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Tibet with an iPhone

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China

I’m not a travel photographer. When I go on vacation, I don’t bring gear with me.

I used to though. I used to bring a heavy camera, a tripod, backup drives, and batteries. At some point I stopped, as I spent entire vacations looking for shots instead of experiencing the vacations themselves.

So for the Tibet vacation recently, I didn’t bring gear except for an old Nikon 35mm digital camera with one 50mm prime lens. And even then, I didn't end up using it. The camera stayed in the hotel unused.

The camera that’s used is the one that’s with you all the time, which in this case is the iPhone.

iPhone Panaromas

The point of photography is to select a specific point of view at the exclusion of everything else. But in a place like Tibet, that was impossible to do. The landscape was so vast, I could not choose a scene. So I resorted to shooting iphone panoramas instead.

Compared to a single shot of the same landscape:

Panoramas impart a sense of space that one camera image, using a normal lens, is unable to do. It’s incredible what the iphone can do, and it fits in my pocket.

Of course, panoramas suffer from perspective distortions, especially if there are elements in the foreground. It's very apparent with straight lines. I don't think the highway guard rails (in the panorama above) really were curved in that way. You can eliminate these distortions, but you would have to bring more photographic gear, and who wants that?

The main point of going to Tibet was to see Everest, and it took two days by bus to get to Everest base camp, with amazing vistas along the way.

And finally we arrived at 5pm. This was the last stopover before Everest. It was rainy and dark.

Unfortunately, the weather stayed like this during the time we were there. So instead of seeing Everest peak, we only saw this.

Overall, the Tibet trip was still amazing. I loved the scenery, the Buddhist monasteries, the food, and the people. Photographically, this trip pushed me to make panoramas, which I’ve never done on the iPhone.

The iPhone panorama feature is a powerful tool in conveying the sense of space in the landscapes you may come across in your travels. Try it.


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