Monthly Archives: December 2005

How far would you go to get the shot?

I’ve often heard photographers discuss the ethics of altering a photo–debating, say, whether it’s acceptable to use Photoshop to remove a Coke can from a landscape shot. Had they noticed the can before taking the shot, of course, they’d have kicked it out of the frame. These heated discussions of the “purity” of the captured image strike me as a little sterile, especially when great pre-digital masters altered images freely.
So here’s a potentially meatier topic: Would you set up a great shot at the expense of personal injury to others? And to what end?
Photographer Liu Tao has been accused of lying in wait to capture shots of a man wiping out when his bike hit a submerged pothole. He defends himself by noting that his images embarrassed the government into fixing the pothole, and that without the change people would still be getting hurt. Photography can effect social change, but where’s the line between documentarian and participant, and how does one know when to cross it? [Via]

Ephemera: PSNews milestone, SI blog, iPods, etc.

My colleague John Dowdell sometimes features “Remaindered Links,” entries that bring together links that may be of interest. So, in that vein, here’s some ephemera I’ve enjoyed over the break:

  • Bruno Giussani ponders “the iPod of spin”–i.e., how far one can stretch things to be “the iPod of this” and “the iPod of that”–set off by a newspaper christening “the iPod of toilets.” Okay, it’s a lazy phrase, but product designers & marketing hacks could emulate worse. [Via]
  • The Smithsonian Institute has kicked off a new blog called EyeLevel. The blog features thoughtful, detailed posts that mention–among many other things–Malcolm Gladwell, the strangeness of Edward Hopper, and Pennsylvania’s relationship with Cheez Whiz. [Via]
  • OpenType, SchmopenType: Levi Hammett takes text design in a new direction with Dairy, a font (of sorts) that spells out your text in milk crates; try it and see. [Via]
  • The brilliantly random Found Magazine now offers an RSS feed. Oh yeah. (Looking at the traffic log of feels a bit like browsing these inscrutable found bits. Why would someone keep searching for “subtly knife”…? Is it somehow related to armored bear battles?) [Via]
  • The Sundance Channel yesterday featured a fun, 2-minute overview (produced by Athletics) on “China Girl,” a color calibration system used in film. Looking down the row of monitors lining an Airbus on Tuesday, I was reminded of just how much color varies across devices (even those from the same manufacturer, installed at the same time) and how sorely the world needs a solution (the–wait for it–“iPod of color management,” maybe?).
  • And finally, since kicking things off in April 2005, has served more that 1,000,000 unique visitors. Congratulations, guys!

Potential Bacon-Savers

In response to yesterday’s post about losing images in the cold, a number of folks have suggested possible remedies for future data loss:

  • Nick Wilcox-Brown recommends PhotoRescue, saying “It has saved my skin on more occasions than I care to remember.”
  • My fellow Photoshop PM Tom Hogarty mentioned Camera Salvage.
  • Peter Krogh suspects that the problem was due to file system corruption, not cold weather–particularly as I’d been sloppy in handling the memory card (removing it from the Mac while it was sleeping, then inserting it with the new shots before waking the machine up). That seems possible, though having lost images in similar weather with a different camera, card, and computer, I remain a bit suspicious.

Whatever the case, you may want to bookmark these sites for a rainy (or snowy) day in the future, and do read up a bit before going shooting in the cold.

Happiness is a Warm Cam

…or rather, a warm Compact Flash card. Score it Illinois winter 1, JNack 0. Short story: take care when shooting digitally in cold weather.
Longer story: On Friday my wife and I hiked around my snowy little hometown, filling a 1GB CF card via my Canon Rebel XT. The weather was brisk (maybe 35 degrees F) but sunny and not uncomfortable, and we captured plenty of images I’d love to have back. I kept the camera inside my jacket much of the time, and reviewing the shots in the field, everything seemed fine. Sadly, when I popped the card into my Mac, the photos were nowhere to be found. Bridge could display a few image fragments, but nothing usable transferred. The next day I reformatted the card in the camera and happily shot indoors for another couple hours; then things hit the wall. I got errors in the camera, and neither it nor the Mac could reformat the card. The card now resides in a trash can, and much of two days’ worth of shooting exists only in my memory.
I should note that I have no special expertise in this area, and I haven’t yet gotten to consult teammates who likely know a good deal more. The card itself claimed to be “unfazed by… arctic cold” (hmmm…); memory is generally supposed to work well in the cold; and it appears that Canon rates their cameras for shooting at freezing and above, so I thought I was in the clear. I might chalk this up to a fluke, but last Christmas I lost another batch of images taken in the same area (different card, different camera), so I suspect the technology is more fragile than we’d like to think.
In any event, it’s not a complete bust: I was able to salvage a few interesting shots of trains, real and imagined.

Photos of the Year

A number of media outlets have collected the best photojournalism of 2005 into Flash galleries:

I wasn’t able to find a similar gallery from the New York Times [Update: The Times has posted its Year in Pictures], but a Google search turned up the NPPA giving the Times the nod for best use of the Web. Scroll to the bottom of the press release for links to numerous galleries, including those for the Newspaper Photographer of the Year.

Math rock in Illustrator, Josh Davis-style features a new profile on Joshua Davis and his work that brings together Illustrator with scripting to create generative art. The work combines known building blocks (sketches scanned & vectorized in Illustrator) with algorithms that introduce chance and chaos. Josh presented a great lecture on this work at the Adobe Ideas Conference earlier this year–a bracing, whirling blur of charisma, tats, code, and f-bombs that lit up an otherwise sedate gathering.
I’ve been thinking for quite a while about ways to make our tools freer, to tap into what my friend Matthew calls the “math rock kids”–the sort who make and use experimental apps like Auto-Illustrator (no relation). People can build beautiful, freeform interactive drawing pieces in Flash, so why can’t we use them in Photoshop or Illustrator? Why not make it easier to create offbeat interfaces that leverage these deep imaging engines in new ways? And could we combine that power with the linear animation chops of After Effects? Let’s be less predictable, more playful, more absurd.
[ link via Branden Hall]
[More from Joshua here and here.
He’s also contributed a chapter to John Maeda’s Creative Code: Aesthetics + Computation.]

Reader speeder; UX Mag; Antarctica

  • Macworld features some tips on making Adobe Reader launch faster. As Adobe has been saying for some time, launch time is a key area of focus, and overall you should find Reader 7 a good deal quicker to start up than previous versions. Even so, you may want to try these hand-tuning strategies.
  • PhotoshopNews features an article and some great photos from the just-completed trip to Antartica. Note to self: Invent galactically successful, category-defining software that becomes verb; continue pushing limits of digital imaging; enjoy fruits of said labor. Tons of great images are here.
  • The brand new UX Magazine launched yesterday, “created to deliver a central place to discuss the critical disciplines that all enhance user experience.” The content is necessarily sparse at the moment, but I like the CSS-savvy design, and it could grow into a great resource. This blurb let me know they’re guys after my own heart: “Last but not least, we’re not happy. We never are. Never ever. We look at things and go ‘bah!’—out loud, numerous times a day. We just had to stop being so bloody picky and launch the damn thing.” It’s tough, but real artists ship.

New DNG utility: Recover Edges

Thomas Knoll has created a new utility called DNG Recover Edges, designed to reveal pixels at the very edges of raw files that are, for various reasons, not shown when these images are displayed normally. The simple droplet utility can recover somewhere between 4 and 16 pixels around the edge of the image–not a big deal for most files, but potentially quite valuable when something is getting clipped at the edge of the frame. (Thomas decided to write the utility after taking a photo of a bird that had its wingtip just outside at the frame. The extra 10 pixels he recovered in that shot were enough to put the entire bird in the shot.)
Michael Reichmann provides additional details & hosts the utilities for download from his Luminous Landscape photography resource site. Please note that the utility is Thomas’s own work, not an Adobe product, and is unsupported.

Flash + AE video tutorial

A few days ago on the Flashcoders list, some people were discussing ways that Flash and After Effects can be used together. Video support in Flash has opened some cool possibilities, but note that AE also exports Flash SWF files. The newly launched Motion Design Center features a video tutorial on using AE to animate text, then import it into Flash. [Update: In case they’re useful, you can find my old tutorials on AE SWF->Flash (demoing parent-child relationships, text animation, etc.) here.]
Now that the product teams can work together, we have opportunities to take integration to a new level. As we build the roadmap, we’d love to get your feedback on what’s most important.