Review: Photoshop Touch

I quite often tell people one of the most useful pieces of tech I have purchased recently is my iPad. When I first received it I knew it would be useful, but I had no idea just how useful. Being a photographer, my first thoughts are how can I use this in conjunction with my photo work. This is no easy task as mobile devices were primarily designed to work with photos from their built in cameras. Getting images from a DSLR into these devices is not particulary easy or intuitive. Which brings us to the subject at hand.

A quick trip to the App Store, or Google Play you will find a ton of photo related apps. As far as photo editors, most are minimal to to just plain awful. Most new ones seem to focus on hokey filters that make your photos look like those in a shoe box on the closet shelf. You know, the ones you never look at because they look so bad. There are a few quality photo editing apps out there, but the one we are concerned with here is from the big daddy of photo editing software.

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Image 1 – Main Interface

When I first came across Adobe Photoshop Touch, the first thing that stood out was the price $9.99. As apps go this is kind of expensive. As Adobe goes, this is kind of cheap. Well I took the plunge anyway and downloaded it. It has only been recently that I have had a chance to really delve into it’s capabilities. When you first launch the app your first reaction is “huh”. The main interface (image 1) is like nothing you have ever seen in an image editor, least of all from any Adobe product. With the usual lack of documentation, it is up to you to click, poke, drag, and whatever else it takes to learn your way around it. The Adobe web site does have some tutorial videos that will give you an idea of the apps full power. Besides the menus and tools covered below, there is full layers support, and some new and clever selection tools designed specifically for touch screen devices. The 3D layer view which shows exactly how you layers are positioned in your document is very cool.

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Image 2 – Tools Menu

Once you get use to the menus being just icons, and unfamiliar ones at that, you will be as surprised as I was just how much real editing power is built into this app. I am one of Adobe’s biggest fans, and biggest critics, but I have to give it to them on this one. This is the only really serious image editor I could find for mobile devices.

What would normally be your Tools pallet can be found in the menu represented by the & symbol (image 2). Selection, Fill, Text, Gradient and a few others can be found there. My first issue was finding the tools I normally use when editing images. The icon that looks like two sliders (image 3) is where most of your key adjustment tools are found. All of the important tools are there. Levels, Hue & Saturation, Black & White, and most surprisingly Curves.

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Image 3 – Adjustment Menu

The FX menu (image 4) is in four sections, and contains the usual suspects. The sections are, Basic, Stylize, Artistic, and Photo effects. Oddly enough the Sharpening tool is in the basic section of the FX menu. To me it would seem more at home in the adjustment menu.

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Image – 4 Effects Menu

I have only one serious gripe about the app, but for me it’s a big one. The Crop tool is pretty strait forward as it goes. Most people crop images by just dragging until they have the selection they want. For me I crop to a specific size for images posted to online sources. while you can enter a set size into the crop tools dialogue box, when you drag the corners to make crop fit your selection the dimensions increase. Thereby negating your entry in the dialogue box. Trying to enter the dimensions into the image size dialogue only distorts the image. As my primary use for the app will be online posting while on the road this is a considerable problem.

Overall this is a remarkable app, with just about every tool you will need for serious image editing on the go. Once you become comfortable with the interface, your only real problem will be getting images into it or your mobile device. You can take photos from within the app using your devices camera, but most other work arounds will require an investment.

Photoshop Touch is available for IOS and Android tablets and phones. The more frugal among you might have a problem with having to pay twice to have it on both devices. The tablet version is $9.99, while the phone version is $4.99. They are not interchangeable, you have buy it separate for each device.


Top Shots 2013: Powerboat Racing

Powerboat racing for me was one of those passions it took me too long to get around to shooting. My original focus on airshows left little time for other types of events. I finally came to the realization that I would have to cut back on airshows to make time for other ventures. 2013 was the first year I was able to shoot more than one powerboat race. Different venues and, types of racing made it a good year for me.

Jimmy Merleau  – In Low Light.

I have shot the Kankakee Regatta since 2009, and in that time have captured some amazing images, and met some very talented people. Some years (mostly due to weather) have been better than others, but 2013 may have yielded some of my best photos yet. I guess the past years have helped me to know what I am trying to achieve, and how to go about it. I think this years shots show some of that. Also two of the images here I feel are among the best I have ever captured at this event. I’ll let you guess which ones.

Rob Rinker – Whrilpool.
Chris Fairchild – Bad Fast.
Wade Tuchscherer – Best Graphics of 2013.
Tammy Wolf – Full Throttle.
13 Stihl – 38′ Skater : Robert Noble, Driver – Grant Bruggemann, Throttles

Held at the southern most tip of Lake Michigan, the Michigan City Grand Prix brings the ultra powerful offshore racing boats to the Great Lakes. Twice I have scheduled this event, and twice I had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts. When this happens the event becomes a priority event for that third year. This means only a very special, or one of a kind event could bump it from my schedule. That did not happen, so I along with my friend Rob Edgcumbe got to witness some incredible racing.

45 JD Byrider – 38′ Skater: Tony Marcantonio, Driver – Mark Kowalski, Throttles
5 WHM Motorsports – 40′ Skater: William Mauff, Driver – Jay Muller, Throttles
13 Stihl – 38′ Skater : Robert Noble, Driver – Grant Bruggemann , Throttles
77 Lucas Oil MAVTV – 44′ SilverHook®: Michael Silfverberg, Driver – Nigel Hook, Throttles
14 Snowy Mountain Brewery – 29′ Outerlimits: Brain Forehand, Driver – Maddie Janssen, Throttles
P3-8 Team Kilt – 34′ Fountain: Richard Davis, Driver – Tony Canale, Throttles

As you will notice in some of these shots, these boats quite literally fly. Designed for rough water they seem to handle it extremely well.

Top Shots 2013: Sports

I guess the easiest category for me to choose my top shots for is sports. The reason being I didn’t have much opportunity to shoot sports last year. The extent of my sports sooting in 2013 was horse racing. I managed to make it to two of Chicago’s tracks, and tried to make the most of each visit.


The first race I shot was the Illinois Derby. One of the oldest and largest stakes races at Hawthorn Park race track. With a cool yet bright sunny April day to work with, I was able to capture what I believe to be one of my best overall images of the year (above). The start of the race right as the horses left the gate. I was also in the unique position of being the only photographer at that particular spot. The day also yielded a few other outstanding shots.



Hawthorn Park.
Hawthorn Park.

The larger Arlington Park race coarse provides an ideal back drop for shooting horse racing. Lush greens and trees, a fountains and pond lends itself well to just this kind of shooting. You have races on both the main track now made of composite material, and the inner turf (grass) track. Being able to shoot on the turf track for the first time this year, was something I have always wanted to do. Discovering a drainage ditch which allowed me to shoot from turf level made it even better.

Turf eye view of a race start.
Turf eye view of a race start.
Arlington Park.
Arlington Park.

Weather on the main track or turf, it’s hard not to come away with some great shots.

Arlingtom Park Front Strait.
Arlingtom Park Front Strait.
Arlington Park.
Arlington Park.


Photo Stories: Turn Five

As you approach turn five at Road America you have to stand hard on the brakes to make a 90º left hand turn. Seems simple enough if you are an experienced race car driver, but things that appear simple aren’t always simple.

Core Auotsports number 54 GT3 Cup Porsche locks up the brakes headed into turn five.
Core Auotsports number 54 GT3 Cup Porsche locks up the brakes headed into turn five.

So let’s go back just a little bit. By this I mean to turn three where it all starts. Turn three is a sharp right hand turn which reduces your speed quite a bit. Once through it, you hit a strait stretch with a slight up hill climb to turn four. Turn four is not really a turn, but a slight left hand dog leg. From here it is a short downhill strait into turn five. Since you did not have to brake for turn four, you are carrying a lot of speed into turn five.

By now you should have an idea of what could go wrong in this scenario. Now factor in drivers racing for position and you can see it coming. Someone may not be able to slow up enough to make it around the turn. I guess what is most surprising, and a testament to these drivers skill, is how seldom this happens. Many end up just taking a rough ride over the outside rumble strips.

After slowing up enough, it's onto the run off road.
After slowing up enough, it’s onto the run off road.

In our photos Core Autosports Porsche GT3 cup car is the victim of our story. Locking up the brakes doesn’t help. So it’s to the run off road, a quick turn around, kick up a bit of gravel as you cut through the gravel trap, and back into the action.

A quick turn around, then on the gas and back into the action.
A quick turn around, then on the gas and back into the action.

Top Shots 2013: Intro

We come to that time of year when everybody looks back at what transpired during the previous eleven and a half months. Some make list of the most important, or their favorite moments of the year. Photographers are no different. I started about a month ago trying to figure out how I would do this, and immediately ran into a problem. The first thing that comes to mind is a best of list. Therein lies the problem. What determines a best shot, technical excellence, subject matter, or overall appeal. A technically excellent shot may not be an exciting shot, while an exciting shot may be a bit flawed technically. What may qualify as a best shot to the photographer may not be to the general public, and vice versa.

Jason Farrell through turn five during AMA Superbike qualifying.
Jason Farrell through turn five during AMA Superbike qualifying.

I decided to take a different approach to the subject by using a bit of reasoning from both sides. So what I will be presenting over the next few weeks are what I consider my Top Shots from the 2013 season.  Here are some samples of what’s to come from the different type of speed events I shoot. The shots here are good ones, but not quite up to what I consider a top shot. They were judged on the criteria mentioned above, and came very close. However when you have several hundred to choose from, some really good ones just miss making it. with that said I hope you enjoy these, and the ones to come.

Hawthorn Park
Hawthorn Park
Jeff Kaney at Thunder on the Lakeshore.
Jeff Kaney at Thunder on the Lakeshore.
SCCA Blackhawk Valley Regional.
SCCA Blackhawk Valley Regional.
Michigan City Grand Prix.
Michigan City Grand Prix.


Everyone’s excited about the return of the military jet demonstration teams to the airshow circuit for the 2014 season. After a years absence, most photographers I know are ready for their return. Some are already planning their schedules around shows they will perform at.

I personally welcome the return, however having shot them so many times over the years, they will not be a deciding factor as to what events I attend.

Excitement aside, there is one element of the of the military teams performance that is gone forever never to return. That is the JATO performed by the Blue Angels C130 Fat Albert. jato-1

For those of you who never got to see this, here is a brief explanation. The acronym (JATO) stands for jet assisted takeoff. This is a means of lifting aircraft off of very short air strips in the minimum amount of distance. It is accomplished by attaching canisters containing rocket propellant to racks mounted on the sides of the planes fuselage. These canisters known as JATO bottles are triggered by the pilot when the correct takeoff speed is reached. Once fired the bottles provide jet force lift to turboprop and heavy jet aircraft. They remain on for a short time until they exhaust their fuel.jato-2

It is a truly amazing site to see as heavy aircraft are launched into the air in this manner. It would be nice to see it once again, but the cost, logistics, and lack of serviceable JATO bottles makes this a near impossibility.


Photo Stories: Used Bikes

When you shoot pro motorcycle racing, you are use to seeing shiny new bikes in pristine condition. At the pro level teams have spare parts to replace any that are damaged in practice or qualifying. At the semi pro and amateur ranks however, things are quite different. Small teams on small budgets don’t have the resources the pro’s have. Improvisation is the name of the game for them, and duct tape is there best friend. It makes for some very creative looking bikes.


This second shot is one of the most creative uses of duct tape I have ever seen. See if you can spot all the pieces applied to various parts of this bike.


Photo Stories: On the Edge

We airshow photographers love shots with vapor. Give us jet aircraft on a humid day, and we’re poised and ready. Vapor normally occurs when the aircraft reach speeds around 400 mph, and conditions are right. The amount of vapor depend on moister content in the air, and the make up of the plane. Jets with broad wing surfaces tend to develop more vapor and at lower speeds than others. Either way the effect is quite dramatic.

Lots of vapor at the morning practice for the 2010 Gary Airshow.
Lots of vapor at the morning practice for the 2010 Gary Airshow.

There is another type of shot that to me is more impressive. This shot can only be achieved when the aircraft is right on the edge of breaking the sound barrier. Without getting into the physics of it, this happens at the speed Mach 1.0 (between 662 – 760 mph) depending on weather conditions. When light is right you can see the shockwave created by the plane. I have captured this effect twice here is one of those shots, from 2010 at the Quad City Airshow.

Shockwave from Superhornet at 2010 Quad City Airshow.
Shockwave from Superhornet at 2010 Quad City Airshow.

2013 SCCA Blackhawk Valley Regional

It felt good to be at trackside again. This was the feeling I had as I completed the first event of my season. When you near the end of a season, you are a bit fatigued and looking forward to a break. However after two or more months of down time, and computer work that feeling fades fast. At this point you are anxious to get out and shoot again.


The event just completed was an SCCA double regional event with points scored towards the national standings. Most of SCCA’s 29 classes of competition were on hand. This particular event comprises the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Blackhawk regions. Together this covers half of Wisconsin and Illinois. Turnout for this event always seems to be high. This is probably due to the area covered, and that it is most competitors first chance of the year to go racing again in the Midwest.


I enjoy the variety of cars and people you find at these gatherings. You will find the one car one man operation, the family operation, and the multi car full crew operation. You won’t find any big prize money, or sponsorships. So what makes these men and women go through the effort of hauling a car across state for these events? They all are there for one reason, the love of racing.


The number and variety of cars range from old to new, and the number of them is amazing. From spec classes of a single type, to classes with multiple types, you will see a bit of everything.








Poplar Grove Wings and Wheels Festival

While preparing my schedule for 2013, I had already decided as far back as November that my airshow schedule would be quite different from past years. Even before sequestration, I was planning to skip many of the large shows I would usually attend in favor of smaller ones. The primary reason, variety. I felt the small shows would provide unique and rare aircraft that normally does not get booked into large shows. For me this worked out quite well. I was able to get up close to, and meet the people who own and fly these great old aircraft.

Stearman's starting up for formation flight.
Stearman’s starting up for formation flight.

Poplar Grove’s Vintage Wings and Wheels Festival was a perfect example of just such a show. Vintage aircraft flying and on display, as well as vintage cars and tractors.

It’s not often you get five or six Stearmans in one place, and flying formation. Also in attendance were WACO, Fleet, Pietenpol, a and Bird BK among others.



Daniel W Helsper spent ten years building this Pietenpol Aircamper.
Daniel W Helsper spent ten years building this Pietenpol Aircamper.
Four ship Stearman flight.
Four ship Stearman flight.

With the a fair amount of old cars and tractors included, it was a day well spent. For me this kind of up close and low key show is a joy to shoot. The ability to get close and interact with the people who love these machines adds a lot to the experience. This show and others like will be a priority for me going into next year.

Beautiful 1950 Cessna 140A.
Beautiful 1950 Cessna 140A.
Beech C-45H.
Beech C-45H.
1928 ord Model A Pick Up.
1928 Ford Model A Pick Up.
From automobiles to aircraft, Packard made some of the finest engines of the day.
From automobiles to aircraft, Packard made some of the finest engines of the day.
A pair of vintage Allis - Chalmers tractors.
A pair of vintage Allis – Chalmers tractors.

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