Rad A. Drew Photography: 2020

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Power of Topaz Gigapixel AI Enhanced and On Sale Now

Old Sign on the wall of a restaurant in Cuba, Enlarged Six Times with Gigapixel AI
Gigapixel AI by Topaz Labs is one of those tools that I wouldn't have believed possible a few years ago but that I'd find difficult to live without today! 

Read on to learn more about Gigapixel AI, the current sale, and how to get an additional 15% off today's sale price!

This Gasoline Sinclair sign in a restaurant in Havana caught my eye last February. I photographed it with my iPhone 11 Pro Max, producing a jpg file with these dimensions: 4032x3024, or about 12mp. 

This is a decent size file for printing easily with integrity at the maximum size of my Epson 3880 printer which produces a 17x22 inch print. It even prints with integrity at twice that size, but if you wanted to go any larger, the image would begin to degrade and you'd have pixelation and a poor quality print.

That's where Gigapixel AI comes in! 

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, Gigapixel AI "imagines" what should go in the areas of an image where there are pixel gaps as the image is enlarged. After training by examining millions of images, the software has "learned" what different elements look like and can replace them in the image with a remarkably accurate result.

The image below is a screen shot of the new Gigapixel AI interface. What we're seeing in the image area is the original image on the left and a preview of the image enlarged by six times on the right. 

At first glance, this may not appear to be a very dramatic example. But, think a minute about what you're looking at. 

The original image on the left is 4032x3024 pixels, or a roughly 12 mp image, while the preview image on the right has been enlarged six times to 24,192x18,144 pixels, or a whopping 439mp!

The Gigapixel AI Interface with Control Panel on the far right
and side-by-side of the original and preview on the screen area.

But here's the kicker. Look at the two images. The one in the right that is six times larger looks as good as the smaller original on the left! 

Aside from the obvious ability to make a larger print, here are some of the other uses of Gigapixel AI:

  • Create larger prints made with cameras from several years ago when sensors were smaller and produced smaller images.
  • Take a small section of an image and enlarge just that small section with integrity.
  • Print mobile phone images at much larger sizes with integrity
This latest update of AI Gigapixel includes:
  • A model improvement for better results
  • A new single-image preview view
  • New Zoom options, and
  • The new "man-made" mode to better enhance the details in cityscapes, typography, and other images with clear outlines and sharp edges.

The new Gigapixel Control Panel

About the Current Update and Sale Pricing

If you already own Gigapixel AI, this is a FREE UPDATE. Simply visit www.topazlabs.com/downloads and download the update from there.

If you would like to add Gigapixel AI to your tool kit, it's on sale through July 7 for $79.99 (regularly $99.99) and down to $67.99 when you use my link and 15% off discount code.

Follow this link: https://topazlabs.com/ref/8/
Use code RAD15 at checkout

Gigapixel AI is also available in the Utility Bundle, on sale for $195 (regularly $249.99) or down to $165.75 when you use my BUNDLE LINK and code:

Follow this link: https://topazlabs.com/ai-bundle/ref/8/
Use code RAD15 at checkout

If you purchase the bundle, but have previously purchased other items in the bundle, your purchase will be adjusted so you're not paying again for what you already own.

Thanks for reading about Gigapixel AI. It's an awesome tool if for enlarging your images! I hope you can take advantage of the sale prices and my 15% discount!

Until next time, keep on learning and creating!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Reconnecting with Moment's 10x Macro Lens

iPhone 11 Pro Max, Lightroom Pro Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens

Recently, a friend called to discuss macro photography, so, I got out my Moment 10x Macro lens and played! I was reminded of just how good these lenses are, and how much fun macro photography can be.

iPhone 11 Pro Max, Native Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens

Moment lenses have been around since 2013 and they are arguably the best attachable lenses made for mobile phones today. They are available for a variety of iPhones, as well as for several models of the Samsung Galaxy, Pixel, and PlusOne. 

iPhone 11 Pro Max, Native Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens

About the Moment 10x Macro Lens

The Moment 10x Macro Lens ($109.99 from Moment), is a substantial piece of glass. It comes with a diffuser hood that is useful for managing light, and also for getting super closer to your subject by resting the diffuser hood on the subject or the surface the subject is on. 

iPhone 11 Pro Max, Native Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens

In addition to the lens, you'll need a Moment case to fit your phone's make and model. Here's a link to the case I have for my iPhone 11 Pro Max which cost $39.99. The case is necessary as it is the means by which the lens is attached and positioned in the correct place over the camera's built-in lens.

iPhone 11 Pro Max, Lightroom Pro Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens

Tips for Using the Moment 10X Macro

  • Use a tripod to steady the camera
  • Make sure your subject is still
  • Get VERY close to the subject 
  • Use the lens diffuser without the tripod and let the diffuser rest on the surface over your subject. Make sure ample light can illuminate the subject through the diffuser
  • Try the Moment App for controlling exposure
  • Have lots of light, natural or otherwise
  • Remove the diffuser hood to get super close to your subject
  • shoot RAW and process in Lightroom for mobile.
iPhone 11 Pro Max, Native Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens
If you don't want to spring for a Moment lens, the app, Camera +2, offers a great macro option for iPhone. 
See my blog post, Creating Macro Photos with Camera +2 for more details.
You won't get as close as with the Moment 10x Macro, but for a fraction of the cost, Camera +2 offers a poor man's alternative.

Cantaloup Rind, iPhone 11 Pro Max, Lightroom Pro Camera, Moment 10x Macro Lens
Thanks for reading and for all the ways you are supportive! 

Be safe, stay well, and keep on creating!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Finally! A Replacement for a Beloved iPhone App!

Created in 2011 with the app, AutoStitch;
Featured in my book, In Good Light; Images of the Circle City

If you’ve been making images with the iPhone for more than a few years, I’m willing to bet you have a story about a favorite app that you can't get anymore. Maybe it was abandoned by the developer, or torpedoed by a new iOS. Whatever the reason, it hurt to see it go. I know the feeling.

For me, one of those apps was Autostitch. I loved what could be done with that app and I was so sad when it went by the wayside about eight years ago.

Amazingly, AutoStitch could record many single images and the app would automagically 
"stitch" them into a single image. The result was a combined vertical and horizontal panorama and the size was such that it could be printed larger than most regular iPhone images at time.

The Hermitage, Created in 2011 with the app, AutoStitch;

Autostitch sometimes processed for me as many as 100 images into a single photograph! And if you made a light and dark exposure using the app BracketMode (also defunct), AutoStitch not only completed the horizontal and vertical stitch, it also combined the light and dark exposures to achieve an HDR effect! 

Part of what I loved about images created this way was the wonderful barrel distortion that would occur when you were close to your subject. Some didn't like that distortion, but I thought it added an interesting dimension to many images and I exploited that "defect."

Created in 2011 with the app, Autostitch;
Featured in my book, In Good Light; Images of the Circle City

For years after Autostitch "died," I simply stopped making images that way because there was no longer an app that would do it.

Multiple-image compilation of Fonthill Castle using Autostitch in 2011.

Well, fast forward to 2020 and guess what I’ve learned, thanks to my friend and mentor, Dan Burkholder

That’s right! There's a new app that will do what Autostitch used to do and creates a look that is similar to what we produced in the early days of iPhone photography.

St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Created in 2011 with the app, AutoStitch;
Featured in my book, In Good Light; Images of the Circle City
So what is this new app? As it turns out, it's been around since 2017, but it's new to me! 

Drum roll please .... 

Click to get Microsoft Pix Camera from the App Store.

The app is Microsoft Pix Camera, by Microsoft Corporation, and it's available only for the iPhone. It is a strange little app with a lot of other features that I rarely use, but the one thing it does, which Microsoft refers to as Photosynth, is great!

It's a simple interface that has a video camera, a regular camera, and the button on the right, which they call Photosynth

Microsoft Pix Camera Interface
When in the Photosynth mode, simply press the shutter button and begin moving the camera. You can move in a single horizontal or vertical direction for a "straight" pano, or you can move vertically and horizontally to record a much larger area. 

Vertical Panorama with the Microsoft Pix Camera
The camera automatically snaps images as each frame fills with a part of the scene. When you decide you're done, tap the shutter button to stop the camera.

Although the video camera and the regular camera will record in both the 1x (26mm) and 2x (52mm) lens, the Photosynth mode uses only the 1x lens.

To create the combined vertical and horizontal, you can pretty much move the camera every-which-way, but I like to move in a serpentine pattern up and down through the scene. I go up one side, shift just a fraction to overlap with the previous frame, and move down to the bottom, shift again and move up, and so on, until I've recorded the entire scene.

This is a combined vertical and horizontal image,
made with Microsoft Pix Camera and processed
in Lightroom on the iPhone 11 Pro Max;
file size, 11.11MB; resolution, 9.2MP

One thing to keep in mind while recording the image: be sure to go well beyond the tallest point at the top of the scene, and well below the lowest point you want to include at the bottom of the scene, otherwise you may cut off part of the top or bottom of the subject.


Unedited vertical and horizontal Pano straight from the Microsoft Pix Camera app.

Below are two images; the first I made in 2011 using BracketMode and Autostitch, with what I expect was the iPhone 5. The other I made yesterday (May 8, 2020), with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the newer app, Microsoft Pix Camera

The other good news is that with today's phones, the file size is much larger and better than it was in 2011. The file size of the stitched image below from 2011 is only 1.51MB and 1.2MP, while the new image is 7.13MB and 7.6MP.

The James Whitcomb Riley Home, created in 2011 with the app, AutoStitch;
Featured in my book, In Good Light; Images of the Circle City

The James Whitcomb Riley Home, created in 2020 with the app,
Microsoft Pix Camera. 

I'm excited to begin using this technique again with this new (to me) app! Maybe you will, too!

Thank you for being here and for all the ways you are supportive, especially during these crazy, wacky, trying times. Here's to health and wellness for you and your family. 

And, until next time, keep on creating!


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Significance of Classic US Cars in Cuba

Clearly the American cars from the 40’s and 50’s are a novelty and a tourist attraction in Cuba. But they represent so much more.

The fact that these cars are even running at all today is testament to the ingenuity and mechanical engineering and devotion needed to keep them running. Each is an historic capsule from the past, preserved as much as possible, and behind each preservation is a resourceful Cuban who is making it all work.

I once had a classic car owner in Cuba tell me, 

Making the parts we need is the easy part; it’s making the machines we need to make the parts that’s challenging

There are those who take pride in sharing that their car is completely original, while others can’t hide the clatery sound that’s a dead giveaway to the Russian diesel under the hood. I’ve even seen boat motors used to run these tanks, and I have a good friend who powers his classic Dodge with - are you ready? - a Hyundai engine! 
Regardless of the efforts and methods employed to keep these cars running, there’s no doubt in the pride of ownership. 

Seeing old US cars from the 40’s and 50’s on the streets of Havana and on the roads connecting towns throughout Cuba is as much a part of Cuba today as her native music and dance. Cubans have taken something created elsewhere long ago and made it uniquely, iconically, their own. 

It speaks volumes about Cuban culture.

I lead trips to Cuba several times each year, often partnering with Cuban photographer, Ramses Batista. If you have an interested in joining me on a future trip, email me here to be notified when new experiences are available. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Letting in the Light

Guest Blog Post by Photographer Linda Hollier 

Editor's Note: Linda's art attracted me several years ago and I was inspired by the etherial way she records moving subjects, including the flowing thobes of men, and the beautiful materials of the Burqa and abaya worn by women in the Middle East. In 2017, Linda and I had the good fortune to meet at the futuristic Masdar City near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (see image below). I'm thrilled that she has written a guest blog post here discussing her work! – RAD


by Linda Hollier

In photography, shutter speed refers to the length of time a camera’s shutter remains open. The faster the shutter speed is, the faster the shutter will close, creating a sharp image. This is perhaps one of the camera’s most amazing attributes. It has the ability to freeze a split second, often capturing details which the human eye can so easily miss. 

The slower the shutter speed is, the slower the shutter will close, resulting in an unsharp image. Slow shutter speed thus captures movement, in the scene, or on the part of the photographer, as motion blur. At the same time, the longer the shutter remains open, the more light it lets in.

The more light it lets in. This concept has always fascinated me on many levels. Whilst the slower closing of the shutter can obviously bring about a light trail, I often wonder how much more of the essence of a subject, how much more Light, can be captured in this way.

By nature, I am very sensitive to the energies of both people and places. With this is mind, I began to photograph people using the Slow Shutter Cam app on my iPhone, focusing on the energy I sensed around them.

Strolling, © Linda Hollier
To artistically portray the people in my works, I set myself the challenge of using only my iPhone for capturing and editing, No laptops, no iPads or other devices come into play. Using various apps, I create my own textures and blends and at times paint by finger on my iPhone screen.

I soon noticed that I was photographing not only movement, where past, present and future were being depicted in one photo as it were, but that the figures I captured were often surrounded by a distinct light. By letting in more light with the slow shutter app, perhaps, I am capturing energy! I feel this adds to the sense of Presence I am aiming to portray.

Radiance, © Linda Hollier
Shortly after I began experimenting with the Slow Shutter Cam app, I attended a Whirling Dervishes Sema Ceremony in Istanbul. This inspired me to focus on discovering new ways in my art to portray the whole concept of rootedness and movement occurring simultaneously, bringing about an even stronger sense of Essence and Presence. The individuals in my artworks appear to be rooted in a moment but at the same time appear to be moving in an other-worldly realm which is beyond space and time. The viewer is invited to follow them to discover the story that is waiting to unfold.

Noor (the Arabic word for light), © Linda Hollier

The famous photographer Minor White believed that whether the photographer was consciously present or absent at the moment the shutter is released shows up very subtly in the photograph. My iPhoneart flows out of my mindfulness practice but in a sense has become a practice in itself. My whole creative process is becoming more and more intuitive and this requires me to be very much in the moment.

It is interesting for all who love photography to note that Minor White also believed that when the photographer is in resonance with the subject at the time a photograph is made, the photograph will also seem to radiate the photographer’s presence. I interpret this as yet another form of Light being captured when the shutter is released.
On the Way, © Linda Hollier
The Mobile Art Movement has taken off in the age of social media. LIght plays a very interesting role in media. Light can shine on something, or light can shine through something. Marshall McLuhan, a communications theorist, used the terms “light on” and “light through” to highlight the media that went hand in hand with various cultures throughout the ages.

In the Middle Ages, in the west, light had shone through. The stained glass windows of many cathedrals are testimony to this. The windows and the way the light was being let in, told stories to the beholder and were meant to point the one looking to a Presence beyond. The dominant belief at the time was that the light of Spirit was shining through all that was taking place.

The invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the 15th century had ushered in the Renaissance, an age of “light on”. The printed word had to be looked at. Light had to be shone on the printed word so that the eye could read it.

What excites me as an iPhone artist, is that the digital age has once again ushered in “light through”, and the gadgets we currently use are like electronic stained glass. Their high resolution makes them luminous and beautiful, with light shining in from behind. Each artwork created on a mobile device can be instantly shared and viewed on such an interface. It is in this milieu of luminosity that the Mobile Art community has been established. 

Eggshell, © Linda Hollier
The dark side of the current state of media in the digital age is that social media can blind us to what is actually happening. Users can become trapped in their own filter bubbles, hearing only from likeminded people. Fake news is becoming common and can easily spread. There is a great lack of transparency.

To further explore the concepts of light through, filters and transparency, I have created a series of six gauze-like veils titled #interact2connect, which I am currently photographing around the world. Six of my iPhone artworks are printed onto these veils. By interacting with people I meet or with strangers, we connect. When the veil is held up in the light, the veil also interacts with the individual and the surroundings.
#interact2connect, © Linda Hollier
Next time you are out photographing or creating mobile art, I invite you to become aware of the ways in which you are “Letting in the LIght”.

Linda Hollier
Linda Hollier is an explorer with a pioneer spirit. A keen observer of life and culture, Linda is filled with boundless curiosity when traveling, whether in cyberspace or around the globe. This is what fuels her creative process.

Linda has evolved the capacity to smoothly and effortlessly weave the digital potential of her iPhone with the material world of print. Her choice to print on recycled wood and on fine Ethiopian veils, as well as her investigation into copperplate, plexiglass and aluminum, aid in embodying her conceptual ideas about time, space, interconnectedness, rootedness and movement in her work. She calls these new parameters ‘here2here'.

Born in South Africa she is currently living in Canada, after spending ten years in the UAE and ten years in Germany. Her work has been exhibited in Italy, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Qatar, UAE, Switzerland, USA and Spain. Over the last few years she has also been honored to receive numerous international awards.

Masdar City, UAE,
Where Linda Hollier and I met in 2017.
© Rad A. Drew

Links for Linda Hollier