In perhaps the most impressive video I've seen on the web, Michael König, combines "photographs taken with a special low-light 4K-camera by the crew of expedition 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011." Prepare to be amazed.
For just $1, I entered the world of faux-film photography. It was a whimsical purchase after seeing several retro type shots taken by the multi-talented Dianna Agron of Glee. She used it as an off-camera camera, revealing the intimate side of the cast members on and off the set. Like the TV show, the Hipstamatic app soon became a household name infiltrating its way into the fabric of our society. Not a day went by where my Facebook wall wasn't littered with photos that looked like they were taken 50 years ago. Still, despite being overused at the peak of its popularity, there was an authenticity to the images that ordinary phone snaps were lacking. What some may have initially written off as a fad appeared to have staying power.
This shift was first evident after New York Times photographer Damon Winter used the app to document war in Afghanistan. Winter is a Pulitzer prize winning photographer whose work I've long admired for its creativity, and technical brilliance. Yet, when his photo story "A Grunt's Life" was awarded third place in the Pictures of the Year International contest, a flood of naysayers took to the Internet to bash the ethics of his camera selection. In his thoughtful response, Winter said "I will always stand behind these photographs and am confident in my decision that this was the right tool to tell this particular story." In studying the series of twelve photos, it's difficult to envision them any other way. The quiet, introspective moments he captured coupled with vintage aesthetics make for a telling look at life behind enemy lines.
Recently, an Associated Press article asked "How much longer can film hold on?" The number of users has plummeted dramatically, and declining sales numbers indicate impending doom. Ironically enough, the first Brownie sold in 1900 for just $1. Over a century later, it appears we come full circle.
Here are some images I've recently taken using faux-film. They were all shot in Hipstamatic with the iPhone 4, John S lens, and Ina's 1969 film option. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Suburban Life - Hicksville, New York
Winter color - Planting Fields Arboretum, NY
Old School Register, Huntington Village, NY
Christmas Spirit - 34th Street, NYC
Rainbow Fountain, Bryant Park, NYC
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When I come across a terrific video online, I usually want to share it with someone else, or watch later on a big screen. Whether it’s an informative photography clip, a breathtaking short film, or an inspirational presentation, there is a wealth of great content on the web. Problem is, you have to sift through a wasteland of un-curated material to find it. Previously, this involved a rather sloppy system of random bookmarks and links I emailed to myself. Today however, I’d like to report on a new solution for creating your own collection of online videos. It’s called Squrl, and I’ve been testing it with great results over the past week.
Here’s how it works:
1) Create a free account and add the “Squrl It” button to your browser’s toolbar. When you find a video you like, just click this button to add videos to your queue.
2) You can curate your videos into different sections similar to dedicated channels for various types of material. I’ve created areas for photography, music, inspiration, and more.
3) There is also a “Discover” tab to browse current material from various outlets like Hulu, Vimeo, and Youtube. I find this a rather convenient feature since it eliminates the need to go to each site separately.
4) There are many ways a user can play a video including desktop computers. If you prefer to use an iPad or iPhone, there are also apps for that. Airplay is also supported for those who use Apple TV. As such, you can watch on your TV instead of a smaller device.
5) The videos stay in your Queue unless you actually delete them.
6) If you choose to be social with your videos they do offer Facebook and Twitter integration.
After working through Apple’s convoluted submission process for the NYIP iPhone app, I was skeptical about attempting an Android build. I don’t even own an Android device, nor have I ever used one. I viewed it much like a foreign language which I never took the time to learn. Still, considering the Android platform’s rapidly expanding user base, it was clear that I needed to dive in head first.
I started the process using AppMakr http://www.appmakr.com/ and quickly set up the RSS feeds to the blog, videos, podcasts, photo feed, and twitter account. Each one was given a unique icon, followed by the school’s logo and branding art. In less than one hour, I had a working demo on my desktop computer.
The app was off to a terrific start, but I still wondered what challenges lie ahead. There was a surprising absence of instructional videos, and almost no forum chatter from struggling developers. Could it be this easy? I forged ahead to find out.
The next step involved downloading the completed app file to my hard drive. I then purchased the Android developers license for the bargain price of $25. Not bad considering that Apple’s license is $100. After completing payment, I was prompted to upload the file. The finishing touches included adding a description, setting the price (free), and uploading screen shots. All of this brought the whole process to approximately two hours.
If there is one definitive place where Android has Apple beat, it’s in the App submission process. There was no lengthy waiting period, and no confusing paperwork. In fact, just moments after I uploaded the file, the app was available live for download! You can get it here: http://bit.ly/gBjgtm
This is a preview of the future of mobile image editing. On or around April 1st 2011, Filterstorm Pro is expected to hit the App store. At only a fraction of the cost of Photoshop, this $20 app will offer a sophisticated set of editing tools for the traveling photographer.
Here are some of the features I'm most excited about:
- Supports RAW file formats
- Changes can be applied with a mask
- There is a clone tool for getting rid of dust spots
- Automated batch processing
- FTP and DropBox support
Watch the video below to see just how simple it can be to pinch, pull, tap and swipe your way through an edit.
For graphic designers or those who work with text, you may also be interested in this video.
How will I use this?
Since my camera uses CF cards instead of SD, I'll have to pick up the $30 camera connector kit. Alternatives include these CF readers, but I'm not sure how reliable these are just yet.
When traveling, I download all of my cards into two Memory Kick Si units every night. I use two for the sake of redundancy. Once I know they've been safely copied to both devices, I usually format the cards and get ready for the next day's shoot.
With Filterstorm Pro, I'll add one more step to the workflow. Before formatting the cards, I'll selectively upload my favorites to the iPad. Using the larger display screen I can check for critical sharpness, and make any basic edits with the app. These processed images can instantly be shared on the web or with a client on location.
It will not replace my current workflow which consists of Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS5. First of all, it's not ergonomically comfortable to edit a ton of photos on a tablet. In addition, I believe editing will still be faster with a powerful processor like the one in my iMac. This is especially true when working with 60-100 MB TIFFS. Also, the app will not support 16 bit processing.
Having said that, it's clear that advanced editing is now possible on a lightweight mobile device. Moving forward, the laptop stays home while the iPad comes along for the journey. As you can see in the video, Filterstorm Pro goes well beyond the basic photo editing apps you may have tried. Some of the other features include:
- Curves (Luminance, RGB, red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, magenta)
- Color balance
- White Point Picker
- Text tool
- Black and white fine-tuning
- Red-eye reduction
- 30-step Visual History
- Cropping, with the ability to specify aspect ratio
- Scale to Fit
- Rotation and Image Straightening
- Tone map
- Noise Reduction
- Clone Tool
- Multi-exposure Tool
- Border Tool
At the time of this writing, the app has been submitted to Apple for approval. When it goes live, there will be a special introductory price of $15 for about one week, so try to jump on it ASAP. After that, it will be priced at $20. For the latest Filterstorm updates, check them out on Twitter.
If it were up to me, we would have purchased an Apple, but my wife needed a Windows machine for her job. Like so many places of business, their computer network was designed to play nicely in a PC environment. As such, we chose an Acer with a highly rated Core i3 processor, plenty of RAM, and a large hard drive. I thought these upgraded specs coupled with Windows 7 had the potential to shake the PC stigma. I mean, it had to be better than XP and Vista right? Well, thankfully it is more refined than the aforementioned efforts. Yet, not a day goes by that we don't scratch our heads in amazement at the overall instability of the system.
Regardless of one's personal preference for Apple or PC, there is one thing we all want from our computer; consistency. This is where I find Windows lacking. Any IT person will tell you that intermittent issues are the toughest to diagnose and fix. When PowerPoint and Microsoft Word work fine on Monday only to crash repeatedly on Tuesday, you lose confidence in its reliability. When a phone recognizes the WIFI home network immediately but a high end laptop takes several minutes to connect, you realize why Windows is losing their grip on the market. After malicious malware slips through your $50 a year virus protection, you are forced to perform a time consuming full computer scan. When you receive a never ending array of requests to update the software, it seems that nothing has really changed from years past. In two short months we've been forced to restart her PC more times than I've rebooted my iMac in two years.
I'm not saying that Apple is perfect, far from it actually. I have way too many useless Apple products that have been rendered obsolete from now unsupported versions of their OSX. This includes dusty desktops, dead notebooks, old-school ipods, and early model iphones. While this is certainly frustrating as it essentially forces me to upgrade more often, I find it the lesser of two evils. What I want is a computer that works 100% of the time, not one that seems to have a mind of its own. Sure, there are ways to work around the limitations of the platform, but it's inefficient at best. I was wrong to believe that Windows 7 would be a suitable solution. I think Sue summed it up best by proclaiming, "the next time we buy a computer, it'll be an Apple."
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Recently I've been exploring different topics that pertain to technology and how we as photographers are choosing to incorporate these tools into our lives. Today I'd like to continue this discussion with an observation.
Despite all of the amazing advancements we've recently seen in photography, I usually find myself more impressed and inspired by images created by photographers of the past. W. Eugene Smith, Ernst Haas, and Walker Evans to name a few. They weren't paid by the mouse click, but rather for capturing a real moment in time. They didn't use HDR or prepackaged "actions" to create a certain look. There was no anti-shake built into the camera body, and flash sync speeds were around 1/60. Yet, to these photographers and the countless others who went before, the limitations of their gear only worked to sharpen their senses. They weren't bogged down or distracted by all this technology and as a result, connected with their subject in a way that's visible in their work.
As we move into an increasingly digital world, I am seeing an increase in blogs and websites with comprehensive lists detailing every last piece of equipment in their bag. While it's nice to see that Canon and Nikon's marketing efforts are working, the resulting portfolios are rarely as impressive. The photos may be technically sound but the photographer's personal touch is overshadowed by the technology used to create it. Somewhere behind all the layers of post production, there are images which wouldn't really stand up on their own.
Today with every tool at our disposal, I believe there is a real danger in simply relying on technology instead of mastering our craft. Take Neil Leifer's photo of Muhammed Ali for example. It was captured in 1965 and I've yet to see a more powerful boxing image even with today's fastest motor drives. His timing was impeccable and the exposure did not need to be rescued in Photoshop. Technology should not replace photographic knowledge.
Be honest, if you were to cover up your camera's LCD screen with tape, could you still use manual exposure properly? If not, then your photographic muscles need flexing. I say this not to discourage, but rather to fire you up for the journey. As Leonardo Da Vinci said "Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going." Now the question is, where do you go from here?
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These are the moments that Apple likely envisioned when designing the ipad 2. From the comfort of my couch, I'm tapping away on the beautiful glass screen using the My Writing Spot app. It all syncs to the cloud so there's no need to worry about data space. There are no Windows update messages, and buggy [not responding] screens requiring a restart. This is a post PC tablet in the words of Steve Jobs. For an entrepreneur in 2011, the rules are changing, and your office can be anywhere. Considering that most of my documents and spreadsheets are in the cloud, I probably could have just picked up the 16gb model but I opted for the 32gb with a bit of extra breathing room.
This was the first time I ever participated in a launch day purchase, and it was quite the event. When I arrived at the Apple Store on March 11th, there was no line to be seen. It was about 10:15 in the morning so I wondered if maybe I was first to arrive. Not likely considering the hype and anticipation that had been surrounding the device. I asked an employee who said "the line is forming downstairs and outside in the parking garage." Did she just say "parking garage?" I descended into the depths of the cold, dank lower level of the mall and sure enough, about 25 people were already on line. The cement was stained with oil, and quite frankly it smelled of urine and cigarettes. This was so far from the slick, polished appearance of the way Apple normally does business. We're all here to spend a thousand bucks, can we get a freaking folding chair out here?
Nevertheless, as usually happens in these types of situations, people band together. We're all in this for the long haul with about seven hours to go, so let's make the best of it. Soon after, I met a whole party of nice folks from all different walks of life. There was the Assistant principal who was playing hookie. He just bought the first iPad a week before, so Apple told him he could exchange it for the new model. One nice guy was waiting on line for a friend who was at work. A husband and wife took the bus there along with their one year old son. We passed around smart phones sharing baby photos and astrological signs. In shifts of two, we grabbed lunch, used the facilities, and warmed up in the climate controlled environment of the mall. Around noon, Apple came down with a little snack cart and boxes of coffee. It helped warm me up as I glanced at the watch. Only 5 hours to go....
The news came and did their obligatory interview with the first folks who lined up around eight in the morning. When the camera man turned on his light, anyone who called out sick from work, or school scattered like bees from a hive. The line was now several hundred deep, and my place 26th in line started to look very good. Eventually Apple had an employee with a megaphone announce the procedure. They would be handing out vouchers with the model number you wanted. Without the voucher, you would not be able to purchase one. 32 gb wifi in black, I said as he began to fish through the box of tickets.
It was 5pm, and the moment had arrived. Police and security escorted us up the stairs into the fresh air in organized groups of ten. The news cameras were rolling as curious bystanders looked on. One teenage girl scowled, "omg, what is this, a tour bus?" We laughed as the procession continued past Macy's, the Sock Drawer, and B. Dalton books. Just ahead, there was the glowing apple, and thick crowds of excited people. Security started getting nervous and shouted "have your vouchers out and up". Grinning broadly I held up my voucher and was ushered through the chaos into the store. Just then, the entire team of Apple employees started to clap and cheer loudly. There store was packed with people ready to help. This was the experience that Apple wanted people to see. By 5:15 I headed home with a memorable tale to tell, and an iPad 2.
In the days to follow, I started downloading the apps, and I'll detail which ones in just a minute. First, I want to tell you about the actual iPad 2. If you've watched the news or read any reviews online, you already know the device is ridiculously thin, and light. It's also faster with the A5 processor making every transition instantaneous. As you might expect, the screen is beautiful, making reading, videos, and photos a pleasure. I didn't expect much from the cameras, but then again, I thought they would have been at least comparable with the iPhone 4's five megapixel cam. Unfortunately Apple put an old, grainy camera similar to the one in the iPod touch. Still, the front facing camera is a great addition for Skype video calls.
The whole thing is housed in the outstanding smart case which was made specifically for the iPad 2. It's hard to believe that an accessory like a case could be worth talking about, but the design is actually quite ingenious. With a simple set of magnets the case slips into place perfectly and actually puts the iPad to sleep when attached. You peel it back, and the device wakes up. Despite the great functionality of the case, it's minimalistic in design, retaining the beauty of the actual device's form. Again, you likely knew all of that. But how does the iPad 2 help me become more productive? It's the apps. Here are some of the apps I downloaded for my photography business:
Keynote - like PowerPoint for the Mac, enabling you to create beautiful presentations.
My Writing Spot - Simple, elegant word processing.
Photographers Ephemeris - using maps you can detail exactly which direction the sun and moon will be rising and setting.
CalenGoo - Consolidates all of my Google Calendars into one nifty app. It also allows you to work offline and sync later.
Squarespace - this is the company I use to host my website and blog. The app has the same functionality as what I could do if I logged on to my desktop computer. Review analytics, moderate comments, write and schedule a blog post, add a photo or video.
Friendly - the official Facebook app was designed for the iPhone and for some strange reason the company seems disinterested in creating one for the iPad. The developers over at Friendly saw the opportunity and created a nice app for $1.
Reeder - I follow several dozen RSS feeds but the Google Reader interface is really clunky. This app makes scanning and sharing article a pleasure. I was even able to customize it so an article pulled to the left is automatically sent to Instapaper.
Instapaper - my new favorite app for reading articles offline. The app strips out the adds, and gives you a clean, book like page for you to focus on the written content. Once you add an article here, it is saved in the app's memory so you can read them even without Internet access.
Twitter - the bigger screen of the iPad makes this app a fun way to participate in the Twitterverse.
Weather HD - beautiful visuals and accurate forecasting with details on precipitation, winds, and more.
The AirPlay feature in iOS 4.3 is tremendously useful and allows me to wirelessly share music, and videos on the iPad directly to the Apple TV. While working, I've enjoyed Pandora, and even the Mets spring training game with the TuneIn Radio app. The PBS app has inspiring multimedia content, and the Art app puts the worlds best paintings at your fingertips. I've also been reading free issues of Entrepreneur magazine through their app. The imovie app has pushed me to start tackling a DVD project I've been putting off. I even started to read Leonardo DaVinci's notebook during downtime in iBooks.
After about 48 hours with the ipad 2, it seems my iMac will be left in sleep mode more often than not. I'll likely only turn it on to work with my Lightroom catalog, or to process images with Photoshop. For just about everything else, the iPad will be my go to device.
There was no celebration, only cautious optimism. It had been several months since I began development of the NYIP iPhone app. Now, as I clicked to submit, it was in Apple’s hands for possible approval. Throughout the entire process, I quickly learned that building an app was not without its fair share of complications. On more than one occasion it appeared the entire project would be derailed. With guidance from various developer forums and blogs, I was able to complete the job.
When I initially took on the build, the goal was to create a way for NYIP students and graduates to access our content on the go. After much research I found a service called AppMakr where users can create apps without coding experience. It works by creating different tabs that are driven by RSS feeds. With this technology, the NYIP blog, podcast site, Youtube page, and Twitter profile are all updated in real time as new content is added. I also wanted to include an interactive aspect where users can share their photos with the community. The solution was to add an RSS feed from Flickr with all photos tagged with “NYIP”.
While AppMakr was fairly user friendly, it was not without limitations. For example, they currently only support development for the iPhone, iPad,and iPod Touch. Still, despite these shortcomings, we felt it was important to get version one live, and Apple’s iOS seemed like a great place to start. Thankfully, support for Android and other popular platforms will eventually be made available.
Deciding on the App’s functionality was actually the fun part. After it had been sufficiently tested in beta mode, the next step involved a convoluted process of creating and submitting electronic forms to Apple. This required a developer’s license, and some trial and error. To their credit, AppMakr provided a thirteen part video tutorial to walk me through the process. Nevertheless, the procedure was like a game of Jenga. One wrong move and the whole build collapses. It took a few dozen tries before I was able to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the system.
Finally, the news we had been waiting for arrived in an email. The app had been approved, and was made available for free download in the iTunes store. If you have yet to try it, download it here.
You may have read how 150,000 Gmail users accounts were deleted with many being completely stripped of ALL DATA! That's right, Google Docs, Calendars, Email, Tasks...basically everything you use to run your photography business, and life. Google blamed it on a "glitch" that only affected .08% of all their users. Those sound like pretty bad odds to me. Engadget reported Google as saying "Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change." My advice to you: Back up your Google Docs asap! I just completed the process myself. It's not as straightforward as it could be, so here are the necessary steps for your convenience.
1) Select any DOC, and roll over the Actions nav. A drop down will appear. Choose Download.
2) In the next dialogue box, be sure to click "All Items". You'll then see an actual count of your files, along with options on what type of file format to save them as. I chose PDF, but Word and Excel are also available. At the bottom, click "Download".
3) Your files are quickly saved to a Zip. I recommend filing this zip on an external device. A flash drive, CD, DVD, or External HD will all work well. The key is to make another copy and save it off of Google's servers just in case they experience another "glitch".
That's it, your Google Docs are safe for now!
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