Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yet another iTunes related death

I really have had a bad run with iTunes. After resisting months constant prompting to update, I gave in yesterday and updated the one version of iTunes (version 11) that I still run on my older studio laptop (still running Vista). I only have it to manage my old iPod nano, and specifically so it can manage podcats. For a long while I could not find any other easy way to do that. Now mainly because of previous disc crashes I don't let iTunes near my music collection any more and I have discovered stitcher radio.

True to form I had just downloaded and installed the update (iTunes version 12), which involved restarting the computer. It restarted once but crashed within a minute and this repeated about 3 times then I got the warning that my system was unable to start (well that's stating the obvious). After about 2 hours of repairing this morning and restarting I did get my system back, albeit without the update to iTunes. So the first thing I did was delete any trace of iTunes.

I wonder how my iPod will go as an orphan, and I'm again reminded why it is so important to keep good archives
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

PhotoFriday :: Activity

The great mollusc migration at low tideThe Great Mollusc Stampede on the mudflats at low tide,
ac·tiv·i·ty Noun The condition in which things are happening or being done. Busy or vigorous action or movement.
For PhotoFriday‘s topic Activity

Monday, July 29, 2013

A couple of Vertoramas

vertiramaThe Rainforest is a wonderful place, but hard to capture in a single still image. I frequently take a series, like for a stitch panorama only progressive moving higher. This type of image is usually known as vertoramas. Not so many stitching packages can handle this but autostitch will do a good job, providing you turn off the auto straightening, otherwise you will end up with a very distorted result as below. autostitch vertiramma pano first pass

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Photobucket has been updated too

I must admit I haven't used Photobucket in a while, it seemed to be keeping place with changes in other on-line services like google+,flickr & tumbler but I kind of backslide into just using blogger and flickr for my blog posts. It was once my first choice to add photos into my blogger posts! Ok that was almost a decade ago. I actually liked their idea of stories, but never got around to creating any. Anyway the display of photo and the uploads have had some significant updates, see the video below.


If you are new to storing your photos and videos on the web, and want a safe place to share a few (not everything) then a photobucket free account is a good place to start. Photobucket is a solid well thought out service, that has been around a fair while now and gives you one place to upload, edit, organise, share and print your digital photos, with the addition of an active community as well, albeit largely teenagers these days.

The big day out

A big day out for a couple of green ants (they bite!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Everpix as “the” meta-collection?

Logo_OrangeI probably picked the wrong day to start using everpix (well just the free trial), because flickr was down as I was trying to set everpix up and I got taken around a series of connection errors, so I could not figure out if everything was ok of not. That frustration aside everpix is a kind of metacollection, that handles your photos where ever they are on whatever device you want! Ok its not universally magic just yet but is a refreshing move in the right direction for most of us.
iPhone_03_Navigation@2xEverpix is a great idea, aimed at tackling the great "photo mess" you know all those photos from different devices, posted and stored in different place. As the introduction states " The problem is… the more photos we have, the harder it is to organize them, or sort through that endless mess." Once upon a time they where prints or perhaps negative in shoeboxes. I know you are not inclined to sort through them right now but at least they are largely in one place. In a recent interview on the digital story podcast, the developers commented that most uses start with a collection of about 10,000 images including duplicates scattered around the web. Organising this manually is getting beyond comprehension.
iPad_01_Highlights@2xRather than display everything, it claims to intelligently select the more significant photos as "highlights" and then selecting them will take you into the similar photos. This is not unlike google+ highlights feature and seems to make similar choices. There is also a another feature called flashback, which starts with todays photos and lets you explore your collection for special moments from there. from there. As well as a date classification it shows icons for food, nature, cities and people but these four categories haven't been discover in my collection yet (there is a warning it may take a while)! The collection is also viewable by source. It works a lot smoother than flickr but is similar to the big new seamless mosaic display. . Only now you Web_03_Connectionssee what is in flicker, google+ (picasaweb) and on your phone and computer all together. Be patient it can take some time to scan through (sync) your collection, however this is very kind on your bandwidth as you don't have upload the images to yet another location.At the moment they have apps to do the search and syncing for Windows, Mac and IOS devices (Iphone and Ipod), I note the claim that android is coming soon
Under the bonnet everpix does seem to maintain web optimized thumbnails (big enough for current computer screens) on their servers. These are a lot like lightroom’s smart previews and if you are using a chrome or opera browser you can opt to use WebP for a faster performance and significant space saving.
There are two important features that I think will make this popular, because they not adequately addressed by most other web sites and services
  1. The default is full privacy, You can share, via a neat little paper aeroplane icon, via email, facebook, or twitter or create a photo page on the web, but you must authorize the sharing. You own and control the images and no metadata is stripped out, syncing and connections are made via https and is encrypted.
  2. The system recognizes duplicates, even at different sizes and resolutions and only keep one copy for display, at the highest resolution, but will combine the metadata from all copies and also the link to where they are stored.
If you want to try out everpix, try this link and you will be emailed the details to set up and account. The free trial give you access to the last twelve months of your photos (although it will index older files as well) and you can earn extra time by using the apps, recommending it to others or pay for an unlimited photos in the collection.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Going dark on flickr!

my flikr photostream is  turning darkerAt the time flickr has pulled out a lot stops and significantly changed its layout and features I see that I have become a lot darker on flickr, both literally and figuratively. I must admit the first step was due to me, I saw all the black banner backgrounds and decided to swap my cartoon to the negative (white lines on a black background). Not sure if I like it yet!

example of a darker/blank screenThe next darkening is something i can’t figure out because it is intermittent. If I scroll through any photostream in the seamless mosaic format and click on a specific image it is highly likely just to show a blank screen. I’m not the only one to see this. I’m fairly certain it isn’t a browser issue, or a bandwidth problem, the intermittent natureis what makes it frustrating. Clicking on the double diagonal icon at the bottom right, takes you into “full screen” light box mode and this seems to always work.

example histogram skewed to the leftSubconsciously I’ve also started uploaded my darker images, such as the sky at night, deep in the forest and on the mudflats. I for one are not obsessive about clipping of the blacks (that thing almost every lightroom tutorial warns you about). A night scene of the stars will naturally have a very skewed histogram (to the left) because the night sky can be very dark. Also deep shadows are often an important part of the composition. shifting the tonal curve just to add shadow detail (just because you can from a raw file) can take the drama away.

my new watermarkI must admit I am also disappointed by the fact that flickr is stripping out some of the metadata, like embedded copyright info from images once they are shared. This could easily mean that my images get classified as orphans and thus free use. Despite the fact that I licence most of my images as shareable with attribution but non-commercial under creative commons. So I have reluctantly decided to add a graphic watermark to my photos.

lightroom wants to update everything!Last but not least I also ran into a lightroom publish services catch 22. The regular flickr accounts now look to the older publishing services add in as if it is an older free account so when a photostream is updated, it actually deletes any existing photos including comment and views, before reloading the photo as a new version. When I added embedding my new watermark into the flickr publishing service it by default wanted to update all the photos I had previously updated. Damn you someone (not sure if thats flickr or lightroom or both!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Can you really refocus in post process?

imageI came a cross a very interesting little program, when updating what's on my USB darkroom. Its called Smart Deblur, and it promises the restoration of defocussed and blurred photo. Quite a claim! The example is quiet impressive, my out of focus rainbowsyou can practise with the blur sliders on a deliberately out of focus image of text, which comes op as you start the software.

Ok how does it perform on real photos?. Just after the big storm on thursday last week I found myself in a taxi going over the Bolte bridge just as a double rainbow formed over the city. I grabbed my camera but i was taking the photo through a wet droplets covering the taxi window in rapidly darkening condition. The auto focus was tracking in and out, presumably confused by the contrast on the rain drops on the window. So I turned off the autofocus and had enough time to get two photos before a truck in the next lane blocked the view for long enough for the rainbow to fade, Damn! Trouble was my focus was not quiet right and/or the movement softened the detail too much. So I figured these where perfect images to test the deblur utility! With a fair bit of fiddling and a long wait or two I did get a serviceable improvement, albeit with more noise. which a little tweaking in lightroom calmed down. The results being better than I could achieve in lightroom alone, but in reality don’t expect magic.

deblurred rainbows over melbourne

PhotoProject :: Squares

IMGP8210 IMGP0214 IMGP0211

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

PhotoProject :: Collecting References Material for Your Painting

sketches of mangrovesI know a lot of very good artists do most of their paintings from photos, many will even use photoshop or other software to cut and paste part of the image into the desired final composition. I’m probably not so interested in that approach. I must admit I would rather get the basics of composition, colour and what detail gives the character of the scene. Perhaps the most important part is figuring out what not to include. Many painters slavishly copy all the detail from their reference photos and I feel can easily become a little tedious and boring, whereas the en plien air equivalent may look more exciting because it tends to leave out the things that doesn’t catch the artist own eye.

refernce photos of mangrovesAnother big issue that is becoming very controversial relates to the ownership of the reference image, whilst it is probably best not to use any photos as the principal reference to you painting is you don’t have permission from the photographer. So my suggestion is to take a sketchbook and also your camera and collect your own reference photos. Using a digital camera or smartphone there will be little cost is taking many photos. Here are few recommendations of what to include.

  1. Take lots of photos, look at your subject from a range of views. Don’t just use the zoom on the lens, walk around and take photos from different angles, some low etc.
  2. Take some close up or flora (& fauna) or the rocks.
  3. It may be wise to return to the scene at different times of the day, or in different weather conditions to choose the most appropriate lighting. However only use those photos with consistent and similar lighting (and shadows).
  4. Make sure you have an extra memory card (or two) and a spare battery handy.
  5. Learn to use your software, to maintain albums/collections.
  6. Some artist will printout simple black & white prints and sketch on them. Others, like me,  don’t bother with printout any images and displays reference on their compute as required
  7. Remember you are not trying to take one perfect photo, you want the support to do a great painting

Monday, July 22, 2013

Collections, Photosets & Albums

How you organize your photos on the computer is not necessarily contingent on where the files are stored. Many packages also offer another way to organize how you view your photos. My many mistresses project, has shown me it is this second. more virtual view, rather than the actual folder location, that brings real power to how you interact with your collections on your computer or on-line.

The idea is to have a second method of organising just the photos you wish to see in a given [computer] "album". This album is much like an old fashion photo album with those peel back or transparent sleaves. You can easily rearranges the contents but at any given time it will have a fixed content that anyone can look through. Picasa and Photoshop elements use the term album, Lightroom uses collections and Flickr calls them photosets but they are essentially the same type of always editable collections of the photos you wish to show as a group. The albums don’t actually exist as folders on your computer disk, and they will probably contain photos spread across many actual folders of photos on your computers, or the net. Importantly deleting a photo from an album doesn’t delete the original from its folder on your computer. Without doubt they are the best way to group and organize your photo collections. It is also a great way to always have only "the good ones" to show guests, or groom you portfolios.

The Big Downside to using Collections & Albums as an organization tool is that they are not easily exchanged between different software or even computers and other logical collections of images. The following mind map tries to document the many paths (and processes) that I have learnt to follow trying to preserve the integrity of my albums (which are shown as the shaded wavy/bubble edged groupings)

Some of the ways I manage albums & collectionsWithout doubt the best tool for me has been picasa. its albums are easy to setup and maintain, with the big bonus that if I move or copy the directories containing the original files (such as backing up and archiving them) then the flagging of those photos from specific albums travels with the photos inside the picasa.ini file. So that when you look at those photos on the new machine using picasa that will automatically create the Example of dialogue for sharing an album on google+same albums. Also you can easily choose to upload the whole album of just selected photos from it to google+ and the album name and attributes are also created as well as a link to indicate the file has been uploaded. My album names and content tend to be quiet ad hoc, depending mainly on what I am photographing at the time. I also generally tag the data with suitable keywords that identify the album contents. Whilst on the initial machine I upload to (typically my laptop) I do load and display both the raw and jpeg files, I have recently stopped including the raw files in my picasa albums (ie they are becoming exclusively just the jpegs) but I do tag both the jpeg and matching raw files with the same keyword tags. This ability to quickly organize the photos as well as the speed of importing are the prime reasons I prefer to load everything into picasa first.

I have recently gone over pretty exclusively to using dropbox to upload my phone images, because it does it so seamlessly. Dropbox also has an album feature which is useful both to organise and share these phone photos, without having to first upload them to any computer. Since I also have the chrome drop box sync app running, if I just put the drop box folder in my picasa watch list the drop box organization also automatically appears in picasa. Albums are also a great way to control how you share your drop box photos.

Lightroom has proven more fussy and lives up to her precious and self-centred reputation. Collections are essentially the same but lightroom must control all aspects of the collection, and I haven’t yet found a way to let lightroom “share” this organization with other software including photoshop express! However lightroom does offer the most elegant tools to manage and use collections. it has a two tiered structure, so you can have collections within collection sets, which gives you a useful subsetting capability at the collection level. they one down side with collections is I haven’tExample of the create collection dialogue in lightroom found a simple keyboard shortcut to add the current photo to these collections (i’ll talk about quick collections, which do have a keyboard shortcut, a little further down). So you have to drag and drop photos from the library grid view or the film strip into the collections, which i find disturbs the selection process a little. You also have the very useful smart collections feature, which has a couple of basic categories such as recently modified, without keywords, video files etc but the real power is you can set up your own smart collections based on any filterable selection you like, by keyword, location,camera exif metadata like ISO or Focal length and elaborate combination of any of these. the beauty of smart collections are they are built automatically. The quick collections are useful, because you can use the B key as a keyboard short cut to add the current image into a quick collection. Quick collections are an grouping that only last for the current lightroom session and that organization is lost next time you start lightroom. So when using quick collections it is important to select the whole new collection (keyboard shortcut is <CTRL> B) then drag and drop this into the appropriate collection, or create an new collection and tick the include the selected photos option. I have found that quick collection often pick up some stray images, not sure why  (<CTRL> <SHI+FT> B clears the quick collection). You can also export collections, as a lightroom catalogue for transferring to other computers (or backup/archiving).

Example of publish services in lightroomLightroom’s publishing services, are a great way to “share” collections directly from lightroom but again they rely on a more manual selection and setup. Once selected however its just a case of pressing the publish button and everything else happens according to the options you have set up in the service. I am finding the flickr service works well and I can publish straight into photosets set up in lightroom.

My final observation is that it is very good practise to add appropriate keyword coding into your metadata, because then you can easily use a filter in a different package to reselect your grouping and recreated your album/collection. Typically I will be using keywording created in picasa as I review my new photos to help the grouping in lightroom but the reverse also it very useful for taking a reorganization in lightroom back into picasa.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

PhotoFriday :: Mobile Phone Photo

2013-05-19 17.58.48
In yet another bit of self reference, this is the artists manikin from my body clip, showing that he was photographed by my mobile phone and uploaded automatically to Drop Box, before being posted here.

For PhotoFriday‘s topic Mobile Phone Photo

Saturday, July 20, 2013

PhotoProject :: Written In Sand I

This is an interesting project I discovered through chrome web lab, called sketchbot, it uses a on-line robot at the science museum in London, where your webcam portrait can be physically drawn into sand. The processes that are going on are all the more amazing when you discover that they are mostly just run in your browser using HTML5’s Canvas Elements. This video gives you some incite, but it is even more fascinating to create your own portrait, but you will need to be using the chrome browser and have a webcam on your computer (and a google account)

Watch for more on the theme of “Written in the Sand” in some photoprojects to come. This was just too much of a coincidence for me not to have a play with right now.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

PhotoProject :: Rethinking Digital Photography for Artist

A sketch photgraphed "in situ"There seems to be an even bigger gulf developing between traditional artist, (particularly painters) and photographers.Of course there are numerous exceptions and some contemporary artist have focused on photo realistic art as their special genre. Illustrators are also split with many fully embracing computer graphics with a few still promoting the idea of hand drawn as better. The explosion of “artistic” filters on phone apps and some better known photo software packages has however seemed to aggravate a raw nerve with traditional artists. I’m more perplexed, because I realise that photography and more specifically digital photography is a really great tool for any artist. I don;t mean painting from a photo. I actually think that is a bad move and seldom do it myself. As well as having amassed a large collection of digital photos I have dozens of sketch books, which are usually my first call for reference to any painting. Once you get into sketching it is actually a very pleasurable way to get to know an area or scene. Making a few sketches will in fact lead you to a more critical focus on what you actually photograph. A lot of art is about seeing, seeing the important features and perhaps leaving out the un-important clutter that does not convey the essence of the subject. Painting from a photo tends to promote a slavish focus on details,details that usually look boring and perhaps send a signal of inadequate observation, Whereas a few salient features captured in some “en plein air” sketches are more likely to character of the subject.
Having suggested sketching in the field may be more desirable, there is definitely a place to keep a series of photos of the details of some aspects. Here digital photography is a real winner because there is little cost in taking many photos, to assist as an “aide-mémorie” the downside for anyone artistic is probably managing all these reference images. Hopefully I’ll write more about this later.
A really important aspect not to forget when collecting reference photos is to remember to document your work. Photos of your work in situ (as the photo above) or you creating the art work may become very important in proving the provenance of your work.
Our eyes actually see differently to a camera lens. We have a much greater dynamic range of tones and colours we can perceive that even the most expensive cameras. Most of us have a much broader field of view than typical camera lenses. Whilst a wide angle can do this seeing around corners trick it usually distorted the image and verticals tend to become curved at the edge of the image. This is really most obvious in the traditional “landscape” view. You will never see curved verticals in an “old master” landscape. Perhaps this may relate to a slavish following of the rules of perspective and vanishing points. However a photo does the reduction of three dimensional space onto a flat two dimensional plan automatically. This is a nice way to avoid having to tackle the very technical perspective methods. A neat way around this is to employing David Hockney's solution of “joiners”, A series of conventional photos taken at slightly different orientations can be placed side by side to form a collage. If you step back the “perspective” is closer to what you see when you are there looking at the scene."Joiner" style collageMy view is that digital photography is a perfect tool to help an artist learn to better interpret the visual world. It is not a substitute for seeing but it is certainly an aide to making better and lasting observations. These are only just a few important issues for any artist and I plan to cover more in upcoming post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What am I?

What am I?, originally uploaded by imageo.
At first I thought this was a dead fish washed up on the beach. But it isn't. Can you guess what it is?

PS I do know btw.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Southern Cross at the Tropic of Capricorn

Milky Way At the Tropric of Cancer II

This image of the milky way, including the southern cross, low on the horizon is an autostitched multi-image panorama based on 14 separate long exposure images

For PhotoFriday‘s topic After Dark