Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Black and White (and Winter’s Waning and Spring’s Arrival)

17 March 2014


I. Snowstorm

1. Shoveling in a Stormstorm, iPhone 4s, February 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

1. Shoveling in a Stormstorm, iPhone 4s, February 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Shoveling in a Stormstorm, iPhone 4s,, February 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Shoveling in a Stormstorm, iPhone 4s, February 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

II. Icicles on Leaves

3. Icicles on  Leaves, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

3. Icicles on Leaves, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

4.Icicles on Leaves, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

4.Icicles on Leaves, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

III. Leaf Street Graffiti

5. Leaf Street Graffiti, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

5. Leaf Street Graffiti, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

6. Leaf Street Graffiti, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

6. Leaf Street Graffiti, iPhone 4s, March 2014; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

Let me know which you prefer and why.


This month I asked participants and readers to give their opinion about choices for the challenge’s new title, which is meant to reflect the evergreen quality of today’s photography. Many have strong opinions about their selections. With two titles as semi-finalists number one received more votes.

Still, I remain ambivalent about how it will be received by the wider readership searching to join this photo community–a community that the challenge seeks to attract and nurture. Here are the finalists.

1. Photography Challenge, Using Nontraditional Digital Devices as Your Lens

2. Photography Challenge, Using Mobile Non-SLR Digital Devices as Your Lens

After a bit more internal deliverance on the subject, I have come up with another approach. Most of us are in agreement about the importance of a title to draw attention on the Internet.

I’ve done a bit of research, and Phoneography is here to stay. It remains a popular search word, which is a good reason to keep it as part of the title.

I awoke yesterday after having written a totally different title that seemed to say what is needed. I created an acronym, but realized that the title was too cumbersome. Then I forged this title: Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Challenge.

So this new, new one is an attempt to bridge the current title with the ever-changing tools available to photographers. Here are three choices:

1. Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Challenge

2. Photography Challenge, Using Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices

3. Photography Challenge, Using Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices as Your Lens.

Let me know if this makes any sense. Or if you have further suggestions. I believe these are a better transition. What is important is differentiating this challenge from other photography challenges.

I hope that we can use one of them. I tend to think that # one is the best (shorter), but I really like two. Three is just too long, but more precise. Please give me your opinion.

No doubt the title will morph again to meet the “new” in photography’s creative expansion. Photography keeps upending the norm, and technology is simply a tool that we use in the creative process.

“Behind is a forest that goes to the Arctic                                                                                   And a desert that still belongs to the Piute                                                                                 And here we must draw                                                                                                                  Our line.” From Front Lines, Gary Snyder (b. 1930), American essayist, poet and environmentalist.

As I arranged the set of images for this week’s black-and-white challenge, the theme of Winter’s waning and Spring’s arrival was prevalent. This Thursday promises the equinox, a perfectly divine day where day (light) and night (dark) are as close to equal as is possible by nature’s wand.

There are two equinoxes: spring and autumn, which are the only time the earth does not tilt away or towards the sun. Where I live in Delaware, U.S.A., sunrise will be at 7:06 a.m., and sunset will glide forward at 7:14 p.m. As the dark appears, Spring will be a day old, and Winter will have climbed into hibernation for three more seasons.

The human spirit is immeasurably soothed by this renewal and visual alterations that appear day by day. As green shoots begin their ascension, one’s gaze is transfixed for progress. We wait for blossoms and colors to carry the past into the present.

Because photography is less dependent upon “gear” than on the visual acumen of the photographer’s eye, I am buoyed by the ease of my iPhone 4s as I roam through local preserve, pristine trails, and mature neighborhoods. I am particularly drawn to the untamed. During this phase of seasonal transition, there is much that is raw and wild.

Mostly, it is remarkably reassuring the discoveries that can be made during my daily walk–a walk that criss crosses suburbia and protected creeks, forests and wetlands. Even though the elements may be there, I must stay alert to see even one unusual example of the boundless surprises that exist. Some of the awe is realized when a color slice of nature can be rendered more inviting in monochromatic tones.

In the Lens section are three sets of images that fit this week’s theme: there is much to be noticed in the vast array of seemingly bare bones of winter. There also is a particular quality to a scene that is made more lively by black-and-white conversion.

Part I shows two of the same image that was taken during a February snowstorm. The day was hardly visible, but I could see my neighbor framed by a massive pine tree. He was shoveling, and I caught him in my sights through the curtain of snow.

In Part II are two different shots of leaves covered in icicles. Within an hour the sun had melted the crystalline covering. But the early morning had given birth to a glaze of ice that in my backyard transformed a spent plant’s frond into something worth my spying.

In Part III are images that were found on two consecutive days. Each brought a startle reflex: leaf street graffiti. Each was a negative of a leaf made by its frozen autumn form and sunlight. As if drawn into the street, the result is a positive of each etched into the macadam.

One such discovery is enough to make a day’s momentum flow, but more is pure joy. It reminds me that nature’s artistry plays with human intervention, and she always has the last word.

Tip of the Day: Black-and-white photography is a mainstay in art history. The masters are visual magicians at capturing and controlling tonal values. When a decision must be made whether to keep an image in color or convert to a grayscale, considerations very much depend on the  monochromatic tones. The goal is to impress our sensibilities. No one did it better than Ansel Adams (1902-1984). I continually revisit his work, because his ability to capture emotional resonance of the Western landscape astonishes. His work has a profound effect upon me, and his record of the monochrome gives the world a breathtaking archive of the majesty of the wild in the twentieth century. Visit his work here.

View other entries for this week’s challenge:

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 Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel). (Animals and Objects are themes.)

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week (31 March 2014 will be the first challenge for this new theme).

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Mobile Photography, Photography, Street Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Black and White (and Winter’s Waning and Spring’s Arrival)

  1. Icicles on leaves, a sight never to be seen over here. The black and white is stark, and I imagine the coldness of it 😉

  2. A perfect blending of one season’s passing and the others grand entry. Wonderful images!

  3. Su Leslie says:

    Hi Sally; I do love your icicles on leaves #2 shot. It’s so alien to any weather I’ve experienced I can hardly imagine being able to go out and photograph ice and snow. Here’s my take on the theme. Art again!

  4. Virginia Duran says:

    I really liked Icicles on Leaves! I am surprised to see what you do with just an iPhone!

  5. I really like “Leaf Street Graffiti” We get marks like that on our blacktop from time to time, but I have yet to get the photo of it that I would like.

  6. cindy knoke says:

    Fascinating! Thank you for posting!

  7. livvy30 says:

    Love the icicles!

  8. I like all of them, I like the textures.

  9. It’s interesting that the word phonography, without an e, has existed for a long time. I expect there’s little likelihood of confusion, especially since almost no younger people have ever used a phonograph. You can see the various usages of the older word at:

    • You read my mind. I was just about to look up its etymology. I do not know whether that was a typo in Tina’s suggestion, but the current usage is phoneography. Still, I was curious. Thanks for saving me the search.

  10. Tina Schell says:

    Hi Sally, Love what you’re doing with your challenge and my favorite of your photos is the last. As for the title, I think it’s very important to be crisp because the internet rewards short and to the point. What if you do this – use both a title and a subtitle. So your title would be something like Digital Device/Phonography Challenge, and your subtitle would be Using Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices as Your Lens. Just a thought!

    • Tina, thank you for giving the challenge title such thought. It’s such a tough call. Yes, I agree that brevity is important. It’s getting the correct balance for what needs to be expressed. While I like the concept of your suggestion, I’d like to do it “all” in the title. See you soon.

  11. aloha Sally.

    first up: titles.

    i notice (for me) a curious effect between the words “Non-SLR Digital Devices” and “Non-Traditional Digital Devices” in the titles. both have that “Non-” part yet one to me feels exclusive (excluding SLR Devices) where the other feels inclusive, even tho the same “Non-” part is there (inclusive of Non-Traditional Devices). to me the feel of inclusiveness is more inviting—to me, a currently participating member of this challenge, and i would think to prospective new members as well. SLRs including Digital SLRs have been around long enough that to me they do not fit into the Non-Traditional category. however if you have an info page to clarify and explain the mission and concept of the challenge in more detail than is required in each post, this could be emphasized on that page if it appeared to be necessary.

    i too like the word “Phoneography” and as you say it has become an accepted term and possibly at least on the periphery, i think it probably includes a little more than just phone cameras. so iPads, iPods etc. become included (as i see it).

    i also like your word “New” being involved with the challenge. that would allow at least some flexibility to include devices that have yet to come into use.

    so another thought to titling and title thinking:

    (4) Phoneography and New Non-Traditional Digital Devices Challenge

    that is my thinking and preference. however of the three you have given between those I would go with the first:

    1. Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Challenge


    second up: the images.

    of the snowstorm images, i like the 2nd. with the crosshatching effect/filter. i think it ads another layer of interest in this case. and has the feel or gives the idea, of snow falling. i like the first as well, i just like the 2nd a little more because of the added interest. i’m not sure about the reference to the neighbor being framed by the tree and shoveling snow and you “caught him in your sights” as this is not what is happening in the image—unless i’m missing something?? which could well be. . . . the neighbor may be why you took the photograph but it is not what is happening in the photograph. i hope that makes sense. regardless i like the photographs as they are.

    i like both icicles images. the shapes in each image being repetitive give the images a unity. maybe i like the first image slightly more than the second. i also like them because altho there is an abstract quality to them the image feels recognizable and clear to me. i may have to puzzle out what i’m actually looking at or i may not know, yet still, i feel like it is a clear image. the structures in themselves are appealing even when i do not know exactly what they are. i like that.

    i like the leaves in the street less than the other two. i like the idea of what you’ve photographed a lot and i’d like finding and seeing these. that would be extremely exciting. i’m not sure the images give a clear sense of this or what it is tho. that is why as an image it does not appeal to me as much as the other two. i have to depend on the description to become excited about the image.

    thank you again for your time and effort. i’m enjoying your challenge a lot. aloha.

  12. 5 and 6 are my favorite; I am a fan of nature’s random prints, especially captured in black and white. Lovely!

  13. basiga says:

    I love the Leaf Street Graffiti.
    “just the two of us” shot with myiPodTouch5 at the beach a few days ago. It was a real beach day, but not too many people around. Hope you like it! Have a great week!

  14. Trifocal says:

    ‘Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Challenge’ gets my vote.
    Purely as a picture 4 appealed most, but I will go with 6 just because, as you say, it is startling to see.
    I very much like Ansel Adams’ work too, but would also put in a vote (so to speak) for Edward Weston. The Aperture Monograph ‘The Flame of Recognition’ ed. Nancy Newhall has some wonderful examples of his photographs.

  15. Great images. They all have so much beautiful texture and patterns. My favourites tend to be the more abstract ones.

  16. FireBonnet says:

    I love the tree ones… the sketch is simply lovely… very peaceful. As for the title, I like #1… short is good, AND it is always good to show up on a web search.

  17. HansHB says:

    Great post, a lot of details to study closer!
    A lot of snow in Our parts of Norway this weekend, – 60cm!

  18. I love the icicles-very dramatic and bold-and the leaf graffiti is terrific-your work is so inspiring Sally-it really pushes me to take a good look at my world, particularly the natural world where there are all kinds of exciting possibilities waiting . . .

  19. Sally, I like your new #1 title suggestion because it is short and clear yet descriptive. Sometimes those late night thoughts can lead to good things. 🙂 From your photos #2 is my favorite, it really captures the feeling of being outside in a snowstorm.

  20. Amy says:

    Hi Sally, I especially love the two tree photos!

  21. After much deliberation I like icicles #4 because it seems to have its own natural boarder at the bottom.
    I have a copy of an Ansel Adams on my living room wall. Not the usual Yosemite image but of Sonoma County where I spend a lot of time. It works as an inspiration as well as a challenge.
    As far as tittles I like #1 keeping phoneography.

  22. Angeline M says:

    I love you photos today, Sally, especially the second one with tones and just the glimpse of your neighbor.
    Being very honest, I think things are getting too wrapped up on the title for the challenge, and being the rebel I am, I have always just titled mine “Phoneography Challenge” and the subject for the week…hope that doesn’t irk you, but to add all the rest is just too long, and I think cumbersome for a title. I’ll just go with whatever is decided to continue joining in each week if you’ll have me with my edited titles. If you’d rather I conform to the title as voted upon, please be frank with me. Maybe I just need to go have some more coffee. Thanks for listening.

    • Angeline, I do understand. Actually, your comment brought a smile. The point of the title is inclusion, and therefore not exclusion. So In trying to make it specific, it also should be as brief as possible. Currently, the brevity of your usage (Phoneography Challenge) works. But as the challenge will be including other digital (non-SLR) devices, that title no longer fits. You are free to do as you choose, just make sure that you link to my blog where it will be the full title. I want to attract more participants and this is one way to do it, but it’s also about being current. WE may be the only challenge that focuses on the span of digital devices used as a lens. That’s what I hope. Thanks so much.

      • Angeline M says:

        Thanks for understanding, Sally. Guess who got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I will of course always link back to your blog, and again thank you for managing this weekly challenge with so much thought and work to bring up tips and links to related subject matter.

      • My pleasure, and see you soon.

  23. Love these photos, Sally. I think I’m leaning more toward #2. It just seems to look like a detailed sketch. But I also really like the street graffiti! As for titles, I prefer the first one as it is short and to the point. To throw in a wrench, you could say “Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge” (or Photography Challenge)! 😉

  24. Excellent images Sally. I do love the high key look of the second one of the tree.

  25. My favorite is a toss up between #3 and 4, because they are more offbeat than 1/2 and 5/6.

  26. Gracie says:

    Love the second image, Sally. It resembles a graphic sketch on a piece of paper.

  27. I like the name of no.1, short and easy to remember 🙂

  28. "Occam Blade" says:

    #6: great texture and tonality….

  29. Dawn says:

    Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Challenge – short and sweet. I like this one.

    I am a big fan of leaf graffiti. It is available year round and there is something about it’s negative quality that I find so appealing.

  30. I LOVE (caps intentional) Ansel Adams’ work!! The fact that so much of what he did is in the part of the country I love the most is part of it. But the beauty he captures is the kind that goes deep into me and fills me with joy and peace. He’s an inspiration especially for B&W photography.

    I love your leaf graffiti, but my favorites are the second of the shoveling photos (the snow caught in it gives such a feeling in immediacy) and the second icicle photo (don’t ask why; I kept going back and forth and that’s the one that catches my attention each time.)

    As for titles, couldn’t we do something like “Phoneography Challenge: Using Non-SLR Digital Devices”? Yeah, I know; adding another idea. 🙂 Feel free to toss it if you like. I’m probably missing something that should be included for clarity, but that’s my deep phoneography thought for the morning.


    • Janet, I do appreciate your thought for the morning. The point of changing the title is to accommodate other digital technologies that are not SLR. Phoneography is just one such device, which is why the title needs an addition to it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have the new title for the next post. Yes, Ansel Adams was a master of landscape photography, and his work takes my breath away. While the landscape is the muse and the inspiration, it amazes the way he captured its essence. See you soon. Thanks.

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