Rad A. Drew Photography: June 2017

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cuban Painter, Roly Castelliny

Roly Castelliny in front of one of his paintings in his home in Old Havana.

(See more of Roly's paintings in this gallery I created.)

Twenty-six-year-old Roly Castelliny was working in an apartment in Havana where I was staying while in Cuba in 2015. He was on the staff at the apartment and was filling the roles of Concierge, Bartender, Money Changer, Cook and whatever else his guests called for during their stay. Because, I think, he is about the age of my son, and because he has such a positive character and personality, I was drawn to him.

One night, after the rest of our group had gone to bed, Roly and I sat up on the balcony overlooking Havana Harbor and talked well into the night. His English was remarkably good. (He said he'd learned English by watching the few American TV shows they could view in Cuba!) He told me about his life in Cuba, about training in the marshal arts for most of his life, about being a body guard, about his wife and family, and about the events that led him to make a career change and eventually discover his talent as an artist.

The story he shared went something like this. He was at the home of a woman he knew well who was being harassed by her ex-boyfriend. While Roly was with her one evening at her home, the ex kicked in his friend's door and attacked her. Roly intervened, and, using his marshal arts skills, hurt the attacker badly.

The next morning, even though he'd felt justified in defending his friend, he was sick about how badly he'd hurt this man. He was feeling remorseful. He vowed at that moment to leave his work as a body guard and pursue a new way of life.

At the time, he didn't know what that new life would be, but he got out of the security business and found the job that he was in when I met him in what I would call the hospitality/tourist industry. He liked it, and he liked the people he met, but something was missing for him. One day, to cheer him up, a friend came by with some paints and brushes and invited Roly to paint with him. Having never painted, Roly was reluctant at first, but eventually relented.

What happened next helped him to find the direction he was looking for in his life. He found that he could paint! Not only could he paint, but he seemed to have a gift for it. He'd had no training, yet the images he created in spite of being a beginner, were surprisingly good. He began to paint more and to study and to learn. His passion for creating art had been ignited! When we talked that night on the balcony he said that he was about ready to leave the relative security of his job at the apartment and venture out on his own as an artist.

After I returned to the United States, Roly and I continued to stay in touch. Within a few months of our initial meeting, he sent me a Facebook message telling me that he'd left his day job at the apartment and had found a very small gallery in Old Havana in an area where tourists often came to visit local galleries. He began to sell his work internationally, including pieces that hang in the foreign embassy in Havana. He also received inquiries from the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo De Sousa.

Shortly after he established himself in his small gallery, I was in Cuba with another group. We all went to see his new place. It was so tiny! About the size of two closets or a small bathroom. His work was displayed on every inch of wall space, and he was selling. Within a few months of that visit, he had moved to a larger gallery with access on a busy street, a wonderful location for his art.

Today, we correspond on a regular basis. I have "invested" in his new gallery and have watched as he renovated it, installed new lighting, spackled walls, and hung his paintings. To thank me for my "investment," he's offered me some space in his gallery where I am showing a few of my photographic images from Cuba.

In spite of what sounds like a success story (and it is!), this has been a tremendous struggle for Roly. Because he has no art education, he is not recognized as a legitimate artist by his government, so he is not eligible for any of the resources that might be available to artists that are formally educated.

One of the biggest threats to his ability to create work is the difficulty in obtaining art supplies like canvas, brushes, and most of all, oil paint. It's not so much that he can't afford it (although money is tight), there just isn't any paint to buy in Cuba much of the time. Each time I visit, I bring him oil paints and last year I posted on Facebook that he needed supplies. I received many generous donations from around the country and was able to bring him new paint and brushes, and an assortment of donated items like lightly used tubes of oil paint, canvases, and brushes.

Friends visited Cuba this June and were kind enough to carry more supplies that I had for Roly to keep him painting. Since the last Facebook request was so fruitful, I've put out the call again. 

If you would like to contribute to a fund that will allow me to purchase painting supplies for Roly Castelliny and support him in his new gallery, you can do so here. I've created a PayPal button (below) that will allow you to donate, and allow me to track the donations and maintain a record of contributors. Last time, I received so many donations that I lost track of where they all came from. I wrote many thank you notes, but fear I missed some who contributed. The PayPal system will allow me to keep better track.

This is set up entirely informally and all you have is my word of honor that every cent (except for PayPal fees necessary to make this managable) will go toward supporting Roly and his art. Money will be spent on one of three things: 
  1. art supplies, 
  2. baggage fees to get materials to Cuba, and 
  3. gallery rent

There are 5 levels of donation:
  1. $5
  2. $10
  3. $25
  4. $50
  5. $100

Any amount will be greatly appreciated!

I really don't know what kind of response there will be. If I start receiving more money than is practical (a good problem to have!), I will turn off the donation site and stop accepting donations.

I'll be visiting Cuba two more times in 2017, leading small groups of photographers from November 5-13, and again from November 26 - December 4, so I'll be able to bring more supplies when I travel.

Roly Castelliny's Paintings

Here are a number of paintings created by Roly. It's difficult for him to send me images, so I don't have many. Also, many of the images he's created have sold and he does not have photos of everything, so, what I have here is a limited example of his work. Eventually, I'll have a catalog of his paintings with prices for anyone who is interested in purchasing.

I don't have the names of everything he's done or the exact sizes of everything either, but most of his work is quite large. (See the piece he's standing next to below.) Some of his works are commissions, like the one of the girl in the sunglasses. You can see the progression and the photo the painting was based on for this one.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Creating Dynamic Panoramas with your iPhone

© Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano

Summer is finally here and for most of us, that means we will be spending more time outside, often in wide open spaces in cities or in the country. It's the perfect time to experiment with creating panoramic images with your iPhone!

In this post, I'm going to be sharing two tools I really like for creating wonderful panos. One is the pano feature that comes with the iPhone's native camera. It is actually my favorite not only for its ease of use, but also for the remarkable results it produces. 

The other is the app Panorama DMD, which makes 360 degree pano videos as well as great panorama images. It also has the added advantage of creating images using HDR software for balanced exposure of high contrast scenes.

First, the iPhone's Native Camera Feature

To access the iPhone's native camera pano feature, first open the native camera by clicking on this icon: 

The Pano feature is located at the far right of the screen, as shown below:

Slide your finger across the screen to the right until PANO changes to yellow.

For a horizontal pano, you'll need to hold the phone in the portrait position, as show in the image above. Notice the white arrow and the yellow line, and the instructions: Move iPhone continuously when taking a Panorama.

Prepare to take your pano by holding the phone in the portrait position, as shown, and keep the phone perpendicular to the ground, that is, straight up and down. When you're ready, tap the white button at the bottom of the phone and begin to slowly move the camera in the direction of the arrow, keeping the arrow on the yellow line. If you veer from the yellow line, you'll see the message to move up or move down. In bright light, you'll be able to move very quickly, but in lower light, you must move slower. If you move to fast, you'll see the message slow down appear on the screen.

The iPhone Pano feature does a remarkable job, but, it does not take HDR images, therefore, you may find that some of the brighter areas of the image may be blown out, or too bright. To avoid this problem, tap your finger on the brighter area of the scene. In the example above, I tapped on the clouds over the house. This sets the exposure for the bright sky. Yes, the rest of the image may appear too dark, but that is correctable later using the app, SnapSeed. In SnapSeed's Tune Image tool box, you can adjust for Ambiance, Highlights, and Shadows. To brighten the shadow areas of the image, move the Shadow Slider in SnapSeed to the right. (For more information on using SnapSeed to process images, see my SnapSeed tutorials on my YouTube channel.)

  1. To start your pano, tap the white button.
  2. To stop your pano, tap the white button again, or even easier, reverse the motion of the phone when you get to the end of the scene and the camera will stop and save your image to your camera roll. No need to hit the button again and risk shaking your camera.
  3. Take a pano that is about 180 degrees.
  4. Take a pano that is only as wide as you want to go. This is great if you are in a small room and want to capture the interior, or you only want to capture a smaller portion of a scene. You can start your pano, reach the end of the scene, reverse camera motion and capture just a portion of the 180 scene.
  5. To take a vertical pano, turn the phone to the landscape position  and rotate the camera up to take a pano of a tree, building or monument.
  6. If you have the iPhone 7 Plus, tap the 2x button on the screen and get twice as close to your subject when you take your pano. It will appear much larger than the 1x pano.
  7. The closer you are to your subject, the more of the barrel distortion you'll get. Rather than consider this a defect, use it to your advantage to create an interesting interpretation of your subject. (See the Cigar Factory and the National Capital building, below.)
Here are a some examples of pano's taken with the iPhone native camera.

The Cigar Factory and the Capital Building in Cuba, below, are examples of the kind of barrel distortion that can occur when you are very close to your subject, as I was when I took these images. The buildings appear to be in the shape of a hockey puck, when in reality they are traditionally rectangular structures.
© Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano, Cigar Factory

The image of the El Capitolio in Cuba is an example of a "partial" pano as well as barrel distortion. I stood very close to the building, started at the left end of the building and moved until I had included the entire building in the frame, then I stopped the pano by reversing the direction of my camera motion. This is a great way to control the content of your scene and use the barrel distortion for artistic effect.

National Capital Building in Cuba, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Partial Pano, 
Jose Marti Stadium, Havana, Cuba, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano
Along the Colorado River, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano
Winter, Indiana, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano
Trinidad, Cuba, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano
Abandoned City Methodist Church, Gary, Indiana, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano

Abandoned USPO, Gary, Indiana, © Rad A. Drew, iPhone Pano
The panos below were taken with the native camera pano feature on the iPhone 7 Plus. The first pano was taken with the 1x setting, while the second was taken with the 2x setting. See how much closer you're able to get to your subject in the 2x mode, and how much more of the scene is captured in 1x. One is not necessarily better than the other, just a different view. 

The Palouse, iPhone 7 Plus Pano at 1x,  © Rad A. Drew

The Palouse, iPhone 7 Plus Pano at 2x, © Rad A. Drew

Now for the App, Panorama DMD

The app Panorama DMD works on both iPhone and Android and allows you to take great panos, and, if you make the in-app purchase, will produce them in HDR as well. It's available via the App Store here for iPhone users, or the Google Play Store here, for android users. 

You can set it up to save to your camera roll or to a social site for sharing, which I chose not to do.

Open the app by clicking on its icon of a Yin/Yang symbol, that looks like this:
DMD Panorama
Similar to the iPhone camera pano feature, you must hold the camera in the portrait position and perpendicular to the ground. 

Position the camera and when ready, tap anywhere on the screen to start the process. This is what the interface looks like. Notice the two halves of the Yin/Yang symbol separated at the top of the screen.

Move the camera to the right until the Yin/Yang symbols come together, as shown below:

After each "mating" of the symbol halves you'll hear a shutter click and the icons will separate as you rotate to the right until they come together again. You have to go slow enough to allow time for the symbol halves to match up and click before you move on. If you tilt the camera forward or backward so that it's no longer perpendicular to the ground, the Yin and Yang won't mate until you return the camera to the perpendicular orientation. You can continue rotating for a full 360 degrees, something that can't be done with the iPhone Pano feature.

When you've reached the end of your pano, tap the screen to finish. The image will be saved according to the settings you've selected for the app.

The app's settings are rather hidden. To access the settings, tap the Profile icon at the bottom right of the app's interface. It's the one that looks like a person. When you tap that, you will see the following screen:

You don't need to sign in or sign up. Instead, click the blue setting's gear icon in the upper right corner to reveal the settings screen as shown below. I have mine set up to copy to camera role when saving and to also copy the original component images to the cameral roll. 

The App for Galileo, is an app that works only with the Motrr Galileo motorized mount for panoramas, which I haven't tried. You don't need to worry about it if you don't have that hardware.

After you've taken your Pano, it will appear in the local gallery which looks like this:

You can save the pano to your camera role as a Video or a Photo. To save, tap on the share icon beneath the image. The share icon is the one with the arrow. When you tap the share icon, you see the share options beneath the image as shown below:

To save, tap the icon that looks like a roll of film and you will see this save screen:

Select Video or Photo and tap the export button. Photos are saved in the camera roll and videos are saved in the video album in the camera roll. Showing a video is how the 360 degree images are shown.

Here are some examples of images taken with the DMD Panorama App.

© Rad A. Drew, DMD Panorama

© Rad A. Drew, DMD Panorama

© Rad A. Drew, DMD Panorama

Try both these apps to see which you prefer, then make some great panos this summer! For tips on processing in SnapSeed, see my SnapSeed tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Thanks for stopping by and, until next time, keep on shooting!