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Images from the End of the Earth: Behind the Scenes of Landon Curt Noll’s Antarctic Adventures

Having been afflicted with a chronic case of wanderlust for as long as I can remember, I was instantly hooked when one particularly interesting story ran across my desk a few months back: the story of Landon Curt Noll and his trips to Antarctica, where he searches for and studies meteorites. Though he’s a Cryptographer and Number Theorist by day, Landon travelled as the Expedition Scientist on TravelQuest International’s Expedition to Antarctica in January 2014. Landon and his team were the first people to tweet (@astronomytravel) while standing at the South Pole, which required the use of an Iridium satellite phone because of their remote location. They were also able to take some stunning images, capturing a small percentage of the South Pole’s many wonders. Since this chilly tundra is not your typical photo destination, I reached out to Landon and his photo-processing partner in crime, JC Dill, to share more of their story.

Antarctica is the widest continent on Earth. Strong winds flowing over the Ellsworth Mountains form lenticular clouds with amazing shapes.

Antarctica is the widest continent on Earth. Strong winds flowing over the Ellsworth Mountains form lenticular clouds with amazing shapes.

Tell us a little about yourself, including why you’re interested in photography.

Landon: The first complete sentence I spoke as a child of age 2 was, “How far is the Sun?” I remain an Astronomer to this day, focused on the inner solar system. I have made astronomical observations during total solar eclipses in the US, Turkey, Zambia, Australia, Antarctica, Libya, China, Eniwetok, French Polynesia, Australia and Antarctica – my first when I was just 10. While the totality lasts for only a few minutes, the journey is about visiting, learning about, and photographing the people and places along the way.

So what exactly are you doing at the South Pole?

Landon: Our research involves testing methods to search for meteorites resting just below the surface of the Antarctic ice. In the pure ice conditions of the interior, these Antarctic meteorites provide a rare uncontaminated view of material from outer space: uncontaminated by human contact or weathering from earth elements. Not only do we test methods for detecting meteorites below the surface of the ice, we actually find them! (15 in total from the 2011, 2013 and 2014 expeditions.)

One objective of the TravelQuest Antarctica expedition was to locate meteorites (objects from outer space that survive impact) resting just below the surface of the ice.

One objective of the TravelQuest Antarctica expedition was to locate meteorites (objects from outer space that survive impact) resting just below the surface of the ice.

What are some difficulties about photographing in Antarctica?

Landon: A lot of things, actually. The cold makes battery management problematic. Complex mechanical zoom lenses can fail. Point and shoot pocket cameras have a surprisingly high failure rate as their electro-mechanical functions jam, like when you turn on and extend a telephoto lens. Large body SLRs with large internal batteries seem to work best. With the nearest camera store on the next continent, taking a spare camera is a must.

Special care must be taken to avoid condensation and freezing of your camera gear. When moving from the cold outside into a vehicle, tent, or commissary, you have to place the camera into a breathable bag, leaving it inside until the camera is warm to the touch.

Ice dust is a constant problem. At those very low temperatures, fine ice particles act like dust. Unlike normal dust, ice dust can convert to water vapor, work its way through seals and deposit itself inside the camera. Ice dust on a sensor is particularly problematic.

Antarctica is under the ozone hole. Together with high altitude, UV radiation is a problem for eyes, skin and cameras. High quality UV filters are important. Without a UV filter, the bright UV will impact the quality of the image. To protect the eyes, one needs to use strong polarized goggles over dark sunglasses, and since most camera back displays are also polarized, unless you rotate the camera just the right way, you won’t see the image displayed very well. Due to problems with viewing camera back displays with polarized goggles and dark glasses, we opted for SLR cameras with optical viewfinders.

One of the most interesting things about photographing in Antarctica is deciding when to sleep and how to make sure you capture certain features when the light is coming from the direction you desire. Because the sun is up 24 hours a day, it traverses 360 degrees every day. You have the special opportunity to get light from any compass direction.

Meteorites found in Antarctic ice are in a pristine state; free from the common contamination that they suffer when they land almost any other place on Earth. Once located in the ice, we carefully scrape down to the meteorite and photograph from a safe distance to avoid contaminating them.

Meteorites found in Antarctic ice are in a pristine state; free from the common contamination that they suffer when they land almost any other place on Earth. Once located in the ice, we carefully scrape down to the meteorite and photograph from a safe distance to avoid contaminating them.

So Landon takes the photos, then JC processes them. Is that right?

JC: When Landon travels, he’s on the road for weeks at a time and comes home with thousands of images. I couldn’t begin to handle the workload without Lightroom.

This first pass is quick, I may have one to three thousand photos to evaluate and I need to quickly whittle down to the ones that will get edited. During the second pass, I concentrate on photos with three or more stars, and then I start to edit the images themselves – adjust exposure, batch process with similar photos in the same light, then crop and up-star the ones that stand out. Landon will make a pass through and indicate the two-star photos that help tell the story, but may not necessarily be exceptional photographs.

Lastly, we go to work with the detailed editing, which mostly includes using the tool available in Lightroom to show/enhance dust. Somehow the cameras manage to accumulate dust inside even when they are not opened during a trip. Taking cleaning tools and cleaning the sensor is problematic for a number of reasons, so it is not done on ice. This means that I have substantial dust spot editing to do to get those spots out of the snow and sky.

Big thanks to Landon and JC for answering our questions. We hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into what it’s like to photograph in one of the most challenging environments on Earth. More of the team’s images can be seen below.

And what’s on-deck next for Landon? Well, later this year he’ll be on an astronomical and photographic expedition to Botswana, after which he’ll photograph the total solar eclipse above the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole, and then he’ll finish out 2015 with a return to Antarctica for another meteorite search. Best of luck and Godspeed, Landon…I, for one, wish I was riding shotgun on all these epic adventures.

Our Illusion 76 aircraft, just landed on the Union Glacier Blue Ice runway, is being uploaded with our supplies.

Our Ilyushin II-76 aircraft, just landed on the Union Glacier Blue Ice runway, is being uploaded with our supplies.

As the desert wind turns rock into sand, so the polar wind scrapes the ice of Antarctica to form ice dust. What you see is not the mere surface of a frozen lake, but rather the top of solid ice more than 1.5km (almost a mile) thick!

As the desert wind turns rock into sand, so the polar wind scrapes the ice of Antarctica to form ice dust. What you see is not the mere surface of a frozen lake, but rather the top of solid ice more than 1.5km (almost a mile) thick!

The air of Antarctica, free from dust, pollen and smog, is the cleanest air found on Earth. Without anything to interfere with sunlight, the sky is really this blue (this image was calibrated by a color chart). The mirror of the ice reflects the blue sky, turning an even richer blue in return.

The air of Antarctica, free from dust, pollen and smog, is the cleanest air found on Earth. Without anything to interfere with sunlight, the sky is really this blue (this image was calibrated by a color chart). The mirror of the ice reflects the blue sky, turning an even richer blue in return.

Ice from the high polar plateau flows through gaps in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains on its way down to the sea. The scale of this flow may be appreciated by observing the buildings of a base camp in the foreground.

Ice from the high polar plateau flows through gaps in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains on its way down to the sea. The scale of this flow may be appreciated by observing the buildings of a base camp in the foreground.

Antarctica offers amazing photographic opportunities on the grand scale as well as the micro. Antarctic ice comes in a wide variety of patterns. This ice surface measures 5cm (2 inches) across.

Antarctica offers amazing photographic opportunities on the grand scale as well as the micro. Antarctic ice comes in a wide variety of patterns. This ice surface measures 5cm (2 inches) across.

Snowcats are an effective way to travel on ice. TravelQuest used them to travel from base camp to meteorite search locations in the Union Glacier area.

Snowcats are an effective way to travel on ice. TravelQuest used them to travel from base camp to meteorite search locations in the Union Glacier area.

While it is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this photo of my feet needs a few more words to help identify its unique context.

While it is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this photo of my feet needs a few more words to help identify its unique context.

Travelers arriving at the Ceremonial South Pole (located some 500 m [0.3 miles] from the Geographical South Pole) should always know where their towel is.

Travelers arriving at the Ceremonial South Pole (located some 500 m [0.3 miles] from the Geographical South Pole) should always know where their towel is.

Photoshop Mix 1.1: New Features Thanks to Your Feedback

About a year ago, a few members of the Photoshop team and some really talented folks in our Beijing office embarked on a mission to turn a prototype into a shipping project.  The team quickly grew and together we raced to deliver Photoshop Mix 1.0 alongside all of the new desktop applications at our June launch event in New York. Photoshop Mix – a free iPad application focused on selective edits, basic compositing and a little bit of Photoshop magic – has since enjoyed a tremendous number of downloads…thank you!  In the race to launch, we left a few things undone, but with a tremendous effort from our team and a LOT of input from our users (again, thank you!) today we’re proud to announce Photoshop Mix 1.1.

1.1 might sound like a minor update, but it satisfies the majority of feedback we’ve heard from in-app feedback, research and reviews.  Of course, the Mix team couldn’t help but sprinkle in a few things above and beyond.

Photoshop Mix 1.1


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The Lightroom Team Volunteers with Gilda’s Club Twin Cities

One of the reasons I love working for Adobe is that it’s a company with a heart.  On a daily basis, I work to perfect a program that helps photographers all over the world create their own brand of magic, but once in awhile we get to help those in need directly through the power of imagery.

It was in this spirit that the Lightroom team recently embarked on our own philanthropic adventure. We heard about the Grand Opening of the Minneapolis chapter of Gilda’s Club, a non-profit organization helping those dealing with the effects of cancer, and instantly knew we wanted to get involved. After brainstorming, we decided to volunteer our photography knowledge and expertise to create memorable photographs for cancer patients and their families. Collaborating with Gilda’s club, we came up with two photo setups:

  • A photo booth equipped with props to celebrate the festive nature of the Grand Opening party
  • A photo studio setup with backdrops and lights for formal family portraits

For the photo booth, we built a tethered capture station that fed photos directly into Lightroom.  We applied a black & white develop preset to images from the photo booth, simulating traditional photo booth snapshots. These were displayed 4-up in Survey mode on a nearby monitor for everybody at the party to see and enjoy.  After the event, the photo booth images were shared on the GCTC Facebook page.

4up

Adobe team members Paul Kleczka, Jesse Zibble, Dan Gerber and Craig Marble test out the props

For the photo studio, 2 tethered capture stations were set up, and we alternated between stations for each session. Images were fed into Lightroom and members from the Lightroom and Premiere Pro teams prepped the images, applied color corrections, and exported to individual thumb drives for the families.  We shot 21 different groups in 4 hours!

Gildas-8

The DeCamillis family (Ali, Joe, Luca & Siena)

Gildas-6

Michelle Silverman and Leslie Shore

Gildas-7

CoCo Banken and Chase Andrew Banken, Grandmother and Grandson

We had such an amazing time with everybody and are so thankful for the stories that they shared with us. We shot a couple celebrating their 34th anniversary, a 4-generation quartet of beautiful women, and one family of 14, where both Grandma and one grandson are cancer survivors.

Both the photobooth and the studio setup were huge hits, reminding us that photography is a special way to capture moments in time. The team at Gilda’s Club Twin Cities is already asking about ‘next time’ and we can’t wait to do it all over again.

Adobe Voluteer Photographers-4

Front Row (L-R): Zach Nelson, Jeff Van de Walker, Mark Soderberg, Alex Seabold. Back row (L-R): Becky Sowada, Arri Kooiman, Craig Marble, Jesse Zibble, Paul Kleczka, Dan Gerber, Ben Zibble

We’d love to hear other stories of you using Lightroom and photography to help the local community…post a comment telling your story!

 

About Gilda’s Club

Gilda’s Club, founded by Gene Wilder and Joanna Bull in honor of Gilda Radner, is an organization that provides support and resources to people dealing with cancer.  Membership is free, and Gilda’s Club supports anybody affected with cancer, including cancer patients and survivors and their friends and family. It’s a great organization that lives up to its mission; “No one should face cancer alone”.

 

New 3D printing features and enhancements in Photoshop CC

Today we are releasing an update to Photoshop CC that includes new 3D printing features and enhancements designed to make it easier to create beautiful 3D printed designs and give you more printing options. This represents the third set of new and enhanced 3D printing features in Photoshop CC in 6 months since we first announced 3D printing support back in January!

Our goal is to help you take your 3D design ideas to the next level, and bring them into the physical world, and since January, we’ve seen artists like Sophie Kahn and Tobias Klein inspire us with their artwork and creativity, creatives like Paul Liaw amaze us with their ideas, agencies like Jeff Johnson’s Replace disrupt the design process by bringing 3D printed prototypes to initial client meetings, and innovators like Bradley Rothenberg challenge the fashion world.

Sophie Kahn; Tobias Klein; Paul Liaw

Sophie Kahn; Tobias Klein; Paul Liaw


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Apple’s Aperture News

Today, Apple announced they will no longer be developing Aperture in light of their new photography app for OS X. If you are an Aperture or iPhoto customer looking for change, check out our new Creative Cloud Photography plan announced last week, or our standalone Lightroom app for your desktop as alternatives.

The all new Creative Cloud Photography Plan gives you Photoshop (Mac / Win) and Lightroom (Mac / Win / iPhone / iPad / Web). This new offer not only addresses traditional desktop photo requirements but extends these workflows to the web and your mobile devices. Today, Lightroom mobile provides seamless access from desktop, tablet, phone and web.

Put simply we’re doubling down on our investments in Lightroom and the new Creative Cloud Photography plan and you can expect to see a rich roadmap of rapid innovation for desktop, web and device workflows in the coming weeks, months and years. We also continue to invest actively on the iOS and OSX platforms, and starting with Lightroom 5.7 interested iPhoto and Aperture customers can migrate to our rich solution across desktop, device and web workflows using the integrated importer.

To learn more about our offer for Photographers click here. To learn more about the announcements we made last week click here.

<Edited on 11.18.2014 to add information about Lightroom 5.7’s integrated importer – jtranber>

Crank it up to 15: Introducing Adobe Photoshop CC 2014

Today, we are launching a new Creative Cloud Photography plan for $9.99 a month. In response to overwhelmingly positive feedback from you about our $9.99 per month promotional bundle of Photoshop and Lightroom, today we make the plan a Creative Cloud offering open to any customer. You asked for it. We listened.

In addition, we are delighted to announce a full refresh of our digital imaging line of products, plus a few exciting new treats. With today’s announcements we move forward on our promise to unite mobile, social and desktop — connecting the planet’s best photography tools to the iPhone and iPad, enabling you to do serious work anywhere – on the PC, Mac and mobile devices – and share it seamlessly among them. The best news of the day…this is just the beginning.

Let’s start with the new treats


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New Design Features in Photoshop CC, Including Typekit, Smarter Smart Guides, and More

Today we launched a major update to Photoshop CC – the fourth version of Photoshop CC with new features since its launch in June 2013. These features build on many other features released in past versions of Photoshop CC, like Generator and Linked Smart Objects. In fact, if you do the math, there are 45% more new features in Photoshop CC in total than in Photoshop CS6!

Today’s launch is a big release for designers. Designers, including those who work on web design and mobile apps, are an important segment for the Photoshop team. We’ve been focusing more and more on the needs our designer customers, and you are going to see even more design-focused features in the future. Here’s what we’re delivering to you today:


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Custom workflows with Adobe Generator in Photoshop CC

Adobe Generator, part of Photoshop CC, is a platform for accessing Photoshop in powerful new ways. Generator allows plug-ins to access rich information about open documents in real-time. Most people know that you can export web assets through Generator, but it can be used for so much more. Check out the custom Generator plug-in that Adobe employee CJ Gammon built to help automate the creation of an online comic strip for PBS:

In some companies, developers and designers attempt to automate workflows as much as possible, sometimes creating custom tools to streamline the process. But what if developers could tap into the tools their designers are already using? This is where Adobe Generator for Photoshop CC comes in. Generator allows you to access and automate commands and respond to changes in Photoshop.

Word Girl from PBS - Generator in Photoshop CC

We recently tried out Generator in an experiment with PBS Kids to bring one of their children’s comics to the web. They provided us with Word Girl, a comic that follows a child with super powers and a super vocabulary. Our job was to convert it into a web experience incorporating animation.

Because we were given flat artwork, we knew that we would have to break up the frames into separate layers in order to add animation, likely more than one layer for each cell. Ultimately there were over 200 individual images.

Wordgirl for PBS frames - Using Generator in Photoshop CC

As you can imagine, this would be a pretty labor-intensive task with a number of challenges. We knew one challenge would be saving out all of these layers as optimized files with a consistent naming convention. We also knew it would be important to know the position and structure of each layer so that we could lay out the images correctly without manually positioning them. Because we wanted to animate the content within their cell frame, we would also need to mask layers so they would get clipped if they moved outside of the frame. Pulling this data from Photoshop and using it directly in our site would save us the trouble of creating these masks by hand.

The pain points we encountered can be categorized into two basic categories: asset generation and document structure.

  • Asset generation is the ability to turn each layer into an optimized image with naming conventions to fit our needs.
  • Document structure is obtaining key data like position and masks out of the document to use in building the animation.

Using Generator in Photoshop CC

Asset Generation

For asset generation, a lot of the work was done for us already. Photoshop CC ships with the ‘Image Assets’ Generator plug-in which allows you to use your layer name to automate the process of saving out all your layers as optimized web images. This plug-in is published on Github for anyone to tweak or improve.

Using Generator in Photoshop CC

Document Structure

To collect the document structure, we decided to create our own Generator plug-in using the ‘Image Assets’ plug-in as a starting point. Fortunately collecting the document structure is relatively easy. Since Generator runs on node.js, all the code is written in JavaScript and the Generator API provides access to the core PSD structure in JSON.

We were then able to create a method within our plug-in that saves this out to a .json file to be loaded into our website. This file contained not only the layer structure and names, allowing us to easily iterate through them and load the necessary images, but also the position of the layer’s bounds. This gave us the exact position our images needed to be placed at to reflect their position in the PSD.

Using Generator in Photoshop CC

The next step was to collect the clip path, so that images moving outside of their frame would be clipped appropriately. To do this we set up our Photoshop document with all the layers of each cell in groups. Then we created a vector mask on that group to be used as the clip path for the images. The vertices of a vector mask are not available in the document info JSON, but a recently added method in Generator allowed us to query the vector mask of a given layer. We used this to collect the vector mask data and include it with the document info.

Using Generator in Photoshop CC

Simply by running this script we automatically produced the images and a JSON file with the information we needed to reassemble the PSD in HTML. We were then able to go into the website and animate the layers manually (Yes, there are some things we still need to do manually, but maybe one day this will be solved too).

Building this custom solution likely saved weeks of time and frustration. This project is just one small example of how designers and developers can build custom workflows to speed up and simplify the tedious aspects of their job using Adobe Generator in Photoshop CC.

Generator in Photoshop CC

 

 

Behind IN MOTION with Aaron Grimes

You may not yet have heard of talented young photographer Aaron Grimes, but you’re about to. Though he’s traveled and worked with our very own Russell Brown, most notably on their short film Bodie – from the Sky, there’s no doubt that Aaron has a talent all his own. On a recent trip to Tokyo, Japan, Aaron captured numerous shots in the Shibuya District and meticulously stacked them together using Photoshop CC to create a unique video inspired by traditional time-lapses.

In Motion from Aaron Grimes on Vimeo.

His talent is a frequent topic of conversation here in the halls of Adobe, so I wanted to sit down and chat with Aaron to give you all a behind-the-scenes look at the process he used and the story behind the video IN MOTION.


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