Traveling Light + iPad Pro

As an airline pilot traveling across the globe one of my highest priorities when packing for a trip is not bringing a metric ton of stuff with me. The art of minimalist yet effective packing can be challenging. Thankfully a recent change has helped me pack even lighter while keeping my photography workflow very capable.

For many years I carried evolving versions of laptops as my primary editing machine. Looking back, a couple of those were basically bricks with a screen. As newer laptops became slimmer and lighter it was less and less of a burden but nonetheless even newer 15” laptops are not exactly light. The modern airline pilot carries what we call an Electronic Flight Bag or EFB that replaces all the paper charts we used to lug around in those bulky leather flight cases. Thankfully long gone are those cases & charts but a lot of us still carried a personal laptop along with our company issued EFB. That wasn’t bad, but I wanted to go even lighter. I needed a single device that met my editing needs and the previous EFB (hint, it wasn’t a capable Apple product) just couldn’t do it. 

Thankfully my company switched to the iPad Pro for our EFBs and wouldn’t you know it this thing is small, light and capable of some serious on-the-road photo editing. Since the switch I’ve been able to leave the laptop at home and figured I’d share my editing process & thoughts on mobile workflow. Let’s see if a photographer can get away with just an iPad while traveling.

Editing on the road made easy with Affinity Photo and a good cup of coffee.

Editing on the road made easy with Affinity Photo and a good cup of coffee.

The Import Process 

There are various ways to bring your photos into your workflow. Depending on what camera you are using a bluetooth connection via app or using Apple’s SD card reader can easily be used. The majority of the time I use the SD reader as it is much quicker for importing photos than wireless methods. If I have only a handful of photos I really want, I’ll use Fuji’s app to grab a few photos directly from my X100T via a WiFi connection. Speaking of which, the updated Fuji app is much better than its predecessor and actually works like a charm now.

Whichever method you choose, your imported photos will go directly to your Photos app in one large folder of sorts (more on that below) where you can access your images from within editing & sharing apps.

My photography app collection. The majority of my on-the-road editing, managing & sharing needs are easily met.

My photography app collection. The majority of my on-the-road editing, managing & sharing needs are easily met.

The things you find wandering about in the hutongs of Beijing - X100T edited in Snapseed.

The things you find wandering about in the hutongs of Beijing - X100T edited in Snapseed.


There are a myriad of editing options available from ‘filter’ based apps such as VSCO or Snapseed (which also have in depth editing) to advanced options such as Lightroom and Affinity Photo. My go to apps are usually Snapseed and Lightroom, but if I need a more advanced set of features I’ll import to Affinity for things such as merging panoramas or focus stacking. In fact, Affinity’s focus stack and pano features make packing light even easier with the ability to stack images from my fixed lens X100T to get the wide aspect that is usually reserved for much wider focal lengths.

I try not to over-edit images, instead keeping them what the human eye saw since even the best cameras have a hard time reproducing the tones, saturation and depth we can see. So for my editing needs the iPad is more than enough and with apps such as Affinity one can utilize layers & masks to your heart’s content to make your images pop how you like.

Of course what good are your editing efforts if your screen sucks? While calibrating an iPad screen for printing isn’t really a thing you can adjust your brightness manually and using a reference image to watch for highlights and shadows will keep you in check. Generally the screen does a good job of representing the colors/tones you’ll see but for reproducible color & printing profiles you are best to keep that at home on your calibrated monitor.

Managing Pictures & Storing

One of my biggest complaints about iOS is the lack of a true file management system, you are basically dumping your photos into one giant folder with limited ability to do advanced sorting as you can do on a Mac or Windows based machine. While the ‘Albums’ feature is semi-useful it isn’t a replacement for a robust system.

Thus far I’ve managed to keep the overall numbers of my pictures low on my iPad only editing as I need and not using it for a dumping ground. One thing I’m considering is utilizing Dropbox more since you can import directly from Affinity and of course utilizing the options of Adobe Cloud services though I have yet to embrace that either. The good news here is that if you are invested in a cloud service already you have options for managing your library via the iPad.

For me, I believe the keep it simple principle applies here, import, edit, share and I’ll backup relevant photos once I’m home on my primary drives. This also keeps my images safe in case I lose my iPad while at work or it somehow gets ran over by a hotel van.

Sunset at the Egg in Beijing, edited with the Snapseed.

Sunset at the Egg in Beijing, edited with the Snapseed.


Taking a photo is of course step 1, step 2 is editing and finally the most important is sharing your vision with the world. Which social app or venue you use is of course up to you, but working with the iPad makes sharing a snap. Most social apps are integrated into iOS not to mention the ability to Airdrop a photo right to your friend’s phone.

Other useful apps include a dedicated 500px app, Adobe Spark for making creative story driven pages and Bay ROES to send my images directly to my print lab. The iPad excels here at getting your images out to your adoring fans.

Twinkling Stars in Boston - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Twinkling Stars in Boston - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Exploring Amsterdam - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Exploring Amsterdam - Fujifilm X100T edited in Snapseed

Additonal Needs

Aside from editing, what use is a device if you can’t easily write blog posts, plan locations shoots and spend too much time drooling over new camera gear? With handy accessories such as a bluetooth keyboard and the Apple Pencil writing blog posts and finer editing is a breeze.

I also utilize various map apps such as and the ever useful Google Maps for planning and exploring new places. is a wonderful app allowing you download offline maps in case you won’t have data at your destination.

For editing my website I use Squarespace to manage all things you see here and thankfully they’ve just launched refreshed & robust app. Again an iOS specific app delivers and I’m able to manage my business and presentation to the world whilst on the road.

Final Thoughts

So can an iPad replace my computer on the road? Sure can! There are a few limitations but for most edits and everyday use I don’t miss lugging my laptop around at all. It’s proven to be more than capable and harnessing what it has to offer has a wonderful thing. Not to mention I can sleep better knowing my primary laptop is safely at home when I travel.

The "Post-Photography Hangover"

Ahh, the joy of jet lag.  Having been awake since 4am despite being back in the comfort of my own bed, I couldn't help but think of the photos I captured this week in Istanbul.  The first thing I did last night once we got home (as always) was to download my images to my computer, make further backups & import them to Lightroom.  Typically I then take a few minutes to scroll through my images to see if I captured any portfolio worthy shots.  And what did I see?  Nothing.  Nada.  Crap. How could that be?  My wife and I had just spent a week in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth - a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that - and I'm not happy with my photos?!  Something isn't adding up.  Frustrated, I went downstairs to enjoy a much needed breakfast burrito and thought about my images for a bit.  After clearing a bit of the fog from my jet lag, I realized I was experiencing the dreaded "Post-Photography Hangover".  I've experienced it before, but this time seemed quite accute.  Perhaps it was the fact that I was hungry and had essentially been up for about 24 hours, but I wasn't happy with what I was seeing.  Usually this occurs after a long day of shooting, weddings were typically my worst culprits.  It sometimes took me a few days after the wedding to get the creative excitement back to start the work on my edits and see the images in fresh light.

I'll define this "Hangover" as a loss of creative interpretation or burnout from your own work.  Sometimes even though you may have captured some great images, you just can't see their full potential until you sit on them for a few days.  I remember two particular events, one a wedding and one a day of wandering around the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, that took me a bit of time to digest.  Once I saw the potential both sets turned out some of my favorite shots yet.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to re-visit images I shot months or even years ago.  Sometimes you see potential in images you had previously decided weren't worthy.  It is quite interesting the effect that time can have on the creative process!

So how do you cure the "Post-Photography Hangover"?  Likely no 'cure' exists, but I think the best idea is to give it a few days and clear your head.  Step away from the computer, go for a hike or just do something that clears your mind.  Give it time and you'll see good results.

So after having another quick look through my images from Istanbul this morning, the excitement is growing.  I happened on the image below and it really stood out to me.  It may take a few days or even weeks for me to digest the rest of the images and they may not ultimately produce my best work.  That said, it was a wonderful trip and I think I'll muster at least few good shots.  Now where is my coffee cup?


Which Camera Should I Buy? (Part II)

Last time we covered the basics of camera buying and simple point & shoot options.  This time we'll focus on the high end of my recommendations in this three part series. If you are…wanting the challenge of stepping up to an SLR with interchangeable lenses, feel your old point & shoot just doesn't do it anymore, desire to shoot sports of any kind, want to expand your artistic eye, and don't mind carting around bigger equipment: then it's time for an SLR!  This will be the high end of my recommendations so be prepared for perhaps a little sticker shock.  While I won't recommend the SLR that the guy from Sports Illustrated uses, there are plenty of more entry level priced SLRs that pack a serious punch in both quality and features.  And of course the ability to change lenses pushes your creative senses to new heights!

There is a saying in photography to spend the money on the glass (lens) and not so much on the camera body.  In my opinion it is a very accurate statement.  One of my favorite images I've ever taken came from my 'lowly' Nikon D40X which at the time was an entry level digital SLR.  I had a very nice lens that I had rented which certainly made a huge difference.  See below for my testimony to this belief.

Zebras - Madikwe, South Africa

With that said, you can feel good about buying an SLR camera body on the lower end of the spectrum even if you plan to step up your game down the road.  Whichever camera you choose, you'll be on solid footing as you begin to explore the creative possibilities of owning an SLR.

Nikon D3200

My recommendation?  The Nikon D3200.  This is Nikon's latest entrant in the do-it-all SLR category.  HD video?  No problem!  Low light?  No problem!  Fast shutter speeds?  No problem!  I think you get the point.  At $700 MSRP (lens included) it might be a little bit of sticker shock for the new entrant into higher-end cameras, but believe me that price is worth it.  One of Nikon's perpetual strengths is the quality of the image sensor in their camera bodies, even the lower end cameras as evidenced above in my Zebra image offer excellent output.  The sensor found in most SLRs will make or break the image quality and Nikon simply gets it right.

Most DSLR camera kits come with one or two lenses, often a 18-55mm lens is common.  It gives a good range to start with a decent wide angle option at 18mm and a bit of zoom on the other end at 55mm.  Just enough range and quality to get you started on your adventure and education in photography.

Also consider:

Canon EOS Rebel T2i Sigma SD15 Sony a57 DSLR

Whichever camera you choose, be sure to test it out at your local camera store and ask lots of questions.  Be sure to check back soon for the final part of my 'which camera to buy' series!

Which Camera Should I Buy?

As a photographer, I'm commonly asked "which camera should I buy?".  While flattering that folks believe my retail camera knowledge is at least half way decent, it is not an easy question to answer.  Probably 99% of the time my answer is, "it depends!", since it is nearly always a contextual question.  I like to dig deeper before answering by asking specific questions.  Such as are you wanting to get into photography as an art medium or perhaps new parents wanting to capture your newborn's adventures or how about a mountain biker wanting to capture stellar shots on the local trails? While I could likely write a novel's worth of camera recommendations for all levels of photographers, I'm going to do my best to divide the question into a three part series.  I'll make the disclaimer that I am a Nikon junkie, so while I'll reference some of my own gear & favorites I'll also branch out and give some non-Nikonian recommendations as well.

Before we get started, one very important aspect to consider is how the camera 'feels' to you.  To see what I mean go to your local camera store and actually use the camera you plan on buying.  Intuitive use of features and easy access to menus is very important in overall camera satisfaction.  One of the primary reasons I've been shooting Nikon products is that their SLRs just made sense to me when I started out.  Everything from ergonomics to menus to physical controls on the camera body matters.  So make sure the camera fits with your style and sensibilities!  Then come back and be sure to purchase it from your local store!  So, without further ado…

If you are…not wanting to spend an atrocious amount on a new camera, not interested in advanced picture taking but still want good photos that you can easily share or print: then it's time for a nice point & shoot.  Don't go too cheap here, but rather spend right around the $250-350 mark and you should be fine.  The nice thing about technology and cameras, something that used to to cost $450-600 now costs half the price and takes better pictures.  The evolution is on-going and nowadays you can get some pretty snazzy results from entry level cameras.  Features such as face recognition, HD video, smile detection, in-camera editing, waterproof, easy printing, touch screens and even social sharing are all offered at this price point.  You just have to figure out which functions you really desire.

My primary recommendation at this price point is going to be the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20.

The ZS series from Panasonic has a history of making great images at a great price point.  It incorporates a Leica lens (high quality) and records in HD video for those interested.

I've used this camera in the past myself, and loved it's easy to use controls and features.  Picture quality, auto-focus and zoom were all quite good at this price point.  Other handy features include image stabilization, in-camera editing, continuous frame shooting up to 10fps, and HD video.

Below is a short list of other cameras to consider at this price point and generally in the user-friendly category:

Stay tuned for the next post on the "Which Camera Should I Buy?" series!  We'll focus on SLRs next time which will be the high end of my recommendations.  I'll then wrap up the series with the 'middle of the road' recommendation for those of you not wanting to step up to an SLR just yet.