Two days ago, on the fifth day of the fifth month my little boy James turned five. He fills my days with joy. Here we are together looking into a puddle, in a shot inspired by fellow Apple World Gallery photographer, Cielo De La Paz.
This shot was taken last week with the Fuji X100T in London. Did not shoot a lot with this camera while in London. The iPhone was much more employed.
The music may have stopped, but the dance continues
I have always liked London. I had my first experience there as a teenager living in Brixton and working in Putney. I have been back many times (read about my trip there last year) and passed through on transit to other locations and can honestly say it has always been positive. But without doubt the coolest memory I will have about London will be this moment when I was walking down a crowded Regent’s Street on a sunny Tuesday evening last with Dan Rubin on our way to the Apple Store and arriving there and seeing a poster in the doorway with my name on it encouraging people to come to meet Brendan Sé – the iPhone Photographer. A really nice moment.
At the Apple Store, Regent’s Street
I got to London on Monday afternoon after a short hop across the Irish sea. Cork is only a 55-minute flight to London. When travelling I try to avoid Heathrow as I never liked it as an airport, mainly because it always seemed to be under development. Thankfully, this now seems to have been completed and the new Terminal 2 that Cork flights arrive to and depart from is really impressive. I was met by a driver who brought from the airport right to the door of the hotel. It was great to to get to see parts of London I had not seen before. Most of my getting from A to B in London would have been underground so it was nice to see the city from the car as we made our way through London in rush hour on Monday evening.
The sponsors of the event – Knomo, London – were really great. The hotel – Citizen M – they put me up in was one of the best I have stayed in. Situated in Southwark, it is only a short walk to the river and close to the Tate Modern also. What I really liked about this hotel, besides the very cool design and layout, was the great attitude of all the staff. They were always very helpful, friendly and upbeat. Nothing was too much hassle for them and more often than not, what you will return to a hotel is not for the design, comfort or location (all which this hotel has) but for the welcome and service you get. And on this count Citizen M scores highly.
The bar in Citizen M hotel
Once I had settled into my room, I wanted to get out and hit the streets and get some photography in. I asked the guy on the front desk where would be a good place to head and he sent me in the direction of the river. Within five minutes I was in the heart of iconic London: St. Paul’s Cathedral, The River Thames, Tate Modern, The Millennium Bridge and the skyline of some of London’s most famous buildings lit up at night. Throw in all the passersby and I was in my element. I shot quite a few images with the iPhone.
St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Millennium Bridge
After about an hour or so wandering around this area I headed back in the direction of the hotel, using the Shard building as a landmark. When I got back to the hotel, I went on a little tour of the floors and took in the very classy design of the hotel. I must have been a sight for some of the guests as I lay on my stomach getting a shot of the corridors.
A traveller without observation is a bird without wings – Moslih Eddin Saadi
Before falling asleep I set the alarm for 7.30 and was woken by the at-first gentle sound of a ping-pong, which gradually got louder and as it did the lights in the room began to come on. A calming green light in the doorway first and then a faint orange shone through the glass walls of the bathroom. Then the blind slowly rose to announce a sunny London morning. I wish I could wake like this every morning. It was so cool.
My plan was to get out and get among the Londoners on their way to work and to get some photography in. I wanted to see what the area was like in daylight. It was a beautiful sunny, but chilly morning. I headed towards the Millennium Bridge and joined the hundreds of others on their way to work. London is a beautiful city and when the sun shines – wow! I spent about ninety minutes out on the streets getting shots and enjoying the wonderful early morning atmosphere.
After this, I headed back to the hotel and rested for a short while before heading back out to get in some more shooting. I was lucky with the weather. The sun was shining and I love to shoot into the sun to get the shadows and highlights that I like. I found this location and didn’t have to wait long to get passersby into the frame to get these two images. The black and white was shot with one of my favourite apps – 1-hour photo. If you have not tried this – then get yourself to the app store! It is a great little app for shooting black and white.
South Bank (B+W)
One of the great things about being in big cities is that you have lots of streets and lots of people. Find yourself a good location and work that scene. Here is an example of this. I found this theatre – whose name escapes me at the moment – with this big hand and finger pointing down. Wait! The objective is to get a passerby in motion directly under that finger. I was lucky. My patience resulted in this gentleman dressed in a red coat and red runners walk past and I was ready to snap.
After about another ninety minutes or so, I made my way back to the hotel to meet Dan Rubin, who would be interviewing me later that evening. Dan is a famous designer and photographer and I was excited about the prospect of spending time with him, getting to know him a little better and learning from him. We had a great afternoon together getting to know each other and our conversation on photography was really engaging. Without any rush or stress, we made our way into Regent’s Street to the Apple Store and got backstage to do the final prep for the interview. I liked the way Dan operated. He is easy going and makes you feel relaxed. We had had a phone call the previous week and the structure of our talk was set out. During the afternoon, many of the things that would later come up in the interview, came up organically in our conversation and without purposely rehearsing, we had worked the talk through. This meant that by the time we took to the stage, I was relaxed and ready to enjoy this experience. Before this, we were met by Robin, the events manager at the Apple Store. He was overseeing everything and also taking some photographs of us backstage. Robin was a cool guy and I wish I had more time to chat with him. I enjoyed hearing his stories of shooting some big names who come into the Apple Store.
Dan Rubin and myself
Then a little after seven we took to the stage. I was told the attendance was about 120 people. We sat on director’s chairs on stage and the talk went like this. To begin with, we talked about my photographic journey, and in particular the story of my Shot on iPhone image, that one that is on billboards and posters all around the world, and then moved on to talk about some of my favourite images taken with the iPhone under the categories of Street, Travel and Blur. After this, I showed some of my editing with images and the apps I use for this, and to round things off there was some time for questions and answers. The talk itself took just over an hour and it was enjoyable. Once I got over the initial little nerves, I actually really liked the experience. In fact, I made sure I did. I realised this kind of thing does not happen too often and the opportunity to talk about my photography is something to be enjoyed. It was well-received by the audience and Dan was very generous in his praise during and after the talk. I am looking forward to seeing the video podcast that Apple will release in a few weeks. Here are two images taken by a friend of mine in the audience.
On stage 
After the event, we all headed to a restaurant just off Carnaby St. A good opportunity to get to meet so many people and to see their images and hear their stories. Here is a fellow Irishman Gavin, a very interesting character who will go far in life, I am very sure. He is, as we say, a lovable chancer!
I got back to the hotel some time after midnight, tired but happy. The next morning I got up early, checked out of the hotel (I was sad to leave this beautiful place) and got on a tube to meet Dan and Franco (the event’s sponsor) in Shoreditch. I had never been to Shoreditch before, but had seen a lot of great images from there, so I was excited to get the chance to shoot there. The only thing was that this morning it was lashing rain. After breakfast and saying goodbye to Dan and Franco, I intended to get in some shooting around the streets of Shoreditch, but it proved impossible as the rain was too heavy and I was not dressed for it. I took shelter in the doorway of a shop and to my surprise the shop assistants came out and invited me in to the shop; suggested I rest my bones on one of their sofas and asked me if I wanted the wifi password. How incredibly kind! Somehow, when I travel I tend to encounter the nicest of people. Once the rain let up, I got out to get some shots of Shoreditch. It is a place brimming with character and history and when I get back to London I most certainly will head back there. Here are a few of the shots I got there.
From Shoreditch, I went on a nostalgia tour to Brixton. I had not been back there in years, but really wanted to revisit where I had lived as an 18-year old boy. I had been told that it had been gentrified and become a trendy and hip place. To be honest, I did not notice that many changes. Perhaps it was the miserable weather, but it still looked a little run down and neglected. But then I just did a short tour of the market around the tube station and up to Sudbourne Road, where I had lived in the late 80s. Maybe, I did not get to see the newly-renovated and hip places. I got a nice lunch in a little cafe there and memories came flooding back to me of the sense of community there was in Brixton. I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting on the next table and we talked about football and Ireland. The lunch – lentil soup and a piri piri chicken wrap was lovely. By this time, the rain was easing and I got out and continued on my nostalgia tour. Cork people do nostalgia better than everyone.
Sudbourne Road, Brixton (where I used to live)
A Brixton lady
Brixton Market 
Brixton Market 
From Brixton, it was back into the centre of London and back into sunshine. The rain had subsided and the sun was out and all was right with the world – well, at least from my perspective. I was on the streets in a big city and enjoying it to the max. I had time on my hands and I knew the type of shots I wanted to get and I knew where to get them. Here are some of those.
The three of us
From the centre of London, I headed back to Southwark to collect my bag in the hotel and make my way to Heathrow. The Southwark tube station is a wonderful station, as can be seen in this image I shot of the reflections on one of the station walls.
Leaving London (Southwark Tube Station)
And so my wonderful London adventure came to an end as I arrived in Heathrow to get the plane back home to Cork. I was leaving with such great memories and some good photos, I hoped. I would like to thank Dan, Franco and to all the kind people I met at the Apple event. You made it really special for me.
I wish I had more time to sit down and document all the things that have happened recently, but I seem to be playing catch up with so much at the moment. Hopefully, things will calm next week and I will get around to recording all the great things I have experienced in recent weeks.
Here are two images from the recent short trip to Tokyo. Is there anywhere in the world where the people are as obsessed with keeping dry as in Tokyo? Everyone, except this for this guy it seems, carries an umbrella.
This iPhone shot was taken late on my last night in Tokyo. It had been raining for more than 24 hours solid. These young people are handing out flyers to passersby to attract them into their nightclubs and bars. They didn’t hand any to me. I must be getting old.
The World’s First Ever Mobile Journalism Conference
When my turn came to speak, the nerves had gone and were replaced with a feeling of ya, this is it and I’m going to enjoy it. The excitement really began when, along with the other six speakers who were part of the panel for smart phone photography, we got miked up. Ya, this was it. Here I was in the National Convention Centre in Dublin all miked up, all ready to go and talk about what I do on the stage of the world’s first ever Mobile Journalism Conference – Mojocon!
The stage is set
We took to the stage and sat in the order we were to speak. I was to the left of Andy Butler who was first up and to the right of Michael Kistler, Dan Berman, Nicki Fitzgerald, Dan Rubin and Jack Hollingsworth. We were assigned ten minute slots which would be announced by the ringing of a bell. Our moderator, Patrick Hamilton-Walsh (what a pleasure it was to get to know Patrick), introduced us one by one. Andy was first up to talk about his website and e-magazine, Mobiography. Back in October, 2014, when the organiser Glen Mulcahy contacted me about putting together a panel of people from the world of mobile photography, Andy was one of the first names that popped into my head. I have great admiration for the work he does in promoting and showcasing mobile photographers on his site and e-magazine. Andy gave a well-structured and informative presentation that was well received by the large audience. Then came my turn and up I went.
Earlier in the day, I had heard one of the speakers at another session say that for every minute of your presentation there needs to be an hour of preparation. When he said this, I immediately started to do my calculations and doubt began to creep in. Had I my ten hours of preparation done? But really the truth was that I could not get the mathematics of the calculation right, so I abandoned it. I was pretty much prepared. I had my slides, a little video clip of me showing how I do post-processing on the phone and I had written out an accompanying text, and for good measure had a few jokes thrown in. Earlier in the week, my wife had sat and listened to me rehearsing. Asking her how it was elicited – ‘it’s fine, but you need to slow down a little’. I am a fast talker, I suppose. Earlier in the afternoon with Michael Kistler and Andy Butler we had more rehearsals and again the advice back was “slow down!” Conscious of this, I tried to pace the delivery just that little bit more slowly. I think I managed it OK, but the thing that got me was that damn clicker for the slides. Coming towards the end of the presentation, I clicked twice and was unable to get back to the previous slide. I missed the chance to get my little joke in about selfies and to compound things, the bell rang and it was like being back in school. I wrapped things up there and then and only in later presentations did I realise that I still had more time and I should have just kept on regardless. However, all in all, it was fine. I got to tell the story of my mobile photography journey: from an iPhone 3g to billboards and posters all over the world.
As soon as I sat down, the reflection process began and has not stopped. If the conference goes ahead next year and I get invited back, I have decided that I am going to bring my own bell and ring it at random intervals and allow it to soothe and relax me throughout.
My photo on a billboards in San Francisco and Chile
Next up was Michael Kistler, a photographer based in Hong Kong, who gave a solid and well-structured presentation dealing with the many myths and false claims associated with mobile photography. He finished his presentation with a slideshow of his images. I really liked this style, because it showed a confidence to allow his photography to speak for itself, without need for voice over as the images were shown. I am a big fan of Michael’s work and was chuffed to see his presentation go so well.
“Man! Stop phoning my camera! What are you phoning my camera for?” This was one of the many funny lines from the larger-than-life Daniel Berman, the founder of the Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs). Dan stole the show. He introduced himself to the audience as Ted Cruz, cracked a few jokes and had them in the palm of his hand from there on in. Dan showed some of the amazing mobile photography images that have won at the MPAs and spoke of how many of these have been sold for large amounts. When one of the slides did not show and he was left with a black screen, his showmanship shone when he told the audience that “this image is called black and I sold this to a gallery in San Francisco for $40,000.” Dan!
I did not envy Nicki being up after Dan, but she managed very well. Nicki runs the well-known iphoneographycentral.com with Bob Weil. She spoke of the fine work her site showcases and then walked the audience through the processing of one of her own images. Again, it was a very interesting to see how she creates her images and what apps she used to do this.
Dan Rubin is one of the biggest names on Instagram with more than 750,000 followers, but this really is a very small part of what Dan does, as he is a successful man in many fields. I was very impressed with Dan throughout the day. He was a calming and supporting influence on us novice presenters. It was great to watch Dan go through his paces. Clearly he is a polished presenter and he engaged effortlessly with the audience.
The final man on our panel of speakers was the guy known as Photo Jack – Jack Hollingsworth. Jack is very well-known in photography circles. wefollow.com has Jack listed as the 11th most influential photographer on Twitter. Jack’s presentation was big on numbers and stats, which are always interesting to learn, but what I liked about Jack’s talk was the emphasis on how to become a better photographer. Simple, become a better person. Art from the heart.
Coming off that stage, I was buzzing, or skipping with delight as Andy Butler would call it. What an exhilarating feeling to be involved in something like that. Walking off stage, I was met by people congratulating me, telling me how well I had done, how much they liked my work. Together with the other speakers, what had been a collegial, supportive dynamic before the session, was now one of exuberance and delight. It was over and now we could relax and enjoy ourselves. And that is what we did. The organisers had arranged a meal in a lovely Thai restaurant. The food, the wine, the conversation, the atmosphere, everything was just perfect. A night to remember!
Day two of the conference was about taking things to the street. Together with Michael Kistler and 15 other people we hit the streets surrounding the Convention Centre. Had I been asked about photo walks before I would have probably replied that I was not a fan of them. The idea of large groups of people in a herd moving together snapping in unison, would have been a right turn off for me. But the truth is I was completely wrong. Ya, we all followed the same route, but the diversity of images we got was incredible. How could so many different things have been observed? It just goes to show how different everyone’s perspective really is. The location opposite the Convention Centre is a great one for a photo walk. There is some spectacular architecture around that area and plenty activity too. The weather held up, even though rain had been forecast. We used the hashtag #mojocononthestreet and curated images posted to Twitter and Instagram to organise a contest with donated prizes from iProlens. In hindsight, we should have a raffle for the prizes as it really was so difficult to choose among the entered images. That is the only regret I have about the conference.
Taking Mojon Con to the Streets
Here is a little clip of an interview Richard Donelan, of Start Up TV Ireland, did with Michael Kistler and myself.
It was the most amazing experience. I have spoken at and attended many academic conferences, workshops and seminars through the years, in many countries, but none compared to this. There was a buzz about the place that was matched with the sense of excited anticipation the speakers and attendees shared. Here were the leading lights in the future of journalism, coming together from all over the world, wanting to learn, wanting to share, wanting to take the next step in the evolution of mobile journalism together. To be a part of this, as a visual storyteller, a photographer was a true privilege. It has invigorated and inspired me. I met so many nice people over the weekend. Thanks to Jack Caffrey, Claire Byrne, Maeve Heslin, Margaret Ward, Richard Donelan, Juan Muñoz Fernandéz, Phyllis Stephen, Niki Mustain, Ricky Fosheim, Shadi Rahimi, Sue Llewellyn, Alison Gow, Micheal Mac Suibhne, Harry Guinness, my fellow Man Utd fan – Patrick Hamilton-Walsh, and Sinead Cassidy who was always available before and during the event to ensure everything ran smooothy. It was a great pleasure to share this experience with you all. Hope our paths cross again.
I cannot end this piece without acknowledging the work that Glen Mulcahy has done in bringing all of this together. This was the first event of its kind any where in the world. As a fellow Irishman I am very proud of Glen. It took a lot of imagination, vision and persistence to get this event off the ground. That it was such a success is so pleasing. Kudos to you, Glen!
Each year, I like to take some time and look back at the photographs I posted to Flickr. (Here are links to previous years – DSLR & iPhone) Being a nostalgic sort, this is something I enjoy very much. The thing that surprises me is how much I forget and how distant these scenes seem from now. The old saying – it seems like yesterday – is one I have never been able to connect with. Yesterday seems an age away for me. Heading back and seeing what I posted twelve months ago seems like another life.
It has been a very good year. I got to see new countries: Taiwan and Denmark; and revisit places I love: Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, London and Berlin. Really cool. I like this little exercise of looking back, mainly because it is an exercise all about believing in the future. Twelve months ago none of these images had been realised. One of the reocurring feelings I get as a photographer is that I will never create another photograph worth anything. It is something experience each time I head out with the camera. But I know that I will. I know I will learn and get better. I will be here twelve months from now looking back at 2015 and getting excited about 2016.
In 2015, I posted 241 photographs on the DSLR account and 248 to my iPhone account, making a total of 489 images. That is a lot, by any standards, and to whittle it down to one image from each account for each month is not an easy task. But here we go.
We started the new year visiting a beach to the east of Cork. It was a wild and windy day and darkness was settling in almost as soon as we arrived. There is something about the sea which is so quietening. I could stare at it without any awareness of time passing. When I lived in Spain, in Badajoz a city whose river had dried out, I missed water so much. Coming from Cork, with our city centre an island that the River Lee surrounds and only being a stone’s throw away from the sea, I need water. I need to hear and smell it.
This image I have chosen as my favourite for January is one of my little girl, Sumi-Anna, staring out to sea. I stood behind her as she stared. Captivated by her, wondering what ran through her mind as she looked out. Wishing for her all she could ever wish for herself. As a parent, I find I take so many images of my kids with their backs to me, walking away, bravely, without me. Not waiting for me, not needing me to hold their hand. The first steps of independence. This is preparation of a sort. I know one day it will come that I will not be wanted. They will need to express their independence. For now, there is still some hand holding and I will hold tightly while I can.
And now on to my beloved iPhone. Fun! That is what the iPhone is all about. It puts the phun in iPhunography. Don’t get me wrong, I like photography with the DSLR too, but it is too heavy, too complicated and too visible. The iPhone is light, fits my hands, does not require too many calculations and it is discreet. And did I say it was phun? It is!
A series of images that has got me a lot of attention is the one of people walking in the corridor where my office is. I have gotten some beautiful images there. Check this and that. The one I am choosing for January is a little different to the others in that the colour is brighter. I love the faint outline and the sense of motion.
Have I chosen your favourites. Check these links to see. iPhone – January & DSLR – January
What an utterly miserable day it is here! Rain, wind and the greyest of skies. Halloween too. A manufactured corruption of an Irish tradition. Meh!
But life goes on. Clouds part. Sun shines. Here is an image taken in Copenhagen. In the distance you can see the sun.
Kiss that future
While in Copenhagen, I met Thomas Toft. If you have not checked out his photography, then you are in for a treat. A wonderful photographer and a great guy. One evening we cycled out to this wonderful location. Thanks again, Thomas!
Mobile photography? Hasn’t all photography always been mobile? I have never had a camera that was not portable. OK, only in recent years did I get a camera that also had other functions, but photography has always been mobile. If you check the statistics for uploaded photography, you will see that nowadays the most commonly used camera is not a stand-alone camera, but a multi-functional device that has an inbuilt camera. More people than ever before are enjoying photography, and predominantly this is in the form of a smart phone that has a camera. In an effort to understand and deal with this phenomenon, the term mobile photography has been coined. But is it time to drop the mobile part? I think so.
There is irony in that on my part, seeing as I separate my traditional photography and mobile photography with two separate Flickr accounts. But hey! Contradictions and hypocrisy is what makes us humans interesting.
I completed my end-of-year review for my DSLR images last week and now I am beginning to look back at 2013 and choose my favourite images taken with my iPhone. You know, I will enjoy this more. The iPhone is more fun. Shooting with the DSLR, I feel more of a responsibility to adhere to and to achieve photographic standards; to manipulate the settings of the camera to good effect. But with the iPhone it is liberating. I point, I shoot, do a little post processing and very often upload immediately. Just fun! And what is the point of a hobby if it is not fun. I am not saying the DSLR is not fun, but I prefer the iPhone. It is lighter, more compact, less intrusive and it is a damn fine camera.
Looking back at the year of iPhone images, I am really pleased. There are a lot of good memories in those photos. The one I am choosing for January was taken on second day of the year in 2013. It was a cold, grey wintery day, but still all the family got together and headed to Inchadonny beach, which is about 50km from Cork. Kids love the beach. Last year we were lucky to have a good summer and many happy days were spent at the seaside. The image below shows my beautiful little girl, Sumi-Anna, playing on the sand, drawing figures. The sky expands above her and the Atlantic appears calm in the distance. The start of a new year with possibilities as vast as the sky, with love as forever as the ocean. Kissing that future…