I just got back from a quick road trip to see the world’s largest travertine natural bridge. Located right in the center of Arizona in the Mazatzal Mountains, Tonto Natural Bridge is an under-appreciated natural wonder. While winding through the evergreen forest along Highway 87 between Payson and Pine, you’d never guess that the place was even there. An unassuming side road steeply descends into a canyon, which is where the park is located; however, even after parking it’s not obvious what you’ll find. Only after a very short hike is the natural bridge revealed. A longer hike will take you right up to it, and even through it if you want.
The actual reason for the trip was more than just a chance to experience this Arizona State Park. Even though it is now autumn, it is still hot like summer in the Phoenix desert, but the higher elevations offer a reprieve from the heat. The temperature at our cabin was 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in the valley where we live. Also, we hoped to photograph some fall colors, which isn’t something commonly found in the desert.
So we (myself and my family) found ourselves among the pines in Pine, experiencing cooler temperatures, looking for autumn leaves, and visiting the largest travertine natural bridge in the world. It was great! I wish it could have lasted longer than just one weekend, but, alas, we could only stay but for a short time.
Upon returning, I realized that all six of us—myself, my wife, and my four kids—had all done some photography on this adventure. I mostly used my Fujifilm X100V, X-E4, and X70, while my wife used her X-T4. The two of us also at times used the RitchieCam camera app on our iPhones, as did each of our four kids.
As it turns out (and just as it was intended to be), RitchieCam is great for the whole family! It’s super easy—even my five-year-old had no problems figuring it out—yet robust enough that we felt comfortable using it to capture more serious photographic moments (as well as the silly ones sometimes). RitchieCam is an app for everyone, including kids, and is especially well suited for family adventures.
I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the photographs that each of us captured with RitchieCam on our trip. I used it specifically for the 65:24 XPan aspect ratio. I found it interesting to see what the rest of my family had captured with the App on this short trip to the mountains.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to visit five different National Parks! I love going to National Parks to experience the wonder of nature. They’re great for photography, and they’re great for the soul. Anytime the opportunity arrises to visit a National Park, I jump at it. In winter, I traveled to Arches National Park in southern Utah, Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah, and Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming. In spring, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah and Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas. These are wonderful locations that are worth the effort to experience!
While my main cameras are Fujifilm—such as the X100V and X-E4—I also use my iPhone for photography. Chase Jarvis famously coined, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” He was specifically stating that if your cellphone is your only option, then it’s the best option; however, I would go a step further and say that your cellphone can be used in conjunction with your main cameras. Why? Your phone might have a different focal length than the lens on your camera (versatility). It’s quicker and easier to share the pictures from your phone (convenience). You don’t have to think about the settings (simplicity). Your phone is more easily portable—you can have it with you when your camera isn’t as practical to bring along (compactness). It doesn’t have to be either your camera or your phone—it can be both, and I used both on my visits to these five National Parks.
Of course, when I photograph with my iPhone, I use my very own RitchieCam App, which is a streamlined camera app with no-edit filters. RitchieCam is intended to help you capture everyday moments—including those that happen while visiting National Parks—more beautifully while maintaining simplicity (anyone can use it, not just photographers). The app is free to download and use—becoming a RitchieCam Patron unlocks the app’s full capabilities. If you have an iPhone, be sure to download RitchieCam today (click here)!
I utilized RitchieCam on my iPhone to photograph these National Parks, and so did others in my family: my wife (Amanda), my daughter (Joy), and my son (Jonathan)—they used RitchieCam, too! While most of the pictures in this article were captured by me, there are a few that they took. After our visits, it’s a lot of fun sharing our photos with each other. We all love going to National Parks, and being able to share the photographic experiences—thanks to RitchieCam—makes it even better.
Arches National Park — Utah
If you love unusual rock formations, Arches National Park in southeastern Utah is the place for you! Protruding from the high-desert sand are massive red rocks, which form bluffs, pinnacles, balancing acts, and (of course) arches. There are over 2,000 arches within the National Park, which is the highest concentration of stone arches in the world! Several movies have had scenes filmed in this National Park, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma and Louise, and Hulk, among others.
Arches National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year; however, it can be extremely crowded in the summer (not to mention hot), so the winter is my favorite season. It snowed while we were there—a somewhat rare occurrence, although it does happen at least a few days each winter. I loved photographing the park blanketed in white snow, but it melted quickly, and was mostly gone by the end of the day. While we only spent one day in Arches National Park, we made a lifetime of memories there.
Canyonlands National Park — Utah
The day after our Arches visit, we went to the nearby Canyonlands National Park. While Arches can get packed with people, I’ve never seen a crowd at Canyonlands—I’m sure it happens, but I’ve always found plenty of solitude. The Colorado River goes through both Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon, and they’re both on the Colorado Plateau—both are indeed natural wonders, and there are certainly some similarities between them, yet each offers a unique experience for visitors. Picking a favorite National Park is a difficult and unfair endeavor, but Canyonlands is without a doubt one of my top picks—maybe not number one, but definitely top five.
The reason why Canyonlands was on Day 2 and not Day 1 of our National Parks adventure is because it was closed the day prior due to the snowfall. A dusting of snow in Arches was a blizzard in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, which sits about 6,000′ above sea level, and about 1,000′ higher than the terrain below. Thankfully, by the time we arrived, most of the snow had melted, and we had a fun day hiking, taking in the incredible canyon views that this park offers.
Bryce Canyon National Park — Utah
In southwestern Utah is Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for its vibrant red hoodoos. While I’ve visited the nearby Zion National Park a couple of times, I had never made it to Bryce Canyon until this last spring. Wow! I was really missing out—Bryce Canyon is absolutely incredible! It’s a National Park that everyone should experience at least once, if they can. While Zion is quite nice, too, if you only have time for one or the other, I would go to Bryce Canyon.
The elevation of the park varies between 6,600′ and 9,100′ depending on where you’re at. Despite “canyon” in its name, Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters. To really experience the park you’ll want to put on your hiking shoes; however, don’t expect an easy trail, as the paths are often steep and full of switchbacks. It’s completely worthwhile, though, and, if you are physically able to do it, I highly recommend going down a trail or two while you’re there.
Grand Teton National Park — Wyoming
The Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming is an amazing sight to behold! I had been once before—in late-spring several years ago—and this was my first winter visit. Unfortunately, the park was much less accessible this time, due to snow. Jackson Hole is a ski destination, so there were lots of tourists, but most of my favorite photography spots (that I was hoping to return to) were closed. I would say that it was disappointing, but when you view the towering range, despite the conditions, it’s impossible to be disappointed—it just made me eager to come again in a different season.
Within Grand Teton National Park are eight peaks that are over 12,000′ above sea level. The location of Ansel Adams’ famous Snake River Overlook picture is well marked and (normally) easily accessible—I had to hike through some knee-deep snow to get to it on this trip. Definitely worth seeing, but perhaps winter isn’t the best time.
Hot Springs National Park — Arkansas
Perhaps the strangest National Park I’ve ever experienced is Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, this park is free to visit (although the observation tower has a fee to access), but there’s not much to see. You can self-tour one of the bathhouses (which is now the visitors center). There are a couple of rather-ordinary springs that you can view—unfortunately, most of the springs are oddly capped with metal encasements. There are some trails that twist up a hill (along with a road), and at the top is a tower, which offers breathtaking views of the southern Ozarks. None of it comes close to the grandness that I have come to expect from National Parks, or even many state parks.
I was surprised by the beauty of this region. I liked Hot Springs. The National Park was a good place to spend a few hours. But I left wondering why in the world this was a National Park, because it doesn’t seem like it should be. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area (and the area is worth visiting), but I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see Hot Springs National Park. Still, we had a good time, and made some family memories, and that’s what really matters.
There are 63 National Parks in America, and someday I hope to visit them all. It will take years—probably a lifetime! Five in one year is a good lot, and maybe the opportunity will arise to visit even more before January rolls around. I hope so. And if I do, not only will I bring my Fujifilm cameras, but my iPhone, too.
For those who don’t know, RitchieCam is an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. There are 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. It is intended to be simple enough to be useful for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, and robust enough that even seasoned photographers should find it satisfying. Visit RitchieCam.com to learn more. Also, be sure to follow RitchieCam on Instagram!
What’s new in this update? There are three new features: drag to switch filters, 65:24 aspect ratio, and straight-down level indicator. Each one of these is discussed in detail below. There are also several small improvements and refinements, which will mostly go unnoticed—the most obvious is the enlarged EV +/- switch, hopefully improving its ease of use. Many other features and improvements are in the works, but it takes time to bring them to fruition, so be patient if this update doesn’t include what you were hoping it would—for certain, many great things are coming down the road.
Let’s take a look at the three new features!
Drag to Switch Filters
There’s a new way to select your desired RitchieCam filter even faster—simply drag your finger across the viewfinder! If you are a RitchieCam Patron, far-left is Standard Color, far-right is Dramatic B&W, and the 16 other filters are in-between; otherwise, left is Standard Color, middle is Analog Color, and right is B&W Negative. This is a quick and fun way to get to whichever filter you want to use, or to see which filter might be the best fit for the scene.
The video above is a screen-recording I made using this new feature. Just picture a finger dragging across the screen, left-to-right. I was trying to be slow and smooth, but this is a snappy function, so it is as quick as you are—you are in control of how fast or slowly you swipe through the filter options.
Drag-to-switch is a new way to find and select filters, but the previous methods still work as they always have. I think a lot of you will prefer this new method, but it is completely optional, so nothing changes for you if you like your current process; however, if you ever wished that there was a quicker way to switch filters, now there is!
65:24 XPan Aspect Ratio
The 65:24 aspect ratio was made popular by XPan cameras, a joint venture between Fujifilm and Hasselblad. I received a lot of requests for this aspect ratio, so I am happy to announce that it is now an option on RitchieCam! You can capture panoramic pictures straight from RitchieCam, no cropping required.
Currently there are six aspect ratios to choose from: 4:3/3:4, 5:4/4:5, 1:1, 3:2/2:3, 16:9/9:16, & 65:24/24:65. The panoramic 65:24 ratio can be challenging to use, but also highly rewarding, producing cinematic feelings that are only possible by going wide—give the XPan ratio a try today!
Level Indicator for Straight-Down Photography
If you ever do product photography that requires you to shoot straight down, it can be difficult to get the camera level. I’m always off by a little, tilted slightly one way or another. But RitchieCam is here to help!
Now, when the phone is flat (parallel to the ground), the gyroscope activates a white and yellow plus that, when aligned (indicated by the yellow plus as the only one visible), lets you know that the phone is level, not tilted in any direction. This feature is always on, so anytime the phone is flat when using RitchieCam, the pluses will appear. Some of you might not ever use this, but for some of you this is a really big deal.
As Chase Jarvis coined, the best camera is the one that’s with you—sometimes that’s your cellphone. Whenever I use my iPhone for photography, I always use my very own camera app: RitchieCam. Designed with a one-step philosophy, RitchieCam produces photos that are ready to be shared or printed the instant that they’re captured.
I partnered with Sahand Nayebaziz to develop RitchieCam. I worked with Sahand on the Fuji X Weekly and Ricoh Recipes Apps, so we already had established a great working relationship even before beginning work on this camera app. Sahand uses Fujifilm cameras, and sometimes his iPhone, for his photography.
Sahand and I were talking recently when he mentioned that his favorite RitchieCam filter is Instant Color 3 set to about 30% intensity. I have always used 100% intensity. Even though I put this feature into the app, I had never used it personally, other than testing it out when it was being developed. I thought that some would appreciate it, so it was important to include it.
The three-slider icon (between the star and gear) opens the Filter Intensity slider. All the way right is 100% and all the way left is 0%. I like to use 100% on all of the filters, but that’s to be expected because I created the filters. You might prefer something different, so you can customize the intensity to fit your tastes.
I thought that there’s some potential for creativity with this feature, so I began to experiment with it. First I tried Sahand’s suggestion of Instant Color 3 at 30%, which did in fact produce good results (see the picture at the top of this article). Then I played around with the other filters at various intensities.
I found the three black-and-white filters in particular can produce interesting results, because they become muted-color filters when set to about 70% intensity. Of the three monochrome options, my favorite filter to adjust the intensity of in order to create color pictures is Dramatic B&W. Set to about 70%, the Dramatic B&W filter makes for wonderful muted-color photography. I was actually very impressed with this, and spent a couple of days shooting the Dramatic B&W filter set to about 70% intensity.
Here are some examples:
The RitchieCam App has 18 filters (15 color and 3 B&W), but the potential aesthetics that can be achieved using RitchieCam is much greater because you can adjust the intensity of each filter, and that adjustment changes the look—at least a little, and sometimes a lot—which gives you even greater creative control over your pictures.
If you have an iPhone and you haven’t downloaded the RitchieCam App, go to the Apple App Store right now and do so! Then play around with the Filter Intensity slider and see what fun things you come up with. Let me know which filter is your favorite, and what intensity you use. If you find something especially interesting, I’d love to try it myself.
Leigh & Raymond Photography (formally known as The Snap Chick) dropped a video with a wonderful shoutout to my RitchieCam iPhone camera App! You’ll find the video above—RitchieCam is mentioned at about the 11-minute mark. Wow! Really, wow! I’m speechless. Thank you, Leigh and Raymond, for your kindness and support!
For those who don’t know, RitchieCam is an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. There are 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. It is intended to be simple enough to be useful for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, although it is robust enough that even seasoned photographers should find it satisfying. Visit RitchieCam.com to learn more. Also, be sure to follow RitchieCam on Instagram!
I just released the first “major” RitchieCam app update. For those who don’t know, I created an iOS camera app to simplify and streamline your iPhone photography. The app is free, and is intended to be a useful free tool, yet becoming a RitchieCam Patron unlocks all of the filters and the best app experience.
There are a lot of features that I want to incorporate into the app, but it takes time and work to implement them all, so they will roll out over time. In other words, RitchieCam is just going to get better and better! I just released the first significant update—if you have RitchieCam on your phone and it didn’t automatically update, be sure to manually do it in the App Store now.
One new feature is the volume button—either up or down—as a shutter release. Depending on how you hold your phone, this is a more convenient way to take pictures. Instead of tapping the circle shutter at the bottom, you can press either volume up or volume down to accomplish the same thing. The ability to use the volume buttons to capture photographs was highly requested, so I’m pleased to be able to include it in this update.
Another new feature is additional aspect ratios. Originally, all RitchieCam photos were in iPhone’s standard 4:3 aspect ratio, which is necessary if you want to use the full resolution of the sensor. But if you prefer a different shape, there are now five aspect ratios to choose from: 4:3, 3:2, 5:4, 1:1, & 16:9.
Here are some photos, all captured using the Standard Film filter on RitchieCam, illustrating the different aspect ratios:
4:3 / 3:4
3:2 / 2:3
5:4 / 4:5
16:9 / 9:16
RitchieCam saves the pictures in Apple’s High Efficiency Image Container (HEIC, also called HEIF) format, which maximizes image quality while simultaneously taking less space on your phone. It’s also necessary for implementing some new features down the road. The downside to HEIC is that it is less universally compatible with non-Apple programs. For those who prefer JPEG over HEIC, you now have that option—tap the Gear icon, and you’ll find the Format toggle about halfway down.
The other improvements are less obvious. RitchieCam will now remember the last Flash and EV settings used (as well as the aspect ratio), which will hopefully improve the user experience for some of you. There are several behind-the-scenes optimizations to improve speed, stability, and quality, which you’re not likely to notice, but micro improvements add up over time, so they’re important to continuously work on.
And that’s the update! Already work has begun on the next one. If the feature you were hoping for isn’t in this one, with any luck you won’t have to wait too long for it, but I do ask for your patience, because these things do take awhile. In the meantime, I hope there’s something in this update that you find helpful to you.