Monday, August 31, 2015

Another “Feature” on Google Photos

An example Rediscover post on google photosHave you notice that google photo have added another feature to the assistant you can’t control called Rediscover the day. Basically its basically the same as the flashback feature in the now extinct everpix. It goes back and reminds you what you photographed back in time (I’ve only seen it do years ago) rather than a particular date. It does seem to do a reasonable job selecting the most infocus and well exposed images from your google photo collection.

I’m not sure that I really see this as much more than a time wasting distraction, because it is simple enough to scan back through the photo and find “all” your photos from that day, or more likely any date you are interested in

The other thing that puzzles me is that this is one feature google hasn’t included sharing.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Can you really fix bad focus?

I managed to capture a couple of parrots in flight, but they where very close and the light in the forest wasn’t great. I was panning ok but the speed of the bird and the slowness of the shutter and not to mention autofocus cranking away. Ok The birds swooped in and I had little time other than your pick up the camera follow the bird and push the shutter. The result was clearly out of focus birds, yet the composition and action was interesting.
_IGP2009 Unfortunately Out of Focus _IGP1942 Unfortunately Out of Focus
Add-ins for Aftershot Pro 2Can I recover the focus? My experience has always been I Can Not! Normally such photos get culled as they are first uploaded.

It just happens that Corel are promoting their registration and support with a link to their new 64 bit add-ins and two of the add-ins caught my eye. The first was Wavelet Sharpen 3, which use a larger radius Unshapen Mask (USM) as well as the wavelet sharpening algorithm popular in GIMP. But such sharpening usually enhances the noise, so Wavelet Denoise also looked interesting. It brings the common controls over both luminance and colour noise filtering. With a little back and forth adjustment between these two add-ins and I was able to bring the images to a better “not quiet in focused” state albeit with some grainy artifacts in the background and some haloing. Definitely not in focus but more acceptable. However I can see there is a lot of power in these tools.
_IGP2009 Still Not Quiet In  Focus ...but _IGP1942 Still Not Quiet In  Focus ...but
Big Hint: Normally I would recommend using manual focus when panning after birds in flight and have any anti-shake of stability adjustment turned off. Of course you need to pre-set the focus to roughly the distance you expect the bird to be and there is a limit on to how slow you can let the shutter exposure be. (for most of us the limit is something like 1/60th. second) so in low light that means a higher ISO (eg 800)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ManyMistresses :: What the heck!

The frustration of Picasa & Windows 10 had tested my motivation to sit in front of the computer. I figured I needed a distraction and thought what the heck, it might be time to let in a couple of new photo mistresses (my name for those distracting and high maintenance photocentric software) in. I have been having fun with Corel Painter Lite (mainly as a painting & sketching tool) and had found some decent capabilities within Pixl (on my android phone) and thought it time to look at the computer version, Finally I have used GIMP on and off for ages (typically to do editing things that other software could not achieve). Its definiteExtra Mistresses have arrived on my desktoply a capable bit of software but has had a very arcane interface. The other detraction was lack of documentation, but these days there are any number of good mini tutorials on You Tube to does an extensive range of effects. GimpShop is supposed to be a decent windows style interface to suit those who want a Adobe Photoshop alternative. Finally I’m half looking for a picasa replacement, must be simple & friendly and the new XnView MP might fit the bill.

Will let you know how these mistresses behave.

Another older computer (win 7) and a similar story

imageAfter abandoning upgrading my small netbook, I foolishly began trying to upgrade an older desktop. Same story just different error messages. Two fails to upgrade out of two attempts,

I think I need to quit while I’m still sane and just be happy with Windows 7 and get back out on the camera

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Windows 10 :: Blue Screens of (Un)Recovery

I can’t believe that Microsoft would be using a blue screen again? My experiments with my upgraded windows 10 laptop took a very unfortunate turn for the worse. I had not use it much but each time it was noticeably slower and yesterday unusably slow, so I tried a system reset (aka a clean install). The result my Windows 10 machine has died and refused to be resuscitated (ok it appears to boot but gives the sad face message (below centre left) and then restarts and gives the recovery message (several below) and trying out troubleshooting options  leads me to most of the other screens shown below). These are not my screen captures they are just a collection of the images of you google “blue screen of recovery”. There pages of them posed if you care to look.
Given that a BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH is in this collection as well, I don’t think this captive loop and a blue background is going to help microsoft a lot in public perception. Since this problems doesn’t yet have a name I haven’t found much mention of how to avoid it in blog land or forums. What is the appropriate hashtag folks? Any solutions?

I know when I’m licked, time to re-install windows 7 (and guess what that doesn't work either!)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Another messanger of Spring

Suddenly a bit of sun and many suburban streets are bursting forth in spring blossoms.

(Melbourne in late Winter, can be full of surprises)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First signs of spring

The flush of bright yellow on the wattles, is a sure sign winter is coming to an end

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where are we going?

For many years the emphasis in digital photography revolve around the work flow. It began as a way to simplify the learning of complex software like photoshop and lightroom on a computer, Combining Workflow & Social Media Sharingbut softened into a more generic shoot, edit and share. At roughly the same time social media became big and what drew a lot of views was those digital photos being shared. These two themes dominated developments in the photocentric internet world for most of the past decade. Then cloud computing raised its head and after a few train wrecks, and then the voracious gobbling up of promising startups by the social media and bigger computing and/or internet groups. The theme for this years is definitely one place to store all your photos. I suspect all the contenders are aiming for that sweat spot at the intersection of all these themes. Yet from my perspective all of these offerings have at least one shortcoming which disappoints, since most are essentially fMuch effort has been focused on cloud photo storageree perhaps complaining is not being reasonable. However my photos are mine and I want to look after them. I want to do a range of tasks and I want to be confident that the images are only shared when and where I want. I think it is time to leave the work flow, cloud and social media constraints and refocus on tasks that need to be done. These are methods and skills, some equipment/ hardware, some software. Using these processes and tools that can be learned and mastered in the manner of any true artisan. Then again I might be in the minority, I cringe to think most folk are happy to push the shutter button, click on autofix or the make zany filter and flood the world with wasted bandwidth.

My Common Photographic Tasks

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The not so dark side of “almost auto”HDR

I must admit I haven’t upgraded up to lightroom 6 or decided to buy into their rental/subscriptrion (just not my personal choice) but I did test it out and in particular I was interested in the much hyped HDR & Pano features. If you are looking for a comprehensive HDR tool kit this is not really for you. It just performs the maths of extracting the maximum dynamic range out of the image, and more particularly it works with RAW files (so it has no trouble creating 16 and 32 bit colour renderings). It only have limited tone mapping but passes that task onto the already very good lightroom tools. It is almost the one-click fix I’m not keen on but it is relatively easy to set up and worked fine for me. panoApparently it has to be run individually for each set (I couldn’t find a way to batch it) but there is less fiddling than most other HDR tool sets. Speed was ok but picturenaut and aftershot 2’s HDR are faster. It did handle hand-held bracketed sets well, without obvious ghosting. It avoided dirty skies and the haloing around the sun can be forgiven.

In this case I took 9 images, that meant three HDR sessions. I wanted to then try the panorama but alas the new lightroom pano feature wouldn’t play on these HDR images. Probably because I rotated the camera slightly between shots. So the final stitching was carried out in Autostitch.

Palm Cove HDR pano

IMGP0064Whilst this probably looks “over baked” to many, it does satisfy my desire to take photos in the style I might paint. To prove that aspect, here is a small sketch I had just finished while sitting on the now empty chair, before I got up and took this bracketed set of photos contre jour.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Never Ending Update

image I noticed a post about picasa being updated to connect with google photos, so I checked and there was an uipdate, which I duly downloaded and installed. It appeared to work, well the big green button was changed from share on google+ (to share on google photos). There is a However..

Now each time I restart picasa I get a request to update and the green button is back to connecting with google+. Looking at the on-line forums and blogs indicates that similar continual update message have plagued some user for a couple of years and there seems no clean re-install options other than deleting picasa altogether. I’d rather find a simpler solution so I’ll keep looking.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Darkside of AUTO HDR

I have been in the habit of taking bracketed exposure sets for a long time. Not so much that I want to do a formal HDR but really just as a safeguard against getting and exposure wrong. Particularly when I’m not confident the light meter is giving me the right exposure, the exposure I want rather than an average grey. In some case I can use one of the exposures only, or perhaps I can make a composite from two or all three of the images or I can use the various HDR techniques to gain a broader dynamic range.

Troubles can surface if all the decisions are passed onto an automatic process. This can be appealing because you can save time. It also removes your input into the creativity or aesthetic decisions. However more and more systems are offering HDR and it is now so often a one click solution.
Bald Hill windfarm makes itself noticed
This example might make the look like Tony Abbot’s comment about blots on the landscape could have a glimmer of truth. The reality is this image is the google+ autoawesome HDR has over adjusted the sky and produced the telltale halos of inappropriate tone mapping of high contrast areas and dirty skies. There are techniques to fix these halos but the best solution is to avoid them in the first place and don’t rely of automatic processes to get it right.
Postscript: A small upside is it has highlighted that I have a couple of dust particles on my sensor, and time for a clean

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Exploring Windows 10,

I was patient, I had accepted the initiation to reserve a free copy on some of my computers (I’m still holding off on a couple of others). I have also fully backed up, created disk images and updated the recovery media on everything (a big task in itself). Ready to go?   …well not just yet!

I have a small older netbook running Windows 7 (its about 5 years old) and whilst it was never fast it had become virtually unusably slow to start and do anything remotely photographic. I had stripped it down to some very basic software and got it ready to be my guinea pig for the upgrade. I figured if windows 10 could breathe life into this, it might help improvement performance of the more powerful machines. Whilst I could see the reserve windows logo there didn’t seem to be any other activity. The … what’s next? email from Microsoft seemed to suggest more waiting, which is ok, but I also saw the note that I could start now using the media creation tool (with the warning it was only suitable for tech savvy users). Everything was prepared and it was friday night so I thought what the heck.

1:00AM still downloading & time for bedI linked to the site from my little netbook at around 9:00 PM and started the process of downloading. It was slow and thus I left it unattended a lot, and eventually went to bed. Basically you need to choose how to prepare the install media (I really only had the choice of using a USB drive on the netbook) and the version of windows Home or Pro and whether it is 32bit (which the netbook is) or 64 bit (which my other computers are) and create the distribution media (it can then be used to upgrade more than one computer if they have the same version). In other words this is basically a two step process. First you make your own installation media, then you can install it. The first step of downloading the install media will be performed for you in background if you choose to wait.

10 hours laterSo the first step was running overnight and I woke to find a message that it was finished but two small dialogue windows to say Modern Setup has stopped working and the download dialogue still open. Not a good look. I spent a couple of hours checking the Microsoft forums and found this was a common error during the insider program and related to not having enough space on the hard drive. I checked I had about 10 times the required minimum (16GB). I also spent time checking the USD key contents and it seemed to have all the desired components so I bravely moved onto the next step. The actual install. No going back now. It too was super slow (I have no idea why, it had to spend so long checking for updates) but eventually it finished, restarting itself several times along the way, I was doing an update, rather than a clean system install so I was expecting a wait.

Well it did breathe limited new life into the netbook (it starts noticeably faster) and program load a little quicker. I can’t see that running programs actually run any faster and I have a distinct impression that the chrome browser is struggling.Those used to Windows 7 will not see so much difference (there is a live tile wall that protrudes from the side the start menu, as in Windows 8), looks much the same when you run your existing software. Basically you can get up and running without having to master anything new. For now thats the end of the good news.

I had a very brief look at Edge (the internet explorer alternative browser) and I'm a bit skeptical that Microsoft is going to find it easy to convince people to use it when they are familiar with almost any of the other current browsers. Why is Cortana missing? Well Cortana is apparently not supported in my region or language. What I was more interested in was what was being offered for photographers (that reservation screen promises great built-in apps such as Photos, Maps & Music), Yes I can see the photos tile, and they are my photos BUT when I try to access anything I either get nothing, sometimes an error message that the group or resource is not in the correct state to perform the requested operation or I was presented with a one drive log in screen. I do have two Microsoft accounts (one from back in Hotmail times) but neither let me log in so I set up a third a new one, again no deal. The lack of one drive access also means no one note. I also get a lot of nothing, no response no error messages when trying to access other tile apps. Right about here I lost interest in exploring further. I will continue at some future time but I’m not in a hurry to upgrade any other computers right now.
Eventually Windows 10 is running
Ok its not bad, and may take a little while to become familiar with new features but where is the rainbow, the majestic view of the future, or even that whiz bang fountain of youth (ok that’s not what the TV ad is about , but what is that ad about?)
Postscript: This post has been delayed by a day while I tried to figure out this error. Username & password were fine. Seems I just needed to wait a day.The error message that dissapeared

Saturday, August 01, 2015