Category Archives: iPhoneography

Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Steller

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There is a wonderful visual storytelling app for both Android and iOS mobile phones called Steller. I happened across it while doing research for a course I am writing for the Academy of Art University and recently downloaded the free app to give it a test drive. Steller allows you to create beautiful visual stories with photos, video, and text and the process is straight forward and absolutely seamless.

The design is fairly minimalist and very elegant in appearance. There are currently eleven templates to choose from for designing your stories. Each one has a different look and offer several choices when it comes to the layout of your individual pages.

  

The first step is to choose a template or theme for your story.

    
You will be prompted to choose 20 videos or photographs to import into your story. You can always rearrange and edit design layout or swap out photos and videos before publishing.

 
You will choose a title and subtitle if you have one and can change the layout of your title page as well as the image that appears here.

  
You can add additional pages as video, photo or text. The recommended length of a story is around 20 pages, however you can certainly make it longer if you feel the need.

  
You can add text below images by choosing different layouts for each page.

  

Or have multiple pages of straight text if you are feeling a bit more like Mark Twain.

   
Steller is also a wonderful community filled with talented individuals and you can create collections of the stories you like and name your collections anything you desire. You can also share and comment on other Steller user’s stories and follow them, similar to Instagram.

Once you hit publish, you can share your story within the app to your plethora of social media accounts and watch the magic happen. If you are lucky and the Steller gods are smiling down upon you, your story might be handpicked by Steller’s editors to be featured in one of their collections. When this happens your exposure increases exponentially and you might even find your story going viral.

Below are a few of my own Steller stories. You will find links to view them underneath each image and if you already have the Steller app, you can find and follow me here: http://steller.co/TracyJThomas

  

My most recent Steller story on the Kootenai Pow Wow in Bonners Ferry, Idaho made it into the top 10 most viewed stories this afternoon with over 6,140 views and was featured in both the Stellerverse and the Most Viewed collections. You can view the story here: https://steller.co/s/5EeDxX32fH6 

  

This Steller story highlights some of my quirky mobile photomontage pieces. It was featured in Steller’s Creative Collection and received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5EK56vcWwGH

  

This is a story I created on the California drought that illustrates the dire situation at Folsom Lake, the reservoir that provides drinkng water for nearly half a million residents across the Sacramento region. This story also received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5DuPxgdv3Xz

Overall, I am truly impressed with the quality and ease of use of the Steller app. The only thing I don’t like is the fact you can’t embed the stories directly into WordPress blog posts. The app provides the embed code for each story, but so far the code gets stripped every time I try it and pasting a straight link into the blog does not bring the story in either. My hope is the app’s developers will soon decide to work with the WordPress embed guidelines so Steller stories will be easier to share in all their glory.

Now go out and get your free copy and start creating your own Steller stories! http://steller.co

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The Port

  
One of my favorite places to wander and take photographs is along the Deep Water Channel across from the Port of Sacramento. The shipping channel was built in 1949 and is 30 feet deep and 43 miles long, running from Suisun Bay to an inland harbor in West Sacramento. The port was opened to deep sea traffic in 1963. Too shallow for container ships, the channel accommodates ships that carry bulk products like corn, rice, barley, almonds, and wheat as well as cement, lumber, clay, and metals.
Every time I visit I see something new. Whether it be another ship in port, a crew rowing a sculling boat, a fisherman paddling a kayak, or a calm reflection on the water, I am drawn to pull out my camera and capture the moment. 

   
    
    
   


Night Wanderings

  Tower Bridge, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
It has been awhile since my last post due to an incredibly busy life. I have a lot of catching up to do since I have been doing a lot of shooting and little posting :). So until I have more time to sit down and write some thorough posts, here are a few recent night shots I took with my iPhone for you to peruse. I also wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very Happy Holidays!

 A quiet walkway in Old Sacramento along the Sacramento River. ©Tracy J Thomas. All rights reserved.

  The approach to the Tower Bridge along Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
  The “Money Building” and CalSters reflecting in the Sacramento River, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
  Downtown Sacramento and lighted Palm Trees. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.


Back to My Love – Mobile Photomontage

 
When I started out in mobile photography about five years ago now I found great joy in expressing my creative urges through constructed photographs, better known as photomontage. This was a 360 degree move away from the straight black and white street photography I had been shooting over a three-year period for my MFA thesis project in Documentary photography.

At the point when I picked up my first iPhone and began to shoot and play with photography apps, I had reached the emotional burnout phase in my thesis project. It was an intense study and all I wanted and needed to do after presenting and defending my thesis was to play and create quirky, beautiful pieces of art. In a sense it was art therapy in order to heal myself from the stress of my project. That phase continued for three years.

It was a great time in my life. My photomontage pieces were being exhibited in galleries across the globe and found their way onto the pages of mainstream publications, while many pieces sold and ended up in private collections. I felt free to create my own surreal, entertaining worlds which provided me with a temporary escape from reality and I was in awe and surprised at the response these pieces received.

It has now been a few years since I have spent any focused time on creating photomontage works. For the past two years I moved back towards straight photography again with some street, documentary, and macro work. Recently I felt moved to create another photomontage piece called “The Butterfly Effect” which was highlighted on this blog after I reviewed the Juxtaposer app. I decided on a whim to enter this piece in a call for art for the Mobile Digital Art and Creativity Summit Exhibition that was going to be held in the prestigious Palo Alto Art Center.

Last month I received the news that “The Butterfly Effect” had been chosen as a finalist for the mDAC exhibition and would be on display at the Palo Alto Art Center through the month of August. I was thrilled. 

We attended the exhibition opening and had a great time soaking in all the amazing art created on iPhones and iPads. There are two categories of art on display. My piece is in the Mobile Photography Art category. The second category is Mobile Digital Painting for which I have a ton of respect. Below is a slideshow with some photographs of the event and a lot of the beautiful art created on mobile devices.

This latest experience has been a great motivator for me to create more photomontage pieces. I am currently working on a piece to enter for an upcoming exhibition that explores the imagery and concepts depicted by 14th century Surrealist Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Such a fun study!


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Camera+ for Macro Shots

I love macro photography. It forces me to slow down and find the astounding beauty in the small things. Details and activity that aren’t always apparent to the naked eye become revealed when shooting macro. 

In the past, the majority of my macro photographs have been taken with my DSLR and a special 90mm macro lens. This setup requires patience and a good tripod to capture the images I desire since the camera and lens combination are heavy and a bit bulky. 

On my most recent sojourn into the woods, I decided to forego my DSLR and shoot exclusively with my iPhone6. I had planned to focus on landscapes, wildlife, and documentary work at a Pow Wow I would attend. This was a partial experiment in minimizing as well as a true test of the capabilities of my iPhone.

While wandering the property one day and shooting landscapes I noticed a beautiful Dragonfly sitting on a leaf. I wished at that moment that I had my DSLR macro setup with me. I played with one of my go-to camera apps and zoomed in on the insect but the quality of a straight zoom wasn’t as sharp nor as close as I desired for the beautiful detail of the Dragonfly. Then I remembered a recent post someone made on Facebook about the Camera+ app and its macro option. I opened the app, chose the macro option and was immediately amazed at how close I was able to zoom in on the bug and the sharpness of detail it provided. Additionally, there was great DOF and even some Bokeh or lens flare effect in certain lighting conditions.

The downfall of using an app for macro with the iPhone and no lens attachment is the lack of extreme sharpness. The fact you are using digital zoom causes the focus to fall off a bit and throws in some pixelation. Printing out macro photos in large scale with this technique would not provide you with the best quality. However, smaller prints and posting digital images can offer some very compelling imagery.

Below are a few screenshots of the app and its macro mode followed by a series of images I shot at the cabin.

**This screenshot is of an Iris through the Normal mode of Camera+. Even in this straight shot there is some nice depth of field and Bokeh in the background.**

  
**When you click on the “+” symbol to the right of the shutter buttonthe menu including the mode buttons appear.**

  
**When you click on the Macro button, the app zooms in on your subject. Note the “Stabilizer” button. I played around with this feature but do not recommend using it in Macro mode especially if you are trying to capture something that may move out of your frame quickly like an insect. When you have the Stabilizer on it won’t allow you to take a shot until the camera is very still (the shutter button turns red when not stable, yellow when you are getting closer, and green when stable and you can take the shot). This would be a great feature when you have your iPhone secured to a tripod and are shooting something that won’t fly away from you like a flower, but I found it frustrating to use when stabilizing by hand and attempting to get off a quick shot before my subject buzzed away into the sunset.

  
**Once you take your first shot in Macro mode, a zoom slider appears to your right which will allow you to get even closer to your subject. The photo below is of the Iris in Macro mode with 3x magnification. What appeared with my naked eye to be a discolored spot on the drying flower petal turned out to be revealed as an interesting little striped bug when I shot in Macro mode. (These screenshots are not the sharpest of images because it is pretty difficult to hold the phone steady when trying to simultaneously click the power button and the shutter to capture the image on screen, but you get the idea, right?)

  
Below are several of the macro shots I captured with this app while at the little cabin in the woods.

  A bee collects pollen on a wildflower. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. 

 Tiny Spiky Galls created by Wasps surround the stem of a Wild Rose. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.

 A Dragonfly suns itself on a Thimbleberry leaf. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.

Overall I believe the Camera+ Macro feature is a great one especially for the photographer who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money and time on expensive cameras and macro lense setups. The downside is the falloff you receive when using digital zoom as opposed to shooting with a sharp add on lens with optical zoom. Rumors have it that the next iteration of the iPhone (iPhone 6S) will have a dual lens array which means it will have optical zoom built-in. Now that will be a killer combination with any macro app.

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** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Free Kindle Book

IMG_2189 You can download a FREE Kindle version of “Zen in the Garden” today and tomorrow only on Amazon. Here is the link to learn more about the book and to grab your copy: http://amzn.com/B00TN2GQHM. If you have already read it, please feel free to share this post or the link with your followers and friends.

You can also enter to win one of three signed softcover copies of this book on Goodreads. The giveaway ends on July 24th. Just click on the image below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Zen in the Garden by Tracy J.  Thomas

Zen in the Garden

by Tracy J. Thomas

Giveaway ends July 24, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I will be journeying back into the woods for fifteen days beginning this Wednesday. I will post regular updates about my journey on Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope (search Tracy J. Thomas on Periscope app) so follow me on any and all for some peaceful nature photos/videos, hopefully some amazing wildlife shots, and quite possibly the Aurora Borealis if they all decide to cooperate ;).

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Do you like handmade Boho Chic jewelry? Then visit my Etsy shop and receive 50% OFF through 7/1. Just enter coupon code SUMMER15 at checkout: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ZenInTheGarden

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Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Big Lens

  

 

One of my favorite mobile photography apps for editing product photos is Big Lens by Reallusion, Inc. Since I am exclusively an Apple finatic, I can’t speak to the Android version of this app, however the reviews on Google Play are just as solid as they are on iTunes.

I can’t quite agree with the Developer’s claims that this app will “turn your iPhone into a professional SLR camera.” Sorry, but there is currently no app on the market that can do that. There are indeed apps that will allow you to have some similar capabilities or at least mimic fairly well the capabilities of a lower end SLR, but the bottom line is there (currently) is no comparison between an iPhone or Android and a high-end DSLR. 

There are many in the mobile photography world who would argue vehemenently against the above sentiment, however, when it comes to straight shooting there can be no argument about the quality of the end result when comparing the unedited photos side by side. The high-end DSLR will win hands down. 

The beauty of the mobile photography movement lies in the ability to edit on-the-fly. Once a mobile photo is brought into a mobile app and edited by an experienced user it then becomes more difficult to distinguish whether it was shot originally on a mobile phone or on a DSLR.

When shooting product photography, depth of field becomes an important factor if you desire professional quality and a compelling photograph. In the past I have shot product photographs for Francis Ford Coppola’s Napa Valley wineries among others. Those shoots entailed blacking out my studio windows, positioning multiple lights, scrims, reflectors, and a plethora of high-end lenses mounted on my professional DSLR. This type of job required this type of equipment since the final images needed to be sharp and of the highest resolution possible. My iPhone would definitely not have been an appropriate tool for that particular task.

At this juncture in life, like many other crafty people, I have an Etsy shop. I like to keep my store stocked up with a variety of my handmade products so this requires a lot of product photos. Now I could go the route of spending all day setting up my studio and shooting each piece with my professional setup then spending hours on Lightroom and Photoshop editing my RAW files, but honestly, I don’t bring in enough money through my Etsy shop (yet) to pay for that type of precious time committment. So I shoot with my iPhone 6 and use wonderful apps like Big Lens to edit them into more professional looking images.

I utilize Big Lens primarily for its depth of field tools and occasionally its filters. There are several camera apps that allow you to adjust DOF in-camera while shooting, however I like to take straight shots in order to edit them any way I desire post shoot. Below I outline the process for how I use this app to edit a photograph of a piece of my handmade jewelry.

  
You can shoot with the Big Lens app but I prefer to shoot with ProCamera. When I am ready to edit my product photos I bring a photo into the Big Lens app by choosing “Load Photo” and import from my camera roll. The “Basic” and “Advanced” buttons are your choice for masking. I always use the “Advanced” button since it provides me with fine control over what I want masked in my image. 

  
Before I begin to mask, I choose the “Brush” tool in order to adjust the size of the brush. This allows me to better control the edges of the mask.

  
In the above screenshot, for the sake of example, I am only masking a portion of my bracelet. You can utilize the “Eraser” button to be even more precise with your edges or boundaries of your mask if needed.

  
I personally like to mask some of the foreground in order to create a leading line from bottom of the image towards the focal point.

  
The above is an exaggerated example of how the masking feature works. With the current settings The DOF is extreme and the transition is not very smoothe. The leading line is sharp focus and the edges fall off the cliff into an extreme blur.

  
This blur transition and intensity can be adjusted via the “Aperture” setting by choosing different F-stops and adjusting the slider until you are satisfied with the result.

  
Above is an example of the change from 100% in F1.8 to around 30% in F2.8. A bit smoother transition.

  
Once I have the DOF adjusted to where I desire, I then add one of the filters. I usually choose the “Vivid” filter so the colors will pop a bit more.

  
The colors are now popping after adding 100% Vivid to the photograph.

  

The app also allows you to adjust the “Lens” style. In other words you can create a circular blur, star-shaped blur, heart blur, etc. if you feel so inclined.  Additional tools allow you to adjust for focus and amount of blur.

  
 

There is also the ubiquitous “HDR” button on the top of the app. While some people like this feature, I do not like it in this app because it provides you with few options to adjust the intensity of the HDR effect such as contrast. Although the bright pink color is nice in the above photo, it is not true to the piece itself so I would not use this result to post on my shop.

  
One of the last wonderful things this app offers is the ability to save your images in full resolution. A very important feature when you want to present sharp, professional images.

Overall I would rate this easy to use app as a 4+. It is user-friendly, intuitive, and fun to use!

Oh, and you can purchase the handmade, hemp braided, beaded, Boho Chic, friendship bracelet featured in these photos on my Etsy shop along with much more here! 🙂

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Click here or on image to purchase your copy today!

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