Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All things Pentax

DSCF1262-1When I was reviewing Windows Live Photo I was referred to this site in a search for some extra Codec files. Having a look around I found it is a nice one stop place for Pentax owners giving links to all the latest firmware updates, software , drivers and manuals.

If you haven’t already found your camera manual in PDF format. I strong suggest you do so now (look for a CD that came with your camera first or just google the word manual followed by your camera model) and then copy it to the USB key that you keep in your camera bag.

You don’t keep a USB memory key in your camera bag? Then read this.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Windows Live Photo Gallery (Beta)

The updgrade to Windows Live Photo Gallery has a very clean User InterfaceThe new Beta is available for Windows Live essentials (its kind of hidden away so here is a link to download it now). One of the new items is a revamp of Live Photo Gallery. One thing I noticed straight away is that it is extremely fast (compared with Picasa & Photoshop organiser) and I mean lightening fast. Maybe I just haven’t loaded enough photos into it yet! Ok while writing this, I got live gallery to scan this PC and external USB Drive for photos, it did it in less than 10 minutes, around quarter of a million images, that’s really good (two hours faster than PSE organiser)  and it is still fast.

So “Is it a good Photo Manager?”

Windows Live Photo Gallery iconCertainly YES. Window Live Photo Gallery has all the basic editing functions (plus a decent noise reduction filter) It supports organisation by Date/Time (the default), People (but a manumatic face recognition) General Tags and Geotags, it even keeps track of what you have “published” to the web and where. It has tags, captions and a 5 star rating system. It also has nice features to appropriately resize for emails, to publish directly to facebook & flickr and even makes maintain backups and shareable albums on you own personal Sky Drive. It has a very simple easy to use camera import facilities and seems to handle I needed to Download some extra Codec for RAW formatsof  the image and Video format I have tried. I did have to download some extra Codec for my Raw files (BTW the Pentax Supplied Codec only work in Vista or windows 7). So if you have a microsoft Vista or Windows 7 based PC, a new digital camera and/or a camera phone you should consider downloading it now, its free!

Is it as good as Photoshop?

Windos Live Photo Gallery versus Adobe PhotoshopWell NO, but… Photo shop has way more features,  PS & PSE are expensive and spoken of with great reverence by many bloggers and expert photographers. However I can also let you into an unspoken truth, the Photoshop family of photo editors, perhaps with the exception of lightroom are blotted, chronically slow and can be extremely tedious to learn and use efficiently. Yet PhotoShop can do some magic in the right hands and make other packages look ordinary in comparison. So for the vast majority of new camera user who don’t want to spend hours tweaking their photos or don’t already have Photoshop and one or more of those many glossy How to Photoshop books, Live Photo Gallery is much easier to use software to start with and its free.

Ok then “Its it a Picasa Killer App?”

Windos Live Photo Gallery versusGoogle PicasaProbably NOT. It doesn’t have a lot of the feature Picasa offers, like automatic face recognition, printing large posters, collages, HTML web galleries, screen savers, making movies from still images, backup & Gift CD/DVDs and the nice integration with the On-line Picasa Web Album, with its well thought out security/collaboration options. I’m sure there are more features I’ve overlooked, Picasa is an established and well liked application, something I would still highly recommend to a new digital camera owner. The one thing loyal picasa users are complaining about in all the forums at the moment is how slow picasa is getting, and I agree. The integration of Sky Drive into Live Photo Gallery gives you a personal place for photographic albums & archives in the Cloud, this is possibly its best and most important differentiating feature.  Live Photo Gallery does have a nice Panoramic photo stitcher built in and good integration with Photosynth.  So I think this upgrade to Live Photo Gallery is very timely and it has some great potentials and I for one will be running it on my desktop PC in parallel with picasa for a while to come.

Movie Maker, Live Mail and Messenger have also had decent overhauls and Live Writer, which I am using to make this blog post now has the new office style ribbon. So do they all. I’m not really sold on the Ribbon, I was quiet happy back in the office XP/2003 style menus.

Did I mention Live Photo Gallery is fast?

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Friday, August 27, 2010

More on Photo Impressions

It has been while since I wrote about of my photo impression technique.  I have been experimenting with a range of the little tweaks available mosaic creator software, that I use.  Specifically I am looking for ways to bring the method more closely aligned to how a painter would approach the same picture.  I'm also trying to avoid the viewers first reaction being "Oh, that’s just been PhotoShopped”.
IMGP4904-1 This is photo of Thai, a fellow student at the Victorian Artist Society. The photo is definitely not great in a normal portrait sense, her face is cut off, eyes not look at you etc. but I like the composition and her concentration on her painting task.  So here is a little walk through of some important steps I follow when I create a Photo Impression.

Importance of Colour

If I can get the colour balance and harmonies right, I knowManually selecting colours I will have moved much closer to seeing the image through an artist's eye, rather than a camera lens. An artist (and often me) may refer to a colour  wheel and look for harmonic and complementary colours. Reducing the palette of colours, to just these colours and many of which the image and creates interest for the viewer.  At Colour choosen by Palette Generatorthis traditional approach is not the only way, there are now many on- line colour scheme pickers, for web sites, such as paint and just fun. Here are I have used fd  flickr toy’s fractalspalette generator.  You just select from your flickr or facebook photostream or upload a photo and it generates an harmonious colour scheme based on a dominant colours in the photo.  I can then select the library of sub images for my tiles in these colours. Picasa’a experimental search for … colour, has been very useful here, but this still a very manual process. For this photo impression I am using especially created sub tiles that are computer generated mathematical shapes, fractals, generated using the Apophysis programme.

Mark Making

The other area, where I can get the photo impressions to resemble an artist's work, using in the mark making.  Here it is the texture within the tiles and shape of the tiles themselves that can be harnessed to reflect the personal dabs and strokes of an artist. This is where a lot of artistic style and individuality lies. Those marks can make any work interesting and accessible, or just messy and confusing. I haven't found anything yet to best choCell Quality Dialogue in Mosaic Creatorose the tile textures and shapes, that is still a very personal decision. However there are some nice tools in mosaic creator to let your marks best fit the original image.  These are found under the cell filling tab, moving the cell recognition quality slider to the left (best quality) significantly slows the mosaic building process from minutes to possibly a hours, but it does force a more extensive search for an appropriate tile. One had matches the distribution  of terms in the source cell. I also find reducing local duplicity (a measure of how many times a tile is duplicated) Cell Shape Tab in Mosaic Creatorhelp your eye flow over the image.  Making it less likely computer generated mosaic. The selection of tile/cell shape also has a big  affect on the surface texture of the resulting image.  I find I always need to experiment with a range of shapes before I am happy with the final photo impression.
The Finished Photo Mosaic

Thursday, August 19, 2010

whats new with Picasa 3.8

Google are pushing out Picasa version 3.8, if you don’t have it already you should get it soon (or use this link)

Most of the new features are really in Picasa Web album. This on-line album becoming the quiet giant in the web photoworld. You can do a mirad of things withy your album, from uploading directly from your phone, any camera and computer to sharing your photos with friend and relatives, via email, blogs and the main social networks like facebook and twitter. Ok there are many other competitors but I think the combination of well thought out security (keeping the private, private) and its collaborative features (sharing with other you allow to also upload to your album) and the batch uploads and download will cement its position as the best choice as well as a reliable free service.

image A while ago google bought Picnik, a nice web-based photo editor. I have written about picnik previously and think it shines against the competition being much easier to use. In your picasa web album you will now see a new little edit button which bring up a flash window. It has two tabs. A fairly conventional Edit Tab with all the standard tools. The a Create Tab which provides a wide range of neat, albeit slightly kitschy, tools like fancy frames, filters and strickers. I’m sure these will be very popular with younger photographers. There really are enough functions between these new picnic features and the basic offered by picasa to make fancy photoeditors like Photoshop and lightroom unnecessary for most folk.


One nice little gems that google/picasa did not mentions bin their update notes is the swivel view feature that is actually included in the embeddable slide shows for blogs like this (see my example below)

Move your mouse across the image from left to right and you will travel around the chainsaw artist as I did when I took the photos. Not quiet a photosynth but this can be fun all the same and extremely easy to create. It doesn’t even have to be used for the swivel concept, or a walk around, you could have a lot of fun with “interactive movies” where the flow of photos is important (eg sequence from a party, one person growing up). It also still works fine as a slideshow.

Picasa are also plugging the “face movie” idea on Picasa Web Album which now uses the same face-matching technology already in Picasa.  So you can create a movie centered around one person morphing from one image to another centered on their eyes. Again plenty of fun to be had.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010