Welcome to our very exciting interview column on theappwhisperer.com. This section entitled “A Day in the Life of…” is where we take a look at some hugely influential, interesting and accomplished individuals in the mobile photography and art world… people that we think you will love to learn more about. This is our 115th installment of the series. If you have missed our previous interviews, please go here.
Today we are featuring Allie Astell born in Morocco to a Syrian mother and English father. As a child, she travelled much of the world with her parents, as her Dad was a diplomat with the Foreign Office.
Astell’s web consultancy business allows her to work from anywhere that has an internet connection, this means she can indulge in her two real passions – travel and photography. It was the iPhone, and particularly the Hipstamatic app, that got her into photography just over 3 years ago. Once she started taking shots she was hooked. Her most recent trips have been to the Middle East (Syria, Morocco and Egypt), Norway and Las Vegas (for their Beard and Mustache Championships). Astell tells us ‘It’s a long story but I have a strong connection with the world of facial hair and competitive facial hair growing and styling’ we can’t wait to learn more about this!.
Astell is currently based in Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt and has been for the past three years now and that’s where her passion for mobile photography really began.
We just couldn’t wait to find out more about Astell, you’re going to really enjoy this!
Under each image you will find the title and a list of all the apps used, links to these apps are at the end of the article.
“A Watched Pot” ©Allie Astell – this was taken using the iPhone 5s camera and then Instagram to add the filters
Let’s start at the beginning of the day, how does your day start?
I usually wake up, head downstairs and make a coffee. That’s an essential to get me kick-started for the day! From there I check my emails and depending on my schedule I’ll either go for a walk on the beach for a while or I make a start on my work. Mornings are usually my time to update the social media pages for my clients – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
“Ahmed’s First Bubbles” ©Allie Astell – the original shot wasn’t that great so I had to filter it using Pixlromatic to get the colour a little richer and create a slightly surreal background. It was taken with my iPhone 5s
Do you like to head out and take photographs early on?
I don’t actually have a particular time that I prefer. Here in Dahab there are breathtaking, hilarious, poignant or unusual occurrences going on all day and most of the night so really as soon as I step foot out of my garden gate I’m ready. But saying that, using natural light is an important part of my photography so the best times for this are early morning and around sunset. Living by the Red Sea, surrounded by mountains also lends itself to beautiful sunrise and sunset shots.
“Ata The Driver” ©Allie Astell – this was taken with the iPhone 4s and then I used Camera+ to add the colour filter
How did the transition from traditional photographer to mobile photographer develop? (pardon the pun)
Haha! You’re excused. I would say I was never really a traditional photographer. I used to have the old film cameras and then digital ones too, but I only took photographs to capture special occasions like birthdays or music festivals rather than as a hobby or artistic pursuit. But that changed once I started using the Hipstamatic app about 3 years ago on my old iPhone 3g. It totally blew my mind, and I was hooked from that point on. I would say that at that point I was probably one of the first people in South Sinai to play with mobile photography. Hipstamatic even published some of my Egyptian and Moroccan albums in their “Adventures” series on Facebook. Nowadays everyone here is using his or her smartphone and it’s a joy to witness, particularly on Instagram. I’m always searching for #dahab to see what’s been going on.
“Ataik” ©Allie Astell – this was taken with the iPhone 4s and then I used Camera+ to add the colour filter
Do you like to download new mobile photography and/or art apps regularly?
I used to download them a lot more regularly and experiment all the time, but now I have my tried and trusted favourites so I tend to stick with those.
“Audi’s New Sunglasses” ©Allie Astell – this was taken with the iPhone 4s and then I used Camera+ to add the colour filter
What is your preferred platform, Apple iOS, Android, Windows?
Definitely Apple iOS. I’m an Apple fiend, so my partner and I often laugh that they should sponsor us. 😉
“Bedouin Children In Wadi Ferah” ©Allie Astell – This was taken with the iPhone 5s camera and then filtered with Camera+ – if anyone is interested in volunteering to teach at a Bedouin kindergarten school in Dahab, please take a look at our Facebook group (link)
Would you consider changing platforms and why?
No I don’t think I would, although I’ve seen some amazing shots from some of the Android phones, which have occasionally made me question that.
“Bullets At Dawn” ©Allie Astell – This was taken with my iPhone 5s and I used the Contessa filter on Camera+ to get the rich mono and silver effect
How often do you update your existing apps?
Updating them can take a while in Dahab, as the connection is sometimes highly questionable, but probably about once a month.
“Caravan Of Love” ©Allie Astell – I used my iPhone 4s for this one and then filtered it with Camera+
What are your favourite photography apps and why, what features do you look for in a new photo app?
My photographs tend to be very much about people and places rather than abstract, so what I’m looking for in an app is the ability to really make the most of the raw file and enrich it. The apps I use the most are Camera+, Hipstamatic, Instagram, and Pixlromatic+ – all of these help me to filter the colours, depth and shadow, add an effect that fits the subject of the photograph, or sometimes (especially with Pixlromatic+) create something almost dreamlike and surreal that looks totally dissimilar to the original shot I took. When I’m looking for a new photo app the important features for me personally would be ease of use (I don’t have much time to experiment and learn), a large choice of effects that can be achieved, and for it to be robust enough not to crash during a crucial editing moment.
“Championing Moustache Wax” ©Allie Astell – I used my iPhone 4s camera for this one and then filtered it with Camera+
Where’s your favorite place in the world for a shoot and why?
Anyone who knows me will yawn loudly when I say South Sinai, Egypt! I’ve lived here for over 3 years now and it never ceases to inspire me with its beauty, colours and spirituality. There are so many subjects and locations here – from the cute Bedouin kids running around everywhere barefoot smiling from ear to ear, to normal day to day street life at the shopping area next to me that’s always populated with a mix of tourists, expats, Bedouin and Egyptians going about their day to day lives. There are spectacular sunrises and sunsets at the beach, plus just a short drive can take me to breathtaking mountains and deserts. This area really does offer everything a budding photographer dreams of. And the best thing is that generally the locals LOVE to be photographed, so taking a portrait or candid shot is very easy. There’s something very special about the people here as they seem to have been born joyful, mindful of life and grateful for everything they have.
“Chiko The Horseguide” ©Allie Astell – This was one of my first real successes with Hipstamatic back in 2011 and it was probably the photo that really made me realise what mobile photography was capable of doing for me. I used John S and Ina’s 1935 with an iPhone 3g
Where do you like to upload your photographs to – Flickr, Instagram etc?
Due to time restrictions I tend to mainly use Facebook and Instagram then occasionally Flickr. I love Instagram as it’s so interactive – not only do I manage my own profile there but also two more for social media clients so I know that platform pretty well for both personal and business use.
“Desperate Measures” ©Allie Astell – I used my iPhone 4s for this one with Camera+ to filter it
Do you use your mobile phone everyday to take images?
Absolutely! I don’t have a “grown up” camera as such so my iPhone 5s goes everywhere with me.
“Downward Dog” –©Allie Astell I used my iPhone 4s camera for this one and then filtered it with Instagram
Do you like to use external hardware products with your mobile device for image and video capturing, such as lenses, tripods, external storage and battery packs? Please elaborate as much as possible.
I have various different battery charging devices in case of emergency. The main one is my Mophie Juice Pack Plus, which provides pretty robust protection for the phone as well as an extra battery source. I also have a Thumbs Up Dual Power Bank, which gives me an external battery facility several times over. Great for the desert.
“Gone Fishing” ©Allie Astell – This was another of my first Hipstamatic shots. I used John S and Ina’s 1935 with an iPhone 3g
Do you edit images on your mobile devices or do you prefer to use a desktop or laptop computer?
I tend to edit them on my phone. I never really edit on my Mac unless I need Photoshop for creating a special graphic. I find it quite therapeutic to edit photos so I can sit there for hours tweaking them in between my work or social life.
“Hilda Gets Her Thrills” ©Allie Astell – I took this with the iPhone 4s camera and then used Camera+ to clean it up and FaceTune to whiten Grandma’s teeth!
Where do you envisage your mobile photography passion will take you? Have you been involved with exhibitions etc? Please elaborate if you can.
That’s a tough question actually as again it’s really time restrictions that stop me from taking my passion for photography further. I’ve published a book about the Children of Dahab (all Hipstamatic and Leme Cam images), plus I’ve had my work featured in the Street Expose book. There was also an exhibition in Moscow that featured my work, and I’ve had offers to exhibit locally.
I’m currently helping my partner promote his business (The Bedouin Way http://www.thebedouinway.com ) by taking photos for the website and social media pages. My name isn’t credited but I get a great deal of satisfaction out of it, as the Bedouin and their culture are totally fascinating to me. Perhaps one day there will also be a book on that topic.
“Horsemen In Syria” ©Allie Astell – This was one of my first shots ever taken with an iPhone. I took this in 2010 with my iPhone 3 and then filtered it years later using Camera+ – if you’d like to see the rest of the shots from Syria that I revisited and filtered, you can find them here. There’s also information about how you can download my mother’s recipes in aid of The Red Cross (link)
Do you also enjoy shooting videos with your mobile phone? If so, what do you do with them? Have you considered uploading them to our Mobile Movies Flickr group?
Actually I’ve just started experimenting with videos and slide shows and I would be very open to using the Mobile Movies group once I have a few under my belt. The first slideshow was about pasturing time for the Bedouin in the Sinai desert and it was published to You Tube a couple of days ago. I really enjoyed creating it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC-5-TN-NLA (watch with your sound up)
“Ibrahim At The Wedding Party” ©Allie Astell – I used my iPhone 4s for this one and then filtered it with Camera+
Where do you see the future of mobile photography?
Wow now there’s a question. Things have moved on so quickly in just 3 years that I wonder if “grown up” cameras will actually be necessary in the future. If one day we were able to adjust our shots according to light conditions (particularly at night) or manually focus quickly and easily, this would be an exciting era. It’s on my wish list as to be honest I don’t really fancy the idea of lugging around a large and expensive camera when I can whip out my iPhone at the drop of a hat and capture a moment quickly with minimum fuss.
What would be GREAT is if we could share our photographs across all the platforms in one hit rather than individually and check out everyone else’s work at the same time. My biggest issue is time restrictions to post to the entire photo sharing media.
“Kids With Moustaches” ©Allie Astell – These were taken with my iPhone 4s and I used the Contessa filter on Camera+ to get the rich mono and silver effect. If anyone is interested in volunteering to teach at a Bedouin kindergarten school in Dahab, please take a look at our Facebook group (link)
What do you think is the most popular area of mobile photography?
I think it has to be street photography – there are so many amazing photographers out there taking some of the most inspiring shots I’ve ever seen of normal street life and the characters they come across. Every picture tells a story and every story paints a picture, as they say.
“Melting Pot” ©Allie Astell – This was taken with my iPhone 5s and then I used Instagram to filter it
Do you think it’s country specific, are some nations more clued up?
I think that mobile photography is globally popular, although it’s taken some countries longer to catch up mainly for financial reasons. Using Dahab as an example, some of my Bedouin friends who I used to photograph a lot in the past now have iPhones or Android phones and I’m even helping them set up Instagram accounts now. Check out my good friend @theadventuresoframadan on Instagram for an example of this. I’m really looking forward to seeing his future posts as he learns more about using the filters and effects.
“Mister Barker” ©Allie Astell – I used my iPhone 4s for this shot and filtered it with the Fashion filter in Camera+
If you could select a specification for a mobile smartphone, what features would you select, photographically speaking?
I guess I’ve answered that above – if I could zoom, focus and adjust my shots according to the light then life would be perfect.
“Mondi And Leo” ©Allie Astell – This was taken with my iPhone 4s and I used the Contessa filter on Camera+ to get the rich mono and silver effect
What do you think of Joanne and theappwhisperer.com?
I think Joanne’s contribution to the world of mobile photography is phenomenal. I feel very honoured to have been asked to feature here alongside so many true talents, so thank you.