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.

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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.