Abstract Eye of the Beholder

I continue to have fun using a combination of BrushStroke and Glaze to create some ‘abstract’ art. We are having record warmth for January and I was outside during lunchtime with just a light jacket on. I snapped a photo of myself. Later that evening I was playing around with it. Eventually I created something I liked.

I’ll run through the steps here. I started with a scary photo of myself. Harsh light, dark glasses, and lots of neck wrinkles showing! What can I say, I was enjoying the weather and not thinking much of the selfie.


I took that photo and used Tangled FX to create an image with lots of ‘streams.’


That image was loaded in BrushStroke and used one of the relatively new ‘Experimental’ painting styles. They are worth checking out. Sometimes you get some really creative views.


There still wasn’t much there that was interesting to my eye, but I used Glaze to paint that image. This was the result.


Suddenly something did look interesting! I zoomed in a lot and did a heavy duty crop around the glasses/nose/mouth region of my face. (I zoomed in using the standard photos app, and then did a screen capture on my iPad – so the image was still large in terms of pixels.)


Can you see where I’m going with this? I used Camera+ to flip the image and enhance the color, and added the frame (Camera+ is one of the rare apps that let’s you put a frame on the outside of your image, not overlapping the edges).


At this point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go with the ‘harsh’ look from Glaze, or a smoother painted look from BrushStroke. I went with the latter, so I opened the image using BrushStroke. For the final image I used TouchRetouch to remove what was once my nose and create a single fish ‘leaping’ over the noise of the day.

Leap by R. Pfaff, 2015

Leap by R. Pfaff, 2015

You never really know what you’ll find when you start playing with a pointless photo in your spare time.

Apps mentioned in the post:

BrushStroke is $2.99 [link]
Glaze is free, with in-app purchases [link]
Camera+ is $2.99 [link]
TouchRetouch is $0.99 [link]

And over on Flickr I put a larger version of the final image.

2014 Ends, 2015 Begins

As you hear so often – the year really flew by. I think the last time I really saw time fly was when I dropped my Garmin during a marathon. I was switching it from my left wrist to my right one (since 15 miles on one wrist is about all I can stand). It flew about 3 feet to the ground. Not very much, but I had to stop to grab it. Not a great feeling during a marathon! Was that off topic enough for this blog? :)

Happy Holiday 2014

A holiday card I created with a number of apps: Snapseed (to enhance the original), LensLight (to add the light), BrushStroke (to give it the painted look), Snow Daze (for the snow), Fold Defy (for the folded look), and Phonto (to add the text). If you live/visit in downtown Charlottesville you’ll know exactly where you are based on the pavilion in the background.

Anyway, it was an amazing year for iOS photo apps. One of the big changes is that Apple allowed app developers access to the camera APIs in iOS 8, and that has led to manual controls in various apps. You can manually set the ISO, capture time, focus, etc. Very nice. I’ve used a few of the apps including Camera+, Few, Manual, Manual Photo Camera (currently free), and Manually. I haven’t had a lot of time to explore them all, but I think Camera+ is my favorite right now, but they all seem nice.

It was also a great year for creating ‘artistic’ photos. BrushStroke and Waterlogue1 are my two favorite apps for creating things that look like they’ve been painted. Both of these are Universal apps, so they are good for both your iPhone and iPad.

On the iPad only side of things, Pixelmator was named the Best iPad App of 2014. It’s a very powerful editing app that also has a Mac version for when you want to continue your editing on one platform or the other. I’ve been using it a bit and am starting to enjoy it more every time I do (the GUI took me a few uses before I got familiar with it – it’s so powerful and I didn’t realize how much it could do initially). There are many other great apps out there that people love, and if you want you can see what Mobitog members think about the best apps of the year in this lively thread.

Although it was a great year, there was one thing on my “naughty” list – the iCloud Photo Library. This is supposed to give you access to all your photos at full resolution on all your devices. Right now it still shows up as beta in the iPhone settings. I’m guessing it won’t come out of beta until the new Photos application for the Mac is released in early 2015. This new program is going to replace both iPhoto (free) and Aperture (hundreds of dollars in the past, still $80 online). Most have a feeling it will be a bit above iPhoto, but will pale in comparison to Aperture.

I tried this once, but between how the iCloud Photo Stream and the iCloud Photo Library, it was hard to see what was really going on. There are still a lot of discussions about it on the web and many are as confused as I am about what should really be happening. There was also confusion due to the removal of the “Camera Roll” when iOS 8 was initially released (it was added back in an iOS update). Too much confusion and no one ever wants to lose any photos they took! Hopefully Apple clears up all these issues in 2015.

Looking ahead, I’ve heard the rumors that the camera may be drastically upgraded in the next iPhone late in 2015. I would have no problem with that! My question is about the size of the lens. With the iPhone 6 (which is really thin) the lens extends outside the iPhone, so if you don’t have a case the lens can scrape around on your desk and in your pocket. I’m not a big fan of the design and am looking forward to the new one in October 2015.

For my New Year’s resolution I’m going to try to average at least one post a week (I only averaged one every two weeks for 2014), and I will try to always respond to email I get (trust me…I see it all, but just don’t find time to reply). Two resolutions seem like plenty.

I hope you all have a great start to 2015 as time continues to fly by.

Finishing a race a few weeks ago. You can see my Garmin sitting there on my wrist. This was a 5k and I finished in 20:03. Pretty good race!

Finishing a race a few weeks ago. You can see my Garmin sitting there on my wrist. This was a 5k and I finished in 20:03. Pretty good race!

1Waterlogue actually came out last December, but that is right around the start of 2014 ;)

He Said, She Said: Black Friday Photo Apps

As many people head out to look for Black Friday deals, a lot of others are just hanging out at home using their iPhones and iPads. I’m one of the latter. So if you are browsing the web there are a number of deals for iOS apps this holiday weekend.

Created with XnShape and BrushStroke.

Created with XnShape and BrushStroke.

One of the big ones is the JixiPix “store wide” sale. Pretty much every one of their apps is on sale for just $0.99 (most have separate iPhone and iPad versions – not Universal). They make apps such as Simply HDR, PhotoArtista, Pop Dot Comics, Moku Hanga, and many more. I bought one of their new apps called Fold Defy and have just started playing with it. I really enjoy most of these apps. Check out all the fun stuff from JixiPix. A few shots edited with JixiPix are shown in this post.

Created with PhotoArtista by JixiPix.

Created with PhotoArtista by JixiPix.

Another fun bunch of apps that are free right now are the ones by pierre gouglelet with unique names starting with Xn: XnRetro, XnSketch, XnBooth, and XnShape. These are Universal apps. You can see the full listing on iTunes. I enjoy the image up at the top of this post (“He said, she said”) that started out with XnShape.

Waterlogue is a another great app on sale for $2 (usually $3). It’s a Universal app that has no comparison for creating images with the watercolor look.

Deteriorating dreams

Deteriorating dreams by R. Pfaff, created with Waterlogue.

And if the holiday shopping has left you glitchy, you can grab Glitch Wizard for free right now.

For the late night crowd that is glad the rest of the family has gone to sleep after a day of shopping and food, NightCap Pro is on sale for just $1 right now. It’s a Universal app that let’s you get some amazing photos of everything from stars to space station trails (with an iPhone!). You can see a lot of these photos on the NightCap site, and download the app on iTunes.

International Space Station using NightCap Pro. Photo by Grainge (Twitter: @grainge )

International Space Station using NightCap Pro. Photo by Grainge (Twitter: @grainge )

There are many other sales going on right now, so browse in the virtual iOS photo app sale world and see what looks good.

Hope you all enjoy Black Friday. :)

Created with PhotoArtista by JixiPix.

Created with PhotoArtista by JixiPix.

Created with Dramatic B&W by JixiPix.

Created with Dramatic B&W by JixiPix.

5 Years, 6 Months, and 18 Days

Many years ago I got my first iPhone (the 3G) and started taking a lot of photos, but on May 1, 2009 I decided to start taking at least one picture every day. I made it 2,028 days in a row. The streak ended this past Wednesday. My job has kept me so busy that taking a photo entirely slipped my mind. I then forgot again on Friday as I was trying to finish a ton of tasks leading up to my vacation this week. Two days of complete forgetfulness in the past week.

Morning Dew

The very first photo I took in this five and a half year long streak was a gnome in my front yard. The gnome is long gone – I’m not even sure where. I seem to recall that it was just gone one morning when I woke up. Maybe it took a trip. I used to post every photo on Flickr, but have been so busy that they just piled up on my home computer. The first 1,700 made it up to my Daily Photo album. Feel free to dig through them. Some are boring, some a fun. Sort of like life.

During those five years I went to an NFL game where the Dolphins won (doesn’t happen often enough). I got to enjoy our snowiest winter ever in central Virginia. I spent lots of days at work, ran a lot of races, ate a lot of great meals, went through a lot of shoes, took a few vacations, walked to and from work thousands of times, and saw a lot of sunsets.

I wonder if I can make it for another five and a half years without missing a day. Three days and still going strong! :)

Back from the Big Apple

Wow. Every single time I go up to NYC I love it. I had great weather and got to crash in a great hotel room right in Times Square. I had a great time, and for the first time heading up there I didn’t bring my Canon – I went with just my iPhone 5. Not the greatest camera in the world, but it’s always with me (as the saying goes). I got a few shots I really liked (haven’t actually made it through my big pile of hundreds yet!) and I’ll share them here, along with the apps I used to process them.

Busy Bridge

This one was taken as I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun was heading down. As always, there was lots of traffic. With the built in camera I used the HDR image (I always set mine to HDR and keep both images). With the HDR shot it is easy to get a bit of blur for things such as headlights of cars. I took that image and used Brushstroke to create the virtual painting.

Staten Seagulls

On this shot I used a standard B&W filter in Camera+ (they have a wide variety of presets). The app is one of the few where the frames go on the outside of your image and don’t cover part of the original image. I’m a big fan of that since I often don’t want to lose anything in the shot. This image was taken on Staten Island. I’d taken the ferry (which is free) from the southern end of Manhattan (Whitehall Terminal). The ferry passes by the Statue of Liberty, so many many tourists ride it on the weekend. Just like me. :)

Brooklyn To Manhattan

This image was another one taken on the Brooklyn Bridge. I used the built in panorama feature to take the photo, and the processed the image using Snapseed. I gave it a bit of the HDR filter and converted it to B&W. I like that you can see Brooklyn on the left side of the shot, and Manhattan on the right. Along with all those tourists. [You can see a much larger version on Flickr.]

Two Strangers?

This image was taken from The High Line. This raised train track in Manhattan was recently converted to a mile long park. It’s great for walking (or jogging) while at the same time getting a different viewpoint on the city. At one point I walked past a group of about 15 people that were taking a photography class. I would have stuck around for a bit, but had to catch my train home in a few hours. I used Snapseed to edit this one. I also did a quick perspective correction in Lightroom just before I uploaded it to Flickr. I could have used Persepective Correct on my iPhone/iPad, but since I already had the photo in Lightroom I just did it there.

Overall a great trip. I’m sure I’ll post a few more shots as I get around to looking through my big pile. If of course I find a bit of time. I’m in the midst of being a project manager for a multi-million dollar project (and I’m not getting the millions). I’m not a fan of anything that has the word management in it. I’m a physicist, not a manager!

PS. Speaking of some great shots in NYC, Ron liked one of my NY images so I checked out his Flickr page. Superb.