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Product Review: Oowa Lenses

Mobile photography has become so popular within the last few years thanks to the advances in the technology mobile devices use. With iPhones spitting out billboard-worthy photos, there seems to be an ever-growing trend to see which mobile device can capture the best image. Using just the device, however, may have its limitations—and that’s where the accessory industry comes into play. With so many options to choose from though, how are we to know which one is worthy of your money?

Oowa, started as a Kickstarter campaign, and with their lenses created by DynaOptics Ltd., claims they are “revolutionizing mobile photography with free-form optics.” Free-form optics? Here’s what they say about this, taken directly from their website:

“Our patent-pending, free-form technology is uniquely optimized for translating the image circle onto the iPhone’s rectangular sensor. This results in superior edge-to-edge image quality with no dark corners and no color bleeding. Mobile photography will never be the same again.”

Oowa free-form optics technology

In short, their lenses are optimized to the device’s rectangular sensor by way of optimizing a rectangular portion of the image area of their lenses. This sounds fancy and all, so I was excited when I received an email from them to test out their set of iPhone lenses. Are they really revolutionary though? Let’s find out!

Oowa Pro Kit contents

Note: This review isn’t intended to be technical in any way—there will be no studying graphs or charts here. My on-the-field photos are taken and observed as is, giving you real-world examples. While test charts and graphs may prove one set of lenses to be sharper/better than another, seeing things out on the field is how I like to determine the lenses to use for my purposes.

Oowa telephoto lens with lens hood

All sample photos are taken with an iPhone 6s Plus. All sample images have been resized for the web. Other than that, they are unedited images as seen from the iPhone camera.

Oowa wide angle lens out in the field on an iPhone 6s Plus

The Oowa set of lenses that were sent to me have a close competitor to them, called Moment—which also started as a Kickstarter campaign. Where I can, I have compared the photos created with Oowa lenses with those made with the Moment set of equivalent lenses. If you’re interested in seeing my review on the Moment set of lenses and cases for my iPhone, you can read the Moment lens and case review here.

The Pro Kit

The Pro Kit consists of a case for your phone that acts as the adaptor to their lenses: the 15mm wide angle lens, and the 75mm telephoto lens. The telephoto lens also comes with a flare hood, and both lenses come with a lens cap to protect the front glass, and a lens pouch to carry each lens in.

Oowa Pro kit contents

The Case

The Oowa case is simple, minimal, and to my surprise, quite comfortable to hold. It’s sleek and smooth design adds minimal bulk to your iPhone, which is always great. The button openings on the case are big enough for you to access the buttons, but I find that the buttons are inset too much to actually be able to switch and/or press the buttons with ease. Perhaps this is just my bulky fingers, but I find the need to use the tips of my fingers to actually make use of the buttons. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but is just a little inconvenient at times.

Oowa case with button holes

The case is made of plastic, but seems sturdy enough to withstand low-impact moments. The flat back is actually quite slippery to the touch, so I have had instances where it has easily slipped out of my hands. The purpose of the case is to be able to attach their set of lenses on to the iPhone. This is done through the threaded opening surrounding the camera area. There are no markings or anything, which can be problematic to some as I’ll explain further below.

Oowa lens attachment thread on the case

The Lens

15mm

As a photographer who loves taking landscape photos, I love wide angle lenses. The photos that come out of them pull you into the scene and surround you with beauty. At 15mm, this is much wider than the 18mm wide angle lens I was using with my iPhone. How does this compare with the regular iPhone lens? Let’s see!

iPhone 6s Plus Lens vs. Oowa 15mm

You can slide the slider left or right to see the image taken with the iPhone’s native lens (slide right), and compare that with the image taken with the Oowa 15mm lens (slide left).


You’ll likely notice quite a big difference in terms of field of view. The 15mm is significantly wider than the iPhone’s native lens on the iPhone 6s Plus, as can be seen by the extra trees you see. If we take a look at the corner areas, you’ll see that while the iPhone photo has a relatively decent image quality, the Oowa lens tends to suffer a bit. The finer edges of the branches get blurred—especially at all four corners of the image.

Oowa 15mm vs. Moment 18mm

Now, let’s compare this same image taken with the Oowa 15mm wide angle lens (slide right) with the Moment 18mm (first generation) lens (slide left)!


From day 1 I’ve always noticed vignetting and distortion with this lens, as you can see in the photo above. I should mention that Moment just recently came out with a newer version of their wide angle lens, so that may have solved some of the issues that were plaguing this initial version.

Here’s another example where you can see the Oowa 15mm (slide right) has slightly better image quality edge-to-edge, compared with the Moment 18mm (slide left).


If you look closely, you’ll notice how the image quality from the Moment wide angle lens suffers at all four corners, with some light fall-off. Comparing that with the Oowa 15mm wide angle, I would say the Oowa lens has a slightly better image quality, and next to no vignetting, which is thanks to their free-form optics. Way to go Oowa!

iPhone 6s Plus Lens vs. Oowa 75mm

This Oowa telephoto lens zooms, which is 2.5x closer than the standard iPhone lens, can get a bit closer to the subject than my Moment 60mm lens. This is great for when you want to capture the moment but aren’t able to get physically closer. Slide right for the iPhone version and slide left for the Oowa telephoto version.


Similarly to the initial comparison from above, the image quality of the Oowa 75mm is slightly lower than that of the iPhone 6s Plus native lens. This can be seen primarily around the corners where the branches are all blurred together.

Oowa 75mm vs. Moment 60mm

Comparing the same image with the Moment 60mm lens (slide left), I would again agree that the Oowa 75mm (slide right) has a slight advantage with overall better image quality and next to no visible vignetting.


Something Strange

When using the Oowa 75mm lens attachment, I noticed something strange that doesn’t happen with the iPhone nor Moment 60mm lens. Depending on the angle at which I take my photo, the four corners of my image will be significantly blurry. If you look at the image below, it can be seen that a large part of each corner is blurred.

And here too…blurred and coloured corners.

In most cases, I angled the iPhone slightly up from the level position, to see the corner area of my image discoloured and/or blurred. This would likely have to do with the internal lens configuration of the Oowa 75mm but it’s something I would say needs to be fixed in a future version. Given this, I would only be able to use the Oowa 75mm when taking photos level to the horizon.

Here is another example of where this happened, although it may be a little more difficult to tell with all the details. Fortunately this did not happen with the Oowa 15mm wide angle attachment.

Connecting the lenses to the case

This may not sound as important as the quality of the images taken with these lenses, but it’s a functionality issue that in my opinion affects the overall use of the system. I mentioned earlier that there are no markings on the lenses or the case, which makes you wonder, how do you connect the two?

Looking at the other side of the Oowa lens there are no obvious markers

The team at Oowa has created a video on this, which explains that you need to align the vertical tabs seen on the back of each lens, with the top and bottom of the opening on the case. You then simply twist clockwise to attach the lens. In theory this works great. But when you’re out in the field, you may be pressed for time, or completely forget about those two small tabs (which I ended up doing when I first went out with the lenses). When you’re in a rush, the last thing you want to do is to stop, look at the lens and carefully align the tabs to the opening. I would love to be able to just swap and go. Traditional SLR lenses—and even other mobile device lens attachments—have markings on both the body and lens (or case and lens), which act as a simple and quick way to properly attach the lens to the body/case. With these Oowa lenses, I can’t do this without having to look carefully and align.

While this doesn’t affect the quality of the image, I find this to be a little cumbersome and hope they fix this in a future version.

Align the top of the case (shown here) to just right of the logo on each lens, and twist clockwise until it attaches

As an alternative, I’ve devised my own way of quickly attaching the lens, as shown above. Align just past the Oowa logo and keep twisting clockwise until the lens locks into place. I’ve had about a 90 percent success rate with this method, and it works more or less with both the wide and telephoto lenses.

Conclusion

I love using lens attachments to expand the photographic ability of my iPhone, but especially appreciate it when these attachments do a fantastic job at retaining image quality. My experience with my first set of lens attachments proved a little disappointing as it suffered from blurred corners and a lot of vignetting. These Oowa set of lenses, however, are a marked improvement over my Moment set of lenses, and thanks to their free-form optics, I am really happy to see that they have done away with vignetting around the corners. The image quality at the corners still do suffer a little, but again, not as much as my Moment lenses.

This strange reflection I got with the 75mm lens, however, is problematic, and I really do wish they fix this in a future version, since this limits the angle in which I can use this lens.

The method of attaching these lenses to the case can also use some improvements so that I don’t have to think about how to go about doing it while out in the field. Every second counts when you’re trying to take photos of sunrises, and I don’t want to miss a moment trying to attach a lens to my camera.

The build quality of these lenses are solid, and I can see them withstanding some heavy use. I’m happy with the image quality coming out of them, but still yearn for the time when we can get very sharp picture quality edge-to-edge.


Disclaimer: These Oowa lenses were sent to me by Oowa for review purposes. Opinions are strictly my own.


Do you have any experience with Oowa lenses, or any other mobile phone lens attachments? Let me know how your experience is in the comments below!

Bonus

Here’s another set of photos comparing the iPhone lens to the Oowa lenses and the Moment lenses.

iPhone Regular Lens

Oowa Wide vs. Moment Wide

Slide right for the Oowa wide angle version and slide left for the Moment wide angle version.


Oowa Tele vs. Moment Tele

Slide right for the Oowa telephoto version and slide right for the Moment telephoto version.


Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram Headquarters

For those that follow me on social media, you’ll know that I love to take sunrise photos. So when Facebook Canada invited me and a handful of other Instagram users for a #SunriseEmpty look into their new headquarters in downtown Toronto, I took to the chance immediately.

Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram's headquarters

Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram’s headquarters

The event, which expands on the #empty movement pioneered by American Instagrammer Dave Krugman, brings together photographers in the city to capture various locations after-hours, often yielding in a different mood to the location.

Having to get to the offices of Facebook Canada and Instagram before sunrise meant waking up shortly before 5am. Thankfully I’ve been used to getting up early for my Toronto Sunrise Series shoots—although I have to admit, this time was a little more difficult.

The sunrise light as seen from within the Facebook Canada office space.

The sunrise as seen from within the Facebook Canada office space.

Their office almost took over an entire floor, providing a sweeping 270 degree view of the city. With windows all around, there would have been plenty of light coming in—had it not been overcast during the sunrise hour.

The sunrise as seen from a window of Facebook Canada.

The sunrise as seen from a window at Facebook Canada.

Far into the distance though, the clouds opened up to let the sun shine though, bringing with it some strikingly red-pink glow throughout. It was short-lived, and you had to act quickly to capture this moment. I hear the reflection of this light off of the city buildings were quite nice; although I wouldn’t know as I only captured a sliver of this light off of this building.

The reflection of the morning sun on a building.

The reflection of the morning sun on a building.

Facebook Canada opted for the open-concept office space, making it a spacious and inviting place to work in with murals spray-painted by a local artist giving it a boost of colour. I was told the office furniture was selected to complement the colourful murals.

The open-concept office space of Facebook Canada and Instagram.

The open-concept office space of Facebook Canada and Instagram.

Each room has an association to something Canadian and is proudly displayed beside the door, adding to the playfulness of the office.

Each room has a unique Canadian reference to its name.

Each room has a unique Canadian reference to its name.

And for those that follow politics, here’s a room just for you too.

A nod to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The name of this room gives a nod to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Scattered throughout the space, I spotted various items of inspiration (?) like stuffed Sesame Street dolls dressed in Facebook tees that were randomly placed on sofas, hover boards (now I know where all the banned hover boards went), and vibrantly decorated booths.

Elmer wearing a Facebook tee.

Elmer wearing a Facebook tee.

A pillar and booth are colourfully decorated. If only I knew what these booth were used for!

A booth and pillar covered in artwork at Facebook Canada's headquarters.

A booth and pillar covered in artwork at Facebook Canada’s headquarters.

Along one side of the office were eight pillars all decorated by a local artist. Up in the fully stocked cafeteria, one pillar tells us to “look” with an arrow pointing outward, giving us a great view of the CN Tower when we look there.

Look!

Look!

And along the walls were various posters with words of inspiration to help you work through the day.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.

The morning wouldn’t be complete without a barista on hand to make you a hand-crafted cappuccino, mochacchino, espresso, café au lait, or even a chai tea latte. I was told he is not always there, and was present for this event only. The staff can enjoy the Starbucks machine on the counter, with three different Starbucks roasts to please their palette.

A barista was on hand to make hand-crafted espresso and cappuccinos.

Edward (@edwardrow) enjoys a hand-crafted espresso.

While the invitation mentioned a “light” breakfast, it was anything but, with freshly squeezed orange juice and blended smoothies, sandwiches, scrambled eggs (and egg whites!), mini-scones, potatoes, thick-cut bacon, pea meal bacon, and fruit. I don’t have pictures of this though—I must have been too busy eating it all up.

Besides enjoying the space, it was also a great chance to meet new Instagram faces and catch up with old ones. I knew a handful of people there, while many were new to me. It’s always nice to be able to meet the faces behind the accounts you follow, further enhancing that #CommunityFirst experience.

Kael (@punkodelish), made it to the event despite her busy travel itinerary.

I wonder if Kaele realizes her iPhone case matches the colour of the benches.

I wonder if Kael realizes her iPhone case matches the colour of the benches.

She even brought another fellow Instagrammer along for the ride. Here she is with Christoffer Collin (@wisslaren).

Kaele and Phillipe looking at a picture.

Kael and Christoffer…’gramming?

The clouds moved away, bringing in more sunlight to the floor. This allowed for some more “fun-in-the-sun,” although it seems like I just relegated to taking silhouettes of people.

Here’s Taha (@tahaphoto) in the sun.

Taha in the sunlight.

Taha in the sunlight.

And Taha (@tahaphoto) contemplating life on the bench.

Taha contemplating on life.

Taha contemplating life.

I also caught a quick snap of Victor (@veeceecheng) doing what he does best.

Victor taking a photo at sunrise.

Victor taking a photo at sunrise.

A couple of reps. from Facebook Canada joined us and gave a few words on their new headquarters.

Joelle tells the group a little about Facebook Canada's new headquarters.

Joelle tells the group a little about Facebook Canada’s new headquarters.

It was an enjoyable morning filled with some great city views, great company, good food, and good times at Facebook Canada and Instagram headquarters. Thanks for the tour!

Oliver the dog, courtesy of Holly Sisson (@hollysisson), Monica Sisson (@monicasisson), and Pitterpatterfurryfeet (@pitterpatterfurryfeet).

Product Review: Moment Case and Lenses

Moment Lenses and Case Review

Lens additions aren’t new to mobile photography. There’s plenty of choices out there from generic third party lenses to more notable ones like Olloclips. But when I came across Moment’s lenses and case Kickstarter campaign in 2015, I couldn’t help but get behind this piece of glass.

Product Review: Moment Case and LensesMoment first released their lenses in 2014, however, I only came across them from their second Kickstarter campaign, which was a companion case to their lenses. I’m never a fan of buying things that are made specifically for a device, since I’m prone to changing/upgrading my iPhone every year or two. However, I went ahead and ordered the case, along with their wide angle 18mm and telephoto 60mm lenses.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

I received my case and lenses in December 2015, just in time for the Christmas holidays. Upon opening the packages, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the case and lenses. Let me start with the case, since that’s their latest campaign.

The Moment Case

The moment case comes in a few different colour combinations: black on black, wood on black, and white on black. I chose the latter for my iPhone 6s Plus, and I really like the little bit of white on top, as it adds a little contrast to the rest of the case, which is quite large.

Moment lens attached to case.

Moment lens attached to case.

The case—apart from the white top, which is plastic—has a really nice feel to it: it’s firm yet has a rubbery felt-like feel to it, thanks to the custom TPU material that they use. It provides just the right amount of friction for a secure grip, and as the folks at Moment says, it’s “not so grippy that it gets stuck in your pocket.”

Moment lenses and Moment case.

Moment lenses and Moment case.

The case is tapered, offering a thicker grip, which allows for better handling of your phone in landscape mode. This thicker area is also where the circuit board and battery resides. The battery lights the LED light that shows when there’s a connection with the Moment app, and also sends information to the app when you press the shutter button.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

The bottom of the case is open, so you won’t have any problems with inserting anything in the earphone jack or lightning cable port. The added aluminum bar acts as a neck strap hook and is a nice touch as well, although this piece on my case is a little wobbly upon touch.

Why is this case special?

Apart from adding another level of protection for your iPhone, the case acts as an interface to the collection of Moment lenses that they offer. Their proprietary interface is embedded within the case so all you need to do is twist the lens on to the case. The interface is well built and twisting on the lens is a breeze. There’s no click to lock the lens in place like you see on a dSLR, but I feel confident that the lens won’t easily twist off.

More importantly though, the case allows for added functionality when shooting with your iPhone. By adding a shutter button to the case, you’re now able to use that button to hold focus (by half-pressing the button), while we swipe on the screen to fine-tune adjustments like exposure. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of this as I wasn’t used to half-pressing and swiping at the same time. But once you’re used to it, the feature becomes quite handy.

Lens attachment

The case recognizes when you attach a lens to the case. While initially (if I remember correctly) the idea was that it automatically knew which lens was attached. The way it is now, you have to tell the Moment app which lens you have just attached. Moment says this “unlocks advanced software features” specific to each lens. What these features are, I do not know.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Note, if you don’t have the case, Moment sells a stainless steel mounting plate that you can stick to any mobile device, allowing you to use any one of their lenses.

The lens cap and magnet

The two lens caps that came with my combo does a great job in protecting the front element of the lens. It’s not flimsy by any means, and has a protective foam layer on the inside. There’s a small magnet hidden inside the lens cap so it can conveniently attach itself to the Moment Case, which also has a magnet on the top of the grip. It’s their way of making sure that you don’t lose the lens cap when you’re using the lens.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

The magnet isn’t super strong though, so just be careful when you’ve got it attached. Your hand will cover the lens cap when holding the phone and if you’re not careful, you can easily knock the lens cap right off the magnetic spot with a quick swipe.

The Lenses

The Moment currently has three lenses in their collection: 18mm, 60mm, and a macro lens.

Moment 60mm and 18mm lenses.

Moment 60mm telephoto and 18mm wide lenses.

My Kickstarter package came with the 18mm and 60mm. Similar to the Moment case, as soon as I handled these lenses, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Gone are the days of cheap, plastic lenses with clip-on attachments. These are heavy-duty lenses made with quality glass, multi-element designs, and aerospace-quality stainless steel. When you pick one up, you’ll notice this quality instantly. It’s solidly built, and looks terrific.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

18mm wide

As a landscape photographer, I immediately drew my attention to the 18mm wide angle lens. I love the added focal length this gives me. The large landscape coverage gives me that same feeling as when I shoot with my 14mm on my Nikon D800. You can see how much more coverage the lens gives you, below. The iPhone camera without any attachment has a focal length of approx. 29/30mm (35mm equivalent). The 18mm is much wider as you can see.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

I’ve noticed a slight vignetting with this lens (see sample photos below). It’s nothing I can’t live with though. On the Moment lens website though, it says “clear edge to edge.” From my test samples below, I’m not so sure I can agree with this. If you look at the sample photos, you’ll see the corners and edges are a little blurry, which is a shame. I could live with the vignetting, but I would have loved to have edge to edge sharpness, as mentioned on their site.

60mm telephoto

The telephoto lens does a terrific job at getting you that much closer to the subject. Forget the digital zooms on your iPhone as that just yields in poor quality images as a product of digital extrapolation. Having an optical telephoto lens means you’ll come out with top quality images that you’ll be surprised came out of a mobile device.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Looking at the images below, you’ll notice how much closer the subject is (two times closer). Of course, a steady hand will always help more with any telephoto lens, so be sure to hold it steady, or use a tripod like I always do.

Do I Really Need These?

If you love taking photos with your iPhone or mobile device, the Moment case and lenses won’t disappoint. Apart from the slight vignetting and distortion that I saw with my 18mm lens, I have to say it’s the best lens addition to my iPhone that I’ve ever seen thus far.

These are by no means a necessity for any iPhone user, but more so an added benefit to being able to take extra wide and telephoto photos. The interaction with their app adds a nice touch and really enhances the picture-taking experience on a mobile device, which ultimately has given me even more of an excuse to go out and start shooting again.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Sample Photos

To better compare the results, here are a couple sample landscapes that I took with each of the lenses, along with the shot taken with the regular iPhone 6s Plus camera for comparison. These images have been resized and saved for web; apart from that, no editing has been done.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

If you look at the top left corner, you’ll notice that the finer tree branches are not as clear as the rest of the branches surrounding them. And if you compare these branches to those in the iPhone 6s Plus photo, you can really see that the quality has dropped a little with the lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Now, look at the top left corner of this photo. It’s slightly blurred along with the rest of that left side. In fact, all corners are slightly blurry if you look closely.

Test Photo 2

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Looking at the top corners (left and right), you’ll see there is slight vignetting. It’s harder to see on the bottom corners, but it’s there as well.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

The top right corner is slightly darker here as well. And again, you can notice that the entire left side of the photo is slightly blurred.

Bonus

And if you’re curious, here are a couple photos I took with my Nikon D800, where I changed the focal length until I matched the composition that I took with the Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses. The first photo turned out to be 19mm, which is pretty close. The second photo turned out to be 58mm, which is also pretty close. This test doesn’t really do much except tell me that I did a pretty good job matching the composition between the two cameras.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

If you’ve taken great photos with Moment lenses, feel free to comment below and let me know!


For more information on the Moment case and lenses, head over to their website at http://www.momentlens.co.

2015 Year in Review – iPhone Photography

While it was difficult to pick my 2015 Year in Review for my Nikon photos, believe it or not it’s even more difficult to do the same for my iPhone Photography.

2015 Year in Review: iPhone Photography

My iPhone is always with me and that’s one reason why it’s easier to take priceless moments when they arise. Furthermore, there’s really no setting up when it comes to taking pictures with your iPhone: as soon as I open the camera app, I’m ready to take a photo. That being said, there’s a certain amount of foresight involved with iPhone Photography as well.

My favourite iPhone photography for 2015 are below, and indicates a wide variety of photo genre and editing styles, as experimentation is always in order when it comes to iPhone photo taking and editing.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

This photo is similar to the one I took with my Nikon, but the editing was a little different, producing another moody photo to one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen in Toronto.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

I’ve always been a fan of long exposure photography, and doing these on an iPhone is super-easy with the Slow Shutter Cam app. I always make it a point to carry my mini-tripod with me so that I can produce long-exposures in moments where I least expect to. This one was taken during the sunrise hours where the reflection of the light on the serene lake made the moment extra special.

Beached in Hamilton

Beached in Hamilton

This photo above was taken on the shorelines of Hamilton where I decided to come on a whim. With the cold temps, strong wind, and open area, I hoped to capture the essence of the moment. The purple colour was added from a filter, but represented the subtle colours that were present in the early evening hours.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Here’s a moment where I lucked out by coming to the waterfalls when a group of ice climbers were having their weekend lesson. I wasn’t the only photographer there, so I managed to get some tips from a veteran ice climb photographer. The race to the top yielded in this perfectly timed shot where the climbers themselves formed a mountain!

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Here’s where I was fortunate enough to be at the Scarborough Bluffs, where a group of jet-skiers came zooming into the scene as they held a meetup on the beach. I captured them having fun in the water as they twirled around as if they knew I was taking their photos.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

My trip to Alberta also produced some of my favourite images from my iPhone. This one, just off the Bow Valley Highway to me, seems like the perfect Rocky Mountain scene, which had some great wispy clouds to add even more interest to the landscape. The railroad cutting through the trees is a great guide to lead the eyes from one side of the image to the other.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

I normally don’t have people in my landscapes, but this moment was too good to pass up. As my wife stood there admiring the view from the Mt. Norquay lookout, I stepped back and quickly took this with my iPhone as I loved her stance, her hat, and the background. It just all fit perfectly.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

While I normally edit in colour, on occasion when I see the opportunity to make a great monochromatic image, I go for it. This image was just the case where the long exposure of the lake played well with the ice- and snow-covered shoreline. This shot would have been difficult on a dSLR if I didn’t have a ND filter.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

This may be one of my favourite iPhone sunrise photos as the colours were just so brilliant. The fog hovering over Lake Ontario makes this extra moody and I’m glad my iPhone was able to capture this mood so well.

As you can see, there’s a variety of shots from my iPhone, and that’s to be expected. It’s a great camera to have in your pocket. I hope you enjoyed this round-up of some of my favourite iPhone photographs of 2015. I don’t know what 2016 will bring me, but I do know that with my newly acquired 18mm wide angle and 60mm telephoto lens from Moment, I will be sure to have even more fun the next time I go out.

Don’t worry, a review of these Moment lenses will come soon!

How to Organize a Meetup

This past weekend, I organized a Toronto meetup for Periscope users, and it was a great success. We all had fun and met new people from the city, bringing the Periscope community in Toronto that much closer. This meetup didn’t happen overnight though. There was some planning involved, and so rather than explain everything to everybody who’s asked, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to explain the details of what you should be looking for when planning for a meetup in your own city. You’re not planning a Periscope meetup you say? No worries, this post will act as a guide so that you can use it for reference no matter what kind of meetup you’re going to plan for your home town.

How to Organize a MeetupThe Idea

When coming up with a meetup idea for Periscope, I wanted to do something special. Rather than just meet everybody over beer or lunch, I wanted to include the best part of using the Periscope app: the interaction we as broadcasters get with our viewers. With this in mind, I came up with the idea of being lost in our home city, while our viewers helped us find each other by popping in and out of our scopes, and telling us where everybody else was located. I included a lunch part of the meetup after this initial game portion, so that we could all mingle together.

If your meetup is with another app, find out what makes that app so special, and try to incorporate that element into the meetup to make things more exciting. For example, when planning an Instagram meetup for photographers, we had an underground theme where we went into our subway system and rode around the subway taking photos at various stations. This brought in many different types of photographs, and made it for a fun day.

The Logistics

On paper, this may look great, but there were logistics that had to be planned out in order for this to work out. Here’s how I solved our problems.

Where should broadcasters be located?

This was tough since I didn’t know how many people would be participating at first. Depending on the number of participants, I thought I’d set the boundaries larger so we had more places to meet each other. In my case, I set a general boundary within our city that was large enough for us to not be too close to each other, but close enough that we could still walk from one end of the boundary to the other. If the boundaries were too small, there would be the risk of everybody finding each other too quickly as well.

Peri Lost In Toronto

Peri Lost In Toronto

At the end of the day, the boundary that I had set was pretty good. 1.4km from Spadina to Yonge, and 2.7km from Bloor St. to Front St.. While I had some feedback saying it was too large of a boundary, the majority of people ended up finding each other within the first 20-30 minutes, which is a decent amount of time in my opinion.

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

When deciding on a location for your meetup, think of somewhere that may be unique for your group. Instead of a restaurant, perhaps an open place or patio may add a little more excitement for the group.

How would viewers find broadcasts of the participants?

Since not every viewer followed every participant on Periscope, I had to make sure it was easy for viewers to find all of our live broadcasts. The Periscope app doesn’t allow anybody to search the broadcast title, so I had to turn to Twitter for this. As long as we searched for a unique word, the viewers would be able to find each participating broadcaster and hop into their scope. I chose to use the #PeriLostInToronto hashtag since it was not in use, and described the event well. Make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t already in use as it will just clutter the search results and confuse viewers.

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

Once viewers searched the hashtag that day, they could immediately see that there were 11 of us currently lost in Toronto. They could then go to any one of those 11 users and see where they were, and let them know the locations of other scopers. This worked well since I had many people pop into my scope that were regular viewers of other scopers, and vice versa.

Engagement is key

The best part of this meetup was that it also incorporated the essence of the app that brought us together: engagement. The Periscope app wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the engagement we get with our viewers. I had lots of fun in my broadcast telling people where I was, and following instructions from viewers popping in to tell me where to go to meet the other broadcasters. People told me to head south while others told me to stay put. I had to ultimately engage with my viewers while making the executive decision.

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

If your app doesn’t allow for this type of engagement, make sure that what you do will allow for full engagement amongst group members. If you have a large group gathering, be sure to encourage switching group members around throughout the meetup so everybody gets a chance to meet each other.

The Social Element

I included a second part to the meetup largely for two reasons:

  1. Include those Periscope users that did not want to participate in the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup
  2. Include a social aspect to the meetup so that everybody could meet everyone else in case they did not get a chance to in the first half of the meetup
Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

This is important if you want your meetup participants to mingle and get to know everybody else. If your meetup group is large, try and make it so every member can have a chance to meet and talk with every other member.

Instagram meetups can get quite large, so encourage your group to meet new people instead of always sticking with their acquaintances.

When To Meet?

When you’re planning on a date for the meetup, be mindful of certain things:

  1. Weeknight vs. weekends
    • Weekends tend to be better for larger groups, but be mindful that people may have family engagements and/or other things reserved for the weekends. If you have a smaller group, it may be easiest to meet up during a weeknight.
    • Be aware of any holidays that may also affect attendance. I held my meetup during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend hoping that more people would be able to come during a long weekend. Some people, however, weren’t able to come because of family engagements for the long weekend.
  2. You can’t please everybody
    • When planning a day, it’s ok to get a general consensus on the day, but be firm on your decision of the chosen date. You have to be aware that you can’t please everybody. If you start moving days around, other people may not be able to attend, they may get confused, or they may simply not want to bother with all of the changes going on.
  3. Find out if there’s another event near your meetup location that may coincide with your event. This may be a distraction, or a blessing to your event.
    • While I was not aware of this, there was a laughter flash mob that just happened to come to the location where we had all settled down. This was a complete coincidence, but it added a lot more amusement to the meetup.
Free laughter at City Hall

Free laughter at City Hall

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

Where To Meet?

When planning for the restaurant portion of the meetup, I chose a restaurant that was central to where I thought most people would be able to go to. The menu was varied, catering to many people, and the restaurant itself was large enough to host a group gathering. It’s better to go to a spacious place so your group won’t be the loudest bunch in the room.

Also, when making a reservation, let them know you’ll be requesting separate checks, as restaurants like to know this in advance.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

Promote The Meet

It’s a meetup, why should I advertise it? Advertising a meetup is a great way to get two things done:

  1. Promote the meetup amongst your local followers; it will also get the attention of people you may not necessarily know about through various retweets, shares, re-grams, etc.
  2. Will get more hype going amongst the people attending

I started advertising my meetup six days before the date, on a Monday. I did a broadcast describing the meetup, and I created a blog post where people could RSVP for both portions of the meetup.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

For large groups, I find it better to always have one specific location where people can RSVP. Otherwise it will be hard for you to track down tweets or mentions on various social media feeds of people telling you they want to come. I created a blog post, made an easy to remember URL, and directed everybody to that blog post so people could confirm the details and RSVP by commenting.

You don’t need a blog post to do this though: on Instagram, direct people to one specific picture to RSVP on; you could have people commenting on one of your Facebook statuses as well; if you use Twitter, create a Twitter Group Chat and gradually add people that may be interested in the meetup. An advantage of this is that existing members of the group chat can also add people too.

A meetup for Periscope users

A meetup for Periscope users

I created a graphic that people could easily tweet out. Graphics always adds more attention to the post. I created a generic ad (above) for people to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. throughout the week, directing people to go to my blog post.

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

The day before the event, I created a second ad (above) with more details on the event, and included names of users participating. People were free to tweet and retweet this out as well, all the while adding more excitement for the actual day. You may not need two ads, but if you create multiple ads, be sure to brand them similarly so people know they are the same event. Throughout the week, I also did another Periscope just to remind people that there was going to be a meetup on the weekend.

Support and Sponsors

Some companies offer support for meetup organizers in terms of free swag or other things to help you organize your meetup. For example, in the past, Instagram provided stickers and whatnot to distribute to your meetup group members. Tumblr also does something similar in their kit. Make sure to contact these companies well before your meetup date though, since it may be a while before they get back to you.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

If you want to make things extra special, try finding a sponsor or two for your meetup. Sponsors can get their name out from all of your advertising, and may offer some extra perks for meetup attendees. It’s not a necessity by any means, but may add something special for the day. Again, make sure to contact potential sponsors well before the meetup day.

Conclusion

My initial thoughts were that I would get maybe four or five people participating in #PeriLostInToronto. We had eight people in all that came out and got lost. The lunch portion brought out 13 people. Some of these people I didn’t even know about since they happen to just see one of the advertisements that were floating around Twitter. It just goes to show that you never know who your ads may get the attention of.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

There were some no-shows and cancellations, but that’s all expected. We still had a great time meeting and getting to know other local Periscope users. Even after lunchtime, some stragglers stayed behind and we had a great conversation going. The restaurant wasn’t too busy nor noisy to cater to our group, so that was an added bonus.

If you’re planning a meetup of any kind and have tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


If you’re interested in what I went through for the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup, including the laughter flash mob, you can view my broadcast below.