Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Black and White (Spring Tree Blossoms)

20 April 2015


1. Spring Tree Blossom; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

1. White Star Magnolia Blossom; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Spring Tree Blossom; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. White Star Magnolia Blossom; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why. Click onto each image to enlarge.


The ephemeral and lyrical nature of spring tree blossoms are treasure troves that foreshadow and tantalize us with soft hues and floral designs. In many cases they appear prior to the leafing of branches.

The burst of spring blossoms fill the entire arboreal body, which catches us suddenly with a daze of splendor. We must fixate on them, because like a shooting star, their life span is short-lived. They are here and gone with urgency for the next stage of the nature’s performance.

The life cycle of a tree mirrors everything around it. This commonality is what makes the bond between nature and human nature easily profound. We are inextricably bound together in the sway of life.

Maybe that’s why spring calls us to its side. We are ready for the next step, the blossoming of the landscape, the rejuvenation of the visual universe, the juxtaposition of the new and old.

Certainly there have been years that steal blossoms’ thunder. A chilling frost dashes through the night, and takes their life and runs with it. Fruit trees are especially vulnerable, and such an incident can reduce production to little or none. But this year the steady climb in temps are working to the advantage of spring and summer crops. Blossoms are nearly done on early bloomers, and a sigh of relief goes charging through me.

The two images in the Lens section are examples of this fragility of spring blossoms. These were ever so delicate. Petals were like little wings that covered flower heads, and quickly became history. They seemed a perfect foil for the uncertainty of this season’s stick-to-it-ness, and moving to the next phase.

The sighting of some blossoms before the appearance of leaves are one of spring’s most precious gifts. We are treated to colors that have been vacant from the landscape. We are given a preview of what is yet to be. We are given hope.

Tip of the Week: Blossoms and spring’s arrival have me contemplating the metamorphosis of this photography challenge, which I started (with two other bloggers, and now am the sole force behind it; see its history here) in 2013. The challenge’s continual reinvention is on my mind, because I continually read about the evolution and transformation of photography: its exponential shifts with technological innovations.

Since photography’s introduction in the nineteenth century technology has fueled its ongoing redefinition. Still the human “touch” is the single most definitive mainstay that  keeps challenging the eye behind the lens.

In recent years Smartphones, iPads, iPods, digital apps, software, and other devices have brought new tools to the photographic toolkit. The surge in snapshots taken by the public is evident on, for example, Instagram. Also more serious photographers are using these devices (and social media) more and more, and using their professional cameras a bit less. This awareness of these changes inspires me to contemplate another name change for the challenge.

Before I discuss that further, let me introduce you to Greg Schmigel who is known for his black-and-white photography. He also is known as one of the first to consistently use his mobile phone as his main lens to take street photography. See more of his work here. I mention him, because he is often called a mobile photographer.

"Us vs. Them," Greg Schmigel

“Us vs. Them,” Greg Schmigel

My real dilemma is that mobile photography has never been the descriptor that I wanted to use in the title of this weekly challenge. In truth whether holding a traditional camera or a twenty-first-century digital device, that equipment is mobile. In my opinion photography is always about the individual’s vision behind the lens, and the tools are secondary to the results.

On the other hand I wanted to have a challenge that focuses on the use of new technology. Still, photography is photography. I keep wrestling with the title for the challenge, because the current one continues to be a bit awkward to me. It was a compromise, because it does focus on new digital devices as the lens (sans traditional SLR technology).

I’m not too fond of Mobile Photography as part of the title, and it’s controversial as to its real meaning and use. Here is a sample of what I have been toying with: Photography Challenge, No Camera Used. I’m not too fond of negatives in titles. But it’s closer to what I’d like to convey and shorter. I want the title to explain that the challenge is about the use of new devices (that is, non-traditional equipment and no traditional cameras) to still the moment.

I value your thoughts about the title and it’s been a year since the last change. Maybe we can put our heads together and devise a more suitable one. Let me know what you think.

View other entries from this week’s challenge:


As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo 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).

5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.

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

82 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Photo Challenge: Black and White (Spring Tree Blossoms)

  1. Madhu says:

    The pristine whiteness of the first wins for me Sally. Absolutely gorgeous!

  2. My favourite is the second photo. The magnolia looks like it’s gently unfolding.

  3. I like both the images of this post. They are quite different despite the similarities, one light and the other one darker. In the end I think I like them as a pair, almost as a diptych. As for what to call the use of cell phone technology, it’s really a hard one. We have discussed this before and you may remember I do like phoneography – even if it doesn’t cover all aspects. Of course – as you say – in the end photography is photography. Nevertheless it does make sense to create distinctions because even though the creative part may be the same, the technical part certainly isn’t.

    • Otto, it’s a conundrum to find the title that says what the challenge’s mission. The challenge is meant to “challenge” the participants to use non-traditional devices. Some use iPads, iPods and sometime even scanners. Phoneography only relates to Smartphones, which would exclude those other digital devices. It’s hard in a title to express that participants cannot use a traditional camera, which today is digital. Who knows what the future will bring into our photographic toolkit. I appreciate your thoughts about it. Thanks so much.

  4. elisa ruland says:

    The magnolias are beautiful. I prefer the first for the way the petals cascade, and how the shadows play in perfect harmony with the flower. Also, I read your thoughts about your title dilemma…I’m terrible at making a change and sticking to it, so I’m impressed with your commitment to making the right choice. Take your time, it will all fall into place!

  5. Maria F. says:

    Sally, I like these high key b&w’s very much!

  6. You’ve sparked an interesting discussion this week regarding titles and descriptions Sally. I don’t have a clear suggestion yet but will keep thinking about it over the next week and agree with the comments above encouraging the use of the word “mobile”. I frequently see the description “mobile devices” used to indicate smart phones, tablets, music players, e-readers and even small laptop computers. I’m looking forward to seeing which direction you chose. 🙂 Both photos are beautiful this week but I’m leaning toward #1 and the lovely, clear light on this perfect flower.

    • Lisa, I would very much like your suggestions. I need to be convinced that mobile applies. In reality as you know, the title is never set in gold. It seems to be evergreen with the evolution of photography. I think that is good; we need to respond to the current metamorphosis. Thanks so much.

  7. Truly superb photos, Sally. With expert processing, too. 🙂

  8. thirdeyemom says:

    I love the second one Sally and the gorgeous shadows and contrast ! How did you take the photo? Did you place the flower in a white table?

    • Nicole, I use natural light and white foam core. It’s simple and just watch the light. Thanks so much.

      • thirdeyemom says:

        Wow, that is fascinating. What is “what foam core”? Is that what you placed the flower on? I’m taking a photography class (I never have ever before!) and am learning how to get off the auto settings of my camera. It is so much fun but will take me a lot of time to learn it.

      • First, it’s terrific that you are diving into a photography class. Foam core is a material that comes in various sizes, and is found in art stores as well as arts and crafts stores. It is used for numerous projects as well as a layer between materials to protect them such as a photograph. It comes in black and white. I use it all the time for background and foundation for subjects. I also use it as a packing material. Hope that helps.

      • thirdeyemom says:

        Thanks Sally! Yes the class went well. Now I need to get outside and practice yet I’m finding it much harder than I thought. It will take a long time to master the settings but it will be worth it! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know about the foam core!

  9. LavendarLadi says:

    Developing outside the box: Non-traditional camera photo challenge

    I was thinking about how photography (and your challenge) is growing. A synonom for grow is develop… which I thought was a cute play on words since the ‘old’ photos had to be developed for us to see them.

    There’s lots of other good suggestions. I’m sure one will just pop out at you.

  10. Gallivanta says:

    Not sure why, but the first photo appeals the most to me. Perhaps the sense that it is opening up to light. As for the title, would you consider something snappy (oops, unintended pun). For example I really like the BBC’s use of Click for its technology programme. After the title you could have a short explanation in the main body of the post. Here is my goofy example. SNAPPIT; a photography challenge where we ask you to use the camera, apps and editing tools on your mobile device to create themed weekly submissions….something along those lines. 🙂

  11. Lignum Draco says:

    It’s taken me a while to think about a title to help you. How about “Smart Device” Photography.

    • I appreciate you thinking about the title. Since some participants use iPads and iPods, your suggestion eliminates them. People associate “smart” with cellphones. Your title is a good effort. Maybe you can keep in mind that people use more devices than phones. Many, many thanks.

      • Lignum Draco says:

        No problem, but you may be influenced by your own definition of the term . The wikipedia definition of “smart device” specifically iincludes the iPad/tablets and google image search for smart device includes tablets, amongst others.
        But if I can think of another term, I’ll get back to you.

      • Again I appreciate that you are thinking about the title and its meaning to the reader and the content of the challenge. While I do like what you have suggested, I do not think that most will understand. Even with an initial explanation, people read the title and make assumptions. Naturally, I want the title to be able to stand boldly on its own. I send you my deep appreciation for your effort.

  12. Archita says:

    Magnolias. They are favorite. I loved both the pictures- but the first one a little bit more. 🙂

  13. Lovely photos. I prefer the first for the clarity of the flower and the softness of the shadows! As for your proposed new title — I like it! Have a wonderful week! 🙂

    • Linda, which title do you like? Thanks.

      • Titles are tough! I was referring to your suggestion of “Photography Challenge, No Camera Used”. I understand your reluctance with the negative but I liked this suggested title because I don’t think of it as a negative but more as a play on words. When I think of photography, I always equate it with a camera (whether it be DSLR or smartphone, iPad, etc.). So it caught my attention of hmm, photography without a camera. I think my typing the words might be losing something in trying to translate my thoughts! 🙂

      • Linda, keep thinking about what you have said on the subject of titles. Indeed, it is a constant dilemma to make a title short and to the point and draw people into the content.

  14. Tish Farrell says:

    I don’t have a phone, only p and s digital cameras, so what about using ‘point and shoot’ in the challenge title which would apply to phones and little digitals but not to SLRs?? Love magnolia 2 best.

    • Tish, a point and shoot is a camera in the traditional sense. It looks like a camera and while it may not be a SLR, it is most certainly a camera. This challenge is about those devices that are not cameras, but happen to have a lens inside them. They were never intended to be such a universally accepted instrument for stilling time. The success of the Smartphone, iPad and iPod as a tool to create art is about the creative process and our ability to reimagine and reinvent. I want the challenge to move beyond the iPhoneography and Phoneography and Smartphone descriptors yet still stand for the forces of twenty-first-century technology. Hope that satisfies you about the use of point and shoot cameras in the challenge.

  15. So soft and delicate. I think I prefer the first one – softer shadows

  16. Suzanne says:

    These are beautiful photos Sally. I struggled to pick a favourite as they are both so delicate and look like they have just might momentarily be blown across the photographer’s line of vision. I eventually decided on the second one as I think it is a stronger composition.

  17. Su Leslie says:

    Hi Sally; two great shot as always. Difficult to choose a preference, but maybe the second because there is more contrast, and a little more mystery. Here’s my contribution for the week:

  18. Sue says:

    I love the fragility, the delicate petals of the first …

  19. PedalWORKS says:

    I can’t choose. They are both beautiful.

  20. Steve says:

    Great photos Sally – here’s mine Capturing The Moment Capturing The Moment… | Steve Says…

  21. Nato says:

    I favor the shadows in the second a bit more. It just draws me in. I see there are some great suggested names above! I will have to ponder more now as I can only think of those…. Here is my submission for this week:

  22. Angeline M says:

    Sally, the link to Greg Schmigel doesn’t work. I did find him on Instagram by name. Great work!

  23. Angeline M says:

    Good morning, Sally. Your photos are beautiful and do inspire the feeling of spring renewal. I prefer the second photo with it’s shadings that seem to lend more warmth.
    In names for any challenge/post, I favor brevity for ease of use and remembering it. I think I have to go along with Allan’s idea of Mobile Device Photo Challenge.

  24. Good day, Sally! These photos are enchanting in monochrome. The depth of the shadow in the second one is stunning. And I love the simplicity and sophistication of the first one, which is my favorite.
    Now the name. It is difficult to name a challenge based on technology that changes as we speak. What is traditional? I confess that in the beginning I thought I could use a compact and also the mirrorless cameras, for not being DSLR.
    My two cents opinion is to use the mainstream jargon. Some options:
    Mobile photo challenge.
    Smartphone challenge or Smartphone photo challenge
    Smartphotography challenge

    I’ll think a bit more…
    Cheers, and thanks for a lovely post.

  25. DG MARYOGA says:

    I have a weakness for the wondrous magnolia flower,and you have so aptly captured its uncompromising purity! I particularly like the first one,where its ‘immaculate’ white pevails!
    Have a brilliant day, Sally dear 🙂 xxx

  26. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Hi Sally,
    I love your photos this week and the second one really captures my interest. I think that the subtle addition of darker shadows puts it over the top for me.

    If I may weigh-in on your title angst: Would something like “Sally’s Mobile Device Photo Challenge” work? I think that it would be inclusive—iPhone, iPod, iPad, Droid, etc.— and by definition rule out SLRs and DSLRs. I look at the iPhone camera as the “Box Brownie” camera of the 21st Century. It is compact, inexpensive to use and it is what we have with us on a consistent basis.

    As for the iPhoneography/Mobile Art dilemma: Does it really matter if some of the editing is done with a desktop app vs. mobile apps only? I get the sense that you are primarily interested in the photos that people are taking with their Smartdevice, which may or not be edited further.

    Your weekly photo challenges are a great chance for us to grow and experiment no matter what they are called. Thank you and good luck. Ω

    • Allan, I adore your response to the question of title for the challenge. I am most assuredly not interested only in images taken with Smartphones. I say that because there are other digital devices that give the same possibilities to the user. And I agree with you that it matters not where the editing is done, which always frustrates me with the purist iPhoneographer. To be honest I never considered using my name in the title. I have to admit that your title does ring with all the components, especially because the idea of mobile is just going to escalate in future innovations. Right now yours has moved to the top of my list. Thanks so much for your ideas.

  27. milai says:

    I prefer the first one because the lines and shadows look so crisp and real.

    I like your proposed title. Perhaps we can add the word traditional e.g. Photography Challenge, No Traditional Camera Used. 🙂

    • Good morning, I appreciate that you added a title, and will put it on the list. To be honest, it’s a tough one, because I’d like to stay positive and using non- or no always rub me the wrong way. Still your title can work for many reasons. BUT it’s hard to determine a way to make a short title and define the challenge and not use non- or no. Additionally, last time that I changed the title, the question of what is traditional surfaced. In 2015 I think that a DSLR camera is now traditional, which is why I use Non-SLR in the title now. I hope that you will return to the conversation, because I truly appreciate your opinion. Again thanks.

      • milai says:

        Good evening from my part of the world. Sure, will read through the thread again tomorrow.

        I thought of adding traditional because No Camera Used seems vague, but you’re right. We then have to define what a traditional camera is. Plus, there’s the word no. Hopefully we’ll have more suggestions soon. 🙂

      • I’m delighted that you will return tomorrow to see the responses.

  28. fgassette says:

    I love the second one the best. Simply beautiful!


  29. Love the second one. The depth of the shadow draws me to it. We have a tree in the back of our condo — a White Star Star Magnolia — that reminds me of these pics. Lovely. But you’re right — ephemeral blooms.

  30. The issue of the pesky title raises its head again. Perhaps this time we’ll come up with something different and perfect. 🙂 “Non-traditional camera photography challenge.” “Alternative camera photography challenge” “Through non-traditional lens: a photography challenge.”

    This week I prefer the first. There’s just enough delicate contrast to see the fragility of the blossom with the bit of darker contrast with the shadows and the stem. The contrast in the second is too stark for my tastes, at least this morning.

    Have a marvelous week, Sally, and all readers of this wonderful blog.


    • Janet, you’ve created some titles that can work. I like using Photography Challenge in the beginning of the title, because it’s the first thing that people read. How about a play on your last one: Photography Challenge Using Alternative Non-Tradtional Cameras. I’ll start a list of suggestions, and we’ll bat them around for a few weeks and see the results. I am grateful for your thoughts on this subject, and at this early hour you were so mindfully productive. Cheers and thanks.

  31. LavendarLadi says:

    I can’t pick this week. Both photos have such a graceful air about them.

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