If I Were Any Dumber…

If I were any dumber I’d be a box of rocks.

I’m not saying I’ve completely solved my various and irritating problems with printing through Lightroom, but I may have just experienced a major epiphany. A huge breakthrough. And the fact it is so incredibly obvious only goes to prove that I should not be allowed to use photo editing software. Or maybe even a camera.

Today I elected to print one of my images as I wanted to frame and hang it on a wall in my office, where sits my photo-editing computer. It’s a nice picture. See!

So here’s the issue.

I was looking to print this image as an 8×10 in this scenario. I opened the image in Lightroom. Fiddled with page setup. Fiddled with the Print Setup. And printed the image.

Funny….. my 8×10 didn’t come out as an 8×10. When I trimmed away the remaining white border (using 8.5×11 stock) my remaining print was more like 7.5×11.

Huh?

Irritated I went back and re-traced my steps. Check this. Select that. Bingo, bango, bongo. Same results.

I returned to the original file in Lightroom and sat there looking at it and asking myself, “Mark: what’s wrong here?” And as I absent-mindedly looked around the screen hoping for inspiration I found exactly that. Inspiration

Cropping.

Not only was this image cropped from the original, but it was cropped at the same aspect ratio as the original file, which is closest to the 6×4 aspect ratio, which is not the 8×10 (or 4×5) ratio.

I quickly created a virtual copy of the image, re-cropped it, but at the 8×10 aspect ratio, exported it as a file through the Print portion of Lightroom and finally printed it via Mac’s Preview app.

Now you may wonder why I elected to use the Preview app for printing instead of simply doing such straight out of Lightroom and that would be both a fair and reasonable question. It also happens to be one for which I have an answer!

When I use Preview I find the option to turn off the printer’s colour management system and allow the Mac to control such. This means I can use the colour profile in which I create the JPEG from the original RAW file instead of using my HP printer’s colour management, which doesn’t get things quite right (especially greens).

I imagine there is something I’m missing about colour management in Lightroom in accordance with my HP printer, but I’ll be damned if I’ve found it yet. In addition, hours spent online looking for help yielded no results. As such, using Preview adds only a minor extra step, but it’s well worth the trip if only to get better control over colour management.

Mischief managed….

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Back in the saddle again…

Well I finally did it. Posted some pictures on Flickr. And not just ones from my cell phone. Or ones I took for a special occasion. Or as part of my group project thing.

Nope.

PIctures of the sort I was enjoying taking until the malaise struck. Things like this…

And this…

Oh… what the hell. And like this too…

It seemed appropriate that my first real posting in some time should include pictures from a wonderful evening I had with some fellow Flickr-ites.

Let the fun begin. Again.

A Roller Coaster of Indecision

A review of my posts to this oft-neglected blog would reveal a picture of a character who appears completely uncertain of their abilities and/or talents. This, to be frank, describes me perfectly. Lacking confidence… the world is the proverbial ‘glass half empty’… That’s just the way I roll. But I’m trying to do something about that. Taking charge…. trying to see the glass half full instead of the preferred route of half empty…. imagining better outcomes. It is very much an uphill battle.

But lately I have adopted something more of a can-do; take-charge; damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead mentality. And this is a major turn around mentally as it was only a few months back (during the holidays) that I had become very certain it was time to give up on this photography caper…. this photography “lark” as a certain friend is fond of saying.
The reasons were numerous. And almost exclusively shit.

Self-defeating. Self-deprecating. Woe is me. Just pure, 100% fucking bullshit. I tell you I was this close (thumb and fore-finger spread a centimeter apart) to packing up my camera equipment and shipping it off to another friend, who undoubtedly would have put it to far better use than I. However, as the holidays passed I had to make a day-trip to Chicago as part of bringing another portion of my life to a close. And it was during the 12-hour round-trip drive I had loads of time to think. And to ponder. And to re-think and re-ponder. And maybe even wonder a little bit. It was during this trip I decided to stop being such a giant ass and do something about this unbearable situation.

I would get motivated. I would get back into doing photography related things. I would stop looking for excuses as to why I wasn’t doing something and just fucking do it.

And so here I am…. in front of the computer…. adding an entry to my long-neglected photography-related blog. But that’s not all! No!! I’ve already done some other things as well and I’m gonna spill the beans here and now and WOW! you with my steely resolve and dedication. Well…. that is….. if you’re still bothering to read this shit.

First: I bought some books. Not just any ‘ol books either: photography books. For the moment I’ll pass on revealing the author and titles, but suffice it to say I spent no small amount of time researching. I was looking for someone who wasn’t just going to give me a dry dissertation on photography, but someone who would make it feel fun again. I’ll let you know how that goes once I get into them, which will be soon after…

Second: I’m in a photography class. My local camera store, Click! Camera, offers two five-week series of courses designed to help aspiring photographers (hobbyists, not pros) come to grips with this lark. The first course, which started last week, covers the more basic aspects of photography of which I already feel rather certain of. That said, I view this as an opportunity to hopefully expand upon what I already know (or think I know) and to change in wrong information/ideas I might have. And in the meantime…

Third: I caught up with my contacts on Flickr. I regularly follow my contacts uploads and I’m not one who gives them a quick glance in thumbnail sizes. No sir. I open up an extra tab and look at them in slideshow and when I come across one where I wish to leave a comment I return to the previous tab, find the image and leave a comment. I am, if nothing else, a dedicated contact. Except that I wasn’t very dedicated for some months and it took almost an entire week of spending many hours each day in front of the computer to catch up. But I’m glad I did. I enjoy my contact’s pictures and I very much like many of my contacts (the ones with whom I have established a more personal relationship). It felt really good to be caught up.

Fourth: I have revamped my iMac, which is the computer I use for this photography caper. This doesn’t sound like much of anything, but trust me: it’s major. Back when I was working on my old desktop PC and using CaptureOne 4 for editing, etc. I was simply saving my pictures in folders based upon the date I transfered them to the computer from my memory cards. The system was simple, but not particularly helpful at keeping track of my pictures in any meaningful manner. When I purchased the iMac I also purchased Adobe’s Lightroom (v.2), which offered all sorts of options in regards to cataloguing, keywording, etc. To be fair, so did CaptureOne 4, but I had never taken advantage of such options. So not only have I revamped my entire library of photos (not completely true: I haven’t imported the older images edited in CaptureOne to Lr, but I will once I have decided how I want to do this), but I’m going through the slow and laborious process of adding keywords to every single freaking picture I have taken since about May of 2009. No joy, but it should be well worth the effort in the long-term.

Fifth: I entered some pictures into a photography contest! Okay….. this isn’t exactly something new for me as I did enter a picture into a local photography competition last year (taking 2nd place in my category I might add!) and I have entered a handful of pictures into the “Picture of the Week” competition that occurs at my local grocer, but this latest incident is different. Bigger. International. My wife and I regularly donate to an organization called Defenders of Wildlife and this year they are running a photo competition whereby you can enter up to five pics in each of two categories: wildlife and wild lands. As I don’t take much in the way of wild lands photographs I elected to enter the wildlife category, which fortunately for me includes insects! Below are the images I forwarded to the competition:

The important thing about the competition (besides the grand prize, which is a trip to Yellowstone National Park!) is that I entered. That I believed in the power of these particular images. That not entering means there was zero chance I could win, but that entering meant I could win. Sure… the likelihood is quite remote, but that’s not the point. There is some chance…. regardless of how small.

And it is this sort of reaching for what could happen that I need to latch on to. And run with it.

[Update: I just completed the second major process in the way I handle my pictures in Adobe Lightroom by adding keywords to over 1,300 images. What a load off my mind!]

Some Days It Simply Doesn’t Pay To Get Out Of Bed

I have the most lovely neighbors directly across the street. Here’s Goldye:

Isn’t she just adorable?

Her husband Jerry is a nice guy as well and the two of them took off for a two week cruise and just returned a few days ago. Jerry, who recently purchased a Pentax dSLR to replace his dead film camera, didn’t know how he was supposed to get the images off the SD memory card and onto his computer.

Jerry, being Jerry, didn’t ask if I could show him, but instead went straight for the gold, “Mark…..would you mind moving the pictures off my memory card onto…say…four CDs for me?”

“Sure Jerry. No problem.”

And so it was I found myself upstairs and in front of my monster 24-inch iMac with Jerry’s 4GB SD memory card. Fortunately for me I have a SD card reader even though my Canon dSLRs use Compact Flash. My baby Canon A630 and Panasonic SD video camera both make use of SD cards so I need to have one….see? But where was my SD card reader? Hum….

Check around the keyboard for the iMac, which is where I keep the Compact Flash card reader (I know…I don’t have one of those all in one’s).

Nothing.

Hummm….check the box in the closet where I still have located a bunch of computer related stuff from the move up from the basement computer cabinet.

Nada.

Damn.

Okay….so maybe I left it down in the basement computer cabinet? Yeah, that must be it. I haven’t yet had a need for it so why would I have brought it upstairs. Silly me.

Nope.

Shit.

Return to the upstairs computer room and stand with hands on hips while I scan the room trying to imagine where the little bastard device is hiding. And while standing there I notice a lonely little card reader sitting all by its lonesome on one of the upper shelves of the new computer cabinet.

Mother fuc….

Case solved I sit back down at my computer and swap the Compact Flash reader for the SD reader (the cable works for both), insert the SD card and nothing. No blinking lights. No icon on the desktop. Nothing.

[Sigh]

I remove the SD card and unplug the cable from the keyboard USB input, wait a couple of seconds, re-insert the USB plug into the keyboard and re-insert the SD card. Nothing. No blinking lights. Nada.

Oh Jesus fucking bullshit hell.

I yet again unplug the cable from the keyboard when it suddenly hits me like a cricket bat aiming for a 6: I just unplugged my trackball.

The card reader plugs in on the OTHER FUCKING SIDE YOU FUCKING BRAINLESS SOD!!

[sigh]

Oh…but wait…for it continues to get better my dearest readers.

SD card reader problem solved I drag out my handy stash of blank DVDs recognizing that Jerry has more images (in file size) than will fit onto a blank 0.7GB CD. I insert a blank DVD into the computer’s drive, clicking and whirling commence, and a small window opens asking what I want to do and then it hits me: I’ve never done this before with my iMac.

Hard to believe, but in the 10-months I’ve owned this machine I haven’t yet burned a CD or DVD. Haven’t needed to. But still….that just seems odd. Not knowing what to do I elected to Quit or Cancel out of the windows altogether, but afterwards found no icon upon the desktop representing the blank DVD. “No problem,” I think to myself, “as it must be in the Finder or something like that.”

Wrong. Asshole.

I could not find the blank DVD anywhere on this computer. Damn, damn, damn. So I start to think that maybe the window I closed was more important than the dismissive wave of the hand I gave it might suggest. As such, I elect to eject the disc and re-insert it. This time I more cleverly check the various options from the drop-down box and opt to use the default setting “Open Finder”. Fortunately this seemed to be the correct thing to do as an icon for the blank DVD magically appeared upon the iMac’s desktop.

Saints be praised!!

Now all I had to do was copy the image file folders from the SD card to the blank DVD. You know…..I sat there for a full minute thinking to myself “I bet it’s some sort of convoluted process that I won’t recognize and I’ll wind up formatting my hard drive or some such stupid shit. All for trying to help my neighbor.”

[sigh]

Fortunately the experience wasn’t has horrible as I had anticipated other than that I didn’t see the tiny little “Burn” icon on the window that opened after I copied the files to the blank DVD for writing. I actually had to sit and stare at the screen for a couple of seconds until I realized I could probably select the Actions tab and that Burn would probably be there. Which it was.

It was only then I noticed the actual Burn button in the window itself.

I’m still burning and verifying discs…..I’m on number three, but I haven’t had the courage to actually check on them and make certain the files I think I’m copying and burning are actually there. Because they may not be, you know? I mean, nothing else has gone particularly well thus far, right?

[sigh]

So let’s take a peak at this third disc which just finished verifying…… OH THANK THE MAKER! The files are there. And they’re JPEG files. And everything!!

forkboy1965 out…..

It was bound to happen one day…

Lately I’m behind in all matters regarding photography. I haven’t quite gotten hold of the manner in which Lightroom likes to organize my files and this is frustrating me to no end. I guess I could read the manual a bit, but I wasn’t looking to have to read about file management damn it! This is, in part, why I avoided purchasing such software. I was quite happy with my own system and it served me well. Now I have a robust piece of software that thinks it is helping me, but thus far it, in conjunction with some bone-headed moves of my own, has just made life unexpectedly more complicated.

And then there was the trip to Aullwood Gardens I undertook early last week. I had been charging my camera’s battery expressly for the photo shoot, yet walked right out the door without having grabbed the now fully charged battery. Of course I didn’t realize I had left behind the battery until after I had arrived at the gardens, grabbed all my gear, surveyed the gardens (for maybe 20-minutes) and selected the shots I wanted to take. Setting up the tripod I was humming a little tune to myself and thinking about how lovely was the day and how nice it would be to capture some nice close-ups of the blooming flowers. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the camera, but nothing happened.

And never let it be said that Mother Nature doesn’t have it in for me as well. A few days later (late last week) I returned to Aullwood Gardens so that I might finally snap some pictures, and while walking from the parking lot at Englewood MetroPark I came across a very large blue heron standing quite serenely in the Stillwater River. It was close enough that with my 100-400mm I should have been able to grab a supreme picture. Supreme I say. So I quietly and quickly broke out the tripod and got it set up. I broke out the camera and swapped into place the 100-400mm lens and mounted same to the tripod. And JUST as I framed my shot and considered which aperture I wished to use the damn thing took off. It’s a good thing there were no small children within ear shot.

However, not all is completely lost for I did not yet know that I had some nice heron shots, but from a completely different outing and camera:

IMG_0225

Two weeks ago I had ventured to the east banks of the Stillwater River where it runs through the Englewood MetroPark (part of the Five Rivers MetroParks district here in the Dayton, Ohio area). I had with me my Canon Rebel XTi and was hoping to capture some shots of mallards feeding near or along the banks and shoreline. Instead I was treated to a sole heron who was slowly making its way in the river not some 50-yards or so from shore. One thing I have learned about herons is that they are fairly skittish birds and if one sees a heron one should start snapping as soon as possible. With this mantra in mind I trained my camera upon it and fired away. I wound up with a series of photos like the above and below:

IMG_0263

I confess that I didn’t think much of the pictures as I looked over them on the tiny LCD screen attached to the back of the camera, but once I was home and had the images opened in Lightroom (and on a nicely sized 24-inch iMac screen) I was much more impressed. Quite impressed to be frank. The low sun was creating great reflections off the water and left the heron in silhouette. My only criticism of the series that look like the first above picture was that too often the heron’s head disappeared into the black area of water just above it. In the end, of the eight or so I took this was the only one where the head was clearly separate from the water. I guess I should clarify though…there was another issue with the picture, but it didn’t rise to the level of problem and that was the strong glare of sunlight off the water.

Fortunately for me I’m finally getting a handle on the use of the Graduated Filter effect in Lightroom and was able to use such to decrease the exposure in a limited area of the image. I was able to keep the colour and strength of the reflected sunlight without the completely over-exposed nature of it. I used this to good effect in both of the above pictures, working the left-side of the above image.

It was also during this scouring of the banks in hopes of photographic opportunity that I came across this reflection in the water:

IMG_0274

I snapped the picture less because I thought it was photo-worthy (in terms of its impact), but more because of what it said to me in that moment in time. The long thin cloud is actually a contrail from a passing jet and I was having these thoughts about how strange it was that I was watching the plane and its passengers flying off to who-knows-where to do who-knows-what, but that I was sharing this moment with them from afar. In the end I like the photograph, but I’m more intrigued by the moment itself.

Finally, there was this:

IMG_0248

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really enjoy this photo. I had taken position behind a tree in hopes that a couple of nearby mallard ducks would make their way towards me. While standing there waiting for the ducks I noticed this single strand of spider web gently rocking in the soft breeze. I soon became semi-mesmerized by this solitary strand and eventually realized that it was, at least for me, photo-worthy. I switched the lens to manual focus and made the shot. I’m quite pleased with it to be honest. It speaks to me. Unfortunately though I’ve learned from experience that those pictures which speak to me do not usually speak to others. I wonder why that is?

Fear and loathing in Adobe…

It feels as if it has been an age since I posted anything to this WordPress blog. I guess it has been seeing how I usually post every week and yet have only posted twice since 18 March (some 25 days ago). But it’s not my fault….really. Events have conspired against me. Truly. My little side job requires that I finish off the bits and pieces I have before I take my work back to my client in about 10 days. The daughter and her emergency appendectomy. Waiting for the new photo-editing software to arrive. Waiting to find the courage to install said software. Yep. Courage to install software. Sounds pretty lame doesn’t it? Well suck on this for a minute before I explain…

daffodils-at-home

I have discussed this before, but it begs for repeating: I’m afraid of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Believe me…no one is more surprised than I. I’ve always been one to jump head-first into new software. Always anxious to grab it by the neck and throttle it for all it’s worth. But for some reason I have been experiencing this incredible sense of trepidation when it comes to both Lightroom and Elements.

I’ve been using other photo editing software in the likes of Phase One’s Capture One 4 which I received for free with the purchase of a high end media card. It really is a nice bit of software: resource light, intuitive (for the most part), covers the basics well, and has an user’s guide one could read in an hour on a Sunday afternoon. Lightroom? The first hint it might be a powerful programme is one looks at the retail price of USD300. The second hint is the pdf of the user’s guide, which weighs in at 175 pages. The third hint can be found at the Adobe website, where one can find what seems like a million or more web pages dedicated just to using Lightroom. Yet, why should this cause me any hesitancy? I’ve used other applications that have large user’s guides and the like, but for whatever reason, this is different.

father-daughter

And then there is Elements! At least Lightroom only took a minute or two to install on the new iMac. Elements took something akin to ten minutes! And talk about intimidating! Over 300 pages can be found stuffed into the user’s guide. THREE HUNDRED! And, of course, there are tonnes of pages dedicated to Elements on the Adobe site, etc.

In a way I think part of the problem is that I don’t even know where to begin. Sure, one can open the user’s guide pdf and start plowing through, but that is, unfortunately, boring. Capture One 4 was so light and basic in comparison that it was difficult to go wrong. And even though one can fix “wrong” with Lightroom or Elements, it just feels far more intimidating to begin with.

Regardless, I finally took the plunge and installed both applications to the new iMac. I also took the liberty of watching a fistful of introductory videos on the Adobe site in relation to Lightroom. Just the first few so that I would have a clearer idea of how to import, catalogue, and develop pictures so that I could clear my camera’s media card and get some shit uploaded to Flickr.

mallard

So my first experience with Lightroom went reasonably well. Everything imported just fine. I was able to make the changes I wished without too much difficulty or fussing about. I was even able to make use of the Graduated Filter feature without much difficulty….at least on two images. A third one never worked correctly and so I abandoned the effect. Oh well. On the whole I will consider this to have been a reasonable success what with me just dabbing my toes into the waters of Lightroom. So to speak.

stamen-up-close

But now comes the really hard part…integrating pictures into Elements and getting creative!

I’m so fucked.

Normal service will resume shortly…

Nope.

This really doesn’t make sense at all. It is completely unlike me. Frighteningly unlike me.

Sitting upstairs in my little office space is a still-very-new Apple iMac, which hasn’t even been turned on for two days. And a new Western Digital 1TB external hard drive; uninstalled. And a just-delivered-today copy of Adobe’s Lightroom v2 (picked up for a complete steal at $205 and change); uninstalled. And a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac on schedule for delivery to this very house on or about tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday. And yet I’m not overly excited. I’m not chomping upon the bit. I’m not anxious to install the software and get to photo cataloging and editing, and what not.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I confess that I am usually the sort who starts running in circles mumbling “Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd!” over and over and over whenever I get new toys with which to play. But not this time. Nope. Very odd.

Instead, the iMac sits silent. The Western Digital external hard drive remains in its box, still wrapped in the cellophane in which it comes packaged. The software, received today, was given a most cursory glance after opening the box in which it was shipped. Actually, I remember opening the box to verify that it was Lightroom and thinking to myself “Oh good. It’s here,” and then tossed the box into the closet for safe keeping.

That doesn’t sound like me. Not at all.

But you see there are other forces at work here. A number of forces all conspiring to keep me from enjoying, savoring, relishing these moments. First, I have plenty of work to complete for my little home business before I take the finished work to my client in Chicago. It seems that every time I think I’m done I find more stuff that need to be fixed, re-entered, re-worded, backed up, etc. Just a pain. And, of course, I’ve been waiting for the various things I have ordered to arrive and had previously thought to myself “I should wait until everything is here and then install them all at once,” instead of dealing with them as they came in, one by one.

And starting yesterday there is the daughter. Yes, even the daughter has become an impediment to advancing my causes. Seems she began to experience a rather unpleasant pain in her side Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon it was clear a trip to our family physician was in order. Said trip led to a diagnosis of a possible appendicitis. Said appendicitis was verified at the hospital emergency room, to which I had taken her after leaving our physician’s office. Surgery this morning (about 5:00a.m.) and here we are now. The wife and I are both very tired from a lack of sleep and my tiredness is compounded by the fact I had not slept well for the three or four days prior to this appendicitis event.

(as an aside, wouldn’t you know this whole thing would happen at this particular moment in time…while good for the daughter because she is on spring break from school, my wife and I missed a concert this evening in Columbus; Morrissey. we missed his tour in 2007 because we were out of town and I was looking so forward to tonight’s show as I’m a major fan. i could have gone anyway, but was certain that I was too tired to make the drive there and back (3-hours round trip) and be safe. i know the daughter didn’t want this to happen and she certainly didn’t do this to interfere with out concert-going, but damn if my luck with Morrissey tours doesn’t continue to be shitty)

Finally, there remains in me, and I’ve discussed this before, a certain amount of trepidation, almost fear, regarding these very robust photo editing programmes like Lightroom (and even Elements). I really cannot fathom why I’m so intimidated by this particular type of software as I’ve never been intimidated by software in the past. I always enjoyed exploring and playing with new software, but this is different. But I am going to overcome this trepidation/fear and move forward.

Now I just need to find some time to get it done.