Concert iPhoneography

By Jeff Insel

I am a very lucky guy, in my semi-retirement I found a job at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) as a driver for the Theater department (and now also a p/t Artist Coordinator). I am a very lucky guy because I’ve always loved live music – of all kinds. I get to meet and talk with the Artists and get to know them a bit. And, having an interest in photography, I sometimes get to take some photographs of the artists performing with my iPhone.

The biggest challenge is the lack of good light on stage, the second challenge is that the artists are almost always in motion. Most of the artists allow patrons to take photos during the first few songs and always without flash. I usually take photos from the wings at the side of the stage and sometimes from behind the stage if the stage door is open – usually because they’re using a sound monitor there and I have access backstage. It’s almost impossible to get good photos from the very back – 70 feet away – do to the concert lighting, though I often try.

The most rewarding part is often times, after the show, artists will be out front signing CD’s and posing for photos – which anyone can participate in so I often do as it makes for a fun collection, such as with Laurence Juber and Keiko Matsui below.

It’s fun to post the photos on Instagram and sometimes email them to friends and family who are usually envious of my opportunity. Sometimes I make collages and try different filters as with the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Del McCoury Band. Mostly it’s just fun to do and once in a while I get an interesting photo out of it.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

iPhone or “Real” Camera? Which is better?

Author: Amy Horn

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between an iPhone image and a “real” camera image? Well, here is the test. I was waiting in a Northern Arizona University parking lot for students to arrive for a field trip and I noticed ice. For those that don’t know me, I love capturing images of ice. Instantly, I grabbed my iPhone 7 and built in camera app, placed the phone about 2 inches away from the ice and captured several photos. I still had a few minutes before leaving with the students, so I grabbed my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII with the 12-100mm lens (sensor equivalent 24—200mm). I zoomed in to 100mm (200mm equivalent) and stood about 12 inches above the ice and shot several images. Both shots were taken with non-macro lenses and here are the comparison images:

Both images are straight out of the camera. You might notice a slight difference in white balance from the different systems auto white balance. Unfortunately, I did not compose the images identically, but, can you tell which image is the iPhone image? Take my iPhoneography/Smart Phone photography class to learn the answer. Not really! The image on the left is from the iPhone and the image on the right is from the Olympus. When I examined these images close up, I have to say the only difference I saw was the white balance! Decide for yourself and compare your smart phone to a “real” camera. Sometimes that mobile phone can be quite a powerful option.

It’s not too late to join Amy in her iPhoneography/Smart Phone Photography class March 25! Follow the link to register.


Amy Horn is a lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. View her current teaching schedule at or

Instagram: amyhornphotographer
Facebook: Amy Horn: Horndesigns Photography

Create a Beautiful Photo Collage using Pic Collage

Author: Joanne Shipman

A few months ago I wrote about a mobile application called Snapseed for easy and fun post-processing on your cell phone, but now I’m going to show you how to take those photos and arrange them in a beautiful and inspiring collage to print or to post to social media. Just like Snapseed, Pic Collage is a free application that can be downloaded to both an iOS or Android mobile device and includes editing features in an easy-to-understand format.

Let’s get started! When you first open Pic Collage, you have three options: Grids,

Templates and Freestyle. For all three options, the application will ask to access your photos where you will select “ok”. You’ll be taken to the photos that you have on your mobile device and will select the photos that you would like in the collage.


For the Grids option, your photos will be auto-populated initially in a default grid. At this point you have a few options: move the photos to where you want them in each shape of the grid or choose a different grid. At the bottom left of your screen you can click on the icon to select a different collage grid or select the plus icon in the bottom center of your screen to add a few items: more photos, web search on key words, text, stickers and backgrounds. For the Templates option, you can insert your photos into various backgrounds such as Christmas, Happy Birthday or Love. Finally, the Freestyle option is a blank canvas – sometimes the best for true creativity.

What’s really helpful is that if you select the “?” at the top of the screen while you are creating your collage, you’ll see a screen like the one shown below with brief explanations to help guide you.


Within each collage option (Grids, Templates and Freestyle), simply double-click any photo for even more inspiring options such as: effects, clip, duplicate, back, set as background, border and remove. At this point let your creativity take hold and just have fun!

  • Effects can add various techniques such as changing orientation, enhancing your photo or removing blemishes.
  • Clip will arrange your photo into a shape such as square or circle.
  • Duplicate will create a second exact copy of your original photo.
  • Back arranges the photo layers from back to front or vice versa.
  • Setting a background takes your photo and creates a background in the collage.
  • Border will place a frame around your photo in a chosen color.
  • Remove will delete your last action, but don’t worry, you can always click on the Undo icon in the upper right of the screen to bring back your photo.



Once editing is complete, click Done then Save to Library. If you have the free version, your collage will have an application watermark. You will find your photo in Photos for iOS or Gallery for Android then within the Pic Collage folder. Just like Snapseed – and taking it a bit further creating a beautiful and fun custom collage – you’re ready to post to social media or text your family and friends!



Have you ever created a photo collage? If so, what program did you use whether on a  mobile application or on your computer?


Joanne is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops


On Thin Ice

Author:  Amy Horn

The overnight temperatures in Flagstaff on average have been below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few weeks, so it is no surprise that Francis Short Pond is covered with thin ice. The ice has been different thicknesses but the first day I went to capture ice photos, the ice was not even an inch thick. So, I had to be creative on how to capture the intriguing ice bubbles I spotted just off the shore. I knew I couldn’t stand on the ice, but I hoped it would hold the weight of my camera. So, I setup my gear (tripod, Nikon D600 and 105mm macro lens) on the dry land and carefully set it on the ice.

Photo 3

I was a little nervous setting thousands of dollars of gear on the iced, but the ice held as you can see in Photo 1 and 2. When my heartbeat returned to normal, I realized my lens was not parallel to the plane of the subject. I would not get sharp photos if I didn’t make a change. Reaching over the ice from dry land, I adjusted my camera’s lens plane and then slid the tripod over the ice bubbles. I was using live view, but could barely reach the lens to focus from the side of the pond. I snapped a few shots with my shutter release then brought the tripod back to dry land to view the shots. The shots were in focus, but not the composition. Then I remembered my CamRanger. It was in my camera bag. A CamRanger is a wireless solution to capturing and viewing images (among other great features). The CamRanger would solve my problem.

Photo 2

I plugged the CamRanger into the camera’s USB port and used a Tether Tools Rock solid smart clip with hot shoe adapter mount to stabilize it on the camera. I opened my iPhone wifi settings and found the CamRanger wifi signal. Next, I opened the CamRanger app and turned on live view. Only a few short minutes at 19 degrees passed and I was ready to place my tripod & camera back on the ice. With the CamRanger, I could remotely control my camera through focus and exposure and preview the composition. As long as I could reach a tripod leg, I could rotate the camera on the ice to capture the composition I desired. I even used the CamRanger focus stacking feature to capture a series of images that I could stack when I got home. Photo 3 is a single capture from the CamRanger setup. This was so much fun, I forgot my gear was resting on thin ice or that it was below 20 degrees!

For more information on a CamRanger or Tether Tools mounts, please visit Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or

Listen and Learn

Author: Amy Horn

Since I was young, I remember hearing some version of the saying “listen and learn” from my parents. They would be happy to know that I have finally taken their advice. Probably not what they were thinking, but I have found listening to podcasts to be a great learning opportunity for photography.  Since I live in Flagstaff, a mid-sized mountain town, and travel frequently for teaching workshops, presentations and photography, downloading podcasts keeps me entertained on the road. Using the common Bluetooth features in newer cars, my days of searching for clear radio stations is over… the podcasts come in crystal clear. Of all the podcasts I have listened to my favorites are Photofocus, Improve Photography and This Week in Photo.

The Photofocus photofocuspodcast covers a variety of topics from new technologies to photographic techniques through professional interviews with working photographers. Videographer and photographer, Richard Harrington publishes this podcast three times a month and utilizes other professional photographers to conduct interviews as well. Whether you want to learn from Joe McNally, Lindsay Adler or any of the Photoshop Dream Team, Photofocus has the interview. This podcast is full of inspiration and information for beginners to advanced photographers wanting to stay current in the field. The Photofocus podcasts’ generally air for an hour and their website offers additional videos and resources free to the


The Improve Photography podcast, hosted by Jim Harmer, has grown drastically in the past months by adding additional pro photographers to their podcast for a
round table discussion and branched out with additional podcasts each week covering portraits, thoughts about photography and my favorite the “photo taco” podcast.
Although the music in the photo taco podcast is more energetic than what I like, each podcast is approximately 10 minutes long covering simple concepts in a short time frame. These audio discussions are targeted to a large audience and beginning photographers would really benefit from many of their topics. Improve Photography podcasts generally last no more than 40 minutes and the website offers additional courses ($) and articles to advance photographic learning.

The third podcast I listen to frequently is This Week in Photo (TWIP). TWIP has recently branched out with additional podcasts hosted by other professional photographers covering street photography, weddings, Photoshop/Lightroom, travel, gear, family, and twipthe weekly roundtable discussion. This network airs a wealth of knowledge in a variety of different subjects. Frederick Van Johnson, founder/host, invites different photographers weekly for the roundtable discussion and includes “picks of the week.” These picks highlight anything related to photography from books to apps to gear.  TWIP podcasts average an hour or more in length and the topics range from beginner to advanced. The website offers a member only option with additional learning available but all podcasts and show notes are free.  The show notes include links to resources discussed in the podcast.

All of the above podcasts are downloadable from their respective websites or iTunes. If you like listening to podcasts while driving, walking or cleaning the house then download one of these podcasts (or check out different ones) to “Listen and Learn” about photography.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University as well as an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Jerome on the Run

Author: Megan Galope

I am a photographer, but I’m also a runner. My favorite place to run is on the trails—I love the scenery, the mountains, and all the plant life. This can pose an issue at times, when the photographer in me comes out while I’m running. As much as I’d love to have my DSLR with me at these moments, it’s not practical. My solution to this is to carry my phone with me while I run (which also comes in handy in case of emergency). The general nature of trails lends itself to more difficult running—many more ups and downs. Having my phone camera gives me a good excuse to stop and rest when I need it.

This past weekend, my running buddy Erin and I ran the Jerome Hill Climb—a grueling 4.5 mile race with unrelenting uphill. I knew the scenery would be beautiful and that I’d need excuses to rest, so I brought my phone with me. We made the run much more enjoyable by stopping to take selfies and appreciate the views.

Image 1Running is always more fun with a buddy

Image 3

There were beautiful views along the way

Image 2

Megan Galope is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

“Call me Lefty”

by Jeff Insel with help from Jack Jordan

One morning last week I reported to the North Valley Surgical Center in Scottsdale, at 6:00 a.m. for surgery on my right ring finger. I’ve been preparing for this for a couple months with the knowledge that my right hand would be one big bandage that needs to be kept dry for a week until it comes off. Of course, being right handed this brings a lot of challenges and inconveniences – washing my left armpit in the shower, tying shoes, brushing my teeth left handed and don’t forget shaving (I think I’ll let the beard grow). Fortunately my fingertips are uncovered so I can do a bit more than I anticipated, like typing. I’m thinking of all the other photographers who have experienced similar setbacks like sprained wrists or broken fingers.

So how about handling my camera? Like most DSLRs the shutter button is on the top right side. Can I manage the backpack with my gear and the tripod too? I didn’t really start to think about this until yesterday afternoon while recovering from the anesthesia – which was great by the way (whole “nother” story). I realized that there are a couple of solutions; Use the 2 or 10 second timer, use the cable release or remote. Obviously, it’ll be a slower process setting up, which could be good – it’ll force me to slow down, think more carefully about what I want to accomplish. The only solution I found for assembling the quick release plate on my tripod was to have help from someone, but I found that if I was careful I could change lenses by keeping my camera in my lap, setting up the lens to be changed and then, using my left ring finger to depress the lens release button while I held the lens with my thumb and fore finger and twisted, I could release the lens, set it down and grab the replacement lens for easy connection. Changing the battery and memory card proved to be much easier.

I also realized that there is a much easier solution. I can just use my iPhone, which I can hold with my left hand and use a finger tip on my right to hit the shutter button. I also won’t have to negotiate the gear.


Jeff Insel and Jack Jordan are trip leaders for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.