Philip Braude is an urban nature photographer having previously won the urban categories for both National Geographic Traveller Magazine and the British Wildlife Photography Awards. He regularly provides free images for the London Wildlife Trust to help engage people in inner-city nature.
My aim with photography is to show the natural world bursting through the concrete of our cities. It is a challenging genre due to its unpredictability, and the need to be ready to capture unexpected subjects from tiny insects to giant trees, at any time.
Getting to test Sony’s Xperia Z5 was a privilege. The phone boasts the “fastest autofocus in a leading smartphone” and low-light capabilities. Over a ten day period I kept the phone at hand at all times.
In Flight Mode
When I heard that the Xperia Z5 has the fastest autofocus in a leading smartphone, I wanted to put this to the test. I headed out early one morning, to what was to become a very wet and dreary day. In the pouring rain I set about to take pictures of the gulls over the Thames.
Wild animals are unpredictable and therefore capturing them on camera, let alone in a busy urban environment, is no easy challenge. You can’t ask animals to pose or force them to do something interesting so it’s a waiting game, one that can take a particularly long time if you want to get the perfect shot.
To tackle this issue I connected my Xperia Z5 to Sony’s SmartBand Talk, allowing me to control the camera from up to a distance of 10 metres. To sync the two devices I simply downloaded the SmartBand Talk application onto my phone from Google Play store along with the Camera Smart Extension app that directly connected it to the Z5’s camera.
Using the two devices together allowed me take a step back and watch from a distance, leaving my Xperia Z5 standing on my tripod. This allowed the birds to behave naturally without my presence interrupting them. When I saw potential for a great shot I simply tapped the shutter icon on the SmartBand Talk and voila!
After spending some time away from the lens I decided to move closer. In Object Tracking mode, Xperia Z5 has super-fast responsiveness, focussing on every new bird that flew past. It only took a few pictures to get the rhythm of the camera and I was soon able to capture some really special action shots including these black-headed gulls in winter/spring plumage.
This image is my favourite. It was taken with an illuminated shopping-centre wall as the backdrop. Looking straight up and using the Touch Focus system the Xperia Z5 was able to sharply focus on the leaves swaying in the wind. I brought the manual exposure down (EV -1.0) to darken the background helping to hide where the building’s roof ends and the night sky begins. The overall effect gives a sense of stars in a night sky, or leaves falling slowly towards you.
Outside my local train station is a bike rack with a wide backdrop of ivy. As it was ten o’clock at night, the streetlight above was my only illumination for the photo. As often happens with urban photography, people are inquisitive as to what you are up to. This time a man waiting for a train told me all about the natural history of the holly species in front of us – I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was actually an ivy. When focussing on the scene, the camera set a high ISO in order to capture a balanced exposure in the low light. To show off the bright yellows and greens of the ivy, in Manual Mode I reset the ISO to 400 and refocused on the foreground, pushing the dark hues into black.
The camera saves images to the phone in JPEG format allowing less freedom for post-production than if saved in RAW. However this saves space when taking thousands of images on a shoot. Getting photographs off the phone to my computer was simple; I downloaded the free to use Sony Bridge for Mac allowing me to quickly transfer a thousand photographs in minutes. The images displayed here have had very minor cropping, rotating, changes in exposure and sharpening for web display only.
I’ve had a great 10 days with the Xperia Z5. For me the best feature was having an excellent camera ready in my pocket to capture the unexpected when it happens. The photographs here were unplanned and were only possible with the convenience and simplicity of the Z5.