Area 51 - A Book Review

Recently Jay Desind released his third book “Area 51,” but his first iBook of poems and illustrated with photographs, captured with a mobile iPhone. The eBook is divided up into four sections of forty poems, all of which are accompanied by a photograph and an audio track.

In Jay’s introduction explains that our hearts are like Area 51, an assemblage of “twisting underground corridors,” and that within each of us a “universe of feeling.” He goes on to say that despite ones despair, he eventually found the strength, “found the seed to grow yet again.”


iPad Screen Capture of “Area 51”

One of the very nice features that was incorporated into the eBook were audio tracks of Jay’s voice reading every poem in the eBook. This allows the reader to follow along, while experiencing Jay’s personal interpretation of his words. Unfortunately due to the design of the eBook, the audio track is cut off when you turn to the next page.

Another nice feature of “Area 51” are the hidden comments about each of the mobile photographs. Jay says “Writing and photography has taught me to see things in three dimensions,” and this theory is woven throughout the design of the eBook. To gain access to the hidden comments, a simple single tap on the photo will quickly reveal some background as to the photograph and in most cases its relationship to the poem. In some cases just make sure to also scroll the text since the pre-sized window may have hidden some of Jay’s remarks.


iPad Screen Capture of “Area 51”

Area 51” is a very personal book in which Jay lays bear his soul and emotions of the heart and that is not always an easy thing to do, especially when it is made public. Yet there are also poems that spring forth, on the spot, reflecting a sense of raw and unpolished thinking. 

While the book is not only about expressing ones feelings in words shaped into poetry, it is also about mobile iPhoneography.

As the poetry takes us to various parts of the earth, from different locations in Italy, where Jay currently lives, to Spain, Germany, and to his roots in the western states of America; so do his photographs that illustrate the poems. What all images have in common is that there is no continuity in style. For Jay may use the camera that is native to the iPhone or an alternative one like Hipstamatic, allowing for different lens and film combinations to capture a particular scene.

The scrapbook style like images simple relate the content of the book and while I may wish for more continuity in the visual results, in the end I am more concerned with the end results of the photography presented in “Area 51.”


iPad Screen Capture of “Area 51”

A number of the images are strikingly well captured and executed in post production and revealing a good eye, still I felt a little let down. When viewed as a whole collection, one will begin to notice that Desind’s skill as a mobile photographer is still a voice trying to find itself. As we delve deeper into “Area 51,” we do begin to see a shift in the style of his photographs.

This improved development in Jay’s mobile technique and post production is evident in his recent postings to his FaceBook page “The Unobtrusive Eye,” including the release of iBook version “Balance?” two weeks ago.

Area 51” is a good start for Jay’s entree into digital publishing of eBooks. The overall design and layout still needs improvement so the flow between the text and the imagery is better balanced and pleasing to the eye. Also the photographs were not optimised to be viewed larger then displayed.

While these points are minimal, it should not deter you from becoming a follower of author and photographer Jay Desind’s work and download his eBook.


          Retails for $7.99

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iPad, and with iTunes on your computer. Multi-touch books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iPad. Books with interactive features may work best on an iPad.

Area 51” at Apple iTunes Store

FaceBook fan Page “The Unobtrusive Eye

          Other books by Jay Desind:

Balance?” at Apple iTunes Store

The Imperfect Photo” at Amazon Store

Hotel Vidal” at Amazon Store


Waterlogue — A Review

Last week TinRocket, developers of the successful iOS post production application Percolator and recently updated Popsicolor, has released Waterogue, inspired by Moleskine watercolor journals, urban sketching, artist’s journals and en plain air painting. This application transforms your mobile photographs into one of twelve different popular artistic styles with just a few clicks and minutes later you have transformed your image.

Original image combined with Waterlogue style “Natural”
using Blender set to Luminosity at 70%

Waterlogue twelve artistic preset styles (Natural, Bold, Luminious, “It’s Technical”, Travelogue, Rainy, Illustration, Soaked, Shallow, Color Bloom, Fashionable, Blotted), realistically interpret your photograph in a way a sketch artist with pencil and watercolor might do in their sketchbook and this is the core strength of Waterlogue. While there are numerous similar transformation programs available, Waterlogue focuses only on this particular artistic technique and does it rather very well, still, I felt something is essentially missing. 

Original Hipstamatic photograph (Jane lens with DC film)

Photo altered with Waterlogue using style “Natural”

The intent of Waterlogue is “to give people access to a creative tool that doesn’t require any training” and here TinRocket has succeeded perfectly, since the results produced are exceptional. But what if you wanted to stop the process midway, make adjustments to the brush size or change the type of paper and not only the images shading’s darkness/lightness or border/borderless, which you can adjust, you do not have the option to do so.

While these user options and others are just part of my wish list, I cannot help but feel that at some point these will be implemented since the meta data of a post processed Waterlogue image contains the following:

Preset Style = NaturalFormat = LargeFormat Margin = NoneFormat Border = StraightDrawing = #2 PencilDrawing Weight = MediumDrawing Detail = MediumPaint = NaturalPaint Lightness = NormalPaint Intensity = NormalWater = Tap WaterWater Edges = MediumWater Bleed = AverageBrush = Natural DetailBrush Focus = EverythingBrush Spacing = NarrowPaper = WatercolorPaper Texture = MediumPaper Shading = Light

So why have meta data list line thickness, drawing or painting strength, amount of detail, brush thickness, water blending, or type of paper, if they are not part of the end user control in future updates. At least I am hoping this is the case.

Style “It’s Technical”

Style “Travelogue”

Style “Fashionable”

Adjustable user control of the different Waterlogue styles is only one aspect I hope will be addressed by TinRocket in the near future, I find that not being able to set the programs preferences of Waterlogue more disappointing. 

I am referring to saving ones resolution setting, border/borderless and especially the settings for when saving to the camera roll. For every time one launches Waterlogue, the program default back to medium resolution and image with border, including at what resolution the image is ultimately saved. This may be a minor issue, yet being able to do so is an essential part of any application program.

When saving a Waterlogue post processed photograph, the user has the option of either JPG or PNG. While this is good, many mobile photographers use camera applications that permit saving the photograph as a TIFF file, so it would be very nice if developers realise that saving a post processed image as a lossless TIFF is a benefit not only for the user but also for the developer.

Original photograph

Style “Natural”

Of the twelve artistic preset styles, one will quickly have their favorite and during my testing of Waterlogue, I not only discovered my preferred styles, but started to blend two different Waterlogue styles within another program like Blender to achieve more personalised results. I also noted that if one is not completely pleased with the results, but wishes to use a particular style, simple reintroduce the photograph and an alternative version will be rendered.

Another time saving element of Waterlogue is that after an image has been rendered and you wish to see how another style may interrupt your photograph, Waterlogue renders does a small thumbnail with a rough representation.


Style (L) “Luminious”   (R) “It’s Technical”

Style “Color Bloom”

In the end, Waterlogue is a very good post production application deserving your every attention. It offers the user the ability to create stunning artistic renditions of their photographs and while I felt there were a number of shortcomings to Waterlogue, I will recommend this program, especially if it is being applied as part of ones workflow with other post production applications. Once TinRocket provides access to altering the presets, then Waterlogue will be a killer application.

Style “Luminious” and “Natural” combined using Blender

Price: $3.99 US

Availability: Worldwide through Apple’s iTunes App Store

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. 
System: iOS 7.0 or greater.

     TinRocket website

     Waterlogue website
     Percolator website
     Popsicol website

     FaceBook Page

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


My Exhibit at The Empty Space Project Gallery

This month some of my iPhoneography photographs are appearing at The Empty Space Project Gallery in Putnam, Connecticut. The person and curator behind the gallery concept is Paul Toussaint, also an iPhotographer whom we have featured here previously, when reviewing his iScape Exhibit earlier this year.

For the December 2013 exhibit, I conceived and developed six images, all especially for this show, with a main theme being, that they are all still-life based. For a few weeks I scoured one of my favorite locations in Berkeley for possible items, when I decided to settle for eating utensils from the 30s and 40s. After several visits, I managed to acquire a good number of them, along with tools and drill bits, while other items or props came from around the house.

For me the creation of a still-life photograph means trying out a number of different compositions and since this is mobile photography, it also means using a number of different camera application and even different lens and film combinations to find the right one.

After preliminary tests shots with the utensils, including using the other items that were collected, I settled on two of the three utensil still-life finals. 

Time Forgotten I

Time Forgotten II

Using an old newspaper form 1945 as a backdrop for my garden leather gloves, I placed a monkey wrench I had obtained as a prop and used an old screwdriver to create a nostalgic set. It was composed and shot looking straight down, but as I removed the iPhone from the tripod, I decided to take a few more exposures coming in at an angle. This unplanned action resulted in being the shot that was selected for the show.

My Father’s Tools

Next I worked on the drill bits but decided to replace them with glass insulators because I was not getting the results I Had envisioned. While I only had two insulators, my good friend and neighbor John, gave me three he just happened to have laying around.

Once again I employed the old newspaper as a filler for the empty spaces between the insulators and the crate being used as a background.


Months earlier I had grown a few pumpkins and after making my Thanksgiving Day card, I decided to include this one as part of the exhibit.

Autumn Harvest

John also came to the rescue by helping me with items to used for the Boston Red Socks tribute for winning the 2013 World Series photograph, by letting me have his fathers catchers mitt and bat, topping it off with John’s own Red Socks cap.

Boston Red Sock — World Series 2013 Winners

Now that I had made my final selection of which images to include for The Empty Space Project, getting them printed was another gut wrenching matter. After several attempts using different papers, one was found that provided true interpretations of what I intended and had on my monitor screen, but there was still one more step. 

Packaging and Shipping

      The Empty Space Project Gallery
      114 Main Street
      Putnam, Connecticut, 06260


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

Thanksgiving Day Wishes

Autumn Harvest

As the year slowly approaches the last chapter, we first celebrate Thanksgiving Day, one which I not only consider my year-end favorite holiday and a day of reflection, but one I have combined with my German roots of Erntedankfest.

It is giving thanks not only to the years bounty our table has shared, but also for our families well being and the friendships, old and new, that are part of our lives.

So I wish to extend to you my dear reader, my heartfelt warm wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. May your home be filled with the warmth and laughter from family members and friends.


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


Looking Back - Ken Merfeld

I have noticed that in the passed few years, there has been a surge in alternative photographic process and one of the more popular ones are wet plates. It is as if wet plate collodion is the LoFi of yesterday reborn.

This sensitive and very temperamental photographic process was invented in 1851, invented by Frederic Scott Archer, replacing daguerreotype and remained favored for about three decades, until it was replaced with dry plate process.’ Collodion process’ is usually taken to be synonymous with the ‘collodion wet plate process,’ a very inconvenient form which required the photographic material to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes.

Ken Merfeld a commercial photographer, with a studio in Culver City, California, specialises in fashion, advertising, portrait, and celebrity assignments, his work has appeared in a variety of magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and more. Caught between two worlds, Ken delved into one of the most ‘hands-on’ technique to keep his traditional darkroom alive, as the world was changing around him into the realm of digital. Over the many years, Ken has amassed a huge body of work Collodion process photographs, ranging from still-life, fashion, botanical and portraiture. 

There is a certain beauty about the wet plate process, it is the unexpected, the unknown outcome and especially the fact that one cannot duplicate the results, that is part of the attraction.

From Ken’s “Fine Art Portfolio” 

Ken Merfeld’s fine art website
Ken Merfeld’s commercial website
Alternative Photography website
FStoppers explaining the process link


Hipstamatic New SnapPak - Photojournalism

After waiting more than a year since Hipstamatic announced Benjamin Lowy’s work on a Photojournalism lens and film pack, it now has finally been released for the ‘First Friday of the Month.’ 

Front view of Full Metal Jacket camera case - screen shot

When I wrote about Benjamin Lowy’s Photojournalism combo in July of 2012, it was meant to be a ‘GoodPak,’ which would raise monies “to give back to the photojournalism community and so created the Hipstamatic Foundation for Photojournalism to be launched with the release of a new GoodPak.” Funds raised from the release of Photojournalism GoodPak will be applied to Hipstamatic Foundation for Photojournalism in order to educate and support the next generation of photo storytellers. 

GoodPak’s’ were developed with the idea that the proceeds would go to charitable organisations. Previous released ‘GoodPaks’ were Dali Museum GoodPak, to aid the Dali Museum in St Petersburg and We Heart Boobies GoodPak to raise funds for National Breast Cancer Awareness month. However when Synthetic released Hipstamatic’s Journalism set, it was as a SnapPak.

Rear view of Full Metal Jacket camera case - screen shot

While I have not had a real chance to explore the Photojournalism SnapPak, I concur with Hipstamatic states that the Lowy lens “records every moment with fine detail . . .” when using the “professional lens.” The Blanko BL4 Film is one of five different versions of Blanko films. Hipstamatic states the Blanko BL4 film is “Designed for use in the field, this simple film will help you document any moment with precision.”

The accompanying camera case Full Metal Jacket is, in my opinion, one of the best designed Hipstamatic camera cases, besides the Long island FreePak, which comes with the Old Sport camera case with aged leather and bronze inlays, or the stainless steel case with art deco and leather grip Gangster Deco camera case.

I feel that apart from the Jane lens paired with the DC film, which I had been using for achieving photographs without any LoFi effects or other anomaly algorithms, the new additional should please many who want to use Hipstamatic for documentary work. 

While the Photojournalism SnapPak did not come with a B/W film, there are a few already available when color is not desired. There is BlacKeys Extra Fine; BlacKeys SuperGrain and especially Rock BW-11 for nice blacks and whites and having a greater range of greys. 

Screen shot of Hisptamatic’s ‘Featured CameraGear” section

I am sure there will be a number of LoFi enthusiast who will be disappointed with Benjamin Lowy’s Photojournalism SnapPak, because it makes the Hipstamatic camera no different then the iPhone’s native camera. Yet it was very important to Benjamin Lowy that the combo SnapPak was done right. He wanted to make sure that Hipstamatic would be seen by the purists in the photojournalism world as a viable application for documenting the news and that the Photojournalism SnapPak would remove any negativities associated with Hipstamatic by omitted Hipstamatic’s vignetting, spotting or other ‘weird’ appearance.

Only time will tell how successful the Photojournalism SnapPak will be with the Hipstamatic community. Personally, I am delighted that we now have a neutral lens and film combination for pure documentary photography. Over the next week we certainly will see how others mobile photographers will use the Lowy lens or the Blanko BL4 Film with other lens/films in their camera’s arsenal.

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