My first Victory Royale in Fortnite on Nintendo Switch!

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Always a good day when a visit to Blue Bottle occurs.

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I was an Apple retail employee (mostly a Mac Genius) from 2005-2011, and left seven years ago today. A lot has changed at Apple since then, but the stores still look and feel very much the same. This always makes me a little nostalgic when I visit one.

Some Initial Observations About Shortcuts

Apple started accepting requests to download the new Shortcuts app earlier today. I received an invite this afternoon and have spent about an hour using the app. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

  • The app may have some new functionality and a fresh coat of paint, but it's still very much the Workflow we know and love. The interface, how shortcuts (née workflows) are created, and the actions available are basically the same.
  • I don't like how actions are listed. Shortcuts hides the groups of actions behind a set of suggested actions at first. To view all actions, you have to tap the Search field.
  • Shortcuts are run with just a single tap, not a double-tap. To view or edit a shortcut (or run it and see each action take place), tap •••.
  • Unlike Workflow, Shortcuts doesn't show you each action step as it takes place. It hides this out of view, so a running shortcut doesn't have that visual distraction.
  • I didn't have any trouble adding some shortcuts to Siri. I was able to set a spoken phrase and run each of them without issue.
  • Siri Suggestions is an interesting feature. Based on your behavior, it offers a selection of actions that you've done before, such as view an article in Apple News or open an email you've recently read. These are actions you can't replicate in Shortcuts, but they're a bit limited in scope for the time being. I'm sure this will improve as time goes on.
  • There are several new system actions that can be used in Shortcuts:
    • Set Low Power Mode
    • Set do not disturb
    • Set Airplane Mode
    • Set Bluetooth
    • Set Cellular Data
    • Set Wi-Fi
  • There are also some new actions that provide some more functionality in iOS:
    • Run JavaScript on Safari Web Page
    • Markup
    • Show Result
    • Send and Request Payments
    • Share with iCloud Photo Sharing
  • Some third-party actions that Workflow supported seem to no longer be available:
    • Trigger IFTTT applet
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  • Some of my workflows no longer work, though exactly why is a bit of a mystery. Granted, these are really complex workflows, but they run fine in Workflow. I need to dig deeper into Shortcuts to see what might be causing it.

Much more functionality is expected to come in subsequent betas and, eventually, the final release of Shortcuts. I'm already impressed with this first beta, and I can't wait to see the finished product.

Update 2018-07-06: Restarting my iPad appears to have resolved the issue of some of my shortcuts not working.

What happens if you try to open an iOS 12 shortcut that has a new action in Workflow.

Unsupported-action

Shortcuts doesn't (yet?) support sharing via web links, but shortcuts can be shared and saved as files.

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Requested an invite to the Shortcuts app beta and received it an hour later. Can't wait to try it out!

4th July ice cream sandwiches

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My iPhone Photography Kit

Photography has long been a hobby of mine, and for the past few years I've pursued this using my iPhone. I've owned digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras in the past, but the iPhone eventually made a separate camera redundant. Nowadays, I shoot with an iPhone X, and it's the best camera I've ever owned.

Latourell Falls in Oregon. Latourell Falls in Oregon. Taken with iPhone X using Halide. Edited in Darkroom. View on Unsplash.

iPhone photography is more than just the performance of a CMOS sensor though. It's also the ecosystem of third-party apps and accessories that can be used to help produce great photos. As I've become a more experienced iPhone photographer, some of these have become an essential part of my hobby.

Halide

I take a lot of photos using the built-in Camera app, but I use Halide ($5.99) whenever I want more control. The app has a range of options, such as ISO and focus, and supports RAW. Halide also provides full support for switching between the 1X or 2X lens of dual-lens iPhones1.

A highly polished camera app. Halide is a highly polished camera app.

You can see how deeply the developer cares about iPhone photography as Halide is one of the most highly polished apps for iOS. One of my favorite features is the way it uses the curved corners at the top of the screen on the iPhone X. Instead of leaving those corners empty, the developer puts the space to good use, displaying a histogram and exposure information.

Darkroom

I've used dozens of iOS photo editing apps over the years, but Darkroom (Free, $7.99 to unlock all tools and filters) has been my app of choice for some time. It's a fully featured iPhone app with a wide range of adjustments and filters, including support for RAW photos. Edits can also be saved as custom filters to use with other photos.

Darkroom's impressive array of adjustments. Darkroom's impressive array of adjustments.

Darkroom has deep integration with the iOS photo library and there's no "intermediate" library you have to import and export photos with. Edited photos are labeled and can be easily filtered, and edits can be reverted directly in the app.

Darkroom keeps getting better and better, and the developers just updated the app with more filters and a framing tool. The one feature I do yearn for, however, is iPad support. For now, I edit all my photos on an iPhone X, but I'd really like to edit photos using the larger screen of my iPad (and maybe using Apple Pencil, too).

The developers of Darkroom and Halide have been collaborating to make their apps work more closely together. Both apps have a shortcut button to open the other app, which makes it a seamless experience to take a photo and immediately start editing it.

Moment lenses

I'm a huge fan of Moment lenses as they add another layer of creativity to iPhone photography. I own the macro, wide, and tele portrait lenses—along with an assortment of accessories—and have taken some really great shots with them.

Tele portrait, wide, and macro lenses. Also pictured: cleaning pen and lens case. Tele portrait, wide, and macro lenses. Also pictured: cleaning pen and lens case.

Moment's mounting system is built into the iPhone photo case. To attach a lens, I just place it on a mount point and turn it clockwise. Since the iPhone X has two cameras, there are two mount points that the lenses can be mounted over.

A close-up of my dog's eye. Photo taken with Moment macro lens and iPhone X. A close-up of my dog's eye. Photo taken with Moment macro lens and iPhone X. View on Unsplash.

The mounting system makes the photo case a little thicker than other iPhone cases, but it's hardly noticeable. There's even a place at the bottom of the photo case to attach a wrist strap. It's actually a solid case that I use all the time to keep my iPhone X protected.

This was the first shot I took with the Moment wide lens and iPhone X. This was the first shot I took with the Moment wide lens and iPhone X. View on Instagram.

If you're interested in buying a Moment lens (or two), you can use my affiliate link to get 10% off your order.

DxO One

Due the smaller size of the iPhone's camera sensor, there are times when it just can't match the performance of a regular camera. The DxO One ($465) is an iPhone accessory that's a 20MP digital camera. It has a 1" sensor—much larger than that found in the iPhone—which is the same one found in Sony's advanced RX100 compact camera. As a result, the DxO One can produce some exceptional photos that are simply beyond the current reach of the iPhone.

DxO One attached to my iPhone X. This photo was taken with an iPad mini 4. DxO One attached to my iPhone X. This photo was taken with an iPad mini 4.

The DxO One app offers as much control as any camera, with the usual PASM options and full RAW support. It doesn't have to be attached using the Lightning connector, as the DxO One can be connected over Wi-Fi, turning the iPhone into a wireless viewfinder.

I've written about the DxO One before, and it's an accessory I still use, though not as much since I upgraded to the iPhone X and invested in Moment lenses. I mostly use the DxO One nowadays for night or long exposure photography. One of the photos I'm most proud of is this night shot of Manhattan, taken with the DxO One.

One of my favorite photos. Taken in September 2016 with DxO One. Manhattan. Taken in September 2016 with DxO One. f6.3, ISO 100, 8 seconds. View on Unsplash.

Joby Micro Tripod

The Joby Micro Tripod ($23) is a handy accessory, especially for night photography. I use it with the Glif so I can stand my iPhone X on something like a table or wall. When not in use, the Micro Tripod folds into the size of a memory stick.

A portable tripod solution. A portable tripod solution.

The mounting point at the center also pivots, providing some flexibility in positioning. In a pinch, this combination has even come in handy to hold my iPhone at a comfortable viewing angle while I watched a movie on a flight.

Despite the diminutive size of the tripod, it's very stable. I've used the Micro Tripod and Glif to hold my iPhone X with the DxO One attached.

Glif

The Glif ($30) by Studio Neat is a deceptively smart tool that every iPhone photographer should own. It's a portable tripod mount that works with almost any phone and case combination, thanks to the way the jaws wrap around the device and the lever locks it in place.

The Glif attached to the Joby Micro Tripod. The Glif attached to the Joby Micro Tripod.

The three mount points allows it to work in either portrait or landscape; even attach other accessories, such as microphones or lights.

Anker and Yoozon monopods

Ok, these are technically selfie sticks, but hear me out. Selfie sticks get a pretty bad rap, mostly because of the obnoxious way a lot of people use them. Fundamentally though, selfie sticks are just handheld monopods, which are an extremely useful photography tool. I own two selfie sticks, one from Anker and the other from Yoozon.

Anker and Yoozon selfie sticks. Anker and Yoozon selfie sticks.

Both of them have a rechargeable Bluetooth shutter button, making it easy to hold take photos one-handed. If I want to take a photo of something up-close, I can just extend the stick and move my iPhone closer; I've been able to take some great photos of flowers and animals by using a selfie stick to get a bit closer than I normally would have been able.

A selfie stick allowed me to take an up-close shot of this butterfly. Taken with iPhone X. I used the Anker selfie stick to take an up-close shot of this butterfly. View on Instagram.

I prefer to use the Anker stick most of the time, simply because the build quality is excellent. The Yoozon feels flimsy in comparison, but it has a few features that make it more useful in some situations. The handle of the Yoozon stick can open up into a tripod, saving the need to carry a separate one with me. In addition, the Bluetooth shutter button is also removable, so I can set up my iPhone and take photos without needing to touch it.

The Yoozon selfie stick used as a tripod. The Yoozon selfie stick used as a tripod.

If you'd like to see more of my photos, you can follow me on Instagram or Unsplash.

  1. The built-in Camera app doesn't always use the 2X lens when selected. Instead, the app might still use the 1X lens and apply digital zoom. Halide's option is an explicit hardware choice, so selecting 2X means the 2X lens will be used. 

I just saw someone wearing noise-canceling headphones get into their car and immediately start to drive away without looking. He narrowly missed slamming into a car that was already in motion and was honking its horn, probably because he didn't see or hear it.