A change is as good as a holiday

I seem to be starting a trend on this blog about blogging more about software and computing than about photography, but it is all related in the long run. A while back now I blogged about going back to linux as a platform for my photography work and I was highly impressed with how far things had come since I previously ventured in that direction. After a few months, I had a workflow that I was proud of and that worked incredibly well for me. This was all pretty much built around using Bibble Pro 5. I was happy with Bibble as it was fairly quick and reminded me of using Lightroom from when I had been using Windows and OS X.

Just over two weeks ago however I changed platform again and thanks to my very loving better half, am now typing on a brand new 13″ Macbook Pro. Sure, some people will tell me that the 15″ would have been a better move for the larger and slightly higher res screen but doing any form of graphic work on a smaller 1280 x 800 screen is no problem for me (I had a 14″ Acer Aspire for about a year). This thing is plenty quick for what I need to do as well.

The change presented me with a choice that I hadn’t really given much thought to in the past. With Lightroom 3 being released recently and Aperture 3 hitting stores earlier this year, I had a choice of two incredibly powerful library management and editing tools. Lightroom would have been a been a fairly safe choice given how long I had been using it and that I still have a workflow engrained in my mind, but I decided to give the free 30 day trial of Aperture 3 a go as well.

From my limited play with Aperture, I must say that I am loving it. It’s catalog management appeals to me more than that of Lightroom (this is subjective I know, but I always liked how iPhoto handled its library) and I find myself being better organised with keywords and other metadata now as well, thanks to the workflow I am developing with the program. The colour tags that you can rename definitely mean the end of picking tags in Lightroom for certain things and trying to remember what each one was supposed to represent. It is a small thing, but something that helps in the early days of sorting out your workflow.

Editing photos was where I was where I really expected the competition to heat up. Both programs are loaded with enough editing tools to keep Photoshop sitting on the sidelines watching on for the most part and both do pretty much the same job, so not really much to talk about here. One thing that is worth mentioning though is the presets. Both applications make use of them for quick access to different types of edits but in my opinion, Lightroom has the edge. I always relied pretty heavily on the (free) presets in Lightroom that I had been collecting over the years (mostly from Lightroomkillertips.com) but moving to Aperture, well… there just aren’t that many out there. Sure, there are enough sites with the odd preset collection for sale, but they are of pretty questionable quality more often than not. I have managed to find a few free ones so far which seem to be ok, but there definitely isn’t anywhere near the same quantity (or quality). The plan at this stage is to do my part and start making my own to share.

Now, one of my favourite features so far with Aperture is the way it handles it’s full screen mode. This is what makes doing any organising or editing on the 13″  very manageable. Just hit F and all the toolbars, dock, window trim and the finder bar disappear leaving you just with your photos floating above a black background. All your editing features are just a shortcut away at any time and the windows they open in can be moved about if they get in the way. I liked the full screen mode in Lightroom, but this is just so much more (by showing so much less).

I still have 14 days to go with my Aperture 3 trial, but so far I would say that I will be handing over the $250 for a full licence so I can continue using it. I haven’t touched on a lot of what Aperture 3 can do, but I will be doing a review of sorts if I do end up going with it in the long run.

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Adobe, you impress us yet again with content aware fill

I am sure by now that everyone has seen the videos from Adobe showing off the impressive little tool that is going to be packaged with Photoshop CS5 known as content aware fill. If you haven’t seen the video of the guys from Adobe virtually picking up trash and doing a spot of tree lopping then go and take a peek here. Sure, its pretty nifty and will probably get used way too much by people using it just because “it is pretty damn cool”. But now we see another video with some more down to earth, real world applications for it.

Linux and Photography – Round Two

Some may remember that a fair while back now, I blogged about using Linux (Ubuntu Studio 8.04 to be exact) for photographic purposes. I came to the conclusion that whilst it was completely possible, life was just easier if you were running a Windows or OS X install and using either Lightroom or Aperture. Since then however, I got rid of the Ubuntu Studio install and just ran a regular flavour of Ubuntu and what I found was that it became even more useful for the odd bits of photography work I had to do each day and as a day to day operating system.

Jump forward a year and a bit and I know sit here with a semi fresh installation of Ubuntu 9.10 (64bit) in front of me and I am astounded at how quickly things have progressed. The experience is just so much more polished and it feels like such a solid OS to work with. There are some negatives however, such as the music library management program I had been using, Songbird, ditching its iPod support, but that is for another time. So without any further ado, lets jump into how I handle my workflow from start to finish.

First off, we have a nice and clean desktop to work from. You may be different, but I absolutely hate clutter in the back ground. Whether it is a gazillion shortcuts, mounted devices or a busy wallpaper, I just cannot stand it.

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Now, so you have come home from a busy day covering a protest or trekking up and and down mountains in search of that “perfect” landscape, you have your images on your card and you want them downloaded onto your PC. My recommendation would be a nice little app called Rapid Photo Downloader, which does exactly as the name suggests, it downloads your photos off your memory cards nice and quick and has management for folder structure and file management among other things. It isn’t a catalog manager but for those who are used to using Explorer, Finder or Nautilus to manage your collection of images, it isn’t a bad starting point.


Next up is getting around to the actual processing of the images. At the moment, I am using a trial of Bibble 5 and I am amazed at how much it has improved since Bibble 4. There are a few areas of the program that by far outshine parts of Lightroom, like incorporated Noise Ninja, the ability to create edit layers and some of the presets as well. It mightn’t be as polished as Lightroom is or as quick sometimes, but it really is a powerful image editing program. There are some basic catalog features in there and the interface is straight forward and rather easy to get used to as you use it. Of course, one large downside is the price, Bibble 5 is currently selling for USD$199.95, a bit of a sting if you are more than used to the free nature of most of the Linux world. If you decide it is worth it though, you get an incredibly powerful and versatile piece of software for your money. If you don’t want to fork out this kind of cash, then there are other options out there such as Raw Therapy (which I spoke about in my last article) and RawStudio which can be had for the grand total of nothing.

bibble

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Once you have finished editing your photos, you will most likely want to share them with the world. In my case, that meant finding an application to upload batches of photos to Flickr with as little trouble as possible. I also wanted something where I could specify a particular set for the images to be placed in as well as tags and resize options if I needed to resize something quickly without opening the Gimp or Bibble. After a quick search of the internet, I decided to give kflickr a go as it looked like it was the best match for my needs. It is incredibly simple to use and nice and quick. Haven’t had an issue with it yet (touch wood).

kflickr

I decided to not include any mention of the Gimp as it really hasn’t changed all that much since I last spoke of it and also, I never really use it. Same for another great program, Inkscape, it is incredibly feature rich and a great free alternative to Indesign, but I just have not had a chance to use it lately and give an accurate opinion on it. If you like to do some video editing on the side, then there are options there as well such asPiTiVi which seems to be a well polished, feature rich video editor/movie maker (don’t ask me any more about it, I only have it installed and haven’t used it yet).

So there we have it, a quick run down of what is available to a budding photographer who doesn’t want to rely on either Microsoft or Apple for their computing needs. Using an OS such as Ubuntu also means that you can save a fair bit of cash when building a system to use for your editing needs, which leaves more money in the bank for cameras, lenses and other accessories 😉

The Wait Is Over

Ok, forgive me for being a little slow on this one, but I don’t normally make posts about these sorts of things (probably going to change from now on though). Anyone who has been remotely (excuse the pun) into the strobist movement over the last few years will no undoubtedly be aware of the long saga involving the release of the RadioPopper Jr’s. Well, after a ridiculously long wait and a redesign, they are finally here and now known as the RadioPopper JrX.

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Of course Dave Hobby, being the in the know guy that he is, got his hands on them over the weekend and has been kind enough to put them through their paces for the rest of us. Clicky here if you wish.

Now I have a slight dilemma, do I try and get my hands on a set of these or just pick up someone’s second hand Alien Bee Cybersyncs as people start offloading current set ups for them? Could just say stuff it and find some Pocket Wizards though…

New Monitor, Good and Bad

Last weekend I bit the bullet and got myself a replacement screen as an upgrade from the venerable Viewsonic 17″ 4:3 LCD I have had for years. Being a poor student who isn’t all that fussed about a completely colour accurate screen, I got myself an affordable Acer 23″ HD widescreen LCD (x233Ha to be exact). The extra real estate is lovely, I must admit and the colour doesnt seem too off.

Now, two days after I bought it I noticed a bright red stuck pixel. Oh no, I thought. Of all the colours, it had to be red, which sticks out like anything when watching movies or playing the XBOX 360 through it (another reason I got the HD screen). So I make contact with the store I got it from who said to get in touch with Acer and see what their warranty policy is with stuck pixels. Long story short, no one wants to know about it with only one and Acer won’t take it back unless there are more than 5. Not good enough for a less than week old screen in my opinion. Oh well, at least it doesn’t stick out too much when using Lightroom…

New Bag Goodness

Had a bit of a win on the horse races the other day and decided to treat myself. So I bought a large Crumpler Bundle today. Photos and first thoughts after the jump.

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Linux and Photography

Linux and photography have always been somewhat of an odd couple. Photographers have mostly preferred to use Windows or Mac OS over any Linux distro thanks to the wider range of image management and processing applications available for them. Now, I had been one of those photographers happily using Windows and a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop until a few months ago when Vista went south on me. While reinstalling, I did some reading on the new release of Ubuntu Linux (Hardy Heron) and through that, found Ubuntu Studio. After a bit more reading about the OS and some of the new applications that are available, I decided to take the plunge and installed Ubuntu Studio 8.04 on my laptop along side my Vista install.

Keep reading for more on my experiences using Ubuntu Studio as my photo editing OS.

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