Freeing images: From the DAM to the Cloud

My photographic workflows have long been split between serious and casual. Really a split between my camera workflow and my iPhone workflow. I’m discovering that the key to bringing them together is using Apple’s native Photos app as a unified image database.

Once images are in the Photos database they are available everywhere and backed up not only on Apple’s servers, but also downloaded to my desktop Mac which backs them up to a local hard drive plus a cloud repository. A few years ago, these services were unreliable, but now we rely on them to store the photographs that document our lives taken with our phones and shared via social media.

It’s time we merge the images taken by our cameras with our phone photography in the cloud.

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Steps Toward a 21st Century Photo Workflow

I see that my photographic workflow is going to be moving to the cloud. I suspect it may be through Apple’s Photos app or maybe LightRoom, but one way or another, I doubt my images will live on my Mac any more than my music does. I can now stream thousands of HiRes albums via Amazon music anywhere and anytime. My photos are joining them there.

For years my iPhone has my most used camera because of convenience. With each new release of the hardware, the image quality improves, but that only makes me feel a bit better about using the phone to capture scenes from travel and family events. No, it’s the ability to capture images and immediately share them either via message or social media. I think of the images as living on the phone, but of course the truth is that they are on Apple servers and I’m just seeing previews on the phone. The problem I’ve had is that images from my cameras can’t get there easily.

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Exploring Photoshop for iPadOS

I’ve tried photo editing on the iPad a few times over the years, but never with great success. I have a well established workflow of ingesting RAW images in CaptureOne (which replaced Apple’s Aperture) followed by conversion to TIFF. Then post-processing general gets done in Photoshop, with assists from Nik programs. I generally just save the finished image back to CaptureOne plus export a jpeg for use on Instagram and Flickr.

For critical images I follow Vincent Versace’s guidance to use the camera manufacturer’s RAW conversion utility. This advice has only become more important as computational photography has become a ubiquitous part of digital imaging, not only in smartphones, but in cameras as well.

For the iPhone, my most used camera, RAW conversion is done on the phone itself. At this point, the latest digital cameras have conversion computers built in as well, so their jpeg output is pretty close to the conversion by the PC software. As sensor dynamic range has improved and exposure is being calculated right off the sensor, it’s occurred to me that the preview on the back of the camera is pretty close to an optimal conversion anyway.

I’ve long wanted a way to combine the iPhone and camera workflow to avoid the problem of an “Art” database on my Mac and a “Life” database in Photos. I’ve got travel and family images made with a camera that don’t get into the Photos database for digital sharing. Sometimes I remember to export JPEGs and import into Photos, but it’s not a regular part of the workflow.

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The Intimate Internet

It’s hard to convey how small the online world felt back in 1999 when this blog started. There had been online places like bulletin boards (BBS’s) which were text only discussion sites, America Online and then early web services like Gopher, all of which were quickly gone once HTTP and the World Wide Web rose and swept them all away. In those early days, discovery of sites and repositories was based on human networking, via links and pointers.

I remember so clearly the first time I tried out a new search service called “Google” which seemed magical in it’s ability to find anything that had been put up on the web. But as websites proliferated, there was still a vital part for people to play in finding and pointing to interesting content. Communities grew up as did index sites and link blogs which were hubs to consult to find new contributions to the online world.

Looking back through 20 years of internet history, it seems to me that our early social networks have grown into a huge industry of “Social Media”. We are fed streams by Twitter, Instagram and Facebook by algorithm instead of relying solely on human curated writing and links. The thoughtful writing hasn’t disappeared since thoughtful people haven’t disappeared. Sure the distraction is way greater and we’re beginning to learn how to regain control of our attention in a world online where we are all so connected. There are amazing improvements to the tools I have available to create content. I have publishing platforms available on computer, iPad and iPhone that address audiences large and small, public and private.. I have image making devices I can carry in my pocket and take photos in near darkness.

To what end? I guess the same purpose that propelled the creation of this personal journal 20 years ago. Learning how to decide. Deciding who I want to be in this particular moment.

Creative Outputs

50mm f1.8 Nikon Z7 Nik conversion

I’m starting to see a few blogs celebrating their 20th anniversary as ODB will be doing next month. At the end of 1999 the first user facing platforms started emerging and some of the early adopters are still plugging away at our little websites.

By far my most successful creative output over all of those years has been my photography. I’ve developed a voice I feel comfortable with and a set of subjects that continue to hold my interest as objects for image making. The technology of digital photography has improved enormously over these 20 years; even my ability to digitize TRI-X film is vastly better than what I had available when I started writing here at On Deciding . . . Better.

I’ve published a decent number of papers in scientific journals given my full time employment in drug development. These have been relatively intense, short term projects with my Hopkins collaborators.

Oddly the principle subject of the ODB project has been a major project for me over the years but led to very little written output here. Plenty of notebooks and text files, but the subject of only occasional posts here. It’s a personal investigation, reflected a bit here at this personal journal site. I continue to work on it though, spurred on a bit by this 20th anniversery.

The Narrative Paradox of Blogging

Blogging as reverse narrative

Blogging is a really hard way to tell a long story.

The presentation is in reverse order, the opposite of chronological.  The most recent event is presented first, so that the end of the story up until now occurs to the reader first.  Then next down the page is the previous post and so on . . . into the past. I think it’s interesting that this is how we percieve the story of our lives — with our most recent experience on top of the stack. Our most recent experiences are freshest in our memories. To go back further takes some effort.

But can blogs tell extended stories? Stories are not unprocessed records of moments, they are how we make sense of the sequence of events, putting time an causality into a rationale for how we got from then to now.

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The 50mm f/1.8 S on the Nikon Z7

This image was captured with my favorite Nikon Z7 lens so far, the 50mm f/1.8. Thom Hogan is out with his take on the lens, which backs up my subjective impression with data. It’s impressive considering what you need to pay for a Leica 50mm f/2. Now the Leica’s rendering qualities may go beyond it, but it’s diminishing returns and thousands of dollars. I agree with Thom that this is the best 50mm that Nikon has ever made and it alone justifies the Z7 for me as a companion to my Leica cameras. It may be that I end up shooting primes on the Z7 if the upcoming 20mm f1.8 is as good as the 35mm and 50mm that are available now.

By the way, at this point I find I need to use the Nikon RAW processor to get the best results out of the camera. For Leica, the Capture One converter is fine, but somethings going on with microcontrast that Nikon is pulling out of its files that Capture One and Adobe RAW can’t quite get yet.

The Nappuccino Productivity Boost

I was skeptical about Daniel Pink’s Nappuccino concept, but being the empiricist that I am, I had to give it a really try. So for the past week or so, at 2:30pm when my productivity usually comes to a halt with the mid-afternoon slump, I’ve started this practice. Continue reading “The Nappuccino Productivity Boost”

Mental Causation

A few years ago I read George Soros’ small book The Soros Lectures: At the Central European University in which he describes how he came to conceptualize reflexivity in markets, the idea that there is a feedback loop between what people think and market reality, which in turn affects what people think. It’s mental causation, but of course it’s just a manifestation of the the way brains interact socially through language, we affect each other with consequences in the real world.

In copying over note’s from last year’s Hobonichi, I found a note on a similar idea of inducing negative opinions. When you merely bring up a topic with some negative connotations for others, they are compelled to fill in the blanks. When I say “It’s like comparing apples and …”, you can’t help but think oranges. The word rises unbidden to mind, caused by my speech. It’s a powerful effect to have on another person as it’s reflexive and automatic. So by my mentioning a name and situation, your negative feelings, already in place, are reflexively activated cause you to think about those negative feelings and attitudes. Your brain does it, but I’ve directly caused it by my actions.

Just a thought about how powerful we are with just the power of words.

Can the Nikon Z7 Replace my Leica M10?

On New Years Day, we visited the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. This is a smaller museum in the Smithsonian focusing on American Art and Craft. It’s a joy when a museum encourages photography.

A welcome sight

So I took full advantage of the low light capability of the Z7 to collaborate with the artists on view to create some of my own art based on their art.

The Z7 works well as a travel camera. With the 50mm f1.8 attached it weighs just as much as my Leica M10 with the Summicron APO 50mm f2.0 ASPH. It occupies more space, but it’s no more attention grabbing than the Leica. I don’t have the Nikkor 24-70mm f4 zoom, but extended it does look a bit more like a professional piece of gear. Shooting mode is generally aperture priority, minimum shutter speed 1/125 second and Auto ISO as high as it’ll go. Both cameras are much better at setting exposure than me- And I can blend processed RAW images to bring down highlights and light blocked up shadows as long as the image isn’t blown out.

Interestingly, I’ve found over the last few years that using live view is more acceptable in public than looking through a viewfinder. Maybe it’s just that we’re used to seeing smart phone photography and viewfinder based cameras seem more intrusive. Maybe it’s that you can see the photographer’s face and the camera attracts less attention. With Live View on either the Nikon Z7 or the Leica M10, it’s possible to take photos looking at the area and glancing at the subject.

The Z7 adds several features that aid unobtrusive shooting. The LCD on the rear tilts, so the camera can be low on a table or at the waist out of line of sight. For people, auto focus with face recognition allows shooting. Silent shooting on the Z7 provides a completely silent shooting experience, again avoiding attracting attention with that characteristic shutter sound. The the Z7 also has a higher pixel count and sensor stabilization. There are other advanced features of course, but not in use for this kind of travel photography.

So the question arises as to whether I could sell off all of my other cameras (M10, Monochrom, D850) and just use the Z7 exclusively. I’ll need more data on that, but I think I’ll be selling the D850 as I don’t like the weight and bulk. My Nikon glass will work with the Z7, so it’s redundant. Next, I’ll need to try a Leica M to Nikon Z adaptor to see how Leica glass works with the Z7. But I’ll need to look critically at my image library and do some camera rotation to decide whether the compact form rangefinder has real advantages over the technologically advanced Nikon Z7.

Film? It’s not going anywhere and in fact I plan to try some digital negative transfers with Nikon’s new ES-2 adaptor on the Z7.