Category Archives: Gear

iPad 2 for Photographers: Portfolio, Apps, Second Monitor, Tethering

APF iPad Portfolio App

APF iPad Portfolio App

I didn’t really understand the appeal of a tablet until recently. I’ve been an iPhone user for years, and love having email, maps, and apps with me wherever I go. The iPad always seemed like too much of a compromise. I’m not going to process raw files and stitch panoramas on a tablet. That’s a task better left to a laptop. Heck, an 11” MacBook Air has a bigger screen, more computing power and overall flexibility than an iPad, and the 64MB version is only a few hundred dollars more. Yeah, the iPad 2 is a little bit smaller, and just over a pound lighter – but for someone who’s used to hauling around 25 pounds of photo gear, what’s an extra pound? Based on this logic, I put the iPad out of my mind as something I didn’t need.

A Photo Folio iPad Portfolio App

Well, I had a chance to borrow an iPad 2 over the holidays. I use A Photo Folio (APF) as my website provider and last year they updated their photographer’s portfolio app for the iPad. The APF app automatically syncs your entire website to an iPad portfolio. No need to resize anything — just download the APF app and press sync. You can customize the images and layout if you want to, but if your website is dialed, then your iPad portfolio is just as dialed.

APF also includes a nice looking iPad version of my website, but the APF iPad app has bigger images that are already loaded to the iPad — no waiting for images to load, and no internet connection necessary. APF also has another free app that automatically syncs your web galleries to a Facebook fan page.

There are a number of other iPad portfolio apps worth checking out including: FolioBook, Portfolio, Flexfolios, Xtrafolio, and Pad Folio. Most are in the $10-15 range.

The Screen

Once my web galleries were synced to the iPad app, I was blown away by how sharp and detailed everything looked. The 132 ppi screen on the iPad 2 is insane for viewing photos (most computer monitors are between 90-110 ppi). I have rarely seen my images look so consistently good. Only a perfectly executed print with proper lighting does a better job. I’m telling you, my jaw hit the ground after I installed the app and looked at my images.

Get Your Foot in the Door, and Show Them Some Photos

I managed to pick up a used iPad 2 for a good deal. Tucked away in a SwitchEasy Canvas Folio, it’s a pretty small package that’s about the size of a notebook. The iPad actually looks more like a digital photo frame than a laptop. There’s a novel, tactile fun-factor to viewing images on an iPad. Showing people my work is an important part of getting access to interesting locations. The iPad will be a cool way to show people my photos when traveling. Instead of a few 8×10′s in a case, how about an LED backlit interactive touch screen? “The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic!”

iPad Apps

When I searched for iPad apps for photographers, most of the articles were about photo editing apps like Photogene, Filterstorm, and PhotoForge2. I’m not really that interested in shooting and processing photos with the iPad. However, some of my favorite iPhone apps look great in their iPad versions, especially GoSkyWatch and Google Earth. After using an iPhone for years, the iPad’s email interface and keyboard are a pleasure to use, and the performance is snappy. The iPad version of WordPress is also quite nice.

iPad as a Second Monitor

OK – this feature is crazy cool. You can use a $10 app called Air Display to use your iPad as a wireless second monitor. If you work on a laptop, now you can put your Photoshop palettes on the iPad, and see the image full screen on your laptop. Or if you’re running Lightroom, put grid view on your iPad, and touch the photo on the iPad to see the large version on your laptop or desktop. This Julianne Kost video shows 3 different options for using Lightroom on 2 monitors.

iPad as a Backup Device

I almost bought a Hyperdrive last year for backing up images on short trips where I don’t want to haul a laptop. Because I don’t shoot a huge volume of images, the iPad will be able to occasionally double as a backup device. I got the camera connection kit, but haven’t tested to see if my compact flash card reader will work with the USB adapter for loading photos. The other option is to just plug the camera in directly using USB.

iPad Tethering Options

If you’re shooting tethered with Lightroom, plug the camera into your laptop or desktop, and have the iPad be a wireless second monitor using Air Display. This could be used for a client or art director to review images. There are also tripod mounts for the iPad that allow you to review your own shots on the 9.7″ iPad screen instead of on the back of your camera. You can even fire the camera from the iPad.

If you’re shooting with Capture One software, you can use Capture Pilot to view, rate, and tag images on an iPad. The app is free, but you need the $400 software to make it work. For an extra $15 you can control your camera from the iPad.

The other common iPad tethering option is to use an Eye-Fi SD memory card and a $16 app called ShutterSnitch. This combination wirelessly transmits photos from your camera to the iPad. For cameras with dual card slots, save your RAW files to one memory card, and save jpegs to an Eye-Fi card that sends to your iPad. Unfortunately there is not currently a compact flash Eye-Fi card available.

What are Your Favorite iPad Apps?

Next time you see me, ask to see my iPad portfolio – but don’t blame me if you end up wanting your own! Buying a refurbished iPad is a way to take a little bit of the sting out of the price. If you’re already using another portfolio app on your iPad, let me know which one you’re using and how it’s working out. And if there are any other must have iPad apps (Atari’s Greatest Hits?), I’d definitely like to hear about them!

Tucson Trip: Monument Camera

Monument Camera -- by Joe Reifer

Monument Camera -- by Joe Reifer

I just returned from 5 days in Tucson Arizona. The weather was 70 degrees and sunny, and there was a lot to see. I didn’t bring a lot of camera gear, but did plan to make a few 360 panoramas. I was going to borrow a tripod, but ended up purchasing an inexpensive monopod instead. I needed a bushing to mount my Nodal Ninja R1 panohead on the monopod, and I found one at Monument Camera for $1.99. Monument is an old school camera store with a collection of old cameras, darkroom supplies, and lighting equipment. There’s also a poker table with Canon EOS chips, a collection of deer antlers, and some other interesting memorabilia. The nice fellow behind the counter let me test my monopod camera setup in the store. If you like old cameras and find yourself in Tucson, Monument is a fun place to visit.

Step inside and look around in the interactive version of the pano

Bodie Night Photography: 5D Mark II Wide Angle Lenses and Noise Reduction

Bodie at night: 1927 Dodge truck and gas pumps -- by Joe Reifer

Bodie at night: 1927 Dodge truck and gas pumps -- by Joe Reifer

The 1927 Dodge truck and gravity gas pumps are a popular subject for photography at Bodie ghost town. This 24 minute night photograph was taken during the 2011 Mono Lake Night Photography Festival.

Wide angle lens for night photography

I shot the entire night at Bodie with a Canon 5D Mark II and an Olympus OM 18mm f/3.5  lens. The Olympus OM system lens can be used on the 5D II with an OM-EOS adapter. The Olympus lens is small, light, and easy to zone focus at night. At an aperture of f/8 or f/11 the lens is quite sharp across the frame, and offers better edge performance than Canon zooms. The Olympus lenses also have a different signature look than other wide angle lens choices. The 18mm is hard to find and can be expensive. The Olympus 21mm f/3.5 is a more readily available, reasonably priced alternative. The 24mm f/2.8 is also quite good. If you prefer a standard wide angle to a super wide lens, the Olympus 28mm f/3.5 is a stellar performer at f/8, and can often be purchased for less than $50. My adapter for the 28mm cost more than the lens!

Image stacking and long exposure noise reduction

Four exposures of 6 minutes at f/8 ISO 200 were combined for the final 24 minute image. There were about 25 night photographers shooting at Bodie — exposure stacking was very useful for removing people and light painting from the foreground. Using this stacking technique also meant that I did not have to run long exposure noise reduction (LENR) in the camera. This helps productivity and battery life.

5D Mark II Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR)

Photography instructor Scott Martin let me know about his experiments with the Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR) on the Canon 5D Mark II. Normally I do not recommend letting the camera decide what to do, but Scott’s LENR experiments may prove otherwise. There are 3 settings for LENR:

  1. Off — long exposure noise reduction does not run on any shot.
  2. On — long exposure noise reduction runs for the same amount of time as your exposure. A 10 minute shot with LENR set to On will run noise reduction for 10 minutes after the exposure ends.
  3. Auto — long exposure noise reduction will run if the camera determines it’s necessary, for the amount of time necessary to optimize the image.

Here’s the really interesting part — noise reduction won’t necessarily run for the same amount of time as the exposure. Auto LENR runs for as long as necessary to reduce noise — this could be shorter or longer than the original exposure time.

I’d like to thank Scott for sharing his Auto LENR research, and I look forward to my own testing. If you have experience with the Auto LENR setting I’d love to hear how exposure time and temperature correlate to when noise reduction kicks in, and how long Auto LENR tends to run.


Night photography: Farewell, Pearsonville Junkyard

Our one night Farewell, Pearsonville Junkyard Workshop was a lot of fun. The strange weather patterns of 2011 brought intense rushing storm clouds over the Sierra, with a full moon high above — perfect conditions for night photography. Some amazing images from the photographers who attended the workshop are starting to appear in the Pearsonville Workshop Flickr Group. Thanks to everyone who attended — were those some awesome clouds or what?

After our ceremonial midnight toast, a light rain started blowing. There was still some blue sky and moonlight, so I attached the Think Tank Hydrophobia Rain Cover and kept on shooting. The cover is meant for a 70-200mm lens, but also works fine with a 24-70mm. The Hydrophobia is wonderful piece of design and engineering. Accessing the controls with your right hand is easy, and both the rear and top LCDs can still be viewed. The cover is easier to install if you remove your camera strap. The only issue for night photography is that you can no longer see the manual focusing scale on the lens. Next time I will carefully zone focus the lens and then use gaffer’s tape to prevent the focusing ring from moving. Gaffer’s tape is also handy for securing the Hydrophobia from blowing in the wind for long exposures. In addition to the cover, you’ll also need the proper eye piece accessory for your camera. Use this special referral link to receive a free gift on orders of over $50 from Think Tank. Bad weather can make for some great shooting!

Last minute gift ideas for photographers

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town -- by Joe Reifer

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town -- by Joe Reifer

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town — by Joe Reifer

Need a last minute gift idea for the photographer on your holiday shopping list? Below are a few ideas for you. Thanks for using these affiliate links to support this blog while you shop for your favorite photographer.

  1. B&H Gift Card: $50. $100. $250. $1000.
  2. Photo-eye bookstore gift certificate
  3. A gift membership at your local museum, such as SFMOMA ($80).
  4. A gift certificate at your local camera store or photo lab. My local spots are Looking Glass Photo, Photo Lab, and Lightwaves.
  5. A gift certificate towards a photography workshop at Santa Fe, Maine, or perhaps even a night photography workshop.
  6. A camera bag from Think Tank Photo, such as the Retrospective 10 shoulder bag ($149). Use this Think Tank link and get a free gift when you spend $50 or more.
  7. The recent reissue of John Gossage’s classic photo book, The Pond. Photo book expert Gerry Badger says: “Adams, Shore, Baltz – all the New Topographics photographers made great books, but none are better than The Pond.” ($40.95)
  8. Speaking of Gerry Badger, his thought provoking 2010 book The Pleasure of Good Photographs would make a great gift. ($19.77)
  9. And if you didn’t get caught up in the fever of New Topographics this year, the book is fantastic. ($47.25)
  10. One of my other favorite photo books of 2010 was Lee Friedlander: America By Car. Really superb. ($32.97)
  11. Maybe a print of this night photo of the S.S. Minnow is just what you need for the wall. Just holler.

Need more gift ideas? Here’s a list of photography books 2009, and the gift list from 2008.