Singing the Praises of Stackables (A Mobile Tutorial)

I have a new love! I’ve recently discovered Stackables, a fantastic editing app, and I thought I would share what I’m enjoying about the app and what I’ve been creating with it.

Ocean Oregon Coast Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography


Stackables is a layering app which allows you to add multiple textures, filters, gradients, patterns and adjustment layers to an image. You can also access and save Formulas, which are basically presets that have already been created using multiple layers. The layering is fantastic: You can add new layers, remove layers, turn layers on and off, and shuffle the order of the layers around as you work through an edit. The adjustability of individual layers is powerful too. Opacity, blending mode and rotation can be changed individually for each layer. It’s like having a “lite” version of Photoshop at my fingertips. The only thing I can’t do is import my own layers, beyond the starting image. Luckily, Stackables has a broad range of all types of layers so I’m not limited.

Let’s take a quick look at operation. There are two versions of Stackables, one for iPhone and one for iPad. Both start at $0.99 with in-app purchases available (I highly recommend getting the Master Pack for $1.99). The screen shots below are from the iPad version, since that’s what I primarily use for editing.

As you load an image, you have the choice of what file type you want to save. This is great, because you can save the images you create as a high resolution, lossless file type like PNG or TIFF. You can also crop as you load the image, a nice feature.

Stackables 1

Next, you can start adding layers. You have a choice of the layer types you want to add along the top. As you switch layer types or move through options, the current active layer will switch too. So once you have a layer edited, be sure to add a new layer before you start moving around to look at new layer types. You can go back to any layer in your stack at any time and adjust it, change it, or delete it.

Stackables 2

If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can start with Formulas. This is a great way to get an idea of what you can do with the app and all of the layers. You will be amazed at the variety of looks you can create. Once you select a Formula you like, tap the check mark at the bottom and then you can continue your edit, adding to or changing any of the layers within the Formula. If you create an edit you like, you can also save your own Formulas, email them and submit them to be added to the app. Pretty cool.

Stackables 3

Here are a few images I’ve edited in it so far, to give you an idea of the range. You can do highly textured looks:

Tree Sky Oregon Summer Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography

Or more subtle edits:


I also used it for adding color, contrast and texture to this background:


The background was then layered with a photograph of an oak in Image Blender to get the final Harvest Moon image I shared in my last blog post:

Harvest Full Moon Summer Oak Corvallis Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography

Harvest Moon

Stackables is a very versatile app! Don’t be surprised if you see it start popping up more in my mobile tutorials. I’m a little addicted to it at the moment. :)

The Trouble with Oaks

I’ve been having some trouble with oaks this summer. Nothing serious, like a branch falling on my car or anything, just photographic trouble.

You see, I’ve been working on capturing summer trees. I want them to feel light and bright and airy. Oaks are one of the many kinds of trees we have in the area, so I want them to be part of my treescapes.

Last year, one of the few summer treescapes I created was this one, called Summer Oak. It has the feeling I’m looking for.

Summer Oak Corvallis Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography

I can’t get it to happen again. Over and over, I photograph the oaks. I try different angles and compositions, and nothing seems to work. I’ve tried editing them anyway, only to come up with images that are heavier. More solid. It just doesn’t have the same feeling, does it?

Summer Oak Corvallis Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography

So I’d just about given up on the oaks. Until last week…

Last week there was a full moon. It hung in the sky above the trees, bright but too small to capture with the iPhone. Inspired, I worked with shapes and backgrounds and created a “moon” hanging in an autumnal sky. It was kind of boring on its own, just floating there, so I looked through my tree images to see what could ground it.

And there it was, the oak. It was perfect.

Harvest Full Moon Summer Oak Corvallis Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile iPhone Photography

Harvest Moon

It made me realize that I was going about the oaks all wrong. Oaks are not light and airy trees. They are grounded and well-rooted trees. They can hold the moon to the earth, they are so solid and strong.

There is no trouble with oaks at all. Just trouble with me, trying to make oaks into something they were not meant to be.

Empty Space

I love open space. That’s no secret, huh? My art has lots of it…


It’s just a little weird when the empty space is where where my kitchen used to be…


Our kitchen remodel project started on Monday with demolition. We now have an empty room instead of a kitchen. It’s the beginning of the end of our kitchen story. Three months of waiting, now one month of construction to go.

Our refrigerator is in the garage, our sink is in the bathroom, and we’ve created a little kitchenette in the dining room. I see lots of microwave and crockpot meals, and likely takeout, in our future.


It will be exciting to see daily progress. I can’t wait to have a fully functional kitchen again!!

Ready, Set… Write!

Most of the leaves are still green but autumn is definitely in the air. It’s chilly on my morning hikes and I’ve put a warmer blanket on the bed. My son is back to school and our schedule is governed by routine. It’s time to settle into “to do” lists, homework and long term projects.

For me, that means writing a book. Yes, a real printed book. One published by a publisher, with a contract and a deadline, sold on Amazon and all of that. I’m writing a book on iPhone photography for Amherst Media, to come out in winter 2015/2016. I can hardly believe it.


I’ve had a growing dream of writing a real book for a while, after getting feedback on my blog and from my eCourse students telling me they appreciate how I put things into words. I started to think, Hey, maybe I could really do this. Between my blog, my eCourses and the Digital Photography Basics eBook, I’ve already written a lot. How much harder could a book be?

But acting on the idea of writing a book hadn’t been a priority for me. I was busy with making art and getting ready for Art Fairs and teaching locally. Someday, maybe, I would write a book. When I had the time. When I had the right idea. You know, someday.

That all changed with the crazy publicity that came out of the newspaper article before the Salem Art Fair. The president of Amherst Media contacted me about writing a how-to book on iPhone photography. How do you say no to that? You don’t. Especially if you had this dream of writing a book someday. In the course of a few weeks we had worked through the options and the details and now it’s a done deal — I’m writing a book. Deadline March 1, 2015.

You know what the biggest challenge is going to be? It’s not going to finding time. It’s not going to be thinking of what to write.

As I’ve gotten started, I’ve realized the most challenging thing is going to be fitting everything I have to say in to the space I have available. Turns out, two years of developing techniques plus a year of teaching classes plus a lot of passion for the subject means I have a whole lot to write about. My theory right now is to just let it flow and cut it back later. That seems like a better situation than stretching to find something to write.

Some of you might remember that iPhone photography eCourse I was going to create someday. Well, it’s not going to be an eCourse anymore. It will be a real, honest-to-goodness, printed book.

Someday has turned into today. I’d better get writing.

If you don’t want to wait more than a year to learn about IPhone photography from me, I have a couple of workshops coming up…

Intro to Mobile Photography is on September 20 from 1-4pm at The Arts Center in Corvallis, OR. In this short course, I teach you how to get a great photograph with your mobile device, iOS or Android, and get you started with basic editing. Everyone is amazed at how much they learn in such a short time! Cost is $40, and you can register here.

Smartphone Art 1 & 2 will be on October 11 & 12, from 10-5 both days, at Sequoia Gallery + Studios in Hillsboro, OR. On Day 1, I cover the basics of the Intro course, plus teach you about many more apps and introduce blending, bringing you into the kind of creative editing techniques I use. On Day 2, I’ll be sharing advanced techniques for creative blending, creating your own backgrounds and textures, and of course, teach you more must-have apps. This course series covers iOS only. You can register just for Day 1 or both days to make it a weekend workshop. Cost is $95 per day and you can register here.

Life Lessons from a Dog

It’s no secret to pet lovers that our furry family members can teach us a lot. I don’t think any of my pets have taught me quite as much as our current dog, Zoey.

Zoey is a six-year-old Golden Retriever/Australian Shepherd mix we adopted a year and a half ago. Personality-wise, she’s more Australian Shepherd than Golden Retriever, with tons of smarts and energy. She’s been my faithful companion while hiking the last two summers, and she often accidentally ends up in my the photographs I’m trying to take on the trail.


On a recent hike, as I was watching Zoey bound joyfully through a meadow, I started thinking about how her approach to life could really be distilled down into a few lessons that her humans could do with learning too. Let’s see if what Zoey has taught me can apply to you too…


1. Every stick is the perfect stick

If Zoey sees a stick, no matter how big the stick, she picks it up and brings it to us to play fetch. She’s hauled sticks that are downright logs to our feet. She doesn’t have any limitations on the size of the stick she fetches with. She doesn’t skip a game of fetch because the stick is a little bit too small, or too big, waiting for the one that is just right.

Do you limit yourself, waiting for the perfect stick? Have you ever said, “When I get that stick, everything will be perfect and I’ll be happy to play fetch.” The perfect stick — having more money, losing weight, finding more time, that future moment — is never going to be out there. So pick up the stick that is there, and start playing fetch.

2. Ask for help

When Zoey knocks her ball under the couch, she comes and asks us for help. She knows she can’t do it by herself, so she won’t let us alone until she leads us to the problem and gets it resolved. With her limited communication skills, she is able to come to us, convey what she needs and get help.

How often, with all of the communication skills we have available to you, do you sit back and *hope* that someone will read your mind and figure out what you want? Do you ever hope that someone will see you struggling, and offer the perfect solution? You aren’t expected to do everything by yourself, and neither can you expect people to read your mind. Know where you need help, and be willing to ask for it. It’s amazing how often you get the help you need when you do.


3. Follow your interest

Zoey is aware of her surroundings and if something interesting catches her interest, she follows it. She might stop suddenly to sniff an interesting smell, or chase a squirrel up a tree. She is ready, alert, and there is nothing more important in that moment than what she is focused on. She experiences everything fully.

Do you know where your interest lies? Do you follow your heart when it tells you to go in a certain direction? Or do you say, “Not now, I’m busy, I’ll do that later,” only to get to later and realize things have changed; the moment is lost. Notice your interest. Be willing to change course and investigate things as they come along.


4. Always move forward

When we were at the shelter deciding to adopt Zoey, we read through the paperwork left by her previous owners. They said she was not a good traveler; she was anxious in the car. After driving with her a few times I realized she wasn’t anxious at all about being in the car or driving around. The only time she whined was when we were at a stoplight. She wanted to be moving forward.

She’s the same on the trail. She’ll stop and sniff around or chase the squirrel, but when I get past her and she realizes I’m moving ahead and she’s not, she’ll catch up and race on by. She always wants to be moving forward.

Do you ever get stuck? Maybe you followed your interest, but it ended up going nowhere. Maybe you are focused on something that happened a long time ago, and can’t get past it. You don’t get anywhere new by being stopped. There is always something else, something new, something different, up the trail or beyond the stoplight. Keep moving forward.


5. Try anything and do it with reckless enthusiasm

We have a nickname for Zoey: Gung Ho Zoe. Everything she does, she does with abandon. She does not hold anything back; she does not fear. If she sees something she wants to do, she dives right in. At the kennel where she stays when we are on vacation, one of the workers commented, “She is so willing.” It’s the perfect description. She’s willing to try anything. It might be a disaster, like the time she tried to chase some ducks across an icy half-frozen pond, but she doesn’t worry about little details of what might happen. She survived the plunge into icy water, no ducks were harmed in the process, and we had a good laugh after all was said and done. That’s our Gung Ho Zoe.

Do you ever find yourself standing at the edge of something, debating about diving in? It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in thinking, or overthinking, about whether or not to do something new. Guess what, we are never going to succeed at 100% of the things we try, but we will succeed at nothing if we don’t try at all. Usually whatever we are worried about doing is a lot less harmful to us than diving into a pond of icy water might be. Why not try a lot of things? Dive right in and see what happens? At the very worst, you will have learned something. Maybe even gotten a laugh or two out of it. And at best? You might find something amazing is waiting for you.

I have been very lucky to have this crazy, energetic and sometimes overwhelming dog come into my life. I hope you can learn some life lessons from her too.

Photo-Heart Connection: August 2014

Love Forest. Forest Love. Whichever way I write it, it’s true.


I don’t know exactly where my love of the forest comes from. I don’t know when it formed. Maybe it was as a child, camping in the Colorado woods and going off with my Dad in the wee hours of the morning to find a good spot to fish for trout. Maybe it was in my mid-twenties, when the first home we owned was right up next to an 85-acre wooded park in Colorado Springs, a respite from all things suburban around me. Maybe it was moving to Oregon in my thirties, and discovering primeval-seeming forests with towering trees, that made me feel like I was a tiny blip on the historic radar.

It’s hard to think of a time when the forest didn’t play some role as backdrop to events in my life. But it’s recent, the last two years or so, that the forest moved from backdrop in key memories to a primary character of its own. The forest has become a staunch friend, a confidante. It is always there for me, ready to receive me, however I come to it. It teaches me, in its quiet way.

The tall trees remind me that there is more to life than my little worries. They remind me to stand straight, grow roots, take nourishment. When I do, it takes more than a single storm to knock me down.

The forest reminds me that it is an ecosystem. No one part can exist without the whole. I too, am part of the system. One small part of a whole. I need to rely on those around me, help those around me, as part of the system of human connection.

There is so much more I can say about my complex relationship with the forest, but I won’t. I will cut it short. Because this image reminds me it’s been five days since I’ve been in the forest. Five days since I’ve enjoyed the scent and the quiet and the feel of being part of something greater, bigger, older than me. Five days is too long, anymore. So I’m going to go now, and visit my forest.

Love Forest. Forest Love.

I’ve photographed this heart carved into the tree along the Mulkey Creek Trail so many times, it’s not surprising it would eventually become my Photo-Heart Connection. I know it’s awful, someone defacing a tree like this. But I can’t help but love it anyway, because it seems to encapsulate my feelings about the forest so well. It’s a simple symbol in a simple place, but it brings such deep feelings of connection to me. I’m not kidding about getting out and hiking now. I’m going to wrap up this post and enjoy Labor Day morning on the trail. :)

What have you found as your Photo-Heart Connection this month? What image or art did you create this month that calls to your soul? What does it have to tell you? Go through your images from August and find the one that calls to your heart. Write about it and learn from it. Share the results with us here.