Archive for December, 2007

My Input Devices

December 22nd, 2007 2 comments

Quality input devices can save valuable computer time and reduce the likelihood of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (hand and wrist pain). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is no joke. Once you develop a problem it can make computer work very difficult and painful. I had to see a hand surgeon for a stress related injury caused by powering in thousands of screws on a fence. The hand injury made using a mouse very painful. Fortunately, the doctor was able to fix me up with some Cortisone shots. Now I pay close attention to the ergonomics of input devices, and screw guns too.

My computers are set up with a keyboard, a mouse, a tablet, and a NuLOOQ. This may seem excessive, but it saves me time every day and protects my health.

I’ve come to rely on the NulOOQ Design Controller as an essential part of Photoshop. My left hand comfortably controls zooming, scrolling, and seven other functions from the controller. I have set this USB device to control specific functions for different applications. It’s set up for Navigation, Selection, and History functions in Photoshop. I have custom settings for other applications, like Browsers, Word Processors, E-mail, etc.
Side Note: Mozilla Firefox has an add-on called Mouse Gestures which gives you functions at the flick of a mouse.

I’m a big fan of Wacom tablets for retouching, but I still like a mouse when I’m writing text and code. It’s hard to type with a stylist in my hand, so I have to keep putting it down and picking it up. I like the Logitech G5, MX518, and G9 corded laser mice( in that order). I don’t like the cordless models because they aren’t as responsive or well balanced due to the weight of the batteries. They also need to be put on the charger base periodically, and if you forget, you have no mouse at all. The high end Logitech mice have a weight tuning system and super slick Polytetrafluoroethylene feet.

The super slick mouse feet don’t do you much good without a precision mouse pad. The surface I like is called Archetype Surface 1030 by Func Industries(a George Clinton company). A similar surface is used by several manufacturers of gaming mouse pads including Razer. The right combination of mouse and pad will zoom across a 30 inch display and stop on a pixel.

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Categories: Technology Tags:

Camera Scans

December 20th, 2007 Comments off

The above image was shot twice. First in 1989 on Tri-X film, then again yesterday on a 21 Megapixel Canon. Amazingly the model hasn’t aged a bit. Click on it for a larger view.

Camera scans are an extremely fast and efficient way to convert film to digital. They aren’t really scans, they’re “Film Captures.” The concept is pretty simple: Use a digital camera with a macro lens to shoot pictures of film. There are many advantages to Camera Scans over traditional methods of scanning film. These scans are not 100mb drum scans like I would get from NancyScans, but they don’t need to be. The process was originally intended to be a simple way to have a digital contact sheet of my film archive. As it turns out, the Canon 1Ds Mark III with a Canon EF 180mm 3.5L Macro makes a really nice scan and is suitable for printing very large work.

I’ve been testing a piece of hardware that Peter Krogh is developing with Really Right Stuff (RRS). Here are Peter’s pictures of the prototype. I’ve made my own contraptions in the past, but the RRS prototype is real nice. It’s got all of the movements you need to line up the film and it’s all hooked together which eliminates most shake issues.

Camera Scans have SPEED and WORKFLOW advantages over traditional film scanning methods. I can do 1,000 images a day including color correction, applying basic metadata, and cataloging in Expression Media. Besides blazing speed, the real advantage of Camera Scans is that the technique produces a RAW file that can be converted to a DNG. This workflow is 100 times more efficient then the Tiff file workflow you get with a scanner. It’s also the same workflow and archiving methods I use for all my digital photography projects.

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Categories: Digital Photography Tutorials Tags:

HDR Camera Raw Settings

December 17th, 2007 1 comment

The image above is the pool house at Quarry Lake in Baltimore, MD. Click it for a better look. It was made by merging four bracketed images shot on a tripod at late dusk. I used Adobe’s system of merging HDR images which is a Bridge, ACR(Adobe Camera RAW), and Photoshop combination. The merging tips below are for photographers already somewhat familiar with shooting and merging HDR images. If you’re not familiar with HDR, Ben Wilmore has a really good HDR movie on XTrain; I also recommend The HDRI Handbook by Christian Block.

I use a number of different programs to merge image files into a single 32bit file. I choose which programs to use based on whether or not I need to batch process merges and whether or not I need to adjust the images before merging. Photoshop CS3 will not batch process merges and the file exposures needs to match the EXIF data. For batch merging and merging adjusted tiff files, I use Artizen HDR, FDR tools, or Photomatix. For example: I auto correct the RAW files using DXO Optics and output TIFF files, then I merge the corrected TIFFs in Photomatix.

Using the Adobe method is the most convenient way to get started. This is a script that Bridge runs, which invokes Photoshop’s Merge to HDR command. There are two settings inside Photoshop that affect the merge: (1) Align source images can be turned on or off. This is a real time saver if your images are already aligned and you don’t need a “perfect” merge. (2) Setting performance preferences to 0 history states in CS3 will also speed up merging.

Before merging images using Bridge I adjust my RAW files in ACR. Some ACR settings have no effect when merging. Most of the settings dealing with exposure make no difference. The merge to HDR function makes the image linear, which negates all exposure adjustments. Tone curve is the exception, as it does have an effect on saturation and color. Split toning has no effect. These are the settings in ACR that are important to the merge and should be adjusted:

  • White Balance
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation
  • Sharpening
  • Noise Reduction
  • HSL
  • Chromatic Abberation
  • Defringe
  • Vignette
  • Camera Calibration

Exactly the same settings should be used on each image in the set. I’ve experimented with different settings in each image without much success. Photoshop crashes if the pixels don’t line up very well.

Once I have a 32bit image to work with, it’s time for some tone mapping, which is another blog in itself.

Categories: Digital Photography Tutorials Tags:

UPDIG Quick Guide

December 13th, 2007 Comments off
ASMP (the American Society of Media Photographers) has printed the UPDIG Quick Guide. My work as the tech editor for UPDIG is largely reflected in this document. Richard Anderson, who is the primary author of UPDIG asked me to edit the guidelines, and I suggested that we make a “Quick Guide.” The complete guidelines which I am currently editing are very thorough. UPDIG is creating desperately needed standards and practices for the digital photography industry. UPDIG is rapidly gaining support, so look for good things to come in the near future. Thanks to Modern Postcard for donating the printing.
Categories: Technology Tags:

Visual Content Recognition

December 8th, 2007 1 comment

Visual Content Recognition is the ability to recognize and utilize content within the image. This is affecting every aspect of digital photography. The technology is already being used in numerous ways and the future is mind boggling. In the example above, face recognition detects triangles created by eyes and mouth, then sets focus and exposure. Let me give a couple examples and show some MIND BLOWING LINKS to examples and videos. You may want to look at the MIND BLOWING LINKS first.

STITCHING TOGETHER IMAGES: Photoshop can recognize pixels that match up and put them together. This allows you to stitch together multiple images to make one “bigger” image. Bigger means wider angle of view, more resolution, more dynamic range, or more depth of field. This also allows you to line up multiple hand held images and combine different elements together. Three shots of a group portrait can be aligned, then the eyes can be changed on the blinkers. Photoshop is making good use of Visual Content Recognition with Photomerg, Auto Align Layers, and the Auto Align Source Images when making HDR images. Microsoft has a technology called PhotoSynth which stitches together multiple images from multiple photographers. It will find all the images it can of a subject stitch them all together to make a 3D representation of it. For example: Photosynth could go to flicker and find all the tourist images of the Washington Monument from all angles, then stitch them into a 360 degree view. Mind blowing link number one is a Demo of Seadragon and Photosynth done at TED 2007 by Blaise Aguera Arcas. You can try out the Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth tech preview at

MIND BLOWING LINK #1 Seadragon and Photosynth Video

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