500px for iPad: It’s Full of Stars

A friend of mine, knowing of my photographic endeavors, often sends me viral PowerPoint slide shows of photos. I’m sure you have a friend or acquaintance who does the same. We’ve likely seen the same slide deck, definitely many of the same photos since they get reused as new viral messages are created and circulated.

Since she is a close friend I will, sometimes grudgingly, review the “beautiful” photos, then nuke the note. The photos tend to be the typical vistas, flowers, and kittens that seem to be so popular in such things. The last note she sent me was a bit different, however, and not in a good way. I’ve deleted the note long ago, but the images contained in the PowerPoint slides keep replaying in my mind.

Again, the images were of landscapes and animals, but the troubling part was how much the images were Photoshopped.

Let me state now that I am not a PS snob. I believe art is however you choose to make it, but I have a problem with heavily adjusted, poorly executed images offered up as being real. Several images in my friend’s note were classic examples.

One image I vividly recall was of a seascape. There were large fluffy cumulus clouds in the background, large rocks against which waves crashed to make a dramatic scene. When I first glanced at the photo something about it struck me a being odd, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. After filing through several more pix it finally dawned on me what the problem with the seascape was; the light was all wrong. If you have apparently strong light coming from one direction (the sun) and a secondary and lesser light source coming from another direction (the clouds), then the rocks and surf should be lit a certain way, shadows should fall opposite the light sources. I took a closer look at where the sky met the rocks and, sure enough, I found blending artifacts.

From then on every image in the presentation was suspect to me. Even the ones that were obviously photoshopped for artistic purposes seemed less appealing.

I suppose it’s a matter of taste, really. Some folks, like my friend, will look at that photo and see beauty. I will always see it for what it is, a dodge, and not a very good one at that.

Do I use Photoshop on my own photos? Absolutely! In fact, here’s a shot that had the colors manipulated so that it looks more pleasing. I know that the sky and sand were not the hues shown.

Oceanside CA

Oceanside, CA Taken with an iPhone and Hipstamatic, alterered on an iPad with Snapseed

The scene is real, but the colors are not natural. Whether I mentioned that fact or not, I believe, makes no difference. I was looking to enhance the mood by enhancing the photo, and I think that is obvious.

Am I drawing an arbitrary line between what is permissible and what isn’t when altering a photo? Perhaps. I will, for instance, drain the color out of a shot, then add blurring to create an area of focus, as with this shot.

Libbey Church

Libbey Church, Taken with a Canon 40D, processed in Snapseed

In other occasions I will remove items from shots that detract from the photo, like zits on a face, or telephone lines in bad places. So, I manipulate too, and what I present does not accurately depict what was shot. Yet, they are good photos.

I suppose that, even for me, deciding when to manipulate is as subjective as the subjects I shoot. Ah well.

I drug you through that inconclusive dissertation because of an app that I’ve been perusing for the last week. 500px is an interesting photo viewing app for the iPad. Actually, it’s more than a photo viewer, it connects and downloads pix from 500pix.com, a community of photographers who post their pix for other to view, and critique what others have done.


To say that the photos on display in 500px are phenomenal would be an understatement. Of course, as my longwinded preamble illustrates, it’s all a matter of taste. It’s a good thing that 500px offers a broad spectrum of photographic subjects and styles, in varying degree of post-process manipulation.

As I mentioned, 500px.com is a virtual community aimed at photos, which makes a little intimidating for photography neophytes such as myself to post anything. For anyone who can enjoy a great shot, this app kicks butt.

You can turn on the slide show option, complete with music, which turns your iPad into a mobile art gallery.

There are four feeds: Popular, Editor’s Picks, Upcoming, and Fresh. Each offer completely different photos but with a new perspective as well.


One perspective you might want to keep an on (pun intended) is nudes. Especially if you have kids around. You can argue all day long that the human form has been studied and reproduced in art for centuries, and that it it only our “modern” puritanical sensibilities that keep seeing the naked body as anything but beautiful (depending on the body, of course). How you appreciate art is your business.

Still, in case you don’t don’t want little Billy asking you questions about human anatomy, 500px provides a nude picture filter.

Double warning: sometimes pictures slip through the filter. To be sure, I would preview a feed with the filter on to make sure nothing gets through that you don’t to get through.


In the intro screen of 500px there’s a nighttime sky scape photo that often appears with this famous 2001: A Space Odyssey quote as a caption, “…it’s full of stars!” The quote aptly describes what you’ll see. 500px is, literally and figuratively, full of stars. Catch it.

That’s a wrap for this week.

More photo related free stuff with direct links.