Look Closer: The Real-World Filter Challenge

MikeachimBlogging, Greece, Travel17 Comments


Look closer. What do you see?

It’s a hot July day in 2007, and I’m sat on the steps leading up to the Chania lighthouse (see the second photo here), admiring a sea and sky painted in a particularly luminous shade of blue I’ve only encountered in Greece.

But there’s only so much blue you can look at, so I get restless.

I look at my feet, at the scatter of broken glass and cigarette butts . . . and then, being careful to avoid cutting myself, I make my own DIY camera filters.


This was the Age Before Filters For The Clueless: a time when ham-fisted point’n’clickers like me had no way of hiding how bad we were at photography. Photoshop was available, but cost upwards of a hundred million pounds. I had Google Picasa installed, but beyond straightening wonky images (admittedly a super-useful feature for people like me) and playing with the contrast settings, I was still stuck with only the best photos I could take at the time.

Which was a horrible way to live.

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Now I’m on Instagram (and Snapseed) and have access to an amazing array of filters — but a few weeks ago, I realised the real world could do a perfectly good job on its own.

These shots were taken from the top deck of the East Coast Buses 246 service from Beverley to Hornsea, through a window recently hosed with rainwater and lightly fogged-up from within.

Kinda charming, no?

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The Challenge

I’ve created a new board on Pinterest. I’ll be putting my own snaps of real-world filters in there – photos taken from my Instagram account via my phone, or on either of my cameras.

I also challenge you to do the same. Take a photo where the main “effect” used is some kind of natural filter — something transparent or translucent, something that messes with the light, a pattern of holes, a thick fog hanging between you and the thing you’re photographing.  . . anything like that. A real-world filter.*

Yes, I know there are professional real-world filters. This is different. This is the very opposite of precision engineering. This is turning the everyday world into a filter – and that’s why it’s a challenge, right?

Use Pinterest? Let me know and I’ll add you to the board.

Use Instagram? Befriend me here and use the hashtag #WorldFilter.

Twitter? Same hashtag — and I’m @Mikeachim on there.

Disclaimer: I plan to take your photos and sell them to multinational companies and use the money to strip-mine that forest where you frolicked playfully with puppies as a kid, blah blah, not really — there is no disclaimer. Your photos remain yours, mine remain mine. This is just a lark, with an interesting philosophical question attached . . .

What can you see in the “boring” everyday world when you really, really look?

*Want to use digital tweaking as well? Totally fine – as long as it’s still very clear what your real-world filter is.

Photos: Mike Sowden

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