Friday, May 25, 2012

Why I’ve deleted the Google+ app from my phone

I have been a little uneasy with the changes to Google accounts and particularly the way photos get shared when you post them in Google+. I was quiet a fan of Picasa and Picasa Web Albums but now I am less so and in fact worried enough not to post family photos on using Google+ any more. For a while I just stepped back and watched what was happening. Well very little has happened and a couple of the features I had liked have tarnished a little (at least for me). It is now time to reassess. So reluctantly I am deleting my Google+ app from my phone and whilst I will keep my Google+ account I doubt I will be using it to post photos much any more.

  1. I never really connected with the “phenomenal growth” photo community on Google+, despite joining a number of great photographic circles. What I actually saw was a lot of follow the leader copy cat stuff. There were some innovative and different things but they where quickly everywhere, hundreds of them with thousands of comments like “wow” and “great shot” this quickly dulled the very reason to even look, it was just always more of the same. Of course some of the photographers, like +Thomas Hawk, and +Trey Radcliffe just to mention a couple, are still great, producing great work, I just think they have gotten lost in the “look at me” "wanna bees” that post incessantly.
  2. The way you can control how your photos are shared has changed, in Picasa Web you had several options (not unlike flickr) for family and friends as well as sharing by individual emails invitations. Under the Google+ changes you might be surprised to find out that as soon as you share on Google+, that goes to your home page AND the home page of anyone in the circles you share with. Their friends will be able to read (and repost links to) your photos. This is really just the same as the problem as in facebook that has caught out so many celebrities (who have discovered to late that the gossip mags have just publish some private and perhaps less than flattering snaps just meant for their friends).
  3. The Google+ View (aka lightbox), which is a very nice clean format, actually doesn’t have details of how you wish to licence your photo (whereas Picasa Web did). Not being able to display a creative commons licence is a spoiler for me and I have posted very few photos to be share publically on Google+ since I realised this.
  4. imageInstant Upload, which seemed to be a very nice feature and used to work well on my phone no longer worked in the updated, oversized and blotted Google+ app (15,45MB), that auto update delivered itself to me one night. Checking the fine print I have found that instant upload no longer works for android version 2.1 (which my Telstra wildfire is locked to).  I can not see anyway to go back a version on the app, so this was really the deal breaker.

The Social Media mess

Here are a couple of great graphics that nicely show the complexity of the social medial market, its tools, services and platforms. It doesn’t surprise me that Zunkerman is already being sued by angry shareholders. If you look at the graphic carefully you will see although facebook does have a strong presence, it does not “own the social media” market, as has been widely touted on the media recently. In reality it is just one of many competing services. Just maybe the inner few within facebook know this and is why they tried to cash in so soon, just bringing further truth to the common view that IPO actually stands for I’ll P!ss Off (with your money).

The graphic on the right is the general market and the left one the mobile/smartphone market. if you click on either the graphics you will be taken to the original business insider articles and as access to larger views of the images. I do note Pintrest and Google+ don’t appear to have made it into the graphics, so what else is missing, so remember this is not the full complexity of the story!

Sharing photos with you friends is an important aspect of these social networks, particularly at the mobile level and buried deep in there and will undoubted be the subject of further posts in here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More HDR into the light

typical camera phone phto into the sunThere is one photo that almost all basic photographic advice says never to take “Don’t point your camera at the sun” (or  perhaps a bit more gently advice like, avoid taking you photo directly into strong light). Not only do you risk serious lens flare. The scene in front of the strong light will also be very difficult to expose correctly, because there are likely to be some features blocking the light and therefore in deep shadow producing a very high contrast scene. Most cameras will not be able to capture all the light intensities so their inbuilt light meters will try to find the best compromise exposure. Sometimes that will mean a very dark photo with nice show detail but bleached out areas in the light. alternatively you might get a high key detail in a washed out manner but murky darks,
There is however a photographic technique, available to digital photographers, that can help give decent photos into the light. The technique is HDRi (High Dynamic Range) where by exposures are combined from more than photo taken with different exposure. Probably the easiest way to do this is using a camera phone ap, like HDR Camera+, because the processing of the image will be done in the phone. The apps will take a series of photos, typically 3, at different exposures, then merge the images.Normally you will have preselect the tone mapping options, number and range of exposures before you have the photos. .Make sure you don’t have direct light on the lens, mainly to avoid lens flare, but it will also avoids bleached out areas in your final image. 
HDR Camera+ Bracket Set 2012-05-17_14-33-26_HDR Camera+ 
For those that want more control, there is a lot of specialized HDRi software. I have found Picturenaut a nice utility because it can handle images that are not perfectly aligned (ie they have been taken hand held, rather than forcing you to use a tripod to ensure the images where registered) and gives you several options in how to control the tone mapping into the final image. For a more natural look I prefer to use 5 exposures in my bracketing but with smaller steps between each exposure. The tone mapping method is more flexible, for the image below I used PhtotoReceptor method in Picturenaut.
  Pentax Bracket SetHDR with Photoreceprot tone mapping using Picturenaut
You might have seen some radical surreal HDR effects and been put off by the lurid colours, but HDRi is a technique that can help deliver beautiful photos in otherwise tough lighting situations.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

PhotoProject :: Spicing up a panorama as a collage

Series of Photos used to Create the PanoramaI like the sweeping vista of the beach at Venus Bay, and regularly take a series of adjoining photos in portrait orientation so that I can create an autostitched panorama. This is all well and good and I have a great series of panoramas of the beach in many guises.
However I wanted to emphasize the clouds and sweeping vista, so my first thought was to experiment with Corel_Painter_Essential version Corel Painter Essentials and found a loose wet on wet watercolour approach, using a watercolour colour palette of colours, some autopaint followed by a few manual round brush strokes to highlight key items like the clouds and waves. This looks more exciting but lacks detail So next I decided to combine this “painterly” representation with the original series in a hockney “joiner” style collage. This is easy in Picasa, I just used the picture pile format and used my “painting” as the background and moved the images around angling them and/or resizing each to help emphasis the space and a final image that is a lot stronger in conveying what I wanted.
Panorama created with AutostichCollage of images overlayed on art version of the panorama above

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kodak Gallery, soon to be now more

As part of Kodak's restructuring, their Kodak branded Web Kodak Gallery Service has been sold to Shutterfly, another existing and well used on-line photo service. Any photos or projects still active in the Kodak Gallery will be available only until 2nd July. After that Shutterfly will email instructions (it will be a mass copying of files to the Shutterfly site but I can find no more details on this step yet) on how to transition/move into Shutterfly. If you have photos in a Kodak Gallery (and I was surprised I still did) or just want to find a few more details of the transition, click here. As a bonus Kodak gallery are offering a 25% discount to existing customers during May

Kodak once the household name for film photography, and their marketing tag line a “Kodak Moment” was once wisely use for that precious memories often found within a candid snapshot. They have not found the transition into the digital age very easy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Super Moon & the Long Way Home

Supermoon viewed from high above the equatorI was flying back to Australia over Saturday and this didn’t have to opportunity to watch the moonrise on Saturday of the “supermoon”. So called because it is at closest point to earth, its perigee, and this corresponds with the full moon so it was slightly larger and possibly brighter. I did manage to capture a shoot out the window of flight CX105 of the moon as we crossed the equator. Taking the photo in the dark through double thickened glass did mean I got severe flaring from the bright full moon, but the results is pictorial pleasing, albeit useless as a photo record of the moon.

One of  shortest ways to travel from Toronto Canada to Melbourne is via Hong Kong, with the Toronto Hong Kong leg travelling way up into the artic circle and then down over Siberia. So I got to cross the artic wastes and equator in the one very long trip. I have found images of clouds and landforms way below from high altitude make great screen wallpapers and these two of icy Siberian landscape are no expectation.

Approaching outer mongoliaHigh Above Siberia

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sometimes you can be lucky

Lucky Photographer

As I watch the guy take his friends across the waterway, a swan sailed right into the foreground of his photo. They all cheered and it made me remember just how many times I had waited for cows, waves, clouds yachts cyclist and birds to just move into the right position to suit my composition. They usually never did! Still sometimes you can be in the right place at the right time.

Swan1  Swan2

PhotoProject :: Another Urban Abstraction

IMG_1963-001I’m in Toronto, which is a city of high rise buildings, carparks, freeways, flyovers and on/off ramps and even more high rise buildings under construction. So at street level there are not too many picturesque vistas. Which is the prefect opportunity to switch over to looking for something different to photograph, and lately I have been starting to see the urban landscape in terms of an abstract composition challenge. polar abstractionSo suddenly I have many subjects to photograph again. This view of a largely deserted office block in the evening is a strong grid that lends itself some strong abstract treatment. I first used the heat map filter in picasa then onto the polar transform in anamorph me.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Trying out the new Flickr Uploadr

imageHave you noticed the NEW flag bedside the Upload item in the main flickr menu. Well I guessed it was past time to find out what it is and what it does. If you’ve used to the old uploadr it is very similar, perhaps faster for multiple drag and drops, but pretty damn similar in functionality. However it is a bit more than that, the uploadr has been re-designed to make it easier to organise and tell the story of your photo as you upload (rather than after its loaded), specify an email address of those you specifically want to share the photo with (this is new) and higher upload limit per month (free users get a new 30MB and PRO users 50MB per month). The layout is very similar to the flickr organizr and it strikes me this would make bulk uploads a whole lot easier. However before you get too excited, you should note that the beta version (which it is currently) is limited to a maximum of 100 photos in a single session. Further if you where trying to upload your highest res images that 100 photos could be more than twice your monthly allowance! Ok make that 100 smaller thumbnails!

Speaking of sharing your photos another less obvious new addition in flickr, is attributed sharing to Pintrest. Attribute sharing is flickr’s take on the importance of tracing back to the original source (and owner of the photo). So that when someone “pins” your photo there is a link that takes the viewer back to your photostream, regardless where it is pinned from. So your photo isn’t lost among the thousands of “stollen” images that are blindly copied, posted and reposted each day, with no way for a legitimate appreciative viewer to trace it back to you. I suspect this will make those photographers, worried about being pinned on pintrest, much more likely to use flickr for all of their public posts from now on.

Collage Fun in Toronto


Multiple images made in to a David Hockney style “joiner” photocollage, using the photo pile feature collage in picasa.