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

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