Monthly Archives: August 2007

"Most of your pictures suck"

I tend to get in my own head about photography.  Maybe because it can be praticed with fairly little physical skill (compared, say, to sketching, which came rather naturally to me), photography seems to put more emphasis on one’s "eye," one’s taste.  That can be nerve-wracking, making it seem like a failure to take a good shot* is a comment not only on your technical chops, but on your worth as an aesthetic being.  See, I told you I get in my head about it.

Maybe that’s why I found this comment from experienced photographer Mike Johnston refreshing:

To be honest, most of my pictures suck. The saving grace of that admission is that most of your pictures suck, too. How could I possibly know such a thing? Because most of everybody’s pictures suck, that’s how. I’ve seen Cartier-Bresson’s contact sheets, and most of his pictures sucked. One of my teachers said that it was an epiphany for him when he took a class from Garry Winogrand and learned that most of Winogrand’s exposures sucked. It’s the way it is.

Whew.  It’s nice to know that bad photos happen to all guys sometimes, so to speak.  And as Mike reminds his sometimes gear-obsessed readers, "Cameras don’t take good pictures, photographers do."  Just not all the time.

*There’s also the whole angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin question of what good is.  In Ireland I’d joke, "Look, honey, I set the camera to ‘Trite‘…"

Superheroic typography

  • Sam Potts sets cool type (“All projects 100% Times Roman-free,” he promises).  Check out his designs for pal John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise; the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.; and more.  Sam was kind enough to let me pick his brain at his studio in NY last week.  While we were talking, a shipment of Gmund paper (made in Germany from recycled beer bottle labels) arrived. “I’ll sleep with this paper,” he said, “if it’ll have me…” [Via Maria Brenny]
  • Giant typography as high school prank: The students of Davidson punk rivals Darby via sabotaged flip cards. The stunt echoes the Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961.
  • Take care when you rotate type, or you might end up with something like the WTF Mac Store. [Via].  Elsewhere in the Dept. of Signs Begging to be Misread, my wife remembers two signs in stairwell in Seattle right next to one another: one for “Gary’s Den” (the words stacked) and the other for “Rage” (some sort of boutique). With no distinction in background color it read as “Gary’s Rage Den”.
    Every single time I stood in line at the Neptune,” she says, “I replayed the same line of questioning in my head about angry, angry Gary and his need for a Rage Den.”
  • A bit of historical fun: the NYT features an image of the Women’s Typographical Union aboard a float in 1908.
  • FontShop’s magazine devoted to all things typographic has a new issue, Font 006, cruising through the snail mail system.  Previous issues are online on the site. [Via]
  • Steve Patterson has produced a nice, approachable tutorial on creating faux 3D text in Photoshop.  The cheese factor is refreshingly low.
  • Typographica list their Favorite Fonts of 2006. [Via]

Fresh Podcasts: Pete Turner, Kevin Connor, Magnum

  • George Jardine sat down recently with pioneering color photographer Pete Turner at Pete’s home studio in Wainscott, NY, discussing how he got started in photography and his early experiments with color.  The podcast can be downloaded from George’s iDisk (“20070809 Podcast – Pete Turner”), or from iTunes by searching under Podcasts for “Lightroom.”
  • George writes, “If you haven’t been watching the Magnum In Motion podcasts… now
    is the time. (They are short. You do have time.) Lots of stunning
    stuff here.”  Among the highlights he recommends:

  • Scott Sheppard of Inside Digital Photo has interviewed Kevin Connor . Scott writes, ”
    Kevin shares the details of how they setup their popular public beta programs and how they ultimately implemented the feedback they received firsthand.  He explains Adobe’s vision and synergy behind both Photoshop and Lightroom… He shares some tips, including using the “targeted adjustment” tool in Lightroom. Hear how other markets, including medical imaging, influence future application features.”

Taliban as Boy George; Frozen photos; more

Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak has posted a fascinating 7-minute look at the Taliban & photography.  Their religious beliefs led them to deface any human or animal representation (from ancient statues to bottles of shampoo), yet numerous young men posed for images that make them look "like gay icons."  Western reactions say something about our times, too.

Elsewhere in photography:

New Photoshop Hall of Fame inductees

It’s great to see that two very worthy guys–Andrew Rodney & Kevin Connor–have been inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame.  Andrew has been helping mere mortals untangle color management issues for years, and Kevin (boss’s boss to yours truly) has been guiding the Photoshop ship since version 4.0. 

[Kevin’s headshot on Photoshop News apparently comes from his “Young Seinfeld” period. ;-)  He now looks a bit more like this.  Oddly enough, Google Images pulls up evidence of a possible horrifying past career (scroll to the bottom of the poster)–maybe something to discuss at our next 1:1.]

In any case, congrats to both Andrew and Kevin.  The honor couldn’t be more deserved.

Imaging heavy hitters join Adobe

A number of rock stars from the world of image science have recently joined Adobe:

Adobe Senior Principal Scientist David Salesin, who manages this crew, notes that "If you count their SIGGRAPH papers as well, you’ll see that current Adobe employees had 11 of the 108 papers in the conference."

Now, let me inject a disclaimer:  Just because a particular researcher has worked on a particular technology in his or her past life, it’s not possible to conclude that a specific feature will show up in a particular Adobe product.  How’s that for non-commital? ;-)  In any case, it’s just exciting that so many smart folks are joining the team (more brains to hijack!).

[Update: Cambridge, MA-based Xconomy provides additional context for this news.]

New Flash gallery power for Photoshop

Felix Turner, creator of the slick, elegant SimpleViewer Flash Web gallery (example), has provided a SimpleViewer script for Photoshop.  The script makes it possible to set parameters and punch out a gallery right from Photoshop, and it’s a free download from the Airtight Interactive site. 

If this is up your alley, check out the earlier PostcardViewer script for Photoshop (example), as well as the same templates for Lightroom.  Thanks to Felix, and to Jeff Tranberry in Photoshop QE for his help in making these happen.

In related news, the source code for the Flash gallery used by the Adobe Media Gallery extension for Bridge (see earlier announcement) as well as Lightroom has been updated (example).  Gallery developers Bluefire have posted details of the enhancements on their blog.

New monochrome photography

Top Lightroom shortcuts, Barbarians, & more on Designer Center

The Adobe Design Center bobs, weaves, and takes new content to the hole:

New Dialog Box:

New Gallery:

New Think Tank:

New Tutorials:

Adobe training content-wranglers Luanne Seymour and Jen deHaan are blogging, so check out their sites for fresh material.  And as always , check out some of the ~1000 Adobe links on  Info on how to contribute links is here.  [Via]

Photography: Moments in time

Like tears in the rain:

  • Ah, if only this were a Photoshop job… The Online Photographer features an image of a boat plunging to its destruction.  Note the unlucky dude in the upper-right corner of the photo (back of the boat).  Mad Mariner has the backstory.
  • Novak’s Blog has an interesting collection of moments frozen in time. [Via Bob Regan, who muttered “It’s a little ‘Hang In There‘…”  Touché.]
  • Slate’s Magnum series features images in motion .  I really dig the fourth one, taken in Osaka.  And #7 reminds me of time spent in Death Valley… (no further comment).
  • "Oh, the Beemanity!!"  Speaking of dudes being… dudes, remember this formula: Flying insects + flying gasoline + an SLR: great photographic storytelling.  (Note: The copywriting is a carnival of profanity, but pretty damn funny.  Just thought you should be forewarned.) [Via Tom Moran]

RawShooter Migration Tool now available

In the year since Adobe acquired Pixmantec, makers of the RawShooter image review & processing tools, RawShooters have been asking for a way to migrate their image settings to be compatible with Adobe Lightroom & Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw.  The solution has arrived in the form of the Pixmantec RawShooter Migration Tool, now available on Adobe Labs.  According to the Labs site:

The Pixmantec RawShooter Migration Tool is designed to provide a way to migrate the settings made in Pixmantec RawShooter Premium or Pixmantec RawShooter Essentials to visually similar settings in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom™ or Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw. Given that the controls in each application are not identical, the results of these conversions will not provide visually identical images.

New Wi-Fi camera coolness

It’s been a great week to be a photographer, with Canon and Nikon upping the ante across their ranges of products.  Apart from the big sensors, “live view” enhancements, and other good stuff in the 1Ds Mk III, D3, and other new cameras, my eye gravitated to some wireless network-oriented features Nikon has announced. From DP Review:

Now, with the new Nikon Wireless Transmitter WT-43, the era of the multi camera network has arrived. Not only can one transmit (‘push’) images to servers and remotely control the camera from afar, the WT-4 also enables remote browsing of the camera’s image thumbnails as well.

In a wireless environment, networks of up to 5 D3 and D300 cameras can be established. At a sports event, for example, photo editors could browse all thumbnails on each camera simultaneously, selecting (‘pulling’) the images they need, while the photographers continue shooting.

Hmm–that sounds pretty darn cool.  Does this spell an end to young guys sprinting down sidelines with sacks of CF cards, delivering them to some dude shielding his laptop in a sleeping bag?  Time will tell.  As with so much technology, of course, I’m sure it’ll keep compressing our perception of “fast enough.” [Update: Rob Galbraith has more details and a photo of the transmitter.]

Gigapixel Adobe HQ now in Google Earth

Few people push Photoshop harder than the crew at the Gigapxl Project, creators of ultra-high resolution digital images and prints.  Now their work, including a shot of the Adobe HQ in San Jose, appears inside Google Earth.  You can zoom in from space onto individual images, then zoom way into each one.  Here’s a screenshot.

To check it out, download the latest version of the software.  Under "Layers" on left side, open the "featured content" folder, check the box for "Gigapxl Photos," and then look for the icons of a picture with a camera.  More details are in the Google Earth documentation.

Flash video goes high-def

Great news from the Flash team: the latest version of the Flash Player (available now in beta form) will support the H.264 video codec, paving the way for hardware-accelerated, full-screen high-definition movies on the Web.  Adobe platform evangelist Ryan Stewart hits the highlights:

Does the addition of H.264 mean Flash Player will support HD?
Yes, Flash Player supports 480p, 720p and 1080p content encoded with either On2 or H.264. Performance will vary depending on the capabilities and configuration of your machine. In general a 2.0 GHz Mac or a 3GHz PC, with one or more processors, will deliver an optimum experience.

Will Flash Player 9 Update 3 support non-FLV files?
Yes, with this update, Flash Player will also support MPEG-4 standard container files […]

So basically you can play full, hardware-accelerated 1080p Quicktime videos inside of the updated Flash Player. Welcome to the next generation of web video.

Indeed.  I knew these changes were in the works, but I really didn’t expect them to arrive so quickly. Flash Player engineer Tinic Uro has the details, while Aral Balkan has a full FAQ. All in all, this is a great step forward for Flash developers, Flash video-creating apps (including Photoshop Extended), and Flash video watchers (y’know–just about everyone ever ;-)).

Killer Veggies From Outer Space, + more 3D

Photographic pondering

"Holy crap"-worthy imaging technology

Wow–now this I haven’t seen before: Israeli brainiacs Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir have created a pretty darn interesting video that demonstrates their technique of "Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing."  When scaling an image horizontally or vertically (e.g. making a panorama narrower), the technology looks for paths of pixels that can be removed while causing the least visual disruption.  Just as interesting, if not more so, I think, is the way the technology can add pixels when increasing image dimensions.  Seriously, just check out the video; I think you’ll be blown away.  (More info is in a 20MB PDF, in which they cite work by Adobe’s Aseem Agarwala–the creator of Photoshop CS3’s Auto-Blend Layer code.) [Via Geoff Stearns]

I hope to share more good stuff from SIGGRAPH soon.  While I was being stuffed with ham sandwiches by kindly Irish folks, a number of Adobe engineers were speaking at & exploring the show.  Todor Georgiev, one of the key minds behind the Healing Brush, has been busily gluing together his own cutting edge optical systems.  More on that soon.

New Web gallery goodness

Fresh new Web gallery technology:

PS–Due to a power system shutdown this weekend, I won’t be able to post new entries or approve comments until at least Sunday night.  My God, I might actually have to go outside; wish me luck…

Adobe does Pynchon, one letter at a time

One year ago, Adobe & digital artist unveiled the San Jose Semaphore–24,000 LEDs that form "a multi-sensory kinetic artwork that illuminates the San Jose skyline with the transmission of a coded message."

Now the code has been cracked and is revealed to be spelling out an entire novel, Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.  "The Pynchon book, written in the mid-1960s, is set in a fictional California city filled with high-tech campuses. It follows a woman’s discovery of latent symbols and codes embedded in the landscape and local culture, [Semaphore creator Ben] Rubin said."

Evidently the code does not, as second-generation Photoshop team member David Parent suggested, consist of "Be… sure… to… drink… your… Ovaltine. Son of a bitch!"

Lightroom Podcasts #36-38 now posted

Adobe’s Pro Photography Evangelist George Jardine has gone on a podcasting tear recently:

  • Episode #36, "Adobe Raw Sharpening Controls," is a video offering "a new mini-tutorial showing how Lightroom’s 1.1 sharpening controls work, to help you quickly adjust your capture sharpening in the Develop Module."
  • "What’s so unique about still photography," says photographer Ed Kashi, "is that it forces you to stop, it forces you to think. It’s almost meditative. Particularly compared to the other media that exists today."  In Episode #37, Ed sits down with George to have a conversation about his career, his passion and motivation for photojournalism, and telling stories that matter.
  • “I’ve always loved films," says Bob Sacha, "and I’ve always loved documentary films, partly because I love music, and I love sound. And so in a way I saw film as a way of combining what I knew from still photography with this idea of sound. Light, motion, moment, composition, those are all the sort of hard skills that we possess as photographers. Makes it easier to move over into new media.”  In Episode #38 Bob sits down with George to have a conversation about his career, his love of film, and his quest to integrate sound, video and still photographs into media-rich journalism. Bob also discusses the fellowship project he recently worked on at Ohio University.

All three new podcasts, plus previous episodes, are available via George’s iDisk.  (Scroll to the bottom of the list.) [Via]

Visions in Green

and wonderfully i fell through the green groove
of twilight striking into many a piece.  –ee cummings

I think the country of Ireland deserves its own color space: the famous “Forty Shades of Green” are a malachite manhandling of your optic nerves that can’t be done justice using the puny ProPhoto or anything else.  We need iRGB*–Irish RGB–with the capacity to describe hilariously green tones found nowhere else in nature.

In the meantime, here are my photos from Ireland.  Once you’ve clicked the gallery for the first time, you can move through the images using left and right arrow keys.  A few notes/thoughts:

  • Upside of asking a pro photographer friend for shooting/gear advice before a trip like this: He’ll offer good suggestions, such as bringing a graduated ND filter (which I wish I’d done).  Downside: He’ll show you images he took in the same spots, making you slap your forehead in dismay.  (Thanks a lot, Steve, ;-))
  • I continue to wish that Flash respected color profiles.  Because it doesn’t, the colors in the gallery are totally washed out**, at least on a Mac.  (Right-click/Cmd-click any one of them to see the difference, at least in Safari.)  We’ll keep working towards a solution.
  • I hate disrupting a scene using a flash, so I’m itching to replace my 17-85mm f4 lens with something comparable but faster.  The surprising thing (to me, anyway) is that Canon’s higher-end glass (e.g. the 24-70mm f2.8) doesn’t offer image stabilization.  I’m not sure why that is, or whether losing it would hurt images relative to my current lens.
  • Speaking of green grooves, we referred to various roadways as “green bobsled” tracks–emerald walls whipping by in disturbingly close proximity to one’s head.  Coming around a bend to find a Ford Focus leaning at a 45-degree angle, two wheels firmly up on a stone fence, was a useful cautionary moment.  In describing the trip to her folks, I overheard my wife say, “They drive like the English.” “No,” I interjected, “they drive like Evel Knievel.”  Sadly I couldn’t get any of this on film (er, sensor?).
  • Someday I’d love to try shooting “The Clash of the Ash,” hurling–“the world’s fastest field team sport.”  Unlike soccer/football, this is a game Americans could dig–not the kind of thing about which Stephen Colbert could quip, “I’ll help you tell the boring scoreless matches from the riveting scoreless matches.)

* Thanks to Outback Photo for the color space graphic.
** Here’s a screenshot from a new iPhoto gallery, comparing the identical images shown via Safari (above) to those shown via a Flash gallery (below).

Photoshop Guru Awards: Call for entries

If you’re attending next month’s Photoshop World in Las Vegas, and if you’ve been kicking out the jams in PS, round up three of your best pieces and enter the Photoshop World Guru Awards –but hustle, as the deadline is Wednesday at midnight.  Categories include Artistic, Photography, Photo Restoration, Commercial, Photo Montage, Photo Retouching, and Illustration. [Via]

Speaking of Photoshop World, the crew has added five sessions on Photoshop Extended. The "Extended Special Interest Track will teach scientists, medical practitioners, data analysts, engineers, researchers, and other technical professionals to advance scientific knowledge and find treatments for medical conditions."  In addition, Adobe will be hosting a Birds of a Feather workshop specifically for professionals interested in using CS3 Extended for engineering, architecture, construction, and mechanical design.

Make Fireworks in After Effects, Ditch Quark, & more on Design Center

The Adobe Design Center shimmies into some new content:

* New Dialog Box:

* New Tutorials:

* New White Papers:

Also, check out some of the 970+ Adobe links on  Info on how to contribute links is here.  [Via]

I'm back, with a chuckle

I can’t claim to have returned from Ireland tanned (perma-cloud keeps everyone’s skin 255/255/255–my people!) or rested (a week of piloting a minivan down the “wrong” side of roads no wider than a cocktail straw leaves me shaking with PTSD), but I’m certainly ready to fire up the blog again.  I plan to share some photos shortly.  In the meantime, I’ll shake off the cobwebs with some a few things that made me smile today:

  • The kids at freeloveforum have created a brilliant parody of the breathless promo videos that we technology companies (Adobe, Apple, etc.) can’t resist creating.  With MS Paint, “the future… is in the past!” [Via Alistair Lee]
  • “Where do you live, anyway, a Simpsons cartoon?”  Elsewhere Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer shares his salty thoughts when looking at “Photoshop excess.”  (See also his previous parody of clueless photoblog commenters.)
  • PMS 187 runs deep in my veins…” My art director pal Maria at Hallmark passes along the frisket-slashing stylings of the Original Design Gangster. Pour out a 40 for the dead homie
  • Update: Poor Eric Clapton.  If someone photographed my every movement, I’m sure they’d catch stuff far dopier than this.  Still, it’s kind of funny to see the ol’ guy flummoxed by his lens cap. Maybe he should spend more time hanging around with Graham Nash. [Via Zalman Stern]

Erin Go Bragh (or, see you soon)

Even the most uncannable blog animal needs to recharge his batteries once and a while.  I’m terrible about taking time off (clearly), but for once I’m giving it a shot, planning to spend the next week and a half in Ireland with my family.  All this chatter has reduced my stock of blarney to dangerously low levels, so I plan to return to the source for a reload.  Therefore I expect the blog to go mostly, if not completely, dark until mid August.  [It depends in part on connectivity while on the road (in 1984 we were lucky to get hot water, though things are said to have changed dramatically), and in part on my ability to kick the ‘Net habit for a few days.]

In the meantime, you can keep busy visiting some of the blogs from which I so liberally borrow links (not an exhaustive list, so sorry if I’ve omitted anyone):




You also might want to check out this site’s category archives, as I’ve tried to group most posts by topic (e.g. photography, illustration, typography, etc.).  Otherwise, see you on the flipside, and wish me luck capturing a few good images of the old country.


More gigantic typography

  • 6,272 Post-It notes form a giant, editable "TO DO" on windows in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.  Passersby are invited to jot their own to-do lists on the notes.  I love it.  (Consider this "Solve Gordian knot of ever-increasing power & complexity in Photoshop; also buy new shoelaces," written in absentia.)   More photos of the work are on Flickr.
  • In her Type the Sky project, Lisa Reinermann captures buildings that form letters against the sky, creating a photographic font.  [Via]
  • For more big letters, see previous type entries filed under Enormousness.