Photo Chaos – Taming the Beast

As a long time photography hobbyist, I am in an unenviable position. My collection of images is, how should I put this, a chaotic mess.

If I was a professional, I would have long ago adopted a workflow, with a definite process for handling images, sorting, grading, and culling that would have some consistency across the decades. Alas, I am a duffer, and just keep adding without any rhyme or reason for processing. Hence my current hand wringing.

Sure, for big vacations, I do some “workflow-like” things, but in general I import, fix blemishes, and occasionally process in Photoshop to share.

I wrote about my trials and tribulations here highlighting how the Apple iPhoto app at first was great, but became overwhelmed, and then my attempts to improve beyond that.

Of course, at that time I was considering/playing with Adobe’s Lightroom. Alas, as a hobbyist without a workflow discipline, I was flailing. Sure, it had great tools, and capabilities, but like with Aperture, I was barely using the capabilities. It felt “heavy”.

I have come to the realization that I am not a ‘Pro’ and I am not ever going to be as disciplined as a pro. I need to find a solution that works for my situation.

Thus I fell back into the Apple Photos paradigm. Here I am a year later, and in misery. As I have used Photos, while they got rid of the concept of “Photostream” they replaced it with this undergirding of “Moments” that you have captured. Thus when I exported my pictures of the last year to break free of this jail, I had about 300 folders of “moments”. Some tagged by date, some by GPS location (from my iPhone).

Now it is time for a clean break. Fortunately, I have discovered a pretty simple, “lite” tool, and even better, it is bundled with Photoshop (and free as in beer) tool called Adobe Bridge.

Instead of being a database driven tool, like Lightroom, it really is a browser and tool to categorize your images (and other files too besides images). It can import, it can bulk rename, it can alter IPTC tags, and the meta-data associated with your files. It handles RAW files, and can even do some “developing” when importing.

It works on the file structure in your computer or storage device, and it is pretty snappy to boot.

A shout out to my longtime friend Inge Fernau who recommended it. I had seen it, and ignored it, jumping straight to the heavier solutions (Lightroom, Aperture), or using the bundled solution (iPhoto, Photos).

My current state is that I have all my images in a directory structure, mirrored on a couple of HD’s (for backup), and am cleaning up a lot of cruft. Alas, iPhoto/Aperture/Photos have some hinky ways of managing albums that change and lead to a large number of duplicate image files.

I will keep Photos, primarily since I take a lot of pictures with my iPhone (the best camera is the one you have with you, and I always have my iPhone). But I will clear out the old images and reduce the amount of storage in the iCloud, probably falling back to the free tier – Yay, one less paid cloud storage service!

(Image at the top – Mont Blanc from the Telepheriqué in Chamonix – a three shot panorama, stitched in Photostitcher, and processed with Topaz Labs B&W Effects filter)

The Day of Reckoning: Apple abandons Aperture

Not quite yet, but the winds are blowing that Apple will end support and sales of Aperture, their “pro” photo application. A recent story on Wired gives a brief outline. “Photos” will take the lead, and it will be all about getting all your images into iCloud, and managing them there.

I had smelled this stink coming for a while. The updates to Aperture have slowed down, and the last major one definitely turned into the wrong direction, more integration with iOS, and iCloud, your photostream, and all that. Sigh.

About 6 months ago, I started migrating to Adobe Lightroom. I looked at it way back when I moved from iPhoto to Aperture, and at that time it was almost 2x the cost, and it pretty much lacked capability.

But in version 5, Lightroom has become a lot better, and it comes free with my CC subscription to Photoshop. I have installed it on my Mac’s and on my work PC, and am getting the feel for using it. In many ways it is similar to Aperture in capability, but it also has some significant differences, particularly around storage and file handling. Where Aperture created large libraries and buried the images and version inside them, LR seems to use the native file system. A bit confusing, but in the long term it will be better I am sure.

I can understand Apple’s strategy shift, and their migration away from the pro applications that really brought the power to their system. The all unified, iOS/MacOS world is a good goal, but I will be taking a pass at the upcoming Photos application.

I thought I could live with iPhoto

As part of my migration to a MacBook Air (from my macbook pro with beaucoup disk space) I figured I would just live with the “as delivered” iPhoto.
Alas, that was not to be. I did one (small) import of photos, and I about barfed. For a program that takes about 1.5 G of disk space, it pretty much sucks when you are used to using Aperture. iPhoto lacks a lot of what I have come to expect in my photography workflow with Aperture.
iPhoto is great for built in software and casual users, but I moved away from it 3 or 4 years ago when my photo library became 60G’s of space on my disk (now it is well over 150G).
The tools for managing, cataloging, creating light boards, and albums/collections are addictive to serious photographers (I am sure there are better tools, but I am a hack, and I just like tools that work for me.
The real dilemma I have is do I buy (rent) a copy of Photoshop CC.
Fortunately, it was pretty easy to move it over and to get it properly licensed here.
So far, I am loving the MBA. I am on my third day since I charged it and I still have plenty of juice in the battery. It is astounding how liberating it is to not need to charge often. With my MacBook Pro, after an hour or so, I was looking for a spare socket to charge it.

Product Review: Canon G12 camera

I have long been a photographer. I began back in high school with my grandfather’s old Canon from the ’60’s.  I shot a lot of B&W film in high school (it was super cheap, and we learned how to process it ourselves, so it was a no brainer.

I have stayed true to Canon over the years, with several film cameras, and not I am fully in the digital realm.

Last year, on a whim, I bought a Canon Powershot G12. My wife had one of the compact cameras that she loved, but I wanted a little more versatility. I talked to a couple friends who have the predecessor of the G12 (not surprisingly the G10 and G11) and they spoke highly of the platform. So I took the plunge (I used my AmEx points to buy it.)

I wasn’t sure of what I expected, but it is a viewfinder camera with the option of looking at the LCD screen to compose pictures as well.  It has a reasonably fast lens (F2.8) and a pretty large optical zoom range. It is snappy and easy to use, and it actually takes gorgeous pictures.

An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.
An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.

One huge benefit with this camera is that it has one of the HS sensors that greatly improve its performance in low light, so you can get clear, blur free pictures without a flash. I can attest that this really works, and that it does lead to some gorgeous pictures.

Since I often use this camera to grab quick pictures at work of small parts, and our tools for the documentation and manual, it is good to note that it can do a pretty reasonable job of focusing in the macro realm.

Other things to note: You get a fair amount of flexibility with the system.  A series of auto programs for portraits, landscapes or action pre-set conditions to make the shot easy to get, but you also have the ability to go to aperture, or time over ride and get your creative on. In these creative modes, you also have the option of saving the pictures as RAW files, that facilitates post processing quite well. The battery is pretty beefy, and I find that I don’t have to charge it too often. I haven’t felt the urge to buy a second battery to swap with. There are some optional mounts that let you add filters to the camera. Not as flexible as a DSLR, but it does give you some options. (note, I haven’t bought these yet)

While it isn’t going to replace my 5D and the L series lenses, it is a convenient knock around camera that nicely fills the void between the point and shoot variety, and the full on prosumer DSLR. I can highly recommend this for your everyday camera.