Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Warning Regarding Lightroom 2

DO NOT, under any circumstances, upgrade to Lightroom 2. This thing is not ready for prime time.

Just as one example, there is a major bug which prevents your keywords from being property exported in the new version. There is no fix as of now. The only way to get around it is to manually change a setting for each and every keyword you've ever used.

More as events warrant.

UPDATE: Adobe is aware of the problem and is working on a fix. But given the number of people who have already reported the issue, I hope I'm not being uncharitable in saying this doesn't strike me as reassuring evidence of extensive and exhaustive beta testing, despite how long the Public Beta has been going on.

UPDATE 2: There is an "unofficial" fix which requires a fairly high level of geek-fu. (If you don't know what a "SQL query" is, don't even think about it.) I did it and it worked. Adobe should have a "real" fix soon.

More after the jump - click here!

Possibly The Greatest Venn Diagram In The History Of The World

Bobby Henderson, famed Pastafarian, created this amazing diagram to explain the motivation for his latest photography project:

(Image ©Bobby Henderson: Used for illustration only.)

Yes, it's Fine Art Taco Photography.

The exhibit has accrued much acclaim. For example:

"You are the Orson Welles of the taco photography world and this is your Citizen Kane."

All kidding aside, the photographs are actually quite nice, if you're into that sort of thing. Have a look.

Fine Art Taco Photography

Or click here to go to the main FATP gallery.

More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ain't No Fighting It

I grew up in a small town in Iowa called "Wapello." (Named after Chief Wapello of the Sac and Fox tribes.) It is on the Iowa River, which you may have seen in news reports last month (June 2008) as it destroyed large areas of several cities, including Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, and Oakville, a small town ten miles from Wapello which was totally wiped out. More than a month later, the town of Oakville is still under de-facto martial law. How do I know this?

I went home this weekend to visit my grandparents (one of them had been in a fall.) While I was there, I drove along the road from Wapello to Oakville to see the aftermath of the floods. It was horrific. The Iowa is normally a small, sleepy tributary of the Mississippi. (There's a reason you've never heard of it.) Most years, if my father takes us for a ride in his motorboat, he has to be very careful not to run aground in the shallower parts of the river channel. But this year it broke all flood records and laid waste to hundreds of square miles. Some are calling it "Iowa's Katrina." Have a look:

The water got under the road, washed it out, and tossed the concrete road sections like a child's railroad track. They are broken with almost geometric precision along the expansion joints which are typically placed in thin-bed concrete roads in the country.

Fortunately, Wapello is on higher ground, and because the levee broke in Oakville, the pressure was relieved before Wapello (which is much larger than Oakville) could be flooded. While it's cold comfort to the good citizens of Oakville, I'm sure, that failure probably saved hundreds of homes by destroying dozens elsewhere. I did drive to Oakville, but there was a woman sitting at the only road into town with a large sign that said, "ALL VISITORS MUST CHECK IN." I didn't feel like checking in, so I turned around and went back. My mother told me later that you had to have a permit to enter the town because there were problems with scavengers stealing things.

I have family who live outside Oakville, but they are not in the riverbottom and had no trouble. My parents, who live outside Wapello, couldn't drive into town for weeks as the road crosses the Iowa River bottom, and at its lowest point the water was over five feet deep. While the absolute number of people affected is small, the scale of this is hard to imagine. I guess the occasional severe thunderstorm isn't so bad when you think about living in flood plains or Hurricane Alley.

My grandfather told me about a fellow that my grandparents have coffee with most mornings (they still do that in Iowa.) The day before the levee broke, he came to breakfast and derisively snorted, "I went and looked at the water. The Corps of Engineers is way off - it won't get to within four feet of where they say it will."

The next day his house was gone. Not flooded, gone. The levee broke, the water picked up his house and floated it away. I'm guessing he didn't bother to get anything out since he was so sure the water wouldn't reach him. Let that be a lesson to you: there ain't no fighting a flood, there ain't no second-guessing it. If it looks like the water is coming, you have one choice: get out of the way or suffer the consequences. You can always come back and laugh at yourself if it doesn't happen.

Oakville - where I attended first and second grade, in an old schoolhouse Wapello used for a few years when their districts were consolidated - may never recover. Every building in the town limits was heavily damaged or destroyed. The entire infrastructure (roads, power, sewer, water, gas) will have to be completely rebuilt - and now that it's known the whole town is on a flood plain, there'll be no insurance available and very little government money for anything but buyouts. Only perhaps a dozen people in the town had flood insurance - not only is it very expensive (and Oakville is not a rich place) but except for those living right on the river, nobody ever thought that the whole place could literally be submerged for days. A little water in the basement, sure, but six feet of water on Main Street? Unimaginable - until now.

On a photography note, this is one of the reasons why backups, and by that I mean either portable or off-site backups, are required. Every time I leave the house for more than a day, I take a portable hard drive which has all my backlog on it. I also have a hard drive which lives at my office more than fifty miles away with a recent backup on it as well. That's not just my "art" pictures, it's all the family pictures (including our wedding photos which have been digitized,) our financial records, my wife's genealogy research, you name it. It would be awful to lose our house, but at least we wouldn't have to worry about reconstructing our records from nothing.

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Light Is Not Your Friend, Neither Your Enemy: It Is What It Is

As every book on photography points out, "photography" means "writing with light." Light has qualities, many qualities, and for the beginning photographer some of those qualities are less obvious than others. There's intensity, of course. That one's easy. It's too dark. It's too bright. Adjust exposure, or adjust light source. There's direction. That one's mostly easy - which way are the shadows pointed? Which side of the thing is lit up and which side isn't? Again, pretty easy to fix. But then there are the subtler ones - which produce anything but subtle results sometimes.

For instance, there's hardness. Hardness refers to a quality of light which is controlled by its relative size in the "arc" of the picture. The smaller the arc, the harder the light. Direct sunlight at noon on a clear day is very hard, because the sun is very small in the sky. Light from a softbox (and that's why they're called that) close to the subject is very soft, because it's huge relative to the arc of the picture.

Hardness controls the texture of the image in some ways. It isn't always apparent that this is significant in the ways that it is. For instance, consider this image:

The model's skin is very textured (and not necessarily in a good way.) That's because the sole source of light is a direct sunbeam - because she's in deep shadow, there's not even any ambient light from reflection off nearby objects or the ground, as there often is even in most "direct" sunlight pictures. It took a while to get her skin even this good: every little blemish and fold was sharply outlined by shadows. Even if you fix the blemish, you still have to fix the shadows, and it's tricky to find a good source for replacing the area.

Then consider this image:

Same model, same approximate location (less than a hundred yards away,) same time of day (less than ten minutes later.) Totally different. Why? Soft light. She's in open shade, in a courtyard with light-reflecting walls in all directions. The light "source" is huge: light is coming from everywhere. I hardly had to do any work on her skin, and that was just to remove actual visible blemishes.

It's not just a matter of how much light you have: what kind of light, its hardness, directionality, and color, are almost as important. I say "almost" only because if you don't have enough light, you don't get a picture. After that hill is climbed, the other qualities of the light are just as important as the quantity.

More after the jump - click here!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chicago Shoot! The Day

Well, nobody fell off the roof or got run over or anything, so it was a qualified success. We'll see how happy people are with their pictures. There sure was a lot of running around, I'll say that much.

We were at one studio all morning, then some of us went to another studio, and a makeup artist met us there, and then I took one of the models home, because she lived two blocks from the first studio, and hadn't got a car anyway.

While I hope some of the pictures turn out I think the high point of my day was either showing up at my studio and introducing everyone to my fabulous studio partner, who doesn't believe in clothes, or taking one of the models in full makeup to the drugstore on an emergency supply run. She stopped a lot of traffic. :) Here she is:

More after the jump - click here!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One of My Occasional Advice Postings for Beginning Photographers

I post these from time to time so you don't do the things I done. Specifically, don't do this...

When I started taking pictures I was pretty haphazard about organizing them. Before long, I started at least being consistent, and saving model shoots in folders named like this:


Well, I decided to start mining my back sessions for stock, and step one was putting them ALL in LightRoom so I could easily access and sort them. That took hours and hours. (Generating the previews on 60K images is a long slow grind.)

Then, once it was too late, it occurred to me that it's not a very useful thing to sort on Model_Name_Date, especially when your dates are in American format (MMDDYY.) The only thing you can sort on is the model's first name, and even then the shoots won't be in temporal order!

Yes, I am so smart that when I'm dumb, it's a lulu. I gotta fix this...

So now I am going through my LR catalog and changing each folder to:


Folders which are specific projects and not just model shoots are getting this naming convention:


Where "CC" is one of five "types" of projects (Family, Other Personal, Spec, Paid Clients, Miscellaneous) each of which has a two-digit code. That allows me to add 95 more codes if I want.

I'm not saying it's perfect but it will be *consistent* and allow chronological and type sorting. If you don't like it, use your own system. But use one!


The preceding is the naming convention for my folders (or directories, if you prefer.) So a shoot might be something like 2005-07-08-Lady_Atropos.

The naming convention for retouched images *in* a given shoot is:


For instance, a picture called "In Shadows" which corresponds to the RAW file _MG_3456.CR2 would be:


I usually save my mods (crops, b&w conversions) all in one PSD file, but in separate JPEG's, which go in subdirectories called "Retouched" and "JPEGs" respectively. So if the above image had one crop and one b&w conversion, it would look like this on disk:



3456_in_shadows.jpg (This is the original image.)

3456_in_shadows_1.jpg (This is the crop.)

3456_in_shadows_1_bw.jpg (This is the cropped b&w conversion.)

3456_in_shadows_bw.jpg (This is the b&w conversion.)
Then when I do my galleries for models or whatever, I just point the generator at /Retouched/JPEGs/ for that session, and it automatically generates a gallery with one of each variant of every retouched picture. I can then have models send me filenames copied from the galleries, and if I ever want to review the original image from any variant, the file number takes me right back to the RAW file.

More after the jump - click here!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off To Work I Go

Well, actually, I'm not at my "day job" today. I telecommute sometimes. But photographically, now that I've got most of my images in my Lightroom database, I'm "mining" the older stuff for stock. Like I said in my previous post, I'm seeing a lot of images that I haven't thought about for a while.

Here's kind of a cool picture I took by the light of a neon sign at a dry-cleaner's about 8 O'Clock at night.

The nice thing about these pictures is that while I wasn't thinking "stock" when I took them, I did get full releases from all the models. If anybody does want to use them, I don't have to chase down models I haven't spoken to in years to get publicity rights.

Anyway, I'm through the first year (I got a late start that year, so it's more like four months.) Only four more years to go!

More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time to Get Serious

I decided that it was time to really get my pictures cataloged properly in Lightroom, so I've been letting it import my photo archives a year at a time. (That way I can put the right copyright notice metadata on them.) I'm having fun watching it and every so often looking to see what it's working on at the moment. I'm seeing a lot of pictures I hadn't thought about for a while!

For instance, I had completely forgotten about the trip I took to the Chicago Auto Show - or, more importantly, I had forgotten that I had a lot of released pictures that might make good stock. F'r instance:

So I foresee several days of mining ahead. Let this be a lesson to you, kids... don't get behind on your organization. You wouldn't believe how long this thing is taking to go through, import, and generate previews. And I have a reasonably fast computer, too! Then, I'll have to go through the individual sessions and keyword them. I think I'll do that on an as-available and/or as needed basis.

More after the jump - click here!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chicago Shoot! The Day Final Schedule Up!

We've got a studio lined up, a schedule for the day, and you will miss my one-of-a-kind comedy madness if you don't come! No, really. I'm hysterical.

You can visit the Chicago Shooters forum here:


For more information.

More after the jump - click here!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chicago Shooters! (Camera Shooters, That Is...)

The "Chicago Shooters" group on PhotoShelter's Shoot! the Day site is coming together nicely. Plans are being made for a meetup, studio session, and work in the city.

PhotoShelter, along with Nikon, Apple, and Adorama, is sponsoring a stock photography event called Shoot! The Day, where some of the big gaps in modern stock photography needs will hopefully be addressed by photographers all over the world. More information on that here:


I'm in charge of the Chicago Shoot! the Day events. Those of you in and around Chicago, join us! You don't have to be a member of the PhotoShelter Collection to sign up, although I highly recommend it. More info on the Chicago Shooters! here:


Feel free to ask questions here or PM me for more details. The thread on the Chicago Shooters! group called "Taking the Windy City by Storm!" has the latest details on the day's events. See you there!

More after the jump - click here!