How to take stereoscopic pictures with an iPhone

use burst mode to take left/right images
use burst mode to take left/right images

For some strange Geeky tick, I keep taking stereoscopic pictures. The process is pretty easy – take a picture and then shift a little to the right and take another. The distance of the shift will range from less than an inch for close-ups to a foot or more for very distant images.

The process works well when the subject matter doesn’t move. But how to take a picture where the subject matter is not so cooperative? You could use two cameras but that’s a lot more work. With the iPhone, Bust Mode is your friend. Here’s how it works …

Setup the first picture. Imagine where the second picture should be. Ideally, you shift from the first picture to the second by only shifting your weight or body and don’t have to move your feet. Now, press the shutter button on the iPhone and hold it while you shift toward the second position. It helps to shift a bit further than you need.

That’s it – you’ve got a series of photos that were taken in less than a second. View the series and pick the two images that work well for the stereoscopic image and discard the rest.

I use Diptic to place the two images together but you can use any App which let’s you place images side-by-side.


ice ball
ice ball

ice bubbles

News Flash: Apple to acquire Dickies’s

new iPhone 6 Plus pants
new iPhone 6 Plus pants

An unidentified source reports that Apple is concerned with the backlash from the size of the new iPhone 6 Plus. Reminiscent of “antenna gate” Apple has quietly proposed a solution.

Apple is in negotiations to acquire the clothing company Dickie’s. Apple will announce a new clothing line which accommodates the larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus. People who already ordered an iPhone 6 Plus will be given a free pair of pants.

AutoStitch iPhone app vs iPhone’s camera panorama

180 degree panorama 7704x1822
180 degree panorama 7704×1822

I take more photos with my iPhone than my two ‘real’ cameras combined. While the iPhone isn’t great for action photos or any telephoto work, it does very well as landscapes. With it’s built in compute power it is perfectly suited to panoramas.

While I’ve played with the panorama feature built into the iOS camera app, I always use the AutoStitch app when I want good results.

With the built in feature of iOS, the panorama is photographed in one continuous image. With AutoStitch, it is a series of overlapping images computationally combined. It’s more work – why is this better? I like it for two reasons: First, when taking individual photographs, each one can adjust for brightness. When combined with the iOS subtle HDR capability, each picture is very well balanced. Most panoramas will pass through both bright and shaded areas. By taking photos with a lot of overlap, AutoStitch does a great job of seamlessly blending these images. The result is the best possible balance for any point in the panorama. (In the photo, the sun is directly behind the tree.) The second advantage for AutoStitch is it can handle a huge mosaic – combining pictures in stripes and combining stripes into the final image. Imagine a big matrix of 10×4 pictures. AutoStitch can combine all of them into one very large image.

I don’t expect AutoStitch to compete with a desktop computer and a DSLR but then again, that solution doesn’t let me capture the moment, create the panorama, write this blog post, and load it to the internet – all while taking a walk with my dog. Smile!

The iPhone 6 Plus isn’t too big … for me

side by side comparison of 5 and 6 plus

side by side comparison of 5 and 6 plus


I watched the news pour in on the Apple announcement this week. While the watch was interesting, I don’t wear a watch so I quickly lost interest … other than the funny “lefty usability” discussions on social media.

The real question I was watching for was, “is the iPhone 6 Plus too big?”

Everything I could find – from specifications to videos to mockups – suggested it might just be too big. Then I decided to make a mockup of my own. The picture is an accurate sized fake iPhone 6 Plus and a real iPhone 5. It depicts reaching for the home button, reaching for the far edge, and holding for reading.

Without shifting the phone up in my hand or rolling the phone in my hand, I didn’t reach the home button. But those limitations were unnatural, since I was attempting to keep the phone in one position for each photo. When I didn’t think about it, I naturally slid my little finger under the bottom and nudged the home button the last bit toward my reaching thumb. It didn’t feel awkward or unstable. I wasn’t sensing the phone would fall out of my hand.

My iPhone 5 is with me whenever I leave the house – for a walk, in the truck, doing errands, etc. It’s in a front pants pocked when I wear jeans or it’s in a side pocket when I wear painter paints. When I’m in business dress, it’s in an inside jacket pocket.

The iPhone 6 Plus will easily fit the same. The exception is sitting down with it in a front pants pocket. It does pinch a little. I’d likely move it to a shirt pocket.

If you’re thinking, “it’s still to big for a phone, it’s gonna look funny next to your ear” then it may help to understand how I use an iPhone today.

I place one or two calls each day. They are nearly always when I walk the dog around the farm in the early morning and early evening. Occasionally I’ll place a call while driving. My truck has integrated Bluetooth so it’s hands free.

When driving, I often use the iPhone for Pandora music or TomTom driving directions. For all of these reasons, the truck has a mount for the phone and a USB cable.

I use my iPhone like a micro-Mac. I do email, blogging, social media, web forums, lots of photos and photo editing, banking, shopping, research, and more. I also use it as a backup to navigational data when flying.

Recently I tested a Nexus 7 tablet. It wasn’t as fast or refined as my iPad Air but I found I was using it more the the iPad – which had a lot to do with it’s smaller size.

For me, the iPhone 6 Plus won’t be a phone. I don’t make enough calls to focus on that capability. It will be a compact tablet with a good camera, data service, storage, and significant compute power … that can place my daily call to mom.

The ‘A’ in APRS, doesn’t stand for amateur but it is

Technically, APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. While the ‘A’ stands for ‘automatic’, the entire system is an amateur radio-based system.

I know a number of pilots who use APRS as a method of tracking their airplanes. It’s fun. I have a ‘tracker’ in my airplane.

However, some of those same people consider it a piece of safety equipment and that is probably a bit over reaching.

I recently reviewed a track of packets that spanned about three days. I noticed this track exhibited three of the common problems with APRS packets. Here are images of the three anomalies …


In the upper left image, the track and position look fine until you realize that timestamp was 14 hours old. It suggests the airplane fell out of the sky. In the lower right, it would appear the airplane was hovering at 4:30 in the morning but I know for a fact he was sound asleep safely on the ground. The right side image looks as though the airplane was flying back and forth.

If anyone was using the tracker data to locate the airplane, the data would put the search in the wrong places.

I will admit the above is a rare case. Most often these glitches are infrequent.

So, what caused these issues?

Well, the first image could be one of two problems. First, the tracker could have failed. Alternately, there were no iGates (ground stations) in the area. I know this is an example of the latter.

What about the second image?

This is an example of an iGate delaying a packet. It is probably the most extreme case I have detected. Normally, when a packet is delayed, the result is the image on the right. Imagine removing all the lines and just leaving the dots then connecting the dots in the most obvious sequence. The resulting track is what the plane was actually flying. However, when the packets are received out of order – in this case that would be 1, 3, 2, 6, 4, 5, 8, 7, 10, 11, 12, 9, 13, … – the track jumps all over the place. The problem is not the transmitter but rather the iGates processing the packets to the internet. Some internet sites attempt to filter out these issues.

So my advice to everyone is to remember APRS is an amateur activity and is not guaranteed. Enjoy it but don’t bank your life on it unless you can verify its does what you expect.