Ab und zu lässt es sich nicht vermeiden, Briefe zu verschicken. Also solche aus Papier, auf die man eine Briefmarke kleben muss. Die älteren unter euch werden sich erinnern.
Als eloquenter und häufiger Nutzer der mir gebotenen Möglichkeiten der Onlinewelt frankiere ich schon länger meine Päckchen und Pakete zu Hause. Was ich bisher noch nicht versucht hatte: einen Brief online zu frankieren.
Dazu bietet die Post mittlerweile efiliale.de an - einen Service, über den sich die entsprechenden Marken in verschiedenen Größen und mit den dazugehörigen Codes generieren lassen, bequem zum selber ausdrucken.
Da ich das auch in Zukunft ab und zu machen möchte, habe ich mir dort jetzt ein Konto angelegt. Und weil dieser Vorgang so unglaublich reibungslos und völlig ohne Probleme vonstatten ging (sie spüren das Fünkchen Ironie, oder?), möchte hier mal eben darüber berichten.
Da der gesamte Vorgang von meinem Unterbewusstsein recht schnell in den Bereich verschoben wurde, der dem Verdrängen traumatischer Erlebnisse dient, bitte ich hier schon mal um Entschuldigung, falls ich das eine oder andere Detail nicht mehr exakt so hervorbringe, wie es geschehen ist. Ich schwöre aber, dass im Großen und Ganzen alles so passiert ist.
Hier die Schritte, die ich gehen wollte, und auch die, die ich nicht gehen wolle, aber gehen musste:
Schritt 1: Ich gehe auf efiliale.de und klicke auf Briefmarken selbst drucken, dann auf Anmelden und schließlich auf Ich bin Neukunde: jetzt registrieren.
So weit alles im Lot.
Schritt 2: Ich fülle das Formular aus: Vorname, Nachname, Adresse, Passwort (zwei mal), Geheimfrage für Passwort-Reset, Geheimantwort für Passwort-Reset, AGB-Box anhaken, usw. - ich klicke auf Weiter.
Schritt 3: Das Formular kommt weitgehend ausgefüllt wieder zurück, in roten Lettern begrüßt mich die Meldung Bitte korrigieren Sie die mit * gekennzeichneten Felder. Ich scrolle nach unten und sehe, dass die Geheimantwort wohl zu kurz ist. Aber mein erster Kanarienvogel hieß halt mal Flori… egal, ich suche eine andere Frage/Antwort aus und klicke auf Weiter.
Schritt 4: Das Formular kommt weitgehend ausgefüllt wieder zurück, in roten Lettern begrüßt mich die Meldung Bitte korrigieren Sie die mit * gekennzeichneten Felder. Ich scrolle nach unten und sehe, dass das Passwort und seine Kopie fehlen. Scheinbar wurden diese Felder im letzten Schritt gelöscht.
Ich seufze, fülle mein Passwort erneut aus und klicke auf Weiter.
Schritt 5: Etwas neues passiert! Das Formular kommt weitgehend ausgefüllt wieder zurück, in roten Lettern begrüßt mich die (diesmal neue!) Meldung Bitte überprüfen Sie die von uns korrigierte Adresse.
Aha! Das Formular hat möglicherweise einen Tippfehler in der Adresse bemerkt (Hinweis: da war keiner, höchstens ein Leerzeichen zu viel am Ende des Straßennamens). Ich bin not amused. At all. Ich seufze wieder und klicke auf Weiter.
Schritt 6: Das Formular kommt weitgehend ausgefüllt wieder zurück, in roten Lettern begrüßt mich die (wieder altbekannte) Meldung Bitte korrigieren Sie die mit * gekennzeichneten Felder.
Ja, richtig geraten: Das Passwort wurde wieder gelöscht.
Schritt 7: Ich wundere mich nicht mehr wirklich, warum es immer noch so viele Offliner gibt, denen der ganze Onlinequatsch zu kompliziert ist. Ich seufze laut genug, dass die neben mir schlafende Katze genervt aufsteht und den Raum verlässt, fülle mein Passwort erneut aus und klicke auf Weiter.
Schritt 8: Ich schriebe dieses Blog-Post.
Post, Post, Post, wo soll das in dieser modernen Welt nur mit Dir enden??!
Sehr geehrter Herr Marquardt,
wären Sie damit einverstanden, dass wie eines Ihrer Bilder für die Internetseite der Fakultät der Uni verwenden? Selbstverständlich würden wir Sie als Urheber benennen sowie einen entsprechendne Link bei den Bildnachweisen anbringen. Wir könnten uns vorstellen, dass dies auch eine schöne Werbung für Sie darstellt.
Es ginge hierbei um folgendes Bild, welches sich auf ihrer Happyshooting-Seite befindet.:
Ich freue mich auf Ihre Antwort und danke Ihne bereits für Ihre Mühe.
Das Bild dürfen Sie gerne verwenden unter Angabe "Foto: Chris Marquardt" und Link zu http://www.chrismarquardt.com in direkter Nähe des Bildes.
Guten Abend Herr Marquardt,
leider entspricht es nicht den Richtlinien zur Gestaltung von Websiten der Uni , den Bildnachweis direkt am Bild anzubringen. Wären Sie auch damit einverstanden, Sie - wie die anderen Urheber - im Impressum der Seite samt Link aufzuführen?
Mit Ihrer Zustimmung würden Sie uns wirklich sehr helfen.
Hallo Herr ,
leider entspricht es nicht meinen eigenen Richtlinien, Bilder ohne entsprechenden Link in unmittelbarer Nähe (zumindest auf der selben Seite) für eine Gratisnutzung zur Verfügung zu stellen. Ich lebe von der Fotografie und damit auch davon, dass meine Bilder mit meiner Person in Bezug gebracht werden können. Sobald die entsprechende Nennung oder ein Link in einen anderen Bereich der Website, z.B. ins Impressum, verschoben wird, wird diese Assoziation für den Betrachter unnötig erschwert bis unmöglich. Die Nennung des Rechteinhabers bzw. Urhebers in der Nähe des Bildes ist zum Beispiel in Zeitungen üblich. Falls das in Ihrem Fall nicht möglich sein sollte, müssen Sie leider verstehen, dass ich der Nutzung nicht zustimmen kann.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
I've been a huge fan of Radiolab for years. Great insights in every episode, wonderful stories and characters - Radiolab is always at the top of my list of must-listen-to podcasts.
But once in a while, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich release an episode that goes deeper, that touches on things that I didn't even know were there.
Like this one (I've just listened to it for the third time):
It's a deeply moving story about someone that pretty much everyone in the world had some form of exposure to: Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny. And Tweety Bird. Sylvester the Cat. Barney Rubble… the list is much longer than that.
Here's the catch though: I grew up in Germany and when I watched those cartoons as a child, they were always dubbed. I never heard the original voice of Mel Blanc growing up, instead it was always their German counterparts. You can hear an example here. And as similar as they tried to make them, they were obviously very different.
So why did this story still touch me at the level that it did? Is it because over the years I've had at least a little bit of exposure to the original voices by Mel Blanc? Or is it because of Jad's editing magic?
I believe it goes deep simply because it's a wonderfully gripping story that's masterfully told. Add in a splash of cultural knowledge combined with a healthy dose of curiosity and you've got a powerful mix.
Thanks Jad and Robert for Radiolab!
PS: while you're at it, why not help keep this a free podcast?
It's amazing when you put things in the cloud and they just work. My email is in the cloud, and it works. A lot of my documents are in the cloud, and it works. The hiccups – if there are any — are usually rather small. Maybe an outage for a few hours that is quick to recover.
A few years ago, I was looking for an online solution to put my notes on. You know, small notes, little todo lists, no formatting, just text-based stuff. The kind of stuff you would usually put on Post-it notes and stick them to your monitor. That was before Apple introduced iCloud and had their notes working in that ecosystem.
That's when I found Simplenote. It comes with an iOS client, it has a web interface, and there are several clients on the Mac that work really well. Sorry, make that used to work really well. My client of choice is nvalt, a fork of Notational Velocity, Super simple notes editing, super fast and simple search, exactly what I was looking for in a notes client. And you can set it to save your notes locally as text files, which makes it really easy to integrate them into your operating system. Now spotlight also finds them. Oh, and did I mention Dropbox sync? You get the picture. Life is awesome!
I was so impressed with it, that I quickly signed up for a paid account.
A couple of weeks ago things began to crumble. First a few hiccups when syncing, then things got progressively worse until finally the worst happened: Simplenote syncing broke. Okay, temporary move to the web interface, right? That should be fine. No, it's not - lots of notes are duplicated and things are still crazy and pretty much unusable, it's a huge mess. The Simplenote team claims, this is down to Amazon Web Services having an issue, and in the case of nvalt, there also seems to be the Google cloud component involved, that has issues on the server side too. When it rains it pours.
My communication with Simplenote's premium support (the one for paying customers) so far resulted in excuses. And I'm stuck. I can't use nvalt because sync is very choppy. I can't use the Simplenote web interface as that's broken for me too. I'm stuck because I relied on a service that used to be simple and reliable but has gone bad because .. well, why has it gone bad?
I'm not sure what to make of all of this. On the one hand, Simplenote is basically a free service and free services need to be financed some way. This is why I quickly signed up for the paid account. I figured that such a great service needs to be paid for, so it stays around as long as possible and with as high quality as possible. Unfortunately it seems, that the service was built on a pretty unstable foundation.
On the other hand, can we fault the Simplenote team for trying to run this service as cost-effective as possible?
I think we can. If you offer a service, even if it's a free one, there will be expectations and it's your job to manage those. Especially, if that service runs flawlessly for years. Great performance creates great expectations. I'm in a good position though. Having lived in this online world long enough and on both sides of the fence, as a customer and as a service provider, I know to manage my own expectations. Which is why I did pay for the service in the first place. Others won't have the experience that I have, so as soon as they start paying for a service, the picture changes. And their expectations will be higher than they should be.
I'm sure the Simplenote issues could have been avoided if the team had set everything up with the required redundancy. And as a paying customer who doesn't have an IT background, this would be my expectation.
What can we learn from this experience? By all means, build your own redundancy! Whenever there is a free online service, I need to make sure to have that data around in some other way. My Google docs get backed up locally once an hour (using CloudPull). I did set up Simplenote to synchronize its data with Dropbox. You need to have a safety net if you put things in the cloud. I even do a local backup of my Dropbox.
The cloud is great when it works, be prepared for when it doesn't.
Every time I release an update or a new iPhone app, I get this question. Will there be an Android version? When can we have it?
It is very very flattering that you are so interested in these apps. I wish, it was easy to just write these apps for every platform. I would even like to be able to do them for PalmOS and WebOS. But it's a simple game of economics that keeps me from doing it.
Incident Light Meter is a hobby project, it's pretty much a very small niche app that I've written myself, in my spare time. Chances are that through app sales I won't even recoup the time that I have invested in the research.
The only reason I could do Incident Light Meter is because I already spent a lot of time to acquire the basic skills and infrastructure to write iOS apps (this includes a ton of paperwork). It was an interesting experience, and it was very much outside of what I actually love to do, teaching photography.
I actually spent time and tried to get comfortable with Android development, but got stuck fairly early in the process. Then there is fragmentation. Even if I could to develop an Android app, to make the experience as good as with the iOS PocketChris apps, I would have to have at least 5 to 10 different Androids devices lying around here for testing. Different screen sizes, different processor capabilities, different operating system versions.
The dirty truth is, most developers don't make a lot of money with their apps. None of the PocketChris apps are mainstream enough to be a big seller. And I don't have the marketing power behind these apps that others do. So in the end, they serve a small audience, and I am glad that they make just enough to recoup the development costs.
And it only works, because I do most of the work myself. Johannes might disagree, as he has written the framework for the educational PocketChris apps. But he only had to write that once. For every new educational PocketChris app, it is full writing and sorting and editing and picture editing effort for me.
So again, I wish I could do PocketChris for every single platform, but if I don't learn these skills myself, chances are it won't happen. And I don't see my core competency see in writing software, it's in teaching photography and making people better photographers.
… unless you are an excellent Android developer who wants to prove me that it is easy and that it can be done without much effort and with excellent results across different Android devices and OS versions.
Good metering is essential for good photography. So are good composition, good storytelling and good colours. But metering is above everything else for me. Photography is painting with light and if you don't know how to capture light, your photography will always be down to a hit-and-miss approach, always at the mercy of what the computer in your camera thinks is right (trust me, it's more often wrong than you think).
I've been pretty fed up with the trial-and-error approach of digital photography for quite some time. Take a shot, look at the display. Is ittoo dark? Change the exposure, take another shot. Check the histogram. Is it too bright? Change the exposure, take another shot. Rinse, repeat.
What has happened to understanding light and getting exposure right from the start?
You know me. I'm all about giving control back to the photographer. I'm all about busting photographic myths. And most important, I'm all about empowering photographers through knowledge.
Let's look at a few facts:
Fact 1: using an incident light meter will make it easy to get near perfect exposures. It does that by integrating the light that hits your subject from different directions.
Fact 2: an incident light meter will easily set you back $300 or more.
Fact 3 (and this is a lesser known fact): You can use an 18% grey card (cost: about $10) and some nifty math to achieve virtually the same results. All you have to do: take a couple of measurements with your camera and do some math.
It's interesting though how I ended up at this realisation.
It all started several years ago, when I got my first grey card. An 18% grey card. It turned out that in addition to helping me get great white balance, the card will also help me with getting exposure right.
For the last two years I've been handing out grey cards at workshops, helping photographers understand how this simple tool can take their photography to the next level.
Last month I spent a weekend at After Dark in Kansas City, a photography event that you have to experience to believe. It turned out to be a highly creative exercise while also allowing me to work in studio and available light environments with other photographers for three days straight. Wonderfully Immersive! And in the process, I ended up finally buying a light (and flash) meter. A Sekonic L-358. It set me back $300.
But I knew that in order to get to the next step, I had to make an investment.
Later that night, I sat in my hotel room, with the light meter, a grey card, and my DSLR and I did the first experiments, comparing the measurements from my DSLR with those from the light meter. I ended up spending the next 3 hours far into the small hours of the morning, shooting tests, comparing results, spot metering with my DSLR, doing math, with sheets of paper and a spreadsheet on my computer. Imagine a mad scientist and you're not far off :)
Once back in Germany I continued the tests, and after a few days with some more experimentation, I ended up with some solid math that worked well.
Now all I needed to do is make it simple for the photographers, and this is where my experiments with iOS development in 2011 and the experience with PocketChris came in handy. So I sat down and put it all together in an iPhone app: PocketChris Incident Light Meter.
The app is now in review at the app store and should hit the shelves within the next week.
You can find out more at www.incidentmeter.com.
Links: After Dark
So I've had this little incident where Air Canada lost my luggage. Happened to me before. Not with Air Canada, but with Lufthansa. In Germany. They got it back to me within 4 hours.
Not so with Air Canada. It's a long story, you can read the details here.
So just in case you end up in the same situation and Air Canada (or any other airline for that matter) loses your luggage, here are my travel tips in case Air Canada loses your luggage as presented via Twitter:
Travel tip #1 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: always have a spare pair of socks and underpants in your carry-on.
Travel tip #2 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: wear fast-dry trekking clothes. Helps if you need to do emergency laundry in the sink.
Travel tip #3 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: a flat iron doubles as a laundry drying device if you had to wash clothes in the sink.
Travel tip #4 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: keep any even remotely needed medication in your hand luggage.
Travel tip #5 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: if your shaver is in the luggage, pretend your beard is a fashion statement.
Travel tip #6 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: Febreze air freshener is a great stand-in for deodorant. Never mind the floral smells.
Travel tip #6b in case Air Canada loses your luggage: Go to hostel & get free food. You will look & smell like a tramp. (thanks Simon)
Travel tip #6c in case Air Canada loses your luggage: Underpants can be worn for four days. Inside out and back to front. (thanks Simon)
Travel tip #6d in case Air Canada loses your luggage: After 2 days, use fly killer spray instead of deodorant. (thanks Simon)
Travel tip #6e to avoid Air Canada losing your luggage: Send luggage using DHL or UPS, don't consign it to your flight. (thanks Simon)
Travel tip #7 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: if after wearing the same clothes for 50 hours strangers offer you money, take it.
Travel tip #8 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: do NOT check any bags. I repeat: DO NOT check any bags. Ever.
Travel tip #9 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: shaving your hair off before the trip will save you from having to wash it later.
Travel tip #10 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: now that airlines charge $25 per bag, sending via DHL might be a better deal.
Travel tip #11 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: keep your Twitter devices always with you (thanks dl1ely)
Travel tip #12 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: before you complain, make sure you actually checked a bag (thanks Sven656)
Travel tip #13 in case Air Canada loses your luggage: don't be ridiculous, there's no tip #13, airlines don't do #13
It's another Photo Day and Chris has made his way up to the TWiT Brick House in Petaluma to talk photography with Leo Laporte and his guests!
The theme for this Photo Day is Photography outside the mainstream.
Among many other topics, Chris will hang out in studio to talk with Leo and his guests to talk about the origins of Tilt/Shift, taking pictures from kites, digging up 1850s photo technology to create true works of arts and - of course - he'll answer your questions!
Guests include Leo Laporte (Chief TWiT), Cris Benton (Kite Aerial Photography), Paul Sergeant (Tintype Studio) and Susan and Neil Silverman (travel photographers extraordinaire).
Tune in Saturday August 18, 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 23:00 Central European time!
Follow the show live at http://live.twit.tv/
Ask audience questions via Twitter (hashtag #photoday2012) or at http://tfttf.com/photodayquestion
You know, one of the most satisfying things for me these days is to spend a day at an interesting location and take six or twelve pictures with a 4x5 large format camera.
It's hard work. It means to carry a heavy-ish bag over your shoulder and a tripod with a big camera attached to its end. It means to thoroughly set up the camera, check the angles, open the shutter, stick your head under a black cloth on a sunny day withtemperatures in the 90s. To focus on the focusing screen, you use a loupe that's hanging around your neck. It means to use a hand-held light meter, fish a film cassette out of your bag, load the camera, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, hope that you didn't get any of the steps out of sequence, pull out the dark slide and finally take the shot.
It's error-prone too. It means that there are at least 10 different steps in the process of making one exposure where you can mess up. Accidental double exposure? Been there, have even done a triple exposure once. Forget to set the right aperture after metering? Yep, I have my share of overexposed large format negatives.
If it's that hard work and that error-prone, then why am I doing it? The answer is simple: in the end it's one of the most fun and rewarding experiences that I've had in a long time. Nothing beats creating something with your own hands and finally holding the result of that work in your hands. Or post it online for the world to see. Much more rewarding than any digital shot has ever been.
Over time you get better. Most errors you only do once, as it hurts to lose one out of just a few pictures you'll take that day.
Last weekend I brought my trusty Grafmatic film holder system, a revolver-type 6-shooter that allows you to keep 6 shots in one magazine. Very convenient, but also heavier than normal double cassettes. Which turned into yet another source of error. I accidentally brushed the Grafmatic at the wrong angle with my arm, while the dark slide was still pulled. This resulted in a nice big splash of light pouring onto the exposed negative for a brief time. Long enough to ruin the shot. So I thought.
I ended up actually being quite happy with it. Is it because it's one of my babies? Or is there something about a perfect 4x5 picture seemingly ruined by light leaking onto it?
Let me know what you think.
I love to produce a workshop video for as many workshops as possible. They allow future workshoppers to get an idea of what it's like.
When we held another photo workshop in Hannover on the last weekend, we decided to make the workshop video into part of the workshop, shooting it together with a few of the participants, when something really funny happened.
While we shot one of the interviews out in the street, I could see a guy walk up to his car and get in. Usually that means that a starting car engine would interrupt the interview and we'd have to start over with that part.
To our delight, the car pulled away without the slightest engine noise. Turns out it was a hybrid and at this time it ran on battery. In a few years that'll be commonplace, but in this context I got a huge kick out of that.
Did I mention that I love electric cars?
Here's the resulting video:
Graphic designers, please look over the edge of your screen every now and then. And people who hire them, please give graphic designers some information of the context in which the ad will be featured. Not knowing those circumstances might have a huge impact on how it will be seen. Or if it will be seen at all.
I just came across the above example where YouTube's "Skip Ad »" link pretty much covers up the company name of the advertiser. I guess that was probably not intended.
And it reminds me of when my brother (also a graphic designer) told me about a client who wanted a QR code on the bottom right side of a billboard that would be placed flush to the ground, forcing every passer-by who wanted to scan the QR code to get on their knees.
It's not the camera, it's the photographer. We all know that. Do we live it? Not always. Which is why I did a deliberate "lesser photographer" thing.
Where I would usually have the iPhone in my pocket as an emergency or backup camera, this time I made a deliberate decision to go out and shoot with nothing but the iPhone. No big medium format camera. No DSLR. Just the iPhone 4s.
Our creativity strives under constraints. Some of the greatest photography has been made with cameras that some of today's photographers wouldn't even touch with a ten-foot-pole. So I went an extra step and instead of using the iPhone's built-in camera app, I used one that most people would call crippled. Its name is NoFinder and it is pretty much what the title of the app says: a camera without a viewfinder.
Now adding that kind of a restriction might initially sound silly, but it has turned out to be surprisingly good for the creative side of things. Not being able to look through a viewfinder helped me concentrate on the actual scene a lot more than if I had looked through a viewfinder. Pointing the camera without a display also left a certain margin of error, but in the end for many shots that lead to interesting and unusual framing choices that I wouldn't have made with a viewfinder.
Most of those accidental choices of frame weren't that exciting, but then there were a few that I found really interesting. And again: I wouldn't have arrived at them any other way.
The last two constraints that I placed myself under turned out to be pretty much the most beneficial ones: my decision to set the app to only take square pictures and to work in black-and-white only.
The lack of a viewfinder initially made it harder for me to judge the angle of view, but after a few shots it became pretty clear how much would be in the picture. As an added benefit I now have a pretty good idea of the field of view that I can get from the iPhone. I didn't really have that angle visualized before.
And in the end that's how Frog Umbrella came into existence. Being able to see the entire scene with my two eyes, I could watch the umbrella kid walking away from the building and while it was doing so, I fired three shots while trying to anticipate the framing.
And the third shot was the charm. That's my kind of picture - everything fits nicely, the frog's eyes are doubled in the building, every element in the photo feels like it belongs exactly where I put it. I'll be happy when I bring home one single picture like this every time I go out shooting. I'm still working on that.
» Frog Umbrella on Flickr (leave a comment)
I just ran across another blog article that asked the question if mobile phones would take over in the long run and overthrow all other cameras because the sensor technology and the fact that you tend to have one with you all the time.
I'm not so sure for a two main reasons.
1. Control. Cameras tend to get better and better, but even the best automated decisions will not necessarily reflect your intentions.
An example: think about a backlit portrait. Without built-in intelligence, the camera's light meter willtell the camera that there's a lot of light and the image that comes out is likely to be a silhouette of a person. Most cameras nowadays will detect this and compensate for it, resulting in a well-exposed person (and most likely a slightly overexposed background). I guess in most cases that's what the person behind the camera wanted anyway, so it's okay.
But how about the times when a photographer intended to produce the silhouette picture but didn't have a way to tell the camera that that's what they wanted?
The way the current mobile phone cameras look, it's very hard for me to believe that they will get to this level of control any time soon.
2. Sensor size. Different sensor sizes result in different depths of field (DOF) and control over DOF is a very important tool for most photographers.
In-focus and out-of-focus areas in a picture are one out of a whole array of essential tools for photographers when it comes to telling a story in a picture. Focus will show or hide things, focus will help you guide the viewer's eyes through a picture.
Smaller sensors make it very hard to control DOF. Everything tends to be in focus. Bigger sensors make it easier to control DOF. A photographer can place focus where it's important. And as things look right now, mobile phone cameras are pretty unlikely to get larger camera sensors.
Even if mobile phone cameras got larger sensors, that would mean that the lenses needed to be bigger and further away from the sensors, adding bulk and size. Very unlikely.
Will newer technologies and computational photography replace the need for bigger sensors in the future?
Who knows, but at this point in time, even the Raytrix and Lytro cameras cannot do their job without a certain level of bulk, and the results are by far not where they'd need to be.
What do you think? Are we going to see DSLRs disappear any time soon?
Yes, 'tis the time where we say 'tis again. And it's the time where we bring out the box of Christmas tree ornaments and decorate the tree. Yes, the Brownie Tree is back! And finally.. FINALLY the Christmas spirit kicks in.. and it feels good again.
My goal for 2012 is to keep photography in the center of my life, and to look at my images at the end of the year and see that I've learned something new again. So far this has worked, so let's make it work again for next year.
Here's to a wonderfully photographic 2012!
With Creative Suite 5.5 Adobe is introducing a new subscription pricing model. For many professionals this is a welcome way to spread out the cost for the software over a year instead of having to do the big upfront payment for the software.
Customers can still buy individual products or product suites, but you will now also be able opt for a monthly plan. I will mainly look at what this means for photographers and Photoshop. But just as an example, instead of buying the Design Premium Suite for a retail price of $1899, if you commit for a yearly plan, you'll apparently get it for a "rental fee" of $95 per month or $1140 per year. Mind you, this is nota payment plan, so you won't own the software at the end of the year. Adobe is offering upgrade pricing for those who paid for a year though.
As mentioned, you can still buy the products, but as I understand it, as opposed to being able to upgrade from older versions (I believe you could skip up to two versions), with the new pricing model you can't skip versions anymore to get upgrade pricing.
And this seems to be the biggest rub for a lot of people. Enough of a rub that Adobe went ahead and closed (and apparently even removed) the comments on the blog entry where they announced the change.
International pricing of Adobe products has always been one of my pet peeves. In Germany and other European countries, prices for Adobe products are dramatically higher than the US prices, in some cases we Europeans get to pay more than a 100% premium for the same software.
Back in 2007 when I interviewed Adobe product manager John Nack I brought it up, but mainly got an evasive answer.
This might also explain why a lot of people on this side of the pond appear to use pirated versions of Adobe's products.
Over the years a lot of photographers have become Photoshop users. Photoshop isn't the most intuitive product - I usually compare it to a huge toolbox full of tools but without a good instruction manual - but it is very powerful and many photographers have taken the effort to learn its intricacies, to adjust their workflow and to master it to a certain degree.
As I said, I'll mainly look at photographers in this article, but this might also be true for small agencies.
While Lightroom has pretty much taken over when it comes to 98% of my pictures, many photographers have spent years and year refining their Photoshop workflows, they have learned tricks and spent time learning from tutorials. The investment not only on the financial side is huge.
But for monetary reasons many individuals and agencies have also had to adopt a model where they would skip a version or two before they upgrade to a higher version. This possibility is now pretty much gone, so my guess is that the sentiment of many Photoshop users is that they are now expected to pay double or triple the amount they used to pay in the past.
Aside from that ecosystem, let's have a quick look at what makes Photoshop so great.
The thing that intimidates new users most is also one of Photoshop's greatest strengths. It is a collection of hundreds of powerful image manipulation and design tools and if you know how to use them, there is almost no limit to what you can do with it.
Layers, masks and layer modes let you do everything from complicated composites to things as simple as slapping a layer of text to an image. The mix of vectors and pixel graphics and the resulting flexibility is unsurpassed and I love being able to use smart objects to treat pixel graphics almost like vectors.
Profiles allow for a color-managed workflow in pretty much any color space you like and over the years many specialized tools have found their ways into Photoshop, from handling animations to stitching big panoramas to 3D and perspective work.
The plugin model is another part of that ecosystem, with a ton of add-ons available to do virtually anything you can imagine.
But its strengths can also be seen as weaknesses. Photoshop tries to be everything for everyone and its user base is so diverse that it is hard to find a common thread. Illustrators use it, it has its applications in the pre-press processes, it has even medical uses and of course there are the photographers.
Because Photoshop wants to be for everyone, it feels like a big piece of patchwork rather than an integrated application.
There are still a few areas where I tend to resort to Photoshop. These include simple illustrations that use layers and masks, adding text to images, more complex cloning operations, adding transparency and stitching images.
That's pretty much it. I do everything else in Lightroom.
I can only answer that question for myself, and it's pretty much a resounding no at this time. The few uses that Photoshop still has for me are easily covered in the CS4 version that I still own and there are a lot of great alternatives out there that cover a lot of Photoshop's bases.
One of the strongest alternatives on the Mac platform at this point is Pixelmator. In its new 2.0 version it supports layers, layer masks, over 100 file formats, plenty of filters, and even some of Photoshop's "killer features" such as content-aware fill. For €23.99 it's a bargain. Is it a full Photoshop replacement? No, but it covers 95% of what I need as a professional. The one item it doesn't have and that's high on my wish list is 16 bit support, but for most of the things I use it, I can live with that. If that's a must for you, I suggest you have a look at PhotoLine. It's not as pretty, runs on Mac and Windows, and it supports 16 bits and more, for a mere €59.
As a Mac user I can cover most of the remaining 5% with the tools that Mac OS X already has on board and I'd be surprised if Windows didn't have similar things on offer. I use the ColorSync Utility to do color space conversions, which includes converting pictures to CMYK, so they are ready for a printing house. Preview, one of the Mac's most underestimated apps, lets me use any ICC profile to soft proof images. And Image Capture (the second most underestimated OS X app) serves as a great front-end to any scanner.
When I got my MacBook Air with its 128 GB SSD, I went through a long software list to decide what I needed on the road and what I could go without. Lightroom made it onto that list, Final Cut Pro X did, Scrivener too, and even Apple's 4 GB heavyweight XCode development environment.
The one thing that I left off the system was Photoshop.
That was half a year ago. So far I haven't really missed it.
Haven't been up on my soapbox in a while…
I have taught photography to over a thousand of students, among them many really good photographers who often weren't aware why they were great, but I have also been surprised at times as some of the more professional appearing ones weren't even able to do basic things like setting up custom white balance for a specific light situation.
There is a part of me that loves to see all the nifty photo gadgets that brilliant people come up with, but I've also been watching the developmentof the camera landscape with a concerned eye.
There are a lot of automated sub-systems in our cameras. Focus, exposure and white balance are the important ones among quite a few.
But the smarter these systems seem to get, the more decisions they take away from the photographer, the more the photographers lose the ability to make the right decisions.
I've seen this over and over again this year during the workshops.
It's not the photographers' fault of course. The philosophy of the camera manufacturers is quite understandable: take as many of the complicated photography stuff as possible and make the decision (and set the setting) for the photographer. This way many of the less technically inclined people out there can pick up a camera and quickly get results, which will make them happy, and as a result they will buy more cameras.
The big issue with this approach is that even though the automatic systems get it right most of the time, the camera will never be able to know the photographer's intention. How can the camera know that I'm not at all interested in exposing for the face, but instead I want to show a silhouette? How should the camera know that I actually want this shot to be bluish cool and unfriendly instead of giving it a caribbean sunset white balance? And how should the camera be able to anticipate that I deliberately want to blow out the sky in this picture?
The philosophy of me as the photography trainer is substantially different from that of the manufacturer: if you want to tell a story (and let's face it, a good story is usually what makes a good photograph), you need to make the tools that help you tell that story do the right things. The tool in this case is your camera. And making it do the right thing means to know how to make it expose, focus and white balance in exactly the way you want.
And that's a skill set that more and more photographers have either lost, or they never had the incentive to learn.
Relying on the automatisms of the camera and getting it right 80% of the time might be good enough for many photographers.
I want those remaining 20% to be under my control too.
Black and white film has undergone a lot of changes over the years. One of the bigger changes was making it less blind to certain colors.
Yes, less blind. If you look around you, different colored objects will appear to you at different brightnesses, and you might be able to imagine how the scene looks in black and white, simply by translating the brightnesses into grey levels.
And that's how many black and white films work these days. They try to create a black and white picture that reflects the perceived brightness levels that you see with your eyes.
But originally, black and white film would translate colors very differently.
Look at the visual spectrum. It starts right beyond infrared, goes through red, orange, yellow, green, blue to violet and then disappears into ultraviolet. Infrared and ultraviolet are black to our eyes, simply because we don't have the right receptors to see these colors.
Now imagine a black and white film that can see an even narrower range, film that can only see part of the colors. And that's exactly what black and white film did in the old days. It was blind on the red side of the spectrum, so whenever it saw red light, it would register that as black. We call that an orthochromatic film. Only some time after the 1950s did black and white film become more sensitive to other colors. A film that sees the entire visible spectrum is called a panchromatic film.
Here's a snap I took of the same scene, but this time with a digital camera:
Compare the two and you will notice that the black and white film is very sensitive on the blue side, but it almost doesn't have any sensitivity on the red side of the spectrum. Blue renders almost identical to yellow, and green is somewhere in the middle grey area. In the early days of black and white photography photographers had to learn how to see in black and white to get to the picture they envisioned, and still today a lot of films have their characteristic look that's at least partially based on how the different wavelengths are rendered on a scale from black to white.
Back in the day, art went so far that during early black and white film productions, the actors had to wear bright and colorful make-up so that a normal looking black and white image could be achieved. Imagine an actor with green lipstick to avoid the lips from going all black on the film. These early film sets must have looked very colorful.
Yes, I deleted my facebook account. Or at least I'm on the way to. They don't let you delete it right away, they tell you they'll deactivate it for two weeks, just in case you change your mind, we don't want to rush things, do we? And then if within those two weeks you don't log back in, they delete your account. I'm not sure what exactly they delete, if they'll leave pictures up or some other things I wrote, but to be honest, I don'treally care. I just want to send a message out that I'm not on facebook anymore.
Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great people on facebook, a lot of my friends, a lot of my relatives, and so on. I didn't quit facebook because of them. The facebook platform has a lot of value for a lot of people, just not for me at this point. I quit facebook because I never actually used it. All I did was pipe my Twitter messages into facebook. And sometimes, maybe once or twice a month I actually logged in, just to find out that I had a ton of pokes, things on my wall that I didn't want, and a lot of friend requests from strangers.
The facebook concept of mutual friendship doesn't really work for me in the online world, facebook only lets me friend someone when they friend me back. It doesn't scale. Wait... "friend"?! Wrong on so many levels. Where I come from, a friend is someone I like to spend time with. A person that I'd be comfortable enough with to share personal things. I can't really deal with the concept of "friends" as a currency, and that's exactly what facebook does. He who has the most "friends" wins. I'm sorry, you could be the coolest person in the world, but if I don't really know you, why should I call you a friend?
My circle of real friends is small. Maybe a hand full of people who I would call actual real friends. I can ask them anything, I can tell them anything, I can share with them whatever I want. Friends. True friends.
The concept that other platforms use rings much more with me. On Twitter I follow someone because I'm interested in what that person has to say. They don't have to follow me back, they don't even have to know me. On Google+ the circles work in a similar way, with no real expectation of following someone back. If someone posts too much, I can remove them from my circles. If I post stuff that's too much or not relevant to other people, they are free to ignore what I do.
That just makes so much more sense to me.
And no, I haven't done this because Leo Laporte did it in the past. He deleted his account, but he's back on facebook now. I guess because with what he does, he just can't afford not to be there, but I don't have the feeling he particularly likes it. But I remember the feeling that I had when Leo pulled the plug a while ago. When he announced that he had deleted his account my first thought was "You @#$%!$%, doing what I wish I could do." I had wanted to do that for quite a while. And I didn't have the guts to do it back then. Lots of "friends" and connections, a network holding me back. But the simple fact is that I never really used that network. I had an account there because I had the feeling that I had to.
Group shot, Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
Large format photography has the potential to seriously mess with ones mind. The photographer's mind and that of the audience.
For a photographer it is still the most affordable way to get spectacular resolution. The camera movements allow for compositional freedom beyond anything that ispossible in smaller formats. Due to their simpler and much more symmetrical design, the image quality of the lenses is generally superb. And last but not least, the different workflow and the more thorough approach to each individual photograph generally make for more thought-out pictures.
The audience reaction to large format pictures is often a different one than to 35mm photography. Due to the higher resolution, the pictures will typically have more detail, which oddly enough tends to be true even when downsized to web resolutions. The large size of the medium (4x5" and higher) results in a very different look and depth of field. And the typical lack of falling lines tends to give even very busy pictures an amount of structure and a tidy appearance that is hard to achieve with smaller formats.
My typical reaction to the higher resolutions used to be: "meh". My impression was that at the sizes typically used on the web, it wouldn't make any difference if the picture was shot with a DSLR or if it was taken with a large format camera.
After having immersed myself in large format photography for a while now, I had to change my previous "meh" into a "HOWLY COW" though. The amount of perceived detail even at smaller resolutions tends to be spectacular.
I should have known about the detail thing from the video side of things though. A very similar effect happens when you downsize HD video footage (1920 x 1080) to SD resolution (544 × 480). The amount of perceived detail is just a lot higher than with native SD footage.
Here's my audio engineer's look at it: sound recordings are often made at a much higher bit-depth (24 bits) and higher resolution (96 kHz) than the resulting CD will ever have (16 bits / 44.1 kHz). Why? Higher perceived resolution, even at the final down-sampled stage.
My next step is to print one of these pictures at 25x50" to see the ACTUAL detail. Zooming in to tiny portions of an image to see them at a 100% pixel resolution on your screen just isn't the same.
By the way, here's a little detail from the above shot:
Group Shot (detail), Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
What's the largest print you've ever made?
Man muss analoge Bilder auf die Schatten belichten, die Lichter finden sich dann schon von alleine. Solches hört man immer wieder, und es ist schon ein Stück weit berechtig, speziell wenn man sich im Bereich der "guten" und "normalen" Belichtung befindet.
Die wirklich spannenden Bilder finden sich allerdings oft in den Extremen.
Was, wenn man sich an die Enden heran pirscht, an die Bereiche ganz im dunkeln oder im hellen? Bereiche, die sich an anderen Stellen auch gerne mal "Zone 2" oder "Zone 9" schimpfen. Bereiche, die man als guter Fotograf gefälligst mit einem Reflektor oder einem Blitz aufzuhellen hat?
Dort begibt sich so mancher Fotograf dann in derart unbekanntere Gefilde, dass er sich nicht mehr so ganz auf die Dinge verlassen mag, die er viele Jahre lang gelernt und praktiziert hat.
Ist Schattenzeichnung wirklich so wichtig? Darf man nicht doch diese Ungewissheit ins Bild legen, die dem Betrachter Spielraum zur Erforschung gibt?
Von 15.-17. Juli 2011 halten wir in Braunschweig einen Doppelworkshop gemeinsam mit Spürsinn zu den Themen Fotografie am Ende des Lichts und Entwicklung am Ende des Lichts, in dem wir uns ganz analog und mit viel Spielfreude in die Extreme begeben.
Die dunkle Ecke im Keller, in der sich die Monster verstecken, mag beängstigen...
...spannend ist sie allemal.
WOW. WOW. WOW. Is this really true? Chris, you've stuck to this for five and three quarter years, you've done it more than once a week, and you have released five hundred episodes of Tips from the Top Floor.
Okay, that's not really true. Matt has released them, put them up on the feed and kept the tfttf blog that hosts the show in good shape. I have only produced them. But thinking about it, even that is not entirely true. There were a few episodes that were produced by the community.
I think what I want to say isthat Tips from the Top Floor wouldn't be anything without the people who listen to the show, the people who are subscribed, the people who send in questions and comments and feedback and show openers. Chances are you are one of them. If not, what are you waiting for?
Five hundred episodes. This show has really changed my life. It has changed a lot of other things too. Over and over has it given me a reason to do research, to try out things, to immerse myself in photography, to read about other photographers, to surround myself with things photography, to lead a photographic life. Without Tips from the Top Floor it wouldn't have happened like this.
Five hundred episodes. This show is one of the things in my life that I have stuck to longest. Tips from the Top Floor is my way of giving myself a kick in the butt and do something. It's my therapy against procrastination.
Five hundred episodes. This show has been an enabler for me on so many levels. It has allowed me to find an audience and this audience has made it possible for me to travel to interesting places, meet great people, hold workshops, and do what I love to do (which includes talking lots ;))
Five hundred episodes. This show has allowed me to see places that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. It got me on a train ride through Switzerland, right in front with the train driver. It has allowed me to hike up to 18,500 feet. It has even made me run into an electric fence. And a cactus. On air. Ouch.
Five hundred episodes. Above all, doing this has allowed me to meet so many great people, to make friends with so many of you all over the planet. Whenever I meet people who tell me that they've listened to me for years, and that they have pursued a career in photography because of Tips from the Top Floor or even just that they appreciate what I do, then I know why I'm kicking myself in the butt every week to do another show.
You are the absolutely awesomnest audience and friends that anyone could wish for!
Thanks for everything.
This one is about the lizard brain and how it gets in the way of shipping stuff.
With shipping Seth meansabout anything that you produce, anything that gets out there and that can be criticized. By you, by others. It goes even beyond that, but we'll stick with this for the sake of this article.
Several years ago I underwent an important transition. I began to allow myself to not be perfect. To ship stuff that my lizard brain would've not be happy about. This lead to a lot of good things. I got more practice in shipping stuff and thus got better at it. With practice I became better at judging when things were ready enough to be shipped. And as a result I gained more experience in dealing with the things that frightened me.
I learned that people will accept it even if it's not perfect. People will even appreciate to see that you are a human being with flaws like theirs. You will not be ripped to pieces when making a mistake. As long as you own up to it and fix it.
Case in point: Today I got an email from my friend Andres in Argentina. He has an old iPod touch that is caught in iOS 3.1.3. No update possible. I though it was a good choice to release PocketChris Advanced with a minimum requirement of iOS 4.0. What I didn't account for was that iTunes on a computer will allow you to download any version of an app, no matter if your device supports it or not.
So here's a case where people potentially can spend a couple of bucks on something and then find out they won't be able to use it. Not a lot of people, but still too many.
Instead of spending a lot of time trying to think up each and every corner case that might happen, and in the process losing a lot of time, I decided to take a decision that felt right and go with it. As a result we now have a problem. But we also have an app out there that works for 99% of iOS device owners out there.
A quick conversation with Johannes who does the software dev on PocketChris and I knew we had a way to fix it.
So the fix is now in the app store, PocketChris Advanced Photography will be available on devices as low as iOS 3.1 and we'll work around the potential issues with that inside the app.
So there, lizard brain!
I've been taking pictures since I was a little kid. I've been working professionally for five years. And only now is my camera disappearing.
What I mean is that while working, I can see in my mind's eye quite accurately what frames are possible with the given conditions. I can envision composition, perspective, contrast, depth of field, and metering pretty well. I'm pretty sure it's by virtue of hours and hours and hours of practice with 35mm.
Now I don't think about the camera. I just dial in and shoot. Look at the scene, see the images in my head, and grab them. I might snag a glance at histogram every now and then to confirm myself, but no more of the LCD chimping that slowed me down for so long. (except when I shoot film)
Am I crazy?