The Road Goes On Until

Suburban Landscape 86, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

In this suburban landscape shot, right on the road outside my house, I used on camera flash to pick out reflective elements in the scene. I’m learning more about the quarter tone levels control in Aperture. The controls overall are less direct than using curves in Photoshop, but in some ways may be more integrated, working on the RAW file itself.

I wonder whether Aperture will ever add local tonal control at all? Without burning and dodging, it’s hard to call it a digital darkroom, after all. But if I can get roundtripping working better, perhaps I can stick to local changes in Photoshop, avoiding the levels that slow Aperture down so much and spoil the integration of the two programs.

Just One Tree

_DSC5016, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

I took a short walk in the neighborhood tonight with the D80, this time with the 50mm f/1.8, thinking the extra stop would be useful as the light faded. As shutter speeds started dropping below what I can hand hold, particularly on a walk when I pause and shoot, I put the on camera flash into action. I dialed the flash compensation down by between 1.5 and 2.5 stops. It was enough to isolate foregrounds in the light and bring the shutter speed up to 1/30th.

Touchscreen iPod: Newton 2.0?

Apple 2.0: Countdown to the Touchscreen iPod

Now the question is not if but when Apple (AAPL) will release it’s long-rumored 6th generation video iPod with a tiny version of OS X on the inside and a big touch-sensitive screen on the outside.

It’s sad that the concept of the PDA has lost currency over the last few years. I relied on my Newton and, later, a Palm for many years to not only provide calendars and addresses but also as a mobile information source.

As the cell phone converged with the PDA, the screens shrunk and the availability of text data on the unit receded into the background. My Palm based Kyocera phone was a much worse Palm and my Blackberry is even worse for keeping notes and reference on. Similarly, the iPhone brings phone, contacts, calendar and web to the fore, making data storage secondary.

On the Blackberry, I’ve developed a style of emailing myself reference material that I expect to need while out or traveling. It’s not my “peripheral brain” as the PDA was, but rather a portal into other data stores.

I hope that if there is a touch screen ipod, it has the iPhone’s virtual keyboard and an elegant way to create and store text files and outlines. Like the Newton did so well.

A View Into But Not Beyond: On Art and the Legacy of Art


The Online Photographer: What is Your Photographic Legacy?

But that’s exactly where most of my photos sit. Paper carton or hard drive, a box is a box. I’m only too willing to concede that only a few hundred of them would be of interest to anyone other than me. Perhaps only a few dozen would qualify as award-winners—but again, what’s the difference, if they’re all just sitting in a box? And what interest or value would they be to my wife and kids once I’m dead and buried? Is the whole point of this my own personal amusement, or am I serving some greater purpose?

I used to wonder about the purpose of art, my art in particular, until I heard a seminar given by an investigator who was studying speech and language using functional MRI. By looking at what parts of the brain are active during tasks, one hopes to understand more about the processing pathways. One of the intriguing findings was that when listening to speech, one’s own speech production area lights up in addition to the areas that process language. It’s as if the words being heard are being run through your brain as if you yourself were saying them. Of course, it’s an important task to separate the words in your own head from those you hear from outside, a distinction that breaks down in psychotic states.

Fundamentally, talking to some one is an attempt to change the brains of other. Putting your thoughts inside the brains as others. It’s an attempt to change their way of thinking. Some art is verbal or language based like radio or the novel. Others either include a visual component or are exclusively visual. Or aural. All are invitations to see what I see, hear what I hear. And be changed in some way by the experience. Profound art produces profound changes in it’s audience. When viewed as a simple act of communication, art becomes much less mysterious.

But just as we talk to ourselves, either out loud or non-verbally, we can also produce art for ourselves. I get to look at many more images and many more image states than does my web audience. It’s a single person feed back loop of the activity of seeing the world, taking images and viewing/manipulating the result. For me, the art is an activity of learning to see and sharing what I learn with others who are interested. These banal images of the suburban landscape appeal to me because they are for me more simply about the act of seeing and less about what is seen. I tell myself “Open your eyes and look around. You’re here.”

Pride of the Farm

Florida Trip 14, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

I don’t really like roosters, but I like rooster statues. This was one of the rare occasions when I stopped the family-filled car and spent a few minutes photographing.

I Left the Room to Get Ice Just as the Sun Set

_DSC4961, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

This is a straight Aperture postprocessing. The previous post’s image of the steam engine was sent on the full round trip through Photoshop. While I have sufficient speed, there’s a big bottleneck once an image has Photoshop layers and is sent back to Aperture. While Aperture can render and display the layered image, it slows everything way down. And any further manipulation of the image in Aperture is also slow. For example, exporting this image for Flickr took no appreciable time. The steam engine detail tied up the computer for several minutes.

I need to develop a workflow in which the layered PSD files live in a separate archive outside of Aperture. Within Aperture would live the RAW files, the straight manipulations and flattened PSDs. I need to find the best way to do this while keeping the round trip process intact.

Connections Within the Steampunk iPhone

_DSC4945, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

I’ve spent way too much time considering an iPhone purchase since the release and appearance of the first reviews. Today I made a trip to the Apple store to bring in my son’s Macbook for repair (intermittant keyboard) and so had a chance to experience the gadget first hand.

I was surprised that in a store that was relatively busy for a summer Tuesday afternoon, the 6 or 8 iPhones on display were mostly untouched. I watched the sale of 3 iPhones while I was in the store, but somehow I had expected more curiosity about the phone from mall patrons. While I was playing with it, two people drifted over when they saw video playing on the big wide screen. As a display item, the iPhone is small and inert. It doesn’t invite interaction.

Of course, the phone was using the Apple store Wi-Fi which is reasonably fast. So the experience was one of optimal connectivity.

First, I made a call home. To show off and judge quality. It’s a relatively uncomfortable phone against the ear with it’s hard-edged glass surface. I agree with the general assessment of reviewers that the sound is middling. Maybe it was partly due to the load environment in the store, but it sounded like “a cell phone” to those I spoke with. The sound for me was fine. The controls for hold, conferencing, etc are truly ground breaking and with visual voice mail, the biggest draw for me as a phone.

Of course the second great draw is the browser experience. However great it looks though, functionality is not all that much better than I get on my Blackberry. Aesthetics aside, the browser pages as presented are generally impossible to read, so you need to zoom and pan to read. On my Blackberry, the page gets reformatted into a long scroll- so I move vertically rather than panning. On the websites I read frequently, the important information comes up quickly as presented by the Blackberry.

Everything else? Not really compelling one way or the other for me. I like the keyboard.I don’t think I’d be faster or slower than on my SureType Blackberry or on any other style of keyboard. The iPod function? I’d rather have my 80GB video ipod even with the small screen for it’s dedicated controls and high capacity. Mail and calendar are unimportant as I spend most of my time using Outlook in it’s various incarnations on the web, on a PC, or on the Blackberry.

It’s interesting, but I left with a greater appreciation for how useful browsing is on my Blackberry. Plus since it’s a 7130e on Verizon it’s provides high speed internet access for my work laptop in tethered mode.

If I gave up my Verizon Blackberry for the iPhone I’d lose the tethered modem capability, the corporate push email and calendar sync. And while the superior browsing capability might offset the loss of the tethered modem, I wouldn’t be able to download documents, edit them on a laptop and return them to the author- a big part of my mobile work during travel.

A big gain I’d have with an iPhone would be international roaming. With my CDMA-EDVO phone, when I arrive in Europe, I’m without a phone. I’ve filled in with an unlocked GSM phone and buying pay as you go SIMs in Europe, but it’s a pain. I’m reimbursed for the high cost of internatinal roaming, so I’d rather have a phone that works on both sides of the Atlantic.

I’ve considered a two phone solution, but I’d have to have two carriers until my contract expires early next year. Or pay to get out of the Verizon contract. But I’d use a Blackberry for corporate email and calendar and iPhone for phone and browsing- but it’s a complicated and profligate solution since the Blackberry has the phone and browsing capabilities.

So the iPhone actually has me considering upgrading my current Blackberry to the new 8830 which has dual CDMA/GSM capabilities, allowing international roaming. It’s cheaper than an iPhone and even lets me use it as a bluetooth modem with the macs- although a bit slower than the tethered mode.

I’ll agree with those who think that the iPhone will help sales of all kinds of web enabled phones. It’s best in breed, but not the only option.

Satisfied as an Eel


p class=”flickr-frame”> _DSC4847, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

Yesterday my MacBook Pro arrived, finally. I had to wait because I added the 7200rpm 160GB build to order drive. While the old Alumininum G4 Powerbook was adequate for most tasks, Aperture really wasn’t fully usable. Now I can perform real time adjustments with ease, making it much easier to do basic optimization in Aperture.

I decided to start clean this time, so rather than use the migration assistant to move documents, apps and preferences over, I’m loading each app in anew and setting preferences by hand. Tomorrow I should have Photoshop brought over, so I can see how usable round-tripping is with the 2GB. The new Santa Rosa chip set allows 4GB in the laptop, up from 3GB in previous versions, so I have the option to double the memory, which should help run the two apps simultaneously.

The Eel Speaks


_DSC4854, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

During the week of the 4th of July, there’s always some family travel. I had my D80 with the 24mm, now my standard lens for the camera. While the lens is a great match for the way I see, it’s limiting when taking travel snapshots. As I was taking images, I thought about how useful Nikon’s 18-200mm VR lens would be for a family trip. Perhaps I really only need VR on the telephoto end, since I can hand hold down to 1/30th of a second with no real loss of sharpness for this kind of image. A fast lens and good handholding technique are probably equivalent to the slower VR lens in light gathering capability.

The 24mm and a VR telephoto might be a good walking around duo for these kind of family trips, the telephoto being useful for visual isolation when positioning isn’t possible. There’s also the flattering rendering of a tele compared to a 24mm when shooting portraits.

Dante Stella Reviews the Leica M8

Dante Stella on the Leica M8:

At the end of the day, photography is about life more than anything else. It’s about capturing things that cannot be later reproduced. A good camera is one that you never think about. It is in your pocket when you need it to be. And good photograph is one that you enjoy twenty years from now.

I’m on record as saying I’m going to wait on buying an M8. I have three systems I’m working with for now:

  1. Nikon D80 with the 24mm f/2.8 (supplemented by the 50mm, 12-24mm)
  2. Nikon P5000 Coolpix at high iso in black and white
  3. Leica M6ttl with 50mm or 35mm Summicron with C-41 film scanned with National Photo’s (Reisterstown Rd, Baltimore, MD) Noritsu scanner.

DSC_3071 (1)I’ve run the economic numbers many times and so does Dante: Dante’s calculation for me is about right- the Leica costs me about $20 a roll all said with film and developing costs. His estimate of 60% depreciation of the M8 over 3 years is realistic looking at the prices of 3 year old high end Nikons. Buy a US$5000 camera today, resell at US$2000 in 3 years- cost $1000 a year. 50 rolls of film. I think that if I didn’t have the convenient film workflow, I’d be more inclined to use digital capture. But I like the imposition of non-linear chemical sensitivity in the workflow for it’s transformative capabilities. The M8 is a very accurate painter of the scene. Film stretches and compresses by itself. The transformation to black and white, out of my control, is another step away from the scene as presented. Even the wait to develop and view provides more distance.

There’s a pleasure in the unexpected transformation of film photography that is different from the immediacy of digital. For learning how to expose and light, digital is far superior. It is immediate and predictable. For me there is then a journey to transform the image to create the personal vision. My experience with film is different, it is one of experience and discovery.