Apple’s Privacy Initiative

Apple’s focus on privacy in keeping customer’s data safe has increased and I am loving it. I believe that data privacy should be every digital citizen’s right. It’s exhausting that other companies, websites and software apps attempt to get as much of my personal information to line their pockets.

New features are coming to the Apple ecosystem such as Apple Mail, Siri, iCloud and app tracking this year. When we receive an email there is almost always a 1×1 size pixel hidden in the footer that can track IP addresses, when you open to read, location and other identifying info. In Mail, Apple is getting a feature called Mail Privacy Protection. With this I can hide my IP address, block read receipts and more.

ICloud+ , the new VPN-like Private Relay that will encrypt all data. Goodbye cookies and trackers. iCloud+ users will continue to enjoy the Hide My Email feature that generates a random email address to help prevent tracking and companies selling your data. Example: hello@chrisdenbow.com will read as WiUf31DV339FXX@privaterelay.appleid.com. The next website will use a different random address that Apple will generate for me. Neat. Reader mode in Safari means no more ads or annoying pop-ups blocking your reading or viewing.

App tracking ruffled a lot of feathers in the advertising community, especially Facebook. With App tracking, Apple gives us the option to block a telltale device ID that cookies and trackers can grab and identify you and your browsing habits. No thank you, I’ll just activate App tracking and deny them every time. This denies data abusers like Facebook, Google, Amazon most of your browsing habits so they won’t track you.

Access denied
First image, no ads displayed. Second image in Reader mode.
Signing in to an account with my Apple ID

Mail Privacy Protection, iCloud+, are coming soon to iOS 15 while others like App tracking, Hide My Email, Reader, Sign In with Apple ID are all available now. I downloaded the beta version of iOS 15 on my devices because I wanted those features as soon as possible and I am loving them.

Apple’s privacy initiative is a great benefit to anyone who values their data and browsing history.

Lost & Found

Of course the Apple Pencil can not be tracked with AirTags or the Find My app. I lost and recovered it once before but now it isn’t looking too good the second time.

Update: I found it in the front yard after mowing over it. It was still intact, and once cleaned off it was still charged up to 84%.

Damn!

The iPad Pro

Again, thanks to a very generous trade-in offer for my 2018 iPad and a discount program provided by my company, I have upgraded to this year’s iPad Pro. I even chipped in a little extra for the magic keyboard, pencil and Magic Mouse.

After adding a SIM card from my wireless carrier, this device is truly the best portable computer out there. During a recent trip to the mountains I could plan my hikes, geocaching and places to eat. After a long day of shooting during my hikes, all my images were uploaded to the iPad and ready for post-processing. Articles were published here while I was out and about and yes, Netflix was playing on it because hotel rooms have shitty cable tv service.

After the iPhone 12, and MacBook Pro, this makes the third significant upgrade in my tech devices that are future-proofed. That is to say, with their industry-leading specs and beautiful design, they will last me for a minimum of five years. And I cannot wait to put them all to the test.

The MacBook Pro M1

About two years ago I was fed up with my Microsoft Windows and finally purchased a refurbished MacBook Air. What a relief it was to have all my personal devices synchronized in the Apple ecosystem as opposed to finding workarounds. Now, thanks to a very generous trade-in offer and a discount program provided by my company, I have upgraded to this year’s MacBook Pro.

This laptop features Apple’s first foray into using its own microchip instead of relying on Intel and WOW, what a difference. With this new M1 chip, the system is faster, stays cooler and has an all day battery life. In a press release, the company said:

Apple today updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new Magic Keyboard for the best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook and doubled the storage across all standard configurations, delivering even more value to the most popular MacBook Pro. The new lineup also offers 10th-generation processors for up to 80 percent faster graphics performance and makes 16GB of faster 3733MHz memory standard on select configurations. With powerful quad-core processors, the brilliant 13-inch Retina display, Touch Bar and Touch ID, immersive stereo speakers, all-day battery life, and the power of macOS, all in an incredibly portable design.

So of course I tested it as heavily as I could by opening up Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop in batch-processing my images. I then opened up iMovie to edit some videos. And of course I had to open Ulysses writer, Reeder, Mail, and Safari. Zoom, zoom. This machine hasn’t skipped a beat and now I am at 94% battery life and is completely silent. There is no built in fan to keep things cool. New-to-me features included the Touch Bar which allows me to push a button to perform actions at my fingers instead of relying on my upgraded Magic Mouse. Throw in a Touch ID button at my fingers to authorize passcodes and purchases and I am in love.

My Own Publishing House

Assembling the proper tools for creative writing has been a tiresome but crucial process And after all these years of experimenting with various programs and platforms I think I am there. I’ve been searching for ways to increase my productivity and also more efficient, organized. I wanted a means to self-publish quickly and from all my devices no matter where in the world I am at the time. With this setup, I can focus on the content and process as opposed to wondering if the tools I had would do the job. And I think I am there. Finally.

When I want to write for myself, I use this website, which is hosted by WordPress servers. The fact that you are reading this and following along with me is appreciated. When I want to expand and share thoughts on other topics, I will publish to Medium, a website that is designed to connect writers and readers alike.

Self-Publishing With

Ulysses

Before 2019 I was using either Windows or Linux operating systems and this meant my word processors were either Microsoft Word or Google Docs. These writing apps were focused on design and both very cumbersome. Sporadically the text was preserved with autosave, mostly not. No thanks. After migrating everything to the Apple ecosystem in 2019 I began to explore alternatives out there and found a few. The one application that kept coming up was Ulysses.

Ulysses has a minimalist interface and stores your text in iCloud, instantly retrievable on all my Apple devices. I am currently writing this using Ulysses on my new M1 MacBook Pro and the experience is an amazingly refreshing breath of fresh air. Another benefit of Ulysses is the capability to push the Publish button and have my words posted immediately to my website and Medium.

Minimal but brilliant

WordPress

Prior to Ulysses, I would be forced to cut/paste my text from the word processor into the file transfer protocol, upload to my web server and hope the text formatting was screwed up once it arrived, ready for me to publish.

Exporting my text through Ulysses is amazingly effective and one of the best this author has experienced. Every word, link, category, tag, and image is right there as intended.

Medium

The same efficiency of self-publishing from Ulysses to my website is there again when publishing from Ulysses to Medium. There are some minor tweaks that I’ll go back in and correct, but it is still more efficient than the past experiences.

This is the final step in the self-publishing process and again, Ulysses comes through brilliantly. As brilliant as it is, some people may balk at the cost, others may find the price to be reasonable but at $40 annually it has been worth the chance for me to write on my phone, tablet, or laptop flawlessly.

Honorable Mentions

iA Writer

Scrivener

Ugh. How is this a favorite of some writers? Too bulky and right out of the early 2000’s

Geocache

Geocaching is the world’s largest treasure hunt. Using GPS coordinates, you can navigate to a hidden cache, sign the log, maybe grab some trinkets and then move on to the next one. Perfect for getting out and exploring places you ordinarily wouldn’t discover on your own. I can’t tell you how many times I went off in search of a cache and have been rewarded with the journey to it.

See this image of geocaching and more on my photography website.

Urban Art

Reservoir Dogs

I have a thing for murals. There is a lot of creative talent out there who are adorning walls with their art. This weekend while Geocaching, I came across a cache that gave a tour of some thirty murals in the area. This is a great way to explore your surroundings and take you to places you would otherwise ignore.

See this image above and more on my photography website.

My Updated iPad-Only Photography Workflow

When I first published this guide in early 2019 the goal was to simplify my post-process photography workflow using the 2018 iPad.

Now, with my newly upgraded 2020 iPad Pro, the hardware has improved and the photo software developers have taken advantage of it. So will I.

An iPad photography workflow has to include everything from importing your images, culling out the ones you don’t want, processing, and then exporting to hard drives, your portfolio or for printing.

Ideally, I want to trust that the iPad can take the place of my laptop as my personal photography developing studio.

The MacBook will be continue to be my main driver but I don’t want to take it with me everywhere I go either. I need the confidence to take my iPad everywhere I go for my next shoot or my next trip.

Now I believe I can.

We can now directly import photos from our memory cards, we have mouse & keyboard support, desktop-class web browsing, a filing system, connect to external displays, access and use external storage, and more.

Working on a tablet feels as comfortable as we do working on a laptop but with added benefits such as better battery life and support for mobile data connections.

Before, it was a challenge to import images into an iPad. We had to first import photos to the native iOS Photos app, then import into our software app of choice and then immediately delete the redundant copies to save space. This was a big hassle that hardly seemed worth the time, but we made do. Now we have access to eternal hard drives and a cloud-based filing system that will allow easier access to images.

Apple Photos has been fine-tuned for performance as well as simple editing and presentation of images.

Overall, the iPad operating system has been reworked to allow us to speed up the workflow and process our images faster.

Adobe’s suite of photography software has taken advantage of these improvements and once again, sets the standard. Coupled with their cloud support,images I take on one device is accessible to all my other devices almost instantly.

Other software developers like Pixelmator Pro, Darkroom and Affinity Photo have native versions on all devices as well for those wanting an alternative to Adobe. All are now professional grade apps for iPad OS.

Before the shoot and during

I don’t ever plan on taking photos with my iPad due to image quality and bulk awkwardness but it is an amazing tool to help plan and organize my photo shoots. Update the amazing camera app Halide may have just changed my mind on this. More on that later.

I’ll have a list of locations I have scouted ahead of time, a shot list of things I want to capture and even a mood board for inspiration. Thanks to the Apple Pencil, I have had clients sign paperwork before and after we worked together and sent the final copies to them right away.
And let’s not forget that music in the background is a great way to keep the energy going during a shoot or while working on the post-process. All possible to Apple’s iPad and software services.

IMPORTING CAMERA PHOTOS ON AN IPAD

When I am traveling or shooting at home, I have my SD card almost full of RAW images. The iPad is a great tool for working with those shots, but they need to get on to the tablet first.

My main method is using the Apple camera SD/USB-C adapter to import the photos directly into the iPad. Another way is to transmit them wirelessly from the camera to the iPad although this is not as smooth or fast as I’d like need. Another dongle connects my images taken with my iPhone to the iPad but with the advantages of a cellular data connection this may be obsolete. Images from my phone are then stored into the Cloud and can be retrieved on the iPad.

Bluetooth mouse, USB/USB-C dongle, SD card/USB-C dongle, Apple #2 Pencil Why can’t they offer the space grey color options?

The least convenient option is to bring along an external hard drive and connect it to the iPad with a separate USB/USB-C dongle and import the images to the aforementioned Files app.

It doesn’t matter what option we choose, the workflow is simple: plug your SD card in and transfer your images as needed. Then, you can either transport those files to Lightroom or your iCloud Photo Library from the disk by connecting it to your iPad, or you can access them directly from the drive via the Files app for later use. All these options are ideal because you want your photos to be backed up and not lost.

MANAGING AND STORING PHOTOS

With the improved file handling, managing photos on the iPad is no longer as challenging as it once was. No matter what approach you take, your images are organized and managed the same integrity you’d get on the Mac.

EDITING PHOTOS

I have two approaches to processing my images in the digital darkroom, basic editing with my presets that emulate the look of analog film stock or advanced editing where I am adjusting light, exposure, curves or HSL toning.

With basic editing, the only tool I need is my index finger. In advanced editing I use either a mouse or the Pencil for the finer details.
There are a variety of software apps I use, and each one brings something unique to my desired final images. Because when I want to quickly experiment with different looks, I will use VSCO (Visual Supply Company) or Darkroom.

I’ve been using VSCO for about six years now and enjoy their filters. They’ve been diligent in maintaining the analog film stock filters but it is cumbersome to work with in that you have to individually import your shots to their app to develop them. At one point, I honestly believed and still hold out hope that VSCO will over take Instagram with their beautiful web presence and social engagement.

Darkroom takes the place of Snapseed for my go-to. Don’t get me wrong, Snapseed is a fantastic, free app but it was purchased by Google awhile back and well, I am anti-Google. Darkroom connects seamlessly to the Apple Photos app so I don’t need to import my images each time. Just open and edit. With its own set of filters, it has a ton of editing tools, including curves, HSL, exposure, contrast adjustments, grain, sharpening, and more such as using those those same tools to transform your videos as well.

Darkroom
VSCO filters

As good as Darkroom is, when it comes time to edit photos from my camera, I almost always turn to Lightroom. Lightroom’s library is where all my camera photos live, and the editing capabilities are sophisticated and familiar to me after years of use.

ADVANCED EDITING

When it is time comes to for advanced editing work, I rely on Pixelmator Pro and Lightroom.

Pixelmator Photo is new to me, thanks to one time purchase price and their 50% discount that I took advantage of last week. I was hoping that it would finally allow me to ditch the $120 a year subscription to Adobe but it isn’t there, yet. PP has continued to make improvements and allows me to build up my catalog of film emulsions as well as take advantage of their amazing editing tools powered by Machine Learning.

These ML-based capabilities are compelling because I can use them to color-match from another image and replicate from an inspiring photographer’s image. PP is seamlessly built in to the operating system and can access images directly from the Apple Photos app or Files app.

The Machine Learning tools in Pixelmator Pro are brilliant

As good as PP is, when it comes time to editing photos, I almost always turn to Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom’s library is where all my camera photos are stored in catalogs, and is second to no one when it comes to organizing decades worth of my Archives. The editing tools are most familiar to me since version 1 way back in 2007. Now that they have gone to the cloud, I have access to all of these tools and images on every device for immediate access and processing .

Adobe Lightroom

All the software applications that I mentioned above support the processing and editing of RAW files, which is crucial to my desire to create large files without losing data integrity.

SAVING AND SHARING

The last step to an all iPad workflow is moving our processed images to their final home wether it be your hard drive, your social media, a client’s inbox or the printing lab.

WHAT’S MISSING

Here is what I think is missing from an iPad only workflow and where it could do better:
No tethering option for starters. With my camera plugged into my laptop I can immediately transfer images for review and saving and then make adjustments as I shoot. Not possible with iOS yet.

No real way to print directly from iPad to the printer.

Better externally display support. Sidecar, the iOS feature which allows you to use the iPad as a second screen to your Mac is fine, but limited in size and resolution quality.

These limitations are not enough to get me to stop using the iPad for my photo workflow, it just means that in the next few versions of iPad, we’ll see these upgrades soon.

CONCLUSION

The iPad is a great workspace for editing your photos. It is my personal, mobile photo lab. I can process my images in bed or on a plane or even in between photo shoots when I am out and about.
None of these benefits I have mentioned today were possible a few years ago. I love the advancement of technology, don’t you?

MY DIGITAL DARKROOM

  • Capture tools include Canon T6, iPhone, iPad Air, Halide raw camera app, and my collection of analog film cameras.
    – Devices uses to post-process images are the MacBook, iPad Air with a 5G unlimited cellular data connection and an SD card reader. Cloud storage, 2 TB external hard drive, and the #2 pencil
    – Post-processing labs include Adobe Lightroom, Pixelmator Pro, VSCO, Darkroom
    – Portfolio and galleries that host the final images include my website, SmugMug, Flickr and VSCO.