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The iPhone 4 and a Mac on a photography trek

Until a recent trip up to Canyon de Chelly in Northeast Arizona, I hadn't fully realized just how important Apple products have become to my photo workflow.

As I sat back to think about the number of ways that Apple has made my job behind the camera easier, I began to realize just how dramatically things have changed since I had a Canon film camera, a backpack full of lenses, and lots of Fuji film.

First, let's talk about digital imaging. While Apple doesn't currently make a digital camera, in the old days, they made the Quicktake, which was one of the very first digital cameras on the market. Most of my images pass through Apple hardware and either Apple or third party software. I carry my MacBook Pro on my trips, and I download images from a CF card onto the desktop; I can browse through the images in Aperture or iPhoto.



On this trip, because the canyons were full of deep shadows, I decided to do some images using the HDR technique; you take three or more images at different shutter speeds and combine them. I use Photomatix for the Mac, which does a great job of aligning the images and tone mapping them so that I get excellent dynamic range. HDR isn't for everything, but when used with a light touch, it can really produce some excellent renditions of some striking landscapes.

One surprise was the photo quality of the iPhone 4. I don't use the iPhone as a primary camera, of course, but I was amazed when I rattled off a few shots using Pro HDR, a US$1.99 app that takes two images at different exposures and combines them. I was very impressed, and you can see the results in the gallery.

I was also pleasantly surprised with how helpful the Navigon app for the iPhone was. It chose a better route to the canyon than the factory equipped nav unit in my car. I liked the 3D panoramas that accurately captured the buttes and mesas as they whizzed by. I also used the Navigon Google feature to help me find the nearest gas and food.

One of the things I like about the iPhone is the feature that embeds location and altitude information into the metadata on the image. My Canon 5D is more than five years old, and it has no comparable feature. Once again, the iPhone 4 saved the day. Using an app called PlaceTagger, I could turn it on and have it log my position during the day and note the time that I was at each location. With my Canon internal clock matching the iPhone, a neat trick was performed. When I got home, I turned on the PlaceTagger app, and since I was on a Wi-Fi network, it linked to the PlaceTagger app that was running on my Mac. I opened the folder of images, and the software matched the times and embedded my locations. That's neat! Years later, I can look at the data in the image and go back to the same location. I could have added a dedicated hardware solution to do this, but they are expensive, and PlaceTagger is 10 bucks. In the newest version, it supports background operation on iOS 4, which is a major improvement.

Of course, there is Photoshop for image enhancing and cropping and MobileMe for posting your images. You can also use Flickr or Picasa or whatever else you may care to use.

The apps that I've mentioned aren't the only ones that can do the job. There are other GPS logging apps, and there's no shortage of HDR apps for the iPhone and for the Mac. Those are the solutions that I use, though, and I've been very happy with them.

When you add it up, photography has undergone quite a revolution. I have to say thanks to Apple and to all of the third parties that have changed photography for the better.

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