Things My iPhone Sees – Oregon Coast

Norm and I recently took a one-week vacation to hang out with friends at the coast, and to visit with my dad and step-mom there as well. I took my “good” camera and got some nice photos, and I also was out and about with just my iPhone at times. This blog shares some iPhone captures.


My intent here is to show the range of photos one can take with an camera phone. So the rules I followed were that I could only use the editor I get when I tap “Edit” while looking at my photo on my iPhone or Mac.  Which is to say the usual gamut of cropping, contrast, color balance, saturation, etc. that is available to everyone else with an iPhone or Mac. Point being, anyone can take pics like this. You just gotta let your phone see cool stuff. 🙂

Yes, the technical quality of the images is lower than I get with a DSLR, but I  don’t let that deter me from capturing the moment and the beauty of the world around me when my DSLR isn’t handy.

The Big Picture

The easiest thing to do is to let my iPhone see what I see. I take a photo of something beautiful that catches my eye at head height, level horizon, with the camera’s wide angle lens. Everything is generally in focus for shots like this. It’s great for capturing beautiful scenery.

Foamy waves run up the wet beach during a break in a winter storm. I like how in this photo the shape of the sky and waves mirror each other. Also, I get a little nervous that my feet are about to get wet when I look at this!
Moody beach with lots of great texture in the foreground going on here. The vertical drift wood adds an flavor of ritual or spirituality to the scene.
The leading lines of the logs pull my gaze into the middle of the photo, and I see the dreamy misty shore in the distance. Of course now I wish I’d not left footprints in the wet sand before taking this photo.
This photo was taken when it was VERY windy. . . I think 40-60 mph sustained (gusts were up to 80 mph 2 or 3 hours later). The pale sand is dry and being blown rapidly down the beach away from me. The dark sand is wet and stationary. I love the wispy affect. I ended up shooting video of this because a still photo couldn’t capture the mesmerizing movement of the sand down the beach. The top portion of the image gives the viewer context, but the composition tells the viewer that the subject here is the sand itself. Including the foreground at my feet lets the viewer see the sand texture and better understand the middle-ground.
Same context as the image above, but facing the other direction. This is looking into the wind, so the sand is rushing toward me.
Another wide angle shot of the beach, but this time with a log in the composition, giving an otherwise modestly interesting image something extra.
Moody winter storms can create some great images. I like how three things here move in rolling waves. . . the surf, the dune grass, and the clouds in the sky. I used vignetting on this to enhance the dark feel.
This is Tillamook Bay during a storm. It was raining hard (although you can’t tell here) and very windy. We were driving and I pulled over to shoot these rocks, but didn’t want to get my nice camera out in this weather. Since the iPhone has a fixed wide angle lens, I didn’t get the closer-in shot with choppy water I had in my mind when I stopped, but this turned out alright. Again, vignetting to emphasize the moodiness.

Featured Subjects


I find that adding something in the foreground of a landscape gives an image extra interest. I like the cracked texture of this rock, as well as the texture of the sand that’s clinging to its sides. The rest of the sand on the beach is relatively smooth by contrast, and the moody sky and grassy dunes add interest in the background.

Often I try to show interesting things in such a way that you see them clearly, and also get a sense for the context that they are in. If I’m up close, this can sometimes mean the background is out of focus. This can be a nice effect, as it tells the eyes of the viewer where to look.

The softness of the background here is partially due to it being out of focus, but largely due to sand blowing swiftly down the beach.
Here the majority of the scene is in focus, which creates an interesting juxtaposition between the recognizable waves in the background and the lumpy wet sand and tracks in the foreground, at a completely different scale.
This photo is about the texture of the sea foam and how it lays on the beach and around rocks. By including the rocks and foam in the background I get a sense for just how much foam and how many rocks there are. It has an almost surreal moonscape effect going on with rocks and foam sitting on smooth sand with nothing else in the composition.
Instead of the focus being on the big view of the beach, it’s on the rocks and sand in the foreground. I like seeing the big picture but focusing on the details. To me it feels more like I’m actually there when I can remember the look and feel of the sand and rocks at my feet.
I’m shooting down the length of this log to show its interesting shape. Again, I’m close to my subject so you can really see its surface, and I’m also adding a bit of the context by keeping the waves in the shot. The relatively simple composition lets my eyes notice the textures. . . the smooth sand, the choppy waves, the rivulets of dark color and rain pockmarks in the sand, the stippling of rocks, and the patterning on the tree trunk.
Two differently shaped rocks, one craggy and one smooth, both of which have affected the pattern of the sand around them. Simple composition and context. I can see interesting detail in the foreground and know where I am.

The Details

Sometimes my favorite images happen when I focus on the details. . . patterns, textures, or little things up close. I look closer than I normally do and find delight.

The winds of a winter storm sculpt away layers of sand, revealing grass, twigs, glass, feathers, rocks, etc.
Coin-sized anemones hunker down into watery pits in large rocks as the tide retreats.
Shellfish air holes make me think of little comets with dark tails on the smooth surface of the sand.

Because the iPhone has a wide angle lens, you have to get close. . . really close. Closer than you think you do. See that sand shrimp down there? I had to get right up in his grill! As in, if he’d a been a spider. . . forget about it!!

IMG_1823 (1)
The sun backlights an adorable (who knew??) little sand shrimp scuttling across damp sand.

Hot tip: If you are shooting for those real close shots like that of my shrimpy little friend, tap your screen where you want the focus to be then quickly take your shot. . . otherwise your phone is likely to default to focus on the background.

I liked the juxtaposition of the various textures here, with the barnacles on a log, and the sand textures being formed by running water and rain drops.
I found the canyon-like channel of water interesting, and the two rocks and a shell in the foreground show off the texture of the sand. They also look to me like three adventurers arm in arm as they prepare to brave a new challenge. By shooting up close, everything looks bigger than it is. This is black and white because I’m most interested in the forms and shapes here so color could detract. My lens is maybe 3 or 4 inches from the foreground objects.
Another black and white. I want to be looking at the ripples and play of light, so color could be a distraction. My iPhone lens is about 2 or 3 inches above the sand and water here.
Sea foam. It can be dirty yellow, or if I look close at the fresh stuff, it can be a rainbow worthy of unicorns and fairies. No saturation boost here. This is ‘xactly what it looked like.
More rainbows and fairy dust. I have no idea why all the colors, but I love it. Again, I’m close here. . . maybe 4 inches away.  I zoom in (with my arms)!

Okay, thanks for taking a walk with me on the beach.  I had a great time finding treasures to capture with my phone, and I hope you’ll pull yours out and find your own!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s