Mobile Photography & Why I Love It

I love taking pictures.

Ever since I was a kid, my entire family has been all about capturing moments in time through photography. It didn’t matter if we were making a stupid face or if there was too much flash. What mattered was that the moment was captured for us to relive at a future date.

When Instagram first came out, I was skeptical. I didn’t see the need for yet another social site that only shared photos, when I had Twitter, and its image hosting site, Twitpic. Yet, when it was finally released for Android, I immediately downloaded it, and then never used it.

I used to have a bad habit of doing that. Signing up or downloading the latest app or social platform, and then never using it because I am so comfortable with what I currently have. I finally decided to give Instagram a try close to two years ago, and my life immediately changed.

I was hooked.

At first, the site was populated by overly processed images of food, celebrities, and yourself, and to a certain degree, it’s still very much like that (if you go to the Explore page). There weren’t high-quality images like the ones you’d see on Flickr or 500px anywhere, but that wasn’t the point. Initially, it wasn’t about the pictures, it was simply about the sharing.

When I first started to use Instagram though, the platform was going through a bit of a shift. I started to follow people I didn’t know, and saw that they were posting insanely high-quality images. I instantly thought that they were using a DSLR, which is cheating and circumventing the instant-sharing aspect of the platform, but I was okay with it because the images were phenomenal. What blew me away was the fact that there were people out there using nothing more than the tiny digital cameras on the backs of their phones to take beautiful photographs.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

And I suppose that’s why I like the idea of mobile photography so much. It’s instant. You take what you see, and you share it. The best part about it is that you can post whenever, from wherever. While Twitter is relegated mostly to text and links, and Facebook and Google+ are meandering, trying to find their way back home, Instagram is pure. There isn't the social obligation to follow all of your friends, but rather, you get to follow all sorts of interesting people from all over the world.

As film-maker Casey Neistat said in his 2012 YouTube film,

“The magic of Instagram is that you get to peer into the lives of really interesting people.”

However, given the chance to help change and improve the platform and ideas behind mobile photography, these are the two things I’d love to change:

We know what your face looks like. There no reason to have a wall of JUST your face. Instagram, and mobile photography in general, is all about sharing the world around you. Leave the selfies to other sites like Facebook.
Go easy with the hashtags, or at the very least, make the relevant to the image. If your posting a picture of a sunset, there’s no need to have the hashtag #ootd just to get views and likes. That dilutes what makes Instagram so good.
Instagram has become all about sharing stories through high-quality photographs. It’s given me the chance to explore the world through the eyes of people I both know and do not know, and has pushed me to take more creative and inspiring photographs. What I find most interesting, however, is how you can tell how much a person has changed just by looking at their photographs, and what they choose to share.

If you’re even remotely interested in taking pictures, now is as good a time as ever to start. I highly recommend Instagram and VSCO as both platforms and excellent post-processing tools. If you’re looking for amazing photography peripherals, check out Photojojo. And if you’re already on Instagram, feel free to give my page a look @tapaseaswar.


Facebook Buys Oculus Rift for $2 Billion

Facebook bought the Oculus Rift VR company for a cool $2 billion today. With that came a few immediate and visceral reactions, the most prominent being, "Facebook ruins everything!" which isn't entirely untrue.

However, the purchase could be beneficial, and just might spur the right amount of competition we so badly need.

Think of it this way; Facebook has never been particularly shy about wanting to be the dominant player in the IM market. Their recent purchase of WhatsApp only served to further that notion. With Oculus, Facebook can do three things. The first is step away from their Zynga days of casual, social gaming, and make their first steps into real, console level gaming. No longer will you just have trophies and achievements to unlock and compete against - gaming will happen with real-time news feed updates. And this will only be possible if Facebook forces the player to login in through Facebook in order to connect and communicate with other gamers.

The second is taking the IM idea one step further. Facebook Messenger is already cross-platform, so having it extend into the world of VR gaming seems like a natural extension. Imagine Chat Heads inside games. You won't have to pause, find the message, respond, and then unpause. Chat Heads would work in game as they do on our mobile devices. Forcing players to use Facebook Messenger would be similar to Google forcing it's Google+ service into every Google application.

The third and final, and what I think is the most interesting idea, is that Facebook could take the Oculus Rift VR technology and turn it into a Google Glass competitor. Right now, in the new wearable market, Google has the strongest, and only, foothold on glass-type wearables. The Oculus could provide Facebook with enough traction to push out the perfect Facebook hardware. Facebook has never had a successful smartphone, but they just might work out in the wearables. Imagine Facebook Home, but through glass. It would essentially be the spiritual successor to the augmented reality app, Layar, and once again, would have deep Facebook Messenger integration built right into it.

There is a flip-side to this, and that's Facebook is dipping it's resources into too many different fields without really perfecting any of them. Their design aesthetic is constantly changing, and many of the products are revealed, quickly adopted, and just as quickly abandoned. That, and games could be so inundated with ads, that the platform is dropped entirely as players leave in droves. 

Facebook could be going the way of Apple in the 90s, before Jobs took the helm again, and MySpace in the mid 00s. Unless Facebook is able to make this $2 Billion purchase work out for them, we might not have a viable future of VR.

While I don't trust Facebook with any of my personal information, the social giant is trying to expand in a way not to dissimilar to Google, and the acquisition of Oculus Rift is a step into huge new territory for them.


Stay Focused

What would you do if you weren’t so afraid? What would I do?

I’d read.

Right now, as I try and type this out, I’m stuck in an endless loop of Gmail, Twitter, and Reddit. As soon as I get bored of something, I fireup either the webpage or app (depending on how close I am to my computer) and browse until I get bored again. And then I move onto the next one, and the next one. As I try and write this, I’m already thinking of finding the next big post to up-vote, or the next message to read and reply to. I’m stuck in this endless feedback loop of constantly being connected, and there’s a serious problem with that.

When I was younger, I could read a book for hours on end. I have a distinct memory of being sick when the fifth Harry Potter book was released, and finishing that in two days. Granted, the typeface was massive, but it still felt good; like I had accomplished something. I was hooked. Now that I’m older, reading has been replaced, not entirely, but replaced nonetheless with movies and podcasts. I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix and Pocket Casts.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading entirely. Oh no. At the start of 2014, Pocket, formerly read-it-later, a service in which you save articles offline to read later, sent me my stats for 2013. I honestly didn’t even know they were keeping track of such a thing, but they were.


Now, at first glance, even I was impressed, but I started to look at it again and realized that if I were to have taken on the 52 books in a year challenge in 2013, purely using my Pocket stats, I would’ve fallen short by 19 books. That’s a substantial number.

Since January, I’ve bought 14 books, of which I’m only partly through the second. They’re sitting on my shelf, collecting dust, as I browse the internet searching for the next rush of adrenaline.

So what’s the problem? The only obvious answer that I can think of is that we as a culture have lost some of our ability to stay focused. I know I have. We’re constantly on the search for the next viral hit to share with our friends, in order to say, “yes, I am in the loop.” We live in a culture that perpetuates sharing experiences with one another, whether it’s face-to-face or through a screen, and we live our lives with the distinct fear of missing out on that.

And how can we fix this pervasive issue? By achieving a sense of balance. Find something to read for 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be anything major like a literary opera, but something simple like the newspaper. We aren’t going to stop using these apps that give us a sense of immense satisfaction-they’re fun, and they connect us to the world around us-but we need to find a sense of balance.

Reading involves more than just sitting down and scanning your eyes across groups of words. It requires you to focus, to think about what the author meant, and it uses your imagination to take you to wonderous places that no movie or radio program could ever hope to. Reading is an incredibly cathartic experience. It’s scary, but having time to yourself where you can disconnect, is important. It does wonders.

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to read.