The Ultimate Photo Sketch Pad

The iPhone doesn’t replace a serious camera nor does it replace serious nature photography, but it does give you an endless array of tools to experiment with and expand your creativity

2) Skies created in PhotoForge and Iris Photo Suite helped Jones create an image worthy of a European landscape painter.

Is the iPhone to be feared or embraced? Is it a threat or a complement to my DSLR? Is it a toy or the continuation of a photographic revolution? Honestly, I'm rather shocked by the amount of emotion, both pro and con, that this little device is capable of generating among photographers. Okay, up front, here's how I answer these questions: It's a continuation of a photographic revolution; it's an absolute complement to all my other methods of capturing images; it not only should be embraced, but it should be loved! Here's why.

The iPhone is simply the greatest visual sketch pad we've ever had. It has a lens that's crazy good for its size. It shoots 5-megapixel images that can easily make a very nice 11x14 print. It's always with you (because, hey, it's your phone), and it comes with apps that give you about 90% of Photoshop and Painter at a fraction of the price.

All these things make the iPhone the perfect place to experiment and play! Far too often when we shoulder our "big boy" cameras, we take on the obligation, perhaps even the duty, of taking a great image. That challenge can lift us to great heights, but it also can be a creativity killer. It's all too easy to play it safe, not take chances, to rely on compositions and techniques that we know have worked for us in the past.

The iPhone is the perfect antidote for blocked creativity. It's astounding how non-intimidating the iPhone is—both to you (how can you be afraid of an image that's only a couple of inches wide?) and to your subjects (hey, look, there's a guy who can't seem to get a good phone signal). It's simple and intuitive—most apps need less than a single page to explain how they work.

With camera and apps, you can play for hours in an extraordinary creative sandbox. Doesn't matter where you are or what you're looking at. Got an extra minute? Shoot, tweak, play! I've shot photos in Wal-Mart, in elevators, waiting for planes, eating in restaurants, hanging the laundry out to dry. Not places I normally would take my cameras! Were the images always successful? Not always. But each time I would push my edge, I would learn something; train my eye to see a little differently; shoot in a place I had never shot before or find something I could do with the camera that I never thought possible. Not only have I been having a great time, but all those little learning moments have paid great dividends when I returned to my "big boy" cameras. Let me share some examples.

1) Jones used TrueHDR on a dawn shot with a huge dynamic range. Continual feedback using HDR on the iPhone can help you understand this technique at a deep visual level.

1 HDR (high dynamic range) has been the rage of landscape photographers for the last several years. Like everyone else, I use it, too, but I had a hard time really "seeing" it. There's just too much lag time between shooting the bracketed exposures and processing them to train my eye to previsualize what the landscape will look like in HDR. That has all changed since I started shooting with the iPhone. There are several excellent HDR apps (Pro HDR, TrueHDR and iCamera HDR) that allow you to process an HDR image in a matter of moments. Probably 50% of the shots I take on the iPhone are shot in HDR and, as a result of all the instant visual feedback, it's now far easier for me to look at a scene and know exactly how it will translate in HDR. Think that helps when I take out my "big boy" cameras? You bet it does.

Layers And Overlays
2 Most outdoor photographers are used to working with Layers in Photoshop. Now there are apps that allow you the same flexibility on the iPhone (Iris Photo Suite, Filterstorm, Juxtaposer and Photo fx, to name a few). Some offer multiple layers; some allow you to view the layers in various Blend modes; some allow you to paint in effects using layer masks. Equally important, many of these apps come with a variety of texture overlays for you to play with. It's incredibly easy to add painterly texture effects to skies, add grunge effects to an entire image or even stack multiple filters on an image from ND grads to glimmerglass.

Turn Your Images Into An ebook!

We all want to see our images in book form. Now offers a simple, affordable way to publish your own ebook. Lay out your book in Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or Adobe InDesign, and upload it to For $99, they will convert it into an epub document and put it up on Amazon (Kindle), the Apple iBookstore (iPad and iPhone), Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Sony (Sony Reader). For an additional $19 a year, they will collect your royalties from all four vendors and send them to you monthly. If you price your book at less than $10, you get 70% of the purchase price from the vendor, and sends all of that to you. It's an incredible new way to share your images. I've already published my first ebook, iPhone Art in My Life. Check mine out, then publish your own!
—Dewitt Jones

Initially, you'll find yourself playing with images much as you would in Photoshop except at twice the speed because you're working with such a comparatively small file. Again, the more you practice, the more you can see the possibilities that are there for you both before and after you take the shot—no matter what camera you're using.

As you begin to play with some of the wilder overlays, you'll find you can create images you might never have tried with the mind-set of a conventional landscape photographer. Using painterly skies, for example, has given me a whole new vision of how to treat a landscape photographically.

3) Panorama of a house and trees in Encinitas, Calif., using Pro HDR and AutoStitch.

3 Stitching together a number of RAW files can be a very time-consuming process. Beautiful panos on the iPhone can be done in a fraction of the time; plus, as you're building a series of 5-megapixel images, you end up with a file size that can make a very nice print. I'll often use my iPhone to preview a panorama that I'll then take with my "big boy" cameras to process later.

Again, because the iPhone is a sketch pad, I'm continually trying new things. Recently, in Encinitas, I saw two wildly manicured trees in front of a house. I stood very close to the house and made a 24-shot, handheld HDR panorama (two HDR brackets for each of 12 images). I processed the images in Pro HDR, then stitched them together in AutoStitch, which is my favorite panorama app. Standing so close to the house forced the panorama program to distort the house, trees and sidewalk into a very designed and slightly surreal image. I never would have seen or tried this with my "big boy" cameras.

Slow Shutter
4,5 The iPhone has no iris. The camera controls the light with shutter speed and ISO. As both are set automatically, it's very hard to get a blurred image unless one is shooting in very low light. Neutral-density filters (if they existed for the iPhone) wouldn't work because the camera would just keep upping the ISO to try and give you the fastest shutter speed it can. These seeming limitations, however, have led to the invention of some very cool apps. Slow Shutter Cam, for example, allows you to take multiple exposures in any light and then blends these shots together, producing a final image that gives the blurred look of a long exposure. I've written many times in my Basic Jones column about taking landscape shots at slow shutter speeds, but I honestly never thought I would be doing the same thing on my phone, without a filter, in the middle of the day!

4) Using Slow Shutter Cam, Jones took this painterly aerial from the window of a small airplane traveling between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Maui. While it was a bright scene, the app allowed him to make an image that looks like it was taken at a slow shutter speed.

5) In this dawn shot, Jones set his iPhone on a tripod and used Slow Shutter Cam to blur the action of the waves while keeping the rest of the image in sharp focus.

Everyday Beauty
The more I use my iPhone, the more I've come to see it not only as a sketch pad for learning new techniques and sharpening my eye, but also as a sketch pad to remind me of the everyday beauty in my life. Making photographic art wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, has just become part of my daily ritual now that I have the iPhone. The images I record fill me with gratitude—every day. In the end, this may be the greatest gift that the iPhone can give us.

So, my friends, stop debating. Give the iPhone a try. I guarantee you won't regret it!

Customized photo books are a great way to display your nature and travel photography. Thanks to today's online publishing sites and services, there's no shortage of options for creating a book that reflects your own style. With a wide selection of sizes, formats and styles to choose from, you can design a book to look exactly the way you want. Most do-it-yourself publishers offer options for hard or soft covers with luster, metallic, canvas and other kinds of surfaces. Some higher-end bookmakers give you the option of designing your own layout or letting their in-house experts do it. Some, like Blurb, even help you spread the word about your book by placing it in their online bookstore and allowing family, friends and visitors to flip through it.
AsukaBook (866) 330-1530
Bay Photo (800) 435-6686
PhotoBook Press (888) 333-6950

Dewitt Jones' Basic Jones column has been part of this magazine since its inception. Check out his new ebook iPhone Art in My Life on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the Apple iBookstore.


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