Dallas

I visited Dallas, TX, for the first time last week. It looks like a move will be imminent early next year as my husband’s company is located there. I really didn’t know what to expect, aside from the mental images of ranches and skyscrapers from the opening of the ’80’s show Dallas. Well, Dallas more than exceeded all my expectations.

It was vibrant, hot, clean, trendy, arty, did I mention hot? It was 109 degrees but this former Maine girl has acclimated to the intense summer heat, thanks to Tucson. I rode the Dart, the light rail system, as the traffic is epic. Dallas reminds me of a Southwest Boston. I visited the Dallas Museum of Art, the Holocaust Museum, the Kimball Museum, and the Crow Museum for Asian Art. There are trees and water, and I really miss both. I think I could be quite happy there. Beautiful city, very friendly people. I recently watched a documentary on the architect I.M. Pei titled I.M.Pei, First Person Singular. It’s available on Netflix. Excellent film and delves into his creative process. He has designed five buildings in Dallas, the two most famous are the Meyerson Symphony and Fountain Place. Fountain Place is the pyramidal building in the second right photo below. It changes shapes continuously as you walk around it, much like an optical illusion.

This is a photo storyboard I made with some of the iPhone photos that I took during my visit. Tomorrow I will post a tutorial on how to make a photo storyboard or blogboard in Photoshop. It’s a great way to showcase your photos.

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How to Make a DIY Brush Stylus (Video)

I recently came across the Nomad brush stylus for the iPad. I’ve been using it with several of the painting apps on my iPad, namely ZenBrush, ArtRage, ArtStudio, and Procreate. What I love about a brush stylus is the feeling of actual painting and the responsiveness with the apps. The Nomad brush tip is a bit too long for the iPhone. I was trying to think of a way to make one for my iPhone and had heard about metallic embroidery floss being conductive on the iDevice touchscreen. I thought about using the skein of embroidery floss and cutting one end to use as a brush and wrapping the skein with masking tape for support. I tried it and it worked.

Two weeks later, I was using ZenBrush and visited their website. Under ‘Extras’ was a tutorial on how to make a brush stylus using the metallic embroidery floss! There really is nothing new under the sun.

I prefer the heat-shrinking electrical tubing but masking or electrical tape without the tubing works fine as well. I made a video tutorial for those visual learners like myself. The stylus is really easy to make and I love using it on my iPhone, the small tip is perfect. I recycled an old Pogo stylus and the smaller barrel is much easier to control rather than the pencil extender but it’s a matter of personal preference. Please be sure you have a screen protector on your iDevice before using the stylus. Im not sure if the floss would produce scratches on the touchscreen over time.

Here is the video. Have fun!

How To Make HDR Photos on an iPhone

There are a lot of complicated lighting situations in photography. Some photographers deal with it by using artificial light such as strobes or on-camera flash but there is also HDR. HDR means High Dynamic Range and allows you to have a perfectly exposed photograph. If you are using a digital SLR then you can take 3-10 photographs of a scene then use tone mapping and merge them into one fabulous photograph using Photomatix or Photoshop CS5. The effect can be very useful especially for interiors or dusk photographs. Unfortunately, some photographers have used the effect to the extreme and the images look ridiculously fake. But used judiciously, the effect can be quite useful and prevent the trashing of some decent photographs.

The iPhone 4 has an HDR function but since I have the iPhone 3GS (I’m impatiently waiting for the iPhone 5) I rely on a great inexpensive app called ProHDR. It’s very simple to use and it is also available in an Android version. You launch the app, and the screen will offer you the choice of manual, auto, or library (load from the camera roll) HDR. I like to use manual setting for more control. Once you choose the manual setting, the app opens the camera and will ask you to tap on a bright area of the scene. It takes a photo and you can accept it or cancel, when you accept, it then asks you to tap a dark area of the scene. It then will merge both images together and you can adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. ProHDR can produce a halo effect if you’re too aggressive with the adjustments, so I just pump up the contrast a little and that usually is sufficient.

 

Here are two photographs that I took in Arles, France on top of the coliseum. It was an overcast day without a lot of light. If I exposed for the sky the foreground would have been far too dark and if I exposed for the foreground my sky would have been blown out. With a DSLR I would have taken 5 or 6 bracketed images with the camera on a tripod. These images were handheld with the iPhone using ProHDR and no schlepping heavy equipment up slippery medieval stone stairs.

 

The final merged and adjusted image

 

It’s worth the $1.99 and there are quite a few HDR apps in the AppStore. I really like this one and Dynamic Light. After you process your image you can bring it into any editor (Photogene, Filterstorm, PhotoForge, or the free Adobe PS Express) and sharpen the image.

Cézanne’s Studio

In March I finally had the opportunity to visit Paul Cézanne’s studio located in the provincial town of Aix-en-Provence. He fled to his hometown of Aix when the vitriolic Parisian art critics denounced his work and refused to jury his paintings in the Paris Salon of the 1800’s. Considering how derisive the criticism was, it’s a wonder he retained the courage and desire to paint. The townspeople of Aix even left messages on his doorstep at one point, requesting he leave Aix as he was “dishonoring” the town.

Now you can’t walk one block without seeing a restaurant or shop with his name on it. There are even bronze ‘C’s on the sidewalk to walk in his footsteps. Cézanne is big business for Aix now.

I must admit, I didn’t fully appreciate Cézanne’s work until I had to copy his still-life paintings in college. I then began to understand the varied perspectives in his work and the humble beginnings of cubist thought. Think of it. If Georges Braque had not studied Cézanne’s paintings while sharing a studio with Picasso, Cubism may have had quite a delayed start. I personally like the fact Cézanne isolated himself in Provence and painted what he wanted to, not pandering to the desires of critics and the fickle public.

Cézanne built his studio on the Chemin des Lauves in 1902. When he died in 1906, his son inherited the building and subsequently sold it to Marcel Provence. Provence wanted to preserve Cézanne’s heritage and when he died in 1951, the studio was going to be razed by developers. Two Americans, James Lord and John Rewald created the “Cézanne Memorial Committee” and 114 American donors contributed a total of 7,500,000 francs to save the studio. I don’t understand why the French government didn’t intervene. In fact, there are only two Cézanne paintings in all of Aix, at the Musée Granet.

Before my husband and I climbed the stairs to the dusty but well-preserved studio we were told photographs were strictly forbidden. Why? I have no idea save for the fact the city of Aix (which nows owns the studio) wants to make a profit on the poor quality studio postcards in the gift shop. The studio is large with two huge picture windows and Cézanne’s objets d’art that he used for his many still-lifes are strewn around the room. One of the enormous windows used to have an unobstructed view of Mont Sainte Victoire but tall gnarly trees now surround the studio. The room is very carefully arranged to make you think Cézanne has left to paint plein-air and will return at any time. Eerie but effective.

Before I left the room I detected his painting smocks in a small corner. Yes, the Master’s clothing replete with thick splotches of oil paint. I then did what any entitled American would do when they feel their countrymen saved a foreign national treasure. I shut the volume off of my iPhone, opened up the Sneaky Pix app and furtively snapped a couple of photographs. Sneaky Pix makes it look like you are talking on the phone with a fake call screen but it snaps photos while you are pretending to talk on the phone.

After purchasing some over-priced souvenirs in the gift shop, we walked around the lush grounds. I thought how fortunate it was that two Americans took the initiative to save this piece of art history. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have minded my sneaky photos.