Rad A. Drew Photography: December 2021

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Images From Eclectic Atlanta

Infrared Pano, Fuji XT1
© Wendy Kaveney

My friend, Cuban Photographer, Ramses Batista, and I have been co-leading photo workshops for about six years. Most of our events have been in Cuba, where we met, and has involved photographing farmers from the Vinales region and, our favorite, dancers from the Cuban National Ballet in Havana. 

With the onset of the pandemic, Ramses and his family moved to Atlanta where he lives and works today.

Always looking for opportunities to work together and with travel to Cuba not possible this past year, Ramses and I created the workshop, Eclectic Atlanta!, which we co-led this past October and plan to repeat when conditions permit.

Ramses and Rad in Cayo Jutio, Cuba in 2019.

The Atlanta workshop is "eclectic" in that it includes two wildly different and specular gardens – The Atlantic Botanical Gardens and Gibbs Garden, the rusty old cars of Old Car City, and the opportunity to photograph ballet dancers and fashion models in a variety of locations throughout the city, including the rustic Goat Farm, the edgy Little Five Points, and the Centennial Olympic Park.

Our workshop was announced just as the Delta variant of Covid reared its ugly head, so several who registered, understandably, opted not to travel. We decided to go forward with the workshop since most of our locations were outside and many were able to drive (instead of fly) to Atlanta. This made for a small, intimate group of four participants, and created the perfect environment for learning and photographing in these fantastic locations!

Ramses is known for his remarkable photos of dancers and models, often achieved with remote flash. With local dancers and models, we used Godox flash units and triggers. Our approach is for each photographer to have his/her own trigger and flash unit. Each camera requires specific setup, but once the light is determined, the camera settings right, and the flash set, the shooting can begin! The models and dancers Ramses lined up were AMAZING!

Ramses gives instructions at Little Five Points
Godox Flash Stand to the left of our Model

Using flash requires attention to detail and an understanding of how ambient light and the light from flash work together to freeze motion and eliminate shadows. Ramses worked with each participant to allow everyone to create images with this technique. This approach often results in modern, edgy looks. 

I specialize in mobile photography and infrared photography with both traditional cameras and the iPhone. During the workshop, participants learned to take advantage of today's mobile phone technology to photograph and process RAW files, do intentional camera movement, and to create long exposure photos. Some participants borrowed accessories and experimented with iPhone infrared, and some borrowed my converted Fuji XT1 to have a traditional infrared experience. 

Here are a few of the favorite images shared by members of our great group composed of Debbie Westerhold, Kim Reynolds, Silvia Schneirov, and Wendy Kaveney.

Debbie Westerhold

The Goat Farm
© Debbie Winchester

Atlantic Botanical Gardens
©Debbie Winchester

Atlantic Botanical Gardens
©Debbie Winchester

Fashion Model at Little Five Points
© Debbie Winchester

Old Car City
© Debbie Winchester

Kim Reynolds

Gibbs Garden
© Kim Reynolds

Dancer at Goat Farm
© Kim Reynolds

Gibbs Garden
© Kim Reynolds

Fashion Model at Little Five Points
© Kim Reynolds

Silvia Schneirov

Intentional Camera Movement at Gibbs Garden
© Silvia Schneirov

Atlantic Botanical Gardens
© Silvia Schneirov

Old Car City
© Silvia Schneirov

Model, Centennial Olympic Park
© Silvia Schneirov

Wendy Kaveney

Old Car City
© Wendy Kaveney

Old Car City, Average Cam Pro
© Wendy Kaveney

Average Cam Pro
© Wendy Kaveney

Dancer at the Goat Farm
© Wendy Kaveney

Stitched Pano Infrared, Gibbs Garden
© Wendy Kaveney

Old Car City
© Wendy Kaveney

Many thanks to Debbie, Silvia, Kim and Wendy for joining us on this trip and for sharing their images!


Gibbs Garden, iPhone Infrared
© Rad A. Drew

If you are interested in joining us for our next Eclectic Atlanta! workshop, email me here to be added to our early notification list. 

P101 Workshops with Ramses Batista

If you are interested in Ramses's exclusive Dance and Fashion model photography workshops, email Ramses here (or email me here) for further information on dates and cost.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Lens Switching and other Challenges with iPhone 13 Pro Max, and some Work-arounds!


iPhone 13 Pro Max, Native Camera, 26mm lens

Editor's Update December 31, 2021

Thanks to one of my readers for pointing out that the iPhone has three separate cameras and sensors.

Throughout my post I've referred to the lenses. I do this partly out of habit, and partly because most people see the lenses on the phone and it just made sense to talk about it that way. But, to refer to the lenses vs the cameras is technically incorrect. 

Thank you and Happy New Year!



Hi, everyone, 

The iPhone 13 series phones have been out for a few months now and in this post, I want to share some of the problems I've experienced with the way the camera focuses, how it reacts to having either an external filter or an accessory lens (e.g., a Moment or ShiftCam lens) placed on the 77mm lens, and how it reacts when getting close with the 3x lens selected.

These have been my experiences and I'm sharing my thoughts on what might be going on. I'm by no means an authority, just someone who's photographed with the iPhone for 11 years! 

Please share what you think about this! If you're encountering the same thing, I'd love to hear your experience. If you have tips that will help, please share! And, if you are an expert and can speak to the technicalities, point out "operator error," or offer any suggestions, please share your thoughts on FaceBook or email me here.

What I share here may be of special interest to those using accessory lenses, or to those who have been making infrared images with attached IR filters.

Before I get into what I'm experiencing, here are a couple of illustrations for some common ground.

The 13 Pro and Pro Max have three lenses on the camera: 

  • a 77mm telephoto
  • a 26mm wide angle, and
  • a 13mm ultrawide angle
When selecting these lenses on the native camera interface, you choose between .5x (13mm), 1x (26mm) or 3x (77mm). 

This illustration from Apple's promotional materials shows the orientation of each lens on the camera.

(Apple Stock Photo)

It seems that Apple is overriding the photographer's ability to choose – and stick with – a desired lens, and instead, allows the camera to automatically switch lenses if the camera gets close to a subject, or, if there is low light. 

Also, when making infrared images with an attached infrared filter (as we've done successfully with previous iPhones), the Native camera is having trouble focusing when the IR filter is attached.

So what's going on? 

In an effort to ensure a good exposure, Apple is letting the camera automatically shift from the 77mm telephoto lens to the 26mm wide angle lens, or the 13mm Ultra wide angle. This shift can occur if the camera gets too close (usually within three feet in my experience) to the subject, or if there is low light. 

My best guess is that they are shifting away from the 77mm lens because it has the smallest aperture (f/2.8). That means the other two lenses, the 26mm at f/1.5, and the 13mm at f/1.8, both let in more light. It may be that Apple's rational for the switch is to allow more light in low light situations. Unfortunately, automatically switching lenses doesn't always make for the sharpest photos, and, more importantly to me, it takes the decision away from the photographer who may not desire that switch.

You can see the switching results yourself by following these steps:

  1. Open the Native camera and select the 3x (the 77mm) telephoto lens for the shot
  2. Move to within three feet of your subject
  3. Take the shot.
  4. Then go to the image in the camera roll and check the metadata for the image. 

    To check the image metadata, swipe up on the image in the camera roll and you'll see the metadata below the image. 

    You may find that even though you selected the 3x, 77mm lens, the image metadata will show that it was taken with the 26mm or even the 13mm lens. This switching seems to happen when using the 77mm lens to get close to something, (which we should be able to do!), or if in low light. The camera won't stay set on the 3x lens, and instead, automatically switches to 1x, i.e., 26mm, or .5x, i.e., the 13mm. 

The problem with this switching, apart from taking the decision making away from the photographer, is that when it switches from the 77mm lens to the 26mm lens, it also switches from optical to digital zoom.

You can google more about the difference between optical and digital zoom, but suffice it to say that optical zoom uses the camera's physical lenses and affords the best resolution, while digital zoom magnifies the image in such a way that it degrades the image. 

The switch from optical to digital zoom also occurs when you use two fingers to zoom in or out and away from one of the three optical zoom settings of .5x, 1x, or 3x. If you use your fingers to zoom or use the dial to zoom off of one of the three optical zoom settings, you will switch to digital zoom, reducing the quality of your photo.

This is not a new thing. Using a pinch gesture or the dial to zoom has always been a no-no with all mobile phones if you're looking for the highest quality images. 

What's different with the iPhone 13 is that the camera is automatically switching lenses and going from optical to digital zoom in the process, thus taking that control, that choice, away from the photographer. The result is a soft, lesser quality photo.

The iOS 15.1.1 update added a switch in Camera Settings to turn off the new Macro Mode, but I didn't see that it actually prevented the lens switch. 

The latest update to iO15.2 added a switch on the native camera interface that allows the photographer to turn the Macro Mode on or off. 

If you have the Macro mode in Camera settings set to on, like this...

... as you move the camera closer to your subject, a Macro icon appears. When it's yellow as shown below, macro is ON.

Screen shot of new Macro switch ON. Introduced with iOS 15.2

You can tap to turn the Macro mode off, as shown below:

Screen shot of new Macro switch OFF. 

Playing with this new switch still leaves me with some questions. 

If you select the 3x lens and get close to the subject, the macro switch will appear on the camera interface; it only appears when you get close to a subject. 

If you leave the macro switch off, one would think that it would make the photo with the 3x lens that you selected, but it doesn't. It automatically switches to 1x, as evidenced by the metadata for the image below:

Image made with the 77mm (3x) lens selected and Macro off. 
Metadata shows the camera automatically switched from 77mm to 26mm 

If you select the 3x lens, but do turn on the macro switch when it appears, then the camera automatically switches to the .5x (13mm) ultra wide lens, as shown here:

Image made with the 77mm (3x) lens selected and Macro on. 
Metadata shows the camera automatically switched from 77mm to 13mm 

In each each case, whether you have the macro mode turned on or off, the camera automatically switches to one of the other lenses and will not make the photo with the 3x lens.

Especially for those using Moment or ShiftCam accessory lenses

I love using the ShiftCam and Moment accessory lenses, but with the 13 Pro Max, I'm finding that if I place an accessory lens on the 77mm lens, the camera, even when the 3x, 77mm lens is selected, will not look through this lens. I've found that I can attach the accessory lens to the 1x, 26mm lens and it will work fine. It's just that using this method, we don't get the desirable benefit of the 77mm camera lens in combination with the 60mm accessory lens. Instead, we can get the combined 26mm and the 60mm accessory lens for a reach that is slightly longer than the 77mm built-in lens on the 13 Pro and Pro Max. The good news is that this lens switching only happens with the iPhone's Native Camera, and not with other camera apps. See the alternative camera app suggestions later in this post. That sad thing about using other camera apps is that we lose some of the computational photography benefits of the Native camera, including the option to create with Apple's proprietary ProRAW format.

Especially for iPhone Infrared Photographers

If you are one of the many iPhone photographers who are making infrared images with your iPhone and you've upgraded to the 13 Pro or Pro Max, here are some of the things I've found.

With earlier iPhones like the 11 Pro Max and the 12 Pro Max, I've preferred to use the Native Camera to make IR images. The dark IR filter invokes Night Mode even in the bright sun, and the camera will run for about 1 or 2 seconds depending on the light. Although this produces an image with a high ISO which usually produces unattractive noise, the night mode computational photography processes the image behind the scenes and produces a clean image. It's been my favorite way to create IR images this past year. (See some of the IR photos created by me in this featured post on the Moondog Labs site, and by members of our Facebook IR Group here.) (If you're interested in seeing what others on our group are creating, visit or join our FB group, Open Group! Infrared on the iPhone)

With the 13 Pro Max Native camera, when I attach the IR filter to the phone, the camera seems to sense the filter and seems to want to focus on the filter instead of the subject, leading to a blurry image. I say "seems to" here, because while I'm getting a poor result, I can't say exactly why. 

With the IR filter attached, as I make the photos, the macro switch appears (which I don't think it should if I'm shooting a landscape at some distance; the Macro switch doesn't appear when I'm not using the IR filter.). If I leave the macro switch on, I get an ok-looking, but obviously lower quality image. And, regardless of which lens I've selected (.5, 1x, or 3x), the image is always made with the 13mm lens, as seen when I check the meta data on each photo. Here's what seems to me to be the weird thing: If I turn the macro switch off, the camera can't focus on the distant subject and the result is a very unfocused image. That's weird, because I would think it would be just the opposite!

Have I gotten any good IR images with the iPhone 13 Pro Max's native camera? Yes! But the results are not consistent. 

Here's an infrared image that I made shortly after getting my 13 Pro Max. I selected the 3x lens and it focused, didn't shift lenses, and yielded a great result.

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 77mm lens, Native Camera with Night Mode
Infrared photo using the 52mm, 720nm infrared filter from Spencer's Camera 

But many times, I can see that the camera isn't focusing. I find that sometimes, when I switch from 1x to 3x, the camera will focus and I can make a photo with the 3x lens and it doesn't shift to a different lens. But, other times, it shifts and I get a blurry mess. It's unclear what specific factor is allowing the camera to focus and what is throwing it off, but it does seems to focus if I switch from the 1x lens to the 3x lens and shoot quickly. (Not that we should have to do that, but it does seem to work much of the time.)

The only consistent solution I've found for creating IR with the new iPhone 13s, is to use cameras other than the Native iPhone camera to get satisfactory IR results. Other cameras that do a great job are HalideLightroom Pro Camera, and Camera+2. There are others, but these are the ones I've chosen to use. While we can get some great IR with these other camera apps, we are sacrificing some of the iPhone features, most notably the ability to use ProRAW and Night Mode, both of which have benefited IR images with iPhone cameras earlier than the the 13 series. These other camera apps also may require the use of a tripod, while the Native camera with Night mode (on earlier iPhones), doesn't. 

To illustrate what I'm seeing, here are some comparisons of non-IR and IR photos to show how the filter is affecting image sharpness.

I made the three images below outside my studio using the Native iPhone camera with no filters or accessory lenses attached. One was made with the .5x lens, one with 1x, and one with 3x. You'll notice that each image is sharp and clear.

iPhone 13 Pro Max, .5x (13mm Ultra Wide) selected

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 1x (26mm Wide) selected

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 3x (77mm telephoto) selected

When I look at the metadata for each photo, it shows that each was made with the lens that I selected, indicating that no lens switching occurred.

Now, look at the same three images made with the Native camera and a 52mm, 720nm infrared filter attached to the 13 Pro Max. Again, I used the .5x, 1x, and 3x lenses to make the three photos.

iPhone 13 Pro Max, .5x (13mm Ultra Wide) selected

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 1x (26mm Wide) selected

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 3x (77mm telephoto) selected

The only image that truly is sharp and clear is the one for which I selected the .5x lens. The 1x is soft, but passable, and the one for which I selected the 3x lens is completely soft and blurred. And here's the kicker: when I check the metadata it tells me that all three images were made with the .5x, 13mm ultra wide angle lens, even though I selected different lenses when I made each photo. The camera switched lenses automatically.

It's hard (for me!) to understand what exactly is happening here, and why. 

Is it something to do with the new Macro mode? 

Does it have to do with the lower light due to the IR filter? 

Or, does it have something to do with the LiDAR sensor being impaired by the IR filter?

Whatever the "smoking gun," it seems to be associated with the features available on the 13 Pro and Pro Max, as the earlier iPhones don't run into these issues.

I've tried blocking the LiDAR sensor, and I've tried blocking the 13mm ultra wide angle lens, but I see no difference in the resulting images. 

There is also a "Macro Control" camera setting (Settings>Camera>Macro Control). The text that describes this setting reads, Show Camera control for automatically switching to the Ultra Wide lens to capture macro photos and videos. While that's what it says it does, it doesn't actually do that. What it says implies that you can actually set the camera  so it doesn't automatically switch to the macro mode, but the camera switches and selects another lens whether the Macro switch is on or off. It doesn't matter. All the switch does, apparently, is to add or remove the macro option button on the camera's interface. The camera continues to switch lenses regardless of whether Macro mode is on or off.

So, what can we do about this dilemma and how can we adapt until these issues are resolved? 

Here are some suggestions. 

  • Make your voice heard about this. Contact Apple via the Apple.com site and let them know you want control of the lenses and do not want the camera to automatically switch lenses and definitely don't want to see the switch from optical to digital zoom.

  • For now, use camera apps other than the Native iPhone camera. While these other camera apps may get us around the problem of automatic lens changes and changes to digital zoom, it also means we sacrifice some of the iPhone's capability like the ability to take advantage of ProRAW and Night mode. The cameras below don't automatically shift lenses, will accommodate accessory lenses, and do offer a RAW option.
Camera App Alternatives for Infrared Photography and When Using Accessory Lenses

Here is a short list of cameras apps other than iPhone's Native camera that will allow you to place a lens or filter on the 77mm lens, and also have it not automatically shift from 77mm to 26mm or 13mm. There are other camera apps that will work, but these are the ones I've chosen:

Lightroom Pro Camera. 
This is the camera that comes with the Lightroom for Mobile app available for iPhone and Android. If you subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud, the complete Lightroom camera and raw editor are included in your subscription. Simply install the Lightroom mobile app from the App Store (or PlayStore for Android users) and login using your Adobe Creative Cloud credentials. 

If you don't subscribe and don't want that expense, you can install a free version of Lightroom for Mobile that includes the Lightroom Pro Camera and editor that is almost as complete as the paid version. The only tools missing are Masking, Healing, and Geometry. While these are all valuable tools, they are not required to create and edit raw files.

For those shooting IR with the 13, the Lightroom Pro Camera is a good option, but depending on your settings, you may need a tripod for sharp images.

This is a great app that will allow you to shoot RAW and set white balance, something infrared photographers will appreciate. Again, depending on the settings you end up with, you will likely need a tripod for the best results.

Halide Camera. 
This camera has a host of manual features and, if you select the 3x lens for landscape photos, it will not shift unless you get very close to part of the subject. Depending on the settings you select, you may need a tripod.

A Few Bright Spots!

One of the places where the iPhone 13's 3x lens shines, is when using the Native Camera's Portrait mode.

If you select the 3x lens when in Portrait mode, it will not shift to another lens, thus allowing you to fill more of the frame without having to be on top of your subject. 

As it always has, the Portrait mode requires you to adjust the distance to the subject to be within eight feet. You will need to move the camera forward and back until the words on the screen turn yellow to indicate that you are focused. 

This can be awkward at first, but gets easier with practice, and, ultimately, yields a great portrait result. 

The image below was made with the iPhone 13 Pro Max using the 3x lens and Portrait mode. 

iPhone 13 Pro Max, Portrait Mode and 3x lens

This is all I have to share at this point. I don't pretend to understand some of these technical issues, but I've shared what my experience has been. I remain hopeful that Apple will remedy these issues with a future iOS update and put this control back in the hands of photographers. 

Until then, I hope my thoughts offer you some workarounds or alternatives that will keep you making great images!

Click my LinkTree, link here (https://linktr.ee/RadDrew) to find links to my website, YouTube Channel, How I Did It!™ tutorials and more.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you online, or, better yet, in the field, soon.

Until then, be safe, stay well, and keep on creating!