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2015 Visual Artistry spring/summer updates

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 After a long, hard winter, and ours wasn’t remotely as bad as further north, we are ready to head south to begin our 2015 Visual Artistry workshop season, conducting 2 consecutive workshops in Charleston, our perennial, and incredible “opening” venue. The lead image is a 1 second swipe from Folly beach at dawn. It’s always a good practice to shoot a large number of swiped images, as they can all be slightly different.

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April 4-19: There’s seldom a bad day in the Smokies and this spring is our 20th year exploring and teaching there. We have a software intensive Digital Edge workshop limited to 5 people. We had a full house, but had an emergency cancellation, so if you’d like to join us, please email Susan. The image is from a particularly soft dawn on Foothills Pkwy.


May 11-15: Cape May Shootout. By definition, more of an instructional tour: 95% photographing in Cape May and along the Jersey shore. One critique session. ONE SEAT REMAINING. Please email Susan if interested.

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 June 16-28: We have ONE spot open for our 2015 Icelandic Odyssey Tour, Year 5. Consider joining us for one of the world’s most photogenic locales with the premier Tour company, Focus on Nature. DEADLINE for registrations is APRIL first (April 1, 2015).
The image is from one of the many geo-thermal areas in Iceland.
Click here for details and/or to register.

It should be a great spring. Get out there!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!










iPhone re-imagined



It’s weird. I was in the first wave when the iPhone really caught on about 2 years ago. I studied numerous apps and spent a ton of time. Then, almost like I hit a mark in the sand, felt the passion drain away. Although I still used the iPhone, the frequency dramatically dropped off as I gravitated back to my D800. Using the iPhone 5s, I was gradually getting back into it, but not really. Then I bought the iPhone 6 plus. For some reason unknown to me, although I’m sure is known to the addiction experts at Apple, I just can’t put the thing down.  So, I’ve been relearning, experimenting, and re-imagining making images on the iPhone using the very powerful apps, and a renewed excitement. Aside from incorporating iPhone more in our workshops, lectures, and seminars, I’ll be placing iPhone videos on my YouTube channel. More exciting things are in the works…..

Here’s how the lead image was made

All images processed on the iPhone 6 plus, all made within the last two weeks.

The app listed under each image was the primary app used, however, several were used on all images.

If interested, we have a few seats remaining in our 2015 Visual Artistry workshop season

Spring is comin’!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!


2015 Icelandic Odyssey



Ok, I’ll be honest. We’re 4 people short of our minimum quorum for this year’s Iceland Odyssey to “GO.”

To be considerate of our current sign-ups, we have set April 1 as our cutoff for registrations, to give them time to make other plans, if we do not meet our minimum.

That said, if we could leave for a year hiatus to go anywhere in the world, it would be Iceland. Rather than just talking about it, here’s a gallery from our previous 4 years photographing and teaching in Iceland.

We travel with Icelandic tour company, Focus on Nature. Here’s part of our 2014 Epilogue blog post:

“We just wrapped up our 2014 Icelandic Odyssey and as always, feel very fortunate to be part of, what I consider, the best Iceland tour company in the country, Focus on Nature

After “good” weather the first day and a half, we had dark overcast, a period of relentless rain, then a period of relentless wind (50mph!!) for the remaining 8 days. Of course, and needless to say, today (the following day after the “Odyssey,” we have blue skies and white puffy clouds. Actually, I prefer the more challenging conditions! The most impressive thing about this Odyssey was the flexibility of the group and the miraculous navigational skills of EinarRaggi, and Syggi-Stardust! We were constantly being shown videos of what was happening either where we were or where we were supposed to be heading, and there was flooding, event cancellations, mud slides, and snow!! We didn’t see any of that, although we had “some” rain and was a “little” breezy! Incredible work guys and definitely a lesson in working in the margins….with every “margin” stop an outstanding venue!

Here’s what you pay for in a top flight tour:

1. Spontaneous changing of plans to accommodate conditions

2. Einar checks in the group. When the bus arrives, we are given our keys.

3. Reservations for all meal venues made in advance.

4. Einar drove separately to accommodate any unforeseen situations. We had one on this trip that would have held up the entire group if we had only one vehicle.

5. Personal pickup and drop off at the airport.

6. We had one of Iceland’s best photographers (RagnarThSigurdsson) as our guide, with total knowledge of the country, making it easy to navigate around terrible weather, (actually, the worst week of summer weather since the 1880’s!!) with confidence and aplomb. And our driver, Syggi, handled the large all terrain bus like a pro…..oh yeah….he IS a pro!!

7. Intro lectures/presentations to get the ball rolling, and one major critique session, replete with very cool PS processing moves by Raggi!

8. Single occupancy rooms at excellent hotels along the route.

8. Helpful, warm, supportive creative environment!

These are only a few reasons why it is my honor and privilege to work with Focus on Nature for our Icelandic Odyssey annual tours.”

So…..If you would like a first class tour of one of the greatest photo venues on earth, you can contact Susan or me for more info, and you can contact Einar for info and to register

That’s about it for now!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!

One More Thing! If you’re in the area, our Creativity Seminar at Ace Photo in Ashburn, VA is a GO for tomorrow, March 7, and the weather looks good…..a little chilly, but good! Hope to see you there!


The true essence of art


I got a wild hair and decided to go through boxes from my 9 years living in Cincinnati, as a musician/ educator, 1986 – 1995. I did this between getting caught up on office work, image submissions, contracts, and dreaming about a next book project and more.

On the second day, I found all of my magic books and am currently practicing my close up magic, but today, within the pages of a magic book was this sketch by Cincinnati artist and musician, Michael Straw. I always liked Michael. He was one of the very few truly great artists that I knew personally. As well as being the real deal as an artist, he let me hang prints up in his Field Gallery and held an opening for me. We became friends, although I saw him infrequently, mostly at music events, gigs, and at the occasional party at his loft. I remember Michael giving me this sketch. I forgot what I said, but although appreciative, was definitely not aware enough of what a gift this sketch was. I placed it in the pages of my book, where it remained for 19 years.

I contacted a friend in Cincinnati to try to get his last name. All that I could remember was Michael. Then my Cincy friend got back to me with “Straw.” Yes! It was Michael Straw. Writing back, I inquired about Michael’s current whereabouts, what’s he doing these days, etc.

The return email was a bit of a shocker. Michael died of cancer about three years ago. I looked at the sketch and found myself getting quite sad. I didn’t know why looking at the sketch brought forth such a flood of emotions. And this happened in various degrees throughout the day. I didn’t get it.  The sketch was of me, playing the drums (with my eyes closed) at one of Michael’s parties. Maybe it was because he took the time to know me well enough to be able to record my essence, that got to me. Maybe it was just the way he was wired, being able to intuitively capture the essence of his subject, and the loss of that kind of rare talent was very sad indeed.

Then the lightbulb went on. 

When looking at the sketch, I wasn’t looking at me, I was looking at Michael Straw.   And that, I believe, is the true essence of art. 

Rest in peace, Michael.

Guest blogger Saturday – Rad Drew

I’ve been trying to get iPhone master and friend, Rad Drew, to be a guest blogger for….let’s see……at least 2 years??!

Knowing Rad since our days on our ground-breaking iPhonography facebook page, it’s been a pleasure to see him pass all of us and become one of the country’s foremost iPhone photographers and educators. His work has been featured in the most prestigious iPhone publications and iPhone juried exhibits internationally. You can get a lot more of Rad by visiting his site.

So, Rad-man…….you have the floor!









Michigan City Lighthouse, Flypaper Textures

Using textures to add interest to your iPhone images

Textures of all kinds are great ways to add interest to your iPhone images. What’s a texture? Basically, it’s another image that you blend with the photo you want to texturize. The texture image can be a mix of different colors, patterns, scratches, borders, etc. that when blended properly with your image will add nuance, mood, depth and tone.

Many of the apps we use today offer textures – they call them “effects” or “filters,” but they are essentially textures. These are basically images that are blended in that app with varying degrees of control from none to lots. One such app is Vintage Scene. I love Vintage Scene because it not only has a large number of textures to choose from, it also gives you a lot of control in how you apply those textures. It’s that control that lets you as an artist really realize your vision for the image.

Commercial and homemade textures

So, these apps and their textured filters are great, but you also have the ability with your iPhone to select other textures and blend them with your image without using the stock filters that are in the existing apps. You can create your own textures by shooting surfaces such as rusty metal, rock, the sheets on your bed, crumpled paper, etc. By creating your own textures, you’re ensuring that your final image will be totally yours. No one will see that tell-tale swirl from a known app texture and recognize it. Another option is to use commercial textures, such as FlyPaper Textures or Totally Rad Dirty Pictures (no relation!). These textures are usually sold in packages and offer a wide variety of textures ready for use.

When using your own or commercial textures, the way I like to blend them with the image I want to texturize is to use the iPhone and the app Image Blender. Blender allows you to apply your texture using most of the standard blend modes you’ll find in desktop software like Photoshop. Blender also allows you to arrange the texture as well as mask layers.  This is very useful if you want a texture to appear in the sky but not in the foreground. Using the masking feature, you can mask out the texture in the foreground while leaving it in the sky. But that’s another tutorial!

Matching Aspect Ratio of your image to that of the texture image

Wikipedia describes the aspect ratio of an image as the proportional relationship between its width and its height. Whether you create your own textures or use commercial textures, you’ll want to match the aspect ratio of your texture file with that of your image file. I’m going to show you how to do that using a great app called iResize. Using iResize you can properly size your texture to perfectly match the aspect ratio of the image you are going to texturize. If you skip this step and go directly to Image Blender to combine your images, depending on how you place the images in Blender, one of two things can happen; 1) Blender can assign the aspect ratio of the texture and not the aspect ratio of your image, which can lead to an undesirable crop of your photo, and 2) Blender can retain your image’s aspect ratio, which may crop the texture in a way that may not suit you. Using iResize before going to Blender can help ensure that your texture image is assigned the aspect ratio of your photo for the result you want.

You’ll need a texture image and a photo that you want to texturize. Make sure they are both in the same album because it’ll make selecting them easier in iResize later. The texture image can be one you’ve shot yourself, or it could be a commercial texture such as one of those mentioned above. The image that you want to texturize should be an image of the highest resolution that your iPhone camera will make. I find that the best images for adding textures are those that have large areas of a light color, such as a bald or cloudy sky, or flower petals, etc. This will allow the elements in the texture image to show up well in the photo.

Here’s how iResize works. 

  1. Do all the editing such as cropping, sharpening, etc. that you want to do on the image you want to texturize before you start.
  2. Move the image you want to texturize and the texture image to same album on your iPhone.
  3. Open the app, iResize. The Select Albums/Select PHOTO(S) screen appears , prompting you to select the album that contains the images you want to work with.
  4. Tap to select the image you want to texturize first. This is important. It tells iResize to use the aspect ratio of this image when doing the resize, which is what you want.
  5. Next, tap to select the texture image.
  6. Tap the arrow at the bottom of the screen. It’ll have a 2 next to it, indicating that you’ve selected two images. The following screen appears:
  7. Tap Resize Advanced and this screen appears:
  8. Tap All at once and you’ll see the following screen:
  9. 5_Original_Dimensions_Pixels_Screen_ShotIt’s important that the Lock Aspect option is on (green). Although you have options, in most cases there is no need to make any changes to what you see on this screen.
  10. Tap OK and you’re done. You’ll be returned to the Select Album/Select Photos area.


  11. Press the Home button on your phone, navigate to your camera roll, and you’ll notice that the image you want to texturize and the texture image are the last two images added to your camera roll. You’ll see that they are both the same aspect ratio. They are now ready for you to combine in Image Blender.

Once you’ve texturized your image you may decide to stop with your processing, or you might continue to process with other apps, doing even more texturizing. I often apply a custom or commercial texture and then add more textures in an app like VintageScene. 

I hope you’ve found this tutorial useful and that it’ll inspire you to experiment with more unique textures for your images!

Here are a few images that I’ve created using these techniques.


                                                   Cathedral Square, Old Havana, Cuba; Flypaper Texture


                                                     Three Trees and Wire Fence; Flypaper Texture


                                                                         Lone Tree; Flypaper Texture


                                                                   Indiana Barn; Flypaper Texture


                                                                  Almost Gone; Flypaper Texture


                                                           Civil War Resting Place; homemade texture

 Rad A. Drew is a professional photographer who lives in historic Irvington on the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana. 

His creative iPhone images have received numerous international awards and have made their way into galleries and juried international competitions showing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, Vermont, New York, Toronto, Collingwood, Seattle, and Melbourne. He is author of the fine art books, In Good Light, Images of the Circle City and Rural Indiana, A Beauty all its Own, and is a contributor to today’s most comprehensive volume of iPhone instruction, The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhone.

He makes his living teaching mobile photography around the country to individuals, corporations, and professional organizations. His destination tours are great ways to learn while photographing beautiful areas of the world. For more information on art purchases, workshops, books, tours, and exhibits, contact Rad directly or visit his web site, www.RadDrewPhotography.com.

So……There you have it. Very informative!

Thx much, Radman!!

Keep an eye out for our March Visual Artistry Newsletter…..coming Soon!!

I hope you enjoyed this guest blog and we’ll see ya online!





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