Marta Spencer is an iPhone photographer based in Minneapolis who has been featured numerous times in the Mobiography Photo Challenge showcases. Her portfolio of images on Instagram capture a mixture of subjects from still life objects to landscapes and nature. All her photos make good use of compositional techniques to create such interesting images.
In this interview Marta talks to Mobiography about her approach to composition, light and what inspires here to take photos with her smartphone.
Tell us a bit about your photographic journey and how you discovered smartphone photography?
Photography has interested me since I was a kid. I spent many wonderful hours looking at photos in National Geographic and Life magazines. It was then I begin to appreciate camera angles and textures. I was too young to understand how to do what I was seeing, but it made sense to me.
I received a Pentax K 1000 when I graduated from high school. My photos turned out well, but I always wanted to do better. In retrospect, what my photos sometimes lacked were people as subjects, or they didn’t tell a story. I wanted to convey emotion.
Fast forward to the present day and social media. I found an advert for iPhone Photography Academy about three years ago. I decided to take a chance with the online classes. I learned to do what I had been missing all those years. Once I learnt how to compose a shot, everything fell into place.
What inspires you to take photos with your smartphone?
The major inspiration for me is that my iPhone is always with me, and it fits into my pocket. There are so many shots waiting to be captured.
Some of my favorite subjects are reflections and trees.
What is your approach to composition?
If I see something that stops me in my tracks, I know I need to capture it. Sometimes, I may find something to shoot but I may want some time to think about composition. I might return to that location in a week or two. Other times I am a “one and done” photographer. I take one shot and feel it’s the one.
The rule of thirds is important for balance but I don’t always use it. For the longest time, I didn’t want people in my photos or in the foreground. In the online coursese that I took I learnt about depth of field, rule of thirds, and using people as reference points or for perspective.
Some advice I would offer others about composition is to remember to first and foremost shoot from the heart. Find a subject that interests you. Don’t find a subject that pleases others. Go out of your box and comfort zone. If you try to hard, you won’t see what’s in front of you.
How important is light to you and what do you think people should look for to capture good light?
Light is key. At this time of year, the sun is lower in the sky as winter approaches. The shadows are more dynamic. I am partial to cloudy days and diffused light. The sun sometimes will get in the way of my capture. I can either wait for the sun to slowly move on, or find an alternate angle.
In order to capture light, use the golden near sunrise or sunset. For strong shadows, find a good location and watch it for a few days. You’ll see the shadow patterns and figure out the best time for a good capture.
What apps do you use to shoot and edit your photos?
I don’t use any apps to shoot. It may sound strange, but if I see a possible capture that includes good texture and light, I can visualize it as black-and-white.
When it comes to post production editing, I make sure my image is aligned. No one likes to look at a crooked horizon. That is always the first thing I do. I then use the native iPhone camera to edit all of my images before using another app. The only two apps I use right now to edit are either Snapseed or Hipstamatic as they are both very user-friendly. I try to make my images look just a little better without oversaturation or over editing.
Do you use any add-on accessories?
At this time, I am not using any add-on accessories or lenses, but I have experimented with the Olloclip in the past.
A couple of your photos are to be included in the #theprintswap exhibition. Could you tell us about #theprintswap and the selected photos?
The Print Swap is a project created by Feature Shoot. It’s an opportunity for photographers to submit a photo to be reviewed by a panel. If excepted and the photographer wishes to participate, he or she pays a modest fee for processing and shipping. The photographer will then have his or her photo swapped with another photographer somewhere in the world. There is an exhibition of swapped photos at Root Studios in New York City during November 2018.
This image is called “Brooms”. They were tucked away in a Blacksmith shop at an historical park. I could see how much they had been used and worn down. There was so much texture between the bristles and the wooden beams of the structure. I knew black-and-white would highlight the contrast.
I enjoy driving around with no destination in mind. I found this wonderful pumpkin patch near my home on a rainy day. I figured a depth of field photo would really highlight pumpkins.
Are there any other mobile photographers that you admire and why?
@kmencher who uses light and shadows on wonderful subjects. Also Eric Mueller @ericmueller knows how to use a huge subject like a building, and then position someone perfectly in the shot for a beautiful minimalist photo.
Tell us the story behind three of your favourite photos.
A Mother’s Love
I took this photo as I watched my mother holding my brother’s hand while he lay dying in the hospital where I work. I needed to capture this tender moment, even though it was emotionally the most painful photo I have ever taken.
After a new stadium was opened across the street from where I work, I decided to look around early one morning. This is a view of downtown Minneapolis reflected in a small puddle. It was the only puddle on the pedestrian bridge in front of the stadium. The sun was just rising so the light of the gold an hour made the city glow.
Cloudy dark days are some of my favorites due to the lighting. Leafless oak trees make good subjects because of their wonderful branches. They remind me of fingers or capillaries or roads. This lone Oak tree on a hill really spoke to me.