Updates to the Blog

Waiting at the Beach Road crossing (Wintler) for westbound train.

While I haven’t posted many images recently I’ve continued to ensure dogcaught.com remains a functional website. Today I took another step to keep the site in sync with modern technology.

Since Aaron’s last theme update in 2010 web expectations have shifted. At that time of his update having a site which supports mobile was important but was usually an after thought. In fact the theme Aaron selected didn’t natively support mobile. He used a separate theme which supplied mobile content giving the mobile version a different look and feel.

Today delivering a website which accommodates any device is mandatory. Not only do blog readers judge the site on its readability on their particular device but so does Google, Bing, and other webmaster evaluation tools. While delivering for the readers is most important, having a good review from other entities is important also for things like search rankings.

My project this afternoon updated the theme on dogcaught.com. This theme is fully responsive and will look good on a computer monitor, tablet, or mobile device. Give it a try! If nothing else watch how responsive it is by simply dragging one side of your browser window. You can watch before your eyes as it adjusts to any width device!

The theme update keeps the same familiar links and side bar features. It is much more open giving the posts, images and writing more focus and I think it should serve well for some time to come.

Lightroom Organization Tips

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Lightroom

Matt Kloskowski wrote a post on common Lightroom organization mistakes the other day.  Before you read my comments, please go read what Matt wrote.

I totally agree with Matt’s points.  I hear criticisms of Lightroom which I believe are because new users try the things Matt mentions when starting to use Lightroom.  When they go down one of these paths they become frustrated because Lightroom didn’t work for them.  A great example is moving images outside of Lightroom.  Once you commit to using Lightroom to organize your images if you manually organize outside of Lightroom it is not going to be looking at the same information as before.  Of course it won’t work right!  My advice to new users is read up on how Lightroom works and study advice from folks like Matt.

Speeding Coal

 

In my Ligtroom Catalog this image lives in the Photos folder on my storage drive.  It has the following keywords which will help me find it
in the future: 2013 06/01 CMR Photo Freight, Cars, Signal.  It also lives in a collection called Blur which helps me identify motion blur images.

To Matt’s list I’d add some items which are to some extent corollaries to Matt’s comments but apply to the railfan community.

Organizing By Rail Artifact

Just like organizing by date, I don’t recommend organizing your images files into a folder system based on a rail artifact like subdivision name, station name, railroad, locomotive model, or locomotive manufacturer.  Once you go down the path of organizing this way you will tend to use the folder structure you created to search for things.   Doing that defeats the purpose of having a robust organizing tool like Lightroom.   Instead I recommend all the original images are placed into a single folder and Lightroom keywords are used to categorize by your favorite rail artifact data.  Inside of Lightroom you not only would have access to search the keywords you assigned, but you’d also have an indication of which images are your picks (flags, colors, stars), and the metadata associated to the image.

If you organize images by a rail artifact today transitioning inside of Lightroom to keywords is pretty straightforward and quick.  I would import the photos using the folder structure you have today.  If  you organized by station name, click on the station name folder under Folders on the left side, do Ctrl/Cmd-A to select all the images, then add a keyword for the station name on the right side under Keywording.  Lastly move all of the images to the new folder structure.  Done!

In my catalog I keyword every image with an event (why I was shooting) and keywords which tell me more about what
is in an image.  Railroad images which include a locomotive are key worded with a locomotive number.

Renaming Files

I’ve heard many railfans rename their files to include information about the photo.  For example “4449_AMTK51_trip_to _bend_taken_at_moody_oregon.jpg”.  File names are not the best way to convey meta data like this.  There are too few characters and if you forget your naming standard suddenly there is no consistency so finding something becomes even more difficult.  Instead I recommend keeping the file name as simple as possible.  For the longest time I continued to use the file name assigned by the camera.   As Lightroom detected duplicates it appended a -# (e.g. IMG-0001-5.cr2).  That was fine but I wanted it a bit cleaner so I added the d

ate and time of capture to the file name to keep each file name unique.  There are many different schemes for this so I’m not saying mine is the best way.  My though is pick a naming convention that keeps the file names relatively unique and doesn’t include caption or keyword information.

Screenshot_7_2_13_6_57_PM-3

All of my images have a modified filename which includes the date and original file name.

Those are my thoughts on organizing in Lightroom.  If any of you railfans would like my thoughts on your personal situation or catalog, drop me an email.  I’d love to get you started in the right direction.

Lightroom 5

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Lightroom

Last week Adobe released a beta of Lightroom 5 and over the weekend I downloaded it to work with some of the new features.  Of particular interest to me are the advanced healing brush paint feature and the radial filter.  Both of these tools take existing LR features and make them a bit easier to use and more effective.

20130106-IMG_5033-2

The Western Pacific heritage unit leads Union Pacific’s M-PTFI (Portland Lake Yard to Fife) train off the Columbia River drawbridge at Vancouver, Wa.

In this image I used the advanced healing brush to remove a few power lines which intersected the locomotive in an odd way.  The brush worked just like the former healing feature but instead allowed me to select an irregular shape.  Like with the healing brush LR picked a spot elsewhere in the image to replace my selection and “poof” the poorly placed power lines disappeared.  The brush was fairly easy to use though I found I really wanted the ability to add to an existing selection since I was less than perfect doing my initial painting.

Next I used the radial filter to lay over the locomotive and work the brightness of the cloudy sky down.  I let the radial filter hold the original exposure setting I chose and then I adjusted the surrounding area by reducing the brightness of the highlights and the overall exposure.  The result is the sky and locomotive are more balanced toward the reality of the moment.  The radial filter works great though I see a few artifacts surrounding items outside the selection.  I’m sure that will be tuned up prior to the final release.

I used the lens correction “Upright” feature to have LR rotate and align my image.  From what I can see it did a decent job with the Auto setting.  This looks as if it will really make the alignment of an image a quick job.

These new features are not necessarily earth shattering however adding them to Lightroom again reduces the amount of time spend on my images to make them look great.  Sure, it is still up to me as the photographer to get the best capture I can but these tools allow me a bit more flexibility to tune my capture quickly.   I think an already great product is about to get just a bit better.  Thanks Adobe!

 

Railfan Slideshows and The Mac

Back in February I discussed my new computer and the fact I purchased a MacBook Pro instead of a Windows machine.  Now it is November and I am still very much thrilled with my choice.  The MBP continues to be a low maintenance, high availability computer.  I literally spend all of my time using and zero time maintaining it.

In September I began production on my first slideshow on a Mac.  I faced some choices.  Do I use ProShow through VMware Fusion or do I use FotoMagico (FM), a native Mac app?  I was already familiar with ProShow so using it would be a non-issue for me but running it through Fusion could pose some technical issues.  FotoMagico is a native Mac app so I shouldn’t face any technical issues with it however I knew nothing about FotoMagico and how it worked.

ProShow 5 running in VMWare Fusion on the Mac.

I downloaded the beta for FM 4.0 and went about creating my first slideshow.  FM uses a very similar interface to ProShow so I came up to speed fairly quickly.  In fact after a while there were a few features of FM’s interface which made setting slide timings and audio start and stop much, much easier than ProShow.  In the end I’m certain I spent much less time in FM futzing with incremental timing changes than I would have in ProShow.

After getting a show roughed out I produced some sample outputs to see what things were looking like.  This is where things started to go off track a bit.  FM uses Quicktime to build movie file outputs.  What I found is no matter how I set up the movie file setting the result would come out washed out.  I googled the issue and guess what, I’m not the only one with the problem.  In fact Quicktime outputs on both Mac and Windows have the problem.  There are ways to make it better but it seemed there was no way to make the output look exactly like the original.  I was frustrated because my plan was to create a movie file which could be played on Windows.  Just like ProShow, the very best output was produced using the executable created from the software and not a movie file.

FotoMagico running natively on the Mac.

I was at a decision point.  Compromises existed with whichever route I chose and no single solution worked perfect.  Sounds like normal life right?  I ended up going the route of FotoMagico primarily because it is a native Mac app and secondarily because I enjoyed the user interface just a bit more than ProShow.  FM also shares more smoothly with my iPhone (and iPad if I had one).  It seems I drank the Apple Kool-Aid (apple juice?).  Additional factors played in including the fact I have several other presentations I need to do in the next year and they will all be done using my Mac so presenting them using FM’s built in player would be no problem.  On top of that the Autumn Leaf team decided to go ahead with using two presentation machines so my show for that event was able to be played off my Mac.

I do have some wish list items to send over to the Boinx software team.  I do think ProShow does somethings well that FM does not.   They are not show stoppers for me but I am willing to ask for them because they do make life easier.  If I was to continue with ProShow I would probably send a few wish list items to them based on what I learned from FotoMagico.

In the end I’m pleased with my choice.  I think FotoMagico will work well in the long term and produce the results I need.

New Computer Time

I love getting a new computer. They are always so speedy and they have that new computer smell!

This week my new MacBook Pro arrived replacing a faithful Dell Dimension 9100 which has served me (mostly) well since October of 2005. Yes, you read that right, October of 2005. It was definitely showing the fact it was built for 2005 technology. The 2GB of RAM, Windows XP, and the slow hard drive were definitely reducing my productivity. Exports from Lightroom would take 30 seconds to 2 minutes (compared to 15 seconds or less on the MBP). It just would not play 720p (let alone 1080p) video without jerking and if I opened Chrome and Lightroom at the same time both saw a performance degradation. Technology had definitely passed it by. Such is the way things go with technology.

BNSF’s “Lost Local” (L MON8521 27I) stops at Stanford for a brief bit of work before heading to Moore to pick up a grain train.

I do believe I got my money’s worth out of it. I did have to replace a failed hard drive around 2007 but other than that I just did regular maintenance with CCleaner, chkdsk, and defragmenter. I probably should have done it a favor and installed more memory a couple of years after I bought it but by the time I realized that it was no longer cost effective to upgrade. Keeping that advice in mind I will probably double the MBP’s memory in a few years when the price for 16GB comes down a bit.

Why a Mac? Well, I want something a bit simpler to use than a Windows machine. From what I can see so far, simpler is what I got. Frankly things just work in OS X. The best example is plugging in my monitor. I plugged it into the MBP and literally all I had to do was start using it. No futzing with screen dimensions or bothering with which is the primary monitor. It just worked. Mac’s also have a bit of a cool factor that I can’t deny wanting to be part of. Most all Apple products have an elegance of design which is far superior to anything in the marketplace. I like that. I appreciate when someone does something right…really right. I also believe most Mac oriented software is thought out a bit more to improve simplicity and the user experience. I’m all about spending less time on things so I can focus on what I want to focus on.

What about software? Everything I used on Windows XP/Vista/7 is available for the Mac in one form or another. ProShow Gold could be the only exception to that statement. However Macs being Macs they will run Windows in a virtual machine (using something like VMWare Fusion) so the problem of ProShow can be solved easily. Everything else is no issue.

Today is my second day using my new machine.  So far all the only struggle I’ve had is remembering Command-C/V for copy and paste instead of Control-C/V.  I’m sure I’ll get over that soon though.  I guess that makes me a Mac.