Iced Oak Trees (4 photos)

We’ve spent our Christmas Day in San Diego’s mountains. A nice winter storm system had brought good rain in the two nights prior – and snow at higher elevations. And when Southern California gets snow at elevations that are more accessible to the general public, everyone’s out and about to experience a brief moment of real winter.

And this year, the timing of this storm meant white Christmas of course. We didn’t start too early, but managed to avoid the worst traffic by being up at Palomar Mountain around 10am. We then continued to Julian, and ended up in the northern part of the Laguna Mountains. On a gated side-road to Sunrise Highway we found some serenity and still untouched snow. And these trees, their west-facing sides coated in ice and snow:

I may begin to sound like a broken record but well… since these are four phone photos again, I have to say that I’m still amazed by the iPhone 7 Plus. I’m beginning to wonder whether I should still explicitly label cellphone photos as such. Now, I always liked the quirky little phone photos, from the days of Hipstamatic on, but I rarely considered the photos to be “serious”. There were always a couple of missing pieces – one was the ability to capture raw data (and with it, the added latitude for developing the photos to my liking), and another was having a narrower viewing angle with a longer lens (three out of the four photos above are made with the “telephoto” lens).

The iPhone 7 Plus adds these two missing pieces, and suddenly, it’s possible for me to make “serious” photos with the phone. I want to think that this has only been a block in my head – I’m a digital photographer through and through, and I’ve internalized the idea of capturing the best possible data. That was just not possible with the phone’s JPEGs. When I use the phone to make a photo now, it feels different. And comparing the detail quality of the JPEGs with the raw data, there is a visible difference.

There are still other pieces missing. For example, the high pixel density of the tiny sensor requires plenty of light and the least possible signal amplification (lowest possible ISO). The biggest limitation right now is that, as far as I can see, the longest shutter speed is just 1/3 of a second. Even with camera support (like a tiny tripod, Gorillapod, or whatever) low light situations mean higher ISO, and thus a lot of noise.

I’m curious to see where phone photography will be in a couple of years.

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