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iPhone 6 Plus cameras have limitations too

There’s a certain point on an iPhone’s camera where the lack of ambient light will result in a significantly grainy image. The sensor sensitivity can only do so much in terms of retrieving information in low-light situations. It’s interesting, however, to note that if you wait just a few minutes later, the amount of grain drops significantly, allowing you to capture a much cleaner image in the dark.

I typically stay away from taking any photos in the dark with my iPhone for this very reason, but managed to experiment during one of my sunrise shoots earlier in the year, when I took images every so often in the dark. The results surprised me because despite the darkness, there was a point where I was able to capture a useable image.

Useable image?

When I refer to an image as being useable, I typically mean that the raw image from the camera is clean enough for me to edit with, yielding in an image that I would be able to post online. If an image is already so grainy to begin with, editing that will yield in an even grainier image that I wouldn’t be too happy about. Grain is great when you want them in there, but for the most part, I don’t.

The following photos have been taken with my iPhone 6 Plus, but have been reduced in size in Photoshop.

The first photo:

Grainy image

Grainy image

The overall image is really grainy. It was taken in the morning at 7:18am along the lakeshore area. Since there is very little light, the sensor had trouble capturing a clean image. If you look at the skyline and cloud areas in the middle of the photo, you can see the grain quite well.

This next photo is a much cleaner image:

Cleaner Image

Cleaner Image

While you may still see some grain in this photo, there is significantly less overall. If you look in the same area along the skyline and clouds, you’ll see the details are much more noticeable. This picture was taken at 7:28am, just 10 minutes later from the previous photo.

If we take a closer look, you’ll see the difference even more. The following photos are 100 percent crops from each photo above.

100 percent of grainy image

100 percent of grainy image

And this is the full crop of the cleaner image:

100 percent of cleaner image

100 percent of cleaner image

And that’s just a 10 minute difference between the two images.

So if you’re ever caught in a situation where you need to take photos in low light situations, try and make the scene just a little bit brighter and see how your iPhone reacts to the added light. It may make a huge difference and yield in photos that are much more pleasing to the eye.

How I Edited White Nature on my iPhone 6 Plus

Today’s iPhone Post Processing technique is of the high-key image that I took one cold and windy day at Colonel Sam Smith Park in the west end of Toronto. I wanted to capture the winter scene along with the colours of the sunset, so I took to the park to see what I could find.

The photo below is what I captured from the native camera of my iPhone 6 Plus. You can see how the plant in the foreground is quite dark, but I still managed to get the subtle pink and blue of the sky in the backdrop. The overall photo is underexposed on purpose so that I can simply brighten the areas to my liking.

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

My first step was to open up the shadow areas in Instaflash Pro. I wanted to get some colour in the plant so using that app, I was able to significantly open up the shadows without adding too much grain or degradation in image quality. I also sharpened the image a bit, added a little bit of glow to it using the Orton filter, and increased the saturation slightly to bring in that colour of the plant.

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

The image was brightly lit now, but I wasn’t happy with the colours within it, so I brought it into Snapseed where I’m able to selectively edit areas of an image using their Selective Adjust tool. That tool is a pretty powerful one as it lets you adjust the contrast, saturation and brightness of certain areas of your image. The photo below shows you how many points I’ve edited for this photo. My goal here was to make the snow more white, since it had quite a blue cast to it from all the editing I’ve been doing. For each point you see, I’ve adjusted its saturation and brightness.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

The resulting photo was ok, but was still looking a little too dark for my liking. So, also within Snapseed, I used the Drama filter to brighten up the entire image. I used Bright 1 with a strength of 66, and boosted the saturation to really bring out the colours, as seen below.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image and boost saturation.

The image was now more to what I wanted it to look like. My last step these days has always been to bring it into VSCOcam, where I adjust anything I want for the final look. For this particular image, I was more or less pleased with how it looked, so I didn’t add any filters to it. Instead, I increased the saturation (+1), warmed the temperature by +2, and cropped it for Instagram. The final image, uncorked is below.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.


 

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Snapseed

Snapseed

iPhone-Edited Winter Wonderlands

My last couple of posts have been all about my winter wonderlands taken with my Nikon dSLR. This post, in contrast, is all about my winter wonderlands taken with my iPhone 5s.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F1]

The ones I had been posting recently on my Instagram feed have all been cropped to a square format. The original photos, however, are rectangular, so there are often times when seeing the photo in its entirety gives a different feel than when looked at it in a square format. You can view my Instagram feed here to compare with these photos.

The one above is one of the first winter wonderland photos I uploaded on my Instagram feed. It’s also one of my favourites this winter. With clean whites, vibrant blues that stand out, and the lighter shade of blue in the sky, it evokes a feeling of freshness on a sunny, winter day.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F1]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F2]

The first one above has the storm clouds rolling in from the left, and is overall a little bit on the darker side. The image quality suffers a little in low-light parts of this photo. The second one above was taken when the sun was still out, and adds a little bit of a fade effect to it, which further adds to the appeal of the photo.

The following three photos I’m actually quite impressed with in terms of image quality.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: F2, Mextures]


[Snapseed, Mextures]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: C3, Mextures]

Coming out of an iPhone and looking like this on a large screen is very impressive. Of course, the many effects that have been applied to it makes it harder to see the quality degradation of the image itself. The two images below have several effects applied to them, making them look a little washed out and painterly like.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: S1, Mextures]


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: C3, Mextures]

And finally, I leave you with another one of my favourites of my recent winter wonderland posts.


[Snapseed, VSCOcam: S1, Mextures]

With its brighter right side, there’s a little bit of warmth to the image. The simple composition comprising of four levels with various textures within keep the eye moving from one level to the next.

In a future post, I’ll go a little more in detail with how I use these apps to create some of my images. Stay tuned for that!

What’s in my bag?!

I’ve read a lot of other photographer’s posts on various sites on the contents of their bag when they go out shooting. So I thought I’d join in on the fun and let you all see what was in my bag during the 10 days that I was shooting the Luminato Festival. While the contents may have changed slightly from one day to another, the picture here displays the minimum amount of items that I carried for those 10 days.

Let’s break this down by the numbers, shall we?

  1. That’s my trusty old Crumpler Formal Lounge bag that’s no longer in production. I bought this several years ago to take with me on my backpacking trip to Europe, where I carried three lenses and a Nikon D80 film camera with me wherever I went. The bag—even to this day—is by far the most comfortable bag I’ve ever used to carry my camera gear in. It’s a little old, all but one of the zippers have broken off of it, and there’s absolutely no more cushion in the shoulder straps, so I think it’s about time I get a replacement. Any suggestions from out there? This weighs about 1.8kg on its own.
  2. That’s my weapon of choice: Nikon D800. It’s heavy, but it does some pretty neat things. And I love it! Attached to it, shown in the photo, is my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, which I also love. One look and people think it’s a fisheye, but really, it’s just a really, really, wide-angled lens. It weighs in at a good 2.13lbs (969g).
  3. And that’s the other lens I carried with me wherever I went: 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. It’s a beauty alright. I love that one as well, even though it weighs 3.4lbs (1.54kg)! It’s great for getting those far away shots on stage, and getting up close and personal with people from afar.
  4. That’s a Macbook Pro. It’s a rather old Macbook Pro, dating back to about 2008. It’s also very, very heavy at 5.0lbs (2.27kg). Urgh! I carried that thing so that I can start “starring” and filtering my photos for the day in Adobe Lightroom, on my subway trip back home. It saved me a load of time from having to do it once I got home to my desktop. During daytime shoots, I would just set myself down at the Hub (typically in the Volunteer Center where they had electrical outlets) and worked away on the photos on my Macbook so that I was done with them even before I got home. The battery doesn’t last more than 30 minutes now so I needed a plug wherever I settled myself down. I think it’s time for a Macbook Air: that will for sure save me in my costs for neck and shoulder massages!
  5. These are the miscellaneous items I had in my front pocket of my Crumpler.
    • I need a tissue wherever I go thanks to my lifelong, yearlong allergy symptoms.
    • And to save me from having to use my tissue, I had some allergy pills in case of emergency. I used them once during the 10 days.
    • SPF60 sunscreen. I hate wearing sunscreen. Because of that, I now have wrinkles around me eyes. But I carried this tube anyway as some days it was just too sunny even for my wrinkles. I actually used it quite a bit. Thanks L’Oreal!
    • While not shown here, I used to carry a small, portable Luminato-branded umbrella that I tucked in the side strap of my camera bag. It worked well, but broke during the week while using it.
    • I got this plastic rain poncho nearing the end of my 10 days. It saved me from getting soaked during the sudden downpours over the second weekend. I was out in the open when the storm came so this was a lifesaver (and camera-saver).
    • And finally, my Luminato lanyard. This was my all-access pass so I needed to wear this wherever I went. It also served as a pocket for my pen and waiver release forms that I needed for some of my photos.
    • A lens-cleaning cloth. Definitely a must for any photographer on the go. I used this in the middle of a shift to clean the inside of my camera because somehow a huge sticky substance made its way onto the mirror inside. A cloth is much more versatile than a lens-cleaning pen since it can get at almost any area on/in the camera. No lens-cleaning pen would have solved my mirror spot problem.
  6. This is my tripod. It’s a Gitzo Explorer series, which is another amazing tool that I love. It’s not carbon fiber so it’s quite heavy when you carry it with you for an extended period of time. It weighs in at 2.35kg for the legs, and 1.1kg for the head for a total of 3.45kg. It’s big, it’s tall, it’s a crappy thing to have to carry with you wherever you go. But with it, I’m able to take pictures like the one you see below. It makes it worthwhile once I see my end results with it. Again, without it, my massage bills would be drastically reduced. See that strap around the center post of my tripod? One of the other photographers commented on how he liked it a lot. I told him, I took that strap off a gym bag and now use it as my shoulder strap for my tripod. I have two of them so that I can carry my tripod like a backpack. It works well even though I may look silly carrying it. Most festival photographers probably don’t carry a tripod around with them since their gear and accessories are enough as it is. I don’t blame them. But it’s something I do since I believe it makes my pictures that much more pleasing than if I were to handhold a shot in low-light situations.


Without a tripod, photos like this would be much harder to get since I can’t put my camera on anything stable in the middle of an open area or halfway down a flight of stairs, like I was on when I took this photo.

Let’s round up the weight:
Crumpler Formal Lounge bag: 1.8kg
Nikon D800 body only: 900g
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII: 1.54kg
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8: 969g
Macbook Pro: 2.27kg
Gitzo Explorer Tripod and Head: 3.45kg

For a grand total of: 10.929kg. If you add in all the miscellaneous items, the total weight will exceed 11kg, or 24.25lbs!

I don’t know about you, but that equates to some long hours on the massage table for me. It’s kind of amazing that I was still standing up after 10 days.

So there you have it. Perhaps this is light compared to what you carry, or perhaps it’s overkill to others. Each photographer works differently and has their own set of goodies in their own bag. That’s why it’s always a nice insight to see what others carry.

The most important thing is, carry what you need to get the job done to your liking.

Review: DODOcase for iPad

DODOcase Review
After weeks of anticipation, I finally got my very own DODOcase. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a carrying case for your iPad that resembles the form of a Moleskin agenda.

After a long period of time researching which case to get, I decided upon this one as it seemed to me, to be the most elegant yet functional of all the cases that I considered. All the rave reviews also confirmed my purchase.

At US$59.95 for the standard red and US$64.95 for a myriad of other wonderful colours, it wasn’t the cheapest option. But I figured supporting a handmade book bound case was in order, seeing as I do work in the print industry as well. Note, I did swallow the extra US$25 for shipping fees, and the potential for additional custom duties and HST at the border—more on that below.

At first impression, I was surprised to see how lite the case was. I’m not sure why, but I always had the notion that the case would be hefty and substantial. Rather, the bamboo made it light and that was a warm welcome since the weight of the iPad itself was enough as it is.

Checking the construction, I can’t complain. All things considered, it was well made. I loved the crackling of the binding as I opened it up for the first time. The four corner pads were left half unglued to the bamboo, waiting for the iPad to finish the job. With these pads as the only thing that holds the iPad in place, they carry an awful lot of weight on them (literally speaking). It’s good to know, however, that you can order additional pads free of charge. I just may have to do that as I found one of my pads is very prone to slipping and bulking out of placement. A minor hinderance.

I did notice, however, that the carving of the bamboo wasn’t as smooth as I thought it should be. It’s simply raw bamboo smoothened out to an extent. In fact, the curvature by the volume buttons on the side of the iPad has a slight catch to it, which is noticeable when I run my fingers along the edge. I had to tear a small piece off as it came loose at one point.

Besides that, it’s an impressive piece of case. The iPad fits snug, the cover seems durable, and with the rubber band to keep the case closed, it’s sure to protect your iPad in a stylish way. While I haven’t subjected my iPad to any strong shocks of any sort, I wonder how much the DODOcase can handle a drop or a hard hit to it. I’m not about to test that out.

Although their website indicates that the DODOcase may be subject to additional brokerage fees and/or duties upon entering your home country, this was not the case for me. In fact, everything was on time and I really can’t complain. Upon placing my order, I noticed that they were shipping approximately 1-2 weeks after order placement. To my delight, I received an email about 1.5 weeks after my placement, saying that my DODOcase has left its nest. About a week later, I received my case, packed in a sturdy cardboard box and shipped in a USPS envelope. No duties, no brokerage fees, no fuss.

Now, go get your case, DODO!

Homemade apple pie

Apple pie by Taku
It’s a wonder why up to this day, I had never made a pie. I think it was always in my mind that it was something of a difficult task and I always shied away from it. Until now.

I had bought some delicious looking Pink Lady apples from the grocer the other day. I ate one, and found out that I was mildly allergic to this type of apple. Yes, I am allergic to some apples believe it or not. Same with raw carrots, but that’s another story. These raw fruits and veggies more or less come from the same family of tree or plant that I am allergic to, thereby having an effect on me when I eat them. However once I cook or bake them, the protein that causes my allergic reaction goes away, and I am a happy camper.

So I found out that I am allergic to Pink Lady and then was left to figure out what to do with the remaining five apples that I bought. I figured, if I can’t eat them raw, then I may as well make something with them… and what better to make than a delicious homemade apple pie! It was actually good timing as it gave me a chance to put this one under my belt now too.

And so, doing some preliminary research, I figured I’d go with the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, as they recommended using lard (yay!) to give that tender and flaky crust action.

Not owning a pastry blender (note to self to consider buying one next time), I used two knives—as suggested by tJoC—to blend the lard, flour, and other dry ingredients, carefully making sure not to over mix the batch. Mix until pea-sized crumbs form? I was a little wary on that since I didn’t really want chunks of lard and/or butter in my crust when biting into it. Nonetheless, I followed the instructions diligently, and although my final dough didn’t come out to be as expected—too dry I would guess was my problem; not enough water added—I put it in the oven to bake hoping for the best.

Because of these pea-sized crumbs, I had little bits of lard scattered throughout my dough. I didn’t like this one bit as it not only made it hard to roll out, but it also made quite the mess when trying to work it in the pan. Blah.

Nonetheless, I worked it in the pan, only to find out that I had not saved enough dough for the top layer. I could only cover about 7/8th of the top of the pie, as I tried hard to cover it.

After about one hour of baking, I took the pie out of the oven and to my surprise, it actually looked half decent. Sure the top of the pie was a little messy as you can see in the picture, but it still looked like a pie, smelled like a pie, and sure enough tasted like a pie.

In fact, it was actually a very good pie. I lucked out in that the Pink Lady apples had just the right amount of tartness to them. My brother thought it was the perfect ratio of tartness to sweetness, although NH and I thought I could have done with a little less sugar. 3/4 cup would have probably sufficed.

Coupled with some vanilla ice cream, this apple pie was a hit for dinner at my brother’s bbq dinner. Mmm…
I have about one slice left as a left-over but I’m a little peeved as I forgot the ice cream in my brother’s fridge that evening. It looks like that slice of pie will have to go it alone… or with PC’s cookie’s ‘n cream ice cream if I so choose.

So now that I know that pie isn’t all too difficult to make, I will be sure to make more in the near future. Strawberry season is just around the corner and I can’t wait to make some strawberry pie. Blueberry pies are also very tempting. The combination with pies are endless, and that’s what makes it such a great thing to make. Making this pie reminded me of the 2007 movie Waitress with Kerry Russell, where she can’t stop making all these pies.

Mmm…