Bringing Life to Still Images on iPad Pro with Plotagraph+

My passion is still photography – capturing wonderful landscapes, seascape, underwater and travel scenes is what inspires my photography. I have put together some short videos (mostly timelapse), but the truth of it is that still images grab me, and the challenge of creating an image that tells a story in the sort time a shutter is open is motivating.

Movement, however, catches the eye, and although a good still image can imply movement there are a number of emerging methods of bringing life to still images.

Since the middle of last year I have been Playing around with Plotagraph Pro as a way of bringing some animation to still images. I like the results, and Plotagraph Pro in that time has come out of beta, introduced new pricing tiers (including a free one) and started to rollout social sharing features.

The Plotagraphs website features some very impressive examples of Plotagraphs (Plotagraphy??) by some very talented image makers.

Recently the Plotagraph team, with the support of image makers like Trey Ratcliff, has released an iOS app called Plotagraph + which brings the functionality to mobile devices[1]. Alongside Affinity Photo for iPad this app is truly positioning the iPad Pro at the core of my on-the-go photo workflow.

I created this Plotagraph in a few short minutes on the iPad on Sunday afternoon.

Red Sky Blue Pools from Des Paroz on Vimeo.

The image below shows the edits I made to the original image

Plotagraph+ edits in progress on iPad
Plotagraph+ edits in progress on iPad

Essentially the green-dots-leading-to-red-dashed-lines-to-blue-arrowheads are what I set for the direction and speed of movement, and the red dots near the horizon are anchor points that prevent movement beyond them.

Plotagraph+ Pros

  • Easy (very easy) to use.
  • Easy output to video and animated PNG formats.
  • Price effective.

Plotagraph+ Cons

  • No output to animated GIF for simple sharing[2].
  • App crashes if you try to load a RAW file[3].
  • Only sharing option is through Photos. I'd love to be able to share to Dropbox or other galleries (such as Plotagraphs.com) more directly.

Final Thoughts

I love this app, and the promise it provides for a fun and easy way to give life to images. Like HDR[4] Plotagraphs will likely allow image makers to express their worldview in their own art, and of course beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. A lot of Plotagraphs will be good, some will be great and some will have faces that only the owner could love.

For me, a relatively small portion of my images will be Plotagraphs, but I will have fun creating and sharing some when it suits the image and the story I am trying to tell with it.

For more info on Plotagraph+ take a look at this video by Trey Ratcliff

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Rockpool Sunrise

A spectacular sunrise in Sydney.

The Narrabeen Rockpools are a favourite spot I like to get back to from time-to-time, and although it is a bit of a hike and an early start, it has always paid off.

Rockpool Sunrise
Rockpool Sunrise

View Rockpool Sunrise on 500px | View Rockpool Sunrise on Flickr

Affinity Photo for iOS

This image was shot yesterday (as I write this) and was downloaded from my camera to my iPad. It was processed in Affinity Photo on my iPad Pro, and uploaded to this blog, and to 500px and Flickr using the built in share extensions.

Affinity Photo is an awesomely powerful photo editor, and marks, IMHO, the first real professional grade photo editing app for iPad. I think that I am really going to love this app. Affinity Photo has all the controls and capabilities that I would expect from a powerful imaging app, including HDR merge, panos and even focus stack merging.

I also really enjoy editing on an iPad Pro. The interaction of editing on a touch screen, and using the Pencil makes for a very enjoyable experience.

The downside to the process, at the moment, is that the DAM[1] functionality is provided only by Apple’s Photos app. While a decent app in some areas, it doesn’t allow true organisation and meta-data management. The limitations of Photos is the true limiting factor for serious amateur and professional photographers.

I hope that Affinity Photo or other another app will soon step up to provide DAM functionality.

Other apps are also emerging that position iPad for excellent photo editing. I plan to blog about Plotagraph+ shortly.


  1. DAM=digital asset management.  ↩
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Nikon’s Future Mirrorless Line

Having been a Nikon SLR user from the film days through a couple of generations and into the dSLR era, I had a substantial investment in Nikon cameras and the awesome Nikkor “f-mount” glass.[1] So the shift into mirrorless for me was not a decision made lightly.

When I heard recently about Nikon pre-announcing a future mirrorless camera range I thought for a moment that maybe I should have kept some of those great lenses, especially when I heard that the Nikon President said that the company aims to “put out a very Nikon-ish mirrorless camera which is superior to rivals in quality

My decision to shift to mirrorless was made not on simply losing the mirror, but instead was about losing bulk and weight for my camera kit. As an underwater, landscape and travel photographer who travels a bit with my gear, any chance to reduce bulk was welcome.[2][3]

In episode 193 of the Peta Pixel Photography Podcast, host Sharky James (once again) expressed the view that Nikon should put out a mirrorless camera that takes f-mount glass.

I get where Sharky is coming from, but I’m not sure that the absence of a mirror will solve many problems. The f-mount lenses are built with a particular ratio of distance from the rear of the lens to the sensor. Keeping the same awesome but bulky lenses won’t have a huge effect on reducing the size of the camera body. And of course, the (large) lens size remains as is.

Since moving to mirrorless (I use the micro four-thirds, or m43, system) I have been impressed with the power of the cameras and the quality range of lenses from Olympus and Panasonic, as well as a host of other makers. And the cameras and lenses are much smaller.

I do hope that Nikon does something, soon, to deliver a quality camera in the mirrorless space. But simply moving to an f-mount mirrorless body may not really be solving any problems for many photographers.

Real mirrorless innovation is more than just removing a mirror.


  1. I really loved a couple lenses in particular — the 12–24 wide angle zoom and the 60mm macro were amazing lenses from which I got a lot of pleasure.  ↩
  2. Particularly in an era when airlines are cracking down on cabin luggage carried.  ↩
  3. The name BalancedLight for this blog is in part based on my preference for light-weight camera gear.  ↩
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App Support for iPad Centric Workflows

Its been some two years since Apple announced iOS 9, complete with iPad split screen and other multitasking functionality.

My iPads Pro are a key part of my writing, productivity and increasingly, photography, workflow. This is even more the case since the announcement of iOS 11, and all the incredible new iPad Pro centric enhancements.

Most of the apps I use on a daily basis to support my workflows have embraced and support iOS multitasking, including the split screen functionality. These apps include:

  • Bear
  • Byword
  • Draftsd
  • iBooks
  • Lightroom
  • Medium
  • Micro.blog[1]
  • OmniFocus[2]
  • ProtonMail
  • Reeder
  • Slack
  • Spark Mail[3]
  • The Photographers Ephemeris
  • Timepage
  • Tweetbot
  • Ulysses
  • V for Wikipedia
  • 500px

The list of apps that have refused to provide support for iPad Pro users is, fortunately, much shorter.

  • Affinity Photo
  • Flickr
  • Kindle
  • Pocket

I can kind of forgive Affinity as its quite a new app, and in the photography editing space which kind of develops a whole screen mentality.

But Kindle and Pocket are core reading/research/writing workflow apps. To be core to these types of workflows, the apps need to support iPad Pro type functionality.

Kindle holds a near monopoly, but Pocket has competition. I can’t help but wonder whats holding them back.

Doing this personal analysis of the core apps in my workflows it is pretty pleasing to see that most apps are well positioned to support the growing importance of iPad in a mobile lifestyle. And it is pretty telling to me that at some point I will need to make a call about apps that don’t support my workflows…


  1. Which was only released today.  ↩
  2. And I am pretty sure most other Omni apps  ↩
  3. And other apps from Readdle  ↩
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A thought in reply to: iPad Pro for Photography

I look forward to iPad Pro being a core tool in my photography workflow.

The things that will be the tipping point for me are:

  1. Good DAM (digital asset management) apps for iOS. Lightroom is getting there, a Photos is ok, but we shall see where things go.
  2. MacPhun Luminar or similar apps with really intuitive editing.
  3. Easy import of images from a camera (not every photo is made on an iPhone)…

Balancing Equipment Care with Getting the Shot

British landscape photographer and YouTuber Thomas Heaton recently produced an interesting video about looking after your camera gear.

What is cool about the video is that while Thomas stresses excellent care procedures and suitable cleaning techniques (who can forget “always blow before you go”), he puts just as much emphasis on not getting too precious about your gear.

As landscape photographers we should be out in the elements and we should be exposing ourselves and our kit to horrific conditions like wind, rain, sand, ash, dust, dirt… Because that’s how we make the images. If you’re only going out in perfect conditions you’re never going to have the chance to capture those truly compeling images.

I have to agree with Thomas’ thinking — there is an inverse relationship between great images and great conditions.[1] Being out in inclement weather and in rainy, windy, sandy or dusty environments provides opportunities for great images[2].

I see my landscape and underwater photography as being participative photography[3]. As a photographer I am not passively observing the environment that I am capturing – I am part of it. The story is my story, not someone else’s.

I don’t see my story as being that guy who only goes out when it is perfect. I go out and enjoy the experiences life has to offer, and often my camera goes with me. Yes, I have to clean and look after my gear, sometimes it needs to be repaired, and occassionally I have lost or damaged equipment. But it is worth it.

As Thomas said:

Get out there in the elements and take photographs, because that ultimately is what it’s all about.

Feeding Time by Des Paroz on 500px.com

 


  1. At least above water. For underwater images good conditions make your life much better–not just for the actual image, but also for the shooting ;-). That said, some of my best images were made in poor viz.  ↩
  2. Importantly there is a threshold somewhere where this inverse relationship stops, and you’d better take shelter. Your personal safety must never be comprimised for the sake of an image. Don’t be out in the midst of a cyclone or in close proximity to lightning storms just to get a shot.  ↩
  3. I think I borrowed, or at least adapted, that term from the late Galen Rowell.  ↩
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The Flyer and the Flower

The Flyer and the Flower

The Flyer and the Flower by Des Paroz on 500px.com

Made during our recent trip to Singapore, this image shows two of the iconic sights around the Downtown Core of this beautiful city.

On the left is the Singapore Flyer, the second largest ferris wheel in the world.

On the right is the fabulous ArtScience Museum, which was built to resemble the shape of a lotus flower. While we were there we particularly enjoyed the ‘NASA: A Human Journey’ exhibition.

The ArtScience Museum is part of the beautiful Marina Bay Sands area. In many ways the ArtScience Museum visually and functionally represents Singapore itself – a unique blend of modern science and traditional culture.

This image was made in the mid-afternoon, and a circular polariser was a key part of creating it.

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Tracks in the Wet

Tracks in the Wet

Tracks in the Wet by Des Paroz on 500px.com

Australia’s Northern Territory has two distinct seasons – the Wet (Oct-Mar) and the Dry (Apr-Sep).

The Dry Season features constantly blue skies, no clouds, and no rain. The Wet features some spectacular clouds, storms and lots of rain.

The Wet Season is also a brilliant time to make photographs out in the desert – the rains bring colours, like the vivid reds, greens and blues in this image.

The Top End is an incredibly remote place – it is quite literally hundreds of kilometres from other major towns, and thousands of kilometres from cities of any real size.

This image tells both these stories to me – the colours of the Wet Season and the isolation shown by the lonely railway tracks.

These tracks are used by ‘The Ghan’, a weekly train service between Darwin and the southern city of Adelaide – some 3,000km (1850 miles) away.

I created this image on my Panasonic Lumix GX7, using a Lee Filters polarising filter and a 3 stop GND to balance the mid-day light. A small amount of post processing was done in Luminar.

Downtown Core by Night

Downtown Core by Night

Downtown Core by Night by Des Paroz on 500px.com

 

 

Singapore’s Downtown Core is the CBD of the city, built around the visually spectacular Marine Bay.

The Bay is a freshwater reservoir, ensuring generally smooth surfaces for reflections from the picturesque city at night.

As usual, blue hour is very much my favourite time to shoot, and this image was created from a single RAW file, and processed using a couple of quick steps in Luminar.

Singapore is certainly one of the most spectacular destinations for cityscape photography.