Design is how it looks. Design is how it works. And design is how it feels. These three form a unit and it's very hard to look at them individually.
In the end, how something feels, will always be a function of the recipient. In my personal library I have music that calms me down and makes me happy. And I know there are people who get infuriated by this same music.
It's all about emotion. The trick is to make conscious what evokes that emotion.
Cultural and personal background will always play into our experiences. Whether we discuss questions of spacing between visual elements, or thickness of lines, or if harmonies and rhythms in music feel right or wrong, we will always have to consider those feelings with our enormous shared and individual baggage of life-long cultural and personal experience and conditioning as a backdrop.
I'm a musician. I'm a photographer. I'm a graphic designer.
I see so many analogies between these fields, it's not even funny.
Let's for a moment explore space and color. And harmony.
In music and photography, space is a very important concept. Where we put something in a frame, how it relates to the rest of the frame, how a note is placed in a song and how long the rests around it are, is an important factor in evoking a certain emotional reaction.
Consider a clear and simple photograph: a uniform background, one subject.
You can place the subject bang in the middle, you can take it slightly off-center, or you can put it right next to the edge. Now look at the distance the subject has to the edge of the frame. Any one of those will evoke a different reaction in a viewer.
Ask any number of people how those pictures feel to them and you'll get any number of answers, from just perfect to cramped to boring to edgy. In the end it's highly individual and it comes down to the patterns in our brains that we match these pictures to. Patterns that have been etched into us for our entire lifetime through our every-day experiences with the design around us. And yes, taking a picture, placing things in a frame is an act of design, the same way a musical composition is.
Way too edgy?
What I'm trying to say is this: not everybody will be drawn to the same picture. But if I could venture a wild guess, I'd say the majority would go with the Balanced one above. It is probably the one of the bunch that is most mass-compatible. It more or less follows the good old rule of thirds, which puts a bit of tension into the composition without over-stretching things. It takes the subject out of the boring middle and places it in an area of the picture that is a bit more daring, but still feels safe enough and is not too far into the unkonwn, i.e. the edge.
The reason we feel that way has to do with tension. And what we perceive as tension is mainly due do what we're surrounded with every day. How far to the edge is safe? Open any book and check how close the print goes to the edge of the page.
Air to breathe
There is always that safe zone that frames the text on the page. A handle to hold onto. Air to breathe. Enough space for the eye to stop at the end of the line and not fall into the void, off of the edge of the world.
Magazine cover playing it safe
The same is true for a more conservative magazine cover. Space gives the subject a frame to comfortably sit in. It's like an old pair of shoes, it's comfy.
And if you break that, if you venture too far into the unknown, you sacrifice balance, you take the safe rug that's under the feet of the viewer and tug at it.
This creates a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of tension.
And the very same is true for the iOS 7 icons. They leave the seemingly safe harbor of previous designs and they become more edgy in the true sense of the word. The new grid emphasizes that. Be bold! Get closer to the unknown! Create more tension!
… all while staying in the confounds of a common framework, the grid.
Clock - pretty safe
App Store - a bit more edgy
iTunes Store - using the color scheme to mix it up even further
And if going closer to the edge wasn't enough, Apple also decided to get more edgy with their color scheme. And that is even more of a cultural pattern that we either know and click with, or that is foreign to us and thus creates tension. Simply because we don't have a reference ready at hand.
Let me give you an example: I'm German. The dashboard of most cars in Germany are black or grey. I travel a lot to the US. When I pick up a US rental car, what strikes me every single time is that its dashboard and most of the interior will be brown, beige or any other earthy tone. It strikes me because that's far outside of my normal experience. On the surface I could say I don't like it, but if I dig deeper, I have to admit that that feeling mostly derives from it being unknown and I'm simply not used to it and that creates tension. I haven't been exposed to it long enough for my brain to create the structures that turn it from an unknown into a potentially more comfortable known. But then even after having developed those neuronal pathways, I might still not like it for other reasons.
Just one potential reason: the color brown has very different connotations to different cultures - no matter if that's conscious or sub-conscious.
I prefer to turn the things that evoke these emotions into conscious ones.
The same is true with music by the way. When I listen to the title track of Some Skunk Funk by the Brecker Brothers (iTunes link), I experience waves of positive emotions. I find this music inspiring, it tickles me in very rewarding ways, it brings me a form of harmony. And I'm positive that the majority of people will hate it because it's too edgy, lacks harmony, is not balanced in their eyes and ears. It's clearly not mainstream.
And there were times when I would've thought exactly the same. Until I started to be exposed to more edgy music by others and expose myself more and more to it. Over time I started liking this type of music more and more, without losing my ability to also like There Must Be an Angel by the Eurythmics (iTunes link). I like to think that over time I've added neuronal pathways to my existing ones and gained the ability to enjoy a wider variety of music.
There are many more analogies I could draw between music, photography and graphic design but that would overburden this little blog post. Maybe I need to write a book one day.
Back to Apple and the iOS7 icons. What's with the grid that so many claim is too big? What's with the color scheme that so many don't seem to like?
I don't believe that these designs happened by accident, that they "slipped through". Not at a company that has one of the best design teams in the world and billions of cash in the bank. I bet an arm and a leg that they know really really well what they're doing in this respect, especially now that Jony Ive has the last word on both, hardware and UI design.
Here is my interpretation: the iPhone hardware is virtually invisible once you start interacting with the content on your device. And iOS has become very very comfy over the years. At this point it has also become the most copied design in this field. By shaking it up with a more playful, more colorful, less balanced and more edgy design, Apple achieves several things at once. It brings a freshness and lightness to the game that iOS hasn't had in a long time. It creates contrast between the subdued hardware and the user interface. It attracts a younger customer base (including those who are young at heart, ahem). It gives owners of existing iPhones the feeling of getting a new device for free, thus implicitly building trust.
And last but not least, it's a major kick in the bollocks of all the copycats, namely Samsung.
Apple has often taken a plunge, leaving old things behind, cutting ties to the past. Has it always worked? No. But usually when it has, it has worked really well.
iOS 7's new icons are a bit of a gamble. Will the new shoes fit? Not for everyone and not at first. But like a new pair of shoes, it will stretch over time, Apple will adapt things, and we ourselves will stretch a bit too. And at a point in the future not too far from today - and I'm actually willing to bet on this - the vast majority of us will look back at screenshots of the pre-7 iOS and wonder how we could have ever favored such an old-fashioned and dated design.
Either that or Apple is doomed.
Chris Marquardt is a photographic mythbuster and the host of Tips from the Top Floor, the world's longest running photography show. He has taught photography all over the world. He is also a guest on the TWiT Network every now and then.
für den Umzug meines Studios habe ich für drei Tage einen Transporter bei dir gemietet. Bekommen habe ich einen Mercedes Vito XL, ein gutes, sauberes Gefährt, mit genügend Platz für meine Ansprüche. Und trotzdem überlege ich mir nun ernsthaft, nächstes mal doch lieber wieder zur Konkurrenz gehen.
Warum? Schauen wir uns das mal etwas genauer an.
Ich habe genau das erhalten, was ich gebucht habe. Auf der Website stand Mercedes Vito XL und genau den habe ich in deiner Hannoveraner Niederlassung auch erhalten. Bravo, STARCAR. Bei den anderen Vermietern steht in der Regel das Top-Fahrzeug der entsprechenden Klasse auf der Website und im Kleingedruckten findet man dann Fahrzeug ähnlich. Und vor Ort bekommt man dann ein ganz anderes Fahrzeug. (So eben erst in Irland geschehen. Bei der Konkurrenz einen Golf (oder ähnlich) gebucht und einen Opel Astra bekommen). Bei Dir steht das zwar auch so auf der Website, aber das Resultat war deutlich besser. Das war eine gute Erfahrung.
Ich ärgere mich immer darüber, wenn Kosten nicht transparent aufgelistet werden. Dazu gehören in deinem Fall die Versicherung und eine (später zu erstattende) Kaution. Im konkreten Fall sind das für die drei Tage knapp 50 Euro Versicherung und eine Kaution von 50 Euro. Beim Online-Reservierungsprozess hast du mir davon natürlich nichts erzählt. Oder wenn, dann nur im Kleinstgedruckten. Beim Abschluss in deiner STARCAR-Filiale fand ich dann plötzlich beide auf der Rechnung. Nun bin ich weder blauäugig, noch ist dies das erste mal, dass ich ein Auto gemietet habe. Trotzdem wurde mir hier beim Buchen ein günstigeres Angebot vorgespielt. Und das ist so nicht in Ordnung. Dafür bekommst Du einen dicken Minuspunkt.
Kommen wir jetzt zum saftigsten Stück, dem eigentlichen Vorgang des Vertragsabschlusses. Und der hat bei mir einen ernsthaftes Grübeln und ein sehr gemischtes Gefühl hinterlassen.
Konkret: nach dem ich online reserviert hatte und keine Bestätigung kam, hatte ich telefonisch nachgefragt, ob das Fahrzeug verfügbar sei. Nachdem mir das zugesagt wurde, habe ich nicht länger auf eine schriftliche Bestätigung gewartet. Diese fand ich heute in meinem Spam-Ordner, was schade ist und von deiner Seite aus vermeidbar gewesen wäre. Sag doch bitte deiner Technik, sie sollen sich mal in die Themen DomainKeys und SPF einlesen.
Auf den folgenden (hier sinngemäß wiedergegebenen) Austausch mit deinem Mitarbeiter hätte ich jedenfalls gerne verzichtet.
Ich lege Führerschein, Pass und Kreditkarte vor.
STARCAR-Mitarbeiter: "Ich brauche dann noch ihren Personalausweis."
Ich: "Habe ich nicht dabei, geht auch was anderes?"
Er seufzt: "Ich brauche ein Dokument mit ihrem Wohnsitz."
Ich: "Warum das denn?"
Er: "Das brauchen wir. Ohne vermieten wir nicht." Dann seufzt er wieder und fügt hinzu: "AUSNAHMSWEISE geht auch ein Fahrzeugschein."
Ich: "Moment, hole ich kurz aus dem Auto."
Ich hole den Fahrzeugschein und lege ihm den vor.
Er: "Da steht aber keine Hannoveraner Adresse drauf."
Ich: "Ich bin mitten im Umzug. Mein Auto habe ich deshalb noch nicht umgemeldet."
Er (untermalt mit einem weiteren Seufzer): "Na ja, AUSNAHMSWEISE."
Moment mal, STARCAR. Ist dir eigentlich klar, wie sich der Kunde nach so etwas fühlt? Ich darf also eigentlich nur bei Dir mieten, wenn ich den Wohnsitz da habe, wo sich deine Niederlassung befindet? Und dann darf ich AUSNAHMSWEISE doch buchen, weil du so gnädig bist? Ich darf also dank der Güte deiner Mitarbeiter, und obwohl ich offensichtlich so viele Fehler gemacht habe und obwohl ich nicht da wohne, wo es dir passt, trotzdem mein Geld über deinen Tresen schieben? Und muss noch dankbar dafür sein?
Irgend was habe ich da wohl nicht verstanden. Eigentlich dachte ich, die Rollenverteilung sieht folgendermaßen aus: Ich bin Kunde. Du bist Dienstleister. Ich gebe dir Geld. Du vermietest mir dafür ein Auto. Du freust dich, dass ich bei dir miete und nicht zu Sixt gehe. Und du zeigst mir diese Freude z.B. in Form guter Behandlung und zuvorkommender Mitarbeiter, die mich wie einen Kunden behandeln und nicht wie einen Bittsteller.
Ohne mich gibt es dich nicht.
Ohne dich gehe ich zum nächsten Anbieter.
Ich habe Alternativen.
Die oben wiedergegebene Interaktion mit deinem Mitarbeiter hat bei mir jedenfalls einen dermaßen öden Geschmack hinterlassen, dass ich das nächste Mal wohl lieber wieder zu Hertz, Sixt oder einem anderen der Großen gehe. Da ist vielleicht auch nicht alles golden, aber so etwas wie bei dir ist mir dort in all den Jahren zumindest noch nicht passiert. Und teurer sind die anderen auch nicht.
Ach ja, und Danke Danke Danke (mit Kniefall und Kuss auf die Füße), dass ich meine 50 Euro Kaution wieder zurück bekommen habe.
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,
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.
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
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.
Back in early March, when Adobe released Lightroom 4, they introduced a nasty bug that would kill people's custom tone curve adjustment after the upgrade from LR3. As I use tone curve adjustments all the time, this bug hit me especially hard, which is why I became very vocal about it very quickly.
It is now May, about two months after the initial Lightroom 4 release.
What has changed in those two months? Unfortunately not a lot. Has Adobe delivered an updated version that fixes the issue? Not really. Adobe acknowledged that the bug exists, they released Lightroom 4.1 RC1, a release candidate that apparently fixed the issue, then they released Lightroom 4.1 RC2, the second release candidate added new features (32bit HDR TIFF support, better color fringing controls).
The one thing that everybody expected from Adobe and that has not happened though: Adobe did not release an official 4.1 version yet. They had two months for it. Instead they decided to add new features. Also, over the last two months, photographers who paid for Lightroom 4 and wanted to use it for the new features, had to make do with half-tested pre-release software (yes, pre-release, that's what a "release candidate" is).
Not just that, but the first 4.1 release candidate introduced new bugs, including that publishing to Flickr doesn't work anymore (which, they claim, is fixed in RC2)
Adobe?! What is going on? Did you decide to abandon in-house quality assurance and instead rely entirely on end user beta testing? Is introducing new features more important than providing a stable and working version 4.1? This all leaves an uneasy aftertaste with me.
Adobe, when can your users who already paid for the software two months ago expect a working release?
I've got a challenge: I have several DTS 5.1 audio CDs. It's a format that isn't too common, but I have them and they have surround audio on them. Note: they are CDs, not DVDs. That's an important detail.
I want to make digital copies of the CDs onto my hard drive. On my Mac and that turns out to be by far not as easy as it seems.
My first idea was to create disk images. Disk Utility doesn't create images of audio CDs. Next try.
VLC was the next thing I went for. Partial success here, it can transcode the CD to 6-channel WAV, but VLC won't let me do individual tracks, or at least I haven't found out how to do it. My tries ended in VLC doing all the tacks and pipe them into a single file, overwriting it with the next track, then with the next track, to end up with one WAV file that contains the last track of the CD.
Also VLC apparently doesn't read the track names (which I assume are on the CD). Instead I get Track 1, Track 2, …
All it seems is that I need to find a a way to rip those CDs to 6-channel WAVs using VLC and being able to batch this somehow. I haven't found that way just yet. I'm using VLC 1.1.12 on Lion.
*SIGH* … I had that a lot in my former life as a sys admin. After having tried 100 things, it sucks to be told you should contact your sys admin.
So I asked on Twitter.
Which is probably the wrong place to go to for things like this in the first place. Everyone is very sweet and wants to help, so they google this for me despite me telling them that I've already done so. Problem is, they google based on my 140 character question or come back with assumptions based on that limited knowledge, while I've already done the googling with the knowledge what I'm looking for. And I know my Google abilities. I believe they are quite good.
So while I'm thankful for people trying to help me, I get incredibly frustrated because Twitter is the wrong medium. The only reason I'm still using it for this is because it is very fast and I don't want to wait for a few days until someone in a newsgroup or on a forum answers my question.
I guess I'll have to keep on searching...
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.
I write. Articles, chapters for PocketChris, notes for podcasts. A lot of this writing needs to be managed, some chapters for PocketChris are in draft, some in review, some at the editor, some ready for testing. It has a tendency to turn into a real mess.
Things have been a lot easier since I found Scrivener. It helps me structure the work and it helps me track status. It helps me output my work into a clean format. It is not a word processor, it'sa writing tool.
There's just one thing that keeps bugging me, one thing that I keep tripping over again and again, several times a day, and it happens while I'm not even using the application.
It's the icon.
Or rather a side-effect of it. It's not that I don't like it. This is about the way it interacts with the OSX dock.
The dock has been designed among other things to give you one important piece of information at a glance: if an application is running or not. For a while now, OSX has been doing that by placing a bright dot below the icon.
Here's the Lightroom icon with the app not running:
And here it is while Lightroom is on.
Here is the Scrivener icon with the application not running:
And here it is with Scrivener running:
Do you see the difference? The reflection of the white dot/apostrophe/comma of the Scrivener icon almost looks like the dot OSX adds when the app is running. The placement of the reflection is almost exactly where the dot is. And it's bright enough that almost every time I look at the dock I do a double take to see if Scrivener is running or not.
It's a minor thing. It's small. It's really not important. Most people will never notice it.
It drives me nuts.
(I still love you Scrivener)
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!
Update: There is an audio version of this blog entry available now.
It's not the camera, it's the photographer, dummy!
Or is it?
This is not a blog post about analog vs. digital! I still love to stir when discussions around this boil up, especially as I see myself rooted in both camps. Whoever is trying to pry a wedge in between analog and digital is trying topry it right through my middle.
And I really don't like to be wedged into two pieces.
Jest aside, I think I have always been something of a wanderer between the worlds. Having spent almost two decades firmly rooted in the analog 35mm world, the step into digital was like a breath of fresh air. Finally the speed I wanted. Fast results. During the early years technically sub par, but catching up to the analog side pretty quickly.
I'm probably going to be beat up for this by a many of the data sheet lovers, but in my book, today's digital photography is fast, clean, reproducible, reliable, sharp, unerring, accurate and precise, whereas analog photography is unprecise, moody, messy, slow, unreliable and error prone.
Despite all this, I have rediscovered the analog world and embraced it wholeheartedly for reasons that I have elaborated many times over the last months, on Tips from the Top Floor, here on this blog, on Twitter and on many of the workshops.
But this post is not about analog vs. digital. Did I mention I don't like building camps? It is about learning new things about photography, about understanding them and in the process about why I'm adapting one of my most important pieces of advice.
In the past you could often hear me say "It's not the camera, it's the photographer!" and in general this still holds true. If you are a real photographer, the camera you use will usually be an afterthought. You will likely be able to adapt your working style with a given tool to get close to your envisioned result.
Shakespeare could certainly write with all sorts of different utensils. But I'm pretty sure even he had a favorite quill or two. Maybe he even used different tools to write different kinds of things? (I know I'm on thin ice here, Shakespeare connoisseurs. Help a brother out in the comments please!)
As a photographer it is your vision that counts and based on what you wish to create, and what circumstances you work under, you will either make your existing tool work as good as possible, or you will choose your weapon based on what you need.
And this is where I admit, my It's the photographer, not the camera! starts to crumble a bit. I adopted it while still being rooted in the 35mm world. I simply hadn't seen enough other things yet.
Now that I have explored both dry and wet photography (e.g. digital and analog), and almost every format from the small 18x18mm to the large 4x5", with over fifteen different cameras with different technologies, dating from 1926 until today, I must admit that the differences between these cameras really do influence my photography.
It starts with something as simple as the aspect ratio . The 3:2 ratio of the DSLR feels very different from the 1:1 ratio that a 6x6 medium format camera delivers. 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, ... they all speak different visual languages and they all reflect back into how you compose images.
Some of them will only let you focus by the distance scale on the lens. Auto focus? Pah. Rangefinder? Not really. Just a scale in feet. You do the best guesswork you can, or you measure it out. The result: not really always that well in focus. It slows you down, it makes you take more time to get the picture right. It trains your inner eye, because you have to work that grey matter to visualize what the resulting image might be.
Different film sizes will influence your choice of focal lengths, which in turn will influence the depth of field you get. Another reason to choose the right tool for the right job. Traditional portraiture with a 1/4" sensor might be on the difficult side. Or if your vision requires everything to be in focus, it might be the perfect tool for the job.
Then the sound. Some cameras are in your face, with massive mirror slap and a sound that reminds more of a gun than of a camera, some of them are very shy and contained so that you won't even know if that click was the shutter going off. When shooting portraits, this can make a huge difference for the subject. For some people the loud ka-lunk of a Mamiya 645 is exactly what they need, whereas other subjects will appreciate the subtle sound (and size) of a Leica rangefinder (not that I'd have one).
Some cameras are heavy beasts to carry around, look at the Pentax 6x7 for example. Give it a decent lens and a pair of hand grips and the Nikon D700 will look small in comparison. Size will influence how you work with a camera. Sometimes size will dictate how you handle the film you have with you. Monika for example took her Pentax 6x7 to some indoor locations the other day. Due to the lack of high-speed material, and due to her unwillingness to carry a tripod, she decided to shoot Kodak Tri-X at ISO 1600 and attempt a push development, something a lot of people claim cannot be done with good results. I think her results are stunning! (here's an article she wrote in German with some pictures)
Even though my entire analog camera collection together has cost me less than a single full DSLR outfit with a hand full of lenses, I admit that having some fifteen different cameras to work with is probably not the reality most of the readers of this blog find themselves in. So I won't suggest that you go out to build that collection. What I suggest though is that you start building some awareness of what types of photography the camera you have leads itself to and how that in turn influences how you approach photography in general.
It's a journey.
If you have photography friends, why not swap equipment for a weekend to experience what kind of changes working with a different tool might introduce to your way of working. By the way, photo workshops (shameless plug, I know I know) are a great opportunity for that too.
What is your way of keeping things fresh and not get too comfortable in those old worn-out shoes?
Anlass für diesen Post war ein kleiner Sonntags-Twitter-"Rant", und der erwuchs mir über das Unverständnis gegenüber diversen Menschen, die das mit dem Lernen anscheinend nicht ganz verstanden haben.
Das geht nämlich so: am Anfang steht der Spaß und das Spiel. Denn nur so kann echte Begeisterung für ein Thema entstehen. Ich kenne niemanden, der durch das Lernen der Grundlagen über Blende, Belichtung und Brennweite eine echte Begeisterung für das Thema Fotografie entwickelt hätte.
Die Begeisterung entsteht dadurch, dass man das Medium spielerisch erfährt und begreift. Im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes be-greift. Mit den Händen. Ein Bild macht. Es möglichst auch noch ausdruckt und in Händen hält. Das selber machen ist hier ganz wichtig. Hat zufällig heute noch jemand irgendwas im Regal stehen, was er als Kind getöpfert hat? Wenn nicht, dann doch mindestens eine starke Erinnerung. Die hat was mit anfassen und machen zu tun. Das digitale und rein virtuelle Bild steht hier klar hinten an.
Aber hier soll es ja nicht um analoge Fotografie gehen. Hier geht es um etwas gaaanz anderes. *hüstel*
Also, die Kette geht weiter. Spaß und Spiel wecken den Wissensdurst, und so will der Mensch plötzlich an die Informationen, die ihn an anderer Stelle so nie interessiert hätten.
Und aus dieser Information wird dann durch Wiederholung schließlich Wissen. Wissen ist nicht Information. Verwechseln viele.
Immer im Vordergrund steht der Wunsch nach mehr Tiefe. Aber nur wenn dieser Wunsch durch den Spaß in die Welt kommt, wird echtes Verstehen daraus.
Und jetzt sind wir bei diesen Menschen angelangt, die etwas, was sie verstanden haben, in etwas anderes übertragen können. Menschen, die mit ihrem Wissen neues machen. Nicht da gewesenes. Menschen, die eines mit dem anderen kombinieren. Und am Ende entsteht etwas.
Das nennt man dann Kreativität. Und die erzeugt wieder Spaß und eine ganz tiefe Zufriedenheit.
Und so schließt sich der Kreis.
Schönen Sonntag noch :)
(this one's in German only, sorry)
Diese Keynote ist schon drei Jahre alt, trotzdem immer noch voller Wahrheiten. An sich traurig, aber erklärt sehr gut, warum ich Fernsehverweigerer bin. Definitiv hörenswert.
Zwei Minuten über die Intro hinwegspulen, dann ein Stündchen lang immer wieder nicken und vielleicht sogar Konsequenzen ziehen. Besser ist die Situation in den letzten drei Jahren nicht wirklich geworden, oder?
There's a really fun development going on here, and I love it. I always wanted to blog more, and now I'm doing it.
If you follow this blog, you'll know that I've been blogging more and more lately. And I can clearly see why this is happening.
Reason #1: I'm in writing mode
I've been spending so much time writing for PocketChris lately, that my brain has started developing new synapses, re-wiring parts of itself into writing mode. It's getting easier and easier to quickly jot something down, to put an idea in writing without having to think lots about it.
Reason #2: I realized that shorter ideas are okay too
There was this time when I thought a blog entry that I wrote needed to have an earth-shattering idea in it, something fundamentally big. That's just not true. I came to realize that sometimes things that I find mind-boggling areboring for others and vice versa. So it's easier for me to pick up a thought that I simply find interesting and write about it.
Reason #3: The blog content is not taking away from other content
For some reason I was always afraid that using something here would kind of render it invalid to use in other places, such as the podcasts. I now know that that's BS. Rather the opposite. By writing about something, I will think more about it, get a clearer picture about it, and be able to talk better about it. So in addition to being my soapbox, this blog has also to a certain extent turned into a bit of a testing facility for ideas that might later show up on the podcasts or in other venues.
Reason #4: The right tools make it easier
I use MarsEdit to blog. It's an offline blog editor that interfaces with Wordpress, Blogger, and lots more. It allows me to write anywhere without having to be connected to the net. It allows me to prepare multiple entries in advance, or work on several posts side by side, adding information here and there (even though 90% of my posts get written and posted on the spot). I also got myself a Macbook Air 11" and it's a tiny, lightweight, unexpectedly snappy and powerful miracle. Blogging is just one of the many things this little wonder machine does with flying colors. Compiling PocketChris on the road is another one.
For a long time I've been trying to find out what makes me so mad about posts in my Twitter timeline that say "I'm at somethingsomething http://4sq.com/somethingsomething"
I follow a lot of real people, I love interacting with real people and I'm grateful that so many real people follow me. Fact is though, that these types of post make me so mad, that a while ago I have started unfollowing these people, unless there is a very compelling reason why I want them in my timeline.
After diggin deeper I think I've got it. Twitter in essence replicates a big cocktail party for me. You stand in little groups, you chat about stuff, you exchange information, you ask questions, then you hop over to a different group, do the same, then someone may do something hilarious and everyone gives them attention, then the groups go back to chatting about what they were chatting about.
It's an inhererntly human thing. Humans interacting. Real humans interacting with real humans. Any sort of automatism feels like all of a sudden a bad copy of Eliza rolls into the room on little squeaky wheels and starts spamming you with invitations to other parties in another house, maybe even in another city.
It's just wrong.
I pride myself in hand-posting each and everything that I send to Twitter. Even those posts that link to my blog. Or those that link to fun stories. I read, I find the stories, I write a short blurb, I shorten the link, then I manually press send and it goes out.
There is a fundamental difference here.
The same is also true for those who have their blogs auto post to Twitter. It's turning Twitter into an automated spam hell. And I don't like this. Manual spam I can live with to a certain extent. At least someone has put some human effort in it.
Can I distinguish the two? Sometimes I can't, but where I clearly can, I usually hit the unfollow button. Sorry foursquare, your model just doesn't ring with me. Sorry foursquare users, it's nothing personal, it just doesn't work for me at all this way.
Picture by chotda on flickr
Man is it SOAPBOX time again today. Hold tight. Lean back. Get the popcorn out.
This story was handed to me by a friend. Let's call him Thomas. Thomas lives in Germany.
Thomas recently got a recommendation by another friend of mine (let's call him Michael) to check out the work of a Science Fiction author (let's call her Sue). "If you're a fan of Heinlein, Gaiman and Gibson, you've GOT to read her books, she's excellent! A real discovery!"
Being the modern guy he is, Thomas got online to buy one of her books. The original English version, not the German translation. Not as a hardcopy, but as an eBook.
With the iPad on the horizon (first deliveries in Germany will start in about a week) he also wanted to future-proof his investment. Buy it now, start reading on the iPhone, continue reading on the iPad as soon as it arrives. Sounded like a plan.
Apples iBooks app and iBookstore aren't an option here in Germany yet, so he looked into Kindle. Turned out the book in question wasn't available in the German Kindle bookstore. Bummer.
Next stop Stanza. Yes, it's not available as a native iPad app just yet, but with the Kindle app having made it to the iPad, there is a chance that Stanza will be allowed in too. So Thomas installed Stanza on his iPhone, fired up the built-in book search and lo and behold, there was the book in question, available on the BooksOnBoard store right from within Stanza. For $12.72. He hit the "Buy" button, was transferred to the BooksOnBoard web store in Safari, he registered an account with BooksOnboard, diligently filled in all his information, got to the book page, put it in the shopping cart, clicked the check out button in anticipation, and ...
"This title is not allowed for sale within your country. Item failed to add to cart! Please close this window and try again."
OUCH. BIG OUCH.
After some more research Thomas had to learn that it seemed impossible to legally buy the book in question as an English version in Germany in any eBook format.
Thomas was ready to spend $12.72 of his hard earned money for this eBook. He happily wanted to throw money at an online store (e.g. the entire chain: the shop owner, the publisher, the author, and even the government if you take taxes into account). But for some very stupid reason he wasn't allowed to. What's wrong with this picture? Everything!
And this is where Thomas had it. He wanted the book. "If they don't want my money, I'm savvy enough to get a hold of this eBook in another way."
20 minutes later he not only had a copy of this one eBook on his hard drive, but about 500 others too. Five friggin hundred. Why? Because he couldn't find the book on its own on BitTorrent, but instead had to download it as part of a ridiculously large Science Fiction book collection.
Just to make it clear: this download was not a paid download. At this point let me add a quick word about BitTorrent: No, not everything on there is illegal. By far not. BitTorrent is first of all a great technology. The telephone is a great technology too, and I don't even want to start thinking about the amount and kind of illegal activities that the telephone is being used for at this very moment...
Back to the story:
Let's do the math. Thomas was ready to pay $12.72 to BooksOnBoard, and I'm sure they would have loved to take the money and give him the book. Instead he now had 500 not-quite-so-legal eBooks sitting on his hard disk. Assuming the same price, those books summed up to over $6000 in lost sales potential.
Book industry? Government? Authors? Collecting Societies? I don't really care who's fault this is, but are you reading this? Instead of losing a sale of $12.72 you have just lost the potential to make $6000. If Thomas wasn't such an honest soul, that lost potential could have easily multiplied many times. "Look what I just downloaded, let me send you a copy..."
Imagine the amount of people searching for (not necessarily legal) ways to get a hold of digital goods, that they cannot get otherwise for ridiculously stupid reasons.
PS: Honest soul that he is, Thomas of course deleted the 499 eBooks that he had to download to get to this one book. And he hasn't shared the downloaded copy with anyone. Not even with me. He's now trying to find out if there is a way to send Sue a donation, because he loved her book so much that he wants to give her something in return. Which will probably be way more than what she would have earned if he had bought it the "normal" way.
What is your take on this?
Okay, so I record an MP3 for the Daily Photo Tips With Chris podcast using VR+ (my favorite voice recording app on the iPhone) and send it off via email to Posterous. I've done that for a long time and it has never failed me.
Normally what happens is that Posterous picks up the email, extracts the MP3, hosts it, adds it to the according blog and then my dptwc site picks it up from the RSS feed that Posterous automatically generates for me.
When I posted the last entry, it came up without the MP3 link in the RSS. On closer inspection I found that the entry on the Posterous site was not hosted by Posterous but by some third party and that Posterous didn't include the MP3 link.
My first assumption was that Posterous had changed their process without telling anyone, and I got quite frustrated to find out that the very service that I had built an entire podcast on was now broken for me.
Had I been aware of how wrong I was, I wouldn't have gone out on Buzz and Twitter and on this blog entry to talk about it.
Turns out it was my own fault all along. The VR+ recording app can send out MP3s vie email, which is why I love it so much. One feature I never used was to send the MP3 as a link, in which case they upload it to their own VR+ servers and then send the link via email. I had accidentally enabled that feature and by doing that I broke the entire process.
All I can offer are my sincere apologies to Posterous, I should have done a much more thorough root cause analysis before I went out and made so much noise about this. I like the service that Posterous offers a lot, it enables me to do so much and I'm happy that they are around.
Note to self: Social media are a great way to generate buzz about things and the companies who get it and react fast are going to be the winners in the long run. Social media are also dangerous when it comes to spreading false information. Always (ALWAYS!) make sure you check and doublecheck the facts before you complain in public or it can backfire.
With Brooklyn Cookin', the workshop that I held together with Chef Mark, this year's season is now over, and what a great final workshop that was. Both Mark and I found that we'll have to do a workshop along the same lines again next year. The concept is perfect: the target audience is couples where one half is into cooking and the other half is into photography, and here they have a way to learn and spend time together.
Even though this year is over from a workshop perspective, it actually isn't. At least not for me. I am going to spend most of November preparing everything for a smooth 2010 launch. My goal is to have everything ready by December. And there are a lot of things to be worked on. Luckily most of my workshop locations are already nailed down, some helpers need to be briefed, and then there's the whole registration process. I have looked into offers in the cloud, but there is no workshop/seminar management system that even remotely seems to fit the bill.
All I need is to manage the registration process and payments for about ten workshops. Internationally. With deposits. And limited number of seats. For a decent price. And no, in an economy where everyone needs to think twice before spending anything, I consider taking 10% of the workshop fees *not* decent, because that would eventually increase the workshop price by that same amount.
So in short, I haven't found a good and easy way to automate this yet. Which is why I've taken things to the cloud in a different way for 2009 and why I'm going to go even further in 2010. In short: I'm using online services and forms to handle the sign-ups, I have simplified the confirmation and registration process using Services on Mac OSX Snow Leopard, I use PayPal to handle the bulk of the payments, and I use my own time to keep it all together. Not ideal, but workable. The KISS principle applies. Keep it simple, stupid. I don't need a full-fledged database to handle a couple of hundred participants. Every participant ends up in a spreadsheet with a status field depending on where in the registration process they currently are, and if I need to send out a bulk mail to all participants of an individual workshop, a simple copy/paste of the email address column for that workshop will do just fine.
The biggest item are the workshop pages on the web site. This is where everything is supposed to come together in a nice and easy to navigate way. I have spent hours and hours to design something that ties together everything from basic information about the workshop ("why would I want to come to this workshop?"), the agenda ("what are the workshop details?"), timing ("when does the workshop start and end?"), accommodation ("what hotel is near by?"), navigation ("how do I find my way to the workshop?") and pricing.
Obviously I design this once and duplicate it for all the workshops, but the content will be different for each workshop. The overview, the detail description, the example images, the example video, the FAQ. And the language.
So I guess I better get busy and finally start tying all those lose ends together to bring you not only an excellent 2010 workshop season, but also a great experience when it comes to finding the right one for your needs and going through the registration process.
If you want to be notified as soon as the 2010 workshops are ready, please make sure you are on the newsletter (get the newsletter here).
Got a way to help me simplify the registration process? Leave a comment!
I just got an unhappy (or even upset) email from a fan. I won't user her real name here, so let's call her "Liz". She was complaining about the amount of promotion vs. content on my show. I assume she meant Tips from the Top Floor.
"It takes 30 to 40 minutes to download and listen to your podcast and read your website. Unfortunately for me, I have found that about 75% of your content is advertising for donations and workshops and less than 25% provides information about photography... therefore, I waste a lot of time to get little content. Also, I hear the same promotions over and over about your workshops when I am sure that I am not going to them. I try to skip through them on my ipod, but usually, I just lose interest and shut it off. Even though I have learned from you, I am coming close to cancelling your podcast."
Getting feedback like this always slightly gets to me. On the one hand it's great to hear from the audience, and this kind of feedback is worth more than any "great job" type of mail (please keep those coming too though, as my ego likes them ;)) because it almost always comes from a person who is passionate about what I do and who has the guts to speak up and voice their opinion.
I hear you, Liz, and believe me, I don't like promoting stuff on my shows. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one reason I do is that I get more than enough advertising on the old media. If I listen to podcasts I want them to be clutter-free too, unless the clutter is a part of the show that I like.
There is one exception where I truly love talking about things: An example would be the Everest Trek. Things that I am personally involved in, things that are a part of me, things that I'm very very (very!!) proud of.
Then there are sponsors. Apart from the current Squarespace campaign I haven't had a sponsor worth mentioning in almost a year. I'm not sure how you get to 75%, I can only assume that's what it felt like to you as opposed to that's the actual amount of time you've measured. I am über super cautious in who I allow on the show as a sponsor. The only way I believe I can make this work for both sides is to only advertise things that are of interest to my audience. Only then will it be perceived as being more of a value than a burden. Believe me, I have been offered quite a few campaigns in the past year, and I have turned down almost all of them because of this very reason: they just weren't relevant to my audience.
And let's be honest, being self-employed and spending well over 20 hours a week (probably much closer to 30 actually) producing free content in various forms doesn't really pay the bills, so I don't always have choice in that matter.
But let's get back to Liz and her email:
"Regarding your last blog about "geeks," what does that have to do with photography? My career was in Information Technology and I get a lot of content about IT from many sources. Why would I want your opinion about who is a geek? I want to learn about photography from you!!!"
In the header of this blog it used to read "This is the place where I post my thoughts on photography" but I'm not only about photography. I'm a geek, I'm a musician (I'm actually in the middle of producing a CD for a local band), I'm a podcaster, and I've chosen this place to be my personal blog where I talk about anything that interests me, anything that comes to mind and that I think it worth sharing with you: my soapbox. Tips from the Top Floor is the photography place and the photography posts here usually get linked from there.
To better reflect this, I have now changed the copy in the header of this blog to "This is the place where I post my thoughts. Usually on photography."
And this is where I open this discussion up to you, the readership. Do you think this blog should be exclusively about photography? And has my show content really gone down the drain in favor of promoting stuff?
Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!