Putting my best foot forward

Best Food Forward

I get the attention deficit thing. I discovered that listening to music on my phone and wireless headphones can help me focus my mind. But wearing headphones means being unaware of my surroundings in situations where sight and sound are essential.

One thing that frustrates me about where I love is that I see these beautiful scenes on my way to and from the office or while driving around town, but the narrow-one-lane-no-shoulder country roads don't allow for stopping, and we don't have any sidewalks here either. It can be a strange site for other motorists to watch a car slow down and stop briefly while the driver rolls down the window and stick out a DSLR camera and lens. It works when traffic is light only.

Princeton Battlefield State Park, Princeton, New Jersey
"Princeton Battlefield State Park in the Fog" — 29 October 2014 — Apple iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ f/2.2, ISO 800

Sometimes I get lucky, and the scene unfolds before me, traffic is light, and the road has a shoulder. But still, there is no time to pull out a DSLR, set up a tripod, compose the shot, set camera settings etc. Sometimes, there is just enough time for a grab-shot photo on the iPhone. It's the best I can do at that moment.

"View from The High Line, Manhattan, New York" — 28 September 2014 — Apple iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ 1/10000s at ISO 32

Being without my Nikon1 has forced me to use my iPhone 7. The camera on the iPhone 7 is much better than the camera on my previous iPhones. But I am less happy with recent images taken with the iPhone 7 and less willing to use it in general. But by using a DSLR for most of the pictures I captured over the last few years, I seem to have forgotten how to compose and think through capturing images with the iPhone. Looking back through my catalogue over the last few years, I have many old iPhone images of which I am proud.

Beach, Sunset, Rodanthe, Pier, North Carolina
"Rodanthe Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina" — 3 September 2015 — Apple iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ the 60s at ISO 32

Why am I so stuck now? Why am I not even trying? Why am I struggling to put my "best foot forward"? Have I become one who thinks one can only capture a good photo on expensive high-end equipment. I hope not!!

Self Portrait, Carnegie Lake, Princeton, New Jersey
"Self Portrait, Carnegie Lake, Princeton, New Jersey" — 5 November 2015 — Apple iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ f/2.2, ISO 32

For the last few weeks, while driving along Mapleton Road on the border between Plainsboro and Princeton Township, I have observed the beautiful morning sun that illuminates the expensive homes on the western side of Carnegie Lake. There is no place to stop and take a photo. But I am determined, and perhaps tomorrow I will arise before dawn, drive to the southern end of Mapleton Road, park my car at the entrance to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Park Trail, and walk the trail, with the tripod and iPhone 7, north toward that area. I expect the walk will be pretty cold.

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Princeton, New Jersey
"Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Princeton, New Jersey" — 31 October 2015 — Apple iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 @ f/2.2, ISO 32

  1. Dropped! Broken! 


I love HDR photography. In case you don't know what that is you can head over to Trey Ratcliff's website for an explanation. Here's my quick version. In HDR photography, the photographers take at least two (three or more is better) exposure bracketed and through the magic of software, algorithms combine them into a single image. As you can tell from Trey's photos, the results can produce a striking increase in dynamic range.

I capture most of my images for HDR work on my Nikon. However, setting up a tripod, DSLR and wide-angle lens while stopped at the side of a narrow country road with cars whizzing by is a less than ideal experience. Sometimes my iPhone is the most convenient camera I have with me. I've experimented with various HDR apps for the iPhone over the last few years, but I always found them lacking in some aspect. I've installed and deleted about half a dozen HDR apps from my iPhone. vividHDR is the first HDR app that has a chance of remaining on my iPhone long-term.

vividHDR is a simple app. This simplicity is one of the reasons I like it. Most HDR app overwhelms me with a million pre and post-processing option. Contrast that with vividHR, which launches right into a camera-ready mode.

Tapping the icon on the bottom left of the screen brings up several HDR presets. When I started writing this review, the app only had three, but a recent update raised that number to five. It doesn't matter which one you chose upfront since you can switch between presets after the HDR is created.


Tapping the lightbulb in the lower right corner overlays icons indicating how to use the app.


Swiping to the right reveals a vertical menu. From here you can toggle on/off geotag, overlay grid, auto-preview, select and setup sharing options, and how you want to save the original and HDR images.


Swiping to the right will let you swipe through each image in the photo gallery. You'll get another set of menus on the bottom of the screen. You can compare the original photo to its HDR version or share the HDR image, make editing changes or delete the photo. I've never used the image editor. I usually stick with the results from the presets. If I do want to make an edit I prefer using another app like Photogene4.

Tapping the i in the upper left-hand corner will bring up some meta-information about your HDR image.

I like the fact that vividHDR has its own internal gallery/lightbox and saves images exported to the Photos app to its album. The iOS Photos app can get so cluttered and sometimes I have difficulty finding the photo I want. Whether I am snapping a picture to post to [Pressgram ][http://pressgr.am\]or upload to a blog posing using Poster, being able to navigate to an album with just the images I need makes things simpler.

Although the app is simple to use, taking a good quality HDR image requires some patience. The app has to take three photos and merge them. Neither the camera nor the subject must move or change while the images are being captured. Although the app can be used handheld, I recommend bracing yourself against something -- a tree, a pole -- to reduce movement. For the photo below I leaned against my car to get the shot. Or maybe you can keep a mini tripod and iPhone mount such as the Glif in your glove box.

Sunrise, Princeton, Battlefield Park, Winter, Snow