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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!





Smokies Winter Shootout Epilogue


We had our first winter shootout in the Smokies a couple of weeks ago and after arriving there to scout, began to wonder why it’s taken me so long to return in winter. The trees were mostly bare, creating strong graphics, winter skies were dramatic, the streams were running almost perfectly throughout our time there as the result of snow melting. Although, we only had one trip across Newfound Gap road, it was excellent. It appears that the park police are much quicker to close Newfound Gap road than I remember, making it next to impossible to get up there close to snow covered mountain sides. Actually, it’s almost easier to see rime ice and hoar frost on Clingman’s Dome in April! Expected road closings aside, the “shoot out” group had great conditions, finishing up in the frosty wonderland of Cades Cove. The work created by the clients was remarkable!

We’ll be offering this Shootout again in January, 2016. Email Susan for more information and/ or to save your place. This special event is limited to 6.

As usual, I did not shoot that much during the shootout, but did get in ample shooting time before the Shootout. I also took the opportunity to shoot the Tamron 150-600mm, illustrated in the Meigs falls, and several of the Cades Cove frost images. Verdict? I like it! Like all super long lenses, best used at high ISO (800 here), and at fast shutter speeds, aperture at f/8 or wider.

Here’s a gallery from the week:

 We’ll be making this an annual event. Great water flow, icicles, snow and frost, variable weather (bad weather is good weather!), no people, but for some reason, still a line at Cades Cove, albeit not remotely like in April. Of course, we can’t guarantee the weather, but this is a great time to experience the Smokies in a very different mood.

Please drop a line to Susan to be placed on our 2016 Smokies Winter Shootout notification list.

Oh yeah, we have a day long Creativity Seminar at Ace Photo in Ashburn, VA on Feb 21. Come on down!!

AND………Watch for a guest blog from iPhone guru and friend, Rad Drew……Coming Soon!!

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


p.s. Don’t forget to use the discount code sweet10 when purchasing any Singh Ray filter.


Cuba 2015

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I just got back from our 2015 Cuba tour, and as usual, it was a remarkable experience. After being there 4 times, it was nice to revisit friends made throughout the years and even nicer to be walking down the street and see a musician friend open up his door and yell, “Tonito!” Our CD store friend, Tamara, upon seeing her walking in Trinidad shouted, “Tonito!” I got the same greeting at a local music club, a local restaurant bar and even by Elaine at the reception desk in Havana. It’s very far out, to say the least. Of course, as a jazz drummer, making new musician friends is always great. At the Cultural center in Trinidad, Philip taught me a conga pattern (I need to practice), then showed us around the various rooms, where Philip and I engaged in a spontaneous jam session w/ shekere’s, that was video’d by John! Thx JB! Great memory.

When teaching our location workshops, we always make it a point to tell students that when walking on rocks (e.g. Acadia, the Smokies) to watch where they are stepping as it’s very easy to step on an uneven rock, while looking elsewhere, and immediately fall. Well, guess what?? We have the exact type situation on the cobblestone streets of Trinidad. The streets are very uneven and are ripe for falling if one is not paying attention. As I was rushing back to take out a group, I stepped from the sidewalk onto the cobblestone street, not looking down, and felt my foot slip. Knowing what was happening, I dropped to one knee immediately in order to minimize whatever injury, if any, would occur. I was helped back up by a cuban who happened to be in the right place, and I briskly walked back to the hotel. But….I knew something wasn’t right. Long story, short….I sustained a small fracture. Luckily, we had a couple of nurses, concerned clients, and a pharmacist on our tour, so my initial help got me home. After an X-ray, I’m in a “wooden” shoe for 6-8 weeks.

We went out at dawn more than in previous years. The mixture of natural and artificial light was very cool. (Tip: In order to take advantageous of mixed lighting, I have the WB set to sunny, which allows the light to mix without any correction).

It’s a good practice to look at and analyze everything you see in every medium in order to expand your visual palette. One of my favorite movies is Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s a very dark movie about real estate salesmen, and is actually used as a training movie for salesmen. But, the reason I filed it away in my visual memory bank was for the stark juxtaposition of bleakness and vivid color. This is precisely why I like going out at marginal times of day when street lights (usually tungsten) are on, coupled with stairwell lights (tungsten, fluorescent, gaslight), and the dawn/dusk sky (in this case, pale blue with wisps of pink clouds). Here’s an example:

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With the ever increasing tourist trade, photographing at dawn and dusk are the least populated and, to me, the most interesting in terms of light.

Here’s a few tips for anyone thinking of visiting Cuba (Havana and Trinidad):

1. Always have CUCs (coins) with you primarily for tipping.

2. Also, instead of tipping ($), consider bringing “gifts.” (e.g. skin creme for the ladies, baseball hats, baseball cards, crayons/paper, pencils, diapers, drum sticks, guitar picks, etal). Keep in mind that almost everything we dispose of is of use to the incredibly resourceful Cuban people.

3. Learn key Spanish phrases (not difficult) to illustrate your interest in them and their culture.

4. Before taking their picture, ask permission (Una photo, por favor?), or if even minimally conversational, engage in a short dialogue. If they decline, say “ok” and walk on.

5. When you have a shot set up and someone is walking into it, or opens a door, don’t hesitate. Press the shutter! These spontaneous images can be a photo highlight of the trip.

5. The streets are uneven, especially the cobble stone streets in old Havana, and even more especially, the cobble stone streets in Trinidad. Always watch where you are walking. (refer to 2nd paragraph)

6. There are no emission standards, and you will probably see the veil of pollution over Havana as you fly into and out of the country. It shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as you DO NOT have your windows open in your room when there, especially if you’re inclined to let in some fresh air when sleeping. There is no fresh air in Havana.

The Cuban people are immensely talented, intelligent, politically aware, and are very excited about our renewed relations. Americans are known to be the most generous, thoughtful, and kind of all tourists. Over the years, Americans were not held in the highest esteem. That has changed on this trip, although a couple of young Cubans wanted to know if Obama was controlled by the mafia or if the mafia was controlled by Obama. No joke. I said that neither was true, but what do I know?

Here’s a gallery from our 2015 Cuba Tour:

 All in all, a trip to Cuba is, I would say given proximity and the easing of  restrictions, a mandatory trip for photographers. One can only imagine the changes that may ensue when travel becomes easy from the US, but it will certainly be a bit more crowded, and perhaps some of the old cars may be bought up by collectors.

My advice? Go within the next 2 years if not sooner. It will take a little while for the infrastructure to catch up with the impending boost in tourism from the States.

The experience each time was like stepping back in time. Always incredible.

MILFORD, CT SEMINAR NOTICE: Our site was down for seminar registrations during a portion of our remake. For anyone who tried to register for the Milford, CT Creativity Seminar and could not, the site registration page is now OPEN For Business!

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



Receptivity and purposeless wandering


As one year moves seamlessly into the next, I find myself returning to life concepts adopted decades ago, but kept to myself to a great extent, so as to not add to a public discourse which tend to water down and lessen their impact.

As a jazz musician, where living and reacting in the moment are part of the job description, I found that consuming book after book on zen and taoism were in perfect alignment with my life as a performer of improvised music. Making one’s mind an empty vessel (receptivity), living and reacting in the moment, relaxed awareness, etc. were all concepts of which I was aware before becoming aware of eastern thought. However, my readings reinforced what I experienced on a daily basis as a working jazz artist. Teaching how not to think and to react in the moment was a major part of my teaching as a jazz educator. However, when ideas, even esoteric ideas, become popular, they tend to become part of pop culture, becoming diluted, facile, and losing the true meaning.

Fast forward to photography. My thought process remained unchanged when moving from a full time jazz artist/educator to my new life as a professional nature photographer/educator. It quickly became apparent that the only thing that changed were the tools. The spontaneity, creativity, and overall feel was the same. It was a much less crowded time in photography. Photography grew to become the most popular hobby in the country and quite possibly the world. Along with the advent of the internet and the availability of voluminous location and technical data, the number of outstanding photographers grew and images that were once considered great and iconic images almost became ordinary. Quoting zen masters and tossing around zen/taoist concepts became so commonplace and the impact became so diluted that I decided to keep out of that game and just focus on teaching the nuts and bolts of photography in our workshops, staying out of the zen “game” with all of the pop psychology terminology.

I posted “The Moment” in my last blog post, which I haven’t read in about 10 years. My early zen lessons and experiences came flooding back and I began re-reading old books with new eyes and a renewed goal of incorporating zen/taoist concepts into our workshop teaching. Now, don’t freak out as we will always focus on the technical and aesthetic in our workshops. However, there is a great deal to be said about the experience. After all, we are photographing an experience, a chance interaction, freezing a moment in time. This occurs with all subject matter: people, wildlife, family, nature. It’s a state of mind.

Ok, I know it’s getting a bit deep, but please bear with me.

I began using the concept of purposeless wandering in Cuba last January, going out with an open, clear mind, with no expectations, and with a relaxed mind, open (receptive) to chance encounters. It’s an easy mindset for me after approaching jazz in a similar manner for decades.

Here’s a few images from last year:


After a series of very warm days, dark clouds rolled in and it was very windy this morning. I thought that this could be a good day to wander down to the Malecon in the hope that waves would be breaking over the wall. I didn’t know what to expect, but knew that I had a 100% chance of not getting the shot if I/we didn’t go.

On a different day, I decided to photograph the old fisherman into the bright morning sunlight for a graphic silhouette, simpler, open, and more mysterious, rather than on the other side, where the boats were bathed in early morning light.


The following images were made while wandering the streets of Havana and Trinidad with no expectations and with a relaxed awareness. Although, I carry a tripod for night photography, my street shooting in good light is handheld w/ 24-70 lens (18-55 in mirror-less-land).


This small boy appears to be dancing in the window for only a few seconds.


Bracing myself against a door jamb, I was able to get a 1/8 sec exposure of the woman following the young boy walking down the street with her eyes.


Men riding horses are a common occurrence in Trinidad, our other prime location in Cuba.
I only had a 2-3 second window to see the image, turn, and get the horse framed within the blue door and between the buildings.


While most people were photographing from the top of the hotel at the great Havana cityscape, I was intrigued by what appeared to be a small boy seemingly flowing through an alley-way. Actually, he was kicking a soccer ball with friends. He is blocking the ball with his body, and the friends were temporarily out of the scene, leaving this momentary dance.

The final image here is of our friend, Pedro, whom we photograph every year. Obviously, a great subject. But, I’ve learned from a famous wedding photographer, Joe Bussick, that the peak action, in many cases, is not where the shot is, it’s the moment just before and/or just after the perceived peak moment. Here, Pedro is photographed right after posing for a swarm of photographers. As everyone was packing and leaving, I caught Pedro in a pensive moment.


Photographing Pedro for several years, this is my favorite image of him.

In our future workshops, we will be touching on these and more sublime concepts in order to deepen the photographic experience for our clients.

Anyway, I hope this wasn’t too deep. I look forward to any comments to further the dialogue.

Have a great new year and we’ll see ya online.




a photography fairy tale


Once upon a time, before digital cameras, and personal computers…before photoshop and plugins, before exposure by histogram….and even before social media, there was an aspiring nature photographer (me) whose only concern in life was discovering subjects in great light, and recording the experience he was feeling at the moment.

It was a simpler time, a less crowded time, a quieter time (externally, and internally).   I would go out with friends to make pictures several days a week just for the joy of it. It was a time when all of the work was done in-camera, i.e. applying filters for color correction and graduated neutral density filters to even out exposures. It was a time before the iPhone and before motor coaches delivering photo tourists to pristine locations. It was a time before working in the office took the majority of my time, rather than being out experiencing nature. It was a time when photographing and experiencing the wonder and glory of nature was my raison d’être.

I loved this experience so much, that I decided to make my living as a nature photographer. Very soon afterwards, however, the emphasis began to shift from the ethereal to the practical, from the spiritual to the mundane, from a hobby to a profession. With this paradigm shift came greater responsibilities and less time for play. It’s the nature of things.

Every so often, I will go back to my earliest work just to see if I get the same feeling viewing the image as I did when making it, but more importantly, to see if what I’m currently doing has emotionally evolved. Technique is important, but not as important as the emotion encountered when making the image. Isn’t this why we make an image to begin with? As a 20 year professional jazz artist (drummer), I could always tell if someone was in the moment or going through the motions. If you cannot “feel” what you are doing, no one else will get any feeling from it, either.

Upon getting back from photographing the lead image, close to our house, I wrote the following observation of what I was feeling:

“The Moment”

an area is approached,

a line is crossed. Suddenly…


the pulse quickens,

time expands,

compositions self-compose,

exposures self-calculate. The shutter trips…


and many more times.


The pulse slows,

time contracts,


This chronicles my experience. It was transcendental. It was the same “go to” mental place as when performing improvised music. I recognized it instantly and wrote down “The Moment” in about 15 minutes. I remember feeling like I was merely taking dictation from an unknown source.

In the midst of workshops, seminars, book and DVD projects, travel, and an aging parent, I began to wonder, do I still have the ability to get into “the moment,” that timeless window of creativity? And the answer is Yes, I still get the rush, but it is a bit less frequent, as my time is not as free as it once was.

With 2015 on the horizon, my resolution is to get out every day when home, to enjoy the quietude of nature, and to move the scale back to better balance office work with the real work, and to photograph…..or not. The experience comes first, then the photograph.

It’s critical to not forget why you started to do something, as it’s so easy to lose sight of your initial motivation and inspiration.

I look forward to 2015 and beyond with eyes wide open and a greater sense of renewal: personally, photographically, and spiritually.

Have a joyous holiday season and an inspiring new year.

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

oh yeah….almost forgot…….”and the photographer lived happily ever after.”




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