Tag Archives: photography

5 Tips for Travel iPhone Photography

Brooklyn Bridge shot with an iPhone

Brooklyn Bridge

Summer travel is a perfect opportunity to use your iPhone or mobile camera for photography. Here are a few tips that might help you while traveling.

Limit Zoom

The zoom on an iPhone (not the iPhone Plus) is equal to a digital zoom. That means that it is not optically getting closer, just cropping in tighter. So, move closer to the subject! If you must crop in, do it in post processing for the sharpest image.

Person in subway

Slow Shutter App


Your headphones are for more than just hearing. Did you know your headphone volume button triggers your shutter button? Many people push the round button on the iPhone screen to trigger the shutter, but this can cause camera shake. So, to get the best possible image, trigger the shutter with the headphone volume button. Using the headphones this way allows you to not appear to be taking photos. Hold the camera closer to the body and bystanders will see you playing with your phone not taking photos.


The mobile phone is so easy to view different angles, so get down low or raise it up high for a different perspective. A simple change can be from shooting the same subject horizontally versus vertically. Create completely different photos using perspective, work your subject and don’t settle on the first image.

NY ArchApps

There are so many wonderful apps for mobile photography and many are free. Two of my favorite free apps are Snapseed and Polarr. Both of these apps allow for global and selective adjustments from basic exposure to extensive filters. For artistic touches, the Glaze app offers great watercolor and sketching filters. Give them a try, a little post processing can add that extra touch.

Central Park

Central Park using Hipstamatic.


Now that you have some great photos, you need to back them up. Install the Google Photos App and your images back up automatically. Another option for Adobe CC users is Adobe Lightroom Mobile. From the mobile device, add a new importable folder from your camera’s camera roll. Then, the images captured on the phone add automatically to LR Mobile. Lastly, on your home computer under the collection “From LR Mobile,” view your cell phone images. Most importantly, find a system that works for you and get your phone photos backed up.

If you want a hands-on lesson on iPhoneography, sign up for a class at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

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My Backyard

Bug on dandelion

1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 200

A few months ago, I changed camera systems to an Olympus mirrorless camera (OMD1 Mark2) and I looked forward to spend quality time with my camera. Sometimes I think I need a grandiose trip for photography, but really all it takes is a location and some time. So, I spent a few hours in my backyard. Using only my 60mm macro lens and Vanguard Veo tripod I jumped in to capture the small details of my backyard. I didn’t find the best light, so I grabbed my diffuser for the overhead sun and in the afternoon clouds rolled in to diffuse the light.


Dandelions were the first item to photograph. The delicate details and proximity to the ground provided a great challenge with my new gear. I setup my tripod, camera and shutter release to find a small bug on one of the dandelions. I quickly adjusted my field of view and captured photos of this guy. With the camera on the tripod, one hand was free to hold a diffuser over the subject. This softened the light and gave me a more even exposure. After a few minutes, I removed the camera from the tripod and handheld a few shots. Of course, I switched the camera to burst mode. I prefer burst mode when handholding the camera because it increases my chance of sharp images in the case that I move while shooting the image. Next, I was in search of ladybugs.


1/1250, f/3.2, ISO 200


Our plum trees were full of ladybugs. I did try the tripod, but the ladybugs moved so fast, I chose to handhold my camera instead. The focus point was a single point on the head and again I used burst mode to capture sharp images.

bumble bee

1/125, f/5.6, ISO 800

After ladybugs, I stuck with the bug theme and saw the bumblebees pollinating our chives. A handheld camera was again the best solution for these fast-moving insects. Luckily, the clouds rolled in which provided soft even light. I knelt on the ground and kept moving with the bees until I got several photos that pleased me. My favorite image was when the bumble bee looked straight at me! Now, I find myself checking out my yard several times a week looking for other things to shoot. A few days ago, I noticed bees pollinating our red hot pokers so I got out there and captured more images. If you are ready for a photo project, just get out in your own backyard. It is important that you have fun and spend time with your camera.

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No Diffuser? Use a Grocery Store Bag

The spring wildflowers this year have been stunning in the Phoenix area. Since I was in Phoenix for a weekend, I insisted on photographing the wildflowers. The White Tank Mountain Regional Park was closest to where I was staying, so I went out at first light and found the poppy covered hills. I drove part of the park loop and found a short path that lead to poppies. I set up my tripod and macro lens and was ready to shoot. The sun was rising and quickly illuminating my shady spot with direct light creating harsh shadows.


I reached for my diffuser to soften the light and realized it wasn’t in my bag. All I could find in my camera bag and was a white grocery store bag. If I tore the bag, it would become a full square piece of white plastic. I held the plastic between the sun and the flowers. The result – instant shade!  If the bag was a color other than white, it would cast the bag color on my flowers. Luckily, white is fairly neutral and did not cast a color on my flowers. Now, if I had been photographing a larger area, the plastic bag would not have worked. Because I used a macro lens and only had a few flowers in my frame, the bag shaded the entire area I was capturing in the camera.

Take a look at the images below: Image A was in full sun and Image B was using my plastic bag diffuser. If you look closely, you can see the difference in light on the background poppies too. So, if you find yourself without a diffuser, grab that white grocery store bag and shoot away!

Photo of wildflower poppies in full sun

Image A – Full Sun

Photo of wildflower poppies with diffused light

Image B – Plastic Bag diffuser

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Thin Ice

By Amy Horn

Blog, thin ice

Blog, thin ice (photo 1)

The overnight temperatures in Flagstaff on average have been below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few weeks, so it is no surprise that Francis Short Pond is covered with thin ice. The ice has been different thicknesses but the first day I went to capture images, the ice was not even an inch thick. So, I had to be creative on how to capture the intriguing ice bubbles I spotted just off the shore. I knew I couldn’t stand on the ice, but I hoped it would hold the weight of my camera. So, I setup my gear (tripod, Nikon D600 and 105mm macro lens) on the dry land and carefully set it on the thin ice.

I was a little nervous setting thousands of dollars of gear on the iced, but the ice held as you can see in Photo 2 and 3. When my heartbeat returned to normal, I realized my lens was not parallel to the plane of the subject. I would not get sharp photos if I didn’t make a change. Reaching over the ice from dry land, I adjusted my camera’s lens plane and then slid the tripod over the ice bubbles. I was using live view, but could barely reach the lens to focus from the side of the pond. I snapped a few shots with my shutter release then brought the tripod back to dry land to view the shots. The shots were in focus, but not the composition. Then I remembered my CamRanger. It was in my camera bag. A CamRanger is a wireless solution to capturing and viewing images (among other great features). The CamRanger would solve my problem.

CamRanger on thin ice

CamRanger on thin ice (photo 3)

CamRanger on thin ice

CamRanger on thin ice (photo 2)

I plugged the CamRanger into the camera’s USB port and used a Tether Tools Rock solid smart clip with hot shoe adapter mount to stabilize it on the camera. I opened my iPhone wifi settings and found the CamRanger wifi signal. Next, I opened the CamRanger app and turned on live view. Only a few short minutes at 19 degrees passed and I was ready to place my tripod & camera back on the ice. With the CamRanger, I could remotely control my camera through focus and exposure and preview the composition. As long as I could reach a tripod leg, I could rotate the camera on the ice to capture the composition I desired. I even used the CamRanger focus stacking feature to capture a series of images that I could stack when I got home. Photo 1 is a single capture from the CamRanger setup. This was so much fun, I forgot my gear was resting on thin ice or that it was below 20 degrees!

For more information on a CamRanger or Tether Tools mounts, please visit tethertools.com. If you are interested in learning from me, signup at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


Posted in iPhone, Photographic Techniques, Technology Also tagged , , |

Sun, Salt & Speed

When photographing landscapes we consider light and composition, but to photograph at Bonneville Speedway on the Salt Flats we need to take into consideration sun, salt and speed. There are no plants, bugs or buildings on the salt flats and the speedway appears desolate when an event is not underway. But every August, the world’s fastest wheel-driven vehicles migrate to Bonneville for the sole purpose of having their name listed in the record book with the fastest time. This amateur event was started when Ab Jenkins and his Mormon Meteor began using the Bonneville Salt Flats as a raceway setting many land speed records back in the 1930s. Since the Anthony Hopkins movie, The World’s Fastest Indian, documenting Burt Monro’s 1969 land speed record of 183 miles per hour on his Indian motorcycle, Bonneville’s SpeedWeek has grown in participation. But, how do you photograph fast moving vehicles in the bright sun surrounded by white salt? Here are a few strategies that I have found successful.

Sun. The sun shines constantly in Bonneville bouncing off the white salt creating harsh light during the day. Therefore, I normally set my white balance to sunny with a low ISO of 100 or 200. And if the summer monsoons roll in, I change my setting to cloudy. Just like landscape photography, the best time of day to catch the light is during sunrise and sunset. As a matter of fact, the first runs of the day are always the fastest vehicles working to “back up” their record. (All land speed records must be hit twice in order to count). Once the vehicles are off, the sun glistens along the body of the vehicles and while the engines gain power and speed they disappear from sight two miles away due to the curvature of the Earth. But you can still hear the roar of the engine and the driver shifting into higher gears. Using a 70-200mm f2.8 lens I captured many images at the fast track. The fast track is a nine mile track with timing monitored between miles one through five. Even when these fast vehicles launch parachutes from the back of their car the remaining four miles of the track is necessary to slow them down.

Speed Demon

Fastest car on the salt.

Salt. The salt was great on my boiled egg at breakfast, but can be harsh on your car and camera equipment. When taking photos on the salt, the bright white confuses your in-camera metering. I use evaluative metering, or multi point metering in most scenarios, but to capture a properly exposed image on the salt flats, I must set my camera exposure compensation to 2/3 to a full stop overexposed. Why do I make this change? Imagine I am shooting a picture of a car surrounded by white salt (pretty common at SpeedWeek). Well, with evaluative metering, the camera looks at the entire scene and based on how the camera is programmed expects to see 18% gray. In a majority of scenarios that would be accurate, but this does not work at the salt flats. If the camera doesn’t see 18% gray in the content of the image (like all the white salt), the camera will compensate by making the image darker than reality, therefore, giving me a photograph with gray salt. As a result, I set my camera to 2/3 to full stop overexposed. This captures an image with white salt, not gray. But be careful, if you overexpose too much your photo will lose detail in the salt.

Motorcycle racing at Bonneville Speedway

Panning with a shutter speed of 1/30 sec

Speed. During my visit this year, motorcycles, roadsters, lakesters, streamliners and muscle cars hit speeds over 200 mph with Poteet & Main’s Speed Demon hitting a new record this year of 421 mph making them the fastest car in the record book. If you like speed, then you should add Bonneville Speedway to your bucket list. This year, Tegan Hammond’s 302 mph run made her the fourth member of her family to drive over 300 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. These speeds require much faster shutter speeds. Racers at Bonneville are in pursuit of hitting the top speed in their class. To capture this in a camera requires a fast shutter speed. For example, when the vehicles leave the start line, many have push cars getting them to engage in their top gears, so a shutter speed of 1/500 was more than sufficient to stop the action. For fun, I slowed down my shutter to 1/60 and panned with a few motorcycles. Motorcycles don’t use push cars and the panning effect added movement to the image. If you haven’t tried panning before, try this: while using a slower shutter, track the subject with your camera when you are perpendicular to the subject. This creates an image with a blurred background and a sharp subject. At mile four of the track when most vehicles are at close to their peak speed, I was shooting at 1/2000 with my 70-200mm using shutter priority mode and panning. At this position the track is a greater distance away from the spectators and a longer lens would have been a better choice. I will be certain to rent one next year.
Although there are landscape photographic opportunities during SpeedWeek, you will want to photograph the action. Remember to adjust for the sun, salt and speed!

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