Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alvins starts a private CC campaign

You can see more of Alvin (and Lila) at meet the people and/or on twitter @alvinp

The Biggest Workspace of Them All

In my post about workspace not workflow, I omitted the biggest workspace, the all pervasive, everywhere at once internet, now often just referred to as the cloud. This oversight may be because I am still uncertain what it has to offer, even what it is? Rather than being on uniform and extensive place, it is a mismatch of different services, formats and connections.

in the cloud

So Why even put stuff there? Well the ease of exchange and sharing is wonderful and services like drop box make it very easy, not to forget email which is over 20 years old now.The other reason often suggested is that social media can be a great way to expose your work to others. In fact all I see is a pervasive pressure to go viral and become an overnight celebrity, that drives a lot of appallingly bad content. So much of what is on offer is boringly the same copy-cat, look at me stuff (eg rise of selfies and LOLcats, need I say more). I am starting to firmly believe it is ok to share what you are working on (as in provenance) your thought and methods and some of your works, but it is more important to be honest in following your creativity (ie don’t worry about the crowd).

I have had negative and unresolved issue with scrapping of my content and unauthorised (aka stealing) of my images. So I only want to share publically via services that offer creative commons licences. I am also not sure that social media is as secure as they pretend. I worry about small things like less desirable people I don’t want to share with, just what is actually being stolen and reused as some one else work or worse sold. I’m very conscious of the filter bubble effect that social media sites like google+ and facebook can create.

So I am very unlike to do much more than token photographic works and art publically in the cloud. I am certainly unlikely to put my entire collection of photos in the cloud even for a backup. Lets see if I am forced to eat my words in the next 10 years!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Duck Done Six Ways

_IGP4192_picasa _IGP4192_gplus

Picasa :: jpeg
I’m feeling lucky

Google+ :: jpeg
AutoEnhance & Vignette/Blur
_IGP4192_aftershot _IGP4192_pse
AfterShot Pro :: RAW
Perfectly Clear & Vignette
Photoshop Elements :: RAW
Spotlight Effect
_IGP4192_lightroom _IGP4192_perfectenhance

Lightroom :: RAW
Tonal Adjustments, Noise Reduction & Vignette

Perfect Photo Suite 8 :: RAW
Perfect Enhance, Magic Erase Brush & Vignette

A couple of ducks wandered into the front yard late this afternoon it was overcast and getting foggy so I had to use a high ISO just to get an acceptable exposure with my telephoto lens. While keeping a high f-stop to avoid over narrow depth of field. The resulting images has a lot of digital noise and was just a little flat, but with potential, Giving me the perfect opportunity to see what my many software mistresses might be able to do to lift this shot. I’m not trying to compare the packages for equivalent features, more trying to play to their strengths.

Monday, July 21, 2014

ThePatch :: Decoration/Celebration

2014-07-19_11-54-054I began this week fairly determined not to leave the patch project to the last day, but I did not find to much celebration. There was some decoration in the local shopping mall, but it didn’t scream celebration. In Australia having a Christmas in July Dinner has become a popular family event. Whereas in the middle of summer on a hot day sitting down to the traditional Christmas roasts and rich puddings, can be less than fully appreciated but having a second festive feast in Winter is a perfect excuse for more excess. Anyway some of the Christmas decorations can be pulled out to decorate the table, so that sounded close to the theme.The bracketed exposure set
My first thought was to just use the table decorations under some natural light and get a classic bracketed exposure set to create a conventional HDR. I have also added a little tweaking of clarity on the angel's wings and the tinsel with lightroom.

IMGP4111-HDR (2)

The results says decoration and is pleasing, but its a very calm celebration!
My second idea was to try an available light shot, something a bit moody, a photography of the angel that has become somewhat of a traditional Christmas in July centrepiece for my family, she needs to be in the spot light. I wanted to set this against Christmas tree lights, just outside the depth of field. That was a plan, but as I was testing out the low light conditions I also got me the idea of including a small crystal angel to add some awe and wonder. I experimented with lighting just with a torch and painting the light where I wanted it (back lit and below on the crystal angel, more straight on for the purple angel). My experiments where a bit hit and miss and I could not get the background far enough away to achieve the bokeh effect I want. So armed with several photos that were ok in one or another area I figured it was time to have a lengthy play in Perfect Photo Layers, to merge sections of different photo and Prefect Effects to give me a better bohek on the Christmas lights.  I am pleased with the result given it is my first foray into these steps and the limitation of the exposures I started with.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Story behind Many More Mistresses

many mistressesTowards the end of last year just when I was settling for just two of my many photo processing mistresses I had a change of heart, mainly out of disappointment with adobes suspected creative cloud related hassles and the quirks of trying to spread lightroom across a few computers, this lead me to see I was really carrying two separate photo streams, one for my RAW files, one for the Jpegs, with subtly different ways of moving the photos around. So why haven't I just bitten the bullet selected one format and one software package. Well if I did it would probably have to be Lightroom, but there is the rub, she is a very high maintenance choice, everything has to be done her way or not at all. She is really only good at one computer and one photo collection relationship. She can be wonderfully talented when it comes to lifting the magic out of a boring Raw file, but I she can demand a lot of time. She can process jpeg but seems to deliberately stops short of her best. She does have a nice companion now in the form of the Perfect Photo Suite from OnOne, which can undertake some of the areas lightroom falls a little short without creating any compatibility or reload issues.

 The Jpeg Duo

Picasa was almost always there, and is on every computer antway, fulfilling the basic needs . She tackles the standard enhancement without fuss, doing them quickly and she seems to get along with other software and computers, not that she doesn't like taking control of her home territory, but she will accommodate the odd stray and share when necessary. Picasa, was slow to take up processing RAW but she can and does it in a very google I'm feeling lucky kind of way. Her talent is doing a decent job of the basic editing and management of my needs for Jpeg files but I'm not so sure of her on-line alter ego, google+ photos. She always seemed to love and nurture my collection of photos. I am finding AfterShot Pro is a nice compliment, she both sees the possibilities of further post processing and in handling the update of metadata in .xpm sidecar files.


The previous few post have looked at the combination of software I run on some different hardware in different work spaces. I think I will remain a man with many photographic mistresses for some time to come.

On the Road with more than One Mistress

Hardware on the roadThis is undoubtedly the area where there has been the most coming and going, change and rethinking. For a long while I kept two separate laptops, one for my consulting work (originally what is now my studio laptop) and a another one (originally an XP, which is still running but seldom used) for my photographic work. I now have a newer laptop (well its 3 years old already).

Carrying two laptops when I travels was just a bit of a luxury, so I either got by using a small netbook and/or I put any specialist tools I needed on a USB Key using the portable apps format if it was a “work” trip. This actually sever me well enough but meant I had to leave the heavy lifting (detailed post processing stuff) until I got back home. The DARKROOM USB Portable Apps MenuMy main goto portable programs on this Darkroom USB key are RawTherapee, The Gimp and XnView. AutoStitch and Picturenaut also work perfectly well off my USB drive. This stuff has moved to a larger USB and the green lanyard has changed to a more heavy duty orange version but it still lives in my camera bag, along with a USB SD card reader. So if I didn’t have a laptop with me I could use the netbook or find a library or cyber cafe and I could review the Camera’s card contents at a larger size (providing the computer I was using had two USB ports) and I could perhaps process a stitched panorama, HDR or a RAW refinement, if time permitted I don’t use the Key to hold photos, except for perhaps some post processed image I just created. I had a test version of picasa on there for a while but it had to store its main directory on the PC so it wasn’t really portable, and this began the move to using XnView more extensively. I have recently put the portable version of chrome onto the key as well. There are a number of times when this simple USB key proved invaluable letting me perform something that would have been impossible on the average airline lounge or cyber cafe grunt computer.

The many Many mistress on ICESlowly different software began appearing and disappearing of my main laptop (mainly to better handle RAW files). Usually for a specific reason, like I need to edit diagrams and photos for my consulting work. Since this laptop is 64 bit I did start to notice some of the performance improvements, particularly in processing video and lesser but still noticeable improvements in lightroom (development functions particularly). The OnOne’s Perfect Photo suite are 64 bit so this laptop was the best place to set it up and it plays very nicely with lightroom. Whilst perfect photo isn’t really a RAW development system per se, its browser can read my RAW files. However the combination of lightroom (to do the basic RAW refinement steps), followed with a round trip into one of the Perfect Photo add-ins, suits me and gets the job done. I always put picasa on any computer and it looks after my Jpeg work fine, it is still my favoured way to upload photos from my camera.  I have found that AfterShot Pro is also great in this inital photo review, rating and culling process.

The only hassle I am finding is the space used having this software on the computer is not an issue, but it is the space eaten by the photos if I leave them on this laptop too long. Saving RAW+Jpeg consumes disk space rapidly! There are also some limitation and cautions about moving processed photos around a network, but that will have to be another post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Letting My Mistresses into the Office

imageWith the resent death of a couple of my hard drives located in my “comms room” (actually a cupboard) and/or the studio I had to rethink what was attached to my LAN and where it was located. This meant simplifying things reducing the number of network driver and bringing the router, ADSL internet modem and network drives into the office and removing a lot of cables, a patch panel and even the Fax! Leaner, meaner and easier to manage now. I still have a RAID system (a Netgear Stora) to keep a mirror of all the working directories around my Network, but I don’t store music or photos on it anymore. My Photo Archive now sits on an external hard drive which hangs off the main office desktop (it is the one computer I leave turned on most of the time). Since this is where the archive lives I figure I needed to have an index or catalogue (not in the lightroom sense) of what it contains also on the office desktop, but that is the catch there is not one system that can really managed my them all.


Office Desktop ScreenIf you look on the upper right hand side, of what is otherwise a very business like place, you will see a few of my photographic mistress have moved in. Its started with picasa, which is on all my computers, but soon included lightroom (to better handle the RAW) and then XnView (mainly to bulk add/update EXIF & IPTC metadata), AfterShot Pro (faster than lightroom) and then Perfect Photo Suite (its 64 bit and doesn’t work on the studio computers), So I have two teams now, the jpegs and quick look stuff (Picasa & Aftershot Pro) versus the RAW and more intense pair (Lightroom and Perfect Photo). I had to turn off RAW viewing in Picasa, to force it( and me) to focus on JPEG but things seem to be going ok (for now!). I tend to avoid too much post or re-processing here, instead I either export jpegs or make a sub-collection of RAW file and export them as a lightroom catalogue backup, to be used on my laptop or studio computers. Then reimporting the updated catalogue. This round trip to other hardware is not such a pain because the files are shared across a couple of share network drives (P: for the Photo Library itself & S: for Scrapbook, working projects etc).

As long as they behave themselves I figure these photographic mistress may stay.

The Many Mistresses in my Studio

The Studio HardwareMy studio, tends to get cluttered as I move from one project to the next without really letting go of my previous interests. In one way this is good because there are very authentic themes that then run through my stuff, but it can be a mess. The studio is also at the end of the line in terms of computer gear, for example after some hassles with external hard drives dying and a very frustrating mess up with lightroom catalogues, I’ve decided to refurbish an older “legacy” computer which I keep around to run older hardware for which there are no longer drivers available for newer computers. So the studio is running back in Vista (32 bit) era. That’s no big deal, ok lightroom is noticeably slower but still very useable and I can’t have 20 things open at one time. Such is Life.

Studio Desktop screenI still like to use a variety of software tools, both photographic and more traditional art/illustration oriented, so I do have several of my many mistresses well established in my studio. The refurbished desktop, is functioning as a local server and has my scanners (both hardcopy and slides) and an older printer, its main purpose at the moment seems to be to store & play music! However I have loaded some favourites (albeit the 32 bit versions) and use it to display images I want to sketch. It has an old CRT (Cathhode Ray Tube) style screen, which are supposed to render colour better (but I’m not convinced about that), It does however not suffer from the viewing angle limitations of LCD screens.


Studio Laptop ScreenMy true photographic system is on a laptop, also and older system, also still running vista, but it largely a trusty system (it did have to get a new hard drive a little while back) has housed my photographic stuff for almost 6 years. It has been through several generation of lightroom (LR1 to LR3, i skipped LR2 and onto LR4 but stopping at LR4.4, well LR5 betas where also tested here but not purchased) and is the only member of my team still connection to the creative cloud. It is where I still like to do my more creative post processing, away from any distractions and time lines, or deadlines! A couple of items are close to retirement (Photoshop Elements for example, which is where I traditionally did any special layer work required) because they haven’t been used for several months. There is also a new kid on the block in the form of XnView, which has come from a reliable performance on my portable application DARKROOM USBkey. It has a few more ranking and metadata features than picasa and seems to play nicely with lightroom, but I don’t see it replacing picasa as my main go to application. For a while I ran AfterShot Pro exclusively here (its smaller lighter and noticeably faster than lightroom) when I first got it but it has proven more useful elsewhere, and might get early retirement from here as well.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Its about Workspace, not Workflow

Something has been niggling me recently about many of the changes in digital photo management. Its not the move to store everything in the cloud, or the move to lite apps, auto “Awesomeness” versus subscription services. Ok this trends are not thrilling. I realised what it was when I read Matt Kloskowski’s recent post for lightroom killer tips about the difference between managed and referenced photo organisers.Then it hit me I have always resisted as soon as a software suppliers or “ex[erets” starts talking about “the” workflow, because I know that means they want me to follow a set prescription and they want to take total control. As a creative I want to be in control.

hardwareThis is not the way an artist wants to works. Certainly they need skill to use their tools and media, which will include knowledge of how to use those tools and media to make the marks, forms and create well made images and object. The procedures and layout of their  work places are likely be highly personalised. I suddenly realised the issues that are bothering me, at least the artist side, is about workspace not really the workflow. Providing I am able to assemble the tools I need into the space (both physical and computer based) I have at my disposal, I should then be able to craft photos and images in my own special ways. What’s more as an artist I want to be able to do that in a manner that maintains the integrity of the medium. Further I realise that often it does require a quiet space and time to reflect yo bring out the fullest potential of an image. So I am starting with the spaces and computer hardware I have been using and rethinking how, when and why they are connected and where and when I should be using each. Next i need to reassemble the tools to best suit my more creative workspace.