April 16, 2005

Road trip time

It's almost road trip time again.. Cindy's car is still in California and she expects to be in Chicago this summer, and she doesn't really like the road trip, so I'm going to get it. This is kind of a bad time to go because work is so busy right now, but that also makes it a good time to get away and take a break. On the to-do list:

  • Take a look at Davis and Sacramento
  • See Yosemite and/or Death Valley again
  • Drive the western half of old Route 66
  • Get back in a week

I'd like to take on more, but this is only a 7-day trip. The only other goal I've added is to eat interesting food along the way. I always plan to find cool little shacks for lunch on road trips, but the middle of the day ends up being "get to the next destination quickly" time, so I eat Arby's instead. On this trip, however, I'm armed with a number of pages from Road Food and a bottle of Pepto.

Come to think of it, this brings me to another software rant. Why are there no good mapping programs on the Mac? I have the appropriately-named Route 66 USA and a compatible GPS unit, but this software doesn't allow easy importing of bookmarks. I want to be able to create a list of addresses (restaurants and weird places), import it, and see them on the map. Frustrating!

Posted at April 16, 2005 09:42 AM, Categories: Blog

April 09, 2005

The "Golden Eye" delivery system

I can't explain my constant desire to impress you, dear reader, with my absurdly nerdy nature, but here we go again:

Recently uncovered in the "voice memo" section of my phone was a note to look up the "golden eye guaranteed delivery system" for vending machines. I saw a sticker on a machine at a Michigan rest area (I probably got M&Ms) and just had to know what the Golden Eye was doing for me!

"Our Golden Eye guaranteed delivery system watches your vends to compensate for product loading errors and ensure success every time. No more credit vouchers or grumpy customers. Just smooth operations all the time, under any ambient lighting condition."

Their description sounds pretty simple, to an electrical engineer at least, and I have to wonder why it took so long for this to appear in vending machines. My limited exposure to the corporate world leaves me with some ideas:

  1. Vending companies don't give a damn whether you get your Mounds bar.
  2. It's relatively costly, despite the relatively simple circuitry involved. I imagine the controllers they use in vending machines are getting cheaper every year, making little touches like this more affordable.
  3. The vending machine companies have run out of ways to compete, so they have started adding features (see also temperature-sensitive prices for pop).
Posted at April 9, 2005 01:58 PM, Categories: Blog

April 08, 2005

Aerial sightseeing

Cool stuff: fun with Google maps' aerial photos.

Posted at April 8, 2005 07:12 PM, Categories: Blog

April 03, 2005

RAW image workflow...

Stop reading now if you're not interested in computer + photo + RAW images + boring discussions of improving your image editing workflow... One of these days I'm planning to separate the blog entries into categories. Actually, I've already done that, I just haven't gotten around to setting up a system so you can pick your category. Anyway,

I've had a few large digital editing jobs lately. And when it comes to artwork reproduction, "large" is anything more than, say, ten pieces. That's because working with RAW images can be a huge time-suck. My current system, just for the initial image edits, uses Adobe's Camera Raw Photoshop plugin:

  1. Load second photo with GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart.
  2. Adjust white balance based on the grey 6.5 square. All other settings stay the same (no sharpening, AdobeRGB 1998, normal smoothness and noise reduction, etc.)
  3. Save ACR settings.
  4. Select middle 30% of white, grey 6.5, and black squares on the ColorChecker chart.
  5. Run action to apply gaussian blur, reset default colors, and apply 2px stroke to the above squares.
  6. New levels layer, set black point, white point, then grey point.
  7. Save image as PSD file.
  8. Open artwork image (first photo), go to "previous" settings (to grab the white balance from the ColorChecker).
  9. Save ACR settings.
  10. Open image, drag levels adjustment from above CC image.
  11. Make any necessary color adjustments.
  12. Straighten image.
  13. Crop image.
  14. Save as PSD file.

Tiring, isn't it? Repeat the above for each piece of work. Sure, I don't mind billing all that time (actually it's only a few minutes per image), but the needless repetition is a little annoying.

Enter some of those fancy RAW workflow products. Actually I've only played with Nikon Capture, Bibble, and C1, but as far as I know those are the only real players in the Mac + Nikon world. Bibble and C1 allow a more integrated workflow, compared to my system of many steps, saving ACR files and PSD files, and maintaining multiple folders for the different steps. They are much faster than using ACR for everything, and much much faster than the Nikon software. These tools should allow me to simplify steps 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14 into just a couple of steps, but they have some serious problems:

  • Bibble can't use arbitrary black and white points. It's 0,0,0 and 255,255,255. What good are those? Real photographers are using greyscale charts all the time as references in their images, why can't this software keep up?
  • Serious dependency on cryptic icons.
  • Very non Mac-like interface. To think what Apple could do with this type of software! Apple's added some RAW support to iPhoto, but maybe there's some hope that with this new Adobe raw format (DNG I think it's called), and Apple's entry into more and more pro fields, they might come out with a serious RAW utility to work with Photoshop.
  • No integration with other RAW tools. As far as I know you can't do some work in Bibble, then use the same settings when you import the images into Photoshop with ACR. Sure, I could probably set the white balance on a bunch of images in Bibble, then save them as TIFFs for use in Photoshop, but that's really only saving two steps out of 14.
  • No PSD file support. Apple has added PSD support all over OS X, why haven't these programs?
  • No selective blur tools. Steps 4-5 above are pretty critical, and I'm not the only one that thinks so.

I could go on, but I'm boring even myself. There may be some hope for these tools in my workflow, especially when it comes to high-volume things like events and weddings. But they're no silver bullet.

Posted at April 3, 2005 11:40 AM, Categories: Photography
Nearby Entries
Road trip time (Apr 16)
The "Golden Eye" delivery system (Apr 9)
Aerial sightseeing (Apr 8)
RAW image workflow... (Apr 3)
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