Lesson 35: Do the Time Warp

In Lesson 32, we downloaded Fast Camera and discussed using Fast Camera to take pictures of moving subjects. We also exported a series of photos as a movie. What we didn’t do was talk about time-lapse photography. That is what we are doing when we take a series of still images and then string them together into a video. When the video plays so that the photos are shown closer together in time than they were taken, that’s a time lapse.

This used to be (and still can be) something complicated and difficult to do, but Fast Camera makes it very easy. There are two tricks to creating interesting time-lapse videos. First, the camera must be still through the entire process of taking the photos. This is what happens when you follow a moving subject around and then try to create a time-lapse video from them:

It looks more like a series of photos of my dog than a time-lapse. While, technically, it is still a time-lapse video, because the background keeps changing, we lose sight of the fact that we’re watching a scene unfold. Instead of following a subject around, place the iPhone on the tripod we used back in Lesson 25 and again in Lesson 34. Or, refer to Lesson 34 for other ways to stabilize the phone. For this exercise, I used the tripod:


Notice the headset plugged into the iPhone. I used the volume up button on the headset to start and stop taking photos so I wouldn’t knock my precariously balanced iPhone over.

Putting the iPhone on a tripod for time-lapse photography also implies that there needs to be something moving in the frame while you take a series of photos. For example, you’ve probably seen some really awesome time-lapse videos of a flower blooming or of city traffic. In the first case, the subject remains in the frame the entire time but moves. In the second case, the subject is the city itself and the traffic driving through it provides the motion.

Another great subject for movement is water. When I chose the river as my subject, I was hoping for a nice big barge to go by or perhaps a low-flying Great Blue Heron. I didn’t get that lucky. The only boats that went by were so small and far away that they’re very hard to see. However, the movement of the water still creates interesting motion. As a side note, the small tripod on an uneven rock wall makes it rather difficult to get a level photo.

Here is a time lapse taken under a bridge:

And another looking down the river:

Could you spot the boats moving through the video? These were both shot with a 5 second delay between photos.

Another great subject for time lapse is any astronomical body. For the iPhone, the sunset is a safe bet. A couple of problems happened during my sunset time lapse. First, I used a 10-second delay between photos. Because of the lack of cloud motion, that was too fast. Second, the sun popped through the cloud coverage in a couple of frames, causing sudden overexposure. Finally, failing to take my own advice on making sure I had a fully charged phone before heading out to shoot, I ran out of juice before the sun had gone down. See Lesson 28 for tips on conserving battery life when you’re out to get a time-lapse–it is battery intensive. This is what it looks like:

The final thing to think about is what frame rate you want to create the video at. The frame rate is how many of the photos will be displayed per second. 30 frames per second is the rate that most movies are played at, so if you want a really smooth looking video, that would be the rate to choose. Since I took a smaller number of photos, I slowed things down a bit and exported my videos at 24 frames per second. Think of it this way: if you want 1 minute of video at 30 frames per second, you need 60*30=1800 photos.

Your Assignment: Open Fast Camera (and stop the photos if you have it set to start taking photos at launch) and follow the instructions below to set the time between photos. The faster the movement, the less time you need between photos to create a sense of movement. I used a 5 second delay for the river and a 10 second delay for the sunset. I would suggest using a 1 minute delay for the sunset instead, but it depends on whether the clouds are moving rapidly or not.

Now decide on your scene. If you don’t have one, you could try setting the phone up in your living room during a time when people (and/or pets) will be coming in and out. Time-lapse videos of families moving in and out of a room can be quite amusing.

Save and export your movie using the instructions in Lesson 32. Choose the frames per second based on whether you want it to look like a real video or whether you’d rather slow things down. You can also export the video and then go back and export it again at a different speed so you can decide what works best later.

What do you think? Is this a medium you could get into?

Lesson 34: When You’ve Got the Shakes

In Lesson 31, we talked about how adding the iPhone flash can help reduce the blur of slow-moving subjects.  What we didn’t talk about was another way blur can be introduced by movement–the movement of you holding your iPhone.

One way to reduce movement of your phone is to hold it very still.  For tips on how to hold it as steady as possible, see Lesson 6.  Sometimes, it’s hard to hold your phone still–especially if you’re shooting in low-light conditions when holding it still makes the biggest difference.  In those cases, using a tripod would be ideal, if a little silly looking.

In Lesson 25, we looked at using a telephoto attachment from Photojojo that includes a mini-tripod for your iPhone.  You don’t have to use the telephoto attachment to benefit from the tripod.  If you are taking landscape photos, especially in low-light, and you purchased the telephoto kit, try using the tripod without the telephoto lens to see how it improves your landscape photos.

There are other options if you don’t have a tripod for your iPhone.  For one, you can find a place to set the iPhone if you can balance it or prop it against something to eliminate your shake.  If you are a die-hard iPhone user, you may also find some of the various attachments for the iPhone that are helpful for keeping it stable.  For example, a car holder that doesn’t block the camera, a mount on your bike, or even the LifeProof life vest I showed in Lesson 19.  The large block size of the life vest makes the iPhone easier to grip securely.  It also makes it easier to stand on edge.  As a bonus–if your iPhone falls off its perch, there’s not much chance it will get damaged!

But let’s say you want to take a photo when there is no way to prop up your phone, or, the only place you could prop your phone would not result in getting the photo you want.  Another option is to use the “image stabilization” feature provided in many camera apps.  Unfortunately, not the default camera app from Apple, but, yes, it is one of my favorite features in the Camera Awesome app.

Unlike expensive gear that comes with image stabilization features that work mechanically, the Camera Awesome app uses the gyroscope in the iPhone to determine if the phone is moving.  If it is, it waits until a moment when you’re still before taking the photo.  This works great in that pushing the volume-up button or touching the shutter button on the screen creates most of the motion.  This setting allows the movement to settle before the picture is taken.

The downside is that the pause can cause you to miss the exact shot you wanted when your subject is fickle (like my dog) and decides to walk away while you’re waiting for the photo to take.  I highly recommend it when you’re taking photos of subjects that are either still or cooperative.

Here’s how to turn the image stabilization feature on in the Camera Awesome app (downloaded in Lesson 7):

Your Assignment:  Get out the Camera Awesome app and turn on the image stabilization feature.  Take some photos of a scene that isn’t moving.  Now, turn it off and take the same photos.  Do you notice a difference?  If so, you might want to make it a setting you use a lot.  If you happen to have very steady hands, you might prefer not to use it because of the delay it can introduce.

Lesson 33: How Far Can You Flash?

In the past couple of lessons, we’ve been talking about how to deal with moving subjects with an iPhone camera.  I showed you how to use the flash both in the traditional “flash” mode and in the flashlight mode in Lesson 31.  I made the comment that the iPhone (4S) flash will do you no good from distances more than 5 feet.

Afterwards, I suffered from guilt because I haven’t actually measured when the LED light that passes for a flash actually ceases to be effective.  So, today, I thought I would rectify that.

I set a glass with flowers in it at one foot intervals and took a photo with the flash set to on using Camera Awesome.  There is no difference in the effectiveness of the flash based on the app you use, so this is app independent.  However, I also wanted to test whether the exposure was any better using the flashlight mode versus the “flash” mode just to see if the app compensates for the extra light of the flash or not.

So, here is what I discovered:

At one foot away, the flash caused over exposure and “hot” spots.  As you can see, the effect gets better as the subject gets further back from the phone until you get to about 5 ft.  Then, the subject falls outside the circle of light cast on the floor.  However, notice that the shadows in the background all the way back to the door (at 10′ 6″) are lighter with the flash.

This is good information–while the flash may not be good for lighting a subject at more than 5′ away, it can be used to cast light into shadowy areas up to 11′ away.  Also notice the bright circle on the floor and how distracting it becomes when the subject is outside of that circle.  Raising the phone up and away from flat surfaces will help to reduce this effect.

As for whether the flashlight vs flash setting work better, well, let’s try some side-by-side comparisons.  Here is the flower vase side-by-side with the flash setting versus the flashlight setting (at 3 feet):

As you can see, the exposure looks more even with the flashlight setting than with the flash–the circle of light on the floor is far less pronounced.  So, unless you want a more pronounced circle of light, if you have enough battery life to turn the flashlight on, do it.  However, bear in mind that the flashlight setting consumes more battery life because the light is on longer.

Your Assignment:  Try using the flash at various distances in different lighting.  The flash will make a more noticeable difference in near-dark situations than it will in well-lit scenes.  It’s often enough light to get a photo in a totally dark room if you’re in range.  Also, using the flashlight setting will help the camera find focus when the scene is very dark.  Make sure you have a fully charged battery!

Do you like the flash or flashlight setting better?  If the answer is “it depends,” what are the circumstances where the flashlight setting helps the most?

Lesson 32: Fast Camera

Seems like it’s about time to download a new app–it’s been quite a few lessons since we did that.  Since yesterday’s lesson was about dealing with moving subjects, let’s continue with that theme and give Fast Camera a try.

Fast Camera is an app designed to take a bunch of photos really quickly.  That’s its forte.  There are settings in other camera apps that will take bursts of photos in rapid succession, but there are 2 particular features about Fast Camera that made it worth the $1.99 to me:

  1. The default setting is to start shooting as soon as you launch the app.
  2.   You can take a series of still photos and then export them as a video from the app.

Let’s talk about why I like these 2 features so much.  First, when I’m out with my dog and he does something cute, it’s pretty standard that he stops doing whatever it was by the time I get my camera app out and start shooting.  The only thing that would make it better is if I could set the camera button on the iPhone lock screen to launch this app instead of launching the default iPhone camera app.  None-the-less, it’s still a time saver to launch the app and point.  I can adjust the settings while it’s shooting if needed.  It just keeps firing away.

Second, I love making movies from stills.  I don’t know why.  There’s just something fun about the gap in time created by stills being run together as a movie.  Here’s an example of a movie from stills of my cooperative husband jumping up and down:

Isn’t that much funnier than if I would have recorded it as a video to start with?

But here’s the thing, whether you like the instant launch or not (you have to remember to stop it if you’re not ready to keep shooting or you’ll end up with 1000 photos–this setting can be changed if you don’t want it to start shooting on launch), the fact that it fires lots of super-fast photos helps ensure you get at least one good shot of a moving subject.

It’s really hard to stop motion with an iPhone camera.  But, as you can see in these photos of my husband jumping, there are often moments when a moving subject is moving slowly enough that the motion can be stopped.  Here, when my husband reached the peak of his jump and gravity took over, there is a moment when his momentum is switching from upward to downward.  In those moments, I was able to get relatively sharp photos:

Similarly, when my dog walked into my frame and stared (bewildered) at my husband’s antics, I caught him in the moment he was holding still.  Compare that to the photo on the right when he turned his head quickly to figure out what I was doing.

You’re Assignment:  Consider if you’re willing to spend $1.99 for this app.  If so, download it and go chase something moving.  Launch the app and stop it when you have enough photos of your moving subject.  Here are a couple of settings to check out:

After you’ve taken a series of photos of a moving subject, try exporting them as a video.  To do this:

Lesson 31: Blur and Flash

Something we haven’t talked about yet is how to deal with motion.  There are two sources of motion to deal with when shooting with a smart phone:  1)  Subject motion, and 2)  Photographer motion.  Today, we’re going to talk about subject motion.

When it comes to subject motion, if we were using fancy cameras with lots of manual controls, we could stop the motion pretty easily.  Since we’re not, we have limited control over whether subject motion will show up in a photo or not.

Since my dog will never hold still when I try to take pictures of him, I thought I would use him to demonstrate how to deal with a moving subject.  Of course, for once, this is the day he chose to fall peacefully asleep on the couch and not move a muscle!

In any case, one of the easiest ways to deal with motion is to add light.  The more light you can get on your subject, the less motion will show up in the photo.  I could explain to you why this is, but I promised Gina, the inspiration for this blog, not to talk about stuff like that, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Sometimes, we can’t control whether we have light on our subject or not.  When a subject is moving, it’s pretty hard to run around turning on lights without missing the moment.  Fortunately, if we’re able to get up close to our subject, the iPhone comes equipped with a built-in “flash.”

To be honest, the LED light on the iPhone is not great, but it can make the difference between getting a photo and not getting any photo.  Just remember that it’s not going to do you a bit of good if your subject is more than about 5 feet away (give or take).  It will just waste your battery.

Most camera apps have different choices for how you use your flash.  Today, we’re going to look at Camera Awesome.  First, let’s try turning the flash on.  Here’s how to do that in Camera Awesome:

In the traditional “flash on” setting, the flash will turn on and off quickly with each photo you take.  I like to turn the flash either on or off rather than using the Auto flash mode–I don’t usually agree with the camera as to when it should use the flash.

There’s actually one other option I like a lot, however.  That’s the flashlight setting. This turns the light on continuously.  This is not a great option if your battery is running low, but it’s great if you’re literally shooting in the dark.  I also feel I get better exposure when I set the exposure with the light on, but I haven’t done apples to apples comparisons to prove that.  Here’s how to turn the flashlight option on:

Your Assignment:  If you don’t have a dog to work with, try following a human around in the house and seeing if you can get some photos of them where their motion doesn’t show.  Note that the iPhone flash isn’t bright enough to help freeze rapid motion, but it can help with slower movements. Also remember that you have to be very close.  (WARNING–if you’re photographing a human (or canine) subject, be careful not to shine the flashlight directly in their eyes.  This may cause enough discomfort at close proximity that your subject will never agree to model for you again.)  Can you see a difference in the amount of blur in your photos?

Lesson 30: Awesomely Hip Portraits

Let’s talk about different kinds of portraits–or, pictures of people.

To keep it simple, let’s use 3 general categories for the purposes of our discussion:

  1. Traditional Portraits – “It’s all about you”
  2. “You were there” portraits
  3. Landscape portraits.

In the first category, traditional portraits are all about the person and any background is just a “mood setting.”  In the second category, there’s a balance between a setting and the person (see Lesson 22).  The difference being that a “You were there” portrait puts a person in a specific place that isn’t where they would normally be found.

In our final category, there’s the kind of portrait that’s more about the scene and the people provide more of a “mood” or sense of scale.  I thought I made up the term “landscape portrait,” but it turns out there’s a group on Flickr on the subject.  Great minds.  😉

If you’re in a setting that’s worth photographing and you also have people with you, it’s good to think about these 3 choices.  Since my husband, dog, and I took a hike to a beautiful waterfall this weekend, I created examples using a couple of different combinations of lenses and films in Hipstamatic to show you the differences.

For a more traditional portrait, the Tinto 1882 lens we used in Lesson 24 works quite nicely.  As you can see, the facial recognition does a good job of keeping the face sharply in focus while the rest of the scene blurs.  To keep the background from getting too distracting, I took these in front of some stone steps instead of the waterfall.  I used the Black Keys Fine film (available for free download from the shopping cart in the app) for the photo on the left and the Kodak XGrizzled film we used in Lesson 13 for the photo on the left:

I like the Black Keys film for a crisp black and white look.  The Kodak XGrizzled film makes for a color photo with character.  I would have also used a neutral film, but my model was starting to grumble about mosquitoes.

To get more of a balance between the setting and the “people” (including my canine kid) for a “they were there” portrait, I positioned myself much closer to the people.  I also switched from the Hipstamatic app to the Camera Awesome app to get a “normal” photo:

For the landscape portrait, I did two completely different looks.  First, I used Hipstamatic with the Helga Viking lens and D-type film. Second, I used Pro HDR.  In both examples, I included the entire waterfall and had my husband looking away from the camera.  My dog was not so cooperative about where to look.

In both photos, the clear subject is the waterfall and having people in front of it creates a sense of scale as well as a different mood than, say, the waterfall by itself.  Compare a similar Hipstamatic photo with the same lens and film side-by-side with the one with my husband and dog:

How would you describe the difference in the feelings evoked by the two photos?

Your Assignment:  Take a cooperative person with you to an interesting setting.  It doesn’t have to be a waterfall–an interesting building can make an equally compelling photo.  Try using the different combinations of lenses and films in Hipstamatic in the different styles of portraits we discussed.  Try with Camera Awesome and Pro HDR, too.  Compare the photos.  Which do you like best?

Lesson 29: Hipsta-Classic

In lesson 13, I introduced the Hipstamatic App.  In lesson 24, we used the lens from the tintype pack.  Today, we’re going to use Hipstamatic with the D-type film and the Helga Viking lens.  The Helga Viking lens is part of the Williamsburg Starter Hipstapak; refer to lesson 13 on how to purchase additional hipstapaks.

I am particularly fond of this combination–I tend to like virtually everything photo I take with it, no matter what the subject is.  As someone who does a lot of landscape photography, I appreciate the front-to-back depth of field the Helga Viking lens provides–it works great for big landscapes.  Add to that the look of black-and-white tintype and you have instant classics.  Take a look at the gallery at the top of this lesson for examples.

Lesson 13 also explains how to change the lens and film in the Hipstamatic app.  One thing I didn’t explain in lesson 13 is that Hipstamatic has a feature that will select the lens and film for you when you shake your phone.  I do not like that feature–it causes me to end up with a different lens and film than I wanted when I least expected it.  So, let’s turn that off:

A handy feature that I use is setting a combination of film and lens as a favorite so it’s easy to pick that combo when I’m in a hurry.  Once you have the D-type film and the Helga Viking lens set, click the curved arrow at the lower right to turn the camera around and you’ll notice a star at the bottom of the case.  Here are the steps to save the combination as a favorite:

Now that it’s saved, to pick this combo, just tap on the star and then scroll through your saved favorites and pick this one.  It saves time in that you don’t have to switch to the back view of the phone and scroll through the lenses and film separately.

Now that you’ve got the Helga Viking lens and D-type film, it’s time to go shoot!

Your Assignment:  Try this combination in both indoor and outdoor settings.  Compare the photos you take to the ones you took in Lesson 24 with the Tinto 1884 lens.  Notice how what’s in focus is dramatically different?  What kinds of subjects do you like best with this lens?  Do you like having everything in focus compared to the Tinto 1884 lens?  Are there some subjects that work better with the Tinto 1884 lens than with the Helga Viking and vise versa?

Lesson 28: Power Rules

I  shoot with the iPhone 4S.  I’ve had it for about 2 years now and one of the problems I sometimes encounter is the annoying low battery warning coming on when I’m in the middle of taking pictures.  It seems inevitable that right when I get to where I most want to take a photo, my phone shuts down.

Since you can’t get any photos without power, this is an important consideration as an iPhon(e)ographer.  Here are some rules that will help reduce the chances of this happening:

  1. Think of your phone as your camera.  One of the problems of using an iPhone (or any smartphone) as your camera is that there is a tendency to forget it’s your camera.  By this, I mean when I’m getting ready to go to a shoot with my DSLRs, I always have at least one spare battery fully charged for each camera in my bag.  When I’m just going out, I grab my phone because I always grab my phone.  I’m not necessarily thinking like I’m going to a shoot.  Start thinking to yourself, “I’m going somewhere and I might want to take pictures” before you get far from a charger.  Plug the phone in before you go.  Leave with the phone fully charged.  If you really want long battery life, consider an external battery case that can double your battery life (personally, I find these too bulky).
  2. Turn off the stuff you don’t need.  If you’re going out, you probably don’t need your wifi on.  You may not need your bluetooth.  And, if you have a bunch of apps running that use location services, turn them off.  Any reminders that are set based on location will also consume more power.  If you’re going to be away from a power source all day and being able to take pictures is really important to you, you might even consider putting your phone in Airplane mode to consume the least amount of power.  If you’re going out in the woods where you can’t get much of a signal anyway, you’ll really burn through battery life as your phone continually tries to unsuccessfully connect.   You can also save this extreme step of turning your smartphone into a brick that takes photos until your battery starts getting low–it will save a lot of power consumption.
  3. Charge when you can.  Let’s say you’re like me and you can’t find your way to more than a half-dozen places in your car and you really need to run a GPS app to get where you’re going.  These apps not only use the location services and GPS, they also do network searches, and they keep your screen on while in use, making them some of the heaviest power consumers.  Have a car charger and use it if you’re using one of these power-hogs.  You’ll arrive where you’re going with a fully charged phone and get there without getting lost.
  4. Use the sleep button.  The button on the top of the iPhone puts the phone to sleep, sort of.  Many things keep running, but the screen turns off and this can save battery life.   Use it!  Especially when you are using a camera app.  I can’t tell you how many photos I have that look like this:
    The secret world inside my shirt pocket
    The secret world inside my shirt pocket

    This is the inside of my pocket (with the flash on)!  These kinds of random photos not only waste battery life, they also waste your time deleting them!

  5. Manually control the flash.  In whatever camera app you’re using, make sure the flash is not set to “Auto.”  The flash consumes power and, if you fail to follow rule 4, may go off in your pocket.  You can turn it on if you need it, but when it comes to conserving battery power (and taking better photos) it’s better for you to decide when to use than to let the phone decide.
  6. Consider the battery before you shoot.  If you’re out for a 10 minute walk with a fully charged phone, take as many photos as you want.  Try every angle you can think of.  Try 14 different camera apps with 10 different settings each.  It’s a great way to learn.  But, if you’re out on a trail all day long, you might be a little more selective about how many apps you use and how many photos you take of the same thing.  It’s also helpful to know if there’s something particularly spectacular (like an overlook) coming up that you want to be sure to save power for.  This is one of the things I like about out-and-back hiking routes–I can take photos judiciously on the way out and then shoot to my heart’s content on the way back because I know what to expect along the way.

Your Assignment:  Double-click the Home button at the bottom of your phone.  The screen display will slide upwards and expose all the apps you currently have running:

SunsetReflection2 3

Hold your finger on one of the apps until all the apps start wiggling and have a red-and-white “-” on them.

The “-” appears when you hold your finger on a app for a few seconds

Tap the “-” to close all the apps that are running.

When all apps are shut down, this is what you'll see
When all apps are shut down, this is what you’ll see

If you’re not familiar with where to turn off bluetooth, etc, go to the “Settings” app.

The settings app icon looks like a gray gear
The settings app icon looks like a gray gear


Check out the Airplane, wifi, and bluetooth settings at the top.

SunsetReflection2 7

Also scroll down to the Privacy settings, tap it and check out the Location Services.

Finally, pick a day when you’re not going to need to take pictures at the end of the day.  Note the time you unplug your phone.  Use your phone normally all day, but don’t charge it.  At the end of the day, if it still has charge, start taking photos.  See how many photos you can take before the phone dies.  This should give you an idea of how important it is to recharge before going out after an average day of use.

Lesson 27: The Wide, Wide World

Sometimes a scene presents itself that is so wide, a single frame isn’t enough to capture it.  This is when the Panoramic feature of the iPhone default camera app comes in handy.

When you launch the camera app that comes with the iPhone, you will see an “Options” button at the top of the screen.  Tap that and the “Panorama” option becomes selectable:


When you select it, a guide appears that will help you keep the phone on course while turning.  There are several tricks to making this work well.


First, you have to move the phone left to right.  If the thing you want the most in the photo happens to have some really unattractive stuff to its right, you have to guess at where to start the photo so that you can get what you want in the photo and end up with the thing you want the most at the far right.

Second, you have to hold the phone vertically, which I find more difficult than holding the phone horizontally.  Check out Lesson 6 on how to hold the phone securely to help you hold it steady.  The biggest challenge I have with holding the phone during a panoramic shot is not getting my fingers over the lens.  Here’s an example where my finger got in the way:

To avoid this mishap, try putting your right middle finger on the upper right corner, your thumb on the lower right corner, and extending your remaining fingers to keep them out of the way.

Third, you have to position the phone at the far left of the scene you want to create, touch the camera button or push the volume up button.  I find it impossible to use the volume up button in this position, but perhaps your fingers are more nimble than mine.  Tapping the camera button can cause the phone to shift dramatically, so it requires some finger yoga in any case.

Fourth, if your scene has a lot of bright and dark areas, getting a good exposure can be tricky.  This is particularly true if the left side of the scene is significantly lighter or darker than the right.  You can set the exposure at the beginning, but end up with over or under exposed areas by the time you get to the end of the scene.  Here is an example where my sky got overexposed because the building I started with was significantly darker:

Finally, keeping the phone in the same plane as you turn can be tricky.  I find it helps to practice.  Plan to take multiple photos of the same scene to get what you want.  When you figure out where to start your photo, stand facing what will be the center with your feet pointing that direction.  Then, turn your upper body to the left without moving your lower body.  Start the photo and then twist around as you move the phone across the scene to minimize getting off track.  The iPhone will show you when you’re getting too far off course–watch the arrow and try to keep it on the center line.


The arrow indicates the phone is being tipped--just pause and adjust to get back on track
The arrow indicates the phone is being tipped–just pause and adjust to get back on track

Now that you’ve mastered the basic techniques, some other things to consider are the effects on the scene itself.  I personally, being easily amused, enjoy bending railings and other straight lines.  For example, by including the railing on a bridge in both the left and right sides of the photo, the bridge gets bent into a giant “U” shape:

Similarly, standing out on a small peninsula and taking a panoramic of the relatively straight shore line, the Riviera becomes U shaped as well:

This also works at overlooks:

In general, bear in mind that you are taking a picture in a half circle in a 3-dimensional space.  Those 3 dimensions become 2 in the photo and it can create some interesting distortions.

Your Assignment:  Try taking a panoramic photo of things you wouldn’t normally think of as calling for panoramic treatment.  Maybe a panoramic of your street will create new next door neighbors.  Maybe a tall tree panned vertically will have a new twist.  Or maybe you can just take a panoramic of the sky.  If you have the opportunity, also try this technique in a wide-open scene like a view from an overlook, the top of a mountain, or some other high place that provides vast visibility.  Did you get anything really fun?

Lesson 26: The iPhone and Wildlife

One of the challenges with the iPhone is trying to capture photos of wildlife where you can actually see the wildlife in question.  In yesterday’s lesson, we looked at using the photojojo telephoto lens to get 8 to 12x magnification optically.  You might think this is a really great answer for wildlife.

Using the telephoto attachment for wildlife shooting introduces several additional challenges.  First, it’s hard to hold the phone steady enough to get a photo of a wild animal with the telephoto lens attached.  Any shake is magnified proportionally to the magnification of the lens.  Second, you have to focus manually, which can be very tricky if you’re trying to follow a moving animal.  And third, if you don’t have the attachment already on the phone, there’s a good chance the wildlife will have left by the time you get it attached.

I am continuing to experiment and research what other people are doing for wildlife, but so far, I’ve found two patterns:  they are shooting subjects they can get up close to without the subject moving.  Or, the subject is really big.  Like buffalo and moose big.

This morning, I managed to sneak up on a Great Blue Heron who was hanging out by the side of a bike path that runs along the Tennessee River.  The secret to sneaking up on a heron is to start by getting as close as possible on your bike.

For heron who hang out by bike paths, they are so used to bikes going by that they assume you’re not a threat when you’re on one.  Once you’re off your bike, don’t look at the heron.  Get your iPhone unlocked and the app of your choice ready to go.  Walk sideways or backwards towards the heron, turning just enough to get the framing you want and snap.  Walk closer and snap again.  Keep this up until the heron starts to look nervous.  Then, back away.  By the way, heron are known for stabbing at people’s eyes with their incredibly sharp beaks when threatened, so keep your eyes well out of reach!

The heron I approached this morning was pretty patient.  I managed to try two different films in Hipstamatic with the same lens (Tinto 1884) we used in lesson 24 as well as the Camera Awesome app.  By the time he started looking nervous, I was within 10 feet (and wishing I had eye protection).

I chose the Tinto 1884 lens because I wanted the blurred effect that helps isolate the subject.  I started with the D-type tintype film because I like the look with the bridge in the background.  However, because you can’t select the focus point with that film, the heron came out blurry unless I nearly centered the heron, which just didn’t create a pleasing composition:

By switching to the Ina’s 1969 film, I was able to select the focus and get a better composition.  To select the focus in Hipstamatic, place your finger on the screen where you want to focus and hold it there for a second.  If you look closely, you’ll see a motion in the viewfinder that simulates the turning of a lens to focus.  Don’t tap–if you tap, it takes a picture.

Compare the photo on the left, taken with the D-type film that doesn’t allow for focus selection, to the photo on the right, where I was able to select the focus:

As you can see, while the D-type film may create an interesting effect for the scene, the mis-placed focus makes it less pleasing over all than the version using Ina’s 1969 film with the heron in focus.

Finally, here’s the photo I took with the Camera Awesome app (no editing):

Camera Awesome
Camera Awesome

Not bad for an iPhone in low light!

Your Assignment:  Go to a local park that has a body of water.  There are bound to be frogs, water birds, turtles, and spiders.  Water birds are far easier than song birds, by the way.  They are usually much larger and they like to sit still for endless periods of time because they’re used to watching for fish.

Try sneaking up on one, taking photos as you work your way closer.  How close do you have to get for the photo to work?  How big was your subject?  If you spot any turtles, these are great subjects as well–they move slowly if at all.  Spiders can also make great subjects, but we’ll be talking more about those in a later lesson when we use the photojojo macro attachment mentioned in yesterday’s assignment.  You might also try getting photos with your telephoto attachment if you bought one.  Were you able to get interesting photos with visible wildlife?  Since the iPhone lens is wide angle, you’ll want to apply everything you’ve learned about inclusion and exclusion to make your photo as interesting as possible.  Did you get anything really good?