Rad A. Drew Photography: 2016

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Our Experience with the Cuban National Ballet

Cuban National Ballet at the Alicia Alonzo Great Theater, Havana
The Cuban National Ballet has been held up as a model for the world for as long as I can remember, so when I began to travel to Cuba in 2013, learning about ballet was of great interest to me. I've made six trips to Cuba since 2013, and on those visits, I've photographed at the ballet school, and in more recent years, have had the opportunity to meet and photograph dancers with the Cuban National Ballet in Havana.

Alicia Alonzo Great Theater, Havana, Cuba
My most recent trip, as luck would have it, coincided with a performance of the National Ballet at the Alicia Alonzo Great Theatre in Havana. This being the year of the 25th Havana Ballet Festival, the theatre was recently renovated for the festivities this year. Through friends in Havana, we obtained 11 tickets to the ballet – enough for our entire photo group to attend. We even had two press passes that allowed two of our participants to photograph at the edge of the stage!

On the night we were there, world famous Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer, Alicia Alonzo, was present for the performance. Her company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955.

Mercedes Piedres, Dancer, Cuban National Ballet
After watching what was an extraordinary performance, our group had the surreal experience of photographing two dancers the following day, one of whom danced on the stage for us the night before.
Mercedes Piedres, Dancer, Cuban National Ballet
Children are selected for ballet education at an early age. Once chosen, students attend the Ballet School where they receive all their academic as well as their ballet education. Those who excel, advance to the Cuban National Ballet.

Cuban Ballet School in Havana, featuring portraits of Alicia Alonzo
I've created a small gallery of images featuring the ballerinas and you can view them here.

I'm leading photo tours to Cuba in January and November next year. Follow this link for more information. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

There is No Bad Light, only Light!

Cloudy skies created the perfect light for photographing this lobster shack near Gloucester.
© Rad A. Drew
Last month I had the pleasure of leading a workshop with my good friend and extraordinary photographer, Betty Wiley, in an area of New England known as The North Shore. It’s an area along the coast just north of Boston, and is home to fishermen and lobstermen in cities like Gloucester and Rockport. I love even the names of the places in the area like Bear Skin Neck, Annisquam Harbor Light, Halibut Point, and Jones River Salt Marsh.

Betty and I arrived two days prior to the workshop to scout the areas we wanted to see, check the sun, check the tides, etc. We were blessed with extraordinary light and Betty’s skill at reading the light, wind, and tides, put us at Annisquam Harbor Light for one of the most spectacular sunsets that either one of us has ever seen (below).

Annisquam Harbor Light
© Rad A. Drew
Then our group arrived and all that beautiful sunlight was replaced with threatening rain, solid gray cloud cover and wind – a bad combination for shooting sunsets and fishing boats on the harbor.

So, as group leaders and photographers, what do you do when conditions don't appear optimal? 

It’s been said by someone that there is no good light or bad light, there is only light. The goal of a photographer is to use the available light well. Of course, as group leaders, Betty and I wanted our group to have the sunset experience that we’d just had, but that was out of our control. So, we forged ahead, remained positive, and planned our days to use the light we had to our best possible advantage.

Our group was wonderful. Everyone maintained their excitement, in spite of the clouds, as we shot in small sheltered harbors, and in the city of Rockport, and the cloud cover created a wonderful soft light that allowed our group to get some great photos. As each day progressed, and we spent time in the classroom, we remained hopeful that the clouds would part and give us a good sunset. And our patience and optimism was rewarded! 

Debbie Owen made the beautiful image of our group on the beach, and as you can see, the clouds and light were fantastic! Everyone had the experience of getting a great sunset shot, along with a host of other great images in spite of the “bad” light for part of the trip.

Sunset at Annisquam Harbor
Photo by Debbie Owen
Posted here are some of my images from this great location.

"I dreamed a red boat..."
© Rad A. Drew
Shop Window in Rockport, MA
© Rad A. Drew

Jones River Salt Marsh
© Rad A. Drew
Motif #1, Rockport Harbor
© Rad A. Drew
Lone Tree and Grasses, Wingaersheek Beach
© Rad A. Drew
Annisquam Harbor Light
© Rad A. Drew

Rockport Harbor
© Rad A. Drew

Betty and I have next year’s North Shore Workshop posted already. We’re doing it just before our Provincetown Workshop in the neighboring Cape Cod area. We’re offering a $150 rebate to those who sign up for both workshops. We hope to see you next year!

Other 2017 Workshops

The first workshop of 2017 is to Cuba, January29 – February 6. This trip will be limited to 8 participants and provide an intimate experience in Havana and Trinidad. For other workshops, please see the Workshops and Tours tab on my website.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Creating Impressionistic-Looking Images on your iPhone

© Rad A. Drew
Since first appearing on the art scene in the 1870's, paintings made with impressionistic techniques have captured the imagination of people the world over. Originally taking the art world by storm and inciting controversy, the works of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Paul Cezanne today are considered some of finest paintings of all time.

Using today's iPhone, we can experience the fun of creating images that share impressionistic characteristics, including:
  • Little attention to detail 
  • Emphasis on colors and blurring 
  • Movement 
  • Unusual angles 
  • Visible brush strokes. 
Fortunately for iPhoneographers, there's an app for that! Or at least an app that can help. This tutorial describes how to use your iPhone and the app, Burst Mode, to create engaging impressionistic-looking images! For even more information on using these techniques with your traditional camera, see Charles Needle's book, Impressionistic Photography; A Field Guide to Using your Camera as a Paintbrush.

First, locate a densely and diversely colorful subject that you can get close to. This could be a flower bed with an array of blooms, an artist's bench with paints, vegetables at the market, a pile of children's toys, etc. You need to be able to get within a few feet of your subject.
Then, open Burst Mode by Cogitap Software.

Once open, the app looks like this.

Click on the gear icon in the lower right to set the settings. The next image shows how I have mine set up. You may chose options other than the ones I chose here, but I'd recommend keeping the resolution at FULL, as shown below. You can also experiment with picture count, but I've found a count of 10 does pretty well.

Now tap Done to return to the camera.

Now you're ready to take your shot. Hold the camera about a foot or two from your subject. Positional yourself so that you will be able to move and use your camera arm freely.

Press the shutter button and immediately begin to simultaneously rotate the camera and move it closer to the subject. It may feel a little awkward at first, but do your best. Try to move smoothly both with the rotation and with moving closer to the subject. You can experiment with how quickly you rotate and how rapidly you close in on your subject. There's no right or wrong here, as the result is always serendipitous and will be determined by how you move the camera with each burst.

Burst Mode will click off the shots and store them in what the folks at Cogitap Software call a "session." The latest session appears at the top of the list. In the screen shot you can see that I've done 12 sessions.

Tap on the session you want to work with and the following appears:

Now tap Edit and the following appears with a row of icons across the bottom.

Click Select All, and all the images appear selected:

Now click the icon next to the Trash Icon and a button appears that says:

Stack Selected Photos.

as shown in the screen shot below.

When you click the Stack button, Burst Mode combines all 10 images into one.

That's all there is to it! Try varying the motion you make when you take the shot, and experiment with the placement of colors in your scene. Once your image is "stacked," process it with SnapSeed to sharpen it, add structure, and play with the color saturation. You could even run it through a paint program like Enlight, BrushStroke, or Artista Oil to give it brushstrokes and added texture.

I hope you find this tutorial useful and that you'll have some fun with it.

Enjoy, and until next time, keep on shooting!

P.S. Here are a couple images I made recently using Burst Mode.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Photograph Silky Water with Your iPhone!

Blurred Waterfall Captured with Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software
© Rad A. Drew

Have you ever wanted to take a great photo of a stream in which the water's all silky and smooth? Maybe you've even done a shot like this with your big camera. 

Well, your iPhone is quite capable of creating great slow shutter shots, too. Who knew?!

Last week I was out with Nancy (my wife) and we were walking around the Butler University Campus. We came upon this waterfall in Holcomb Gardens. I was able to capture this shot (pictured above) using my iPhone 6 Plus and the app Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software.

The Slow Shutter icon looks like this:
Slow Shutter Cam

What's Happening When you Take a Slow Shutter Shot?

With a traditional camera, what's happening is that you're holding the camera still (which usually means a tripod) and you're leaving the shutter open for a longer-than-normal period of time. How long you leave the shutter opens depends on how much light there is and how much you're letting in. If you leave the shutter open too long, you'll over-expose the scene and if you don't leave it open long enough you won't get the blur you're looking for in parts of the scene.

Because the camera is still and the shutter is open, anything in the scene that is moving (like the water) will appear blurry or soft, while all the still parts of the scene (like the stones or trees) remain sharp.

With the iPhone, it's really trickery, or, more specifically, programming, that lets us take a "slow shutter" shot. I put slow shutter in quotes here, because there is actually no shutter on the iPhone that we can keep open. Instead, we have the app, in this case, Slow Shutter Cam, that is programmed to have the iPhone simulate leaving the shutter open for lengths of time.

It's critically important to keep the camera still when you take a shot like this, whether you're taking it with a traditional camera or with the iPhone, because any movement of the camera will blur parts of the scene that you'd like to keep sharp.

On this day, I was out without a regular tripod. I did have a pocket tripod that I love, but the round rocks I had to climb on to get in position for the shot, didn't provide a surface that I could set my little tripod on. 

So, I had to hand-hold my iPhone. To do this I did a couple of things. 
  • I rested my phone on the rocks and then braced my hands and arms against the rocks, too, essentially becoming a human tripod.
  • Next I set the self-timer on the camera app so that I could press the shutter and have 5 seconds to get really still before the camera took the shot. This way any movement I introduced when I tapped the shutter button subsided by the time the camera fired. 
The rest involved some trial and error experimentation to find the right exposure time and capture mode for this scene. It was a very bright day, but the water fall was in the shadows. The brightness forced me to use a relatively short exposure time, but the shadows meant it could be long enough to exposure the image well. Having a short exposure time was necessary since I didn't have a tripod, and the short exposure time was probably fortunate, too; I doubt I could have held the camera still for very long!

First I opened Slow Shutter Cam and tapped the three little lines on the bottom right of the screen. 

When I tapped the lines, the setting screen appears and this is where I set the self-timer to 5 seconds, along with some other settings. Some of these other settings are based on personal preference, but I recommend the 8MP Picture Resolution, and the Auto-Save-Clear Workflow. Click Done when you have these set.

Next I tapped the gear icon on the lower left of the Slow Shutter Cam screen. Tapping this button brings up the settings for the exposure options you can choose. I tried several different capture modes, blur strengths, and shutter speeds until I found the combination that gave me the best result. These are the settings I landed on for the photo of the stones and waterfall.

Here are a few other examples of images captured with slow shutter. This first of Friendship Bridge over Raccoon Creek in Indiana, was taken in a way similar to the one described above. The big difference is that for this I had my phone on a tripod.

Friendship Bridge over Raccoon Creek, Southern Indiana
© Rad A. Drew
 Can you guess what this next shot is? This was taken using the same process and using a tripod. This is corn blowing in the wind with an exposure of about 10 seconds. I think it makes for a great abstract!

In all the images so far, great effort was taken to keep the camera still, but what happens if you don't use a tripod and you intentionally move, or swipe, the camera over a scene.

The following two images were created in just that way. I set the settings similar to the earlier images, but instead of keeping the phone steady, I intentionally moved it vertically from bottom to top through the scene.

Fall Grasses, Southern Indiana
© Rad A. Drew

Sycamores Along Big Walnut Creek, Southern Indiana
© Rad A. Drew
This has been a lot of fun sharing these techniques. I hope you find the info useful. This is just the sort of thing I cover in my workshops, whether in the classroom or in the field. Please take a look at the great workshop and learning opportunities I'll be leading this year. Maybe you'll join me in Cape Cod, Cuba, the Palouse, or even Tuscany! See the workshop tab on my web site for details

Questions or comments? Email me here!

Until next time, keep on shooting!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Art of the iPhone

Editors Note: These images were made on a recent photography trip to Cuba. I'll be leading groups again in October this year and January next. If you are interested in learning more, shoot me an email (here) or a FB message. Cuba is a magical place that I'm getting to know very well. I'd love to share the experience with you!

Morro Castle across Havana Harbor, Havana, Cuba
© Rad A. Drew

Creating Soft Focus Images with the iPhone

These photos of Morro Castle across Havana Harbor, and the dancer from Cuba’s International Ballet, and are perfect candidates for exploring soft-focus photography, and the iPhone allows for some fun experimentation!

Patricia, Dancer with Cuba's International Ballet, Havana, Cuba
There are a several ways to achieve a soft focus look with the iPhone. This blog post from last year on how to create your own “Orton Effect” using iPhone apps is one way you might enjoy, but it’s a little more involved.

Since writing that post, a relatively new app called Enlight, has made creating this look even simpler.

The Process

Select an image that you think might benefit from a slightly dreamy quality. Landscapes and images with nostalgic or romantic content seem to be particularly good candidates for the soft-focus look.

Process the image in your usual way doing the normal editing you do such as cropping, sharpening, and color adjustments, then process the image with whatever apps you choose to achieve the look you want whether it be a “straight” shot, a vintage look, a painterly effect, or some other final quality.

When finalizing your image and making it ready for the soft-focus step, you may want to process it to be slightly darker than normal, because adding the soft-focus in the final step may lighten it slightly.

Once you’ve processed your image and you have it looking the way you’d like, it’s now time to add the soft-focus look.

Open the app, Enlight, 

select your image, and follow these steps:
  • Select ARTSTIC from Enlight’s side menu.
  • Select PAINTING.
  • Select PRESETS along the bottom.
  • Scroll to the preset GLOW. It’s second from the last in the collection.
  • Using your finger on the screen, slide across the image to increase softness of the focus on a scale from 0 (no softness) to 100 (extreme softness).
  • Try to find a “sweet spot” that retains some detail in your image yet gives it a slightly soft, buttery glow.
You may find that some images will accept more softness, while others only need a little.

For the image of the dancer, I chose to apply a lot of softness, in part because I wanted to emphasize the dreaminess of the image, but also (don't tell!) because there was a blemish in the original image that I couldn’t eliminate with other processing! I chose to obscure the blemish with soft-focus. This might be a little too much for some tastes.

For the image of Morro Castle, I wanted to give it a slightly timeless quality to emphasize the history and enhance the romance of the scene. For this image, I used only a slight amount of soft-focus.

Have fun experimenting! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And please consider subscribing to my blog, and to my Newsletter for more Photo Tips and the latest on trips and learning opportunities.

Until next time, keep on shooting!


P.S. I'll be covering these and many other processing techniques in my May workshop in the South of France. Details here.

Subscribe to my Newsletter here!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stories and the Images that Inspired them

Back in 2010, shortly after I got my first iPhone (the iPhone 4!) and began doing what is now referred to as iPhoneography, I was part of a "secret" group of photographers on Facebook. We all shared our processing techniques and new apps, and it was a way to learn at a time when there wasn't a lot known about the new iPhone camera. In real time, we were discovering what could be done, and sharing with each other on a daily basis. I soaked up everything like a sponge! 

As if all this wasn't enough fun, one of our group members began posting short stories with his photos. Some were funny, while others were extremely moving and poignant. Seeing his images with their stories was all I needed to have "permission" to create my own.

What follows are several images and the stories they inspired. Unlike my friend's stories that inspired me, mine are more in the vein of noir fiction, probably influenced by my love of the detective novel, and particularly the work of Elmore Leonard, the King of Crime. 

Skyline Auto Sales is the first I remember writing and when I looked it up on FB, I found that I'd dedicated it to the photographer who first inspired me with his stories on our "secret" site. 

So, once again, Dewitt, I thank you for yet another gift!

Skyline Auto Sales (2011)

Homage to Dewitt... 

It had been 3 years since, Melinda, passing through and destitute, bought the old beater at the Skyline. She knew within days that it was not like any other car she'd ever owned. She'd tried to make the payments, but her checks always came back, un-cashed. The car's dents and rust began to fade almost as soon as she drove off the lot. The cracks in the windshield got smaller and smaller until you'd never know the window had been shattered. In 3 years she'd never had to put in a drop of gas, and the upholstery... wasn't it ripped at one time? Now sitting in her car and staring at the Skyline again, she barely noticed her phone vibrating on the seat next to her. "Now who could that be?" she thought, as she noticed the number that appeared in the display: 317-219-0513.

Grandfather's Photos (2011)

Elliot, who turned 11 in 2085, always loved looking at his grandfather's old photos.

Double-Ds at Marlow's (2012)

Instinctively his hand found the knot on the back of his throbbing head as he struggled to his feet. Instincts? Where were his instincts when he let those two goons flank him at Marlow's? It was a rookie mistake that cost him a concussion and his snub nosed. Focus! he told himself, but his eyes weren't working any better than his knees. He let the storefront hold him up while he strained to put the pieces together. Marlow's at 3, she'd said. Be there. His eyes still wouldn't focus, but this much was clear: she and her double-D's had set him up and he'd fallen for it -- again.

11th and Brookside (2014)

Evelyn had boarded the strange bus knowing that she had to put distance between herself and the events at 11th and Brookside. She couldn't be found here after what she'd seen! After riding for what seemed like hours the driver signaled the last stop of the day. Evelyn stepped off the bus and collapsed to her knees; she was back in exactly the place she most needed to avoid!

Nothing to Worry About (2015)

"Come on!" Elliot said to Irma as they approached the front door of the abandoned house. "Don't be such a scaredy cat. There's nothing to worry about, I tell you!"

White Lightening (2016)

Upon seeing the old place I felt a tug inside, and the metallic taste – the one that comes just before you wretch – filled my mouth. I had to swallow hard. Although it had been more than thirty years since I'd set foot on the old homestead, I could hear the crackle of the flames under Daddy's still, and smell the pungent sweetness of corn mash. How many times had Lila and I hidden in the corn crib out back as Daddy railed at imagined foes while under the spell of his White Lightning?