Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

We will be celebrating ring in the new year under a blue moon, the 13th. Full moon this year.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Feeding Baby

Two young Galahs [Cacatua roseicapilla] took up residence in a Gum Tree out the front. Their parents have been constantly feeding them in what is a very noisy affair.

Baby Galahs being feed

I like to take a series of picture when I am photographing birds, mainly because they seldom hold a pose! Sometimes a simple slide show, like this one prepared in Picasa conveys the event better than a series of stills.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Colour Your World

imageHidden away, down of the right hand side of the Picasa menu, are some experimental tools. The are all worth checking out, but one I have had some good fun with is the search for .. Colours.

Red Orange

Purple Yellow

Blue Green

Sunday, December 27, 2009

On the darker side of Lightroom 3 beta

I was trying to do beta tests of two well know software packages, Adobe’s Lightroom 3 beta and Windows Office 2020 beta . Both are hardly beta versions, they are more consumer tryout. Unlike older beta software programs, they don’'t have direct access back to the developers. You have to go through on-line help, meager user forums or the weird send a smile/frown offered by Microsoft. Which means if you encounter legitimate problems you are pretty much on your own. I fondly remember the days when you could email the developers of the beta version and they would promptly email back. They even seemed to value your feedback. Unfortunately those days have gone for independent beta testers and are both these unsupported consumer previews are annoying the hell out of me.

image The thing that is most irritating me about the Lightroom 3 beta is how it has taken over so many tasks like loading photos or any graphic images without asking. It not only popup interrupts unexpectedly, it is slow at even telling you what its trying to do and is so stubborn about constantly refreshing and finding things on its own, I just gave up. So if you want to load a lot of photos be prepared to get very annoyed about images flickering on and off and moving about. I mistakenly aborted one of these session and now my card has stated playing up in my camera and other computers. (I reformatted it in the camera, which seems the safest way to fix this, and it does seem to be ok now). Actually the importing photos is probably a lot better than it was. I guess I am just used to picasa now. The trouble is Lightroom has to construct a catalogue, which includes metadata, thumbnail preview and managements task like finding duplicates. If this was truly a beta version Adobe could probably iron out a lot of niggly data management/usability before a final release. I’m not so confident.p>

From a very preliminary first look two features of Lightroom 3’s Development Tab look like winners. The first is the digital noise filtering and the second is brushes, which now do a broad  range of touch up tasks.

Now where about in the Lightrooom beta forum does it give advice on uninstalling the beta?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

At Last

I have become a massive fan of PortableApps, which is a Open Source, Open Platform, that allows you to run applications from a USB key without having to install them on the computer, alter registry, clutter your screen with icon, slow down start up and consume disk space. I have found having both my favourites and also some only occasionally used photo utilities on a USB key in my camera bag particularly useful.

The one program I really missed was Picasa which has become my favoured photo manager. So I was excited to see a way to use Picasa with/within PortableApps, discussed in the PortableApps Forum

Picasa within PortableApps

Ok to be honest this is a bit complex. What is available now is not a distribution of Picasa for PortableApps, but a Launcher Utility that will transfer an installed copy of Picasa from your PC to a USB key. Once there it can be used from the USB Key on any computer. The problem lies in the licensing of the Picasa distribution.

Before you start you must download and install Picasa from the google site, its free, and will be a good idea to make sure you check for any updates. Then run the Picasa Loader from the PortableApps menu. This first time you run it, you will be prompted by a special wizard that transfer Picasa and installs it to your USB device.

A really big limitation of this version of the launcher, is that photo folder paths and settings aren’t kept when moving from machine to machine. I’m sure that will be addressed in future release. However don’t despair, now you have the warm feeling of being able to view & manage your photos in the same way as you travel. If you use Picasa regularly all this is worth the effort. Just remember to copy any photos you are working on somewhere safe, like the USBkey. At 34mb it does consume a fair bit of USB key capacity.

XnView Portable

At the same time I found Picassa portable loader I also noticed that XNView has become a standard portable application. Having heard some good things about the XNView freeware version  I decide to try it, and perhaps compare it to Picasa. Ok It is not Picasa, or even a close substitute but it is a damn fine program, way better than Cornice Portable which I had been using as my photo view/manger on the key previously. It reminds me a lot of the program ThumbsPlus. It can read and write hundreds of graphic formats include most RAW formats and specifically DNG. It can carryout all the basic editing and enhancing tasks, has very clean interface, does the viewing and managing of photos simply and easily. A tiny complaint is the thumbnails are a bit smaller than I would like. So my conclusion is that as a photo manager on a USB drive in your camera bag it is ideal. Importantly it will be less hassle to set up than Picasa, and installs to only 18mb.


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Small and fast = )

Writing this blog at the airpot via my Next-G modem Digital Photos can be quite large, especially as camera manufacturers are continually upping the megapixel count, often without improving the image quality. If you just want the photos for a website, blog, facebook or to email to relatives, you usually don’t need to send the full image. In fact you can do your bit for more responsible use of band width but optimizing the size of your image. Even if you have a reasonably fast net connection you will probably find that the conversion time is more than rewarded in upload time once you are processing more than one or two photos
Image Optimizer is really neat service (with a free downloadable version, that can do bulk conversions). I have previously posted about windows live & picassa’s ability to export & email smaller version of photos.
Here is a useful table for common sizes, you can click on the size descriptor to see an example of that image size.
Suggested Pixels
Max Width
Max Height
Small Web Photo
Blog Photo
Normal Print
10 by 15cm (4 by 6”)
Remember which ever approach you use, keep the original photos and just use the converted files for the upload or email (then delete them)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photo-Friendliness of SkyDrive

SkyDrive has been out of beta for some now, and is now more tightly included in Windows Live Essentials (the useful utility software that are now no longer included in Windows 7). So an update on my previous review is well and truly due.

Photo-friendly features

There is now Photo a folder in your SkyDrive. This lets you create and share on-line photo albums. Any folder is created under the main photo is considered an album and you get a slideshow option in timage he menu and the viewer can automatically step through the photos. It is worth noting, by default new folders in this photo area will have public access but you can easily change permission and limit access to a specific users or groups.

imageIf you also have Windows Live Photo Gallery (also part of windows live essential and free to download) the uploading and managing becomes imagevery easy. Just select the photos you want and select “Publish” and then when the file transfer is finished click on the “View album” button

The Default Free capacity of Skydrive is now 25 Giga bytes (that’s a lot)

Whilst photo backup is not specifically mentioned in the SkyDrive promotions, I am willing to bet it becomes one of its most used features. Because the folder structure is photo friendly, not only will you photos be stored safely in a second location they will be much easy to find and access than searching through a shoebox full of CDs.

Accessing Your Skydrive

The downside of SkyDrive is still the same as in the beta version, the default upload and access features are web based, and most significantly just apply to one file at a time. There is a package called Gladinet, that lets you set up the skydrive as virtual drive with its own drive letter, albeit a slow drive but the concept sounds neat. However there is a lot of web backchat that people have trouble getting this to work.  So I haven’t tried it yet! What I have tried and kept using is SkyDrive Explorer, which extends the web application to also work on groups of files, folders etc. for copy renaming and deleting etc. the best bit is it allows drag and drop for these file operations. My one complaint is it does not currently have a move option, so you need to copy, [check it worked] and delete.image It even gives reliable estimates of how long the operation it might take, and it will still be much longer than a local copy. It is a simple & small  explorer add-in and doesn’t require extra drivers installed on your computers or Active-X, and importantly follow secure protocols to transfer files so they protected from your average snoopers.

My Virtual Scrapbooks

I work on a few different computers these days, two different notebooks and a desktop. Not to mention mobile phones, cyber cafes and whatever computer is handy as i travel. I always end up with collections of half processed but still interesting projects scattered all over the place. So I decided to create a couple of virtual scrapbook on my SkyDrive. I still work on things, like autostitching, HDRI merges, collages, noise filtering on copies of photos locally, but now I religiously copy these temporary working folders to the skydrive and delete the local working copy. Why? Well when I want to find these half finished and semi forgotten projects I no longer have to search in four or five places. I have my folders on the SkyDrive organized by project type & theme. I also can look through this  every month or so and just delete stuff that I am unlikely to consider again, or re-prioritise things of interest. So this has both freed up my computers from a lot of unnecessary file clutter and at the same time made it easier to find things that I only need occasionally.

The idea of photo scrapbooks doesn’t have to be implemented via SkyDrive by the way, it could be a virtual drive or shared folder on your network or even on a flash or USB back-pack drive. Using SkyDrive, which is always there if you have internet access, just removes the worries like “Is the that drive connected?” and “is that computer turned on?”