Dec 24, 2014

David Pasillas - Capturing Landscapes with an iPhone

© David Pasillas
What is your name and where do you live? 

My name is David Pasillas, and I just moved from California to Medford, Oregon. I’ve bounced around a bit, with two stints in the bay area, and one on the central coast of California, so I’ve been able to shoot in a wide variety of landscapes.

How did you get started in mobile photography? What device do you use?

A few years back, I had a Nikon D60 that I had clearly outgrown. I decided that I needed to sell it, to motivate myself to save up for a better camera. I ended up being without a camera for a while, so I turned to my iPhone 4. It quickly became clear to me that the camera in the iPhone was very capable of taking great photos, and the added bonus of having all these great editing apps at your fingertips was awesome. And, if I’m being honest, I thought it was kind of fun outshooting DSLR users with my iPhone. It was a new challenge. 

 Now, I shoot with the iPhone 5s. I’m not sold on moving up to the larger iPhones yet. Maybe I will, if the camera is dramatically better in the next model.

Foggy Forest  © David Pasillas
Foggy Forest

Do you have a traditional photography or art background?

Yes, I do, and I do mean traditional. I started out shooting film, over half a lifetime ago, at the age of 15. I took a couple of black and white film classes in high school, and another two black and white classes in college. I shot black and white, exclusively, for years. Then, I took a digital photography course, and things changed. After those few beginner/intermediate classes, I taught myself almost everything else I know.

Lake Winnepesaukee Sunrise © David Pasillas
Lake Winnepesaukee Sunrise
Central Park Tree © David Pasillas
Central Park Tree 
Who or what inspires you?

While I do get inspired by mobile photographers, I’m going to name some traditional photographers, traditional painters, and some digital matte painters. I think this could be useful for the readers that may be looking for inspiration outside of all the usual suspects in our community. 

Since I’m more into landscape photography, I’m inspired by people that know how to capture special light. I’ll list a handful of photographers that you should check out. Michael Shainblum is, in my opinion, at the top of the landscape photography game. Ryan Dyar is a trendsetter that helped me fine tune my ability to edit light. Sean Bagshaw, and his Photo Cascadia group, are incredible. Mike Mezeull is extremely talented, as well. I love Lars van de Goor and his fine art work with trees. I’ll also throw in Brooke Shaden, so the women are represented, and because she is so creative. She literally taught me that you can be inspired by anything, including a box of tissues.

I feel bad, because there are so many more photographers that inspire me, but I don’t want this answer to be longer than it already is. These photogs are all truly inspiring, and I’m lucky to say that I’ve had the privilege of shooting with a couple of them.

I also get inspired by painters, because I wish I could paint. I actually try to paint with light, to mold it to how I want it to be, when I’m working on my Nikon shots in Photoshop. Albert Bierstadt is probably my favorite. His work with light is phenomenal. I know a lot of photographers try to emulate his work. I finally got to see his work in person, while I was in Boston this fall. It’s just stunning. Thomas Cole, Claude Monet, Thomas Kinkade, and Paul Signac are a few others that really inspire me, and give me ideas for images I would like to create, either with my iPhone, or my Nikon. 

I even have a few Photoshop masters that inspire me. Dylan Cole, is a digital master painter, that has worked on Avatar and Lord of The Rings, among other things. He is unbelievable at what he does, which is conceptual paintings in Photoshop, that he then turns into composites. Alexander Koshelkov creates incredibly dramatic and creative composites in Photoshop. I highly recommend watching some of his speed art on youtube. If it doesn’t jumpstart your creativity, you should check your pulse haha. One last digital matte painter that inspires me is Ed Lopez. His talent and creativity are up there with the other top digital matte painters.

Unfolding © David Pasillas

Upper Table Rock © David Pasillas
Upper Table Rock

The bulk of your work includes landscapes - do you have any other area of photography that you would like to explore in the future?

I find that I’m really intrigued with macro photography and astrophotography. I’m not talking about just shooting the milky way, but shooting other galaxies, and nebulae. I get to see the average sized physical world everyday, so macro photography and astrophotography would be like exploring new worlds, without having to leave ours. By the way, if we ever have the ability to safely travel to other planets, in a safe and timely manner, I’d love to be the guy with the camera exploring them.

Mass Symmetry © David Pasillas
Mass Symmetry

Planet Lobos © David Pasillas
Planet Lobos

To capture your landscape photography, do you use any special lenses on your smartphone? Do you use a tripod?

I have a few iPro lenses that they were nice enough to give me. I have their macro, super wide angle, and 2x tele lenses. I love the macro lens and the super wide angle is fun for a unique view of the world.

I don’t have a tripod specifically for my iPhone, but I’ve thought about grabbing a GorillaPod. Usually, when I’m out shooting, I have my Nikon on my carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod, and I will steady the iPhone on top of my Nikon, where an external flash would connect. If the lens on my Nikon is in the shot, I’ll steady the iPhone on my lens. It’s a very sophisticated system I have haha.

Japanese Maple Lithia © David Pasillas
Japanese Maple Lithia
Autumn in Lithia Park © David Pasillas
Autumn in Lithia Park

Please describe a typical workflow, along with the apps used, when editing your photos. 

Usually, I keep things simple. I start with Snapseed 99% of the time because it gives me the control that I desire. There, I will adjust the ambiance, contrast, and shadows. Next, I might add some sharpening or structure, if appropriate. Or, I might use the drama filter at a very low setting. It varies from image to image. There isn’t a secret formula that works on everything, as you know.

Lately, I’ve been using Mextures a lot, after Snapseed. I love how I can mold the light of an image with this app. If I want more control on how I add light, I will use PS Touch, where I use a new layer set to overlay, or screen, blending mode. This allows me to paint with colors to create a glow, as seen in my Bass Harbor Head image.

If I want to pull more detail out, I will use Simply HDR. Sometimes the effects are too strong, so I will use an app like Image Blender to reduce the opacity, by placing the Simply HDR version on top of the previous saved version, and then lowering the opacity to whatever I like.

If I want the image to be painterly, I will try TangledFX, Brushstroke, Glaze, or PhotoArtista Oil.

If I want to let myself play, with no idea of what I’m going to create, I’ll use iColorama.

As you can see, there are a lot of directions my workflow can go, but it always starts with using Snapseed, to create a good base image.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

How long have you been blogging at "iPhone Photographer"?

Next month will be three years. It's hard to believe, considering I never thought I would have a blog. I know you’re probably familiar with how it started, but I’ll quickly share the story, for people that are unfamiliar with me and my work.

Nearly three years ago, I lost an aunt that I was close to, and the evening that she passed, I felt like I would be treated to a special sunset. I ran out to one of my favorite spots, and the sky was covered with clouds. It didn’t look promising at all. I even had someone walk past me and tell me there wouldn’t be a sunset tonight. I stayed anyway, and sure enough, the sky opened up in a circle, just in front of me. This sweet, soft light poured out from it onto the boardwalk I was on. I felt compelled to share the image, but didn’t know where to share it, so I started a blog and put the image up. It still doesn’t have any likes (it’s not my most polished image) but it was the catalyst for my iPhone photography blog.

After posting for a little while, I decided I wanted more photo apps, but I didn’t want to pay for them. That's when I started reaching out to developers, offering reviews in exchange for promo codes. Things kind of took off from there.

Painted by the Golden Gate Bridge © David Pasillas
Painted by the Golden Gate Bridge

Have you ever sold or exhibited your work? If not, any plans for the future?

I’ve sold a few prints, but I’ve never actively tried to sell anything. I’m an artist, not a salesman - haha. I still haven’t exhibited my work. I’ve only submitted images once or twice, but I’m a perfectionist and I feel like I’m not at a level that I’m happy with yet. When I get there, I think I’ll find the right gallery for me, or start my own.

Boston Glow © David Pasillas
Boston Glow

Ricketts Glen © David Pasillas
Ricketts Glen

What is the best advice you've ever received or read about photography?

Wow. This is a great question. Two things come to mind. The first was with Michael Shainblum, while we were shooting in San Francisco. I mentioned that I felt like I was wasting my time shooting iconic places that people like him and his buddy, Toby Harriman, have absolutely nailed. What was the point if I was never going to create something as good as their shot? He basically told me that was silly, and that I shouldn’t give up on something before I even tried. You have to go to the location and spend some time with it, before you even get your camera out. Get connected. Look for compositions. Try to find the story. Then, when you’re ready to capture it, you get your camera out and try to realize your vision.

Years ago, I worked as an assistant to an award winning wedding photographer. He was an awfully nice guy, but he was a different person when he had a camera in his hands. He would do anything for the shot. He always told me that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. This mindset allowed him to go places he wasn’t necessarily supposed to be, including doing a photoshoot on somebody’s private property without asking. It also allowed him to get right up in peoples faces for photos. His ability to not care what he was allowed to do, or not do, gave him an air of confidence, which helps when you need people to trust you with their portraits. Plus, he always got the shot, because he wasn’t afraid to get in whatever position he needed to be in.

While I’m not comfortable coming off as arrogant, or rude, to people, I’m totally open to exploring places with no trespassing signs, whereas before I never would have. It allows for views that not everyone is willing, or able, to get. If I never received the advice on forgiveness being easier to ask for than permission, I wouldn’t be as outgoing with my camera, and I’d have missed out on a lot of shots.

Weird Waterfalls © David Pasillas
Weird Waterfalls

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

After putting my photography on the back burner for about 15 months to care for my grandmother, I’m really excited to be back in the game. I recently started writing articles over at, and I try to post to my blog,, 4-5 times a week. I feel like 2015 is going to be focused more on teaching others.

I haven’t officially announced this anywhere yet, but I will begin leading photography workshops (for DSLR’s,) on both coasts, in 2015. I’m also thinking about doing iPhoneography workshops on the west coast, as well. You’ll have to follow me to get the details when they’re announced.

I also wanted to add that this community of mobile artists is really something special. We are overwhelmingly supportive of each other, and it has been a pleasure to meet so many talented people. If you’re reading this, I hope you will put yourself out there and try to connect with other people that share your love of mobile photography. Don’t be intimidated by anyone, just because they might be further along their journey than you are. Make friends, share your work, bounce ideas off of each other, and push each other to be better. It’s a whole lot more fun with friends. 

Mt. Thiesen © David Pasillas
Mt. Thiesen 

Find David:  Blog / Instagram / 500px / Flickr / Facebook Personal / Facebook Page (David's Note: I add everyone because I tend to share more images here than on my Facebook Page)

Apps Mentioned:

Adobe Photoshop Touch
Simply HDR
Tangled FX
PhotoArtista Oil
Image Blender


  1. Great article! Looking forward to your teachings in 2015!

  2. Ah, Jack - I guess you posted this and then read my announcement. I will continue posting on Instagram and try to at least put up my little mini tutorials there.

  3. Will you keep your site up for the tutorials and stuff?


 photo copyright.jpg
envye template.