Monthly Archives: October 2007

Good Grief Charlie Brown!

Good Grief Charlie Brown!

Warren, Connecticut. Finally, on Halloween, I picked the pumpkins in our "patch" and lined them up. We have 30 pumpkins and 15 turban squashes. None of the pumpkins are "state fair champions" but they’ll be nice pumpkin pies and squash for our one experiment with Afghan cooking: a chili like dish over pumpkin and before you cringe, let me tell you, it’s the bomb.

For those of you who celebrate it, happy Halloween.

Afternoon light on Gritman Pond

Afternoon light on Gritman Pond

Warren, Connecticut. A friend called yesterday wanting to get out and shoot fall colors. I think between shooting and raking leaves, I’ve about had it with fall. But, it’s good to move my butt so we decided to see about late afternoon light on Gritman pond, one of the many swamps around our town that fills up during rains and turns into more of a pond.

Here’s a piece for my photo journal and for those of you who think about such things: I got out of my truck and was already loaded for bear with 24-70 and circular polarizer on camera. I took some shots but they just did not get me excited. What to do? I was about to chalk it up to a bad day or lack of inspiration or cliche overload and go home but decided to change perspective instead. I put the 300mm f/4 on the camera, moved the polarizer to it (tip: buy lenses that can share expensive filters), lowered the tripod to near ground level and looked out at the same landscape with a different perspective. It was just what I needed and even though the resulting pictures aren’t as sharp as I’d have liked, I feel good about how I came to take them.

Just a single lens change made all the difference and got me excited. Sometimes we need to get out of our ruts and try seeing the world in a new way. That and get out more.

Afternoon light on Gritman Pond

Afternoon light on Gritman Pond

Afternoon light on Gritman Pond

Aperture, Lightroom and Me

It seems I’m at a crossroads with my photo image editing on the Macintosh (again) and I hate these types of big decisions, they paralyze me. Maybe going slow is good in that there are many things to consider and I have a hard time crunching all the data easily in one fell swoop.

I bought and have been using Aperture for almost a year now and I’ve noticed something that I don’t like: because of it’s poor system performance on my computer I find myself avoiding using it unless I quit other applications first, which means I have to plan to use it. This has had a negative effect on my photography because processing, cataloging, and printing images is an essential part of the photography process and I want to be able to do those things while I also answer email or browse the web. Committing to an expensive, high end program like this means you stick with it for more than a day unlike a free or inexpensive piece of shareware that you might try and toss quickly. Couple that with the fact that I’d rather buy Apple software if possible and you have a recipe for paralysis.

Here is what broke my paralysis
While at the recent PhotoExpo in New York, I had occasion to watch a fellow flickr member use Adobe Lightroom on a MacBook Pro (newer than mine) and besides his facility with photo editing which was impressive, I was struck by how quickly he was moving around in the the application with absolutely no delays: no color-wheel from hell and incredibly snappy performance. He likely was showing off a bit but so what? I couldn’t show off with Aperture like that, it would be impossible. I went home from New York determined to give Lightroom another try (I had tried the beta and hated it for slowness) and downloaded the demo and have been using it ever since. It is far from perfect (as is Aperture) but on my computer, it’s fast and works right along side Safari and my daily mix of running applications. In other words, on my setup it’s less of a memory and resource hog than Aperture is.

Now what?

I realize that many reading this think I’m just spewing silly psycho-babble here but in fact, many Mac users who use(d) Aperture went through this when Lightroom came out. I just stuck with Aperture longer and it was a slower process of realization for me.

My rationale for switching to Lightroom
1. I’m a Macintosh user (since 1984) who knows the Mac well and has made a commitment to the Macintosh. My computer is the center of my life and I use it for communication, organization, web site support, photo editing and more. In other words, there is no single thing I do with my computer that outweighs another. They are all interdependent on one another.

2. I prefer using a laptop computer (MacBook Pro) and prefer a single computer in my life, not one for photo editing and another for everything else.

3. I do realize that many serious photographers and graphic designers who use Photoshop or Aperture buy hardware to support that single application because it has steep memory and speed requirements, but I would prefer not to do that for my image editing software because I like having it integrated into all of the other things I do with my computer.

4. My 2.16 ghz MacBook Pro has a Core Duo processor and 2 gigabytes of memory. The current version of said machine has a Core2 Duo processor in it and will address 4 gigabytes of memory. I’ve already put a new 7200 rpm hard disk in this machine to help Aperture run better (it did, marginally) but I’d rather not buy a new machine and add expensive memory just to support a single application. Again, there is a limit to how far I will go to support an application that is really meant to run best on a Mac Pro with a lot of memory and a fast graphics card.

5. I have iPhoto ’08 and it’s a great improvement over earlier versions (thanks Manish) but its tools don’t touch Aperture’s or Lightroom’s and for the kind of photography I do I need many of those tools. However, if it worked for me I’d have no problem using it; I’m not above using consumer software for professional purposes.

6. Aperture and to a lesser extent Lightroom is/are built for professional photographers who take hundreds or thousands of big RAW images (for example, a wedding or event photographer) and need to look at all of them, sort and group and process them. Aperture is built for a user with a Mac Pro (tower) with a lot of memory and a large screen (or two). If I were that user, I’d be in hog heaven with it (although still might choose Lightroom at this point). I’m not. I routinely take a few dozen images and then sort, cull, and process them on my MacBook Pro on its screen. The iPhoto UI has been ideal for this for years and I’m finding Lightroom a bit closer to that than Aperture which feels like way too much app for the likes of me and my needs.

7. Aperture and Lightroom are not inexpensive applications. I got Aperture at a discount price because a friend at Apple helped me (thank you Manish) but I will be spending full retail for Lightroom if I get it ($279) and that gives me pause. I’m not complaining about the price of these applications, they’re worth their prices and for me, it’s an essential expense, less than the price of cheap lens, just that it’s not trivial. Aperture’s slowness really bothers me. Lightroom solves that. Even with $400 combined investment here we’re still at far less than people routinely spend on Photoshop.

8. Lightroom has not been upgraded to work with Apple’s new OS, Leopard yet but I’ve not upgraded to Leopard yet and am in no rush to do so. The most compelling piece of the upgrade, Time Machine for backing up is not something I’m desperate for as I use SuperDuper! daily to backup and have been for a while. So, the fact that Lightroom is late with Leopard support doesn’t bother me as I’ll be late to do this upgrade anyway.

So, there you have it. I’m sure it sounds like I’ve made my mind up already so why write this and in fact, I have and will order Lightroom soon. I post this because I know many other people are struggling with a similar issue and maybe a bit of my experience will tip them one way or another.

Postscript
In the shower just now (after posting this, of course) I figured out a better way to frame it: Are you an Aperture user looking for the best hardware to run the product or are you a MacBook Pro user looking for the best image editing application that will run easily on your computer? I’m the latter and it took me a while to figure it out.

Resources
Here are a few of the many posts and articles I’ve been reading the past week to help me figure this stuff out.

Inside Lightroom
Inside Aperture
A Tale of Two Tools
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: the Ars Technica review
Lightroom Journal
Analysis: There’s room for both Aperture, Lightroom to thrive
Aperture or Lightroom: which is for you, which is for me?
Which is Better: Aperture vs Lightroom? The Test Results
Aperture vs Lightroom – An O’Reilly “Inside Aperture” Field Test

Visual History of Mac System Settings

Visual History of Mac System Settings

What’s great about this is that it shows a wonderful evolution of Apple’s design thinking over many years through many design teams. For those of us who have traveled this entire way with the Macintosh it’s fascinating to think back to those old systems and for those of you who have jumped on this moving train more recently, know that the way things “are” has evolved from the way things “were” and will continue to evolve as Apple fine-tunes the UI of the way a Macintosh works.

[via Daring Fireball Linked List]

Bread

Bread

Warren, Connecticut. We’ve been buying bread from a bakery in the next town for years, and it’s great stuff. However, it’s expensive as they use all organic and high-end ingredients. They recently raised their already high prices, and that was the tipping point for me. I got my wife to teach me how to bake bread at home, from scratch using good ingredients. Today we knocked out four loaves of what looks like, excellent flax, oat, whole wheat bead. I love the process; it’s about as close to yoga in cooking as you can get. Tomorrow we’ll see if it tastes as good as it looks.

Annie’s Oak Leaf

Annie's Oak Leaf

Warren, Connecticut. Okay, I couldn’t resist the play on words (Annie Oakley). My wife is now getting with the program and bringing me leaves she’d like to see photographed. I initially complained that this oak leaf wasn’t big enough in any one place to shoot without showing the outer edges, but then I thought about how wonderful the natural shape of the leaf is and decided to try shooting it in a way that used that shape as a border. Fall colors have peaked when we start seeing more oak leaves like this on the ground. We can see deep into the woods now where leaves obscured the view during summer.

Birch Leaf with Water Droplets

Birch Leaf with Water Droplets

Warren, Connecticut. It’s raining hard today and I have errands in town. While running to the truck I noticed a birch leaf, bottom side up with water droplets on it on the driveway. On a nice day, I might feel the urge to set up the tripod right over this leaf and attempt a water droplet shot. Today the rain is coming down hard enough so I continued running to the truck and thought I’d probably drive over it. After I came back I was able to find it again and it was untouched. Rather than bring the tripod to it in the rain, I brought it into the house, being careful not to knock its droplets off, got it up to my office and took this shot.

Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac

Warren, Connecticut.There are many small volunteer sumac plants around our place and one really can’t see them blended in with the other foliage in the summer but in fall, they turn brilliant red. I’m allergic to poison sumac; nice that these plants are not only beautiful but also “hypoallergenic.”

Kitty Peeps through the Blur

Kitty Peeps through the Blur

Warren, Connecticut. Our seventeen year old cat, Kitty spends most of her time hiding these days but every now and then she comes out for a pet and the possibility of a photo op. She was a black cat at one time but has now turned very gray, just like her "parents" and one of the nurses at our Veterinary hospital calls her "salt and peppa."

Check out the bokeh this lens can make. Dang, it’s so good it hurts!

Octi Pet

Octi Pet

Warren, Connecticut. More testing of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, this time with an "Octi pet" massager as subject.

I must say, I do love this lens, it’s a joy to use.

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web

Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form. The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service.

Right on for not agreeing to Google and Microsoft’s predatory terms.

U.S. CBO estimates $2.4 trillion long-term war costs

U.S. CBO estimates $2.4 trillion long-term war costs

The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money, according to a study released on Wednesday.

With President George W. Bush indicating a large contingent of U.S. troops likely will be engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the total tab for the wars from 2001 through 2017.

CBO estimated that interest costs alone from 2001-2017 could total more than $700 billion.

I agree with Airbag: “People who elected Bush should loose their Social Security benifits to help pay the bill.”

[via Longboard]

Beer is turning into wine

The Power in the Cask: Old Ways, New Beer

I’m a beer drinker and I like good beer. I appreciate the microbrew revolution and it’s great to see small breweries taking chances and coming up with wonderful new cask-aged beers. However, when I read a paragraph like this it’s obvious to me that “wine talk” has leaked into the beer world.

I touched the faceted glass, cool, but not cold. A floral-citrus aroma rose up, and as I took my first sip I marveled at how soft and delicate the carbonation was, the bubbles giving the flavors lift and energy without aggression.

Hey, I’m not macho but this just won’t do. Us beer folk, even those of us who know what a cask is, don’t talk about our drink like that. Grrr. Me kill bear. Then me want beer.

[via Gary Sharp]

Ganesha

Ganesha

Warren, Connecticut. I picked up this bronze Ganesha in India about ten years ago although truth be told, one can find pieces like this in stores all over the place. But, it’s one of the icons I keep around to remind me of the great time I had there.

I pulled Ganesha onto the floor to test out the amazing Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens I’m renting. Yes, this shot could be done with many lenses but not quite as easily. I’m going to have a hard time returning this rental.

The Shichifukujin (7 lucky gods)

The Shichifukujin (7 lucky gods)

Warren, Connecticut. Anne and I were in Japan nine years ago and we picked up various "artifacts" at temples, including this piece with the 7 Lucky Gods. It lives on the mantle of our fireplace and maybe they have something to do with why we’ve not burnt the house down (yet).

I pulled them off the mantle and put them on the floor to test this incredible Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens I’m renting this week. I realize that this shot could have been done with many of my lenses but not at this range and not with the ease that this lens does it. I think my new nickname will have to be "bokeh-boy."