October 22, 2016

Recipe: Basil Infused Olive Oil.

The only bad thing about Basil is that you always grow too much of it to use. It dries extremely well, retaining much of it’s color, but the problem is that dried basil taste’s nothing like fresh. It almost has a pumpkin flavor. Freezing it in ice cube trays is an option, but usually it winds up slimy in your dishes. (That’s okay for soup, but not so great for fresh sauces and sautéed pasta.)

A nice option is heat-infused favored oil. It’s quick to make, retains the flavor and makes a nice bread dipping sauce when you add a little crushed black pepper.

  • Start with as many fresh (washed and dried) basil leaves as you can stuff into your food processor.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of Olive oil (the simple stuff like a Berio gold, not extra virgin.)
  • Chop until you it’s thick and pourable. Add more oil if it’s too dry.
  • Pour and scrap into a saucepan and cover.
  • Set on low heat for 15 minutes. (Don’t let it boil.)
  • While still warm pour through a strainer, then through a funnel lined with a paper towel. If you don’t get the leaves out, it will go bad more quickly.
  • Pour into a sealable jar and refrigerate. Keeps about a month.

Add a teaspoon to any recipe that calls for fresh basil. When using as a dipping oil, warm before serving.

Food
September 25, 2016

The confounding world of RAW photography in iOS.

The iPhone can finally shoot in RAW*.

*But currently there are a lot of disclaimers to that.

Note: The past few days there’s been much misinformation spread about shooting and editing RAW on iPhone. And admittedly, I’m guilty as well as the big news sites. But hopefully the correction in this post will set the record straight. Thanks to to William Wilkinson, developer of the Manual camera app for setting a few things straight.

First off: What’s RAW?

RAW is a file for storing unprocessed sensor data. Everything about RAW is wrong, including the name. RAW doesn’t stand for anything. It’s not an acronym, so why it’s it capitalized? It should stand for Really Awful Wreck” since that’s what the RAW concept has become. First let’s get some myths straight:

  • RAW files are not images. They’re crude strings of light sensor data. RAW files must be converted to an image format like JPG before you can do anything with them. Some RAW files (like the DNG files on iOS) have a small JPG preview built in.
  • RAW files from each camera model are different. Camera manufacturers can’s agree on a RAW standard. They haven’t even created a consistent standard for their own cameras. PhotoRaw, a great RAW editor for iOS, has been updated 17 times during the last year just to try to keep up with the different RAW files from new camera models. What’s sad about the camera companies not playing nice is that eventually the converters for these gazillion RAW formats won’t be maintained and all those RAW files that people shot a few years ago won’t be readable one day in the future. (By contrast, JPG files shot 25 years ago are still readable today.)
  • DNG is the closest thing to a RAW standard. Adobe’s DNG format puts the original sensor data into a universal format and will be around long after proprietary RAW files can’t be read.
  • Only certain iOS devices can handle DNG files iPhone SE, 6s, 6s+, 7, 7+ and the 9.7″ iPad Pro are capable of managing DNG files. It’s a hardware thing, so the ability will never be available with older models.
  • You can’t currently shoot DNG with the iPhone Camera app. Whuhh? Yeah, this may be added later. But the iSight cameras on your iPhone are built to do JPGs really well. And some features (like HDR and Portrait mode on iPhone 7+) require processing, so they can’t work with the DNG format. Plus 99% of iPhone users will find DNG inconvenient anyway.
  • Before editing, DNG files may not look as good as a JPG. JPGs shot with the iOS Camera app go through a massive amount of automatic processing to make them look their best. A DNG file’s preview is basically a JPG thumbnail.
  • You can’t currently edit DNG files in the built-in Photos app. Photos stores these files fine, but can only edit the JPG thumbnail of the DNG file.

So why shoot DNG anyway?

If working in DNG seems a hassle—it is. That’s why most iPhone users will never shoot a single shot in DNG. For people who post their photos on Facebook without editing them, using the Camera app and shooting JPGs is best. However if you edit many of your iPhone images, you’ll get much better results if you shoot in DNG format and process them later.

Much data is discarded when a JPG is saved in order to keep the files small. When you try to edit a JPG, data of color and tone are missing and results will be substandard. With a DNG file, you can go back and re-expose your image from the original sensor data, resulting in a cleaner, clearer, more-accurately-exposed final image.

How to shoot DNG on an iPhone.

The apps that shoot DNG grow daily and how they function varies. I’ll only covers the ones that save DNGs directly to the camera roll, since they allow you to edit them in the Photos app:

How to Edit DNG files on your iPhone.

Since you can’t edit DNG files in the Photos app, you’ll have to use another editor. After testing numerous apps, Snapseed appears to be one of the few editors that can actually work with DNG files. But there’s an iOS glitch in editing currently that will not revert the edited JPG to DNG. Save your edited DNG as a JPG copy in Snapseed and all will be fine.

How to determine if a file is RAW or not.

The Photo Investigator app was recently upgraded to show metadata for DNG files. Open an image, launch Investigator from the Share menu and it will show you if it has a DNG extension.

Is shooting RAW worth it on your iPhone?

Many pro photographers shoot JPG over RAW so you don’t have to shoot DNG even if you’re a serious iPhoneographer (I still laugh every time I write that oxymoron.) But you might find that working with RAW is worth all the effort and keeps you from lugging around that DSLR all the time. It only costs a few bucks for one of the camera apps above, so experimenting with DNG has almost no entry cost.


Master your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography



Photography
September 18, 2016

iPhone 7+ Camera: All the new tricks.

The new iPhone 7+ camera is a game changer. While features like dual lenses are available in other phones, the fact that they’re in this wildly-popular phone puts them in the hands of the masses and has opened a new world to pro photographers and camera app developers. This article will help you get the most of the new features.

Ways to access the camera.

There are now three ways. 1) Home screen icon. 2) Swipe up for camera icon on Control Center. And now: Swipe left on your lock screen.

Jump from 1x to 2x

You get the full clarity of the prime lenses only at the 1x setting and the 2x setting when focused beyond 18″. All other zoom settings use the digital zoom and can downgrade the quality. To toggle between the lenses:

  • Tap the 1x button

In addition to the built-in Camera app, Manual is the only other app currently with the 1x/2x button.

Zoom slider.

There’s a built in zoom control for those that don’t like the pinch-to-zoom function. On the 7+ the zoom goes to 10x.

  • Hold the 1x button and the arc appears.

Focus.

The new 56mm⇔ lens in the 7+ focuses down to about 18″.

The magnifier.

This is an iOS 10 feature that gets enhanced with 7+ Tele lens. To enable:

  • Home > General > Accessibility > Magnifier > On

To take a magnified still:

  • Triple tap the Home button to engage the magnifier.
  • Zoom with the slider
  • Tap the Home button to freeze.
  • Tap and pinch to compose.
  • Hold Home and Sleep (on right side) to take a screenshot.

Not as nice as a macro lens, but hey, it’s built-in.

RAW?

The combo of the iPhone 7/7+ cameras and iOS10 allows you to shoot and save in Adobe’s DNG format, which is currently the top contender for a RAW standard. (And it’s supremacy is a pretty much sealed now that iPhone supports it.) Strangely Apple chose not to use it in their built-in Camera app yet. Third Party Camera apps that shoot RAW are popping up every day, but at the moment there’s no great app that makes shooting and editing in RAW easy.

Currently the easiest way to try out RAW is Adobe’s free Photoshop Lightroom app for iOS that can shoot and edit DNG files. You must shoot and edit your images inside the app.

It should be noted that DNG files that are unprocessed will often not look as nice as JPGs. DNG files need to be tweaked to pull out the detail and get an improved exposure. Since these files are three times the size of the iPhone’s JPGs, a good number of shooters will find that messing with the DNG format just wastes memory and time for most images.

More to come. If you have an iPhone 7+ camera trick you’d like to add, tweet it to me. Thanks.


Master your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography

Photography
September 4, 2016

Why it’s hard to gender neuter man from the English language.

As we de-gender language, what word do we use instead of man to refer to men/women/androgynists?

Some suggest that mankind should be replaced with humankind. The problem is that human stems from Latin homo meaning man. So how about using personkind? Persona originated in pre-Latin Etruscan and means actor’s mask. And while genderless itself, in Etruscan and early Roman theater, the word actors referred only to men.

The problem is that men dominated the world these word were born into. Etruscan, Roman and most Greek women couldn’t vote, hold office or own land. There was little need for terms for men and women as equals, since they weren’t.

So what about the silly-sounding peoplekind? It’s from the Etruscan populus and is actually closer to what we’re looking for, but it doesn’t work in the singular.

So here’s where it gets interesting: Before the second millennium mann in Old English was gender neutral, and used for both sexes. (Wif and wer distinguished female and male.) It was only after 1000 AD that man came to mean adult male. But over the next thousand years words like mankind (from Old English and gender-neutral mancynn) persisted and human (that re-affiliated both genders) has kept the genderless meaning of man alive. But then we can’t leave it alone, can we?

What seems logical to me (as the distinction between sexes get more blurred) is that the replacement word we’re looking for is being. It has a plural. It distinguishes us from creatures. And it has longevity since it can apply to intelligent aliens who may someday cohabit the earth with us and they’ll feel as equals.

Beingkind. Has a ring to it.

Culture
August 10, 2016

iOS Review: Ikiru lists, a productivity app that’s actually productive.

The number of bloated todo/task apps out there is staggering. Perhaps more staggering is how many I’ve tried that seem to eat up more time in learning how to use them and in formatting entries than they save.

Ikiru is Paperless: The Next Generation.

Jim Rhoades of Crush apps built Paperless for himself. Since it’s a labor of love, that’s probably why it’s the simplest and most powerful list app out there. I bring up the predecessor because any Paperless user like me will instantly feel at home in Ikiru. Literally no learning curve (not that there’s much of one for everybody else anyway.)

Lists as you like them.

Ikiru flexes to your style. It lets you create a super-simple listless string of items or create a complex architecture of lists within lists. And no matter how elaborate a structure you build, you can toggle the clock button and get a simple timeline of what’s due.

Notes. Finally.

A horrid omission by app developers in most list, todo, task and project apps is that notes are treated like a Dead-Headed stepchild (sic) with tweet-length restrictions and minuscule entry fields. Not Ikiru. Every list item is a full-length note with the full screen available for typing. If you require copious notes in your task management, the app for it is finally here. Hurrahlleleujah.

My take.

This is the first list management app with due dates I’ve ever been hopeful about. Maybe since it evolved from Paperless, I feel comfortably at home with it and know it will be around for years. Maybe it’s just that it’s the first straightforward app that lets you be productive and stay inside one app to do it all. Or maybe someone finally got it right.

iOS Apps