Instagram Does Video!

I’ve never been much of a YouTube user. I never saw the point in Vine. I was impressed with the video capability of the iPhone 5, but didn’t use it much, without the ability to share the clips.

Until now. Instagram does video!

The little square photos that Instagram produces are cheesy and amateurish, like Polaroids sitting in an old shoebox. That’s the point – Instagram is a fun way to share pictures of daily life.

And now you can create short video clips in Instagram. It works the same as taking a picture except you the hold down the video camera button in the app. You can take 15 seconds worth of video, in one long clip or several smaller clips. Video stabilization is on automatically. Once you’re done, you can apply filters to give it that Super-8 look or just use it as is.

You can’t edit your clip. It’s pretty much point, shoot, share.

For photos, I shoot with the iPhone Camera app first and then import the ones I like into Instagram. You can’t do that with videos. You can only shoot clips using Instagram.

Without the ability to edit, and having to use the Instagram app, you have to plan out your video shoots. You only have one take to get it right.

I shot this at Gravelly Point, near Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. I wanted to get a video of a plane of going over the bike trail as it came in to land.

In my first take, I ran out of film. I hit the video button when the jet turned toward National but it didn’t reach me before my 15 seconds were up. For the next shot, I waited until the airplane got closer and panned up as it went over my head – the video stabilization was impressive!

Instagram Video is not quite dummy-proof (it took me a couple tries to figure out) but it’s pretty damn close. While it has some major limitations (no way to edit), it’s the easiest way to share short video clips.

You can save your clips to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even FourSquare but not Flickr or YouTube.

Mind-boggling to think how far iPhone video has come in just the last couple of years. In the old days – 2010 – you needed a video camera, a Mac and Final Cut Pro to make a movie. Your iPhone has replaced all those tools.

Oh, and I used Embed Instragram to embed this video.


I’ve had two photos recently in Flickr Explore, which selects the most interesting photos from around this photosharing site. Both are mobile pics, taken with my iPhone 5, and edited with the Flickr app.

The first appeared in Explore on April 8 and is a shot of the cherry blossoms by the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. I went after work and the soft late-afternoon light was gorgeous. I used the Mammoth filter in the Flickr app to give it a distinct look.

cherry blossoms at sunsetMy second Explored photo came a week later. Coming up the escalator at the Ft. Totten Metro, I saw this:

Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Ft. Totten MetroIt was surreal to see a train full of Bradleys next to the Metro tracks. I framed this photo with the Metro station sign because I thought it was so bizarre. In addition to Explore, this photo appeared in the local blogs DCist, Greater Greater Washington and PoPville. Plus, another photo I took of the train was published in the Express, the free paper by the Washington Post. That was nice – I read that paper every day on the Metro.

DC is filled with the beautiful and the bizarre, if you will keep your eyes open.

Photo Strategy: Serendipity with a Little Bit of Planning

Do I have a photographic vision? Goals? A business plan? No, that would take all the fun out of it. Instead, I am guided by serendipity. I wander about the city taking photos.

But I don’t leave everything to chance. I try to be at the right place at the right time. I’m drawn to visual events, like Santarchy, where hundreds of faux Santas caused mischief on the National Mall. That’s where I got this photo, which was featured on InstantDC.

Merry KissmasThis was on a Saturday in December. I had heard about Santarchy through Twitter and had seen the previous year’s pictures. I knew the route the Santas would take so I got on my bike and waited for them on the Mall. I wanted a picture with the Capitol in the background. I got a picture of a Gagnam-style Santa (how dated that seems now) and then I saw Gene Simmons. I rushed ahead of him so I could get this shot with the Capitol over his shoulder.

And he really did say, “Merry Kissmas.”

So I guess my photographic method doesn’t entirely rely on chance. I plan ahead, think about my shots, and try to get in the right position to take them. It’s serendipity with a little bit of planning.

But I try not to think about that too much. I don’t want to be a Photographer with a Vision. I don’t want to be an Artist. I just want to enjoy taking photos.

Friday Photo: White House Bikeshare Edition

White House bikeshare

I love walking in DC. On Monday after work, I stopped off at Macy’s and then walked home, taking a little detour to go by the White House. It was darker than this photo appears and the absence of light caused the iPhone to do a bit of a long exposure, allowing me to capture this cyclist in motion. She’s on a Capital Bikeshare bike – these bright red bikes are a common sight in DC, and are used by everyone, from tourists to businessmen.

Friday Photo: Under Construction Edition

14th st construction14th St is rapidly becoming lined with condos and apartments. Where once stood a KFC and other low-rent retail establishments, another new building rises.

Shot with an iPhone 4 and edited in the Flickr mobile app. The photo also appeared in PoP in a post on, appropriately enough, hating DC.

Surrendering to Serendipity: My Year in Photography

I like wandering the city taking photos. I’m a chronicler, a recorder, pursuing the things I am interested in – city life, the arts, travel and strong horizontal lines.

And in 2012, I got to do so much of what I love – taking boozy Instagram shots of art gallery shows, capturing photos of bike culture and recording life in this city, from protests to performance art.

Here are my favorites from 2012.

iPhone Impressionism

It was the year of iPhone impressionism, where I used Instagram, Flickr, Slow Shutter and other apps to capture the city around me. When I take photos, I’m not looking for realism – I’m looking for symmetry and beauty in the urban environment. I’m showing an idealized Washington, a place of warm tones, strong lines and order.

Taxis on 17th St

there is a light that never goes out

F St from above

Late in the year came the controversy over Instagram’s odious Terms of Service. That inspired me to check out the newly updated Flickr mobile app, which has great filters like Narwhal (seen below) and doesn’t shrink your pictures down to tiny squares.

performance art at the Hillyer

My New Year’s Resolution is to use Flickr more and Instagram less.

Continue reading “Surrendering to Serendipity: My Year in Photography”

Friday Photo: Santas Edition

Santas on the MallThis is from Santarchy last weekend on the National Mall. Could it be my last Instagram picture ever? The controversy over their terms of service made me rethink my attachment to this photosharing service. I like the Instagram community but they’re owned by semi-evil Facebook. And they shrink photos down to 612×612 pixels.

Around the same time, Flickr debuted its great new mobile app. It has filters, doesn’t shrink my pics down and there’s a great Flickr community that I’ve been part of for years. 2013 will see more Flickr pics and fewer Instagram snaps for this mobile shooter.

Snapseed is Free!

snapseed interface
Snapseed interface on iPad

Snapseed is a dream of an app on the iPad – and now it’s free!

Snapseed is like Instagram’s bigger and more powerful brother. In addition to scores of faux film filters and frames, Snapseed can perform the kind of adjustments that you’d need Adobe Lightroom for. Crop, white balance, saturation, contrast, color correction, center focus, selective adjustment – it does much of what the Adobe product does but with a radically simpler interface. And a much smaller pricetag.

I like Drama. It’s one of the unique filters in Snapseed. It creates highly stylized images by pumping up the contrast and saturation. Grunge is another one, adding a beat-up texture to your image, as if it had been stored in a drawer for decades.

Over the summer, I did a photo shoot in Georgetown, using just an iPhone to capture the images and then Snapseed to edit them. My model was Lauren, a friend of mine. We started at the graceful Q Street Bridge over Rock Creek and then explored Georgetown side streets.

After the shoot, I edited from the comfort of my couch, using Snapseed. I cropped, fiddled with levels, tried and untried autocorrect, experimented with different filters, applied selective focus and, in less than an hour, I created some photos I was really happy with.

Here are some examples of the fun you can have with Snapseed.

P St
example of grunge filter
Lauren on the stairs
cropping, temperature and color adjustments in Snapseed
Lauren with her Holga
cropping and subtle color, temperature adjustments

Check out the whole set and get Snapseed today.

Mount Vernon Trail Photo in Virginia Biking Map

mount vernon trail
Mount Vernon Trail

I have a photo in the Bicycling in Virginia Map, a publication by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The above shot is from the Mount Vernon Trail, just across the Potomac from the Jefferson Memorial. I took it on a beautiful spring morning, when the flowers along the bike path had just began to bloom.

You can order the map for free. It’s a handy guide to the state’s numerous bike trails and routes. From the monumental views of the Mount Vernon Trail to the fall foliage of the New River, the Old Dominion has some of the most scenic bike trails in the nation.


After months of winter, that spring morning was so pretty that I waded into the daffodils to get the photo below. It’s a little Instagram picture but was published earlier this year in Momentum, a biking lifestyle mag.

“Being there” is 90% of photography. Within a few days, the daffodils were gone and the light wasn’t the same. I’m glad I got this picture when I did – it’s one of my favorites.

biking along the Potomac

Instacanvas Insta-Survey

Receiving an email survey from a company is not unusual in American life. Amazon, Caribou, Five Guys, Target – you’ve probably been been given the opportunity to rate the experience on a rigid five-point scale.

Instacanvas gallery now open

It’s unusual when you have the opportunity to provide feedback to an actual human, like I did with Instacanvas, the Instagram artist marketplace. Instacanvas turns your Instagram creations into beautiful canvas prints and gives you the opportunity to sell them online. It’s free to sign-up.

Instacanvas has reached out to actual users of the service and scheduled calls with them, to see what they could do better. I had the chance to talk with Todd Emaus, Co-Founder of Instacanvas. He asked about what I liked about Instacanvas, what I thought they could do better, ideas I might have for product enhancements.

In surveys from other companies, I’ve seen the question, “Do you think Company X cares about you as an individual?”, which I thought to be absurd. Starbucks does not care about me. I’m just a data point in the millions of transactions they conduct every day, to be crunched by soulless MBAs in Seattle.

But a company that assigns a person to call me personally – maybe they do care. Perhaps they do want me to be successful and design an “insanely great” product that meets my needs. It’s a thought, a tiny hopeful one in the spreadsheet world of American business.


Washington Monument at sunset
buy me on Instacanvas

Rant over. What did the Instacanvas guy say? Todd said they’re planning on rolling out more contests and greater social media integration to promote the company.

I asked – what are successful Instacanvas artists doing? They are:

1. Tagging their photos so that they could be found easily. Using tags like #bike, #scenic, #landscape, #sexy and so on.

2. Promoting the hell out of their work. They Tweet, Facebook and email continuously, with news of their online store and new photos for sale.

Check out my gallery when you have a chance. It’s filled with photos of iconic sights from Washington, DC, plus pictures of city life beyond the monuments.