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Photo trips with the iPhone 4S and iOS photo apps; past and present

It was about 14 months ago that I took a jaunt to Northern Arizona for a landscape photography trip. I hit Canyon de Chelly, a dramatic area of seldom visited beauty, and the iconic Monument Valley that straddles the Utah and Arizona borders.

On that trip I had my trusty DSLR, a Canon 5D, and for fun I took some shots with the iPhone 4. I've repeated the trip, only this time with my iPhone 4S. What a difference a year makes! I still did the majority of my shooting with my Canon, but for a quick grab and a share with friends and family you can't beat the iPhone 4S photo system.

In general, I still use Pro HDR. It supports the full resolution of the iPhone, is faster at rendering than previous versions, and still delivers an excellent image under high contrast situations. We now also have iPhoto for iOS, which I found invaluable for editing, but also for creating journals (iCloud users only) of photos that can be shared directly from the iPhone. We also have Snapseed from NIK software, that gives you a measure of control when editing on the iPhone that is both simple and powerful.

I also used a free app called Magic Hour to predict the best lighting for photography.

The only challenge is connectivity. I didn't see any wireless access in and around Monument Valley. There might be W-iFi in the hotel rooms there, but I didn't see any wireless networks come up. Even phone reception was spotty, and sometimes I saw the AT&T EDGE Network and sometimes not.

At Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, Arizona things are a bit better. The town has cell service, and generally I could get on the EDGE network, although uploading photos is slow. The two major hotels in Chinle -- a Best Western and a Holiday Inn -- both have free wireless, so I was able to get some images out. The only downside of the visit was that I just missed Johnny Depp who was there filming the new Lone Ranger movie.

I was also testing Place Tagger, an app that puts GPS data on your DSLR images by syncing your location to photos taken at the same time. Of course the iPhone automatically embeds that info when you are using the iPhone camera. I'll have a complete review of Place Tagger soon.

I was also surprised at the number of iPhones being used by tourists. I don't really consider the iPhone 4S camera my primary photo gear, but for lots of people it is. I saw far more iPhones taking snaps than I saw Android devices or other cameras or camera phones. And like me, people were sending those images back via the web, or using Photo Stream to have them when they get home. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the iPhone seemed to outnumber point-and-shoot cameras, at least in the places I was taking pictures.

I have to say I'm impressed with how much heavy photographic lifting the iPhone 4S can do for photographers. It's becoming more and more mainstream, and with supporting editing apps, services like the iPhoto Journal feature, and of course with maps and specific travel guides, the iPhone is a one-device solution for a lot of casual photographers.

Check the gallery for some iPhone 4S photos, and feel free to share any similar experiences you've had in the comments. Note that the images have been reduced in size and resolution for our publishing system.

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