Thoughts on Travel, Photography and Life from Ian Lloyd

High Resolution from Smartphones

My morning walk takes me under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and while I listen to music on my headphones, I mostly concentrate on walking and waking up. But every once in a while my morning constitutional presents an iconic picture that makes me sorely wish I was carrying my Canon DSLR and several lenses. 

Recently, on a chilly winter morning, I was walking and engrossed in listening to some new jazz tracks while holding a small umbrella to ward off a light rain fall. Suddenly, the clouds opened up and spectacular early morning sunshine illuminated the city and created a full rainbow just as I was walking under the bridge. The effect was quite stunning but lasted only about 5 minutes. Certainly not enough time to sprint home to get my serious camera gear. And yet here was a photo opportunity of a lifetime that I really wanted to capture in great detail.

Without much thought, I took out my music playing device from my pocket, my iPhone, and contemplated the possibilities. I could easily take a photo with the phone’s built in camera but would my pixel peeping fussy stock photo agency accept the results? Probably not. Also, I was directly under the bridge with the light and rainbow fading fast. I longed to have my big Canon DSLR with me and possibly a 16mm lens to take it all in - but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Then I had a moment of inspiration. I remembered that my iPhone and for that matter, most smart phones, take panoramas that if shot carefully in a vertical mode, will stitch together to create a wide angle photo with very high resolution. I actually didn’t want a panorama, just an angle of view slightly wider than what my iPhone would deliver. So, holding my phone vertically (and still listening to jazz on the same device) I made a slow vertical panorama of the scene all the while cradling my umbrella under my arm. I was able to make three passes with different compositions before the spectacular light show faded.

I didn’t review the images as breakfast was on my mind and I knew the phone’s processor would be working overtime to combine all the panorama images as well as pump out my music and maintain an alertness for phone calls and emails. Back home I looked at the photos and was stunned. Not only were they razor sharp, but the resolution was fantastic as the camera and software had combined over a dozen vertical images into a spectacular horizontal wide angle photo with more pixels than my top of the line DSLR could ever achieve. 

The next step was to upload the photo to my fussy stock photo agent who I learned later were delighted to accept this unusual image. 

As photographers, we certainly do live in a technical world of wonders now where our vision is not restricted any more to just carrying a traditional camera. Whatever we see can now be realised with a device in our pocket that started out as just a phone and has now morphed into so much more.

Rainbow over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Rainbow over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

by Ian Lloyd