December 31, 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]

8:45 AM | Permalink | Comments [9]

December 29, 2005

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 blogs.adobe.com 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, PhotoshopNews.com has served more that 1,000,000 unique visitors. Congratulations, guys!
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December 28, 2005

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.

6:49 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

December 27, 2005

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.

7:06 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

December 26, 2005

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.

2:07 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 21, 2005

Math rock in Illustrator, Josh Davis-style

Adobe.com 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.
[Adobe.com link via Branden Hall]
[More from Joshua here and here.
He's also contributed a chapter to John Maeda's Creative Code: Aesthetics + Computation.]

11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments [7]

December 20, 2005

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.
11:52 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

How could I make this blog better in ’06?

With four months having passed since I started blogging, I could use your help. Are there things about which you’re hearing too much? Too little? I want to make sure this blog is worth a damn (specifically, worth your time to read), so if you have feedback for sorting the killer from the filler, I’d like to hear it.
Thanks,
J.

9:44 AM | Permalink | Comments [9]

December 19, 2005

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.

8:45 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

December 18, 2005

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.

6:21 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

Angel’s World

The NY Times features an article on photographer Angelo Rizzuto and a slideshow of his images. From 1952 to 1966, Rizzuto left his apartment each day at 2pm to document the people and streets of New York, concluding every roll with a grim self-portrait. His work and troubled life are chronicled in the new book Angel’s World by Michael Lesy.

4:36 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 16, 2005

CONEheads & Stealth Cats

Well, this takes the whole photo-sharing thing to the next level, eh?: Berkeley robotics professor and sometime-Eraserhead doppelganger Ken Goldberg has developed CONE, a prototype for a portable, solar-powered robotic observatory that can photograph animal activity, then upload the data via satellite connection. Collaborative algorithms manage requests for control from multiple users.
[Via]
On a slightly related note, November’s National Geographic magazine featured some great images of ocelots, captured via remotely triggered cameras. Building on the great stuff in the print edition, the online version features a couple cool shots.

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December 15, 2005

New Adobe podcasts from Russell Brown

Adobe’s own inimitable Russell Brown has begun delivering audio and video podcasts. To check them out, search for “Russell Brown” via iTunes. Russell says he plans to post new content over the next few weeks. (See also: links to other Photoshop podcasts.) [Update: Thanks to Jeff Tranberry for supplying the direct link to Russell's podcasts.]

2:07 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

December 14, 2005

Get America 24/7 free with PSCS2

I just got a heads up on a little promotion from the Adobe Store: if you buy or upgrade Photoshop CS2 and enter coupon number 8m11ja05 just prior to checking out, you’ll get a copy of the beautiful America 24/7 coffee table book for free. From the publisher:

America 24/7 reunites the team that started the popular A Day in the Life series of photography books, Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen. More than 25,000 amateur and professional photographers snapped photos accross America during a one-week time period with digital cameras. From the million-plus photos submitted, 25,000 were chosen and compiled in this book. The result is an amazing array of subjects, but all shot with a consistency of tone.

This coupon will expire January 31, 2006, and is only valid in the US and Canada only.

10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 13, 2005

Sacre Rouge

I’m trying to put the Carmen Sandiego in “CS” this week, visiting Adobe offices and customers in Europe. Now, fond as I am of watching the planes land at SJC, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Adobe Paris office has a bit better view, no? (The NY office has it pretty good, too, with the Empire State Building looming off one side and Bryant Park below on the other.) The mood in the office is upbeat, and folks are looking forward to meeting their new, former-Macromedia colleagues (with whom some had already collaborated to show Flash-Premiere-After Effects integration).

2:49 PM | Permalink | Comments [4]

December 12, 2005

Photographers Directory now in French, German, Spanish

The Adobe Photographers Directory is now available in French, German and Spanish, in addition to the English version launched earlier this year. Visitors can search by location (20 countries and growing) and more than 40 photographic specialties. The directory is accessible directly from Bridge in the supported languages, and from Adobe.com.

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PhotoStamps now live in Elements

Direct upload to PhotoStamps.com has gone live in Photoshop Elements and the free Photoshop Album Starter Edition, with Bridge integration to follow. I had a great experience with the service this summer, creating a stamp for use on wedding thank-you notes. People were amazed, and several clipped and saved the cancelled stamps. (I finally convinced them that the stamps were legit, though I’m not sure they’ll ever believe that I didn’t fake the rainbow. ;-))

9:14 PM | Permalink | Comments [5]

December 11, 2005

Striking images from the UK

An uncredited photographer for Getty Images captured an amazing shot following this morning’s explosion at a fuel depot in southeast England. See also a satellite image of the event. (I happened to be landing at Heathrow via a redeye flight & saw the enormous column of smoke off the right wingtip, luckily at a much greater distance.)

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December 09, 2005

Clutter Reel

I had to smile at this paragraph in a Slate article on Charles Schwab’s new Waking Life-style ads:

These spots aim to stand apart from the muddled crowd. “We actually made a ‘clutter reel,’ ” says Ben Stuart, VP of Brand Strategy and Advertising for Schwab, “to show how the category was filled with all these stock clichés of wealth. Adirondack chairs. Sailing. Burled walnut paneling. Not only are these images tired, they also lack both credibility and relevance with most consumers.”

Is it just me, or could one create just such a reel with all the clichés being used for digital photography tools? Yes, the underlying concepts are enormously important, but if I hear or (wince) have to say workflow one more time–much less non-destructive, seamless, integrated, efficient, broad, archival, etc.–I may burst into flames. ;-)
Yours in seamlessnondestructiveintegratedefficientworkflows,
J.

10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

New plug-ins from Alien Skin, GridIron, Akvis

  • Longtime Photoshop developer Alien Skin has announced Exposure. “Foremost a film simulator,” the plug-in can “quickly and easily evoke the vivid colors of Velvia®, the rich blacks of Kodachrome®, or the sensitivity of Ektachrome®,” as well as facilitate cross processing, push processing, and glamour portrait softening. [Via] I remember talking to the brilliant photo-illustrator Sanjay Kothari about how he’d simulate film stocks and processes. He asked for just this sort of tool.

  • After Effects developer GridIron Software has announced Nucleo, applying the company’s expertise in multi-machine rendering to speeding up single machines with multiple CPUs and/or multi-core processors. Rendering and preview tasks are said to be sped up by as much as 300%. [Via]
  • Akvis has updated its Coloriage plug-in for black and white colorization. The tool also looks interesting for trying out color schemes in a photo, colorizing a hand-drawn sketch, and more; see the tutorials on their site. [Via]
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December 06, 2005

Visual Complexity

In the same vein as earlier posts about burrowing through large data sets and visualizing flight data, check out VisualComplexity.com. The site describes itself as “a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks.” Examples range from voice network traffic to a 1940′s budget chart to the tendrils of political networks. Edward Tufte, your meal is served. [Via]

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December 05, 2005

Welcome, Macromedia!

They say a watched pot never boils, and I was starting to wonder if this day would ever arrive, but it looks like Adobe and Macromedia are now one, with the Macromedia and Adobe sites being updated accordingly (including the Adobe Store offering new bundles). At this point not a lot of info has been communicated internally, so I’ll be brief until we know more. I think this is an extremely exciting time, and I can’t wait to start collaborating with folks from Flash, Dreamweaver, and all the other great Macromedia teams. Welcome to the Big Red A, guys; it’s going to be a great ride.

7:22 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

December 04, 2005

Photo sharing, early 20th century-style

Today I was flipping through prints of a couple hundred shots I’d uploaded to Kodak via the Adobe Photoshop Services built into Bridge. I didn’t realize, though, that Kodak has been in the custom-photo-thing-you-can-mail business for some 100 years. The Morning News features an article about the “real photo postcards” craze (c.1907) brought about by the introduction of a preprinted card back that allowed postcards to be made directly from negatives. The accompanying gallery features some beautiful, ethereal images, and I like this weirdo’s sense of humor. [More background here and here.]

1:11 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

December 03, 2005

New book: Secrets of Adobe Bridge

Adobe Bridge has received some pretty extensive coverage in CS2 books, focusing largely on the photography workflow aspects. Now Adobe’s own Terry White has written Secrets of Adobe Bridge, devoted entirely to this application and its role in the Suite (e.g. browsing multi-page PDFs and InDesign docs, tracking font and color usage through metadata, collaborating via Version Cue, etc.).

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AE + Flash, Maya

I think of After Effects as “Photoshop on wheels,” and like Photoshop, AE is used together with a wide variety of other applications. Two examples caught my eye recently:

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December 02, 2005

Trilobites & Kilobytes

I want to prevent cruelty to dead horses & avoid beating them whenever possible, and I hate scare tactics. But sitting on the floor of my apartment this week, trying to hoover the data off my old beige G3/266 and onto my PowerBook, I was reminded of why we’re bothering with this whole DNG thing. Innovation means change, leading to incompatibility, meaning that without some thought given to preservation, your work is at risk.
It was only 5 years ago that the G3 in question was my desktop workhorse, but in simply trying to recover its data I discovered:

  • AppleTalk transfer between OS 8.6 and 10.4 fails. The machines could see each other, but transfers would immediately stall. I get why Apple wouldn’t test this scenarios heavily, but still, it’s only been 5 years.
  • Connecting a current hard drive was out, given that USB and FireWire weren’t supported on this machine. And good luck finding SCSI components in a store now.
  • You can still track down a Zip drive these days, but the new ones can’t write Zip100 disks. Luckily they can still read them.
  • GoLive 8 (CS2) can’t read a site file produced by GoLive 4.
  • Self-running Director presentations no longer work (my fault, given that I don’t maintain Classic on this machine, but it’s an indicator of the transience of the work).

Sneakernet and Zip disks ended up providing the solution, and as I played three-card monte with the disks, I browsed Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Reading about the development of the fossil record, I had to smile. Picking through a circa-2000 machine felt a little like looking at the Burgess Shale, searching for signs of life.
In the end I was able to keep the bulk of my data, but the process offered some useful perspective. If talking to a machine from 5 years back was this tricky using the same platform, how would it be for one from ten years back? 15? And how will you get at today’s data in 15 years? Seems like a good case for making images & the edits done to them as open and portable as possible.

2:42 PM | Permalink | Comments [3]

You spin me right ’round, DRÖMKÖK, right ’round

Ikea’s “Drömkök åt alla” (“Dreamkitchens for everyone”) site brings a fresh spin (sorry) to the Bullet Time photography aesthetic, letting you rotate through a series of rooms [link via Mike Downey]. sto.pp, the post-production company that did this work, features a behind-the-scenes article here.

9:53 AM | Permalink | Comments [3]

December 01, 2005

Magnum now on Slate

Solid: Slate Magazine now offers a daily feature showcasing the photojournalism of Magnum Photos. You can check out this introductory overview on the project, or jump directly to the images.

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New DNG Automator action

Ben Long has expanded his Photoshop Action Pack with a new Automator action for DNG Conversion. To use it you’ll need the free DNG Converter for Mac. [Update: Thanks to Geoff Stearns for pointing out this DNG Workflow resource that ties the converter together with a folder action and a rename function.]

9:22 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

Call for student entries in Design Achievement Awards

The Education team is now accepting entries for the 2006 Adobe Design Achievement Awards. Each winner gets 5g’s, seven Adobe apps, a trip to Toronto, and no trip to San Jose (a reward unto itself ;-)). Here’s the downloadable poster and the press release.

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