Before I get started here I would like to point out that the only experience I have had with the new retina MacBooks are within the confines of a few visits to the Apple store and messing about with Aperture on their demo machines for a good long while. I very much encourage any photographers with personal experience using one of these new pixel dense displays to chime in and share your opinions based on your experience. I trust you guys will keep things civilized, I know opinions run deep with this sort of topic.

I can’t help but dwell heavily on impending high resolution displays that could be entering the market. After reading an article containing some basic projections on the future of high density displays in mac products I cringed to imagine that my 5D images would not be a high enough resolution to fill the screen on an iMac with a retina display. In fact, the 27″ model could potentially use an only slightly smaller resolution than a full raw file from a 5D Mark III. That is pretty insane to imagine.

To edit photos on a display like that it may look good on the surface but zooming in to view details would suddenly become much more difficult. You could argue that it looks good enough to edit accurately without zooming in but sometimes fine tuning takes an enlarged view to accomplish what you need. Even with the current high density Macbook Pros I find editing on photos, even from fully capable raw files from a 5D mark II that editing is in some ways improved and in other ways muddled by the ability to only zoom in slightly on an image to fine tune it before software kicks in and starts filling in information with pixels that don’t really exist. So while photos DO look gorgeous on the display I would hesitate to say that is perfect for editing photos.

And this is just with the high end camera market. The iMac has long been considered a home computer but has quickly replaced the Pro towers Apple makes as they are more than capable of handling the needs of most. So what of the average consumers who have been using modest smaller resolution point and shoots or the ones attached to their iPhones. The resolution of their snapshots has been perfectly fine for sharing online, looking at on their computers, or making prints to share but soon enough these modest images will look worse and worse on larger high density displays. Apple touts its full screen iPhoto as a beautiful way to edit and view photos but what about when the screen resolutions eclipse that of the cameras in use today?

Photographers have been debating “The Megapixel Myth” for years and year now (similar to the “megahertz myth” of old mac marketing). Points are always made in consideration of what resolution a person could honestly need their photos to be. It has been welcoming to see recently how camera makers have been able to comfortably improve and enhance the image quality and low light performance without having to waste as much time reaching for senseless megapixel numbers.

The fact that is bugging me is that I sort of felt as though technology was starting to find level ground in the war of speed and resolution and in this space we started to see some honest evolution again in the world of computing and technology. For example, with computers we found the introduction of the iPad and tablet computing. Within the camera market we seemed to be seeing manufacturers actually focus on the usability, functionality, and performance of their cameras rather than racing for higher resolutions resulting in the booming micro four-thirds market.

Movers and shakers in technology had started to focus on user interface design and creative engineering that felt like it was pushing forward to the future and creating compelling products again rather than suck up time and resources fighting to build the fastest machine with the greatest specs. The only thing that had threatened that stance was a race for cheaper pricing on technology but Apple has shown that one obviously does not have to be the cheapest to succeed in the market, you just have to make honest products and stand behind them.

But in this case, I can’t help but fear that display technology may kick start yet another senseless spec war not only in screen resolution technology but within camera makers as well. It is a slippery slope I feel we are on right now and while I don’t fear the worst I am certainly curious to see what happens over the next couple years in this space.

As photographers it’s time to stand up and stop concentrating so heavily on tech specs and other such nonsense and get back to what makes the history of photography so rich and eclectic. It’s time to focus once again on creating emotional and effective imagery that is able to stand the test of time, not be seen and instantly forgotten. Photography is a place where philosophy and technology mix with art and its ease of entry has diluted its user base to the point of over saturation. While chemistry and technology has always been a central pillar in this space, I fear it could drag it down even further unless we start to greet some of this forward momentum with at least a whisper of skepticism. I guess the best way to break this down is simply to ask, when will we ever be satisfied? When will sharp be sharp enough, or big be big enough? When do we reach the point within some areas of consumer technology where we are making progress simply for the sake of progress?

Just when I thought maybe were starting to come to terms with certain technological advancements and actually enjoy ourselves within our technically enhanced lives I have been quickly reminded that it will never end. I don’t mean to be overly pessimistic but you have got to admit it does feel a big daunting at times does it not? It is a subject I have long explored on these pages and I know I am not alone.

Getting back to the matter at hand, screen resolutions can be beautiful, effective, and amazing at these ultra high resolutions, but I can only hope that we move forward with realistic expectations. On my iPhone a retina display makes perfect sense because the size of the screen is a bit smaller and it aids in its use. On the iPad it is a natural evolution of another device held close to you as you work in a very personal way. Now, on laptops we start to explore the fringe of what may or may not be a relevant need. As we see high density screens get larger and larger I start to question, why? Just because we can?

Let me take a moment here to apologize to all those using a new macbook retina for the 5+ years of posts now containing thumbnail images that are now absurdly awful looking. Of course I will admit WAY back in the day they were even smaller when the average screen size was 800x600px. We evolve as technology evolves, is that right?

While designers are able to adapt to these new technologies by developing new types of scalable designs and techniques (and I will admit it does seem kind of fun and exciting) photographers have little choice but to either continue to use current display technology as long as it is available or continue the frivolous, all too frequent camera upgrades in effort to stay relevant, and people wonder why its so expensive to hire a good photographer. Not everything we use needs to have such short shelf lives does it? At least my 20+ year old film cameras still work. (The image above was shot with my Hasselblad)

I really have no intention of coming across as overly sensitive or hesitant to continue to grow or move forward, I just like to keep things in perspective is all. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong and this display tech transition will be smooth as silk.

Followup:  I noticed this post from Marco Arment, as I’m sure a lot of you did as well who follow the mac blogger circles. He seems to be realizing similar things that I have been writing about lately here on 50ft. The benefits of an iPhone as a camera are clear but so are the limitations. It’s interesting that it took the new retina display for some to realize the limitations of shooting with an iPhone weigh just as much as the benefits. I am still fascinated by what kind of an impact these screens may have in the tech industry overall, not just for geeks and designers.

Bitmap image resolutions have seen a slow steady growth over the years but the dawn of dense resolution displays comes as a slap in the face sort of change as many images created or shared in the recent past and in many cases, near future are left in the dust. It will be interesting to see others come to their own conclusions and realizations about this transition as time moves forward and we evolve into the new era of high density resolutions.

Low Res

A Quick Word On Resolution

Here we stand on the cusp of a new era of display technology and as they evolve I realize I must evolve right along with them. The challenge of the moment is compatibility with as many displays as possible while remaining as simplified as possible in my approach to sharing. I know there are some who like having ten different links for many different displays but I find this excessive and a waste of time. As long as I am offering images at resolutions capable of looking good on the higher resolution screens available today the smaller screens are easily able to scale down the images. Over the years I have done my best to upgrade current and future desktop images as needed to match the growing resolutions of displays but lately it feels like I’m trying to shoot a moving target.

There no way of telling what resolutions apple will move to in the future and I just can’t bring myself to start making wallpaper resolutions to reflect screen resolutions that don’t exist outside of aimless rumors and speculation. It’s a tricky spot I am in these days. My plan is to continue to upgrade resolutions as things evolve. I have a few ideas concerning prepping for the future while gathering up full resolution images of every desktop I have released on 50ft in one place but this won’t be implemented until later this year as I continue to make new additions to the site.

I wanted to write today simply to bookmark this date as a divide in posts here on 50ft. From here on full resolution desktop images will be offered at the resolution of the new MacBook Pro’s retina screen of 2880×1800 (until something changes). After a brief bit  of testing at an Apple store I am satisfied with the look of current/past resolution images on the new display. While not flawless I feel they still look pretty fantastic on the new display and for now I will simply leave the older images be as they are unless there is a large unrest among readers wanting their favorites at the new resolution. If you have any thoughts on the matter please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. I will continue to do the best I can to support newer devices and resolutions as I always have. I will also be making adjustments to the design of the site to better accommodate these new displays. All in good time.

Further thoughts: After a bit more reading up on the matter I am more informed but equally conflicted and how to proceed. Apple makes the desktop images built into the OS available at a resolution of 3200×2000 which I see as a clear indication that the resolutions of their displays will continue to grow as they expand the pixel dense designs to their other products. This is a wonderful technological growth and only makes sense at this point that things will head in this direction but for me, from a photographers standpoint it’s raising red flags in my mind.

I was always able to justify sharing my photography at the resolution I currently make it available because it is at a resolution that could not be reprocessed physically or used in commercial work without a moderate level of scaling and quality loss. While I love the Creative Commons mentality and fully believe in its values I personally can not make my images available in those terms because I am not simply an amateur snapping photos because I enjoy it. Photography is a huge part of my livelihood and while images in todays world seem disposable to many people there are those who find an honest value to the photography they and others with a like minded dedication and passion create.

If I begin to release images at these resolutions I put myself further at risk in the slippery world of sharing online. A good example of my hesitance happened recently, a design blog that simply farms content from around the web to show off creative ideas or imagery wrote a lovely little article on 50ft and pointed people in this direction but in the last line of the write up the author suggested that people could further enjoy the images found on my site in the form of a physically printed poster by printing them using PrintRunner, a printing company that I have oddly enough used in the past but have no affiliation to at all. For some reason they figured this was ok to suggest.

I have always embraced sharing some of my photographs online in desktop form as a means to spread the love of what I capture and I will of course continue to embrace this method of sharing but I have to take actions to push forward with some of the plans I have had for 50ft a little sooner than I had expected.

Many of Many of you know I have been planning to start up a shop here on the site and currently my plan is to open this up in the fall later this year. Within this shop I will be selling not only printed material but hopefully other fun things as well. Opening it feels like a natural progression for the brand I am slowly building around fiftyfootshadows and I am quite excited to finally start to see ideas feel within reach.My end goal will be to help monetize the work I put into 50ft in an effort to be able to dedicate more time into making it a great resource for original images, commentary, and more.

If you have not noticed, I take pride in my attempts to keep the content here unique in its perspective and approach and within this effort I stray away from posting articles or content  designed for mass appeal or heavy linking aka. “link bait”. I will never post anything second hand and any images or content you find here will be directly from its creator. It is my belief that this approach leads to a trust and honesty that I find lacking in much of the web today.

This brings me back to the matter at hand. I have decided that I will most likely begin supplying my desktops at the even higher resolution of 3200×2000 but prior to this I need to put just a little more thought into implementing one of the plans that I have been juggling in my mind for a while now. You can expect an announcement soon with more details, I am excited about the continued growth of the site and I can’t wait to see things fall into place in the near future. Thank you for your patience and, as always for your ongoing support, heres to plenty more great things yet to come.

Update: As you may have noticed, I have still been releasing at my old resolution and this will continue until I have time to get a new system into place for the distribution of higher resolution versions. Thanks for your patience, as always.


Going Nowhere

Another photo from my time in Bali. While looking through images for a new one to share I started to think about how I manage to grow complacent when I stay in one place for too long without traveling or exploring somewhere new. I crave the creative energy new places are able to give me. While of course I get a bigger boost from traveling to a new country, I also discover the same renewed sense of focus when simply taking a hiking trip or riding a train to a nearby city. My frequent trips out to a nearby lake are what manage to keep me grounded while I can not spare the time or resources to travel further. I mention this simply to share my own feelings on the matter and encourage anyone feeling stuck emotionally or lackadaisical about the day to day to take some time off and explore somewhere new. In this time be sure not to over plan your time away. Leave at least 50 percent of your time wherever it is you go to chance. Without time like this you can never rally soak in that subtle rush from getting lost somewhere new.

Anyways, about the photo here. Spotted down one of dozens of little alleyways similar to the previous image shared here on 50ft, I noticed this highly simplified stairwell heading up to the roof of a building. The late afternoon sun provided for a beautiful light as it mixed in with the cold grey and blue shadows. Ironic though just after posting an article about minimal processing to images that this one would include a little more than I usually do. Some specific changes to the color were in order to help bring out the texture of the cement and amplify the highlights from the sun felt more or less essential to recreate the feeling of the moment captured. It was a shot that was taken in passing and thought little of at the time. I only just relized how nice it was yesterday when I discovered it hiding among other images in Aperture. Hopefully the little bit of extra effort in getting the color nice and rich will go appreciated. Due to the composition of the image it was a tricky one to crop into iPad and iPhone sizes but I did the best I could manage. Thanks, as always, for stopping by and enjoy!


Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

In the first of what I hope could have the potential to be a nice series of posts I would like to take questions asked of me through email and answer them publicly here on 50ft. Sometimes I am asked things that I feel could benefit others and figured now is as good of time as any to give it a shot. In the future I hope to continue to answer questions like this so others can benefit from any advice given as well. The question asked is as follows:

Hi John, Would it be possible for you to list the settings you used to take your fantastic images? I’m a medium grade photographer and I always enjoy learning how experts achieve their effects. Example: AV mode, 100 ISO, F16, 1/500

I have long been asked about the technical side of my photography and aside from the occasional private answer through emails I have stayed pretty reserved about it over the years. Not particularly because I have any grand secrets I am hiding, quite the opposite in fact. I like to keep things as simple as I can manage in the process of shooting. This and the web seems so crowded when it comes to people offering photography advice, I simply choose to distance myself from that kind of gimmicky writing here on 50ft. As I glance through photography sites from day to day all I ever see are endless tips and tricks or collections of photographs within posts eager to show off that they found the coolest new photographer on the scene.  You have to admit this gets tiresome. Books are still the best place for good technical information about shooting and maybe in the future I will gather a few recommendations. In light of the question asked of me today I thought I could touch on the basics of how I shoot for those of you who may be curious.

When it comes to making photographs, personally, I like to rely as little as possible on post editing work. If I look through images on my camera while out shooting and catch myself thinking, “oh I’ll just brighten that up later” or anything to that effect then I know I am getting lazy and take a moment rethink my approach. In the age of digital shooting laziness has taken a stronghold on photography as a whole. The fact remains that the core principles of photography have not changed since the film days. To get the best possible photograph of a scene you need the best possible negative to work with. Nothing is more essential than getting a good exposure. The ratio of time spent out shooting versus time spent in front of a computer editing should always leave you out in the field more than at home or in the office messing about with post work and the key to achieving this is getting good at making great photographs within the camera.

I feel as though the best place to start is by mentioning the love I have for prime lenses. Combine this with an intimate knowledge of my current digital camera of choice, the original Canon 5D and you now know the secret of my digital photographic work. After a brief interlude using a 24mm f/1.4L and 50mm f/1.2L I am back to using a 35mm 1.4L because it offers me a great balance of being wide enough without being wide to the point of distortion and offers a satisfying range of focus before hitting infinity. This allows me to get in tight enough on a subject for many to mistake the shot for a macro but also wide enough to shoot larger subjects or portraits while still maintaining the simplified look of a shallow depth of field. It is currently the one and only lens I use on my 5D. I would much rather have a film body tucked into the extra space in my camera bag rather than another heavy lens I don’t really need.

I wanted to start off with that because lens choice is a valuable ingredient in defining the look of an image. This combined with the performance of the sensor or type of film inside the camera sets the stage for how images will render. Prime lenses give me that characteristic shallow depth of field, vignetting, and contrast that you find so often in my images. I typically work within a range of f/1.4-2.8 while using aperture priority and usually have a finger on the EV compensation scale to compensate for the light or composition at hand.

As I have mentioned in the past, using the ISO expansion on the 5D I commonly shoot at ISO 50 (heh, the irony just hit me) to shoot with wide apertures in brighter/daylight conditions. This was once done much more often back when ISO 50 or 25 were the average film speeds being used in cameras. This is part of the reason many vintage family photos have a nice vivid softness to the color and focus. White balance is also important to keep an eye on and you will find my camera often set to a custom WB which rests at an overly warm temperature, something I have been starting to tire of and play with again lately. I also shoot using the center focal point exclusively when using auto focus and always shoot RAW images.

As for post work, once I narrow down key images I sometimes make adjustments that usually don’t take more than a couple of minutes to administer. I have no default settings that I use, no presets or filter packs of any kind. I have been using Photoshop and computers to edit images for somewhere around 15 years now and have experimented endlessly with the amount of post work it takes to make images look their best only to come full circle and end up looking to the basics to achieve the best results. There isn’t much of a secret formula here.

The most I typically do to an image is some basic work with curves, which can be your best friend when editing an image. My most common adjustment involves a gentle dip or anchor placed in the shadows and a sometimes healthy boost in the brighter side of the image, this brings forth a nice contrast of which I have total control over unlike the crude adjustments offered in the default contrast slider. At times, color specific adjustments go a long way to even out a strange white balance as well but with any adjustments you make, a little goes a long way and its important not to overdo it. Other edits may include a touch of sharpening at times, or if I am feeling adventurous I will add a color tint to the shadows of an image in Aperture to give it that slightly washed out look rather than having deep blacks in an image.

Presets are fun but form bad habits in shooting and there is never one preset that works for all images. Each instance is unique and should be treated as such.

So there you have it, like a good healthy meal made from basic, fresh ingredients you can achieve wonderful photographic results with basic editing if you find the right balance of lens and camera for your style and pair this with good exposures.

Perhaps in the future I will go into further detail with more specifics but this represents my overall approach to digital shooting both for 50ft and in general. It has been refined quite a bit over the years and continues to evolve as my taste evolve but this is about as close a look into the details of my process as I have ever given in the past so hopefully there was something of interest in here for you guys wondering.

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.


• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)