Friday, May 28, 2021

This is also a little spooky ...

Just how much our privacy is being eroded is scary, as we participant the image sharing on social media. This especially applies to our photos and the apps on our mobile phone that may well be processing them even when we haven't shared them. These apps might be scanning your contacts, purchases, and perhaps even your searches. This graphic is from a review undertaken by SurfShark, a group that provides VPNs. 

I don't believe I would benefit from a VPN but I have removed  VSCO,  Adobe Lightroom, PicsArt and Prisma; along with Facebook, Twitter & now also Google Photo apps from my mobile phone. I'm retreating back to only interacting with social media via the Brave browser and mainly from my computer. 

I really don't think I'm being paranoid just careful.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Yes I just had to photography the lunar eclipse


I have been able to photograph the lunar eclipse in 2014, 2015 & again in 2018, so I knew I must photograph last night's "blood moon" aka another Lunar eclipse. Whilst it didn't look so promising early, with thick cloud cover. As the eclipse progress it cleared to a magnificent, but cold, night. I actually found the best vantage point was right in my backyard. So I had my smallest camera and longest lens (giving the best reach) set up on a tripod with a timer on the shutter.

The colour wasn't as red as perviously, it was more a coppery red but still pretty amazing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Exploring Excire

 I had gotten interested in Excire at the Visual Story Tellers on-line conference. It seemed to offer some useful feature that might help me tackle the process of working  through a lot of old family photos, slides, negatives and albums. Well it didn’t inspire me to start that project. However it is an amazing program.

The clearest use case for excire is during the import/ingestion of photos. Its was faster than lightroom, but it does have to create its own database (like the lightroom catalogue) and it uses either a jpeg or the jpeg built into any RAW file.

The fact that it can write this keywording and your ranking to a sidecar file as you import is a really massive benefit.

I still think photo mechanic lets you get through the import a lot quicker, but I’m seldom adding keywords. Once you have entered custom keywords both do a great job of finding your photos.

The second great application is for searching through a large collection, where its hierarchical keywords strategy can help  you find a lot of photos quickly within a larger collection. It also keywords several special terms related to aspects of the photograph, not things buried in the exif data (like lightroom) but general things like brightness, leading lines or silhouette.

Its biggest downfall for my “family history” project was that although you can put in customised to identify people and grouping people “like this” it misses enough to make it unreliable, as a fall back organizer.  By comparison google photos gives me a slightly better strike rate once I identify people (or alternatively say not matching). Picasa (although no longer supported by google) still appears to me to do the best job and It works on photos locally.   So my eyes are going to be the best tool, with assistance from picasa and photo mechanic for now.

So my conclusion is I’m not buying excire (just now). It is an impressive program and leads the way for AI classification and assistance finding photos. Its definitely something to keep an eye on. There is a free seven day trial if you are interested.           

Monday, May 24, 2021

Not if but when continues.......

I falsely thought equipment failures where behind me, at least for a while. I was wrong. Ok I had been seeing times when my old portable USB card reader (hanging together with masking tape) would just refuse to read cards on different computers. Frustrating sure but it was intermittent and there where alternate ways to upload photo.

Now I find all my built in SD card readers on the three computers (that survived the windows 10 update) still working have stopped working over the past few days. Damn. Still I can upload directly from the Camera.

Clearly I spoke to soon. Is this bad luck and a massive coincident or is there a  SD card virus or similar data contagion out in the wild? I can't find any reliable reference to such a beast, at least at the moment.

So its off to replace my USB card reader and get some new cards, but keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Taking my studio computer off life support

My old but otherwise still useful computer has finally got me to the point of considering Euthanasia. Despite the recent RESET and rebuild with only the minimum software the poor old thing would often start ok but switch into that blue screen with the little spinner and message that it was working on updates, which would eventually lead to the regular desktop, albeit a slowness to do anything.

This was ok  as I only want the big screen (an older TV) to display images for me to sketch or paint and some music. Both don't require anything speedy. My studio is always very messy so no need to look new and flashy.

However about a week ago after shutting down, the very best I  managed to reach is just to say the update has reached 100% (despite letting it run for 56 hours straight). So this afternoon, I disconnected my old friend Obsidian (all my computers are named after rocks), perhaps destined for the storeroom rather than the next hard rubbish collection. Sadly another death by upgrade. Shame on you microsoft.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Not IF but WHEN

Aren't bad things supposed to come in threes? I'm just experiencing fours, in terms of storage.

Digital Storage Media has a Finite Life

First, over a couple of weeks I saw warning from my android phone about occasional difficulty writing to the micro SD card, and then last week a warning to back it up followed by a note that it was unmounted. Fortunately when I took the card out of the phone I could read all its contents BUT I could not write to the card or even reformat it. Ok new card required (they are not all that expensive) and I had been doing monthly updates to my photo library. So nothing lost, at worst it might have been a few recent photos.



I'm not going to go into detail but there are dozens of ways to get your photos off your phone, into the cloud and/or onto a computer Backup or Archive. Just expect your phone to be stolen, disappear, fall in the water or otherwise stop. If you have anything of personal value on it don't hesitate backup now!

Second was a strange corruption of a file on the memory card in my camera. At first I suspected the little USB card reader (which every now and the refuses to register on the device reading it). However swapping cards showed the problems was just a specific file on one SD card. Or the problem could be in the camera (hope not). Again the bigger faster SD cards I now use are more expensive but replacing it was an obvious tactic. Don't just leave your big SD cards to fill up. You can fit fair number of photos on 64GB and/or 128GB cards but then you loose a lot of photos if something goes wrong.



Third, I pulled out my backup portable hard drives (I have two set of 1TB & 2TB disks that I alternate one set in my office and one set offsite) in preparation for the monthly update and rotation. Unfortunately the one that was due to take the months incremental files was completed dead, No even a glimmer of life or flicker of the power on light. Again nothing lost, I still had the Master copy on my computer and the off site copy. However now replacement of the hard disk is starting to get expensive.



The final insult came in the form of a BIOS message as my ailing studio computer attempts to start up. The cost of and capacity of traditional spinning platter magnetic hard disks have improved a lot, prices for the same capacity are significantly lower and the capacity has increased. However now there is the added complication and difficulty of opening up the computer finding the right replacement and the time to restore all the data, programs and get things back to normal. The cost of paying someone else to do this will be frightening.



Take it from me, these things will happened. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Automatic Classifying the Subjects in your Photos

 One holy grail in the AI applications in Photography (or any visual art) has been the potential ability to automatically see into the binary files (that are photographic images) and use that in searches. For a decade of so google has claimed a lot of progress, starting with the really useful ability to find cats in photos. Ok I’m being a cynical but I have been trackingthe claims in google photos, auto labeeling things and places. It can look through the great dumps of photos its backup & sync tools is daily uploading. Are things improving? You can enter a term and be “surprised” (on the first couple of occasions) that it will find some photo you have forgotten about. It does also pull up a few clearly bad matches. What I have noticed is the really obvious things it misses. So I’m really not seeing any significant improvement.

For a while at least flickr had a feature that would add tags at the time you uploaded your photo. If you bothered to check you were able to delete incorrect terms of add your own.  This seem a better approach to me but alas it seems to have fallen by the way side now.

Moving forward I’ve now trying out a slightly new alternative Excire (it has been around as a plug-in for lightroom as Excire Search for a while) which primarily groups classifies your images to create a hierarchical set of keywords. It can then write these keywords to sidecar files, which will then allow this information to percolate into any other software that reads this format. I’m only using the trial version which unfortunately doesn’t give me the ability to write these files, so I have check it yet. Its classification strikes be as both friendlier to use and possibly better than either of the above.

It also have the benefit that you see the grouping visually and they are laid out from best match at the top to just possible at the bottom. Further you don’t have to change modes (eg. go to new screen to make corrections). You just select the image click on it and you can make changes to the keywords on the left tab or albums on the right.

It strikes me as perfect to be run as you first upload/ingest your photos. Helping you to rank and cull but giving the incentive to better keywording of your images. I already have photo mechanic (no AI features as yet) which I love and use (but not so much for keywording). So I’m Impressed but not ready to jump ship just yet, for keyword Shangri-la.  However that time is much getting closer.