). I can view photos on a digital map. The phone is pocketable and waterproof. Image quality is good enough for publication if you don't mind a very obvious 'smartphone photo' look. For a lot of photo placements that's not a problem. Some editors don't care what kind of camera you use anyway.

Many (all?) outdoor writers use this technique. I also use a combination of pocket notebooks, voice notes on my phone, and GPX waypoint notes (more on this in a future blog post), but phone camera notes are very important for a lot of the work I do.

Just thought I'd pop this up for a bit of balance. It isn't all typewriters and film reels here, honest.

That said, this was the camera I used for 'proper' pictures this weekend. First outing for the Pentax MX in quite some time!

All images © Alex Roddie. All Rights Reserved. Please don’t reproduce these images without permission.

NotesPhotography

Alex Roddie

Happiest on a mountain. Writer, story-wrangler, digital and film photographer. Editor of Sidetracked magazine (I make the words come out good).

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