Thursday, September 25, 2008

EYE7: Frame Recap

This article is part of my series on the study of 'The Photographer's Eye' by Micheal Freeman.

This concludes the Frames section of our study on Visualization. We will complete another exercise to pull all of these concepts together and then beginning with the next article move into Design Basics. This will include topics such as Contrast, Balance, Dynamic Tension, Rhythm, Patterns, Textures, Perspective and Visual Weight.

Wrap Up Exercises

We have discussed the different sizes of the Frame and how that impacts what can be shown in an image. We also discussed the beginnings of placing a subject within that Frame before we moved on to three ways to divide the Frame. The first was Linear Division which kept things balanced and simple, but gave us a method for beginning to move the subject around the Frame.

Then we moved on to the Golden Ratio which artists have used for centuries to create paintings which are hanging in world wide art galleries. Finally, we took the concept of the Golden Ratio and further divided the Frame using a mathematical series. Each of these methods provides a way to proportionalize the subject matter into a fixed Frame size.

As a wrap-up exercise for dividing the Frame, try out your newly developed instincts. Find three subjects that remain fairly still. People can be used, but try people sitting, standing or lying down. Moving people will add a new level of challenge to this exercise and if you are up to that challenge, give it a second go around. For now, try fairly stationary subjects.

For each subject, bring a countdown timer with an alarm. Get your photography gear ready with film or digital cards. Take light meter readings and set your exposure values. For this exercise we will use only one lens, unless you are using a zoom lens in which case you can zoom throughout the work.

When you are ready, start your timer with a two minute countdown. Take two minutes without taking a single shot. Study the subject from various angles. Notice the background, the lighting and the other objects. When the two minutes are completed, set the timer for one more minute. Take photographs for a minute. Take as many as you can, but try to take between 15 and 20 images. Don't think, just shoot. Do this for all three subjects and then study your images, but not until all three subjects have been completed.

Study images for use of the Linear division, Golden Ratio and Fibonacci divisions. Print out one or two from each division type for each image. Overlay the division on the image using a colored pen or pencil and a ruler. Make notes and file in your scrapbook.

If you don't have any that follow the divisions, repeat the process and spend your two minutes studying the image with the three divisions in mind. Use your tranparencies as a visual que for your brain, but avoid holding them up to use to frame the subjects.

The key for this exercise is beginning to shoot these divisions without using a visual aid. Try to shoot by instinctive measures rather than using a cropping tool. Let your brain crop the image.

As we go through the remaining articles, build upon what you are learning and see if your divisions become more instinctive. The only way this will happen is to practice shooing spontaneously and then studying the results to see of you got the divisions worked out. Simply shooting more volume without critical review will not help.

Other People's Opinions

Now is also the time to begin soliciting opinions of others. Family and friends are ok, but only if they flat out tell you they don't like some of your images. Family and friend tendencies are to be much nicer to your images than you deserve. Try using some collegues and other photographers or members of your local photography club.

You can post comments here with links to your images and invite others to review them as well.

Happy shooting! We will begin the next series in a week or so.
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Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

EYE6: Geometric Series and Framing

This article is part of my series on the study of 'The Photographer's Eye' by Micheal Freeman.

In the last article we discussed the Golden Rule and it's application in dividing a Frame. We found that such a division gave us both a point to place smaller objects on a large background and a four panel division to place larger objects. The whole point of the Golden Rule was an aide in placing the subject.


Another such division aide is the Geometric Series. A Geometric Series is a list of numbers in which each number in the series has the same ratio from the previous number to the next number. For example, start with the number 1 and add 3 each time. Our series is 1, 4, 7, 10, 13 ... If you were to graph this series of numbers, you would end up with a curve, not a straight line. Hence, this is where the name Geometric Series comes from.

The most common form of a Geometric Series is the Fibonacci Series. Instead of picking a constant number, the series adds the previous two numbers together and that result becomes the next number in the series. I.e., 1, (1 + 0 = 1) 1, (1 + 1 = 2) 2, (1 + 2 = 3) 3, (2 + 3 = 5) 5, (3 + 5 = 8) 8 ... The progression is much faster than the previous example. Also notice that the first two numbers are the same: 1. This is because of the value zero.

Using to Divide a Frame

Now that we see a formula that is used for calculating a Geometric Series, how do we use that to divide a frame? Obviously, this is arbitrary, so we need to define a measurement to apply to the numbers in the series. Let's start simple and get more complicated. Take 1 unit as 1/10th of the size of the frame, square. Thus 1 = 1/10th x 1/10th of the frame.

Then, after having a unit established, we add the first couple of numbers in the series: 1, 1, 2.

Finally, after filling the frame through the sixth number in the series, we get a division like the following:

If you look at the final division of the Frame, you can begin to see the seashell spiral that is commonly associated with the Fibonacci Series. This is also known as the Golden Spiral.


Certainly, one would not have the time to create such a division and frame a photograph when working in photojournalism and street photography. But the speed which one shoots an image does not determine whether this type of Frame division is applicable. The more global point is the concept of a smaller portion of the subject offset near the same point as the Golden Rule creates. This would be in the area of the two number 1 boxes or divisions. Then as the subject and background blend together, try to create a uniform feeling of moving down, out and around. Leave the larger portions of the subject or the background to fill the second half of the Frame, or block 8.

Practicing with still life gives you the opportunity to train your eye to use this complex, mathematical formula in your frame. This is the most challenging portion our series on Visualization and if you don't quite understand the math, that is ok. The feeling of the division, the flowing movement that the Geometric Series gives when applied to the Frame is what we are after, not the calculation of a Fibonacci Series.


As we did in the last article, take a clear overhead sheet or a page protector and draw out the proportions of your camera Frame. Divide the Frame into a Fibonacci series by starting in the reverse, with number 8 as half the image. Then move backwards through to the two number 1 blocks.

Drawing this on a clear sheet will not only give you an overlay to view with your Eyes, but also an easy method of flipping the division and using the mirrored image with the number 8 block on the right instead of the left.

Using this tool, find four subjects and take at least three photographs of each one. In the photographs try to implement the Divisions you created. Use people, buildings, clouds, trees, objects of any kind to fill in your Frame divisions.

Print the images and make notes of how successful you were. Take a ruler and a colored pen or pencil and draw the Fibonacci Series directly on the photograph. When finished, place these in your scrapbook with the others.

Repeating this exercise over and over with the Golden Ratio exercise and the Linear Divisions exercise will train your eye to begin seeing in this manner.

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Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blackberry 8830 Shortcuts

Ok, so this doesn't have much to do with photography, but since I rely so much on my cell phone, I wanted to be sure that I kept this information should I need it again. Here, then, are a few shortcuts that I have found on the web for the Blackberry 8830.


Pressing the ALT + RIGHT SHIFT + DELETE keys simultaneously will peform a reboot. Even though you shouldn't need this very often, it does help if you are having connection or application problems. I have to confess, compared to my former Palm Pilot (which I used from the very first model through the Palm 700) had to be rebooted at least once a week. The 8830 I have been using for three months has only needed rebooted twice. I think this is why I forget the shortcut! (see this post).

Viewing the Log

Pressing the ALT + L + G + L + G keys will show the application / device log. This is helpful to see any errors that might be cropping up. While the information isn't as detailed as you might think, it gives the application and the date which can help you get to a solution. (see this post).

Other Shortcuts

I will update this section with more shortcuts as I find them useful. For now, here is a post that lists more shortcuts for the Blackberry devices.


Since memory leaks are the primary items that cause a need for a reboot, I'll share with you a program that I have found useful. Memory Up is not only a memory report tool that shows you used and available memory, but it also can do a memory defrag. A defrag can get back some of that lost memory. The trial works great and gives you a chance to see the full version. I found the price reasonable for getting such a handy program.

... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lightroom 2.0 Keyword Upgrade Issue

It just goes to show how busy we sometimes become that we can miss important news about our favorite software - Adobe Lightroom 2.0. I spent such a large amount of time working on the Beta Test that when 2.0 came out I purchased, installed and went on.

Well, there's a knowledgebase article about some problems updating from Lightroom 1.x to 2.0 regarding keywords. The issue is below, taken directly from Adobe's web site:

When you update your catalog to Photoshop Lightroom 2, the Include On Export keyword tag option is not selected, so if you export your photos from Photoshop Lightroom 2, your keywords are not exported with your photos.

They have a fix that isn't hard to install and use and the fix is a one time application. Take a look at their knowledge base article number kb405074 for a complete description.
... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

First Impressions: Leica M8 and Adobe Lightroom

I have been a film photographer for over 20 years, shooting with Leicas the last two years. Because really good lenses (the foundation of a great image) are so expensive, then the natural progression for me from film into digital was with a Leica M8. I still love film and will use it equally as much as digital depending on the shooting conditions.

However, I have taken some of my first images with an M8 and imported them into Lightroom 2.0. Here I'll share with you some initial thoughts and few interesting tidbits I discovered on the web.

First, I'll tell you that I am NOT comparing the M8 to any of the Cannon and Nikon DSLR's. My presumption here is that you are interested in the M8. This is not a review, but more of a hands on experience. However, I am comparing this to using images from Leica DLUX3 which is one of only a couple of pocket cameras that produce a RAW image file. Remember, we're talking file size, not quality of lens or components.

Yes, if any of you are familiar with the DLux3, the save speed on the camera is slow. The other issue I have noticed is a slight red shift in certain landscape photography, most noticeably high contrast images such as snow. However, shooting landscapes I typically have a moment longer to wait and Lightroom does a great job of shifting the red back into alignment. I use the DLux3 to see what the resulting images look like before committing some to film. The point is the resulting RAW file sizes and the transfer speed to my Lightroom catalog.

Native DNG

The first thing I noticed about the M8 was that it saves images in a native DNG format. I understand that Adobe initially created two methods of creating a DNG and Leica being one of the first, picked up a slightly different method than is used more commonly today. In fact, for the really scientific minded, there is a great article posted on The Riddle of the M8 DNG File. But be warned it is technical!

Here's the key. The M8 is saving the images directly as a DNG file whereas the DLux3 was saving as a RAW file. The result is the M8 immediately has smaller filesizes. If you can convert these in Lightroom, what is the big deal? ANSWER: the speed of SD cards and USB connections is realtively slow compared to memory and CPU speeds. So, if we start with a smaller file size, uploading into a Lightroom catalog is exponentially faster. In the case of the DLux3, RAW images were about 30mb (10 mega pixel camera x 3 channels, R, G, B). The M8 produces the same 10 mega pixel image, but by saving the image as a DNG file, the size is only 10mb. Thus, the upload speed to Lightroom from an M8 card is 1/3 that of the DLux3 card.

Even Smaller Filesize

Previously, with the DLux3, I would import into Lightroom and convert the RAW image to a DNG format to save filespace. I was already waiting awhile to import the 30mb image files, so a little longer to convert the file was fine with me and the smaller file size in the catalog made reading the file in Lightroom faster too. So what about the M8?

As it turns out, the main difference in the M8 DNG format and the Lightroom DNG format (remember, Adobe created two methods for the DNG early on), is that the M8 stores a lookup table in the DNG file. See the Riddle article above for more on the lookup table. The result is that the M8 DNG file can be FURTHER compressed while it's being imported.

Using the Lightroom import, convert the DNG files from the SD Card to, yes it's redundant sounding, a DNG file. The resulting new DNG files in the Lightroom catalog can vary in size from 3.5mb to 5mb depending on the range of tones and colors in the image. In fact, I took a photo of the moon with a 90mm Elmarit at f/4.0 and 1/1000 of second.

Because of all the black around the image, this DNG converted to 3.2mb. Astounding considering the beginning RAW data was over 30mb!

There are a few considerations, however. In terms of Lightroom and Photoshop CS3, no problems. I am sure there are other imaging software packages that also have no problem. After all, the resulting DNG file is an Adobe DNG image file. However, the Capture One LE software that came with the M8 will no longer read the DNG file. It was designed to read the M8 DNG file with the added lookup table. Since I don't use that software, I don't mind.

If you use Capture One (or C1 as it can be called), there are reports that using the software key that came with the M8 will also allow registration of Capture One 4, which is said to read the converted DNG file from the M8. I haven't tried this, so I don't know.

Importing Workflow Tip

I have long read posts about how slow some digital cameras are at importing images into Lightroom. The DLux3 is certainly one of those cameras. However, since the beginning of my digital photography work, I have always taken the memory card out of the camera and performed my imports through a card reader. Why? Because technology consistently changes and typically it becomes faster. SD cards become faster (100mhz vs 133mhz). USB ports become faster (1.1 vs 2.0). All the while, our digital camera guts remain the same. So by removing the card from the camera and using the latest card readers, the fastest file transfer times can take place. You will not have to rely on the interface built into the camera by the manufacturer, which, by the way, may be an older technology for compatibility purposes.


My digital Lightroom work is not only faster now with the M8, but also takes less disk space. Remember that my film work is all scanned with a Nikon negative scanner. This results in 40mb TIFF files which can be slow to work with. The next tests I'll run will deal with the noise in the M8 images under the new 2.0 firmware. I'll compare mostly night shots with bright contrasting lights to look for dark shadows containing little noise. I'll also develop some noise files for the M8 that can be used with NeatImage which is the noise reduction software I have used. ... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Leica Releases M8 Firmware 2.0

Today, Leica released a new firmware version 2.0 for the M8 digital body. This new firmware release provides support for larger size SDHC cards, up to 32Gb. Leica still recommends Extreme III and Professional versions made by Lexar and SanDisk as being the most compatible. Whichever cards you use, it is nice to break the 2mb barrier!

Leica also says that an addition is made for an AUTO-ISO setting allowing for options with maximum ISO values and minimum shutter speeds.

Finally, Leica makes it clear that after updating to firmware version 2.0, you CANNOT go backwards to a previous version!

I have downloaded the firmware and I will test it over the next few days to let you know if I find anything of concern. You can get the firmware from the Leica web site or Visit the Download Center for the M8 here.

EDITED: changed 32mb to 32Gb.
... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

LRGC User's Guide - Minor Updates

The Lightroom Galleries Complete User's Guide has some minor updates as a result of emails from you! Take a look at the links to the right or the link above and you can download another copy.

Notice that the revision numbers correspond to the LRG Complete Web Gallery version number and a letter. The higher the letter, the more recent the revision.

The Advanced User's Guide is still on pace for release the end of September! Thanks for the emails and thank you for the suggestions and corrections! ... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lightroom Galleries Announces Changeable Fonts

If you haven't been keeping up with Joe at Lightroom Galleries, you need to take a look. Joe has created a phenomenal Adobe Lightroom Web Gallery that has revolutionized the ability for someone to create a photography presence on the internet - and offer their images for sale using PayPal or Google Checkout. Now, Lightroom Galleries has a new announcement about LRG Complete and one that I have been waiting for.

Lightroom Galleries has announced Changable Fonts will be added to LRG Complete. Up until now only one font was available for use with LRG Complete. Truthfully, there are so many different items that can be customized with this Web Gallery that you can overlook the inclusion of only having one font choice. In fact, by the time you sit down and really plan a web site, you realize you can create a unique look and feel with everything that is already included.

Changeable Fonts will only add to the arsenal of individualizing your own web site. Joe indicated that he is on track with keeping file sizes down so that load times of the Web Gallery remain tolerable. With the amount of time and effort put into this Web Gallery, please consider making a donation through the PayPal button on Joe's web site.

Thank you, Joe!
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Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Windows XP: Hibernating Taking a Long Time

On my laptop I have been running Microsoft Windows XP, or sometimes known as WinXP. I use Service Pack 2 and havent' had any show stopping problems. However, at one point my laptop would hibernate in about 20 seconds or less. To determine if that is fast, you have know my equipment: a dual core 2.2mhz pentium and 4gb of ram. The problem is that somewhere along the way hibernation began to take 5 to 10 minutes (yes, minutes). I never really bothered to time it in full because it took so awfully long. After about 2 years of on and off searching, I found the soloution! First, I'll tell you what I tried.

Network Maps

I looked at the network maps I had setup for access to network disk drives. I had not only a Buffalo TeraStation Pro which I had mapped various drives, but also a SonicWall TZ170 firewall and router. Since I used the router's VPN service to connect to work, I thought maybe the mapped drives to the servers at work, through the VPN caused a slow hibernate.

Why would I think that network connections would slow down hibernating? Well, I know that networking can cause delays. Anyone that has tried to browse the network places through Windows experiences delays in refreshing available computers and connections. I figured maybe through the hibernate process went to check each drive and had to page through a network service to get there.

My logic was flawwed in that removing all VPN and networked drives did not speed up the hibernation process. Failure number one and one step closing to the solution.


I understand that bluetooth incorporated into some motherboards or through other hardware modules can cause delays when periodically looking for devices. I don't use bluetooth very often with my laptop. I occasionally would synch my palm pilot or blackberry through bluetooth if I didn't have my cord with me, but not often.

Another failure as disabling bluetooth in the bios had no effect in the length of time to hibernate.

SQL Services and Pervasive SQL

Now I thought I was being brilliant again by looking at SQL services and similar database drivers. SQL is a very robust service and I had the full development edition on my laptop because I was doing Visual Studio programming at the time. I figured an enterprise level of SQL may have fairly intense routines going on behind the scenes to be sure that database integrity was kept during a shutdown or hibernation.

I even went so far as to remove SQL from my computer. The same was true for Pervasive SQL which I used to operate the Timberline Accounting System.

Once again, I failed and the hibernation process took an extremely long time.

Power Program Updates

Having a laptop and having a Dell Lattitude laptop which was a business class, gave me access to a download area where I could keep my operating system drivers for the laptop up to date. Using the Dell web sites I downloaded and ran patches on the Power system and other operating system items.

Guess what? Correct! No effect on the hibernation speed.


I can now say, similar to Thomas Edison, I now know many ways NOT to speed up Windows XP hibernation, but I did find one way that works!

Through an accidental re-post in a very obscure forum, I found an answer. Keep in mind that I had googled all sorts of phrases related to long hibernation times and never had I realy gotten an answer. In this case I did get an answer.

The post mentioned that removing the ability in Windows XP to provide write-caching to the hard drive in your computer can cause extremely long hibernate times. The testing for this solution was to enable write-caching for the disk drive on my laptop. As the post suggested, after I rebotted from making the adjusstment, the laptop hibernated in 15 to 20 seconds.

How incredibly strange! I know that I was writing 4gb of memory to the hard drive and that takes a minute, but how can it go from SOOOO slow to SOOOO fast? Even with caching, the full amount of data must be written. I can only assume that Microsoft performs hibernating at some base hardware level with no caching of any kind. Write, fetch, write, fetch and that this process is very slow.

Write Caching Dangers

Without trying to go into all the details, write-caching can be dangerous. Sudden power outages can cause a few operating system files to be left open potentially rendering your computer un-bootable. That is the very reason I disabled the Write Caching to begin with.

I have decided, since most of my photoraphy data is on outside disk drives and I back up my data and catalog regularly, that I am willing to take the chance on write-caching for my laptop. On my desktop, there is no reason. I can shutdown and bootup easily as there is not battery and it has a much faster processor (dual core 3.4mhz pentiums).

Just so you know, I purposely did not show you how to enable the Write-Caching on your Windows XP operating system. I still think it is a dangerous feature and wouldn't recommend using it. I would hope Microsoft will fix this issue and take advantage of caching for purposes of hibernation regardless of the operating system's settings. However, I don't want responsibility for your data and there is plenty of information on the internet to allow you to enable write caching.


For my work, hibernation can be important for the portability of my laptop. Thus, I am taking the risk of using write caching to enable quick hibernation. The choice is completely yours. At least now you know why it is taking so long to hibernate and you can make an informed decision.

Good luck!

... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lightroom Tip#19: Precise Control Over Vignettes

Vignettes are not new to Lightroom as a lens correction. However, as a post-crop item meant to actually add a Vignette, the feature is new in Lightroom 2. While it takes some getting used to, the Vignette can produce some outstanding results. There have been several posts and a variety of presets available on the web to accomplish this. So how do you easily create the Vignette you want? Let's take a look.

First, you have to know that the default settings are all in the middle. This means, no Vignette is present in an image being developed in Lightroom. The Vignette panel is at the bottom of the Develop module and has settings such as: Amount, Midpoint, Roundness and Feather.

Take a look at an example image we will work with. It's not an oustanding image for Vignettes. However, it is a good image to work with because the contrast, brightness and texture are all consistent throughout the image, as a brick wall on a fort should be! This image has no Vignette applied.

Now for the first step in this Vignette workflow we need to setup the ability to easily see the Vignette. Determining exactly where the Vignette will stop is difficult at best because it fades into the rest of the picture. Sure, the edges are darker, but where does the Vignette really end?

To figure out the boundaries of a fading Vignette, first move the Feather slider all the way to the left. This turns off all the feathering. Then move the Amount slider all the way to the left (for dark Vignettes) or the right (for light Vignettes). The image below has a dark Vignette started, so the Amount slider was moved all the way to the left.

Notice how easy it is already to see where the Vignette will be applied. The Vignette will be faded from the edges of the image to the edge of the black section. The remainder of the image, the part you can see clearly now, will remain untouched. Now we have a chance to adjust the Vignette pattern before we apply it. Move the Midpoint slider and the Roundness sliders until you achieve the pattern you want to use.

The Midpoint was increased to move the Vignette in some more towards the middle. The Roundness was increased to large number in order to change the shape of the Vignette into a circle. These settings are purely the preference of the artist.

When you have the Vignette pattern established according to your vision, turn the feathering back on. Slowly move the slider up until you acheive the level of Vignetting you desired. Notice how the effect works in the final image below.

Also notice how the shape of the Vignette resembles the pattern we created. However, it remains difficult to see exactly where the Vignette ends. We can tell that there is no Vignetting in the center, but where does it really stop?

The final settings are shown to the right. Turning the Feathering adjustment all the way off makes viewing the Vignette pattern so much easier and the effect can be easily fine tuned. To edit a Vignette, simply turn off the Feathering (after you see what value you used) and adjust the other settings. For example, you could change the amount some or the shape and size. Then increase the Feathering again until you reach your previous value or find another value you prefer.

It really is that easy to get some great Vignettes!
... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.

Monday, September 1, 2008

LRGC 3.0 - Sample Chapter - CoolIris (PicLens)

In an effort to show everyone the amount of work and attention to detail that I am putting into the Advanced User's Guide for LRG Complete 3.0, released by Lightroom Galleries, I have uploaded a sample section of the chapter entitled Advanced Shell Features. This section details how to use CoolIris in conjunction with your Web Galleries. Get the Sample Section on CoolIris here.

Adobe Lightroom continues to make advances and so does Lightroom Galleries. The now released LRG Complete 3.0 provides a tool with Lightroom that can help you produce an extremely customized web site either for viewing or selling photography. The Advanced User's Guide will delve into many choices and options that may not be readily apparent or are complex to setup.

Keep an eye out as I will release another section the middle of September in anticipation of being finished by month end! ... Read More!

Don't forget to visit my photography web site where we sell museum quality black and white prints framed to last up to 175 years - Outdoor Images Fine Art.