Saturday, August 31, 2013

Searching a photo database …

earching for a specific photo is not such an easy task on a computer right at the moment. The way we recognise things visually is still a challenge for any single computer application to match. Certainly we know a lot about how our brain & visual cortex deconstruct the light that reaches our eyes and how it recognizes shapes and edges and builds a tonal representation, and recognizes colour and saturation. Individually various pattern recognition systems can reproduces one of these tasks at a time today. One on the “holy grails” of computer vision within the artificial intelligence community has been in recognizing objects, potentially those to be manipulated by automated robotic systems, and there are been some successes in very limited spheres of operation. The fact that most smart phones come with a camera has been a great impetus to broader applications of computer image recognition, and already in a few specific fields applications are becoming available, like google’s goggles, which can reasonably accurately recognition a lot of consumer products snapped by smartphones.. But there is still a fair way to go before we have generalized recognition systems that might be really useful in searching through large photos collections and helping organise them are well as any human might. Although I do suspect suspect competition if becoming fierce to solve the more general recognition,  some interesting current development are everpix,, IQ Engines soon to be included in Flickr and here is a brief description of How Google's Image Recognition Works, in Google Drive & Google+. Yet right now

Ok back to the more pragmatic, what is available today.  Finding photos usually relised on a text based search of keywords associated with the photo. I know a lot will say just use lightroom, it manages your collections. I do use lightroom, but it is not really so good at search. It does have keywording and relies on the user to adequately keyword and tag all the photos. The main tool is library/find, which basically gives you a totally text based filter that can browes a subset your catalogue by keywords.attritubes, ratings and EXIF metedata. This all requires a lot of upkeep to keep this useful and there are some good tools to simplify updating the metadata but it remains a largely manual process. A lot of folk overlook the power of sort (again it has filter style dialogue) to help locate and organise (for example it it easy to sort by landscape or portrait orientation or by aspect a ratio if you know you used a square crop for example. the real power is hidden in smart collections, which are dynamically updated  as you classify your collections. LR 4 and above does have a map feature, and it will display any photos with already embedded GPS coordinates or let you drag photos from the filmstrip onto a specific map location, the search capability is just my map window and limited filters such as tagged and untagged photos.

One little package that surprised me with its ability to search was XnView, (which I have as my image scan, sort and keyword tool for my USB darkroom portable apps key (ie a backup when I’m travelling and don't have access to my own computer and picasa). I haven’t written much about this package but it is a gem, Basically it is a thumbnailer, It just creates a database of thumbnails and loads that with all the information it can glean from the photos into its database. It does have a few different ways to look at and organize the thumbnails, Firstly somewhat like the Lightroom filters, it has a single but just about as comprehensive Tools/Search…feature. It also uses a special type of keywording that it called categories which can be set up like a tree structures/classification system (and it comes with some good basic starting categories. The View tabs also have various viewing filters and sorting options which can be useful in sub-setting what you see.

I must admit picasa is my go to application when I am searching through my substantial photo archive. For a few reasons, Firstly it is tolerably fast (lightroom isn’t), second it has face recognition, thirdly because I use its default file naming as I load photos my collection is nicely organised in chronological order. Whilst I seldom use its places features to tag location i do use this feature to view and find photos from a given location. Its search box is in the classic google style although it does just have a text search functionality looking through filenames. folders and album names, keywords(tags), captions place names, and EXIF metadata. It is not really as comprehensive as the previous two but it simple and fast and the screen view changes according to what is available. The filters are there too but are different button/icons that further control what is displayed. While there are no “smart” collections,  people can be automatically grouped by the facial recognition, starred photos are continually updated to a special album, as are recent uploaded photos,
So my conclusion is while the future promises a lot, the present delivers just a enough.(if you are happy to maintain your own keywords)
This post is part one of my rethinking the longer term focus.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Animated GIF Sunset Experiment

This GIF was automatically created by Google+ photos, when I uploaded a time lapse sequence of 16 photos taken every 2 minutes as the sun set tonight. Ok that was easy BUT it only used the first 5 photos :) and then I wanted to share the gif back in Blogger! Sound easy, well I could find anyway to even find the link address in googl+ photos. I had yo come back into the new post dialogue in Blogger itself and then use to insert a photo from Picasa Web Album! 

I suspect google have a few things to fix/finish developing, well i hope they are planning too.

Sunset sparks across the horizon

Sunset sparks across the horizon, originally uploaded by imageo.

A leaden sky was developing across the horizon but some of the sky above was still pastel tones & clear, creating an opalescent effect on the sea. Then suddenly there were sparks across the horizon in the direction of the setting sun, lasting less than a minute

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rethinking the Longer Term

O rganising you’re your photos is very much about which software you use to manage them, but everpix got me thinking about how you can access a large collection possibly when the current crop of software is out of date, no longer supported or just not compatible with a new operating system. It is very hard to second guess which package gives you a good archive life. The sad reality is you may do better with printed hardcopy than Remember these?an amorphous mass of digital files (possibly of different formats). There are very real example of the difficulties to come. Do you still have players for your vinyl records, cassette or 9 track tapes, what about the Beta Max or VCR video tape? Can you read that 5 1/2" floppy disc of ZIP cartridge? We are junking our "less visible" storage technologies at a great rate. DVDs, Thumb Drives and External USB drives will probably go the same way.
So How might we best future proof our collection?
My first thoughts are
  1. Make your collection more easily searchable
  2. Stick to the popular formats
  3. Store the originals unaltered (and remove duplicates).
  4. Archive only the best of the post processed photos.
  5. Understand the need to refresh (and move) your archives
Over the next few weeks I hope to write a few more post on this and related topics
Thanks to Jessica Hische for her great drop caps.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Photo Friday :: On The Road

For PhotoFriday‘s topic On The Road

What the? Synching or lightroom glitch?

Example glitch with lightroom renderingI have been seeing “apparently” corrupted images turning up in lightroom. If I move that image to another computer the corrupt rendering disappears? The situation in which it occurs seems to always be the same, i am using sync tools to move my photos around my local network.

Lightroom doesn’t play well when she is not in control!

My dilemma with lightroom is that it is really only a one user one computer system. I have experimented with multiple catalogues, and exporting/importing  collection, saving changes as .dng and sidecar files, but doing lightroom work in the field on a laptop means a hassle when trying to get thatExample dialogue to save metadata & adjustments to XMP file work (and metadata and ranking) onto my master photo computer. My best solution so far is to make use of sidecar files (.XMP) on my laptop or other computers. To do this in the library module you must set  metadata/save metadata to file which will automatically start saving the metadata of RAW files into the XMP file, for all changes your make to the metadata or ranking information, Also for any photo you make adjustment in the develop module too you will need to photo/save metadata to file (or Ctrl-S), which write the adjustment you made to the XMP file butExample dialogue to read metadata & adjustments from XMP file only for that photo (I haven’t found a way to set this to always write the adjustments yet! Having done all this you can let any program (eg A sync utility) more (or copy) the folder to a new location and the changes you have made will follow the original file.  You have to remember to library/synchronize folder… in lightroom, for each folder that has files updated (ie all folders in the month). This is more a (re)sync option. It will go through a folder find any new photos and optionally allow you to load any new photos in the folder, it will also identify any missing photos and optionally let you remove them from your catalogue as well as importing any metedata changes. This is a little tedious (ok very tedious) but has been working for me.
However ever now and then I get a glitch, like the one shown above, specifically if I manage to get duplicates of my RAW files on my master collection. I do have exclude duplicates set in picasa (when I upload from my camera card) and Don’t import suspect duplicates set in the lightroom import, so I am not expecting duplicates. The culprit for the duplicates is the sync routine which always moves the files, but when there is a duplication it just adds a suffix (eg –001) to the file name. However not every duplicate is corruptly rendered. So I’m puzzled what is going on here?

My current work around is just to check that these corruptions are duplicates and if so delete them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thinking of colour as an artist might

The latest email news from creative cloud discusses a utility called Kuler. I have looked at it briefly but before its current format and iPhone app look a lot like the nice color scheme app I have on my android phone. Once I read Kuler could now look for various colour scheme from photos I figure it would be perfect for my next round of photoimpressions. However I decided to try it out on a more mundane example. I have often speculated that photographers could do a better job if they considered colour like an artist might.
The nice feature when building your colour scheme with Kuler is you have a range of automatic select colour modes (colorful, bright, dark, deep, & muted) which select a complimentary colour scheme from parts of the image. You see little circular spots above the parts of the image that colour appears. You can also just drag the dots to any part of the image you like and that colour becomes part of your custom swatch. (I have added the lines below to highlight the colour dots)
adobe king parrot colour swatch
If you save the swatch, but you have to have an Adobe ID to do that, you can then edit the swatch. For example below I did alter the green to add more yellow, to bring the main colours into a more harmonious triad style. I left the brown beige (which has a yellow orange tint) as a compliment to the blue. Since the photo was a little dark I lightened the tones a little by dragging the circle in the colour swatch to the right on some of the colours. Like the impressionist I’m attempting to use colour to add light!
The next step was a bit of a shortcut, which involved using corel painter essentials which has a really neat imagepalette matching facility feature. The downside was I have to “paint” the image by sampling the original photo but using a brush with the transformed colour. Its actually a fun process, albeit very manual and results in a much nicer image than any of those artistic filters built into phone apps and on-line editors. In this case my “brush” acted like a a flat soft pastel. My next task is to figure out how to use the downloadable .ase (Adobe Swatch Exchange) files. At the moment I can not find a way to read them into lightroom or photoshop elements, it would be nice if I could perhaps write a preset to undertake this palette guided colour adjustment directly on the photo there!
Original Photo  Modified palette "painting"
I’m quiet happy with the result. What do you think?

Friday, August 09, 2013

Some extra thoughts on everpix

When I wrote up the previous post on everpix, it struck me that it might just be the right tool to give me a great way to create an easy to browse “thumbnail” catalogue (visual photo database) of my ever expanding expanding photo collection in two ways.
  1. The first was to collect together my various on-line images in one place
  2. The second was to tackle my archived collection, which is stored on an external USB
I quickly realised that one database wouldn’t really solve the two issues at once so I split my investigation into two parts. Firstly I tackled the on-line stuff which I have to admit everpix just lapped up, it was probably less than half an hour and I had the email your “collection is ready”. My main net sharng is on either flickr or blogger (and the images are stored in a picasa web album), these were both available along with twitter, gmail, facebook & instagram. I’m not sure if there are plans to be able to connect to other services, like photobucket or smugmug. However don’t get to excited yet everpix only syncs photos photos that are in named albums in picasa web album (or Google+) and defined Photosets in Flickr, not all photos! So far I like the Daily Flashback email, by default everypix sends you a retrospective  of photos you have taken (and in my case published) on that day in history (which may depends on how many bonus months you have if like me you are trying out the service via a free account). Perhaps the novelty could wear out soon. This everpix thumbnail catalogue is by default private, and so it should be, but it is very easy to share any photos you like (for example see my alleyways, gates & windows photo page). The warning about using WebP thumbnailsI will admit I have had a couple of glitches, like saying photos could not be displayed at the moment but I did opt to you used the WebP thumbnails and I do get a warning every time I log in to everpix.

I ended up adding another free account on a separate computer to tackle the issue of “taming” my private photo archive. In reality I already use and am happy with picasa to manage and view the jpeg versions of my photos, but I like the idea of being able to browse through a large collection, be guided to the highlights and have some smarts behind the scene grouping and refining what I see. The reality of everypix right now is it may promise something like that yet deliver something a little less utopian. I downloaded the Windows App and set it running.

Fullscreen capture 7082013 10036 PMProbably the most obvious problem I have run into is everpix is not fast (in fact it is very slow, after 10 days I have sync less than half my photos from two year (approx 47.000). I’m patient I’ll let it do its magic, I’d prefer slow and steady and low bandwidth needs anyway.

My photo collection is heavily key worded but I suspect the keywords (and possibly most embedded EXIF metadata) is not being included in the current syncing task, because the only grouping I can see are called moments (photos grouped automatically my time). Also all the photos are loaded in the original camera loaded format (see the tilted horizon lines in the screen capture below). This could be an issue for any “non destructive” photo manager.  Unfortunately everpix does not appear to read any of the picasa processing from the picasa.ini file in each folder in my archive. Since the PC version can not read lightroom I don’t know if the same issue applies with files processed with lightroom. Further at the current time everpix only syncs the jpeg format. When you click down to a single photo the extra information about the photo is on a “pull out” style panel on the left hand side and it only has a very limited set of details taken from the EXIF data, and surprisingly only the top directory level/folder so it is difficult to figure out actually where the photo is located. there are a few simple actions/option you can run and the paper aeroplane accesses the share options. I would like to see a bit more information here, like keywords and clickable links, such as to the original photo.
Example of single photo display
In the meantime I decided to try out Explore, everpix's “image analysis” which promises to group like photos and categories. The topic for PhotoFriday this week was Scenic Wonder.  So I clicked on the landscape and found that every photo had a dean flat horizon, not exactly wonder or even that scenic. Still I like the approach.
Exploring for landscape photos
I was a little disappointed when I tried out the other categories (eg food shown below) Only two of the images actually included food and then only just, yet there are plenty of class plate shots in my photo collection to choose from. I was given the opportunity to help make everpix smarter by submitting feedback for photo that are not accurately analysed but it took me about 10 rejects before I got another picture of food (a fruit bowl). Still I’m keen to see if this is a “crowd sourced” approach that does actually bring real improvment.
Exploring for food photos
So I think there is much promise here, only for me it falls short of my expectations. I’m still quiet puzzled why there isn’t a slideshow, an embeddable linking system, face recognition, geocoding, formal seach (or find) dialogue box    … ok I have a long list of desirables. Still I think everpix has great potential and for me on a chrome browser the photos where deiplays fast enough and smoothly, better than flickr at the moment. As a different way to collate, keep track and make sense of your on-line photo collection its worth a try now. To bring order to a mass of photos on your computer you will be currently better served but tradition photo management software like picasa or lightroom, and perhaps use everpix as a fun way to change your view.

One thing I did notice was that Michael Herf (one of the co-founders of Picasa) was a key investor in the everpix project and I get the impression that there is a deep respect and passion for photography in the everpix team. I wish then well but they have some work to do.

PS Unfortunately everpix is shutting down

Tuesday, August 06, 2013