Lensbaby for iPhone is frustrating yet awesome

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The lensbaby LM-10, shot through a fisheye lens and two mirrors.
The Lensbaby LM-10, shot through a fisheye lens and two mirrors. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

I like the Lensbaby that I have for my regular camera, but I frikkin’ love the Lensbaby LM–10 for the iPhone. Like most things that make the trip from elsewhere to iOS, the little Lensbaby offers a subset of the original’s features, but they are – dare I say – a more focused set of features.

Let’s just say the iPhone Lensbaby is about the funnest iPhoneography accessory around.

Get a taste of Apple’s photo future with Lightroom Mobile

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The same photo, on all your machines.
The same photo, on all your machines: This is the future. Images: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

OS X will get a new Photos app next year that will keep all your pictures in sync across all your devices. It will work with the iOS 8 Photos apps on iPhone and iPad to match up your full-res photographs, your albums and even the edits you make to your pictures.

The changes are a ways off, but fret not -– if you use Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile, you can enjoy this fabulous cross-platform photo synchronization right now.

App Watch: Stargazing, light-leaking and book-recommending

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App Watch Sep 01 2014

This Labor Day holiday we take things easy. Whether stargazing with Starwalk 2, taking a walk and remembering the hot spots along the way with Rego, getting a recommendation for a good read with Bookvibe, or adding so retro-style light leaks to our photos with a new set of Prolost Lightroom presets.

Bookvibe

If you follow at least a few half-intelligent folks on Twitter, Bookvibe will help you out with recommendations for what to read next. It’s a service that monitors your Twitter feed and winkles out any mentions of books, sending an occasional list via email. Sometimes it’s tricked by a mention of something that sounds like a book, or presents a subject of Twitter ridicule (or Twittercule) as a recommendation, but overall Bookvibe is solid, and I’ve found a few titles from it. $Free

Rego

Rego bookmarks places. Add them from a map, from an address search, from your contacts or even by pulling in location data from a photo in your Camera Roll. Make collections, view your places on a map, add stars and customs map-pins, and share. A companion website pulls in Foursquare info and other details. Never forget a place again. $5

UpTime

UpTime adds every keyboard shortcut you could need in an iPad browser. If you ever find yourself hitting a desktop shortcut on a keyboard hooked up to your iPad, and nothing happens, then you need UpTime, a simple iPad browser that can be driven entirely from the keyboard. Scrolling, searching, tab-switching and even Tweeting can all be done without once touching the screen, and it’s just $4

Eye-Fi IFTTT Channel

Your Eyefi card can now send photos straight from your camera to, well, to anywhere. Evernote, Flickr, Tumblr, OneNote… Even your Great Aunt Flo. Thanks to the new Eyefi IFTTT channel, any photos that’s uploaded from your Wi-Fi-capable card to the Eyefi cloud can be routed to any IFTTT destination that accepts photos. $Free

Jolicloud Drive photo editing

Jottacloud’s Drive web app pulls together all your cloud services into one beautifully-designed place, including Jottacloud’s own secure, secret, Norway-based version of Dropbox. Now you can take any photo from any of these services (Dropbox or Flickr, say), and edit them right there in the browser. $Free

Quotebook

Quotebook is a place to collect quotes and other text snippets. The Universal app integrates with your browser, your Mr. Reader RSS reader, IFTTT and even with Instapaper’s own highlights feature, and turns those snippets into searchable, organizable quotes. New in v3.0 is auto-lookup of sources (you get an icon and description for authors) and x-callback URL support to work with apps like Drafts. $5

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Prolost Light Leaks for Lightroom

When Lightroom Mobile accepts custom presets, there will be no need for any other photo editing app on iOS. Until then, you can switch back to the desktop to use things like Prolost’s fantastic Light Leak presets, a set of 480 different faux light leaks, 120 from each of four different vintage-camera styles. Just install, run your mouse over the list on the left of your Lightroom screen and hit the one that catches your fancy. Next up: a plugin that fakes leaving the lens cap on for the entire roll of 36 photos. $30

Perspective icons

Perspective icons aren’t an app. They’re a bunch of icons to use in your OS X Omnifocus, but they’re so beautiful, simple and flat that you might want to use them elsewhere, too. For instance, I plan to add them to Scrivener so I don’t have to use the hideous 1990s-era stock icons included with that otherwise amazing app. Perspective icons come retina ready, and cost $10

Starwalk 2

Starwalk 1 was the app for showing off your iPad back when it first launched. Starwalk 2 adds new views and graphics to the stargazing guide. Hold your iPad up to the night sky and see a map of the stars overlaid on the sky using motion-tracking. You can now see a 3-D view of heavenly bodies from any point-of-view, and add satellites, deep-space objects and more via IAP. So put that bourbon down and use the nighttime for something more useful instead. $3

Gadget Watch: Bags, bags and … bags. Plus, some cool new camera gear

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Gadget Watch: Aug. 23, 2014

Bags, bags, bags. Literally – there are three hot bags in this week’s gadget roundup, and if you buy them all, you’ll be out by around a grand. Or you could buy the ultra-expensive Leica M-P, a new camera so minimal it doesn’t even have the trademark red dot on the front, yet still costs $8,000. Or you can go to the other end of the price range and pick up LensBaby’s new iPhone optic for just $70. And that’s just the beginning…

The Attaché leather bag

H.O.T. Those are the three letters that best describe Pad & Quill’s new Attaché bag, a beautiful leather satchel with unbreakable, high-copper-content hardware and parachute-grade stitching on the outside. Inside, you'll find padded MacBook and iPad pockets, plus orange suede pocket linings.

As a bonus, the marketing copy for the Attaché seems to have been written by Hannibal Lecter, containing this line: “Your taste buds and your liver deserve top shelf [and to be] savored in a glass.” (some words added for comedic effect). How much? $420

Dragon device holder

You can’t get much simpler than the Dragon device holder – it’s a pair of aluminum clips that snap onto the cylinder at the back of your Apple wireless keyboard and slide up and down, letting you space them to fit anything from an iPad to an iPod nano. The clips have a tail at the back to provide stability, and a little lip at the front to hook the bottom edge of your gadget. If you use a full-size keyboard with your iPad, this little gadget should be in your bag. $25

Brooks Hampstead holdall

This bag comes from Brooks, the English bike saddle maker. Weighing in at a hefty 1.6 kilos (well over 3 pounds), it has a roll-top enclosure and adjustable clips that can attach the bag to the rear rack of your bike. The body is “water resistant cotton” and the straps are leather. The price? Around $400.

Leica M-P

In: 2GB RAM (double that of the Leica M). Sapphire glass cover for the camera's rear LCD.

Out: The Leica red dot

Price? $8,000

KERO Power Annex

There’s little to say about KERO’s micro-suction portable battery other than, “What a frikkin’ great idea.” It’s a regular, modest-capacity backup battery (1800mAh, which will get your iPhone back to 75 percent) with a USB port and status-indicator LEDs, but on one side it has a micro-suction layer so you can stick it to the back of your iPhone, over and over. This is so much smarter than having to use a special case to clip the battery on, or just using a case with a built-in battery pack. Or you could do what I do, which is use a regular backup battery and a rubber band. $19

Pyle Smart Bicycling Computer (with Google Maps)

The Pyle PSBCG90 Smart Bicycling Computer tracks your rides with GPS and displays them on Google Maps back at your computer. You can also hook up any ANT+ accessories wirelessly (heart rate and cadence sensors, power meters and so on), and even challenge yourself, Mario Kart-style, using the ghost-route feature. It looks like a decent alternative to something like the Garmin EDGE 500, and it costs only $130.

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Lensbaby for iPhone

Lensbaby now makes a sweet-spot lens for the iPhone. It sticks on with magnets (you need to stick the included ring over the iPhone’s lens) and blurs everything in your photos except a sharp sweet spot in the center. It's just like the regular Lensbabys, only less adjustable and made for the iPhone. There’s another neat feature – the front has a metal ring on it, too, so you can attach any other iPhone lenses you have onto the Lensbaby for some really freaky FX. $70

TenOne Magnus Air

The Magnus Air updates the minimalistical Magnus that originally shipped for the iPad 2, way back in the mists of 2012. Typical of TenOne’s design, it is so simple it almost doesn’t exist, sticking to the Air with magnets and adding an almost invisible stand that holds your iPad at 22 degrees from the vertical, and at 22 degrees from the horizontal if you lay it down to type. And that’s it – an aluminum bracket that looks kinda like a taco shell, for $40.

Cobra Brief

Fact: Cobra Brief is the name I gave to my favorite pair of underwear. And now, it is also the name of a “business laptop” bag from Booq. It has all the compartments and pockets you’d expect, with a space for almost literally everything, plus an outer quick-access pocket for your iPhone and iPad. You can even hook it onto the top of your carry-on trolley, allowing you to be one of those morons who sneaks too many bags into the plane and takes up all the overhead bin space. $295

Teen’s iPhone photos put vibrant face on homeless population

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Nic Tullis has his eye on St. Louis

The teen iPhoneographer is taking photos of the city's homeless population.

Blackbird

Focus

St Louis in the rain

Top Hat

Portrait

University

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Portrait_1

Banjo

Rear view

Busking

"I met a lady and her children who travel to heavily populated areas of St. Louis to play music for tips to buy food each night. The children's broken bikes and few cherished possesions carefully tucked in the run down van they call "home," Tullis says.

Nic Tullis has a summer project that doesn’t involve surfing or working at a frozen-yogurt shop.

The 18-year-old is at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign to to raise $2,500 that will keep him out photographing with his iPhone 4s. His “Homeless But Not Hopeless” project aims to bring awareness about the homeless population of St. Louis, Missouri, which spiked 12 percent after the economic tsunami hit.

Tullis takes photos of homeless people that show how they live along with normal shots that show off St. Louis. The funding for the project would rent a gallery space to auction off prints as a fundraiser; proceeds would go to two local organizations that help people get back on their feet.

App Watch Aug 12 2014 — Lists, learning, coffee and spaaaaace

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Dream your way into space with the new IFTTT NASA channel, put notifications and widgets on your desktop with Übersicht and make the perfect cup of coffee with the latest AeroPress timer. This week we even have an app just for processing B&W photos.

Listary 2

Listary, my favorite iPhone list app, now syncs with Dropbox instead of Simplenote (which in turn means no easy nvALT syncing), adds smart lists, a URL scheme that lets you ad tasks from apps like Drafts, icon badges and sharing. It’s also free, with an in-app purchase to unlock advanced features. $Free

IFTTT Space Channel

Now you can get an iPhone notification eery time an astronaut enters space. This radness is thanks to the new NASA IFTTT channel, which offers seven triggers that can feed their info into other IFFFT actions. Want to flash the Wi-Fi-controlled lights in your house every time the International Space Station passes overhead? No problem! And best of all it’s free – you just need an IFTTT account. $Free

Vox

Now Vox, the Mac app that streams music from internet radio along with pretty much any music format stored on your Mac (it integrates with your iTunes library too), now works with SoundCloud, which is the place all the cool kids publish their music these days. It supports SoundCloud queues and Collections, and grabs the highest-quality stream available. It’s free, with an in-app purchase to unlock the good stuff. $Free/$3

Übersicht

Übersicht displays javascript widgets on your Mac desktop, kind of like a cross between Dashboard and GeekTool. Widgets are written in JavaScript or CoffeeScript, and because they use CSS you can place them where you like, and make them look as pretty as can be. You can pipe in the weather, show your to-do list, or pretty much anything else in the world, ever. $Free

MediaFire for iOS

MediaFire, the service that forces you to click and load way too many web pages just to get an image from your email, has relaunched its iOS app as a photo-sharing, media-streaming powerhouse. v2.0 now auto-syncs your iPhone and iPad photos to its servers, along with improved streaming of audio and video. The service also adds a new pricing plan, starting at $25 per year for a terabyte of storage. Take that, Dropbox! $Free

JoliDrive

JoliCloud’s Drive is both a front-end for the privacy-focussed Norwegian cloud storage service (which I use and love), as well as a place to combine all your other cloud accounts. You can access Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, MediaFire and more, plus the amazing cloud torrent service Put.io. You can also use it to view and edit photos, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music and even read ebooks. Now the web app is even better thanks to a new large-icon grid view for your files. How much? Amazingly, it’s $Free.

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Tonality

Tonality takes your boring old color photos and turns then into amazing B&W images. It works with most images, RAW and JPG included, and does most of what Adobe’s Lightroom does, only it’s focussed on monochrome images and doesn’t do anything for color. You can tweak the color channels to really play with the B&W result, and there’s even gimmicky a one-touch-HDR feature. But the best part is layers, letting you save yourself to a bigger app like photoshop. I like it quite a lot, but I miss Lightroom’s built-in cataloging features. Regular or Pro for $20/$60

Learnist for iPad

You know how cool the TED talks are, where super-smart folks tell you about awesome things? Well Learnist is kind of like that, only instead of lectures it curates lessons, and now it comes on the iPad too. People like Gus Van Sant add lessons, along with qualified teachers concentrating on specific subjects. It’s also free to download and browse. $Free

AeroPress Timer

If you don’t have an AeroPress then go out and buy one right now. Pick up a burr grinder while you’re at it, and some delicious, freshly-roasted beans. Got it? Good. Now you can enjoy the free AeroPress Timer app, new and improved and at version 2. The app provides a whole slew of recipes, with extra recipe packs for $2, available as in-app purchases. Choose a recipe, get your gear set, your water hot and your coffee ground, and hit Go. The timer will count you down to the perfect cup. $Free.

Sci-fi toys spring to life in filmic photos

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Sci-fi toys come to life in Robert Larner's photos

Alien Tourist

A scene you won't see in Star Wars

AT-AT in the Snow

Black Riders

Borg scout ship

Catzilla

Close Encounter

Face to face

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Giant Robots

Haunted House

King of the Monsters

Long Snoot

Looks like The Doctor took the wrong turn to Metebelis Three...

Moonlit Interceptor

Multi-coloured Daleks

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Party Wagon

Planet of the Apes Picnic

Who said Greedo doesn't fire first?

"Oh oh!"

"What'll it be? We've got squishees, overpriced coffee, blue milk..."

"What's that noise?"

By day, Robert Larner works for an investment firm. By night he directs Stormtroopers, Transformers and Daleks.

Using toys, camera tricks and a keen sense of story, the photographer delights Flickr and Instagram fans with movie stills. But the movies don’t exist.

The Scotsman grew up a discerning cineaste with a taste for the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters movie franchises, but his greatest inspiration — in film and toys — was Star Wars.

“I could probably track my interest in toys via Star Wars,” Larner says. “When I was a kid in the early ’80s, I was completely swept up by the original Kenner 3.75-inch range. Then, in the ’90s, the remastered movies came out along with whispers of the prequels so the Star Wars toy range was reintroduced, so that caught my interest again. However, it was when Lego had the bright idea of making Star Wars Lego sets in 1999 that I really got sucked in and I haven’t looked back since!”

iPhone or Canon? A veteran photographer debates digital versus analog

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Pros and cons of iPhoneography

Longtime photographer Dan Marcolina tells why an Apple smartphone can be the ultimate tool of his trade.

Untitled traditional portrait

"I’m tall and shy -- so I can’t be inconspicuous. That means a lot of my traditional portraits are shot from the side or the back," Marcolina says. In this 2009 shot, he was able to compose it carefully, because the subjects weren't facing him, and it expresses his "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" no-cropping philosophy for analog photography.

Untitled mobile portrait

"Mobile photography is more like sculpture - you're poking at the pixels to make them talk," he says. The color of the ribbons was amped up with app Snapseed afterwards, "making the story a little more intense." While he could've captured this from the doorway with a traditional camera, Marcolina walked in close with his iPhone and the man never stirred.

While it's generally easier to go stealth with an iPhone, "people are getting a lot more savvy about having their photos taken," Marcolina says.

Wedding

"The traditional work is from a collection of standard film cameras ranging from Toy Holgas to 2x2 Rolleiflex to Canon 5d digital. This work is never manipulated and rarely cropped, what you see is what I got." In this portrait of a bride with MS, note the shadow of Marcolina in the foreground.

“You’d never get this shot with a traditional camera,” Marcolina says. “It would be weird to be so close as this guy does a handstand in front of his girlfriend.” With an iPhone, you can control the camera in creative ways, getting this sculpted look by with a slow shutter and rotoscope effect.

"Photoshop is a production tool, not a discovery engine in the same way apps are," he says. And while the bathroom darkroom may have gone the way of the daguerrotype, the bog can still serve as an editing room for digital images, along with the supermarket checkout line.

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Digital portrait

This is one of those shots, Marcolina says, where paring down the image digitally really made the shot.

During his 25-year career as a photographer, Dan Marcolina has captured moments of everyday despair and delight, from beaches and backyards to bus stations and wedding celebrations.

His work exhibits the ease of an inside joke or a knowing wink; the images are visual juxtapositions that live up to a high point of praise from Richard Avedon, who once commented that Marcolina makes images that aren’t “trying to be beautiful.”

Don’t wait for Handoff — these 5 apps sync seamlessly today

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iOS 8’s Handoff feature looks totally rad. Imagine starting off a task on your Mac and then being able to continue where you left off on your iPhone or iPad without waiting. Just pick up the device and everything has already synced.

But wait! There’s no need to imagine this, because you can already do it right now, and you don’t even need iCloud. Handoff looks truly useful, and will blur the lines between our devices more than ever before, but let’s take a look at some apps that already work seamlessly between platforms.