Thursday, September 12, 2019

Freedom to be Creative

Social media bring lots of benefits as well as many problems. The thing i have noticed, I actually saw this coming it long ago, is that the restrictive ways photos and posts must be formatted and submitted, definitely limits and fences in creative expression. First we could blame the way the popularity is scored, should I rather say celebrity-like biased feeding frenzy. And don’t get me started on the very biased algorithmic display bubbles. The Online – Social Media Aesthetics we see today suck.

So what to do about it?

Should we #TURNOFFSOCIALMEDIA, we can and in the short term that can be a big relief (unless your hooked). However it means that you end up in a much smaller isolation bubble, aka you cause yourself to be largely overlook. Some presence at least seems to be expected of us these days, for example you might hear “He doesn’t have an Instagram account he can’t possibly be a real photographer", which of course is rubbish.

Even this blog, and blogging in general have become overly constrained by restrictive SEO scores download speeds and bounce rates. Whereas I feel it should be accuracy, reliability of information and ideas, inspiration and originality that should be rewarded instead in is popularity! Enough of the rant. Back to what is worth embracing and why. The big plus of sharing things on the internet is extending your exposure. In theory that should happen if what you share is good and/or informative.

I was getting particularly frustrated on the restrictions and difficulties of posting several pictures using Blogspots web based post tool. (I missed the ease and flexibility of Open Live Writer, but that can no longer upload photos, #FAIL most likely due to google photo changes). So after listening to Brooks Jensen’s Online Aesthetics podcast I decided that making an occasional PDF would be firstly easier to create (using anything, word, Canva etc) and also easy to share. So I have started with a photo essay of the murals in Townsville.

So I began with a simple page for an Instagram story, and guess what you need to format the image as a thin vertical. Whereas  I do a lot of #3by1grid, where I subdivide panoramic images into three square images. Most people wouldn’t realise this since you need to look at my Instagram profile to make sense of these grids. So only a few people in the know will realise what I am doing here. Anyway my Instagram story did get about 25 views.

Thus the search for creative expression that is not beholding to the Online Aesthetics of Social media continues…

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Almost a Digital Nomad

Whilst I used to travel a lot and may have been a digital nomad before the term was invent, i’m not really one anymore yet I still want to be able to edit and manage my photos anywhere I happen to be. HoweverI need a bit more power than smartphones and social media offer. I have a HP Spectre, a 2 in 1 style tablet/laptop and whilst I have travel with it many time before. This trip as first time it was my only computing option. It worked wonderfully.

#234/365 paying homage to my IT team while travelling

I also limited the accessories I carried. Two identical backpack style hard drives for backups (rotated weekly) a wacom bambo stylus/pen. usb c to usb A and hdmi dongles, hdmi cable anf a wireless mouse and  usb c charger (not shown)/ The real magic is in the software, although I have lightroom installed I didn’t touch it once. I mainly used picasa to load my photo from an old SD card reader and Photo Mechanic to quickly review rate,cull and add metadata. I then select my best and dragged those on PhotoLemur (an AI based automated postprocessor from Skylum).This was usually time for a coffee, shower &/or get ready for dinner and generally only 5 minutes after inserting the SD card.

I only use Photo;emur to show what might be possible, although I did find often that I would use photolemur Jpeg as the image to upload to instagram and very occasionally flickr. Usually then I would use either On1 Photoraw (for stitched Panoramas) and Aurora HDR (for Bracketed HDR) and either to postprocess RAW files. If the place I was staying had a suit Big Screen TV with HDMI Port I was able to review and edit my photo larger, easier on my old eyes. I had downloaded a trial version of Skylum 3 but stop using it after 2 days because I was only playing and it didn’t offer me any capability I didn’t already have.

Of course I was dependant of WIfI being available to access the internet and sometimes that wifi was a biyt unreliable. I would say I wasn’t totally committed but I did manage to post a photo a day to flickr for my 365 project and keep Instagram clicking over. I was very happy with this very light weight yet powerful IT team in my backpack.

My (Repaired) Camera Bag

I have my much loved ThinkTank Mirroless Mover camera bag back in service (with a repaired zip). It is perfect for my little OMD 10 mkiii Olympus mirroless camera plus two extra  lenses. (I also acquired a forth lens along the way which also fitted in easily). It was never overcrowded and very light compared with carrying my older Pentax DSLR and just one lens.

#218/365 Whats in My Camera Bag

The big bonus for me is I have enough room to carry an A3 sketch book (or two) and also my mini Cotman sketchers palette and a couple of pens and water brushes giving me the ability to sketch anytime I was out with my camera, which was always. Even if I just sat down for a coffee or waiting for a lunch order, I could sketch.

As I was only carrying one camera body I made sure I had my smartphone and the old but reliable pink FujiPix compact camera as backups (not required). Again I can report that I used everything I took (see my Flickr posts)

The small tripod is really small and just ok for my light Olympus, importantly it fits in my suitcase, as does the various chargers and cables on the pink microfiber cloth. I didn’t normally carry them around.

My slimmed down Art Kit

I thought I should recommence semi-regular blogging with a couple of short posts about the creative tools I took on my recent travels. Traveling out of a suitcase does put a big restriction on what you can reasonably include. Further on other trips I have carried items I never used.

#217/365 My Plein Air & Travel Art Kit

This time I wanted everything to fit into the little red Pocket Backpack (it looks like a soft purse but expands out in a simple backpack. I had considered long and hard and decided to take a very sketch oriented set of tools (two palettes of watercolours, inktense blocks and pencils my watercolour brush roll, a roll of sketching pens & pencils and a variety of papers) and a small drawing board (see if you can find it). Whilst travelling on planes this fitted nicely at the base of my case but the rest of the trip was always on hand in the red backpack. I actually had a small extra sketch kit in my camera bag but that can wait till the next post.

I can report back that I used  all of it as some time and because everything as always at hand I used it often. You can see some of my work over at @normhansonart on instagram.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hmmmm no post for a month or so …

Some Apology is necessary for me missing so many opportunities to post but I was frankly very frustrated about Open live writer no longer letting me post photos (its more probably a Google photo issue). You have to admit posting photos is important in a principally photographic blog. Then I also had the hassle of yet another Microsoft Windows 10 update note really working and the bits that dis work cause me havoc on my LAN. Plus a couple of hardware problems. Blogging became a very low priority.

Anyway I’m back refreshed from a trip up north (see @normhansonphoto instagram posts) and peaching things together again. Rather than trying to frustrate myself more I might restart slowly with less photo intense posts.

PS thanks for sticking around

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Hybrid Approach 2 :: More Standalone HDR

More than anything else it was the need to run Standlone HDR applications, hat forced me not to let one piece of software (AKA lightroom) control what I was doing and how I was doing it. I have been interested in extending the dynamic range that Digital Cameras capture for a long time and had used many early HDR tools that used jpeg files (and got reasonable results). A lot of these tools let users go over the top, with luminous lurid colour and crunchy tones in the sky, as examples. HDR became synonymous with unconstrained over processing and even despised by many self-appointed photo purists. In some case I would agree but I wasn’t scared away and with the widespread development of RAW editing tools many of the tone mapping techniques where incorporated in the tonal adjustments of the RAW photos (which has in general more information on which to establish the best tonal range). The role of HDR and tonemapping has become more subdued and now offers the possibility to easy lift a digital photo to something like you rembered the light when you took the photo. Rather than the hazy, greyish image you loaded from the card. The extreme HDR effects are dying out, well except for Instagram where “funky” colours might still get you extra followers and real estate where evening photos will all the lights on and a wet path and strong colours still helps sell properties

My Current Skylum ToolsOne of the best known champions of tone mapping is Trey Ratcliff, of Stuck in Customs blog and a couple of years ago he got together with the Mac Phub team (now skylum) and bought together the essential and the best tools to build HDR images and bought out the program Aurora HDR. I was a bit late adopting it but I now have the latest edition Aurora HDR 2019 and I love it. You guessed it its another Standalone Program. Well it can also be setup as an addin. In my view it iss easier to use standalone, similar to the NIK software utilities I have the program icon on my desktop and then just drop the images in my HDR EV Bracketed set onto that icon. You then get the Merge setup dialogue screen, where it is possible to control the amount of antighosting, chromatic aberration and aligning the photos with the set.

The latest version of aurora incorporated AI feature in its new Quantaum HDR engine, that pre-processes a number of refinements steps including object recognition. This takes a little while and again not so long you need to go and make a coffee. You will them arrive at the fairly convenrtial main edit screen with some key viewing controls along the top, with a set of edit tool on the left hand side (which can be easily hidden and/or expanded) and a set of “looks” tiled as thumbnails along the bottom. Looks in aurora are like presets in other software that nicely combine several of the tools. In this case I am quite happy to just accept the default adjustments and tone mapping. I am only left to export the HDR file.

If I am intending to do any further edits of make a large print I save the HDR in Tiff format full size, if I’m posting of flickr or social media it will be a Jpeg of reduced size (eg 2400 on the longest side).

Aurora is currently my go-to HDR favourite.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Hybrid Approach 1 :: Where to Start?

I’ve decided to try and describe my hybrid approach to using a range of photographic software tools (aka my photographic mistresses). It really began long ago when everyone had lightroom and it was in charge of everything. I was interested in HDR and had to use other software to pull the EV bracketed sets together. One of the first tools to let me use RAW files directly from within lightroom was NIK software. Google had purchased the system and for a short time offered it for free downloads, still as an add in for Lightroom. I actually found all the tools very useful but it was HDR EFex Pro that I used most. As I was slowly moving away from using lightroom I started missing my access to the NIK tools, generally finding alternatives in other software. I even researched trying to use NIK tools as an Add-in for OnOne. Then a few week ago I saw a YouTube video by Robin Whalley of Lenscraft that mentioned using the NIK programs stand alone. Turns out it pretty easy, you just need to create a shortcut  link\icon on your screen to each program within the NIK collection, then just drop the photo (or photos in a HDR set) onto the icon. Suddenly I have the NIK tools back to use when I need them.

So onto the task of straight forward HDR. This begins by selecting the 5 photos of my EV bracketed set and dropping them onto the shortcut link. This bring up a dialogue to work on a copy or the original and after that the main setup dilogue screen, where options such as alignment, ghost removal and fixing chromatic aberration (those purple and green outlines at high contrast edges) can be manipulated. Also the opportunity to choose which is the reference exposure. Next chick Create HDR and this begins the series of processes to combine the exposures according to your setup. It takes a little time but not enough to justify going to make a coffee.

In a familar NIK software style you then get a basic processed photo to view but with a series of tools, icon and sliders on the right to further enhance the image, OR a series of tiles on the right hand side showing various presets to further stylize your photos. In this case I’m happy to just accept the default HDR result and click on save. I have the option to save the result as a Tiff or  jpeg (other formats don’t interest me) and where I would like it stored.  Job done in less time!

Its exactly the same as if I submitted the selected photos in lightroom to the HDR Efex plug-in, via a special export process but quicker and without the hassle of reloading the result back into lightroom. Same result in less time and no need to fire up and wait, and wait… and wait… for lightroom.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Alvin returns as my photographic Life coach

Its more than a year since I sort out my cartoon ultra-ego., Alvin, as a personal trainer to help me reduce my mucking around in photo editing software and social media. Potentially avoid wasting a lot of time.

So how did I do? Social media is definitely cutback (largely because of frustrations rather than conscious effort). My attempts to reduce my burgeoning harem of photographic software mistresses hasn't gone so well. What I have found is a hybrid solution of using the tools that are best suited my projects at the time was far more satisfactory than trying to adopt a strict workflow and a single software application. Having a range of tools suits my creativity, providing I know how to use them, then I don't have too!

PS I seldom use Lightroom (its version 4.4) any more, just occasionally to find an old image.

Friday, May 24, 2019


The site maintenance shutdown for flick has been well advertised and even has a little good panda contest for the likes of me (free users or peraps a gift for a friend). This is probably the finals steps of the migration of services off the Yahoo’s servers, but seems to have taken a day longer than anticipated. The new owners and the flicker team seem to have put a have put a lot in place to make sure this is a seamless transition, including a Known Issues page They warn a few features might take a little longer to bring back on-line. However its return to be up online again has not gone so well for me. I can not upload my photos either with the newer photo uploader.

Or the Old Manual Photo uploader

This hiatus has punched a whole in my 365 project (post a photo on flickr each day this year) for a second day, but I’m not panicking, I’m patient and I’m sure they will figure it out in time, I also realise PRO member will get higher support, Here is a link to the current status of the scheduled maintence, why not take the opportunity to go out and take a few more photos, perhaps enter their good panda contest.

ALL FIXED I’m able to upload again  GOOD PANDA