TiltShift iPhone App First Look | Mini Review

Click to download TiltShift in iTunes

(see update at bottom of post, 11/24/2010)

I heard about this iPhone app called TiltShift this morning (though it's been out for some time now)... and had to try it out for myself. From what I've seen there are a few of them out there... but this one looked to me to be the most interesting one. It's $1.99 on the Apple app store... so you can see my first impressions here before taking the plunge. ;)

Tilt shift movements in photography were originally provided on large-format view cameras... then Nikon introduced a lens for 35mm cameras in the 60's and Canon in the 70's. It was originally used to correct perspective shifts in photography such as in architecture... but most recently tilt shift used much more often for creative effect. When used properly you can make real-life scenes look like miniatures or toys... which is fun.

Unfortunately tilt-shift lenses aren't cheap. Canon's tilt shift lenses are both over $1k and I'm sure Nikon's are around the same. So... people usually resort to Photoshop. You usually can't get the same effect out of your images... but if they are shot perfectly and Photoshopped perfectly... you can get the tilt shift look without having to actually buy the lens (and learn to use it properly).

Enter the iPhone and the billion apps for it. Now you can do tilt shift photography right on your phone... and it actually looks pretty neat. Not perfect, not professional... and certainly not like a real tilt-shift lens. It is, however, very cool for something that can take less than a minute from capture to Tweeting your latest faux tilt shift masterpiece... and all from your beloved iPhone.

Check out the TiltShift app on iTunes. For $1.99 it's pretty darn cool.

These are images I shot today at Disneyland and edited directly in the TiltShift app.

TiltShift iPhone app review

TiltShift iPhone app review

TiltShift iPhone app review

TiltShift iPhone app review

TiltShift iPhone app review

Click to download TiltShift in iTunes


Michael Krause, author of Tiltshift app, emailed me to explain some things and let me know about the recent update!

"To clarify the erratic behavior of the save function and the missing want-half-size-dialog:

The dialog appears only for photos that take a long time to process (more that 20 seconds) for example. This only happens with high-resolution photos and lens blur. What probably happened to you was that you saved a high-resolution photo in half-size and you got the dialog. Later you loaded this saved half-sized photo and saved it again. Because the source was no longer high-resolution it was automatically saved as is without asking for resolution reduction again.

Regarding the Bokeh possibility this is not well documented but the three main points are: 1) Lens blur must be on. 2) Bokeh is best with night time images with isolated light points 3 )The blur level and blooming factor must be high enough that blooming kicks in.

A third issue you mentioned was that the parameters are not reset when loading a new image. You can reset all parameters at once with a tap-and-hold gesture on the button to the left of the slider."

Version 2.1 was released on Oct 21, 2010.

Thanks for the answers and for the new software update, Michael!

Hawaii Scenery Video - by Tracie Cotta

Tracie put together a nice video compilation of some of the different places we visited on O'ahu... using footage from the Canon T1i, her little point-and-shoot Canon SD800IS, and my iPhone 3GS. The underwater scenes were shot with the Ewa-marine underwater housing on the Canon T1i.

She made the music in Garage Band using Magic Garage Band. If you have never used Magic Garage Band... give it a look. We have used it many times to create music for videoblogs, with great results. It's quick and easy... and offers really high-quality results, although not that much in terms of variety.

This is a nice preview of some of the videos you'll soon see coming from our trip... explanations and tutorials on how we shot!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

DIY flash grid | Straws + Glue + Time = Cheapo Perfect Grids!

In keeping with the low-budget nature of the Hawaii Trip, I decided to actually make some of my own gear. I didn't get to do everything I had hoped (time has a way of slipping by quickly when you're planning something big) but the flash grid project I was able to do the night before we left.

The grid actually worked out PERFECTLY. I was amazed at how great it was. I am making two more, one with longer straw pieces for a tighter beam, and one that's a little wider as well. The one I made was right in the middle... and ended up being perfect for a general flash grid that lasted me the trip.

What you'll need:

  • black drinking straws (I got mine from Panera Bread)
  • Quick Grip glue (I got it at Michael's)
  • black duct tape (I bought black Duck Tape from Michael's)
  • cardboard (I used thin product packaging cardboard
  • scissors
  • a ruler is good, but I didn't use one
  • black marker (I was going to use it to black out the edges of the cardboard, but didn't show that in the video)

The Quick Grip Glue was very key to the success. I've read a number of posts (the one I used to make mine was HERE) and a lot seem to have trouble with durability. The glue I used made this thing nearly indestructible, it's holding up perfectly by being completely strong without being brittle... and using the duct tape around it makes the cardboard somewhat tear-proof.

This first example showed me that if you truly value your time and don't have a lot to spare... this probably isn't the most cost saving project. If you have a little time on your hands, however, you're easily able to make 3 of these in less than a couple hours... saving about $70. To most amateurs and even quite a few professionals this is TOTALLY worth it.

You might also be worried that the final product will look too unprofessional... but if so... you're likely worried about the wrong things. Cover it with black and it's good enough, no one will look closely enough to see that it's homemade... and if they do you tell them that you make your own because no one out there makes exactly what you need. If YOU are professional... and you deliver professional results... that's truly all you need to worry about. Pros jimmy-rig things all the time, it's a constant necessity.

Here is the glue I used (I get 4% of purchases if you buy):

Quick Grip Glue 2 Ounce

If you prefer purchasing grids and want the same results, I recommend HONL Photo's grids. You can purchase them below through Amazon:

HonlPhoto Speed Strap for Shoe Mount Flashes - you need this to attach the grids to your flash HonlPhoto 1/8 grid HonlPhoto 1/4 grid

Stay tuned for actual results from the grid in Hawaii!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Ewa-marine Underwater Housing First Test | Mini Review

Tracie and I took the Ewa-marine underwater housing out for a first test in the swimming pool in my apartment complex. The video above should show you everything you need to know to get started with it... and know if it will work for what you want it to do. We will have more examples of photos and videos in future posts, but this is a quick review to show you all the features and our first use of the bag.

We needed an affordable underwater housing for the Hawaii Fusion Trip, and although I considered purchasing a point-and-shoot underwater camera to accomplish this goal I wanted better quality video and more control over the photos I'd be taking. Shooting underwater will degrade the quality of what you are doing already... first of all because of debris and light-loss... but also because it is mainly blue light that is allowed to travel through water... blocking out the rest of the visible spectrum quickly as you get further from your subject. We wanted to have the highest quality capture possible, so we went with the full housing. The Ewa-marine is actually the most affordable by far, yet it still performs very well within its own limitations.

One of the biggest benefits of the Ewa-marine housing over others, besides the price tag (just $269!), is the fact that you can use it on multiple cameras. Especially if you don't use it much... the housing will likely outlast the camera model you have... and all the hard plastic housings ($1,000 and up) are made with specific buttons to fit each individual camera model. The Ewa-marine is essentially a plastic bag, so as long as your new camera fits in it... you have full use of all the functions.

Pressing the buttons inside the bag proved to be a bit difficult, but with practice it ended up being just slightly slower than usual. Practice definitely improves your performance with this thing... and quickly. Underwater photography is difficult for a host of reasons, which I found out later during a snorkeling trip, but results can be amazing, especially when you have a fantastic video DSLR.

We made a few mistakes our first time out, and there are a few things to note:

  • You need googles if you plan on seeing the screen AT ALL. This might seem obvious... but I totally forgot to buy a pair.
  • Water magnifies everything... so if you have a plan to use a certain focal length, keep in mind that it will be "zoomed in" about 30%.
  • Keep the lens as CLOSE to the front glass of the housing as possible, or you can get reflections in your images of the lettering on the lens. Blacking this out with tape can definitely help.
  • If you have sunscreen on your face and chest... it's going to get on the bag, and will make it really hard to see through it, because it won't wipe off easily.
  • Light bends all over in water... mainly when coming through the surface of it, so direct sunlight will turn into lots of streamy bands of light all over.
  • Focusing isn't easy to do, and isn't easy to verify... but with practice autofocus still does a pretty good job if you can stay still long enough to lock
  • People like to breathe, and breathing causes bubbles, so coach your model in not exhaling while shooting, because bubbles coming out of their nose isn't attractive, unless you're going for that.
  • All-in-all I was extremely pleased with the initial results of the housing, and have a great full shoot to share with you soon!

    Shortly after tweeting about the housing, where I actually mentioned the full name "ewa-marine underwater housing", I got a reply message from a gentleman from Germany (I think) with the Twitter name @ewa_marine. It was a small exchange but very welcome and it shows that the company is looking at what people are doing and saying about their product, which is awesome. He even asked for me to send over a link to examples when I have them. How 'bout that?

    NOTE: in the video I mentioned that I didn't find the manual... it was actually in the front pocket of the case. I forgot to mention that I had found it!

    You can purchase an Ewa-marine housing through the following links, the first is for smaller SLRs (fits Canon Rebel series or Nikon D40 or D90) and the second is for larger bodies (up to the 5DmkII size). If you buy it through this link I get a nice little 4%, and will love you for it.

    Ewa-marine U-A Housing f/ small AF SLR Cameras w/ a built in Flash

    Ewa-Marine Underwater Housing for Large DSLR Bodies like EOS 5DmkII, 7D; Nikon D1, D2X, D300

    This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

    This video is brought to you by:

    Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

    Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Eating Fire for Independence

On July 4th I went over to Tracie's to hang out and enjoy the evening with her and her friends Ribbin and Dave. I had planned on picking up fireworks on the way over... just to light and enjoy a little... nothing big, loud or fancy... just some sparklers (which yes, are completely lame now) and maybe one of those spraying sparkly brick thingies.

Unfortunately all the fireworks booths I could find had closed already. What??? It was 9pm on Independence Day... surely there was one open catering to those who had procrastinated and not bought fireworks until the last minute!


So... having failed my mission, I showed up empty handed. After we climbed down from the roof (we enjoyed Disneyland's fireworks show from the roof of the garage) I got a replacement idea. I had watched an episode of Scam School with Brian Brushwood where he shows some people how to eat fire with nothing more than cotton balls... and.. well... fire.

This is what ensued.

This post (and its comments) have been moved to TresVous.com.

Bonny's First Post-Op Run

We (Lan, Bonny, Paul Dateh and I) all flew to Oregon for Adam Wallenta's wedding, which I'll write about in a future blog... but here is a quick video of Bonny's first run after her surgery.

It was shot with a regular iPhone 3G (not 3GS) using the jailbroken iPhone app Cycorder. Cycorder allowed for ridiculously slow shutter speeds when it was dark... which made for some really cool effects with fast motion.

Also we learned that Paul Dateh doesn't run fast in a suit.