Passport to my Neighborhood - A Grove of Trees

This coming May, it will have been one year since I discovered a small grove of California Buckeye chestnut trees. A place to which I remain strongly drawn to and I look forward to revisiting before the heat and drought of summer sets in and changes the environment into a fiery wasteland.

On my way to the Old Pioneer Cemetery in St Helena, California, along Highway 29, where I was going to document the site for an on-going project, that I had passed the Bale Grist Mill and noted that on the way back home I should have a look at the historical site.

After looking around the Bale Grist Mill, it was by now late in the afternoon and the sun had started to set low behind the mountain ridge, rendering the area across the street from me, in a warm golden aura that grabbed my attention.

Once I crossed the street, I needed to make my way through some dense tall shrubs in order to reach the trees I spotted from the mill. I did not know what to expect and I was not prepared for what I discovered.

Ever since childhood, trees played an important part in my life and even today, I take every opportunity to grow a tree from seed. So when I entered this area that was mostly obscured and hidden, it was as stepping back in time, when California was only inhabited by Indian tribes and a few grizzly mountain men, when California was virgin country and mostly unexplored.

I turned to MPro, one of my four favorite camera applications, trying to capture the scene in Black & White, as if it were photographed in the early days of photography. Not content in the results, I tried Hipstamatic, using the Jane lens with D-Type Plate film and after 24 exposures, still nothing felt right. Normally I would use the Jane lens with DC film, but it would be simply to modern, so another try, another combination.

In the end, most of the remaining one hundred and eleven shots were captured using Jane lans with C-Type Plate film, as it not only captured the mood but also the essence of my discovery.

I left the protected grove of chestnut trees with a sense of awe, feeling I have been privileged to witness a living time capsule, where time just stood still, uninfluenced by human touch. I knew I would have to return to observe the passing day, view the changing light’s effect upon these few acres of land and see if it would reveal any secrets, stories long forgotten by those who passed here before.

All photographs iPhone 4S unless otherwise noted are by ©2013-2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


Monokrom - A Review and GiveAway

Earlier this week, I discovered Monokrom, an application for the iPhone and iPad, that converts color photographs into Black & White images smoothly and quickly with one of the most elegant interfaces I have come across in a while.

Monokrom is mostly intuitive, bypassing the various layers of conventional conversion we are use to seeing. By having the layers be transparent and accessible via the menu bar located at the bottom of the screen. 

When you have imported an image to be edited you are in the Tone stage of Monokrome.

Left screen: start-up screen of Monokrom
Right screen: showing the image you are selecting from the camera roll

Left screen: Default settings for ‘Tone’ 
Right screen: Personal adjustments

When one imports an image from the camera roll, Monokrom applies a general default adjustments from which one works. This is seen in the left screen shot. 
The simplicity of this program, are the circles Monokrom calls pucks. These pucks are moved around one at a time to achieve the desired effect and alteration of the image. 

The orange puck controls overall brightness when moved up and down, it also controls the RGB variable when one move it from left to right. The green puck adjusts contrast, depth and drama. When moving the puck up and down it adjusts contrast but when resting in the middle of the image, contrast is neutral. When the puck is moved from left to right, the tones of the photograph are effected.

The blue puck is for adding a duo-tone tint. When it is moved from the bottom of the screen up, this increases the amount the tint, while moving left to right, this changes the color of the tint.

Left screen: Default settings for ‘Finish’ 
Right screen: Personal adjustments

In stage two, Edit-Finish Mode the reddish-pink puck adds noise/grain to the image. When moved from left to right, increases the grain, while up and down, this creates a rougher and more textured look.
The blue puck controls vignetting, movement up and down, increases the effect and moving left to right changes the size of the area being darkened.

Left screen: Showing the memory slots that are available
Right screen: saving the image to the camera roll

In the final stage, Memory, you are able to save your adjustment settings so that if you are doing a numerous images, you are able to quickly apply the settings from a master image to other photographs. There are seven settings you can save, while the eighth slot is an undo feature.

The memory aspect is very helpful and saving a setting is very easy. Simply hold down an open memory slot and a dialogue box comes up. However you can only add two characters to identify the preset.

Monokrom export screen

Currently you are only able to export your image to the camera roll, send it as a text message, or post it via Twitter. Being able to export to other popular social network sites is not available.

Left screen: Mini help guide available within Tone and Finish section
Right screen: Mini help guide within Memory section

Left screen: Index of the main help section
Right screen: Settings for Monokrom

One other nice feature within Monokrom are their instructions. While working within one of the three sections, there is a guide available, but for a more detailed  understanding of the application, one must head to the main help page. There you will find an extensive and easy to understand the various functions of Monokrom.

While the program saves ones photographs as a JPG, by going to settings within the application, you can change this to save your work as an uncompressed TIFF document, something a number of application developers are finally adding due to  the fact that many camera applications permit shooting in TIFF.

Final image after being altered in Monokrom

While I was exploring the various aspects of Monokrom, I discovered that when one is in Monokrom and selecting an, that when holding down on the image or even swiping ones finger over it, the image is previewed as a generic B/W.

My final views on Monokrom

This intuitive and easy to use program does what it sets out to do and does it well. One aspect of Monokrom is that it only takes up 2.9 Mb of disk space of ones iPhone/iPad, unlike other B/W conversion applications.

I did feel that Monokrom lacked an essential feature. Not being able to either double tap or pinch to zoom in order to enlarge the image and being able to see ones results, especially if one plans to apply any grain or noise texture to the image. There is also the inability to export a number of social networks.

While I recommend Monokrom, I do have a list of suggestions for future updates. These add-ons I feel will make Monokrom a killer application.

Suggestion for making Monokrom even better.

1: Being able to double tap in order to view the image larger during editing
2: A before and after button feature
3: Add to Finish mode the ability to soften and sharpen the image
4: A blending slider to allow the original color image to blend with the B/W
5: Having the program be able to recall previous work even when it no
     longer is on the iPhone/iPad, like we have with ImageBlender.
6: Export capabilities to Instagram, FaceBook, EyeEm, Flickr and Tumblr

TiPA GiveAway of Moonokrom

We received 5 codes to giveaway of Monokrom and if you would like your chance at being one of the winners, here is what you will need to do.

1: You need to leave a comment and most important of all, include your contact information, so I can send you your code if you are one of the random winners.

If no contact information is provided and your name was drawn, another winner will be chosen in your place.

2: Five winners will be chosen by random drawing on Monday, April 7 after 6 pm PST. Drawing closes on April 7 at noon PST.  When you go to comment, do not be fooled by ‘0’ Comment, it is a glitch that just loves to confuse people.

3: Please consider following TiPA. You can do this by using NetworkedBlogs or Google. This way you will always be kept up to date.

                         Good Luck!

Monokrom is available at iTunes
Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.


UpDate: The results of the drawing are in

Congratulations to the winners . . .
                              I look forward to seeing what you have created.

          Edith Meier
          Lillian Alves de Oliveira
          Petyr Campos
          Rosanna Cappiello
          Gillian Brodie

Your codes will be sent shortly with instructions on how to redeem them.

Thank you all for your participation in TiPA’s GiveAway and a special thank you to Darren Richards from Richards Imaging for making the program available.


MacWorld 2014 - My four day adventure

Last week I spent four very long days at San Francisco Moscone Conference Center - North, where MacWorld 2014 and Dan Marcolina’s ‘Mobile Masters Workshop’ was being held and which I also attended.

San Francisco Moscone Conference Center - North

Armed with notes gathered the night before, I entered the Exhibit Hall. I was overwhelmed by all the wonderful items available for the Macintosh computer and of course, this included the iPhone and iPad, of which there were plenty of gadgets and accessories to be seen and had.

Agenda and notes to guide me through the maze

I meet with creative inventors, designers, Chief Executive Officers, Publishing Relationship and Marketing personnel, to establish relationships I will want to grow over the next months and years.

Gathering brochures and catalogues

Over the next couple of months I will share with you what I discovered and learned, along with the results of a number of products that I brought home or will be receiving from companies in the coming weeks. These items I will try out, testing in real user environments, under conditions one would expect to be in.

Should you be wondering why one of the cases is empty, it is because the item, a wooden iPhone case, was meant for my son and I forgot to tell him I needed to photograph it first. So I guess he will be the tester for that product.

At the end of the day, on the way home, I stopped of at San Francisco’s MOMA Annex store to see what new books on photography might have arrived. I certainly was not disappointed, coming home with four wonderful books to be devoured 

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by 
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


OllolClip 2X Telephoto lens review

Does one need another iPhone attachment to carry around, on the odd chance of maybe needing it. Besides, I have always believed that my legs make the best telephoto lens. While this may sound like a negative  statement, let us first examine the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens attachment that comes with a rotating circular polarizing lens (CPL).

Mobile photography is very different from using a DSLR/SLR or traditional medium or large format cameras. I am not referring to that mobile artists app their images, rather we use our mobile camera devices differently then a DSLR/SLR and so we must look at the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens not as a traditional DSLR/SLR telephoto lens, but how it applies to mobile photography. Let’s first remember the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens, like our mobile camera lens is not only a fixed focal length, it also has no aperture controls, unlike traditional DSLR/SLR lenses. 

When I first used the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens, it took some getting used to as we see with the first couple exposures I took. This is only natural because one needs to learn to gauge the fixed distances the subjects are brought in closer.

As a photographer I like being close and intimate with my subject matter, regardless if I am doing a table-top still-life, street photography or shooting a landscape and when the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens is applied to any of these styles of genre, the lens attachment brings a new dynamics to one’s work that is not only exhilarating, but also alters the creative process and adds an element of intenseness.

Before exploring the many different applications the lens was tested at, let us look at the lens itself. 

When you open the package you will immediately notice that the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens is solidly constructed of anodized aluminum with a central plastic mount, all of which is well designed and that the rotating circular polarizing lens attachment has multiple functions as a stand-alone item. The 2X telephoto lens is constructed of four elements, all made from coated precision-ground high-quality glass. Both lens comes in a draw-string microfiber bag that also doubles as lens cloth.

When the telephoto lens is reversed on the iPhone, the attachments only function is to enable the polarizer to be used with the native camera or that of any other camera application. Furthermore the circular polarizer can also be used with the OlloClip Three-in-One or the Four-in-One lens attachments.

The 2X telephoto lens is small enough not to appear intrusive to others or an obstacle to one’s use of the mobile device. The OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens comes with a clear lens cover but unfortunately the polarizer is not afforded with any protection when not in use, an oversight I hope will be rectified in the near future. Now let us look at the lens as it is being tested under various conditions.  

When I first tried the lens in a studio setting, it was to photograph a still-life set  of a dead bird on an antique book and while it provided certain advantages, it was also limiting for this type of photography. For there needs to be a certain amount of distance between the 2X telephoto lens and the subject before the subject is in focus. Yet the greater distance between the iPhone and subject that is created by the 2X telephoto lens allows for more control of manipulation of the light with reflectors and gobo’s, including that the iPhone or that of myself no longer cast a shadow, all of which is a major advantage. 

On the other hand, when the 2X telephoto lens was applied to street photography, it excelled and exceeded all my anticipations, especially after learning to gauge the distance for close encounters.

While I like getting real close to my subjects, trying to capture the human activities and conditions on the street and the use of the 2X telephoto lens provides not only that additional edge of visual intimacy of the subject matter, the results offer a different perspective not possible before. One of the biggest advantages of the 2X telephoto lens during street photography is that one can be 5-8 steps or feet further away from the subject and so almost appear invisible to the subject and less of being discovered.

Besides photographing street activities, I enjoy capturing distinctive architecture like ‘Mom and Pop’ grocery or liquor stores. In doing so, you would normally see me standing in the middle of the street, a matter that is not only unsafe, but with the 2X telephoto lens, I can in most cases just stand at the edge of the sidewalk, out of harms way and get the image I am seeking.

We must not forget that the iPhone lens when compared to a DSLR lens, the iPhone’s 4S f/2.4 is equivalent to 28mm and the iPhone 5S f/2.2 to a 33mm DLR lens. So when adding the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens to your iPhone, the enlargement may seem only marginal at first, acting more like a normal 50mm lens on a DSLR. 

But then let’s remember we are adding a telephoto lens to a camera whose native lens is a wide-angle and after you begin using the 2X telephoto attachment, you will find like I did, the real strength of the 2X telephoto lens is to be more for immediate and in-between surroundings.

For example when attending a studio rehearsal with several musicians, the 2X telephoto lens once again proved to be indispensable, even under an extreme low light situation. My presence in such tight surroundings is not only intrusive but also a major distraction for the musicians who are separated from each other and need to communicate visually with one another through a window. By being a respectful distance from my subject, the musician does not feel crowded or like I am infringing on their space, while still being able to get the image I am after.

This dilemma of being too close with the iPhone without the 2X telephoto lens when attempting portrait photography, but by having the 2X telephoto lens attached to the mobile device, there is a respectful distance between subject and photographer that is so necessary.

My colleague Petyr Campos makes use of the OlloClip 2X telephoto lens for when you “want to be close to the action when but can't get close.” This is especially true when Petyr attends concerts/music events. “The 2X optical magnification delivered by the OlloClip telephoto lens allows me to zoom in and focus on individual subjects on the stage, while leaving out distracting elements. I can now turn a stage shot into a portrait.”

Photo by ©2014 Petyr Campos - All Rights Reserved

As for Petyr’s photographs of surfers along the California coastline, he states that the “telephoto lens allows me to get tightly framed photographs of surfers running into the ocean without getting in their way. I'm now also able to capture shots of surfers down the shoreline that were once too far away.”

Now the telephoto lens slips on and off with ease, just like their other lenses and in the past this has meant that one cannot be using a protective camera case, but OlloClip has released their own Flip-Case that also serves as a tripod mount, something that is very important to me. The Flip-Case is well designed and should be considered if you want a case that also allows you to use your OlloClips, while protecting the iPhone.

For me the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens become a treasured  item and an important part of my mobile photography . It has provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my creative vision more precisely when that added closeness was essential. The additional rotating circular polarizer provided with the 2X telephoto lens and its ability to be used as a stand alone attachment to the other OlloClip attachments like the Three-in-One or the Four-in-One, or just by itself with the camera’s native lens is like icing on the cake, making the 2X telephoto lens a very good value purchase and one, highly recommend this lens.


This article first appeared in the British mobile magazine  MOB Fiction in March 2014. Since the publication this addendum has been added, since the OlloClip 2 X Telephoto lens  was originally tested using only a ratio 1:1 square camera.

Because of this, further  tests images were taken using PureShot camera app from Jag, a 4:3 ratio camera, allowing us to view how sharp the OlloClip 2X is from edge to edge.

Pre-performance lecture, Davis Concert Hall - PureShot camera application

PureShot camera application with the OlloClip 2X attached

While at the San Francisco Symphony, a place I felt was where one would wish to use the telephoto lens to capture the speaker’s presentation, as well as the orchestra members prior to the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas arrival, since photography is not permitted. With the iPhone 4S on a monopod, I took a couple of exposures, with and without the OlloClip 2X lens.

PureShot camera application

PureShot camera application with the OlloClip 2X attached

When we look more closely at the photograph showing where the choir is seated, particularly the upper left corner of the image, we clearly see softness. The degree of softness is not as sever as I have seen with other lens attachments and while any softness is undesirable, one must ask how much softness is acceptable.

Close up the choir showing the image left edge softness

Considering most mobile photographers alter their images into replicating LoFi effects or even resemble early 19th century prints and while I certainly would have preferred edge to edge sharpness, I still feel comfortable to recommend the OlloClip 2X telephoto lens without any reservations.

OlloClip website

All photographs unless otherwise noted by ©2013-2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

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