Friday, November 29, 2013

A different take on organizing photos

At the moment I suspect there are two diverging school on what organizing your photo mean. The first group, which is the loudest amongst photo “experts” on the social webs, involve specific “workflows and organization and keywording” as you load your photos, into such packages a photshop, elements and lightroom. Whilst they claim to organised your photos, I see them more as filters that will help you find the classification you have diligently coded into your photos as you load them. Ok this is not the reality for most of us. The real world just has larger and larger sets of photos scattered all over the place. The modern equivalent of a shoebox full of snaps shoots only the shoe box is no longer just in one place. In other words most of us have a mess rather than a collection. I was looking around for a more automated way to sort through a large mess, following the example of everpix that was at least showing the way to classify your photos into different groups from the image itself rather than from keywords you have to add. Picture life was my first review, but its slowness left me looking for more.

imageWhen I first downloaded photologhy, I tested it on on about 8,000 photo (picture life has just reached 130 photo scanned) and it was super fast. It creates a thumbnail style view of all your photos, set up as one scrollable collection. However the goodness starts when you use the variety of filters that run down the left hand side of the screen, which can be used to created a search, which is show graphically on the right hand side of the screen. These filters can be combined to narrow down your search. They cover time of day (which I presume comes from the exif details), features (shown below),location (just inside & outside), content (such as sunset, people, beaches …) text (back to search in file name and exif metadata) and color (via a simple colour whee-lish pick list).b It will take no time to get the hang of using it and you can very quickly skrink down what you are looking for. Will you find everything, maybe not but you will very quickly get to the most likely set of images from there it will be easy to review in the scrollable thumbnails.Example of the photology main screen

Simple Edit featuresOnce you find the photo or photos you are after you can click on it and go into the photoscreen, which will let you find the photo’s location by clicking on the little folder icon, You also a tool bar along the bottom, which lets you set up new groups (like albums), export the images to files a web site and flickr and Picasa web (all easy to set up). There is a simple print and post the image as you screen wallpaper and even a limited editing capability. Not to forget a trash bin, which deletes the image from disk not just from photology’s index! (I couldn’t find a remove from index option). All these controls are basic but really cover the main tasks you are likely to undertake when you are browsing through your photos.

Example of on Main Photo Display Window

Well the honeymoon was over when I tried to connect up to my main collection (approx 215,000 photos). The scanning took over the computer and nothing else really got a look in for hours. Then I hit a number of crashes which started about 150.000 photos point. At each crash I was asked me to email the diagnostics which I did and then there was a length rebuilding index step and the program stop. Restart photology would run for a little while before another crash, and so on and so on….  Discouraging to say the least.

The web site is in german and seems more like a blog.even with google translate on. I was not able to find the tutorial section but the layout and controls of the software are pretty simple once you discover that the settings can be assessed under the q at the top right of the screen.

So Photology is only something I can only recommend “as is” and that’s probably just as a glimpse of the concept and its potential, which is promising. However there is a way to go before it can become a useful tool.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Silky Oaks Golden Crown

Posted by Picasa  The outburst of yellow florets on the silky oak seem earlier this year and perhaps fuller than usual. Normally the golden flush is in the week leading up to Christmas.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bloating the Bandwidth

Crapware is what I call it, and its getting worse. It has been a round for a while piggy backing on items you download from shareware and software distribution sites. Usually you have the opportunity to not downloaded them, but now you have to be diligent and deselect options to avoid then being auto installed or tick the no thanks item in very fine print. There is also a good chance these freeloaders might have a malware payroll. They are just simply to be avoided, a waste of time and are annoying.
crapware 2a    crapware
However now a lot of legitimate software come with similar crapware items you probably don.t want. Like adobe sneaking in McAfee anti virus, Java adding Ask and Google bar to your browser or Internet Explorer changing the default search to Bing. Once it was buyer beware, now it is downloader be very careful.
crapware 1   crapware from java
If any software distributers are listening please stop!
With special thanks again to Jessica Hische of Daily Drop Cap for the wonderful cheese C start to this post.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Picture Life in the slow lane

Following the demise of everpix, I decided to take a look at alternatives. There are of course some well established on-line photo sharing sites, including but not limited to instagram, flickr, google+ and photobucket, however the emphasis here is on sharing your photo with others and some may have very unfortunate terms of service. What I was looking for was something to mange “my” photos on-line, sometimes privately sometimes publically and whilst these services mentioned can allow privacy, they are really more focused on the sharing aspects. One service that I have seen frequently mentioned as an everypix alternative is Picturelife. This is a cloud based service to store all your photos and video on-line. It promotes that itself by the slogan “You take the pictures. We’ll keep them safe.”

Picturelife screen with "colour swatch" while you wait for a previewAt the features level it is very similar to everypix, just a little more appleverse oriented, there are auto-uploading apps for mobile devices, syncing from Macs &PCs, duplicate detection (“Keep the best, hide the rest”), intelligent photo organization (one claim I’m not able to substantiate), backing up photos from the major social networks and private emails and photostreams for family and friends. It also have Iphoto and Aperture support and the IOS apps support airplay so you could get your photos displayed on Apple TV. There is also a new IOS app called memories, which works a lot like everpix flashbacks. If you want to store everything in one place (and in the cloud) this will probably appeal to you but the pricing could become expensive with a large collection (eg a 500 GB subscription cost $250 per year, whereas a 500GB USB external backpack will probably cost less that $75). The Web App (actually just a browser view) is nice and simple with album, places and a time line view. but it doesn’t load very fast and you get to see a colour swatch as the photos load. I certainly hope the premium accounts are more responsive. It you have your own Amazon S3 bucket you can use that to backup your photos via picturelife.

Picturelife's status windowAt the operational level it is even more remarkably similar to everpix, except when it come to performance. You download a small program (app) that then trawls your computer for nominated folders (eg C:/username/pictures) and Syncs them in background up to your account. I’m not sure if it the fact that I’m trialling a free account but after 2 days I only have 34 photos and one video uploaded (most are the raw version) out of 80 days and approx. 15,000 photos, just a tiny part of the photo collection I now have, but the status window is suggesting its going to take 50 days to sync those! However my free trial account only give me a 5GB limit and those ~15,000 files are closer to 180GB. Now at this trickle slow speed, which will also consume your band width as well, if I had to up load a terra byte of images It could takes years.. I surmise that everpix was much faster because it was only creating a thumbnail/preview on the web. Then I realised picturelife was uploading RAW files (presumable not the matching JPEG). This RAW file support is great if you want you whole photo collection on-line, but RAW files are large and they must be rendered as .jpg for web display anyway. So I’d be just as happy having the jpeg file or a preview on line and the original’s (and RAW files) locally.

So I will keep trying it out picturelife for a little while at least but I’m convinced I would not want to pay a premium to slowly store my photos on-line and I’m perfectly happy using drop box to automatically sync from my cameraphone now while I still maintain my collection myself locally with a external hard drive backup.

Friday, November 22, 2013

More Street Art

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Richmond is probably most famous for its hard edge street art (aka graffiti covered in tags), but I found this sculpture wall and reflective space on the very busy corner of Bridge & Punt Rd.

Yet another example of a Smartphone photo taken and synced via dropbox before I even got home (no Instagram involved)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gaia Birds Revisited :: My PhotoImpressions Method

It is a while since I created my first photo mosaics of parrots, for a group challenge on Redbubble. I have recently returned to the theme for inclusion within My Monash Exhibition at the Highway Gallery. However my PhotoImpression technique has developed a lot since the original Gaia Bird series back in 2005photoimpression lorikeet03_0001original photoSo I figure it is time again to explain some of the processes I use and why I am applying them. I actually adopted the term photoimpression to describe my process back in 2006, and I have noticed that the term is used a lot now for other photo related things, including as the name for a few competing phone apps which have nothing to do with my process. Further the wide spread use of “magic” filters and photoshop trickery means that a lot of people seem to believe I am just using a one click style filter or pre-set. Nothing could be further from the truth, so I’m taking this opportunity to explain my steps and why I do them. My focus of late has been on trying to look at the photographic processing as an artist might. In this series I have refined my workflow into four basic steps which map into four processes any artist might recognize and probably uses.

  1. creating a black & white version by removing saturationThe Sketch, the first step is to look at the composition and tonal values of the image. Not all images make for good photomosaics, they need to have a strong compositional toning. I have found the easiest way to construct my sketch is to work in black and white. There are dozens of methods to create a black and white image of your photos, including a lot of presets and filters. In fact it is a bit of a holy grail to many traditional photographers, Black & White version of photo mosaic.that perhaps yearn for film days. A lot of these conversions try to closely match the original film look and many of those popular films had different responses to different colours, for example red are often represented by darker tones and some blues or greens will appear lighter. This could misrepresent my tonal composition, so I have found I like to do my black and white conversion myself just by bringing saturation right done (moving the slider fully to the left). Most photo editor let you do this and it is very simple in picasa or lightroom. I might crop my image and possibly use the tonal sliders to better balance the highlights and shadows. At this stage I also like to generate a test mosaic, for which I still use mosaic creator. I pay particular attention to the shape of the tessellations I am using for the mosaic tiles. In the case of this series I liked a simple diagonal diamond tile which compliments the birds feathers. What has happened now is the photo has been largely deconstructed into a very pixelated image that still has the lorikeet just visible but you will probably only see it if you know it’s there and half close your eyes. 
  2. Kuler Lorikeet03 custom selectionThe Kuler Palette, the next step is to mix my colours. Whereas in the past I have used a conventional colour wheel and the theory of harmoniously and complimentary colours or computer based palette pickers (such as now in many web design tools). Adobe has such a utility called Kuler and under their Creative Cloud Service, the new version now has the facility to select the coloursKuler as colour wheel directly from your photo in a variety of moods from colourful, deep, dark or muted. This chooses 5 colour in a suitable palette and indicates the area on the photo that was used. You can also move these point to get subtly or even radically different colour schemes. You can save and edit these schemes in the more familiar colour wheel format. There are a few images on lorikeets in my series so I created a set of complimentary colour palettes, some harmonious some complimentary around the Lorikeets and their forest background  I thus choose my palette from a number of related images not just the photo I had selected to process. This hopefully reflects the way an artist might take in the atmosphere and ambience of a place, when painting “en plein air”. Not just "copying" a single photo.
  3. apophysis setting backgroundThe Brushes, my next step relates to how I make my marks, the type of brush strokes I wish to use is a simple artistic analogy. My objective here is to use the limited colour palettes I have selected above and introduce a little variety in the texture of that “brush mark”. I know that it is frequently this strength and direction of these small textural details that make the work of some artist so distinctive, appealing and interesting. In essence it is these marks that let you see the artist’s hand. For this aspect I have been experimenting with using mathematical patterns apophysis setting colour gradientbased around fractals (geometric shapes first identified by Benoit Mendelbrot that have special dimensional aspects) With the aid of a computer these crumpled shapes can be simulated in theoretically infinite detail and echo many real world phenomena. For this series I have use a open source program called Apophysis since it not only allows me to select and control the shape of the fractal trace it also allow the selection of the colours of the rendering, for both the background and the gradient of colours mapping the multidimensional fractal into a two dimensional rendering. I took care to use a strong triangular seed shapes for the fractals and thus into the patterns generated so as to compliment the diamond lozenge shape of the tilling for the mosaic. For this series I generated these  tile patterns in considerable detail (over 3000 pixel wide). I also generated over 350 coloured and textured tiles to give the mosaicking process a decent range of brush strokes to selected but limited palette of colour.
  4. mosaic cell fill detailsApplying the Paint, this is the final step and again carried out in mosaic creator. This time the resolution of the image to be generated is increased and the library of new coloured fractal tiles is used to infill the photomosaic, but within the same tilling as the preliminary grey scale mosaic. I return the colour (Hue) and use not only the best match for tone but also a closest match for colour. Many colours in the original photo thus needed to be “shifted” slightly to match the selected palette of colours and the degree to which tone is matched is also refined making the matching within the mosaicking process by going from minutes to almost hours for this final render.

detail from Photomoasic lorikeet03_0001If you now look closely the individual diamonds in my tile tessellations are now replaced with the swatches of the fractal flames, which add new colour and texture back into the image. The magic is that your eye now sees the photoimpression (see first image above for the full image) as having nice detail and the colours as perhaps richer but the bird is again realistic, it just no longer has the detail or exact colours of the original photo. These have been refined as if by an artists eye.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Satisfaction ...or Ignored?

I hope Adobe know they really aren't helping me to stay loyal. I have put the creative cloud frustration behind me, by not using it! However I am still interested in upgrading to Lightroom 5, specifically I do like the new radial filter also the healing brush and upright are nice improvements, but the beta versions I have tried out so far (LR5beta, 5.1beta & 5.2beta) all seem to be a bit too sluggish and all have some inconsistent issues (I assumed these were bugs and would get fixed, so I am waiting for the bug free version to purchase). I have downloaded and successfully installed lr5.3 beta anticipating good things. Yet I can still see the sluggishness (at least on my windows 7, 64 bit PC with 4 GB RAM) compared with LR 4.4 on the same machine. However I have now noticed significant performance deterioration on lr5.3 when I leave it open while working on other programs, (eg word & powerpoint) and/or having the computer hibernate. Reopening lr5.3 is then incredibly slow and lots of disc activity. I wonder if this is memory leakage and just classic virtual memory disk thrashing? I have to exit lightroom and restart it to get decent response and occasionally rebooting the computer is required. So I'm not encouraged to upgrade just yet.

So I decided to put my observations on the Adobe user forums, and see if other are seeing the same issues. Well the old forums don't seem to exist and I was guided into community powered support (aka so I pressed on and tried to post my query. That wasn't so easy and involved not only supplying my adobe log in details but also signing up for a getsatisfaction account as a member of the photoshop family. I seemed to be going around in circles. However the code to authenticate my email address for getsatisfaction didn’t arrive until a day later, so I couldn't do that at the time. Also I was guided to look for similar posts in the forums (and there are actually a lot about sluggish performance) before mine was accepted as something different, new and accepted as a new post. I did get a link to my post via an email BUT if I try to find it in the forum menus I can't, so I'm guessing others won't either. I suspect my observation are just going to be ignored, such is life I guess.

adobe improvement programI also made an effort to check that I was part of the "improve adobe products program", which supposedly collects anonymous data on how lightroom is used and it seems adobe does realise I already was registered. This is another of those worrying things with benign sounding names where you provide information but never actually see any results or feedback. A thank you for participating and this is a summary of what we found would be nice.

I am still interested if others have seen this behaviour, but I'm not so confident getsatisfaction photoshop family is anything more than deflecting support rather than supplying it. The emperor’s new clothes in a cloud based crowd sourcing new fabric.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Adobe Hack Worse than originally reported

News about Abode Hack isn’t getting any better. Apparently the number of users whose information was stolen is now closer to 38 million, not 2.9 million as originally stated. More confessions on what was “illegally accessed” trickle out, at least part of the source code for Photoshop was also amongst the items taken. This is probably adobe’s core product and thus a bit risk for them. However checking their website, there is very little about the hack and it looks like business as usual and full steam ahead on the subscription model. That creative cloud is still looking very stormy where where I sit.

My favourite sub-story was the fact that some security “experts” where able to find the stolen information on-line and do some analysis of the most common passwords.Can you believe 1.9 million adobe customers have “123456”.
Even is you password is not in this list, if you have (or had) an adobe account it is time that you changed your password. Further if you use the same password elsewhere change those as well.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Unfortunately Everpix is Shutting Down

I was becoming quiet a fan of the everpix service, particularly the flashbacks which reminded me of the best photos from the same date one, two or three years ago. I actually didn't look at every such email but I did like that momentary refresh of what was going on in the past and particularly checking if did I get any good shots. I also used everpix a few times to get a different organizational view of my photos. It was nicely transparent in what it did. Will I have to find another cloud service that does this, probably not. If anything it makes me glad I’m not putting all my stuff in the clouds.
So what happened? There is more detail available on the everpix site, but the essence is they have not been able secure sufficient funding to properly scale up the business.
“We are heartbroken to discontinue Everpix. It’s a project that is very close to each and every one of us on the team. We cannot be more thankful to all of our customers who supported us over the years. We hope you’ve enjoyed Everpix. We will miss it dearly.”   …. everypix team

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hung and open …”meet the artist” next weekend

IMGP2084My exhibition “An Artistic Journey :: In Search of Sir John Monash” is hung and open at the Highway Gallery in Mount Waverley. It includes a range of my works, few of which I have been posted on the social webs, so if you are in Melbourne and interested in my geological panels, photography, and photo mosaic collages please consider coming along to the “meet the artist” on Sunday 10th. November.

My Monash works follow on from my previous geological panels and paintings, on the surface they are firmly represented by earthly things, the soil and rocks. Yet they also reflect on three key aspects of Sir John's life. His military life, his life setting up the SEC and powering Victoria and his passion to build the Shrine of Remembrance. They have been created with the assistance of an arts and culture grant from the Monash City Council, which allowed me to learn about casting and moulding, to bring stronger dimensionality into my geological panels, experiment with a range of materials and hold this exhibition.


Late Afternoon Spring Light

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The spring weather, particularly in the period from the grand final until the Melbourne Cup is normally pretty special. A great time to enjoy the garden and wonderful lighting for keen photographers. This year the weather have been fluctuating been cold wintry days and hot almost summer patches. Today however it was near perfect,