MY BLOG & SOAPBOX

To help order and sort some of the things in my mind, it often helps me to write them down. And this is the place I do just that. Not always related to photography. Not always in English. Manchmal auch auf Deutsch.
I have recently switched blogging platforms. Here is my new blog:
I have recently switched blogging platforms. Here is my old blog:

MEIN BLOG & SEIFENKISTE

Die Dinge niederschreiben hilft mir, sie zu ordnen und einzuordnen. Hier ist der richtige Platz dafür. Nicht immer geht es um die Fotografie und nicht immer schreibe ich auf Deutsch. Manchmal auf Englisch.
Ich habe kürzlich die Blog-Plattform gewechselt. Hier ist mein neues Blog:
Ich habe kürzlich die Blog-Plattform gewechselt. Hier ist mein altes Blog:

Bilder gratis? Ja, aber...

Sehr geehrter Herr Marquardt,

wären Sie damit einverstanden, dass wie eines Ihrer Bilder für die Internetseite der black bar Fakultät der Uni black bar 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.: black bar

Ich freue mich auf Ihre Antwort und danke Ihne bereits für Ihre Mühe.

Beste Grüße,
black bar

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Das Bild dürfen Sie gerne verwenden unter Angabe "Foto: Chris Marquardt" und Link zu http://www.chrismarquardt.com in direkter Nähe des Bildes.

Schöne Grüße,
Chris Marquardt

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Guten Abend Herr Marquardt,

leider entspricht es nicht den Richtlinien zur Gestaltung von Websiten der Uni black bar, 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.

Beste Grüße
black bar

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Hallo Herr black bar,

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,
Chris Marquardt

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How Bugs Bunny Saved His Creator - Funny How Things Transcend

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?


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What I've learned from the painful Simplenote outage. The cloud is great when it works...

SimplenoteIt'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.

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Little helper of the day: Keyboard Cleaner

There's one small tool (literally, it's 32kb in size) that I've had on my Mac laptops since day one, it's called Keyboard Cleaner.

Now, it won't actually clean your keyboard, but it will serve one important function, should you plan to do so: it will turn off all the keys, so you can clean away. The only key combination that's still active is CMD-Q with which you quit the app.

It's tiny, and it's brilliant, especially if you're on a laptop.

» Keyboard Cleaner
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Chris, when will your apps be available on Android?

AndroidEvery 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.


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It's official, we're going to Tibet in 2013 and you can join!

I wanted you to find out first-hand: we're going back to Tibet in 2013 and we will again take a group of photographers! The adventures in 2009, 2010 and 2011 have changed my life. This is your chance to experience this too.

Tibetan Monk with Cell Phone Tibetan Child Jeeps in Tibet

This will be the fourth Himalayan Workshop, and believe me, you'll learn lots - lots about photography and a lot about the Nepali and Tibetan culture.

It's a wonderful experience that you will remember for the rest of your life! It is also a photo workshop.

Tibetan Yak Herder The Yak Train Nepali Porter

» find out more at www.himalayanworkshops.com

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PocketChris Light Meter is ready!

Incident Meter Icon It's here, it's here! The PocketChris Incident Light Meter iPhone App has been approved and is available at the App Store.

It'll let you use your camera and a grey card to do what you usually need an expensive incident light meter for: metering in difficult light situations. Like a pro. Check it out!

» PocketChris Incident Light Meter website

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One item per line into an iOS check list is easy

Here's a quick life hack that has saved me tons of time in the past.

Sometimes I do checklists. Mostly for shopping. I've been looking for a way to combine the ease of quickly writing things into a text file one item per line and a simple tapable checklist app.

All other iOS apps seem to require some form of physical interaction between entering line items. Either you'll have to press a + button between items or something similar.

Enter Paperless, an iOS app that is available as an ad-supported free lite version or ad-free paid version.

As far as I know, there's no other checklist app that can handle the copy-paste of line-item lists with such an ease.

Bonus: dictating a shopping list with Siri is also easy this way, you just go "milk new-line bread new-line sugar new-line…".

» download the free version here

PS: yes, I know and used Taskpaper, but it never really worked this easily when dictating items.

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An idea is born - PocketChris Incident Light Meter

Incident meterGood 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 it too 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

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