Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Challenger’s Choice (Still Life with American Willow and Eastern Redbud)

27 April 2015


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

1. American Willow; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Eastern Redbud; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

2. Eastern Redbud; Copyright © 2015 Sally W. Donatello All Rights Reserved/Lens and Pens by Sally

Let me know which you prefer and why. I encourage you to click onto each image to enlarge.


A sunny, brisk spring day led me to the university’s botanical gardens where I was ready to see willow in bloom. Fortunately, I spied the last of the American willow (Salix discolor) buds. These early spring gems are also known as pussy willows–willows whose buds are small furry catkins and become grayish, yellow and not quite flower-like. April is their finale, and I caught the very last branch of these showy treasures. In the Lens section is the few buds that were left for my viewing.  Their unusual design seems to be an apt way to draw human nature to them.

As I walked to discover more of the season’s unveiling, the native Eastern redbud stood before me. The second image shows the “The Rising Sun” variety, and it’s easy to see its resemblance to the Pea family. Those miniature flowers are sweet lures in hues and shapes.

I’ve been experimenting with high key photography where the subject is rendered starkly or softly against a white, white backdrop. This effect often renders an ethereal sensibility. This effect also eliminates obvious shadows and emphasizes bright light to boost the appearance of the subject. During the last two weeks I have shown other high key photographs in the Lens section.  You can return to them on my Homepage by scrolling down to 20 April and 13 April.

High key is mostly about light that reduces elements in the background. Natural light is my choice, but indoor studio or inexpensive lighting can be as successful for this technique. And it can be achieved with one or more lights.

"High Key Cheetah" by Michael Schimczik

“High Key Cheetah” by Michael Schimczik

My first image of the willow was taken as the wind became fierce, and made for a blurry image that suited high key. The image of the redbud found the air quiet and the branch undisturbed, giving a clearer showing of these spring flowers.

In each image the high key helps to focus on the subject: those gorgeous jewels of spring that we’ve waited too long to savor. Now those early bloomers have retreated, and the move toward the next round of flowers is upon us: tulips to be sure are starting to show their flower heads. And much much more is yet to reveal itself on the spring landscape.  Then every flower, every cluster of unfurling leaves can have its moments of ephemeral fame.

Tip of the Week:

If you are interested in high key photography, see the following video from YouTube. It provides a brief lesson on “High Key Photography on a Budget.” Click here to view the 5:08-minute video by The Lighting Guy.

The proposed title change and its conversation continues:

As you may have read in last week’s post, the title of this challenge is an evergreen phenomenon. Once again it wants to redefine itself, and I am at its mercy.

My thanks to everyone who made suggestions last week about the next title change. As I read about the current state of photography, many individuals and websites are steering away from the use of iPhoneography and Phoneography. “Mobile” camera devices such as Smartphones, iPads, and iPods have progressed to a tipping point where those monikers are being eliminated. Still, I want this challenge to differentiate itself from others, which is why it has to have a slight twist on the usual photo challenges. I hope that you agree.

Here are other suggestions that I have synthesized from your thoughts. We need to continue the conversation, and I hope that you will give me your opinion about these variations on previous themes. Until the sense of the new title seems consistent with the current philosophy about photography and our photo community tosses in their ideas, this conversation will strive to create a title that reflects today’s philosophy about photography. I believe that the challenge is about: self-expression, self-exploration, connecting with others, and curating a dialogue. My proposed titles are:

Photography Challenge, Using Camera Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Lens.

Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Lens

Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Camera 

Click here for the history of the challenge. Let me know what you think, and PLEASE continue to send me your ideas.

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.

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60 Responses to Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Challenger’s Choice (Still Life with American Willow and Eastern Redbud)

  1. Pingback: Mark Barker and 10 more Street Shots | priorhouse blog

  2. joshi daniel says:

    The second picture is so colourful and beautiful 🙂

  3. Madhu says:

    I like the shadows and the textures of the willow as well. Beautiful shots both Sally. Thank you for the tips on High key photography and the link.

  4. phb2003 says:

    Sally – the title I like from the 3 is “Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Lens” but it is a tie with the pics – I like the shadow in the first and the color in the second – and now I am going to check out the video link you gave – sounds interesting…

  5. Sally, thank you for the introduction to high-key photography I’ll be sure to watch the link and take notes. Your two photo choices are beautiful and the lovely colors of the redbud really catch my eye this week. As for your title discussion I am leaning toward the third one on your list an look forward to hearing your thoughts next week.

  6. I do like them both, Sally. I like the color of the second one but I’m partial to the first one. It’s nostalgic for me as I used to see the willows all the time growing up and loved them! Of the three titles listed above, I personally prefer “Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Lens.”

  7. Hello Sally, good day.
    I posted only today and hope you don’t mind. I have been offline and also without a smartphone. Long story on the incompatibility of water and phones..;-)
    As to your photos, I like both. The high key effect worked perfectly for both compositions. Love them both.
    Thanks for sharing the link.
    Coming back to the name of the challenge, I would like to bring another word into the analysis.
    And that is PHABLET.

    “A phablet is a class of a mobile device designed to combine or straddle the form of a smartphone and a tablet. The word phablet is a portmanteau of the words phone and tablet.”

    This was a suggestion from my friend and blogger Desley Jane, from Musings of a Frequent Flying Scientist.

    If you would use this word, most people would know what you are talking about.
    My vote goes for:
    Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Lens
    Photography Challenge, Using Phablets as Your Lens


    • Lucile, I’ve never heard of that combination of digital devices to form the portmanteau. Thanks for the introduction. I will do a bit of research on it. I will add your votes to my tally. Also, will bring up your suggestion on next week’s post. I am wondering how many people do know about it. It certainly is a new one for me. Thanks so much.

  8. lumar1298 says:

    I like them both, but despite liking color, the willow seems mysterious to me…

  9. Pingback: Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge: Challenger’s Choice–Architecture | Pilot Fish

  10. Angeline M says:

    I love the Redbud photo the most; the buds are so artfully arranged on the stem, and the color is lovely.
    My vote for the new title of this blog is for the last one you list, Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as your camera. My reason is twofold; one, the use of the word photography, which is what we are doing, and secondly, the use of the word camera. My opinion of Allan’s idea is that this is good, but only if you add your last name, and not just use your first; a full name lends gravitas to your blog.

    • Angeline, I agree about the use of photography. I do not believe that “photo” has the same weight. I’m ambivalent about using my name, because it adds more words. Your comment does make a strong argument for its use. I’m a bit worried about the length. Maybe I need to let that go.

  11. Amy says:

    I like the first one especially. Thank you for introducing the high key photography, fascinating! Lighting does made a great difference. Here is my entry for this week:

  12. Suzanne says:

    Both these photos are terrific and I like the second name in your list for a blog title. Here’s my contribution to the challenge

  13. Su Leslie says:

    Hi Sally. I love the simplicity and contrast of both images. My preference for the second is all about the glorious “pop” of colour. Here’s my contribution for the week:

  14. High key is indeed a way of expression an ethereal atmosphere. Although I don’t often use it myself, I do love high key photos. As your two examples here, both are lovely.

  15. These are among two of my favorite spring blooms- I particularly liked the redbud with the beautiful color.

  16. Maria F. says:

    Sally, I really like this simple style you’ve been using lately of isolating these flowering branches. I like all of them.

  17. They are both great photos but i do love the willow with that spot of colour.

  18. pattimoed says:

    Hi Sally. Happy Monday. Both those shots are lovely. Striking. I love the high key video too. How did you create the white background when you were shooting outside? As for the title of the challenge, my vote is: Photography Challenge, Using Phones and Mobile Devices as Your Camera. Have a great week–Patti

  19. Allan G. Smorra says:

    In response to your request for input about changing the title of your blog, and so that others can follow our previous conversation, I submit this observation of mine:

    Back in the early 70s I worked at Hayden Electric. The owner, Bruce, was a very smart businessman and a good guy to work for.

    He and I were on our way to look over a job one day when he shared with me his view of being in business: Put your name on the front door. Let your customers know that you stand behind your work.

    As far as using your first name in the title: it is not about ego. It is your brand, your challenge. It is how we find you in the blogosphere. I put the title out there for you to see it through someone else’s eyes (mine).

    This is not a heavy-handed attempt to name your creation. Out of respect to you, I will edit my title if you so desire.

    Thanks for the opportunity to participate in your weekly event. —Allan

  20. PedalWORKS says:

    I prefer the willow. It says soft.

  21. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Sally, I like both of your images today and the color of the second one really resonates today. I spend a lot of time in the shadows and dim light, so thanks for the reminder to make use of high key lighting. Ω

  22. The Eastern Redbud is gorgeous! I love its vivid colour. Brilliant capture, Sally!

    I like your second proposed title.

  23. LavendarLadi says:

    Happy Monday. I like pussy willows. The textures and shadows makes me feels as if I could reach out and touch it.
    I like the third title. It’s straight forward and to the point.
    Now off to ponder what I’m going to share today.

  24. DG MARYOGA says:

    Both are beautiful for different reasons, dear Sally! I’ll go for the first one, I love those little fluffy pompons that symmetrically grow on the leafless branches. Enjoy your day 🙂 xxx pom pomps

  25. A good spring morning to you, Sally. I’m just ready to drive to the park for my morning walk and observe what’s happened there since Friday morning. I like both of your shots this week very much. The softness of the willow and the color of the redbud are both appealing to me. I’ll muse on the possible title choices after I walk. 🙂

    Have a wonderful week,


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