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Inspiration on the iPad: The Guardian Eyewitness

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Today we'll be taking a look at how devices like the iPad can offer motivation and inspiration to photographers, taking time to investigate a particularly relevant application - The Guardian Eyewitness. Whether or not you're an iPad owner, you'll be able to enjoy this stunning series of photography from The Guardian.


So what, exactly, is inspiration? Inspiration can manifest itself at any time, at any location, and from anyone in the entire world. From moments and imagery in life you experience first hand, or from a snapshot someone else captures and shares with the world, we are constantly being inspired and influenced, both consciously and subconsciously.

No matter what your photography experience or abilities may be; beginner, amateur, dedicated hobbyist or a seasoned professional, we all need inspiration to help us grow creatively. Our consideration of other photographers' views, insights and perspectives of the world help us to think differently for a moment about not only technical aspects of photography, but also compassionately and empathetically toward humanity as a whole.

But inspiration is not just about education, it's also about motivation.

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Be Inspired

Something that is huge inspiration and motivation to me at the moment, visually speaking, is the Eyewitness photograph series by The Guardian newspaper. What started out as a full-color center-spread in England's The Guardian newspaper quickly developed into an international-accessible online resource of colorful, compelling images. This online compendium of awe-inspiring and absorbing photographs has now fully matured into a free-to-download iPad application that publishes just one, breathtaking photo each day.

Eyewitness on the Apple iPad

Let's make one thing clear from the start, you do not need the iPad to enjoy these incredible photographs. Whether they are viewed in print or online, there's nothing one can take away from the incredible quality demonstrated in each photograph. But the experience is so much more intimate and engaging on the iPad. It's almost a virtual, private conversation between you and the photographer.

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What's so captivating about Eyewitness on the iPad is how quickly one becomes engaged in each daily photo. By only having one photo per day, we are almost purposely tricked into taking time to explore and examine each photograph. Trick or no trick, it works: I find myself focused on each image like there's hidden meaning to it that must be deciphered. By default through human instinct, at first we focus on the main protagonist(s) in the image, whether this takes the form of a human, animal, natural or mechanical figure. The resounding colors in the image then envelop our emotions. But the more time we spend looking at the image, the more we start to ask questions:

  • Who are the people in this photo?
  • Why are they there?
  • What are they doing?
  • What is their story?

And it's that previous question, "What is their story?" that reveals most about what we are searching for. For each of those magical moments in time documented and preserved forever, it is so much more than a mere image. It is a story. It is a story of something we would never have experienced had it not been for the photographer being there in person and telling the story of the person or animal or scene in that one single frame. And there's nothing more powerful than the way a photographer can tell a story and inspire us all through one single image.

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It is only after we question the how and the why of the story being presented to us that we look beyond this to truly appreciate the technical elements the photographer has applied to each photograph. Technical aspects such as depth of field, creative use of light, juxtaposition and proximity of foreground and background: It suddenly becomes apparent that everything that we see is no accident and is there for a reason.

User Interface

The Eyewitness interface is clean, simple and intuitive. It complements the photography really well and never distracts from the imagery.

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As the annotated image shows above, the main features are embedded in the top navigation panel of the interface:


Features a brief introduction video by Roger Tooth, head of photography at The Guardian.

Play Button

The play/pause button invokes the autoplay slideshow functionality so you can just sit back and view all the images in the collection at a leisurely pace. Each photo displays for about 5 seconds before fading out and fading in the new image.


The Thumbnail navigation menu allows the user to quickly scroll through all images. What's nice about this mechanism is that the month/date changes as you scroll through all the thumbnails.


This is a great way to share your favorite photos with friends, family and colleagues. There are currently two ways to share photos, either by e-mail or via Facebook. It would be nice to add Twitter functionality too at a later date.


Another nice feature is the ability to save your favorite Eyewitness photos. Simply press the "star" icon to mark an image as a favorite. You can then access all your favorite photos via "Favorites" once inside the Thumbnail option.

Captions & Pro Tip

The captions are purposely short and subtle as to not distract from the main image. The caption includes a credit, the date the photo was added to Eyewitness and a brief description of the photograph. My favorite part of all however is the "Pro Tip" feature. This is a really nice touch that gives the budding photographer a little insight into the technical solution the photographer chose in order to capture the perfect shot. The tip might state the type of lens used, the use of depth of field, or perhaps the way the photograph is framed.

Possible Improvements

Two features I would really like to see added to the application in the future, particularly as the library of images grows, are:

  • A better way to show more thumbnails on screen at once, taking advantage of the large screen real estate and organizing the images by date. I'm hoping Eyewitness will still be here in 5 years time let alone 1 year, so having more thumbnails displayed on screen at once will be much quicker to navigate than in the current solution of only 6 thumbnails at any one time.
  • Secondly, I'd really like to see a map of the world with each photo pinpointed in the precise spot the image was taken. I think it will give a little more perspective on how near or far from our own lives such landscapes and stories are unfolding.

Landscape Mode

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Rotating the iPad sideways into it's horizontal position is where the photography really shines. All user interface elements disappear leaving only you and a fullscreen image to admire and ponder over its beauty. With the crisp, vibrant iPad display, colors and detail jump from the screen allowing the user to really absorb the beautiful photography.

Profound Experience

For something so simple - showing one photograph per day - it's one of the most elegant and profound experiences I've had the pleasure of immersing myself in. The "conversation" between the photographer and the viewer via each photograph is not just focused on the quality of the image or the technical accomplishment, it goes beyond that. Through careful study of each photograph, anyone with any interest in photography can learn and be inspired by an outstanding resource of exceptional quality photography. When something as inspiring as this comes along, it's worth taking a look.

The Guardian Eyewitness iPad application is now available via the Apple iPad App Store, for free.

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