Saturday, July 29, 2017

Deeper into Disappointment with Google

Over the years google has bought onto the internet a number of great software tools. I have and still use many of them, Blogger, picasa, gmail, My Tracks, Google Earth, Maps, Google Drive (Google Docs, Slides & Sheets), Nik Software, Snapseed). I’ve gone right off google photos (but still put up with it to publish photos into this blog). A number of these have been depricated and whilst they still work google no longer offers downloads, or alternative software and/or no support. The one thing they have been good with to date is giving warning and letting you download any personal data.

image

I have taken I liking to the idea of exploring that place between art and a photograph, in particular what I have been Hashtagging #AIart (on Instagram). Google created the Deep Dream generator originally as a way to explain how their image analysis technique worked. It is based on training neural networks (a type of artificially intelligent data miners). As well as recognizing objects, animals, people & things the networks can also be used to seek out style (ok in a rudimentary way, it can mimic marks making, line works, colour palette and several other features that make artworks original. The software does not create original art but it can take a photo and find that style of linework & colour etc within a photos. Some of the result are amazing. Unfortunately more and more examples that Style formating selection optionsI see produced by other  “copy cat” system are degenerating into the garish and boring, as they become very popular of social media.

Clearly google are looking to muscle in of the social media aspect and they have add a multilevel aspect to site membership (its free) and that is tied to number of public post and more importantly number of likes. A different levels you can only generate a specific number of a specific type/style of image with a set time frame.  So It only took me a couple of images to reach my limit with a polite come back and try again later. The type of thing that just plain kills exploration and creativity. The writing is on the wall google this is going to become a ghost town like google+

The one nice thing, is the UI (user interface has been smarted up a bit with better layout of selection buttons and other tools. Nothing new just a little bit cleaner to look at.

? info panel within Deep Dream One new feature, that I have asked for a few times, is better documentation of what was set up  to produce each result. It seems quiet common that most people (especially those new to deep dream) blanket bomb one image with many alternative networks/styles, and after doing several and waiting a decent time for each it is difficult to remember how you created a particular masterpiece. The ? Intro item now gives you a run down although it has only remembered a few of my style images.

Perhaps its another case of needing more likes?

No matter, such is life.


So Why am I complaining, the software tools are free?deep dream of a Perigrin Falcon

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day 7 :: Getting ready for the next Endless Summer Project

Day 7 :: Getting ready for the next Project

Repacking my camera bag in preparation for my next trip. Rather than pack on the last day I repack a couple of weeks out so I have time to realise if I am missing something important. During my year long art project travels I have been progressively trimming down the stuff I carry around.

My revised camera bag packing list has, starting at the top right and moving clockwise.

  1. My Pentax K20 (my favourite camera, with my favourite lens a Tamron 18 to 200mml zoom Note this camera now has a wrist strap, rather than cumbersome neck strap.
  2. In the side pocket of the camera bag I have cables, spare batteries etc in a zip up mesh bag.
  3. My Sigma 70-300 Zoom Lens
  4. A couple of white "Face washers" (to clean the cameras not the lenses)
  5. Blower Brush
  6. Lens pen (microfiber cleaner and brush)
  7. Business cards & pen
  8. My home made string monopod
  9. My ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover 30i Camera Bag. Although it is designed to carry a mirrorless camera system & Ipad mini I find to perfect for my gear in a relatively small shoulder bag. I also a small kit of sketching gear in the Ipad slot (not shown here but includes an A5 sketch book, couple of pencils & pens, waterbrush & small Cotman's watercolour Sketchers Box)
  10. Sealed packets of alcohol lens wipes (I haven't used these for a while prefer the lens pen)
  11. Spare SD cards (I'm taking 4 16GB cards & 6 8GB cards of my next trip, 20 days)
  12. An old Smartphone (with no SIMS card, but the camera and GPS still work fine)
  13. A polarizing filter
  14. Tone Reference cards

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 6 :: Motion

Day 5 :: Motion

Today I was testing out my new camera wrist strap (I really don’t like or ever use the neck strap) for comfort and suitability when panning. I chose this image because it was the slowest and showed the best motion blur associated with panning on the ibis. I also liked the composition.

 _IGP1881_IGP1862

There where several other decent candidates, and a fair few blurred rejects. So the wrist strap was comfy but didn't guarantee panning success, which I still but down mainly to luck.

Day 5 :: Foggy Afternoon in Olinda

The theme for today’s Photos was together. But the inclement weather meant photographic opportunites where not together. Such is life

Day 4 :: Not Together

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 4 :: Quiet

Day 4 :: Quiet

This was fairly straight forward, a tripod, remote trigger and 2 second self timer. Just enjoying a leisurely saturday morning.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 3 :: Wet

Day 3 :: Wet

The photo I posted today for the week of daily photos was a HDR image created with Nik Software’s HDR Pro from a three photo bracketed set. _IGP1331lumI also selected the RAW version of the mid exposure (EV=0) and took it through the Window’s Beta Version of Lunimar, and it just two clicks (Bright Day Preset and then Accent AI Enhancer Filter) had almost the same image much faster.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 2 :: Playing


Day 2 Playing

The concept behind todays photo for this week of daily photos, was to be playing an older style or board/card game but with a little participant movement to make the playing aspect obvious. Getting the board/game in sharp focus but having moving hands was easy enough with a long exposure and the camera on a tripod but moving the hands during the exposure. I took a couple of images but decided I needed the hands to be recognizable not just totally blurry. I though a bracketed set and HDR processing might be perfect but it look that surreal unnatural (and a little sinister) effect HDR so often suffers from.

1-_IGP13122-_IGP13133-_IGP1314

It was not hard to reset the three EV steps back to roughly the same exposure, then I used OnOne’s Layers module to blend the three images according to the amount I wanted to either highlight or blur the hands and then merge them down using normal Blend mode. A final run though  dynamic contrast and finally cropping.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 1 in a week of daily photos

Along with other listeners to the Family Photographer Podcast I am undertaking to post one photo a day on flickr.

Day 1 :: Finishing Up

My first photo beat the gun a little and was about my finishing up my current painting project. A semi Abstract Canvas painted in watercolour (That’s not an obvious thing to do by the way) Whereas the theme for the first day was beginning, oh well I got that wrong.

interestingnessEven before most other folks had has a chance to post something interesting (actually interestingness might be a better term) started to happen. The notification system (which I hate and keep trying to disable) started beeping and  most where from Instagram where I also posted a slightly different phot in three parts. Soon there where ten likes  Then I noticed a different beep and now some of the notification where from flickr people favouriting this image. The next 20 minutes saw them equally adding likes and favourites and even comments. I suspected I was on explorer on flickr and I was soon able to confirm this (see screen capture on the right). It didn’t take long to reach 1000 views and 40 favourites. Instagram activity soon fell away. My conclusion is fame last about half and hour on Instagram if your lucky but scoring interestingness in explorer on flickr with last a day or so.

The only remaining unanswered question is how many likes on Instagram equal a favourite on flikr?

Monday, July 10, 2017

My “Endless Summer” Sketching Kit

I've been progressively refining the gear I take on my endless summer travels, my sketching kit is now cut back to just the essentials.

I've had a little fun posting the contents of my stuff on KIT.com. It’s very sales oriented (with big green buy me buttons under each item, and I get no commission by the way) but it is fun, a nice and clean presentation and a FREE way for me to share a little of what I find useful, and I get to tell a brief story or two of why I like/use the stuff. My advice is read the stories and look though the kit, before you hit the green buttons.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The ghost in my LAN

I have had a local area network set up for my computers probably running for 15 years or more. There was one computer acting as a file and print server, and a separate NAS drive. Other computers came and went running Windows XP, Vista & Windows 7. The servers changed a couple of times and everything was easy enough to set up and/or upgrade.

Well all that happiness, was until the computer acting as the server was upgrade from Window 7 to Windows 10 (not a pleasant upgrade in itself). To begin it was just the printers which seemed to disappear from the shared status, then they be back but not on all computers. It was frustration overload. Leaving the server running helped but I got convinced the printer drop out was a random event. Interwoven with this flaky behaviour some of the shared network drive disappeared, never to return. I had to re-share the directories involved (mainly on an external drive attached to the server.)

 Having had enough of the printer mystery I purchased a WiFi enabled printer (to avoid having to have it attached to any computer acting to a server). Worked beautifully (for the printing).

A few days later I retired the problematic computer that used to be my server. Suddenly half of the computers on the network could no longer see the shared drives. ….. Arrrrrrgh!!!

Seems I’m not the only one this is happening to and it has become just after some windows 10 updates., and is being described as a “ghost” setting in the network. Unfortunately Microsoft seem pretty determined to not get involve so there is no official fix.

The following approach has worked for me (so far). First make sure all the computers are on the same WORKGROUP. (Some, which had been returned for repair had weird names, and a couple of directories with weird ownerships and sharing). Next disconnect all the network connections and unshare everything on the computers that are doing the sharing (this required a lot of detective work). Finally leave any home group you have set up on ALL computers. Now turn all the computers off...and take a deep breath.

Then start just one computer and create a new home group. It will display a Homegroup password, which you should write down because you need to enter it on all the computers attached to the network (the print password just gave me an error message that it can not print the password, really useful) Re-starting one at a time, you should find an invitation to join the new work group under the network Home group settings. Accept the invitation nominate what you will share and you will be asked for the Homegroup password. After a short wait you should be able to see other computers in your homegroup. Then go through the remaining computers (one at a time) and connect to the home group. Once the home group is up and running on all computers, you can re-share some specific directories and connect as network drive to each computers. It’s a lot of possibly unnecessary work. Hopefully the ghost has gone.

Look @ Me

Look At Me ... Look At Me


A peacock shows off for us

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Playing around with Little Planets in PicsART

There is a yet another trendy filter photo application poping up all over the place called PicsArt. I've downloaded it to my phones (the free version has those annoying ads, thgat tend to take over the screen) and to my computer as a windows play store app (which also has ads but they seem less intrusive just at the bottom of the screen). I got interested because their "Magic" filters looked a lot like neural networks trained to look for the image styling, colouring etc. I'm not certain that is the case and they don't offer the ability to use your own images as a guide/filter. Not to worry they are generally garish and whilst a few have potential, but not enough to encourage me to buy the pro version.

The app however does offer many other image manipulation and sharing features. It seems particularly geared to sharing on social media and selfies in particular (again I'll pass on this). It has decent collage, cut-out and stickers features not to mention a lot of more conventional "one click" filter based photo "enhancements" as well as a range of the basic cropping, tonal and colour sliders. Rather than be to influenced by my old biases go try it for yourself.

What also got my interest was their little planets stereographic transformation, which you can find under edit, then effect (fx), distort and tiny planet. This performs a polar transformation on your photo, mathematically stretching the sky and compressing the base of your image to form a round little planet of your foreground. It does a pretty good job if your horizon is relatively flat and not tilted, but there are sliders to control Zoom (make the planet bigger or smaller, Rotation (twist the planet either clockwise of anti-clockwise) Shift(changes the scaling/matching of the end points) and Blur (blurs a little or a lot at the join). I had a bit of fun making a set that moved from Day to Night on my phone and posting some directly to Instagram.
Sunrise BunburyMorning at Castle RocksIn the Heat of The Day Bunbury
Afternoon at the Mouth of Margret RiverBunbury SunsetEvening on the Swan River, Perth

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Flickr slips in similarity

imageBack in March flickr introduced a similarity feature into its image search. Its a little hidden, which is my excuse for not finding it sooner, but any image that is part of search (normally using the search feature with the magnifying glass icon) will have three dots (…) in any image you hover over in the displayed search results. Clicking on the dots will bring up the search for similar photos feature.

So what does it do, simple it attempts to find similar photos. What makes it a little different to other offering is it uses Artificial Intelligence to help determine the subject, style, colouring and other attributes using neural networks. This is like google images showing visually similar images but flickr use their own similarity pivot technique (there is a lot of detail to be found in the article linked above). Flickr have also been putting these neural networks to good use adding/suggesting tags for your photos when they are uploaded. Flickr also has a wonderful resource of photos to look through. It isn’t perfect but it is very impressive.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Transferring a Picasa based photo library spread across a couple of computers

There will come a time with any digital collection of photos that they need to be transferred to a new computer, perhaps a different operating system. If everything is well organised in one directory and subfolders, the whole set can be copied to an external USB harddrive and carried to the new computer and the copied onto it. Pretty simple! However if you check  you might be surprised, what has happened to your previous edits, the tagging, star rating and album organization (collections for lightroom only users), they are much more difficult to ensure make that leap across computers. Now add the fact that not all photo collections are perfectly organized and often the photos are spread across several drives of across the local area network. Transferring photos might just become a nightmare!

I rediscovered that picasa is still a wonderful tool to manage your photos (well jpeg libraries to be specific). While google abandoned picasa a few years ago, but you can still download it free from several popular download sites (just make sure the site is trustworth and doesn't come with unwanted blotware and especially viruses, worms or ransomware). In later version (approx. 2015 onwards) the picasa web component was changed to use google photos (and I strongly recommend not using the autobackup to the web feature).  Google wants everyone to use their google photos system on the web, not do anything on your own computer which does not suit me and I assume will not really suit most people.

“For those who have already downloaded it, it will continue to work as it does today. But we will not be developing it further, and there will be no future updates.”   ….google post on picasa user web forum

If you already have Picasa,  you will know it has some good photo editing tools (its a pity snapseed never made it into the collection), is very fast to load photos, incredibly easy to understand and probably still has one of the best facial recognition features. It is not so great at enhancing RAW format photos (it can display and manage them). Further the “copy the photo directory” approach works well for picasa because it has a usually hidden file “picasa.ini” in each directory which stores the processes such as cropping etc. and basic organization, as well a simple start rating on each photo you have editing. When the the entire directory is copied onto the new computer and picasa reloaded it can read this file and render the photo as it was on the old computer. I discovered some time ago that this did not copy the facial recognition organization, but there was a complex workaround involving copying the hidden picasa database. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Tools/Back up picture feature in Picasa 3.9 (the last downloadable version) will also copy this extra information. I was using this backup approach for a different reason, picasa transfer :: Tools/Backup PicturesI knew it would search out the photos from where ever they are stored and put them into one big set (generally on an external USB drive for easy transfer).

The approach is very simple and easy to follow but I figured I should prepare a simple step by step through the process anyway and post here, because I suspect A lot of people will want to do this as they ungrade computers over the next few years. You will need picasa 3.9 to get all the facial recognition transfered (otherwise see that workaround above).  Get an external USB hard disk and plug it in (make a note of the drive letter it is given). Or alternatively you can find somewhere on your local area network with picasa transfer  :: Select a new Backup setlots of space (a NAS drive would be perfect albeit slow) Now Run Picasa on your old computer and using the tools menu find the back up picture option.

This will bring up the backup dialogue panels on the bottom of the screen. picasa transfer :: Select destination of backupThe default is normally set to somewhere on your hard drive, so you will need to  select the New Set option. Then enter the address of the USB drive (or network location). I’ve put a 1 2 3 marks on things you need to address on the first panel to get your back set defined. Firstly give it a name, Secondly select on the Disk-to-disk backup type and using the choose button locate your destination. I had already created a sub-directory on my USB drive F: called transfer. Finally you need to define which files to backup. Picasa was never used to manage movie on this computer so I excluded them (to save space). If your picasa library is full of screen captures and or downloaded web graphics and you only want your picasa transfer :: start the backuporiginal camera files you can try the last option. Otherwise it may be safest to select All file types to backup. On the second panel you can set up selective folders to backup but when transfering computers just click on the select all button. The final step to start the backup is to press the Burn button on the far right hand side (this term comes from the days when you “burnt” CDs, which you still can do by the way) This process can take a while and there are no progress bars but a pop up screen does tell when it is complete.

picasa restore on new computerFinal take the USB drive (after using the safely remove and eject option in your operating system) over to your new computer. If you look in the directory created (transfer in my example) you will see there is a collection of files and sub-directories and one of the files should be PicasaRestore.exe. Click on this to run it.  You can change the location of the restored files but most often the select to restore to original locations is fine for a an inter-computer transfer. Again this can take some time but you can see progress details of the files copied and setup steps and also another pop up when the transfer is complete.

When you start Picasa on the new computer it may take a some time in background to scan through the library and connect up all the faces and some organizational aspects. However you should find that your complete picasa library is fully and safely transferred and available on your new computer.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What will happen to flickr & Tumblr

This week Version announced they have bought Yahoo! for $4.5 billion and are bringing all their tech companies under the one Umbrella company Oath: 
image

This could be fine, but history of these big tech takeovers is littered with subsequent failures or at least falls from grace. Down in the story you will find that Marissa Mayer has resigned, with a nice golden parachute. However when yahoo originally took over flickr, it went into stagnation and it wasn't until Mayer became CEO and gave "the lets make flickr great again" speach that the current resurgence of flickr and its improved/modernised photostream displays happened. Similarly she championed and used tumblr, another decent social media place, you can read her final post here.

I hope and trust flickr & tumblr will survive the savage staff cuts that are certain to follow and these services are allowed to continue and perhaps even let flourish. Allowing both of them to provide serious competition to the google & facebook juggernauts.

Monday, June 12, 2017

About page (beta) has arrived in my flickr

image The About page has arrived on my Flickr Photostream. It is a lot more “modern” and plenty of opportunity to show photos and links to other social media. So it is generally a biggish improvement on the previous profile page. My only concern is there is now a lot to scroll through on the web interface. How can I use this space responsibly. The Phone app. is still the same by the way.



#237_Into_a_reflected_dream     Click here to see ABOUT ME on flickr

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Google Photos :: Not So Private

I thought I would give google photos another chance (probably it's third) it seemed pretty harmless. While I can see it is attempting to make sense of the mess. It just keeps making the mess bigger. At least the photo it autoloads it makes private, right, until you share them, right. Actually wrong all it does is use a 40 character code to make the photo link difficult to guess, this includes all the old photo from Picasa Web Album that you thought where safely private and only shared via a password.
Effectively there is a massive jungle of photos out there and your photos are sitting there in the wild. It is easy to test out (access a photo in google photos) there will be a long url name to access it (the name is a web link not a jpeg address by the way. Paste that into a file you write to a usb. Take the usb to a foreign computer you have not use and cut and then paste the url in a browser you have not used so It will not know your google ID. There is your photo! Other have noticed this issue.
This is a really big deal, A significant betrayal of my trust.

Whilst I intend to keep using google photos for my shared photos and images (mainly for my blog). I have already turned google photos off on my phone and I'm working through deleting a lot of photo from my google photos account.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

Flickr’s new profile page

I noticed a short post today on the Flickr blog post (yes I read it) that they have updated the profile page. I don’t think it has changed since I joined over a decade ago. So I excited went over to my profile (boy is it embarrassingly out of date) and sadly its the same as it ever was …no About section.

The blog post does say they are rolling it out slowly, but I found Thomas Hawk must have seen it already and had posted a comprehensive personal view. It does look nice and I’ll just have to be patient, until my profile becomes an About page.

Plein-air onto tablet and some pleasing #AIart

Me deeply absorbed in sketching on my tabletYesterday I bit the bullet and try out drawing my daily sketch directly on my HP spectre in Tablet mode, using the HP pen. There is a massive disincentive to working with the tablet, in fact anything with an LCD screen, in the outdoors, the screen is quite reflective and fine detail (and specifically small icons and text in the likes of Corel Painter are almost impossible to read) so sketching soon becomes a frustrating squinting, dabbing and missing confusion resulting in random lines all over the place. Thus I figured I’d start with a simple application, and the free version of Wacom’s Bamboo Paper fits the bill perfectly. There are hardly any o0n-screen control’s and they are big anyway. Further updates to the Microsoft ink workspace (that seemed to arrive in the Creator update to Windows 10) have improved the response of my pen and added a couple of levels of pressure sensitivity. There are only a pencil and highlighter style marker pen, with three width options in the free version of the bamboo paper app but that seems plenty to start with. Its also very natural to use. There is a colour change/select feature but accurately choosing colours in the glare didn’t appeal so I tended to pick the stronger colours and not worry too much..

My Pein air sketch using Bamboo paper app on tablet

I found a good spot, got out the tablet, shaded the screen with my body and made a start, timidly at first but I got brave and sketched lines and coloured over them with the highlight marker brush then back for more lines. Suddenly about 20minutes had slipped by and what I had done looked ok. I moved under the shade of a nearby tree and it looked better, ok better for my first outdoor attempt. It was after all just a field sketch (see above).

Sunny Day at Table Rock, Beaumaris

Today I stitched together 3 photos I took of table rock from the same vantage point and thought I should try improving the colouring (and tone of my sketch). It didn’t take long to realize this would be a perfect little test for the Neural Style feature of google deep dream generator. What I tried out was to use my bamboo paper sketch as the neural training image to filter my photographic panorama BUT to borrow the colour scheme from my photo rather than the sketch. In other works adopt the line work and flat highlighter style shading.from my sketch but stay close to the photographic colours (and tone). I must say I was impressed. I’m not sure how to take this AIart (Artificially Intelligent art) further but it does produce something with the sense of my touch and the way the place felt, something worthwhile.

The deep dream results, combining my sketch linework & photo colours

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Shooting Big (aka Wide) Landscapes but not Wideangle

I am always had a loved of wide panoramic views. This have been even exaggerated as I travel around on my endless summer project. Australia looks better in wide view. However I am not a fan of the distorted view that extra wide angle lenses give. For example you can get the horizon horizontal and straight if you have it in the center of the photo when you take the exposure, but lifting the horizon up or down will result in a curves horizon in the final image. In a forest the tress on the edge of the photo will bend in. Building will get smaller towards the edges and very triangular above you. These are all features that can be used creatively, its just I don’t really like them and therefore don’t own a specific wide angle lens. (my Tamron 18-200mm zoom give me a decent width to play with)

Photo series used

I still like the wider view, so what do I do. I have always (even going back to film days) just taken a series of overlapping photos and cut and pasted them together. Now with digital tools I use software rather than scissors and glue. There are plenty of tools to do this but I like Microsoft’s ICE and Autostitch the best. They actually have a different look, closer to what you see with two eyes and head movement scanning across the scene rather than classic single point perspective. I’m certain that David Hockney noticed this well before me, in his joiners, grand canyon and bigger picture projects (all made with multiple images/panels) and specifically he does mention the limitation of cameras in his collaborative book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters with Charles Falco, There are now also lots of smartphone apps that will stitch panoramas on the go using the phones camera, they also show this wider perspective rather than the wide angle distortion of a wide angle lens and single image.

As Stitched by Autostitch (with ghosting)

However because the photos are taken in sequence (with inevitable time gaps between) they are prone to a few issues. First and most common issue is someone or something moves (like the man in the 5th. 6th. & 7th. frames), The stitching program will then produced “ghosting” (HDR set also suffer the same issue) in any areas of overlap across the areas of the movement in time. This can be a hassle to fix, and I often don’t or only fix the most obvious ghost. In this case I used OnOne Enhance’s magic (a context sensitive) eraser on the ghost in front of the moving man’s face and the whitish ghost of his hoodie. Some programs give you the option of masking out things not to be stitched (it can be a lot of work with limited success). Another common problem is the difficulty of hand holding and maintaining a level to the sequence as you turn. Wobbles can also lead to ghosting and sometimes bending of the horizon or failing to be able to stitch. This sequence was hand held and I was on a slippery wet rock and it was windy so despite my best efforts the last few frames are a little out of register, and you can see the resulting ghost in the timber slats on the side of the bridge. I decided not to attempt to modify them.

Photographer crush on Fisherman's Bridge at Canal Rocks The important outcome is the modified wider view does the magnificent curved walkway justice  (It is just a bridge to allow rock fisherman to safely fish in the canal but it is a wonderful construction)