Visual storytelling via VSCO Grid

Just got my VSCO Grid, the free minimalist publishing platform directly integrated into the new VSCO Cam app, that’s currently on a scaled deployment. Visual Supply Co, the company behind this and other creativity tools, is quick to note that VSCO Grid is not a social network – no followers, likes, or comments – instead it’s focused on craft, curation, and content, and therefore not competing with Instagram. And that should differentiate its service for showcasing mobile photography.  

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I have yet to upload more snapshots (most have been posted in Instagram) but I intend to fill my VSCO Grid with a unique set of visual stories.

Magic hour, golden sunset

Last week, what my wife and I intended as a quick getaway to Marinduque to attend a wedding, turned out to be an extended, stay-where-you-are vacation, the day after witnessing a golden sunset past the magic hour, that got spoiled when typhoon Gorio moved across the Philippines, with public storm warnings causing the cancellation of sea travel until Sunday evening. In short, we got stranded.

The bipolar weather of rain showers and sunshine in between, forced us to stay indoors for about two days. With power outages (though the huge house we stayed in had a generator running), intermittent Internet connection, and weak to dead signal on our mobile phones, our digital personalities kind of taken the days off. Stranded and offline (and running out of clothes), we took the opportunity to do things without our gadgets – spend hours talking about anything and everything!

We prayed for and was blessed with a magical, golden sunset for a blissful wedding, while we’re of course not expecting to get stranded in an island, being off the grid even for a while, surely made it an unforgettable misadventure.

Phoneography Review: the Nokia Lumia 720

It’s been a while since I last held a Nokia phone (the first mobile phone I ever owned was an Islacom-issued Nokia brick) and I was almost happy keeping the buggy but workhorse of a smartphone at the time, the N95, before I finally gave it up for an iPhone 3G when it was released locally. And with mobile photography, while it’s either iOS or Android that has become the popular platform/device of choice, I think it’s never too late for Nokia’s Lumia, powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, to join the race. I was hoping to get my hands on a Nokia Lumia 920, but when the opportunity to review the mid-range 720 presented itself, I couldn’t resist giving it a phoneography spin. 

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There’s a reason the Nokia Lumia 720 is known as the mid-range standout – it’s loaded with the right mix of specs and features – and it’s easily affordable. I agree that this is the perfect phone for the chic and social, it’s eye-catching you’ll stand out from the selfie-camphone-snapping crowd.

I had a short and sweet 2-week affair with the Nokia Lumia 720. While it took time to boot up and initialize settings the first time I turned it on, you can use it right out of the box. I’m liking its unique unibody design, that’s matte polycarbonate in white, and the colors the screen capably displays are crisp and vibrant. As with my first impression of Android, it took me a while getting used to Windows Phone 8’s metro-inspired interface, but I did enjoy Live Tiles – a configurable home screen with tiles that turn with realtime updates – it’s simply wonderful.

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The monoblock Nokia Lumia 720 is of course bigger compared to the iPhone 5, what with its 4.3” Corning Gorilla Glass 2 touchscreen, but with the advantage of a super-sensitive touch feature that let’s you tap on the screen even with gloves on, that remains bright and visible even under direct sunlight.

Snapping photos with the Nokia Lumia 720 is quick and easy, pressing a dedicated button activates the 6.7-megapixel camera – that’s Carl Zeiss Tessar optics with a wide-angle lens that works well in low light – and you have almost the entire screen as your viewfinder. The rear camera has an aperture of f/1.9 and a focal length of 26mm and a minimum range of 10cm, with a 2-stage capture key for auto focus, while the front camera snaps wide and in HD, albeit 1.3 megapixels.  The main camera on the Nokia Lumia 720 allows manual control of exposure and white balance – that’s a biggie – and the add-on lenses complement the already feature-rich snap-shooter. 

I used the Nokia Lumia 720 as our only camera on one of our summer outings and the battery outlasted the whole trip, producing snapshots that are sharp and vivid, friends thought they’re snapped with my iPhone 5!

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As expected, there are only a few photography apps in the Windows Phone Store, save for some collections that were developed by Nokia, which are actually very good. There are two apps though that I really liked, with the look and feel that’s familiar to Instagram’ers and phoneographers, being one myself.

#2InstaWithLove is like petitioning for Instagram to release a version for the Windows Phone using your photos. It lets you snap a photo then apply a classic polaroid filter, adding the hashtag #2InstaWithLove automatically when the photo is shared to social networks. With the many creative output from the Windows Phone community, I sure hope Instagram listens.

Lomogram almost made it look like I’m using an iOS app, it’s a photo editing app with over 40 filters, including borders and light effects, that may be mixed and matched to your liking. If you want to give your photos that instant or retro look, then this app will do.

I wish I had more time to explore apps, but I used the native camera app in snap-shooting most of the time, in the entire 2 weeks the review unit was with me. Here’s a collage of unedited snapshots I took with the Nokia Lumia 720.

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The Nokia Lumia 720 works really well in typical snap-shooting and lighting conditions. I couldn’t use it for rapid (or burst) snapping (there’s a Smart Shoot feature though), probably because of the half-press-focus mechanism. While the LED flash is good, use it sparingly, and the 4x zoom falls short of being helpful, you might as well use your “foot lens” and get as near to your subject as you possibly can. Focusing real close isn’t exactly easy, but I had fun using it for macro shots of flowers, and the photos are awesome. And that selfie turned out good thanks to its powerful front camera.

For phoneography, the Nokia Lumia 720 is indeed a mid-range winner. It’s affordable (below the 15k price range locally) and well-specced for its category, available in bold colors that will surely make heads turn.

Learn more about the Nokia Lumia 720. See the rest of the unedited snapshots here. Join Phoneography Philippines on Flickr.

Instagram 4.0 features Video on Instagram

In a press event Thursday, Facebook announced a new way of sharing visual stories called Video on Instagram – which has been rumored as a response to Twitter’s Vine, to rival its growing popularity as the social network go-to for short video loops – released today via Instagram 4.0, differentiating its service by going beyond the 6-second limit, with a new movie camera icon that allows you to record 15-second videos that play once, and as expected, 13 unique filters to choose from, and a stabilization feature called Cinema.

Filter is applied after you snap the video and you can choose a particular scene as the cover image, to keep your Instagram feed looking visually interesting. It’s now available for iOS and Android, but sadly, there’s still no news of a version for Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

With this update, visual storytelling is no longer limited to still images, but will this new video-snaps make Instagram’ing more fun?

Daddy doodles

I love it when my kids surprise me with hand-drawn posters or cards with scribbled greetings as gift on special occasions. Such as this birthday gift - Kurt’s doodled interpretation of what has recently become my daily routine – from mornings spent on the couch with my coffee mug and as if gesturing non-stop on my iPhone or iPad for a variety of social tasks, to figuring out how to spend most of my waking hours productively at work while keeping up with the usual homebody me, hoping to fall in love over and over again with replayed shows on cable television.

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No, I don’t have a bejeweled crown or keep a golden scepter (funny that they think I’m always dressed up) but it really is heartwarming and priceless (that no expensive gifts can ever match) to know the kids consider me to be a topnotch dad.

Voting out loud starts tonight!

Me and my fellow IGersManila moderators Ed Calaycay and Petim Maminta will be at Cabana Club in Resorts World Manila for Globe Tattoo’s official announcement of finalists for this year’s TattAwards. Already on its third year, TattAwards is the only award-giving body that recognizes Filipino online ingenuity – aimed at discovering creatively passionate individuals who use social media to speak out and make a difference.

Tonight, we’ll find out who made the cut to the phenom shortlist, so vote out loud later and keep the good vibes rolling!

Mabuhay Pilipinas!

Today we commemorate the Philippine Declaration of Independence on 12-June-1898. While it’s a national holiday and most of us have no work (probably vacationing or staycationing), let’s not forget we’re celebrating 115 years of independence from Spanish colonial rule, that pave way to the many freedoms we Filipinos are enjoying at present.

Join us tonight at 9:00PM (PHT) as IGersManila continue its week-long celebration of our sovereign Filipino culture, beliefs, culture, and arts on Instagram with #IGersManila #9pmhabit #MabuhayPilipinas by sharing visual stories that highlight Philippine national colors of red, yellow, blue and white. Cheers to freedom and keep the good vibes rolling!

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Above, Quezon City Memorial Circle, snapped with iPhone 4S and edited with Snapseed, via @CCLozano.

iPhoneography with the new iOS 7

So Apple has finally unveiled iOS 7, proclaimed by its top honchos as “the most significant iOS update since the original iPhone” confirming rumors of its departure from skeuomorphic styling, in favor of a somewhat simplistic and flat redesign, completely changing the user interface. While this is a welcome aesthetic change, some of the features being hailed as new, have been integrated way ahead with other mobile platforms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with my iPhone and no software hiccup can make me give it up, but there’s always this appetite that only Apple can whet with exciting and breakthrough surprises, and the WWDC 2013 announcement of iOS 7 seem to be just that, flat. Anyway, I’m all for a clean look and feel, already I’m liking the distinct color palette and that fancy subtle motion and layering, but it’s really the new Camera app that I’m curious about.

This is how you’re camera will look like in iOS 7. Impressed?

Excerpt (and image) from Apple:

iPhones are used to take more photos around the world every day than any other camera, and with iOS 7 the new Camera app features filters so you can add real-time photo effects. The Camera app now includes a square camera option, and you can quickly and easily switch between your four cameras—video, photo, square and panorama—with just a swipe.

With a camera that’s already very impressive (at least in the iPhone 4/4S/5) I smell Instagram’ing influence with this update, so Apple has given in to square framing and filters – hurrah for the insta-retro-artsy. And why not? It spawned its own brand of photography, what we now call iPhoneography (or simply phoneography as a general term to include all mobile devices with camera). Should I complain that these too-basic of features are not included in previous/recent iOS versions? No, because there’s been a bunch of apps for that.

I will not be surprised if this new Camera app solidifies the iPhone’s top ranking as camera of choice, as with the iOS 7, snapping square photos and applying photo effects will now be a tap or gesture away. Instagram’ing will definitely be more fun and easy.

But we’ll have to wait until around September this year, when iOS 7 is set to be released, to give it a proper Instagram’ing and iPhoneography spin.

Instagram’ing for a Samsung Galaxy S4!

Are you an Instagram’er? Then snapping, editing, and sharing photos might just get you a chance at winning a Samsung Galaxy S4 from Globe Postpaid. The contest is open to anyone with an Instagram account, and runs from June 11 to 14, 2013. This makes Instagram’ing more fun and exciting as Globe will be giving away one (1) Samsung Galaxy S4 daily for the next four days!

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To join, simply follow these mechanics:

  • Post a photo on Instagram showing a vision board/photo collage of your best plans (career, travel/vacation, party, date, proposal, etc.) in the next 6, 12, 18 or 24 months.
  • Include a brief caption explaining the photo collage, how flexible that plan is, and how you can take full control; just like MySUPERPLAN’s flexible contract period options!
  • Share your posts on Twitter using Instagram’s in-app “Share Photo” feature.
  • Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@enjoyGLOBE) and tag your posts with #BestPlanEver.
  • The most creative photo will win a Samsung Galaxy S4.

Follow @CCLozano on Instagram and join IGersManila Philippines, the global community for Filipino Instagram’ers. Keep the good vibes rolling!