September 30, 2006

I {Heart} Pixel Art

David Pogue in the NY Times recently posted links to a number of great examples of pixel art:

  • I Love Pixel has created an enormous seafront community.
  • Supertotto says “Make Pixels Not War” and blows up some Photoshop 1.0 icons to (mini-)museum size.
  • Pixel Joint is a community site for pixel artists & hosts a wealth of links to tutorials, artists, and more.
  • And, as always, there’s the excellent crew at eboy, who’ve recently created portraits of the Google guys.

Elsewhere, is devoted to pimping Mario Karts on Nintendo DS’s & will design artwork on commission. [Via] And meanwhile citizens of Taiwan are protesting their government through this virtual sit-in.
Slightly related: I love the line art in Röyksopp’s “Remind Me” video, and though it’s not pixel art, I like Adam Simpson’s bleak little isometric city. And posted previously, here’s how to draw a pixel portrait tutorial.

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September 29, 2006

Visual Trickery, Vol. III

  • Bad Maggie, no biscuit: The Mighty Illusions blog features two takes on Margaret Thatcher’s face, highlighting the way our brains interpret shapes differently based on orientation and context. (Try scrolling the page slowly, so that you see only the first pair of images before looking at the second, inverted pair.) [Via]
  • Artist Harvey Opgenorth does “Museum Camouflage,” placing himself in front of well known pieces of art, using thrift-store salvage to blend into them. [Via] He shares some theory on it here. (Reminds me of that wallpaper shirt from Garden State.)

[See previous I and II.]

11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

Crazy umbrella-cam/Flickr browser

I’ve mentioned some unusual cameras before, but this one takes a Special Jury Prize for Weirdness: The Pileus System is a functioning umbrella that can also capture still images and video, upload them to Flickr, and project other users’ creations onto the umbrella’s skin. Uploads are automatic, and twisting the grip browses Flickr and YouTube for related tags.
Marginally related: is an art project that links umbrellas via Bluetooth, making them light up in one another’s presence. And the iBrella consists of “a Pic Microcontroller, a 2-Axis Accelerometer, Hall-Effect Sensors and a Gyroscope”–all so that you can gesture wildly and thereby control your iPod.

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September 28, 2006

Seetharaman Narayanan (three times fast!)

Heh–the fascination goes on: the excellently named killer coder and all-around good sport Seetharaman Narayanan of the Photoshop team has been interviewed by David Friedman of IronicSans. Seetha talks about his fan club, history with Photoshop, and enjoyment of “Playboy’s number one Party School in 1987” (wha? though it does help explain why I once got a feature into PS in exchange for a bottle of Don Julio). Now that Boing Boing has picked up the news, we just need someone to make a techno remix featuring the phrase “Seetharaman Narayanan”… [Via]

1:22 PM | Permalink | Comments [4]

September 25, 2006

Lightroom Beta 4 has arrived

Beta 4 of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (note the new name) has arrived on Adobe Labs. This release incorporates a great deal of user feedback* and is the first to offer feature parity between Mac (Universal since day 1) and Windows. Important changes include the following:

  • Groundbreaking changes in the way tone curve adjustments are made and displayed, giving you the highest quality results in an interface that’s easier to use than ever before. (See Martin Evening’s excellent overview of the Develop module for more details.)
  • More streamlined and elegant user interface – We’ve made several changes to the look and feel based on your feedback in the earlier beta releases.
  • Customizable interface – You can now display only the controls you want to be visible.
  • Precision white balance selection tool
  • Facility to easily rename and convert files to DNG after they’ve been imported to the Lightroom library
  • Increased interaction between Lightroom library organizational structure and the underlying file system
  • Filter and search presets to more quickly find the photographs you want
  • Better performance and improved interface for the Web module features
  • Support for the Nikon D2Xs and Sony A100, as well as preliminary support for the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (400D) and Nikon D80
  • Develop control improvements based on community feedback, including comments from the Pixmantec user community (welcome!)

PhotoshopNews carries a more detailed list of new features and known issues as well as the the press release, and the Labs site hosts galleries from Lightroom users. Let us know what you think!
*325,000 downloaders & 3,400 participants in the Lightroom forum have provided a wealth of good info.

8:08 AM | Permalink | Comments [11]

September 24, 2006

Mona’s from Mars, Photoshop’s from Venus

Photoshop’s use in the sciences has been getting some good press lately:

(See the Science & Tech category for more stories.)

6:56 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

September 23, 2006

Flying with your cam? Better bring a pistol.

Having borrowed some nice photo gear from the Photoshop QE locker this weekend, I’m getting acquainted with the travel pains it brings. New TSA rules mean anything from hassle (at best) to smashed glass, lost lenses, etc. This state of affairs drives quite a bit of commentary from photogs, culminating with a rather brilliant suggestion: why not ensure the safety of checked gear by packing a starter pistol in each camera case? Check out the post for full details, and happy shooting (ba-dum, tssch!). (Hmm, I wonder if a Jerky Cannon would suffice?) [Via Andrew Shebanow & William Gregory]

2:06 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

September 21, 2006

Iconfactory talks, Illustrator listens

In case you don’t know ’em, the guys at Iconfactory have been making some top-notch pixel art for more than 10 years. (I seem to remember using their stuff back in the System 7 days to get that ultra-mod “Copland” look.) Anyway, they’ve been migrating from FreeHand to Illustrator & posted their Top 5 Adobe Illustrator CS Pet Peeves, plus the provocatively titled follow-on “Et tu, Adobe?”. It’s all good feedback, if a little frustrating (only because we’re always needling one another about these things already).

So, a bit of good news: Illustrator PM Phil Guindi dropped these guys a note to let them know of some welcome changes coming down the pike, prompting Gedeon Maheux to write, “Phil, all we can say is…wow! We had our finger’s crossed that someone at Adobe would see our post so your email has made our day, and probably our year. :-)” Nice! It sounds like we’ve kicked off what should be a very fruitful dialog with these talented artists.

The other key point here, I think, is that what Gedeon & co. want isn’t more features per se; it’s functionality that simply works better. This is true across the board: no one says, “Oh, Photoshop? Yeah, I’d buy that, but there just isn’t enough stuff in there…” Rather, people mainly want things to work more smoothly, to just flow. I’m happy to report that the Illustrator team has a whole bunch of spit & polish tasks on their list, and I’m keeping a list of “Brain-dead things we fixed in Photoshop CS3”–now somewhere around 20 items. And that’s the goal: saving the world, one non-slapped forehead at a time. ;-)

12:05 AM | Permalink | Comments [6]

September 20, 2006

HP camera puckers up

As in-camera processors get faster, what can they be used for besides grabbing more and more pixels? HP has one answer: apply slimming right in the camera. Heh–I wonder what else they could do with this (maybe reverse the effect to make me look yoked on the beach?). [Via Tom Attix]
Of course, doing too much in camera can alienate some photographers. Earier this summer, Fuji’s in-camera facial recognition feature earned the comment “If You Think You Need This, Kill Yourself” from The Online Photographer. Then again, some purists still swear that no significant work has ever been done with a zoom lens, so what can you do?

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September 19, 2006

160 megapixels or bust

Got 28,900 Euro burning a hole in your pocket (or 45,500 CHF for all you Confoederatio Helvetica types)? If so, you can be the top kid in the canton with this 160MP crowd-pleaser from Seitz. The new device offers Gigabit Ethernet output & is said to capture 300MB of data per second, producing images of 21,250 x 7,500 pixels. And the megapixel arms race goes on… [Via Chris Quartetti]

9:29 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

Camera Raw 3.5 now available

Adobe Camera Raw 3.5 has been released for Mac and Windows. Newly supported cameras:

  • Kodak EasyShare P712
  • Nikon D2Xs
  • Panasonic DMC-FZ50
  • Panasonic DMC-L1
  • Sony A100

A couple of notes:

  1. The DNG Converter is now available as a universal binary for Intel-based Macintosh hardware.
  2. The new camera support added to Adobe Camera Raw 3.5 is not officially available in Adobe Lightroom beta 3.
  3. The Nikon D80, Canon 400D/Rebel XTi., and other new cameras were introduced too recently to make the cut for this release, but we’re speeding up the development of ACR 3.6 to accommodate these new models.

As always, please take a second to ensure that you install the plug-in into the correct spot:
Mac: /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Plug-ins/CS2/File Formats/…
Win: \Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-ins\CS2\File Formats\…
The full list of 130 or so supported cameras is on the Camera Raw product page.

8:07 AM | Permalink | Comments [7]

September 18, 2006

9/11 and photo manipulation: No Photoshop needed

Last month the world debated the integrity of photography in an era of easy digital manipulation. This month, attention turns to the interpretations we (photographers, viewers, writers) attach to images.
Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker recently published a photo of young New Yorkers appearing to chat and relax while Ground Zero burned across the river behind them. Columnist Frank Rich saw in the image a symbol of American denial, disbelief, and demand to move on. Hoepker replied, adding context and asking some searching questions (“How would I have looked on that day to a distanced observer? Probably like a coldhearted reporter, geared to shoot the pictures of his life”). And the couple on the wall responded, hotly denying any lack of seriousness. [Via]
So many kinds of truth here…
What if the people in the photo had been caught sharing a smile while New York smoldered in the background? Well? In the city that Friday, my friends and I went out for beers near a lifeless Times Square; on the weekend we shopped for a new PC. Was that all wrong? You could give money, blood–but what the hell else could you do? If the folks in the photo were cracking the tension, I don’t think I can condemn them.
And what about the claim that the subjects represent something fundamental about America–a shortness of attention, a need to escape from tragedy? In the summer before 9/11, the country obsessed over shark attacks, pop stars, and missing white women on cable news. Now it’s stingray attacks, pop stars, and missing white women on cable news. Do the particulars of the conversation in that photo, whether serious or trivial, determine whether the photo is emblematic of something deep and troubling about our culture? You tell me.
For me the conversation throws the debate over digital manipulation into greater perspective: the battle for truth is fought on many fronts, and compared to the questions over what meaning can and should be assigned to images, the technical side starts to look straightforward. The bits matter, but we see in them what we want and need to see.
Related: Slate hosts a gripping and well produced Magnum Photos essay on 9/11. Susan Meiselas talks about seeing teams of doctors rushing around, slowly realizing how little they could do.
[Update: See also this daguerreotype of 9/11. [Via]

7:06 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

September 16, 2006

Sweet sassy molassey, that’s some big glass!

Maybe the photography gods are trying to tell me to suck it up & buy a decent zoom lens already: after looking at this 1700mm f/4 monstrosity from Carl Zeiss, a 70-200 f/2.8 looks positively svelte. “Developed for long distance wildlife photography,” says Zeiss, this 563lb (!!) warhammer ain’t playin’. As my boss Kevin said, “You don’t lug that thing around; you put an engine on it and drive it home!” [Via Chris Quartetti]
[Update: As Bryan notes below, the side of the lens contains what appears to be Arabic script. Folks at T.O.P. offer more detail & comments.]

10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

September 14, 2006

Photoshop 9.0.2 update available for Mac & Win

The Photoshop 9.0.2 update is now available for Mac OS X, along with the previously posted Windows update. (Both were initially posted together, but we found that a printing change made for OS 10.4 broke something on 10.3. That’s now been addressed, but if you are running a pre-10.4 system and already applied the earlier 9.0.2 update and have encountered a printing crash, you’ll want to reinstall CS2, then apply the new 9.0.2 update. Sorry for the lameness.)
9.0.2 is a small update, and fixes included in the Mac side include these:

  • Photoshop no longer crashes when encountering unsupported file types through the Acrobat Touchup workflow.
  • Supported files that incorrectly produced an “unsupported color space” message now open as expected.
  • TIFF files with layer data greater than 2GB now open correctly.
  • A printing issue that could cause banding when using inkjet printers with Mac OS X v.10.4 has been resolved.
10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments [8]

Lightroom Podcast #21: Nevada Wier

“I’m looking to expand a photographic vision, beyond the obvious, into the edge of light, into the edge of seeing, in a way into the edge of my imagination. Because intuition and imagination are such a big part of photography,” says photographer Nevada Wier in her conversation with George Jardine. George writes,

This podcast was recorded on Friday May 5th 2006, at the Santa Fe Workshop. Adobe Lightroom’s Pro Photography Evangelist George Jardine speaks with travel photographer Nevada Wier about how she got started traveling and photographing in exotic locations. Nevada discusses in depth, the patience, waiting and effort that’s often required to capture photos that “are all mine”, as well as camera techniques that create “more complicated images that give a sense of the place”.

This enhanced podcast includes photos taken by Nevada, and they can be viewed on Photo and Video iPods. Only the audio track will be heard on other devices.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under “0505-2 Podcast – Nevada Wier”). It’ll also be available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for “Lightroom” in iTunes.

8:42 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

September 13, 2006

Tilt-Shifting Tragedy

Earlier this year, tilt-shift photography & its Photoshop-simulated cousin drew considerable attention. Both approaches can be used to provide a narrow depth of field, making large subjects (e.g. Vegas) seem small and toylike.
Now a pair of photographers have brought that technique to bear in portraits of tragedy. Fred R. Conrad’s image provides a different perspective on the pit at Ground Zero. I find the sense of miniature Fisher-Price innocence unsettling. Meanwhile David Burnett renders the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (The latter shots are much more impactful viewed larger, in case you have a copy of the print edition handy.)
On a related note, illustrator John Mavroudis provides an rare glimpse behind the scenes of creating a New Yorker cover–in this case the 9/11/06 cover. [Via]

6:33 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

September 12, 2006

Sleek Photoshop->Flash integration sneak at Flashforward

I’m getting back to my Web roots here in Austin, and at today’s Flashforward keynote speech, Flash PM Mike Downey gave a sneak peek of the integration with Photoshop that’s planned for Flash 9. Aral Balkan’s great coverage of the keynote sums up the demo nicely:

One of the new features is importing Photoshop PSD files. Import -> Import to stage. There is precise control over every layer. [Mike] chooses a PSD file and you can see all the layers, layer groups, layer comps and you can make choices about each layer separately. The options include “Make text editable” (so that text imported from PSD files is editable in Flash). He selects a Folder. And asks everything in that folder to be made into a MovieClip and he gives it an instance name and sets its registration point (the crowd loves it – claps!). They’re also supporting layer modes — drop shadows, blurs, etc. — and converting them to the Flash format. [Via]

Mike also noted that Flash plans to replace its vintage JPEG compression code with the library used by ImageReady/Save for Web. Good stuff is afoot at the Cirle A!
By the way, if you’re importing PSDs into Flash today, you might want to check out this video tip from Myke Ninness. He touches on how to convert Photoshop drop shadows into native Flash equivalents.

10:52 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

Lightroom Podcast #20: Michael Clark

“I’m a climber, and you kind of have to be to photograph the rock climbing, because you have to have the skills to get above the climber, to get in position with them, and to hang out with them
on these big walls so that you’re comfortable,” says photograph Michael Clark. George Jardine interviewed Michael earlier this year and writes,

This podcast was recorded on Friday May 5th 2006, at the Santa Fe Workshop. Adobe Lightroom’s Pro Photography Evangelist George Jardine speaks with extreme sports photographer Michael Clark. This enhanced podcast includes photographs from Michael Clark’s exciting portfolio of climbing, mountain biking, and other extreme sports. [Update: George notes that Michael’s photography has been featured in the the ASMP’s “Best Of” issue.]

This enhanced podcast includes photos taken by Michael, and they can be viewed on Photo and Video iPods. Only the audio track will be heard on other devices.

The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under “0505-1 Podcast – Michael Clark”). It’s also available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for “Lightroom” in iTunes.

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September 10, 2006

Future Imperfect, Past Imperfect

  • Flickr features Desolation Row, B&W shots from a “futuristic”–and now abandoned–housing development in Taiwan. [Via]
  • Speaking of futures that never were, here’s the late Braniff Airways’ view of what air travel could be, circa 1975. (If you wore the tinfoil pants, would the TSA then let you carry a Coke on board?) [Via] Oh, and related to retro, never-quite-happened air travel, have you seen the Goodyear Inflatoplane?
  • A sort of Flickr of the past, Square America bills itself as “A gallery of vintage snapshots & vernacular photography.” Odd finds include “Defaced,” a gallery of photos with faces scratched out. [Via]
  • Among other surprises from the past, I had no idea that color photography existed in World War I. Kottke links to this and other collections.
  • Ah, the days before medical malpractice, when you could wire up a guy’s face & shock the crap out of it… In the 1850’s neurologist Guillaume Duchenne combined electricity & photography to record the creepy The Mechanism of Human Facial Expressions.
5:20 PM | Permalink | Comments [1]

Illustrator Techniques newsletter launches

The folks behind Photoshop World & Layers magazine have just launched Illustrator Techniques, a newsletter & Web site aimed at Illustrator users of all stripes. The site is sharing some sample tutorials (here’s one on 3D in Illustrator) and hosts a user forum as well as a gallery of user work (nice ‘Vettes). The team, which includes editor/author of Illustrator CS2 Killer Tips Dave Cross & his co-author Matt Kloskowski, plans to publish 8 times annually. Much success, guys!

4:50 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

FlashFilterLab: Visual effects builder for Flash

As I’ve mentioned previously, I came to Adobe to hijack the brains of people smarter than me, getting them to make crazy technology accessible to regular creative folks. Along those lines, it’s great to see FlashFilterLab, a free project that lets you leverage the Flash Player’s new runtime filter effects by using a drag-and-drop visual system instead of writing code. The FFL gallery encourages sharing & community review. Nice! [Via Mark Baltzegar]
Related: Filter Forge brings a similar approach to creating Photoshop filters. Big ups to the brainiacs who are opening these technologies to broad experimentation.

4:21 PM | Permalink | Comments [2]

And speaking of brushes…

  • is a fresh new repository of Photoshop brushes, featuring a user forum & RSS feeds of the latest content. has a brief interview with site creator Ivan Dilber.
  • Veerle Pieters offers a short but sweet tutorial on creating grunge brushes. It gives a great start, though I’d suggest going a degree further by playing with the scatter, spacing, and other options in Photoshop’s Brushes palette.
  • The Adobe Web team has now re-launched the Adobe Exchange, combining the content of the former Adobe & Macromedia exchanges. The Photoshop section now contains brushes, shapes, actions, and more.
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  • September 09, 2006

    OptiPaint: Paint Digitally With Real Brushes

    Ooh, now here’s a cool development: the OptiPaint system promises to let users paint with real brushes, sponges, water, and even their fingers, then have the results appear inside Photoshop. The system consists of a translucent painting surface, tilted slightly towards the user, on which you draw with water while a video camera below captures your movements. ( has a bit more info). [Via Marc Pawliger]
    The system is far from cheap ($2495!), and the underlying technology dates back to the mid-80’s. That said, I got to play with one for a few minutes at Photoshop World yesterday, and I was surprised at how gratifying it is to work with real, physical art materials, rather than a mouse, trackpad or stylus. I was struck by a clear sense of “Yeah, this is out things oughtta be.”
    OptiPaint makes me want to learn more about systems that offer rich tactile input. Project Sumi-nagashi aims to offer “touchable fluid digital painting,” letting users feel the viscosity of digital paint and the texture of the canvas. The demo video, showing the system’s linear induction motors moving objects on the surface, is a trip. And elsewhere SensAble technologies offers a variety of systems that enable force feedback in 3D space. It all gets my little wheels turning about ways these technologies could dramatically change the way artists work with Photoshop. [Via Nelson Chu]

    8:33 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]

    Lightroom Podcast #19: John McDermott

    “It’s hard for me to imagine eating anything that I’ve seen on a postcard. And they (the puffins) are very cute, and so I prefer to just let them carry on… in the wild, without being anybody’s dinner,” says John McDermott in the latest Lightroom Iceland podcast. George Jardine writes,

    San Francisco photographer John McDermott takes us through a detailed tour of his thinking on “not having a hard agenda”, and being open to “pretty much whatever we found along the way”. He also drops several hints indicating that he was not altogether comfortable with “our intrusive presence” in Iceland…. as a handful of photographers would sometimes be swarming over the various subjects. He describes how this led him to sometimes wait just a bit to find and set up his shot, (as with Mr. Hildibrandsson, the “Shark Man”) a strategy that definitely helps him capture images that are unique amongst all those taken during the event.

    The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under “0803-3 Podcast – John McDermott”). It’s also available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for “Lightroom” in iTunes.

    6:22 AM | Permalink | No Comments

    September 04, 2006

    Lightroom Podcast #18: Maggie Hallahan

    “It’s always light, we’re always shooting, it’s catnaps two or three hours here, two or three hours there, so it’s all merging together. It’s a different kind of rhythm,” says Maggie Hallahan in the podcast she recorded with George Jardine during the Lightroom Iceland adventure. George writes,

    San Francisco photographer Maggie Hallahan talks about her personal technique for approaching candids while shooting in another country, the editorial style she uses for storytelling with photography, and the variety of interesting subjects she found in Iceland. Maggie gives us a glimpse into her camera technique, describing some of the lighting and bracketing techniques she employed during the trip.
    This enhanced podcast includes photos taken by Maggie in Iceland, and they can be viewed on Photo and Video iPods. Only the audio track will be heard on other devices.

    The podcast is available as an MP3 file via George’s iDisk (under “0802 Podcast – Maggie Hallahan”). It’s also available via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed, and by searching for “Lightroom” in iTunes.

    10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments [1]

    Caber tosses, severed Yak heads, &c.

    When not enslaved in some email gimp-dungeon, Photoshop/Lightroom folks like to fire up the ol’ cameras:

    • Sporting a heeuuge craaanium as I do, I figured I’d fit right in at the Highland Games in Pleasanton*. So I did, and I came away with this gallery of caber tossing**, a “hairy coo” (w/drawing of same), birds of prey–oh, the obligatory white guys showing some leg.
    • Adobe pro photography evangelist George Jardine (of Lightroom podcast fame) just returned to San Jose with terrific galleries of China and Tibet. Sadly, at least one Tibetan hairy coo didn’t fare as well as its Scottish counterpart.

    *The Games’ site seems about as archaic as the games themselves.
    * It’s tough not to make it look like the tossers are getting gored by giant cigarettes; apparently someone at Worth1000 agrees. My wife suggests the games be sponsored by a new brand of smokes, “Pall Maul.”

    1:00 AM | Permalink | Comments [2]
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