Have iPhone (or any other phone) Will Travel

I never thought I would say this but – those darn phone cameras are getting pretty darn good. I’m surprised that people buy point and shoot cameras anymore. I can only speak to the iPhone because that is what I own. My kids however own Samsung phones which have pretty darn good cameras in them. It got me thinking that most everyone who is not a camera or photography buff are using their phones when traveling to record their visit. I’m different I want to make great photos when I travel because I may never be there again. Which brings me to the point of this blog post. Most phones today are pretty idiot proof. Most people leave them on auto pilot and everything works out fine.

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iPhone 6s  ISO 25  1/2300s  f2.2   Auto exposure

For the most part this is true if you are taking selfie’s with the main travel feature in the background. So let’s talk about framing your image. Most of the lenses in today’s phones have a 28-29mm lens (in 35mm film terms). So basically you are stuck shooting wide angle photos of everything. Which when traveling is not a bad idea. Just keep in mind if you hold the phone vertically you will cut out tons of interesting things. So the first thing you need to do is hold the phone horizontally and look for an interesting foreground that leads you into the image. This can be done vertically too, so experiment. All you need to do is turn the phone. If you do this one thing, look for an interesting foreground that tells a story (like the lobster traps in the above photo) the image will look more interesting. The image above is not a great image but it’s a lot better than just the Motif #1 standing alone by itself.

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iPhone 6s  ISO 25  1/2300s  f2.2   Auto exposure

This brings me to another point that traveling photographers are just starting to learn about. Shooting in RAW format not jpg. Here’s the difference. In a jpg image everything is baked or done for you in the camera. In a RAW image all the information is left in the file for you to adjust later or right there in the app itself. As a photographer I appreciate the fact that I can open up my shadows more or pull down my highlights, it makes a world of difference. But the only way you can shoot in RAW is to have an app that allows you to do that. Lightroom by Adobe has such an app that is paired with their program and is an absolute killer addition to their mobile app. Without going over board let me just say that all your RAW controls are right in the app or you can sync them to your desktop Lightroom program and do your processing on your computer. The only way to have use of this app is to be using Lightroom CC as part of their monthly program. Here are some other apps that you can look at that do the same thing. I have not rated these or used them so look them up and decide for yourself.

In no particular order:

Pro Cam 4 – Manual Camera + RAW – $4.99

Manual – $3.99

VSCO – Free

MuseCam – Free

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iPhone 6s  ISO 25  1/2100s  f2.2   Auto exposure

The really cool thing about using your cell phone camera is that everything is in focus unless you are REALLY close to your subject. This is because the sensor is tiny (less than a fingernail) in comparison to a full frame sensor (the size of a 35mm frame of film). Now if you have an iPhone 7 you have portrait mode which utilizes software to knock out the background.

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iPhone 6s  ISO 25  1/2300s  f2.2   Auto exposure, processed in Lightroom CC and Silver Efex Pro 2

The image above was synced over to Lightroom on my desktop and processed in the Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin for Lightroom which enabled me to bring the clouds out.

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iPhone 6s  ISO 125  1/7000s  f2.2   Auto exposure

All of these images were taken in RAW format with the iPhone 6s and as you can see it works pretty well for photographing your trip. If you are a photographer and your camera is not handy your phone will do a pretty good job, and in RAW format if you so choose. One thing I did not go over was exposure control. None of these cell phone cameras allow control over the aperture they are set at 2.2 or 1.8 therefore you can only control ISO and shutter speed with some help with exposure compensation. Most of these other controls come with using apps like Camera+ or Lightroom mobile. Either way it’s a journey worth taking with your phone.

Gearing up for travel photography

Fisherman's Memorial Gloucester

People often ask, what gear do I bring when traveling? My response usually is, well it depends on what kind of photography you want to do and what kind of traveling you are doing. If you hiking a lot and planning on shooting landscapes then a small mirrorless camera is a good bet. I have a friend who is a working photojournalist who often hikes in the White Mountains. He swears by his Fuji X100f. This little camera looks a lot like a Leica M3. It has a 23mm f2 lens and 24 mp sensor which is a moderate wide angle at 35 mm since the sensor is an aps-c sensor. It’s light and easy to use and the lens is fast and sharp. No wonder he likes it.

Quarry Halibut Pt. State Park

Most people who concentrate on landscapes like to shoot at low ISO’s. They shoot at slow shutter speeds and use high f stops for greater depth of field. This brings in the use of a tripod. The one I use and swear by is the Feisol CT-3401 with the Feisol CB-40D ballhead. This is a great carbon fiber lightweight small package that will hold up to all mirrorless gear and DSLR gear up to a 70-200. The ballhead has a quick release system on it that works quite well. It is very similar to the arca swiss type or Really Right Stuff plate systems but I don’t think they are compatible. This tripod folds down to under 2ft. and fits in my luggage which I carry on with me. Pretty amazing.

Autumn Halibut Pt.
Autumn Halibut Point quarry. Canon 5DMk lll 24-70 f4L 

All that being said, if you are just walking around and don’t mind a little weight than a DSLR with a good zoom say 28-200 range will serve you very well. It may be all you need. More people are now feeling the pinch in their neck from the weight and are switching to the new mirrorless systems from Sony and Fuji which are outstanding. You will not be sacrificing anything by using one of these systems. For instance I have a little Canon G15 point and shoot that is fabulous. It has a 28-143 f1.8-2.8 fast lens and it does everything I need for just walking around. Does it have it few issues, sure but I have learned how to deal with them. The image below was taken with this camera.

Lobster Buoy's
Lobster trap buoy’s sit on top of their traps at Lanes Cove. Taken with the Canon G15

When I travel I bring small and light gear. I am lucky enough to have a Leica M-P 240 and several lenses. I bring with me a 35mm f2, 50 f1.4, 90 f2.8 and a 135 f4. All this fits very easily in a small bag. Also in that bag is a Sony Nex-7 and the 10-15 zoom (15mm-28mm). I use the Leica 90 and 135 on this camera as well with an adapter which gives me a range of 15mm-200mm with the two cameras. I normally just carry the Sony with the zoom and the Leica with the 35 or 50 on it. Or just one or the other camera bodies depending on what I am doing. For me this small modular system works really great instead of the giant L glass for my Canon system. That being said I may just pick up another lens like the Sony 16-70 (24mm-105mm) and not carry the Leica gear at all except for the Leica 135 f4. I fit it all in the Tenba Cooper 13 bag with my iPad. Which brings me to the big question. Do you bring a computer with you? I used to, but not anymore. My new iPad negates having to bring my 13″ Macbook Pro with me. It does fit in the back of the bag I just mentioned but that’s more weight. The iPad fits in that pocket as well and it’s lighter. I can upload raw files to it and just process the ones I want in Lightroom mobile. I can then send the unprocessed raws from my library to DropBox for safe keeping. So as you can see I am for traveling light with as many options as you can without adding weight and bulk.

Early morning Annisquam
Early morning light Lobster Cove Annisquam. Leica M9 21mm SE