Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Picnic

Google are closing Picnik on April 19, 2012 (very soon). If you use Picasa, Photobucket, Facebook or Flickr the chances are you have used and come to love Picnik. Google have in fact used many of the features of picnik in google+ photo creative kit but the users of the other packages might really miss picnic. Flickr has at least indicated they are working on an alternative, but I haven’t noticed an official notification of that yet.

For those looking for an alternative now, have a look at Aviary. It may not be as well integrated as picnik was but it does have a very comprehensive range of photo editing features available as standalone on PCs, web and mobile apps.

If you have photos still in a picnik account you can use the picnik takeout feature to download them to your computer (in a zip file).

A proper connection to SkyDrive

I must admit I have only just had a look at the on-line Windows 8 Consumer Review, but the one feature that did strike me as something they have finally got right is the integration of Skydrive. Right now you need to get to SkyDrive via Windows Live Gallery (if you don’t have it it can be downloaded for free from here) or use the Web based access via Hotmail/Windows Live Messenger. The windows Live Gallery is fine for photos and give you a web Album, but you have to remember and manage the two locations. The integration in Windows 8 appears to make the issue of weather you have the file on your computer or in the cloud irrelevant, their slogan is your windows, everywhere.
The other area that may be of most interest to photographers will be what apps are available, I expect there to be a great rush of Photocentric apps developed by third party, probably a lot more or the same as those currently available for the android or Iphone/Ipad. So do you really want to want to run something that runs on your phone on your PC as well? Probably yes because you really need more screen real estate to get the most out of most photo applications. Also a few apps might give you all the photo processing you want and needed and this will be much cheaper than a blotted photo/image software package that costs the earth and takes for ever to learn how to use.
There is a beta version of widows 8 (its a pre release trial rather than a true beta release) that you can download and test now. You can even create a portable version that can be booted from a USB key or external drive. This will be of most use for those wanting to develop apps for this new platform.
The interface, based on the Metro design language, looks a lot more tablet or touchscreen oriented than I expected and yet disturbingly familiar! Then I realised I had seen it before, its exactly like the XP version of Windows Media Center, which I actually still like and use because I can work it from the couch via a remote. I have an older PC connect to my wide flat screen TV and it is perfect to show family and friends Slide shows and home movie.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reverse image finders

With so many social networks flouting the copyright conventions and “claiming” anything posted on-line is “free” to share (aka steal) and a few like Pintrest  and Weheartit going even further, directly or indirectly encouraging their users to link to if not post things of interest (aka other peoples work). Ok Pinterest does mention you should credit your sources in their Pin Etiquette page, but a quick look at their site reveals this is a hollow request, my very superficial review suggested most pinned links (when they exist) are more likely to be for self-promotion or to a clearly non-original source.  Sigh!
Creative Commons LicenseThe problem is acknowledgement and linking back to the original Intellectual Property creator/owner, Creative Commons is a nice framework to handle this on the internet but so few social network tools (including google+) even display the creative common licence or the linking tools provide the name/URL of the source (flickr is the one exception I can think of at the moment). I don’t mind is my work if reposted by other I just want some acknowledgement and I don’t want them to make a direct profit by selling my work so I mainly use the CC BY ND licence.  However it is beginning to looking a bit depressing.The current reality is, if you post on a social network, you must expect your work to be taken. Sigh!


How can you findout if your images is being “responsibly” used on-line?

If Google Images is a hand grenade, TinEye is a sniper rifle.
The net is a wide open place these days and there are millions on millions of places to look. So just keeping your eyes open when you surf the net may yield very little success. The better strategy at the moment is to use a reverse image search tools. Luckily there are already two decent free and easy to use ones available. I didn’t bother to investigate the expanding number “ransomware” applications, (ie ones that promise the world, charge you a lot and probably just secretly use one of the options below).
Google Images, has been offering a reverse image search since June last year. Not too many folk realised this. All you have to do is drag an image onto the google image search box or paste the URL of a location you have posted your image and the search works exactly as you expected it present you with a matrix of near matching images. Unfortunately they may not be very exact matches and you might still have to do a fair bit of manual looking around but it is a great start.
TinEye is another free service that specifically addresses finding like images, using its own pixel based fingerprinting techniques to scan through its own databases (which are extensive and growing but way short of complete) of fingerprints obtained by crawling the web for images. This doesn’t guarantee your searches will find dark corners of the web or even well lit (popular) ones but it will find close matches and slightly modified versions (including adding text and overwriting visible watermarks). You can help TinEye to keep a watch on your images by submitting an application (its a XML sitemap of images, so a fair bit of Web tech savvy is required) for TinEye’s robots to crawl your site, but priority is given to legitimate stock photo collections and images carrying a clear creative commons licence.
As the wired post suggests these service are also very useful to locate the original source of an image so it can be correctly reposted with acknowledgement. Thus potentially avoiding a litigious band of lawyers trying to sue the pants off you, sending you nasty and threatening letters when a polite cease and desist was all that was necessary.
I must admit I was a little shocked that one of my images was being used by a hacker’s collective. However they did remove my image when I asked nicely. Another of my images appears in over 300 locations, most that I checked not acknowledging I was the creator. Sigh!
Yet there is a bright side and I wish to pat on the back all those that have contacted me (and I have in most case said yes to republishing my images) and those that correctly linked back to my blogger post or my flickr photostream. Well done you guys.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ibis Sunset


Several long strings of Ibis flew in at sunset and settled noisily in a set of Monterey Pines. Its been a few years since I have witness the Ibis in such numbers, perhaps they know El Nina is about to fade away.

I would like to explain to them, they would be much easier to photograph if the flew in about 20 minutes earlier.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Great Day for a Collage

Big sky and a wide sweeping beach. Perfect for a hockney joiner style collage in picasa. Well thats until I get back to a computer with Autostitch.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 02, 2012

Thursday, March 01, 2012

What is Lytro?

One of the hotter social network topics at the moment is Lytro, which is a camera that takes in a lot more information than what we now call a photo. I like the concept and think there is enormous potential in the approach and the technology but I do share trey ratcliff’s  google+ opinion post that the user click to focus feature is just a little banal and twee.

So lets begin with what it is? Lytro is basically a zoom lens on a single aperture camera (its a wide aperture equivalent to F2 so it takes in a lot of light). The sensor is an array of sensors that can all record the vector of the light (angle at which it has left the subject and arrived at the sensor). Most other parts of a cameras hardware are replaced by smart software then prepares an image as a light field (Lyrto’'s term), actually it seems to be 9 versions of the image.This is in effect a new format of digital negative that can be further processed at viewing time, either in the camera or on a computer. It is a representation that is much more 3D than a current 2D photo we are used to.

Check out the Cnet first look video on You tube for a “Gee Whiz” style review.

If you want to play with the click to focus feature have a look at the light field picture of the spider above some autumn leaves, on the Lytro photo gallery. Just click on the part of the picture you want to see in focus. It is pretty amazing.

Does this mean you will never have to focus again? I DOUBT IT.
Does this mean we will soon be able to do some amazing things that being photos to life, in a much more 3D way? I suggest YES
So what will drive this technology forward? Putting it on MOBILE PHONES! I do not think specialist hardware will get enough users into the technology. It is firstly the zoom lens that phones can’t or don’t do at the moment, plenty have limited aperture infinite focus lens and there is plenty of computer power on some models. After that it is licencing the technology and getting the light field sensor into the phones form factor.

I look forward to watching developments in this area. I probably wont be buying the camera right now, I still get joy focussing my camera on my subject.