Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Portrait of Light

30 December 2013


I. Moonlight

1. Moonlight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. Moonlight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Moonlight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Moonlight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

II. Firelight

3. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

5. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

5. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

6. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

6. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

7. Firelight, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

7. The Flame, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.”–John Muir

Tomorrow the light of 2013 will darken, leaving us forever (except in our treasure trove of memories). A multitude of illuminated experiences will stay lit in our spirits, and give encouragement to the new year.

This month is significant for its winter solstice. On the twenty-first I felt a sigh of relief–the days began their ascension toward more light-filled hours.

The solstice, which is equal dark and light, appeared with a bit of fanfare. To some it may not have been obvious or significant, but I knew the steady glacial-like path toward Spring began. This shift to longer days brings more and more light, which fills the human psyche with anticipation and possibilities.

Photographers philosophize about light’s aesthetic and graphic energy. For me light is a crucial element on most photo shoots. Destination may or may not be the goal, but contrast, reflections, shadows, and tone are necessary. Even the overcast day wins my heart, because angles and corners are overflowing with small or medium-size low light that mingles with darker surfaces.

I prefer natural light. When its undesirable weather, I seek white LED lights to bring clarity to a subject. It works, but sunlight is my preference–luminosity that can bring visual magic.

The Light Spectrum, Google Images

The Spectrum of Sunlight, Google Images

Light can be brilliant, flashy, forceful, intense, so so, subtle, or triumphant. The fulfillment of its duty are constantly being judged. Still, I revere it for its own sake. It’s a continuous inspiration for the seen and unseen.

Human and non-human life are able to persist on their journeys, because la soleil acts as a guide. Too often we take its omnipresence and omnipotence for granted.

I am especially enamored by its silence. It can bear itself down on us and not make one sound, yet its undeclared voice can outdistance everything else.

That thought makes my mind wander into quietude. While my small slice of the universe may be experiencing the dark of night, other places have twenty-four hours of sunlight. Its comforting, reassuring and uncanny that natural light is present at any given time somewhere on our planet.

In the Lens section are my experiments with moonlight and firelight. The images are odes and tributes to the versatility of the sun: its ability to shed light; its ability to sustain life; its ability to provide heat; its ability to shore our health; its ability to give hope for another day.

The first two images were taken on an overcast night. The moon becomes its own symbol of our dependence upon its rays to lead us in the absence of sunlight. Along with starlight Mother Nature provides these celestial beams, and we often ignore its benefits.

“It must be allowed that the light of the moon, sufficient though it is for the pensive walker, and not disproportionate to the inner light we have, is very inferior in quality and intensity to that of the sun. But the moon is not to be judged alone by the quantity of light she sends to us, but also by her influence on the earth and its inhabitants.”–Henry David Thoreau

The second set of my photographs are my attempt to play with firelight from tiny birthday candles. They remind me that light is broad-spectrum and color-coded. They remind me that what we see is dependent upon the human eye’s ability to translate available light: much like the camera’s lens.

Light’s charisma inspires. It persists as a beacon for our daily accomplishments and journeys. It’s multi-dimensional character has motivated human invention and innovation, but nothing that equals Mother Nature’s sunlight.

Tip of the Week: I’m learned my compass points. I’ve also become familiar with the sun’s habits, and each season’s effect upon its placement in the sky. For me the best times of day to go on a photo shot are early morning (east) and late afternoon (west). But occasionally I will get a worthy shot at midday (south: when the sun is usually its most harsh). I follow the sun and it rarely disappoints.

Here are other entries for this week’s challenge:四马路/

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.

Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black and White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).


This entry was posted in Abstraction, Design, Nature Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Portrait of Light

  1. says:

    Firelight was my favorite, but the mood overall was wonderful !

  2. Gallivanta says:

    Love your tip to follow the sun; in WordPress we can follow it all around the world 🙂

    • Oh, you are so right. This online life brings me the joy of meeting you, even though you live across the globe where the sun warms you year round. Today we are experiencing blustery winds after a snowstorm. The birds are devouring seed at the bird station. It’s bitterly cold. See you soon.

  3. eadavisblog says:

    Your photos are stunning!

  4. Maria says:

    Sally: I’m new with WP .com and I came across your spot through the ‘Portraits of Wildflowers’ blog. I find your blog very interesting and John Muir is crucial for me. I love your images, and I love the spectrum of light diagram you also posted which helps me understand this atmospherical phenomena. The way I see it is that our atmosphere is like a filter of “light”. Through all its layers we get the filtering, or the “spectrum” as we call it. I always try to wonder how this translates to blind people or fauna with no eyes. There seems to be a connection which is not visual. I’ve been reading about the “circadian rhythm” or “circadian cycle” and trying to assimilate this. But going back to phoneography and these images, they remind me of this language of light and that it has an abstract language of its own which what I like about it. Why do images have to be realistic and recognisable to us? I think it’s because we may feel like we lose a sense of control: looking at something; and not knowing what it is. Yet art is precisely about that.

    • Maria, I do appreciate your comment. Yes, learning about the circadian rhythm of the universe does help us comprehend (limited at best) the vast world we inhabit. The more that you study your own slice of the planet through photography, the more that you will be able to truly see the gifts around us. Light gives and it takes. It is a source of life’s possibilities and triumphs as well as flaws. It shows us more than we can sometimes accept. Still, it is a path to the intersection between nature and human nature. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  5. marialla says:

    I have no words to describe the feeling these pictures give me. Thank you very much and HAPPPPPY NEEEW YEEEAR!!!! Mari

  6. Amy says:

    You have taken the phoneography to another level, Sally! These images are inspiring!

  7. Number 6 rocked my world this week…almost a perfect abstract my friend. You are always being creative, which just delights me to visit here.

  8. Lectures au Coeur says:

    Thank you for this beautiful portrait of light.
    Happy New Year, Sally!!! 🙂

  9. thirdeyemom says:

    Fabulous set of images especially the firelight! I had no idea what they were of until I read the pens part. You are so creative! Love photo 6.

  10. Light that shines and radiates straight to the heart. Beautiful. Wishing you and your family an amazing, blessed 2014!

  11. Back from my epic travels and starting to catch up a bit. I love all your photos, but I like the flame photos best. Happy New Years Eve and I look forward to next year.


  12. Such imaginative pictures. They certainly stimulate thought. I like the 6th photo best simply because it is such a satisfying composition – it would work in any medium. Just imagine it interpreted in oils or acrylics! Malc

  13. elisaruland says:

    Ah, the moonlight becomes, you Sally! 😉
    As, does the firelight, and I have to admit that I’m having trouble picking between the two!
    Take care, and Happy New Year!

  14. "Occam Blade" says:

    Fantastic. Have enjoyed your visits, comments and support. My best to you this New Year!

  15. niki says:

    The first and the second are my favorites. I love the moonlight… it looks beautiful and mysterious. I wish you a wonderful 2014 Sally ! 🙂

  16. Su Leslie says:

    Sally, these are wonderful shots – particularly the firelight series. In their abstraction they capture warmth and glow through colour. 🙂 Here’s my contribution and my best wishes to all for a Happy New Year.

  17. Amar Naik says:

    Fun pictures. Moon light shot is my favorite. I am going to retry to capture a similar shot for next time 🙂
    Happy new year. My entry for this week is here

  18. Interesting shots, this week Sally. Amazing the effects one can get with everyday objects. My daughter took some shots in this vein, recently. Great tips. Thanks for another great week.

  19. vera ersilia says:

    All these pictures – each on its own – are great renditions of reality thru your focused eye. So they live two lives: as they were and as you saw them.

  20. Tina Schell says:

    Nicely done Sally – wonderful take on an important subject. I enjoyed both the photos and your comments – especially your thoughts on the moods light can create and on the solstice and what it means. Happy New Year to you

  21. HansHB says:

    Lovely series! Great work! I wish you a Happy New Year!

  22. FireBonnet says:

    I like both subjects, and both are a challenge for a phone camera (at least for me). I really like the second moon shot. Peaceful and introspective and not too abstracted. As for the fire, really awesome… I think I am most fascinated with #6. And they are birthday candles? I would have loved to see your photo shoot! Fantastic abstractions. And your text is enlightening (no pun intended, but apropos) as always. Happy longer days ahead!

  23. Lovely images of light Sally, I really like your comment that at any given time natural light is present somewhere on earth. If I had to choose a favorite today I would select #2 as the glowing moonlight looks so pure and clean.

  24. Amanda Lakey says:

    Lovely as always Sally. Night time skies are very hard to capture with an iPhone. With this post, you do the amazing sights justice. My post will follow shortly, but just had to comment!

  25. All very daring. I’m always trying to capture the moon but never do. I like 3 the best looks like a NASA photo of a galaxy!

  26. Angeline M says:

    I love you firelight series, really great perspectives.
    I’ve thrown a phoneography photo into the ring for today from Tulum:
    Have a wonderful New Year, Sally! Thanks for bringing us this weekly challenge.

  27. The fire is interesting in colours and abstraction, but I prefer the peacefulness of the moon.

  28. Crazy travel days for me and I’m linking my post from a PA Starbucks. 🙂 I’ll try to catch everyone’s entries starting Tuesday evening. Have a wonderful couple of days.


  29. Indira says:

    In Moonlight everything looks mysterious. You have created mysterious look with firelight also. Very creative. I’m always fascinated with orange flames of firewood. Beautiful photographs. Wish you a very Happy, Colorful New Year.

  30. Love the first moon shot! Have a Happy New Year!

  31. I love the moon pictures a lot–the fire pictures are amazing-their abstract quality and color really draw the viewer in- particularly #4 and #5-it is amazing to see what boundaries continue to be broken with the iPhone-

  32. aloha Sally, the moon is a great subject, for many reasons, it’s properties of light (actually reflected sunlight, which is of course why it’s strength is less than direct sunlight), as a symbolic icon in every culture, even as a guide to our life activities. it’s also an often explored subject in haiku—which attracts me easily.

    all your images here seem to me to explore abstraction as well as light. abstraction may be in small degrees, leaving the subject recognizable, to great degrees that leave the source unknown (if there actually is one). I tend to like being able to recognize the source altho it can be far from easily recognizable and still appeal to me. for this reason I am drawn to the second photo in the moon set. it retains abstract qualities yet the idea of moon is clearly present.

    my contribution to the challenge today has doubled in that not only am I using one of the most basic phone cameras around (imo), I’m also limited in my tools to work it. this becomes fun for me, because I get to see what I can do within these limitations. way fun on that.

    yay on fun in 2014 to all. aloha.

  33. Steve says:

    Great photos as usual.

  34. The firelight pictures are interesting because of the colour and the abstract quality 🙂

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