iPhone X

My thoughts on the Apple announcement of September 12, 2017, more specifically, iPhone X.

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I’m not going to comment on the Watch and TV news from today, just the iPhones because I use an iPhone to take photos. Ok, here goes.

The iPhone 8/8 Plus are a nice upgrade from the 7 models and I can see why they jumped right to 8 and skipped the “s” version. It’s a new design with the glass back and there are too many improvements to warrant keeping the 7 attached to it. Some could argue that Apple could have done that with the 6s but the outside was pretty much identical to the 6. Another example is the 5s and the SE looking the same but the internals are completely different.

So. iPhone 8. Looks nice. The usual “better, stronger, faster” update is always expected, and the display enhancements are very nice with HD Retina and True Tone. I thought the latter would have made it to the 7 series and was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t. The technical enhancements to the camera are good and I’m really looking forward to trying the Portrait Lighting feature. It might just get me taking pictures of people! (Something I rarely do) Wireless charging is neither here nor there for me. I’ve been plugging phones in for years now so I don’t know that I’d call it a “must have” feature.

And now, we know the official name of the 10th anniversary model of the single most popular electronic device ever made. iPhone X, pronounced iPhone 10. I’m glad they didn’t go with the heavily rumoured “Edition” or “Pro” monicker, and we might have even seen the last of the “s” class. I like the new name. It’ll make a neat hashtag with #iPhoneX.

What’s not to like about iPhone X? Well, only two things come to my mind. One is the price. In Canada it starts at $1319 for the 64GB model and jumps to $1529 for 256GB. The second disappointment is what should be right between those two, a 128GB model. But, Apple knows what they’re doing. They’ll make a few extra billion off people (most likely like me) who will want the larger storage option.

Now for the good stuff. What I like about iPhone X is… just about everything else they said about it. It’ll be Space Grey for me since it’s been my colour of choice for Apple stuff since the 5s. I’ve heard concerns about the glass back but my 4s survived the two years I had it (and my aunt still uses it to this day) and the most damage it suffered was a small crack in the corner of the front panel. That was my first iPhone and I’ve learned to hold the them a little tighter over the years.

The display will have the highest pixel density to date for the iPhone and like the 8, will have True Tone, which I’m looking forward to seeing for the first time. It will also have the same Wide Colour Gamut that is present on my MacBook Pro. Before I sold my older MacBook Pro I compared the two displays and wow, what a difference WCG makes. It’s really makes photos pop. And speaking of photos, and photography in general, the camera in iPhone X is what excites me most about the device.

Ok, before I move on to the camera, I simply must mention the new security features of iPhone X. Gone is Touch ID because also gone is the Home button that has been front and centre on every iPhone since the first release ten years ago. The rumour mill was correct when it said Face ID was coming to the X. But what it didn’t know (to my knowledge) was the technology being it, at least not completely. The wow moment for me watching the Keynote was when they said the TrueDepth camera uses over 30,000 invisible dots to draw a depth map of your face. I mean, there is a lot more to it, but I was really blown away with the way this thing recognizes the user and even needs you to be looking at it to work. And it can tell in the dark too. Just very cool tech, period.

The camera. I guess I should say cameras. The TrueDepth camera on the front of iPhone X is taking selfies to a whole new level. It uses computational photography to give a sharp self portrait while blurring the background for a nice artistic feel. A new feature called Portrait Lighting is a real game changer too. Like I mentioned earlier, it might just make me want to take more photos of people. The Stage Lighting section can even blacken out the background of a photo so just the subject is showing, which gives it a real “studio” type of look to it. The 7MP TrueDepth camera is capable of 1080p video and has an aperture of f/2.2.

The rear cameras are 12MP each and both have optical image stabilization. The wide angle has an aperture of f/1.8 and the telephoto is f/2.4, so low light performance with the X should be much better than what I’m used to with my 6s. Shooting 4K video has been ramped up to 60 fps and I’ll be able to take 8MP stills while shooting video.

The sample photos they displayed during the Keynote were very nice, but when I saw them on Apple’s website on my MacBook Pro, they really came to life. I can’t wait to try this thing out. I think it will really reignite my passion for photography, not that I’ve lost it, but I’ll want to explore new avenues and shoot out of my comfort zone.

There will always be those who were underwhelmed by the announcement today. Myself? Since I follow Apple rather closely in the tech news space I knew exactly what they were going to show us, even with the TV and Watch stuff. But I can really appreciate what Apple puts into developing new products. It’s a shame there are so many leaks and I would be just as content listening to the news without hearing any leaks, but that seems to be part of it. I guess all I can do now is wait and hope I don’t have to wait too long after the launch date on November 3rd to get one.

A Bold Move – Why I Sold My Canon Gear

Sometimes people do the craziest things. I tend to be a pretty conservative fellow — you know, err on the side of caution, that sort of thing. But recently I made a decision that will, in a small way, change my life. Well, the photography side of my life at least. I have decided to become an iPhone only photographer, or an all out iPhoneographer.

I’ve had some sort of Canon DSLR for that past thirteen years and have enjoyed them immensely. My Canons have been great tools for capturing some pretty nice photos and there are much better cameras out there than the ones I’ve owned but I have also been having a lot of fun taking pictures with my iPhone, and the challenges that come with it.

You might say taking photos with an iPhone couldn’t be any easier. I mean really, you just point… and click, or tap, and voila, you have the shot, right?

Edited with Polarr Photo Editor
This photo was in a gallery exhibition

Well, let me tell you, if you’ve never tried to get a really good photo with an iPhone, it isn’t that easy. Sure, it isn’t rocket science, but getting a shot that has the potential to be confused for a DSLR image has its challenges and using an iPhone has its limitations.

Speaking of limitations, some of you reading this might be thinking I’m off my rocker for leaving the DSLR scene with all of its possibilities to a very limited one in that of the iPhone. I knew that full well going into this. And believe me, this isn’t a spur of the moment decision. I have been mulling over this for probably two years now. I was just waiting to see if that “ah ha” moment would ever come to push me over the edge of uncertainty. That moment has been manifesting itself in a few different ways over those two years.

I began this thought process when the iPhone started to get good at taking photos. For me that started in October of 2013 when the iPhone 5s was released. The technology in that thing was very cool. It was the first iPhone that, when you tripped the shutter, would take a series of four images almost simultaneously, instantly analyze them and give you the sharpest one. I was impressed, but what impressed me more was the quality of the photos I was taking. And no, I realize they aren’t DSLR photos, I get that. But for images produced from a PHONE, they were pretty good. The continuing evolution of iPhone cameras kept increasing my faith in them as something I could use exclusively. The increase from 8 MP to 12 in the 6s was all but the icing on the cake for me and since I get a new iPhone every two years, I’m very excited to see what the 2017 model will have. Oh, and that’s a good point too. I get a new camera every other year!

Digging deeper into why I took this plunge, there are my reasons for taking photos in the first place. I’m not a professional so I don’t make a living doing photography. I don’t often print my photos, although I’m a firm believer that it helps to improve one’s photos. For the type of photography I do, I really don’t need a fancy full frame DSLR and big, expensive, top quality lenses. My memories and my works of art are generally reserved for my own menagerie of pixels stored on a hard drive both at home and abroad (my backups), and the ones I deem worthy are shared for you and anyone else who cares to take a look at them on a small handful of online portals. A good friend of mine once referred to me as a “social media” photographer, which is arguable, but I prefer to be called a “photographer,” just like anyone else who creates photos with a camera.

With an iPhone I can explore various types of photography all on the same device, and a versatile arsenal of apps allows me to do things like instant HDR, black and white, or even an upside down view camera style of photography just to name a few. It’s like having a darkroom right in my pocket. The limitations of the iPhone with regard to taking photos is, in my opinion, balanced quite nicely with the ever expanding possibilities for creating art provided by the thousands of people who create the apps available to us.

I spoke earlier about not needing expensive lenses and such. I don’t. But I have acquired a set of lenses that I can attach to my iPhone to expand my photographic experience. Again, the quality is not like that of my Canon stuff but I’m ok with it. The close up work I can do
with the macro lens was probably the IMG_2157
final deciding factor for making my switch to iPhoneography. I never did own a macro lens for my Canon so I hadn’t experienced the world up close but I’m loving it, and this little kit of lenses cost less for all five than the cheapest of Canon lenses.

I could go on and on about what I like about iPhoneography but I’m sure a lot of those who began reading this have already moved on. If you are still here, thank you for your interest. I want to close by saying that I hope my peers don’t think any less of me as a photographer. I still know the craft. I’ll still help those in need whenever I can, and I will still learn from other photographers just as I have for most of my life. I know there will be times when I won’t be able to do what my peers are doing in their photography, but that’s okay, I’ve already accepted that. Currently I have two goals for my iPhoneography. Well, okay, one goal and one dream. The goal is to capture an image of the milky way. The dream? Well, it’s a long shot, but my dream is to be featured in the Apple World Gallery where, if selected, one of my images will occupy billboards around the world and be printed on the back cover of thousands of magazines. The goal is more likely to happen than the dream but hey, there’s nothing wrong with “shooting for the stars” now, is there?

#OwenSoundStrong

When I was young, I always felt there was something special about Owen Sound. I was born here and lived in the city for about six years, but I can only recall some things, vaguely. I spent most of my youth and early adulthood living in the rural areas surrounding Owen Sound.

It was when I was a teenager in high school that I experienced a strong desire to live here. I mean, who wouldn’t at that age? There was cable TV! Out in the sticks we had three channels. Sure, country living had its advantages; it was peaceful. Back then you could most likely leave the house and not worry about locking it. And there really is something to that bumper sticker that says, “Farmers Feed Cities” because I’ve helped a few farmers in my day and the work that goes behind that bumper sticker is extremely underrated.

I remember when I first moved to Owen Sound. I was experiencing a moment of relaxation and I just took a deep breath, exhaled, and thought to myself, “I live in Owen Sound.” I felt like I was one of “them” now. I felt like I was one of those cool kids I went to high school with. It was really nice to have such a short commute to work. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no regrets for all the rural living my parents provided me with growing up. In fact, I’m thankful for it, and as I get older, I appreciate it more.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been a resident of Owen Sound for some twenty years now and I love this city. There are many things that could be changed about it according to the conversations I’ve been involved with over the years, but nothing’s perfect. It’s a pretty good size for a small city. I enjoy visiting large cities like Toronto but there is no way I would want to live there and it’s always nice to get home.

Owen Sound is special to me for many reasons. I’ve held a job at my employer for over thirty years now, and everything behind that statement could be a whole nother story, but my success there and the fact that the company has been a staple of Owen Sound’s industry for over 160 years is due largely in part because of the people who work there.

In 1989 Owen Sound put itself on the sports map with the move of the Guelph Platers to our fair city who, since moving to Owen Sound, have produced many stars of the NHL. The team was renamed to the Owen Sound Attack in 2000, and in 2011 became the OHL Champions. That’s something to be proud of since we are a rather small city.

I could go on about what makes Owen Sound great but let me get to why I sat down to write this. In the early morning hours of Monday, August 10, 2015, forty-one residents from fifteen households lost their homes to a completely senseless act. Three people are being held responsible for setting fires to these homes, many of which were part of a ten unit apartment building. Most of these families have lost everything, and some, unfortunately, had no insurance. I’ve heard that, sadly, some pets were lost but we can thank God no human lives were lost, and that truly is a miracle.

The police, fire and EMS staff who responded to this nightmare from not just Owen Sound, but from other stations around the area, are heroes. They will deny that statement and just chalk it up to them doing their jobs, but to the twenty-plus thousand people in this community, they are heroes.

The community is responding to this tragedy in a number of ways. Some members of the community were paramount in the capture of the arsonists, while others are doing what they can to help the victims get their lives back. In fact, at the time of this writing, the residents of Owen Sound and the surrounding areas of Grey and Bruce Counties have donated more than $200,000 for the victims, and that includes a one-day fundraiser by the local radio station that pulled in a whopping $105,000.

Landlords around the area with vacant living spaces are opening their doors to house the victims and the local chapter of United Way has stated that the families will have permanent homes by September 1.

This is a community who cares about their fellow citizens. We are a strong community; Owen Sound Strong. Today, the Police Department held a barbecue to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross which will be used to help the families. They were selling t-shirts with the hashtag #OwenSoundStrong across the back and yes, I bought one. In fact, I made a much bigger donation than was requested because, like I said to the lady who accepted it, words can’t describe how thankful I am for what they’ve done for our community.

To the men and women from all of the public service entities who took part in every aspect of the response to this tragedy, I say a very heartfelt “thank you”.

Joey

On Friday, February 27, 2015 my family lost a very special young man. Joey Morris was so full of promise for the future. He was loved by so many. As I sit here to write something, my mind keeps stalling because I’m still in shock over it all.

I hope you enjoy looking at this tribute to Joey. The photos are used with his mother’s blessing. I don’t know who took them, but to those who did, thank you for being there during those moments so we can have something to look back on as we reflect on who Joey was and what he meant to us.

We miss you Joey.

Facebook – Why I Complain, and Why I Still Use It

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. They can never escape the news for too long. And when they are in the news, it’s usually because of a privacy issue, or a new feature that has privacy issues. That all stems back to Mark Zuckerberg and his insatiable, confused perception of the concept that everyone on planet Earth wants to, needs to, and should share every aspect of their personal lives with each other.

Boy, he couldn’t be more wrong. But somehow, he has found a way to weasel his empire’s way into the lives of well over a billion people for his own financial gain. I can’t blame him for wanting to prosper, who wouldn’t want that? What I don’t like is the means by which he does so. His product has literally infected the Internet and there’s not much anyone can do to stop it. There’s a little, but it’s not much. Unless, of course, you don’t use Facebook. 

This post has been brewing in my mind for a couple of weeks now and I finally decided to sit down and write it. What brought it on in the first place was Facebook’s latest iteration of its service which affected the mobile side of the company’s users. They’ve decided to force users to not only have the main Facebook app installed on their smartphones, but if the 945 million or so mobile Facebookers wanted to use the Messenger service, they now have to download and install a separate app because that functionality will soon, if it’s not already, be stripped out of the main app.

What’s the big deal some may ask? Well, this latest round of buzz about Facebook privacy flared up over the permissions required for use of the Messenger app on Android phones. However, all the hype was really caused by people misunderstanding the technology behind the permissions, which came from an article on the matter by a local radio station somewhere in the US. 

People everywhere were freaking out because they thought Facebook was going to be able to use the camera and microphone on their smartphones, as well as make calls, all without their knowledge or consent. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While using Facebook and Facebook Messenger, users enjoy sending messages, taking and sending photos to one another or posting them to their timelines. There are some things that need to happen before these types of activities can take place. 

Facebook cannot remotely activate a smartphone’s camera or mic, nor can it activate the dialler to initiate a call. But in order for a user to perform these actions within the Facebook app or the Messenger app, Facebook needs permission to access these hardware functions of the devices. Android, the widely used, Google created operating system found on handsets from a variety of companies, puts these parameters in the Application Manager, all in one spot, and I believe these permissions have to be addressed before using the apps. From there, users can grant Facebook permission to access those hardware components which enables them to share photos or videos, send voice memos, or even makes calls (which is technically Skype).

Apple handles these permissions differently for their iOS devices. Once the app is installed, the permissions don’t need to be addressed until the user wants to perform these certain activities. A pop up will appear, created by Apple, asking if the user will allow Facebook to access the camera, etc., and the user then grants the permission. There is also a place in the iPhone’s Privacy Settings where these things can be toggled on or off.

I stated in the title of this post that I still use Facebook. Well, that is true. But I don’t use it a whole lot. In fact, I once left Facebook for a while only to return about a year later. I found it was the only way to keep up with family and close friends. Sadly, no one uses regular email for that like they used to. I guess it’s because Facebook is just too handy. When I returned to the service, I realized how disconnected I was from everyone.

So, why do I complain about Facebook? Because of their lack of concern for our privacy, plain and simple. Oh, it goes beyond that though, but I consider the “Like” and “Share” buttons all over the Internet, the fact that they plant cookies in our computers, and the whole general technology behind Facebook a blatant lack of concern for users’ privacy. However if you want to use Facebook, you can’t escape it for the most part.

I must say though that my Facebook experience isn’t too bad. I just try to ignore what I hate about it and take some precautions to make it less painful. My biggest defence is that I never, ever, tap or click on a “Like” button, be it on Facebook or on a website elsewhere. I generally like what folks I’m close to post on the social network. I hope they know that. I can say one thing for sure, I don’t get targeted ads filling my stream from liking this or that on websites that I visit. And I would suspect that my Facebook friends don’t see ads about something that I said I liked. At least I hope not.

On my Facebook web experience, I don’t see any ads at all. I see a few Pages and Friend recommendations, and what’s Trending, but no ads. None. This is thanks to a little browser extension I use called Disconnect. It just blocks all that stuff so I don’t have to worry about it, and it works on all websites I visit. I highly recommend it. 

Like anything Internet related, safety, security and protection are all best dealt with in your behaviour, which sometimes involves avoidance. So why don’t I avoid Facebook? Well, like I said, I use it to stay in the loop. I know there are many reasons to avoid Facebook and one day they might step over that line in my conscience that tells me “enough is enough” but until that happens, I’ll just keep telling myself that I’m just one measly little user who doesn’t tell Facebook everything about me and it’s okay to stay with it.

The Stewart/Ward Incident

Those of you who follow motor sports will likely have heard about this, but there are those who don’t, and may not have. On Saturday night (August 9, 2014) at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Ontario County, New York, there was an accident in the sprint car race involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and a young 20 year old driver named Kevin Ward Jr., where Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital.

I’m writing this post for two reasons. First, to offer condolences to the Ward family for their tragic loss, and second, to comment on the incident itself, as well as what I’m reading online from other people. 

To the Ward family, I pray that your grief be short and that you find yourselves closer to God, for He will comfort you while you move forward. The tragic loss of anyone is difficult, but when that loved one is so young, when parents see their child go before them, I can only imagine the pain in your hearts. 

For those who don’t know the details of this accident, the track is a half mile dirt surface; the sprint cars in this particular race are open wheeled in design and are quite fast. There were two parts to this incident. The first part is the crash of Kevin Ward Jr. where it appears that Tony Stewart drove him up into the wall causing Ward to crash. Ward was fine at this point. You can see the crash on the CBS News website. I can’t find a YouTube version without any annoying ads, so here’s the link: http://cbsn.ws/VfRZbB. Be warned, this video may be disturbing to some viewers. 

When watching a replay of a racing accident, it’s important to watch, if available, the events leading up the the crash itself, and keep in mind that these drivers have no radios or spotters like other forms of motor sports. The replay starts with Stewart between turns 3 and 4 with Ward in front of him. By the time Stewart exits turn 4, he has a great deal of speed built up and makes a move to the inside to pass Ward. They continue down the front straightaway side by side. What people who want to blame Stewart aren’t seeing is the car driving slower by the inside wall. Tony saw it, and knowing that Ward is to his right, has to make a move to avoid hitting both cars while sliding around the corner the way sprint cars do.

By the time they enter turn 1, Ward knows Stewart is coming up beside him and stays high on the track to avoid him. Stewart avoids the car on the inside and while speed and momentum carry his car up the track it doesn’t appear to make contact with Ward’s car. Ward sees Stewart coming up the track at a higher rate of speed and slightly ahead of him. It’s my belief that Ward’s evasive move got him too close to the wall and the tires hit the concrete causing the car to spin.

The person filming the incident kept the camera on Ward. You can see he is okay, and when he exits the car he is clearly upset at Stewart. The race slows as the caution comes out for the spin so the cars are not travelling at full speed. Kevin Ward Jr. merely wants to display his displeasure toward Stewart because he believes Tony took him out. This is not uncommon in racing, by any means. But because of the dim lighting at the facility, and because Ward’s racing suit is almost entirely black, he would be difficult to see standing in the middle of the track. There’s also the fact that, if you watch the video carefully, the lighting at the track appears to be shining somewhat in the drivers’ eyes as they exit turn 1, so Stewart may have had difficulty seeing Ward until the last instant.

I’ve read on the Internet where people are accusing Tony Stewart of murder, of purposely gunning the throttle and trying to get close to Ward. I wasn’t there. These accusers weren’t there. But over the years I’ve watched enough replays, listened to enough analysis, and heard enough comments from drivers involved in accidents to know how fast these things can happen. I’ve even played around with a very realistic racing game enough to know – and yes, I know it’s just a game – how fast things can happen and what kind of reaction time is required to try and avoid these types of incidents. 

I’ve watched the replay of this accident enough to know that it was truly an accident. There was absolutely no intent to cause not only the accident that took Ward out of the race, but also no intent by Stewart to strike Ward with his car one lap later. And I seriously doubt he saw, let alone expected to see, Kevin Ward Jr. standing in the middle of the track that night.

Unless you’re in the car, you have no way to know what truly happened, and I include myself in that statement. These are my thoughts on the matter and are in no way influenced by anyone else. It’s just how I see it. I follow NASCAR enough to know Tony Stewart would never intentionally use a race car to cause bodily harm to another competitor.

My Most Popular Photos

I thought I’d check out my most popular photos on Flickr and surprisingly, they’re both iPhone photos. The top ranked photo seems to get views just about every day. It’s a simple photo of a cup of coffee, which just happens to be one of the most popular beverages on the planet. I’m guessing the reason this image gets so many views is because people search for “coffee” on Flickr or in a search engine, and because I named the photo “Coffee”, it must show up. In fact, the photo had three views in the time it took me to prepare this post. This image has never appeared on the Flickr Explore page where you get a lot of “exposure” and it has received no “faves”, meaning no one has favourited it. The view count is currently sitting at 881.

The photo was taken with my iPhone 4s and edited in an app called Snapseed.

Here’s “Coffee”.

My favourite beverage.
My favourite beverage.

My second most popular photo is one I took recently with my iPhone 5s at a place called Saugeen First Nations Amphitheatre. It’s simply a bench sitting in front of a stone wall that has some vines and flowers growing up it. The image was also edited in Snapseed. 

This photo did make it to the Explore page. It still hasn’t caught up to “Coffee” but it has received some fave love by some thirteen out of 728 people who have viewed it.

I call this one “Amphitheatre Bench”.

Amphitheatre Bench
Amphitheatre Bench

You can see more of my photography at reddoor.photos