"The iPhone is everything you want to do right in the palm of your hand."
“I HAVE A point-and-shoot camera, but I hardly ever use it anymore,” says garden photographer David Perry. A black iPhone 5 is now the camera-of-choice for this former corporate photographer turned digital garden chronicler.
I can’t tell you how much better this makes me feel about my inability to master even the simplest camera. If an iPhone or an iPad works for a consummate professional like Perry, does that mean I no longer need to feel so inept when everyone else on a tour has those big-lens serious cameras and I’m shooting away with my iPhone?
Perry has been making photos ever since his dad gave him a little German camera for his 12th birthday. For more than 25 years, he traveled around the globe shooting corporate reports and advertising campaigns. After exhausting himself on a big international project eight years ago, he cashed in air miles and flew to New Zealand for some camping and fly-fishing. Perry noticed that, now he could shoot what he liked, he was photographing wildflowers and the landscape.
Perry’s a lifelong gardener, knowledgeable about the natural world because he spent much of his childhood on long field trips with his zoologist father. “I can’t tell you how many hours and days I spent in bat caves,” he says with a laugh. After his sojourn in New Zealand and time in Mexico photographing plants and more plants, Perry stepped away from the pressure of the corporate world and started shooting gardens, including his own in West Seattle. Now his work is published in garden books and magazines; he’s had two recent Fine Gardening covers. He also teaches classes in iPhoneography at area nurseries and for Rick Steves Travel.
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When Perry and I got together to talk garden photography, he pulled out the cutest little tripod with gumby-like legs topped by an iPhone-sized clip. Then he pulled out a slightly larger tripod, this one for an iPad. They are Joby brand magnetic tripods, cost about $20, and are the first thing Perry recommends in his classes.
“It’ll fit in your coat pocket and keeps your iPhone still when you photograph; you can even leave the case on your phone,” says Perry.
And what about “Instagram,” the photo app darling of Facebook? “It’s the lowest point of entry,” says Perry dismissively. “There are so many more interesting apps.” He recommends “Camera +,” which costs 99 cents on iTunes and improves every aspect of the camera built in to your iPhone or iPad. Then there’s a $2 app called “Over” that Perry describes as “sweet for adding words to photos.”
Perry uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to keep track of thousands of photos on his iPad. “It’s masterful,” he says. And what does he recommend when students want to print photos? “They don’t even ask about it — we’re past that.”
Taking good garden photos, of course, is about more than technology. How about artistry? “Look for the haiku moment,” advises Perry. “Try to make your photo about less.” A pause, a silence, a place to breathe is what makes a great photo, no matter what device you’re shooting with. In this expert’s opinion, iPhoneography isn’t a compromise or an embarrassment. It’s the future. “It’s a renaissance,” he says. “The iPhone is everything you want to do right in the palm of your hand … we’re not going back.”
Learn more about Perry’s classes and coaching at www.davidperryphoto.com.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.