Monday, September 01, 2014

The Anatomy of Google’s Picasa Workspace

Whilst Picasa is very intuitive and easy to pick up, it has a workspace that changes as you select different items, in other words its workspace is context sensitive. This makes it very simple to used but there is not one simple layout that applies to all action. In general terms picasa workspace is divided into 4 sections below the menu bar. The menu can access every action but I seldom use it.

Picasas main workspace view

The 4 section below the menu are a main screen, which will either display a number of photos in a given folder (as shown above) or a single photo as show below. In the library (or folder) view you can easily change the size of the thumbnail previews using the slider at the top line of the bottom tool bar.

There are then three separate tool bars, they change as you undertake different actions and activities.

The top tool bar has a few typical activities like import, creating a new album on the left and on the right there are filtering and a search option.

The left hand tool bar has two distinct modes. The first in the Library (or Navigation) View when you see several photos in the main window and it will assist you to scroll through your photos on your computer. The second view of this left hand tool bar is a series of tabbed tool for editing your photo and this appears when you have a single photo selected in the main window (see below) Just select and click a single photo in the library of folder view and you get transferred to the edit view. Click on the action key Back to Library and you get back to the main view.

The bottom tool bar performs some basic tasks like printing, emailing and sharing on google+ and there is a handy photo tray on the right hand side to show photos you have pinned (ie selected) and you can ten do group actions on them together.

Picasas Single image editing view

There are a number of different edit functions, but I will discuss those separately in posts to come. Whilst google are clearly putting most effort into their on-line google+ photos area (which has taken over the on-line component to picasa). The PC version is still available for free download and if you want gain control of an unruly collection of photos it is really a good first stop.

I will finish off this workspace discussion with one of the most basic tools, imageyet very useful tools, for improving composition, the Crop. In Picasa you see the full image grey out but can view your crop selection as a full illuminated shape (rectangle of square). To aid the selection of standard sizes there is drop down menu, once a standard size is selected the aspect of the crop shape will be locked into that ratio and as you expand of contract one axis the other will automatically change. Here I am doing some preliminary compositional investigation for my Ingredients photo for the patch.

I will return later to the picasa workspace to discuss, metadata, albums and some of the more useful tools and filters.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

ThePatch :: Toy on Parade in Nature

Meet Blue Lego Guy (created with Lego Digital Designer)The patch theme this month is Toy On Parade, and the same toy needs to be in each photo. After having fun with my grandson making the automobile awesome motion gif earlier in the year I figure this was a challenge made for a bit more lego fun. If you have seen the lego movie on DVD and watched the special features you will have seen one of the designers describing some of the designs He is using a program called Lego Digital Designer, which can be downloaded from Lego. The models for the lego movie where largely developed with this easy to use CAD like program. It can be a little daunting (if your older than 6), it has a database of every lego part there is!  I quickly realized it does give me the ability to create a character that could be easily pose & animated. Perfect for this challenge, assuming a virtual character can be on parade. My young lego advisor loved the project and wisely helped choose a very simple character with which to build some adventures and hopefully some good photos. Meet Blue Lego Guy.

blue wren & blue lego guy in Paint.NET LayersHis first adventure in Nature, clearly was to be based around a small blue wren I had seen and photographed at a Jells Park lake on Friday. With some head scratching, even reading the manual and using the layers in Paint.NET I was soon able to acquaint blue lego guy with the blue wren.  Ok not so convincing and I liked a different photography anyway, with some raindrops on the grass around the wren but with depth of field giving a more blended background onto which to superimpose blue lego guy. A little bit of posing adjustements back in Lego Digital Designers and adding a camera, yellow of course. Getting convincing perspective was a bit of a challenge and I had to wing that in the end as well as guessing the relative height he might be.  A little bit of cloning to put a couple of blades of grass in front of his legs and some suggestions of shadows. Finally a cinematic wide screen crop.
Voilá ….Smile Mr Wren!

Preview of blue lego guy at work

Wasn’t so hard after all. Stay turned for more Blue Lego Guy adventures.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taming duplicates

I have had the exclude duplicates item ticked on my picasa imports by default, for the longest time. This helps avoid a lot of duplicates turning up because some photos where left on a card or a phonephoto was uploaded via wifi more than once or via different services, However because I now have my photos flow across several computers and software packages it is surprising just how many duplicates do turn up. So I have also been using a neat little utility program from digital volcano called duplicate cleaner, which is design for all file types but does work very well with media files like photos, video and music. The biggest feature of this cleaner is that it can recognise the same file contents, even if the name is changed. If the file is a jpeg and has been post processed it will be considered as different. Also if the jpeg has been rescaled it will also be considered different. This is fine I probably want to keep these,

During and particularly as I reach the end of the month I move my photos from the collection points (laptop computers) onto a backup drive and it is at this point that it is most useful to run the duplicate cleaner (if you have a lot of files it can take a while …so go get a coffee). After this I then copy the backed up files to the archive drive and make my DVD/CD backup set of the archive (this is my one remaining traditional backup, everything else is now on portable hard drives). I don’t delete the photos on the collection computers until I have finished the backup –> duplicate clean –> Archive cycle. The very end of the month is the right time to do this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

PhotoFriday :: Warmth

For PhotoFriday‘s topic Warmth

The truth is out there

I not sure how many times I have heard good photography (including my own) dismissed as faked in Photoshop. Further I’m also not really a fan of a lot of the on-click Artistic apps around. However there is definitely a place for intelligent post processing, in the whole process of art  –> graphic art–> photography. By example is you shoot RAW it is almost certain that you must undertake some post processing to get an acceptable image. It is just unfortunate that fakery seems to dominate people perceptions and photoshoped has become such a disparaging adjective for a photo.

The cartoon is a golden oldie by Aaron Johnson, and his work a quite photocentric you can see more of the duck here.

Source : As seen on PetaPixel, via Mosaic Lightroom Newsletter

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PhotoProject :: How to Photograph Nothing

I just read an interesting article in The Artist Magazine by Paul Talbot-Greaves titled “How to paint nothing” (January 2014), in which he comments,

“Many people have said they probably wouldn’t notice the subject in one of my landscapes and would probably walk straight past the scene, … So just how do you notice a composition of nothing?”

There is a video of Paul painting a watercolour below (it is speed up but takes just over 10minutes, and is well worth watching to see how he uses a simple colour palette and strong tonal shapes, lines of the river, skyline and a few trees to quickly build a wonderful yet conventional landscape composition). Unfortunately a well meaning (and probably very experienced) photo critic would suggest his landscape needs a red canoe with the canoeist in a bright yellow life-vest positioned at the first bottom “thirds point of interest”, but he would be wrong it doesn’t need to be like that (ok it might be if you want to win the camera club photo of the month and he is judging!). It needs the artist eye to see the colour, composition and tone! That’s all.

I am inspired to apply his insights into the photographic process. One in particular is that  “compositional designs are best when strong lighting is involved”, for example using shadows to create exciting negative shapes and add dimension to an image. Paul also is attracted to “the bright, high chroma colours against darker muted tones”

So over the past couple of days I have been quick to pick up my camera whenever I see that strong light variation and strong colours against shadows, and particularly interesting shadow patterns. My photos of nothing setDid not really matter what the subject was after all it is a photo of nothing, I was just looking for the right lighting ambience, boldish colour and shadows.

This set of images (on the right) are simply of the shadows of a potted yucca plant on my partly open patio doors. I was sitting enjoy a coffee in the sun at the time. I had the foresight to include an EV bracketed set of exposure, so I sent that set off to Google+ Autobackup and this time they did return a decent *HDR autoawesome, but the composition, as shoot, was a bit boring. Also it had a few damaged leaves on the yucca and they were an unnecessary distraction. My favourite tool to fix composition in any photo is the crop tool, It is normally a simple logo of two opposing L shapes, occasional with a curved rotation arrow. Google+ photos has some good edit tools on-line and the crop tool (shown below) has a feature to control the ratio (aspect of horizontal & vertical axis) to keep the crop within given standard size combinations. There is a separate icon at the top of the panel on the right to do any rotational (straightening) adjustment.

Google+ photo crop tool

I have not bothered about the rule of thirds of any other compositional rule, I was looking for a pleasing combination of colour and shadow and I like the contrast of the vertical door frames and the angled shadows with their lost and found lines feel. An image like this is a great place to experiment with all sort of crops, so don’t stop at your very first try. The wooden door handle on the white door frame is a little distracting but I have not managed to find any cloning tools in Google+ Photo so I have had to downloaded the edited image and then take it through OnOne’s Perfect Enhance 8. Perfect Enhance has a really magic Perfect Eraser which is content aware and does a both quick and reasonable job of removing the handle. Finally I add a big softy vignette.

Final photo of nothing

So the exercise of photographing nothing can be rewarding, and encouraging both seeing more like a painter might but also forcing some creativity in you post processing (in this case perhaps a little more abstract albeit more thoughtful cropping).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

PhotoProject :: Straightening Out

There is nothing wrong with photography, if you don't mind the perspective of a paralysed Cyclops.” - David Hockney

I believe what David is highlighting here is that the camera’s view of the world is from a single lens with a specific perspective. We have two eyes and “see” a much richer three dimensional worlds and our vision can be influences by our expectations. For example when we are dwarfed by tall trees we know we are surrounded by autostitched panoa strong vertical world. Our camera however see a more curved representation (depending on the zoom) and we will probably notice wide angle views tend to show curves where we expect strong vertical lines. For this reason many architectural photographers go to some extreme length with special cameras and lenses to overcome this perspective distortion. The Tilt/Shift lens being very popular because they do allow control of this distortion. A number of tilt/shift filters are also now becoming popular because they can be used to create the effect of looking at a miniature world.

The zPerspector dialogueIn this vertarama, made from three *HDR photos (created by google+ autoawesome) you can see the trees enclosing over me as the camera moves higher. Ok this is pleasing in some respects but I want to show the strong vertically of these pines, so I have Tried out a plug-in for after-shoot pro called zPerspector. There are a number of similar perspective adjustment plug in fro Photoshop, gimp & even The all perform varaiable scaling  and/or warping to adjust the image. zPerspector has a very easy to pick up approach where you can stretch and pull at each of the corner edges of your photo to thus arrive at the expected view. In my example below I am not trying to get all the trees straight and vertical (because they weren’t really) what I was looking for for trying to reproduce the strength of the trees towering over me as I remember it.

in the pines pano after striaghtening out