Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ArtInspired :: More Inspiration from Fred Williams

amongst the mangroveOne of my Fred William’s inspired experiments escaped into the wilds of Flickr a bit sooner than I was ready for (image on the right). It is based on a series of bracketed photos I took in the Deadman’s Gully park/wetlands behind Clifton Beach, just north of Cairns. I really liked the abstract patterns of the light and shade, particular as captured in a series of autoawesome HDR* images google had produced BUT whilst the shapes where amazing the colours where not realistic and somewhat hideous. I felt they did not convey “a true sense of the place”.

my current sketching paletteThe problem of getting the colour right might not worry many but Fred Williams definitely did honestly represent the colour and texture of the Australian landscape. He also likely to being the process out in the landscape as a way to anchor his works with a true sense of the place. I actually don’t have a sketch to go with these images but I do have a couple of pages in my sketchbook that document all the water based media for sketch I had taken on my trip to north Queensland,. It wasn’t hard to scan this and use it on Corel Painter Essentials 4 (yes I haven’t updated yet!) to modify the palette of colours used in my strips. I then autopainted with a standard round watercolour brush to resample these images using my colour palette to give a more watercolour/gouache look. Much closer to what I remember of the place but still about the shapes and textures.


The final step was to place the strips over another HDR image from the set and now the images is working much better as a classic William’s painting that changes your sense of the place as space as you interact with the image. To do this display the Flickr image below full screen. Being by looking in detail close up and slowly step back still focussed on the image. You should soon reach the point where you feel you are there. Enjoying the shade and respite from the burning glare of the sun. Perhaps you are looking for your next meal, a large eel lurking in the pools, perhaps a fat mud crab hiding in the gnarled roots or perhaps you have an eye peeled for that crocodile looking for his dinner.

Amongst the mangroves II

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Those bloody biscuits again


Another day another hidden message from google. in the fine print

Could this scare away European viewers of my blog possibly and I respect they have every right not to share their viewing habits with google, So I think the message can stay, because google obviously wants me to take responsibility not them.  Does this endear google to me nope!

Friday, July 24, 2015

PhotoFriday :: The Essence of Summer

The Escene of Summer
It is actually technically winter here in Australian, but no one has told Far North Queensland


For PhotoFriday‘s topic Summer

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Backup Your Photos NOW! BUT NOT to Google+

If you are a windows user now is an important time to back up your digital photos, only don’t back them up using google+ …!  The 29th. July & 1st. August are possibly two significant dates for digital photographers using Windows PC, Tablets and Phones.

The 29th is the date microsoft is planning to roll out free version of windows 10 to anyone with a valid windows7 or 8 licence. If you are one of those you will probably have already seen the little get windows 10 icon on your task bar. (if you think you should have received this invite but haven’t, then log on from the computer concerned to the microsoft window 10 site and find the reserve windows 10 button).  I doubt this is going to be a Y2K style non-event.

However I really do expect to see some heart ache and sad stories. Upgrading an operating system generally comes with some such hickups. So what should you do to avoid any grief?
  1. Backup up all your photos now. It doesn’t really matter what software you are managing the photos with at least backup up all the original photos (be it .jpeg, DNG or other RAW formats) just make sure you have a viable copy on a separate media (ie not on your computers hard disk) I would strongly recommend a media that is easy to selectively restore from (ie avoid large compressed archives or cloud solutions) just use removable media (like CDs or DVD, probably lots of them) or better still USB style backpack drives (a 1TB drive should be less than $100, and will be a useful backup well after any upgrade). Why not make two copies and store one off site (ie a proper backup strategy)
  2. Look at the key software you have and search out the original install disk and/or the registration codes for downloads and updates. Check the suppliers web sites because they are likely to have important driver updates or other advice. If the worst case scenarios eventuates and you have to reinstall, you are ready.
  3. If you are still worried, wait a while. Even when to get the message windows 10 is ready you actually don’t have to update straight away (you have one year to do it) and might prefer to wait and watch complaints from other users. I have several PC and I am planning to just update one at a time, starting with the least used.
The 1st August is apparently the day google is planning to kill google+ photos. Ok there is a fair bit of hype around but I have already read Goodbye Google+ Photos, hello +Google Photos! What I can make of this is it really about the google+ android and IOS phone/tablet apps. They will be removed and soon stop working, yep stop working on the photo side. It doesn’t really go into what happens to the photos already in google+ photos (or picasa web albums). Still the mention of having to get them via google takeout (and thus shift through zip versions) doesn’t fill me with confidence. Right at the moment I know you can still access your photos  in the old picases web album interfaces (see te link in yellow below), I really want that ability to stay, However be aware that google+ Autobackup may not create that viable backup I’ve suggested in point 1 above. Again best to wait a while before you need to panic, but there is a google photos version, so updating now is a good idea if you want to use the backup feature .  I’ll be amazed if photos you have already uploaded can’t remain being access from the new google photos.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

PhotoProject :: In Search of the Blue Hour

The past two night have had the classic crescent moon close to a bright planet Venus not long after sunset. This is the blue hour when you can get some wonderful photos as the sky is still partly light and the deep sky is still a little blue not yet black. However this is the time of extended long exposures, so A tri[od is pretty essential, and keeping if vibration free can be a hassle. First step is turning off the anti-shake and the second trick is to use the self timer (I just use the 2 second delay). The other big issue at night is focusing, which can be a challenge for most autofocus system, so it if better to manually focus.Finally there is lost of advice about exposure setting for night scenes,and it a compromise between higher ISO (and inevitable higher noise) and lower F-stops (so decreasing depth of focus) and slow shutter speeds (giving high risk of camera movement blur). These compromises are not so well handled by the light meters in most camera, so it is usually much better to work in manual mode and take a few test shots.the moon & venus at the blue hourA similar configuration of the moon and venus will exist during the blue hour for the next couple of days.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

PhotoEditing Tools :: Cropping in Picasa

After straightening (or levelling) in my opinion the second most useful tool is the crop tool. Often the must be used together to trim off the little blank triangle around the edges. In fact most newer software either does that automatically or gives a fit option in the cropping. However trimming up the edges is not the only reason you should crop and I will talk of other reason in future posts. The cropping tool in picasa dates back a long time but it is very easy to use and has two important features. The first is that it is interactive and it show the area to be trimmed off greyed out. So you can  judge what you are removing. The second is it offer both a freeform (manual) mode where you can stretch out the bow to any size elongation you want as well as fixed ratio crops so that the cropped image will fit certain paper or screen sizes. In this second mode the cropping marks will expand or contract in both dimensions to maintain the selected ratio. The recent version of picasa even give you three example crops and you could click on the most suitable. In this example I'm trimming up the edges on a hand held multi-image panorama for I’m using the manual trim.


See the final crop on flckr

Friday, July 17, 2015

PhotoFriday :: Almost a Landscape

beachscape travelling south For PhotoFriday‘s topic Landscape 2015

And the winners is...

Whilst Google photos and flickr are slogging their way along, vying to be first to upload any image from my phone, I realised that there are already two clear winners in this race and its not the tortoise or the hare. First is Dropbox, which I have reinstated (I suspect it might have been nobbled by either google backup or flickr's uploadr but it did have a significant app update around the same time, so I haven't notified the stewards yet!). I didn't find carousel so useful but dropbox is really simple, solid and still has the very logical private sharing options. I could live without it but I love the reliability of knowing soon after I find a WiFi spot my phone images are up on a private cloud (flickr could safely substitute here). The second is a surprise, its QuickPic, an alternative to the native gallery app or Google Photos itself. Compared with Google Photos its a real lightweight with a tiny memory footprint but its fast and does exactly what I expect from a photo gallery app. More importantly it plays nicely with other phone apps.

Whilst the other race is still on, flickr is becoming my favourite as a stayer.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

An even better Flickr Publishing Service

imageI should not have lamented loosing a nice automated publishing to flickr service via lightroom, because I actually had something better already within the new Flickr Uploadr. Previously I harshly criticised this as yet another file vacuum cleaner. However it was very easy to transform this into a useful publishing service.

After downloading the new Flickr Uploadr, I firstly deselected all the standard directories that were set up. This will avoid the vacuum cleaner effect trying to upload all your photos and graphics. I am running a network of computers so I only wanted to set this up in one place and so on a network drive located on my desktop computer but shared with all my computers on the LAN. This directory should have a unique but easy to remember name. Once created the next step is to add this directory to the Flickr Uploadr list, by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom of imagethe upload to cloud window. Once this is defined and the flickr uploadr is running then any file copied to this directory will then be automatically uploaded to flickr. I can copy photos there from any computer on my network. Once uploaded these photos can be deleted without risk of changing or deleting the file uploaded.

The only downside I’ve found so far is uploading in this fashion only loads the file as private. So you will need to log into flickr later and change the viewing setting (ie click on the lock icon) if you want the photo to be displayed publically (which is probably why you want it loaded anyway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another Misdemeanour

lightroom is being a bad girl (again)The mysterious disappearance of of images posted on flickr & then syndicated elsewhere (like blogger and google+) was a real puzzle. It didn’t happened to all images, in fact it only happened to a few and the timing of the disappearances was hard to comprehend. I must admit with all the other funnies associated with the changes associated with google dropping the + from their photo offering, I had subconsciously blamed them.

Turns out it was another Miss, a misdemeanour by a lady that can’t handle it when she’s not in control. It was lightroom, and her being very diligent she had updated some of the photos I wanted uploaded to flickr via her Publishing Services. However because she still believes I have a free account, she performed the update by first deleting the old image and re-uploading the photo again (effectively as a new photo). Hence the links I had previously used to post elsewhere  where broken. So why was she updating photos I hadn’t reprocessed? Well it started with another program (like Aftershot or Perfect Photo) storing some new metadata (in a xmp sidecare file). This alone was not enough to start the sequence leading to deletion. I had to do two other things. Click on the message that some of the metadata didn’t match the current library (ie the xmp file was read and lightrooms catalogue update), But the automated deletion didn’t start until I set up a different photo or multiple photos on publishing services to go to flickr. Behind the obvious the photo with the “new” metadata would be deleted and updated.

I’m not happy and lightroom she gets another stern warning. Specifically she is not allowed near flickr any more. Which is a pity I did like the idea of her publish service. My search for a decent POSSE solution continues…

Monday, July 13, 2015

PhotoEditingTools :: Straighten in Paint.Net is a really nifty little program, ideal for those that just working on jpeg files. However on first look it doesn’t seem to have a straighten tool (ie something to level the horizon), the image menu seen to have rotates (only 90° left and right or a 180° twist and horizontal and vertical flips, no obvious small and definable rotation! However a deeper look around will show you there is such a rotation tool under the layers menu item. Yet there is an even bigger omission, no simple levelling tool to help pick the horizon and overlay guides (like aftershot or picasa) of a drag to mark a second point to define the rotation (like lightroom or perfect photo). Trying to straighten a horizon is starting to look tedious, but it isn’t!


No need to panic, it is easy to use the layers to create your own temporary guides. Starting with the Layer item on the menu pick the add new layer item on the menu to create an empty and transparent second layer. Now mow to that layer by clicking on layer 2 in the layers window. Next using the shape tool from the main drawing tool bar and use and open rectangle, mark a suitable large rectangle on the screen. It will be easier to judge if you have this rectangle cross the horizon somewhere near the middle of the image. This rectangle becomes your level guide.


Now you can return to the background layer and this time select the rotate/zoom tool.It looks a bit complex (and it can do a lot) but we are only going to use the little rotation ring on the round shape tool on the upper left) As you rotate this by clicking the mouse on the reference mark on the outer ring and moving you mouse up and down. you will see the photo rotate, while the rectangle your created on layer 2 remains steady. Gently rotate until the horizon is parallel with the rectangle edge. Simple. If you want more control of the rotation you can enter an angle or use the little up and down adjusted beside the angle dialogue box..

To finish you will need to delete your temporary layer 2 (go back into layer 2 and select delete layer from the layers menu) and then crop the image to avoid the undefined edges, but that's a subject of a future post!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Back to the Future II

Having some fun with Pixlr on my phone
flickr have modified their snipet of html code when sharing an image to include a little java script that puts a hearder on the image to make it clear it came from flickr, the person's account it is taken from (me) and also shows a little watermark/overlay of the licence condition for sharing on the image.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Are Faux Painting Effects Art?

I have never been a fan of those zany art filters (the ones that dominated the early photo app offering, not to mention a few photo mangers). Basically they look really lame, its the mark making that just isn't there, no personality no passion. However I'm not against appropriate image manipulation and I'm interested in and infavour of dipping a paint brush into a photo. Can a photo become an artwork
Experimenting with Autodesk's Pixlr App, with a watercolour style render and torn paper edge. Perhaps we are starting to get there (check out the "brush marks on" the wing tips)?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Taking the time to really look

There is a slight optical trick here, go to flickr and make this image full screen then look at it from close up. Your eye will be fascinated with the pattern and texture of the bark, and that will dominate what you see, Then stand and move back a few place and you will start to see the beach where this tree grows.
Really looking
Working on the inspiration of Fred William's paintings of the essence of the Australian Landscape.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Red Sky in the morning

_IGP1161I must admit I’m normally still snuggling in a warm bed at this time of the morning, and it has been a very cold spell. However I was up and awake early today and able to capture the first light of dawn. Giving me a great opportunity to compare my “girls” (the three current mistresses, aka photo managers/editors, I’m using rather than picasa/google photos) as I would normally edit/tweak them. The Photo on the right is the original unedited Jpeg. The photos below are edited by AfterShot , Lightroom  and Perfect Photo Suite 9. These three systems render my .pef file (Pentax’s RAW format) differently but their RAW file renders all look very flat compared with the jpeg. I liked the dark silhouette of the trees, so I have left the images very low key and just just concentrated of adding a little extra contrast and vibrance.I also straighten and cropped each version. In the edge they all look somewhat similar, supporting the observation that it probably doesn’t matter a lot which software you use as long as it does what you want.
AfterShot 2
AfterShot Pro 2, which has become my first stop on my laptop. In this case I have just click on Perfect Clear and lifted the vibrance slider a little. With a straightening and crop to finish. All over in seconds
Lightroom 4.4Lightroom 4.4, was a little more considered and all done in the development module, lifting clarity (rather than contrast) and a little vibrance (not saturation) then straightening and crop.
Perfect Photo Suite 9
Perfect Photo Suite 9, was a actually my second port of call but I have left it till last as it seems to match my memory of the moment best. I started in Perfect enhanced (which is where cropping and straightening are normally undertaken. Whilst there I couldn’t resist using their wonderful content aware magic  perfect eraser to remove the two light poles (which would have bee a very time consuming task with a cloning tool on the second post behind the tree). I also finished with perfect effects, a natural Dynamic Contrast, A fall enhancer Colour Enhancer bought back to 60% layer opacity and a soft darker vignette

Monday, July 06, 2015

PhotoEditingTools :: Straighten (Levelling) in Perfect Photo Suite

If you are looking for a straighten tool in Perfect Photo Suite it could prove frustrating because it is called levelling and only shows up when you select the cropping tool, either under perfect layers, perfect enhance, perfect resize. Once you select the crop tool from the left hand tool bar, a levelling tool shows up un the middle of the tool bar above the image, You can either enter a rotation angle, or click on the small triangle to get an interactive slide that will tilt the image or better still click on the little bubble level icon and the cursor will change into the level tool. Move to one convenient place on the strong horizontal (such as the horizon) and click and drag a line across your photo that want to be level (ie the other side of the horizon) then click again.

Leveling Tool  in Perfect Photo SuiteWhen you release the mouse the photo will be adjusted by the desired angle. The cropping marks will automatically be adjusted to the best fit cropping of the rotated image to avoid blank edges. All very simple once you find it.

There is also a rotation tool in the layer transform tool within Perfect Layers which allows both the speciation of the angle and the interactive slider but it does not display the levelling tool.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A bandwidth comparison as the photo upload race continues …

Data usage on my mobileIts no secret that I am disappointed with google photos and particularly in the crippling of picasa’s wonderful sharing capabilities. However I am trying to be fair in the comparison and thus want to try and follow as much detail of the race between google photos and flickr apps on my phone as I can. So here is a comparison of (mobile) data use for last month including the period I was travelling (the light blue area of the usage graph on the right).

In theory the same photos have been uploaded to both services (in practise there are differences BUT more photos have been uploaded to flickr!). So the observation that google photos has used almost three time as much of my bandwidth for essentially the same task, is another stumble for google photos. The better news is both have used only a fraction of the space taken up by the actual photos, so they are obviously doing good things in terms of compression and effective image size/quality trade off.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Google Photo falters at the line … …

I doubt the race is over yet but the google photos, google+, picasa team failed to deliver while I was travelling in two aspects. First the uploading of images from my phone was very erratic (I suspect an automatic upldate to the google photos app didn't load correctly and was queued on my phone for a few days). Second from about Wednesday last week till this morning I have not been able to reconnect into my google account from my laptop. This came about because I was continually getting an error message when trying to upload an album from picasa (the progressive album of my travels for my family) So I The unfortunate webpage not available messagelog out from picasa and when I tried to load back in I always got a blank pop up screen. Gmail was logged in so I tried logging out and back in …same problem!

I was still seeing google notification of new items in assistant (aka annoy-ant) and could usually click on the link and see those items, but alas trying to look around google photos from there usually resulted in the dinasaur screen (webpage not available). I suspect my lack of access was a google problem.

Thus I abandoned using and of the google team to preview,cull & share and went over to aftershot, perfect photo suite and  lightroom (painfully slower than picasa) and uploaded where necessary to flickr. The flickr app on my phone was slowly keeping pace with phone photos. A somewhat confusing emailsThe tortoise is well ahead now.

Once I got home I was able to, after a few tries (getting the same blank pop up screen) to eventually log via picasa. Then after a few more tries upload some photos in a picasa album to google photo’s collection. Then several on my previous retries showed up and it was clear I was attempting to upload the same thing several times. It took a while to abort everything and start again, then I notice I had a strange email (shown on the right). Whilst I do still have windows explorer on my laptop, I always used google chrome? I can only assume this was picasa (using a microsoft’s internet explorer pop up window). I’m not seeing a very consistent approach here to photo management from google. It appears more like the rabbit is chasing its tail.

Clearly the competition to gobble up all my photos is far from over, Now that I’m back home I found the desktop apps for google’s auto backup and Flickr’s Uploadr had both decided to pop up and ask me (yet again) to start uploading everything. Perhaps that are just letting me know they have been updated. Perhaps that is were the real race is. Needless to say I declined.
google's auto backup dialogue .vs. flickr's Uploadr dialogue