New cameras, raw image support and Adobe software

In yesterday’s post about my Nikon Coolpix P7100, I mentioned that I’d had to invest in new software when I bought a new camera (as if a new camera wasn’t a big enough expense). As I’m reading about Adobe’s beta of Lightroom 4, I thought it was probably worth eleborating on this, as once of my friends also had a similar experience last year – and it’s something that pretty much all Adobe users will come across if they buy new cameras and shoot raw images.

Whilst some might argue that there is no noticable difference between a fine JPEG image and something generated from a raw file, the simple fact is that multiple edits on compressed files will lead to a gradual degradation in quality. I prefer to capture in the highest possible quality, work on that, and only save to .JPG at the end of my workflow (typically before uploading to the web, or sending to a lab for printing).

So, when I bought the P7100, I found that I needed the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw to read the .NRW (raw) images that it created. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Adobe Camera Raw 6.x doesn’t work with the software I was using at the time – Adobe Lightroom 2.x and Photoshop CS4. So I purchased Lightroom 3, although I have to make do without editing my P7100’s images in Photoshop – it’s just too expensive to upgrade at the drop of a hat.

It’s not just me – a friend who bought a Canon EOS 600D last year suddenly found that she needed to upgrade from Photoshop Elements 8 to Elements 9 in order to work with her raw images (she could also use Apple iPhoto… but it’s seriously limited for anything more than the most basic of edits).

With the coming of Lightroom 4/Photoshop CS 6, I guess we’ll see Adobe Camera Raw 7 and, if past history is any judge of what’s coming, I’ll expect that will not work with Lightroom 3 or CS 5. In effect Adobe is forcing us to upgrade their software, in order to use the raw capabilities of a new camera.

Obviously, Adobe would like us to all use its digital negative (.DNG) format for raw images (indeed, Adobe offers a free DNG converter) but, given that neither Canon nor Nikon – the two largest camera manufactirers – are showing any sign of moving away from their proprietary formats, that doesn’t help a lot.

There may be other tools to convert from the P7100’s raw images to .DNG or .TIF for working on, but I can’t help feeling Adobe’s decision to tie Camera Raw to certain releases of its software is a retrograde step, and it won’t encourage me to upgrade my software again until I am forced to (probably by a new camera purchase…).

Nikon Coolpix P7100: Great carry-everywhere camera with SLR-type controls but could do with being a little more responsive

For a while, I’ve been looking for a camera that will fit in my bag so I can take it anywhere, is inexpensive enough to leave in a car glovebox without fear of theft but is capable enough to replace my DSLR in certain scenarios (so, not a mobile phone camera…).

Then, on a photography trip to Cornwall last September, I broke one of my lenses, rendering my D700 next to useless (my 80-200 f2.8 is a good lens, but a bit long for everyday use and without my 24-85 f2.8-4 I was pretty lost). Lacking the funds to replace the lens (I’ve since repaired it and can wholeheartedly recommend Dave Boyle’s Camera Repair Workshop), I decided to purchase the camera I’d been waiting for – a Nikon Coolpix P7100, which competes with Canon’s G12 to replace the earlier Coolpix P7000 (adding a pivoting screen, although not the flip-out type found on camcorders – which is, arguably, a good thing).

Why the Nikon? Well, I have a Nikon D700 DSLR and a Canon Ixus 70 point and shoot (correction – had a Canon Ixus – as my son has claimed it as “his” camera) but the P7100 has a longer zoom range than the G12 (28-200 35mm equivalent) and a better LCD screen. Ultimately the longer zoom is what clinched the deal for me – although I would like to have gone down the Canon route.  Offering full control over images (e.g. aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual ISO selection, raw capture and even a flash hotshoe) but also fully-automatic mode (and video), it’s a chunky “little” camera/video camera but still small enough to slip in my coat pocket.

The retail price for this camera is £499 and I originally paid around £423 on Amazon but, the day it arrived, I found the price had dropped to closer to £371.  I was just about to return it (unopened) and repurchase but instead, I got in touch with Amazon, who refunded the difference (saving shipping costs) although they did claim this is not normal practice.  Since then, it’s dropped a little further but I think I paid a fair price, given that it was a newly-released camera at the time.  Although I’ve yet to find a case to keep the camera in, it’s pretty substantial and should be able to withstand everyday knocks but I did decide to get a screen protector to cover the LCD panel.  Ebay came up trumps here with some protectors from Protection 24 Films.

So, is it any good? Well… that’s one of the reasons this post has taken so long to write (the comments on this DPReview post are worth reading). It is good, but I can’t quite make up my mind as there have been a couple of disappointments. I’m glad I didn’t get one of the new Nikon 1 series cameras – I don’t need to mess around with interchangable lenses on something for this purpose – but an entry-level DSLR costs about the same as the P7100 and that has no shutter lag/focus delay/ (the P7100 does – and that’s inconvenient when taking pictures of moving objects). Also, the noise levels are not great with noticeable grain at ISO 400/800 worsening rapidly above that (although they do look like grain, rather than the digital noise I used to get with my old D70) but I’d expected better in a camera from this day and age.

Even so, I was looking at my Flickr stream last night and realised just how many of my recent shots were taken on the little P7100. These two were taken last weekend in London and, considering I was holding the camera in the air and using some slow shutter speeds, have come out remarkably well:

An eye on Big Ben

London Eye

These were taken in Lincoln just before Christmas:


Top of Steep Hill

Lovely Post Office

And these were taken early one morning in October just after I got the camera:

Mist rising over the Ouse Valley

Petsoe Wind Turbines at Dawn

Early morning balloon ride

The grain is noticeable in the full-resolution versions of the dawn shots, and there is some distortion (particularly obvious on the buildings in Lincoln) that I haven’t been able to correct in Lightroom (I need to work out the appropriate settings). I also had to update my Adobe software to use Camera Raw 6.x which meant a new copy of Lightroom (thank goodness for educational discounts) and that I can’t edit my P7100 raw files in Photoshop CS4 (that will be the subject of another blog post, I think).

Given that I don’t want to lug a heavy (and expensive) DSLR rig around everywhere – its unlikely I would have taken some of these if I hadn’t bought the P7100, so it’s clearly a useful tool (I use it with my Joby Gorillapod too) but it’s worth bearing in mind some of the limitations before shelling out some cash. Those looking to expand their photography might prefer to get an entry-level DSLR and those looking for a point and shoot may well be happy with a cameraphone – the Coolpix P7100 attempts to fill a very small niche between these two form factors.

Hardware lineup for 2012

Last year I wrote a post about my “hardware lineup” – i.e. the tech I use almost every day so I thought I should really do the same for 2012.  Much of it’s still the same but there are some changes – it will be interesting to take a look in retrospect next year and see how my plans for 2012 have worked out. So, here’s the tech that I expect my life will revolve around this year.

Car: Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Sport

My company car is due for replacement in the spring and I’ve ordered a Volkswagen Tiguan to drive for the next 3 years. I really like the Audi A4 Avant that I drive at the moment but it’s recently had a lot of money spent on it (new clutch and major service costing over £2,500 – thankfully not paid by me) and I’m not sure that a three-year-old car with 60,000 miles on the clock is  worth the money the lease company wants for me to take it on…

Due to price increases, another A4 with the same spec will cost me quite a lot more each month and, whilst the Tiguan is a little smaller, it’s also more practical (I looked at the Q3 too – but it’s “fugly”, overpriced and there is limited engine choice at the moment). With my growing family the addition of a towbar should allow me to take 4 bikes around on a carrier without scratching the car too.

Verdict who knows – it’s not been delivered yet!

Phones: Nokia Lumia 800 and Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GSNokia Lumia 800I recently joined the 1.5% and jumped into the Windows Phone market. I like it – and want the platform to succeed – but really feel Microsoft has a long way to go. Thankfully I still have an iPhone 3GS provided by my employer (and my iPad) to fall back on when apps are not available or when the Lumia is just too infuriating…

It was a risk buying the Nokia Lumia but the hardware is lovely, the software will improve, and it was a major investment so, realistically, it’s likely to remain with me for the next 2 years! Meanwhile, I’m still hoping to get myself an iPhone 4 or 4S to replace the 3GS but the chances are best described as slim.

(Lumia) Verdict 7/10. Hold.
(iPhone) Verdict 3/10. Not mine to sell!

Tablet: Apple iPad 3G 64GB

Apple iPadNo change here – the iPad is my media tablet of choice and no-one else even comes close. I may be tempted by an Amazon Fire or the new (rumoured) baby iPad but at the time of writing this device is still great for occasional surfing, a bit of TV catchup, and social media on the move.  It’s also great for the kids to play games and catch up on vital episodes of childrens’ television programmes that they missed (using BBC iPlayer)!

Verdict 8/10. Hold.

Everyday PC: Fujitsu Lifebook S7220 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB hard disk)

Fujitsu Lifebook S7220I’m still hoping for a BYOC scheme at work, but this PC is my main computing device. I’d love a ThinkPad, but the Lifebook is a perfectly capable, solid, well-built notebook PC, although I frequently find myself running out of memory with the number of tabs I have open in a typical browsing session!

When it comes up for replacement, I’ll see if I can blag something smaller (really need to be a grade more senior for that) and reduce the weight of my work-bag…

Verdict 6/10. Holding out for a BYOC scheme at work.

Netbook: Lenovo S10e (Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk)

Lenovo IdeaPad S10Netbook, schmetbook. I hardly used this in 2011. I did install Ubuntu 11.04 on it and have a couple of blog posts to write before I use it to play with Windows 8. I bought the S10e for Windows 7 testing 3 years ago so it owes me nothing but the netbook form factor has been usurped by tablets and low-cost notebooks. My kids have one too but even they are frustrated by the small screen and tend to use my wife’s notebook PC instead

Verdict 2/10. Not worth selling, so keep for tech projects.

Digital Cameras: Nikon D700 and Coolpix P7100

Nikon D700Nikon P7100I still love my DSLR and the D700 will be with me for a while yet. Indeed, it’s more likely that I would buy some new lenses and a flashgun before I replace my camera body.

The P7100 joined me this year as a device to carry everywhere and it’s been pretty good, offering entry-level DSLR levels of control in a small package, although it’s not as responsive as I’d like.

(D700) Verdict 9/10. Hold.
(P7100) Verdict 7/10. Hold.

Photography PC: Apple MacBook MB062LL/B (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard disk)

Apple Macbook White (late 2007)This MacBook needs to last a while longer before I can justify its replacement but I did upgrade the hard disk in 2011 and it may get another upgrade this year. 4GB of RAM is starting to feel a bit light for big Photoshop jobs but new Macs are expensive. I’d better get saving for something new in 2013…

Verdict 5/10. Hold.

Media: Apple Mac Mini MA206LL/A (Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard disk)

(+ iPad, Lumia 800, iPhone 3GS, various iPods, Altec Lansing iM7 iPod speakers)

Apple Mac MiniNo change here since last year – although both disks in one of my NASs failed and I need to re-rip my CDs for my music library (iTunes had already done a good job of mangling it). I still haven’t bought the music keyboard (maybe this year) but it’s lasting well as my multimedia PC for the office with Spotify, iPlayer, etc.

It may not be the most powerful of my PCs, but it’s more than up to this kind of work and it takes up almost no space at all.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Gaming: Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB with Kinect Sensor

Microsoft Xbox 360sI don’t play this as much as I should to make full use of it (although I am enjoying my latest purchase: Lego Pirates of the Caribbean). Hopefully the next few months will finally see iPlayer land on the Xbox at which point it will become a really useful media centre for the living room (it works with my aging SD TV).

Verdict 9/10. Hold.

Servers and Storage: Atom-based PC, 2x Netgear ReadyNAS Duo

My Dell PowerEdge 840 has been retired to save energy (although it could still be wheeled out for any virtual machine workloads to test infrastructure scenarios) and, as I already mentioned, one of my ReadyNASs has suffered a multiple disk failure (waiting for me to sort out some warranty replacement disks) but, once recovered, these machines will remain as the mainstay of my computing infrastructure. Cloud storage for my photos is still too expensive so I’m likely to add another NAS at a family member’s house to maintain an off-site backup.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Potential new toys: Nest learning thermostat, Romotive Robot, Raspberry Pi

These have taken my fancy and I’m seriously considering them all in 2012. Only time will tell what I buy (and when) but I’m sure you’ll hear about my exploits on the blog!

Another press photographer with a tale or few: Arthur Edwards, MBE

Recently, I blogged about an evening I’d spent watching and listening to long-time press photographer Ken Lennox. Ken had many tales that I couldn’t do justice in my blog post and another Fleet Street ‘tog who has covered the Royal Family is Arthur Edwards, MBE. Arthur recently featured on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs radio programme and it’s worth checking out the recording for some tales of life as a royal photographer.

55 years of iconic images: an evening with Ken Lennox

A couple of nights ago, I went along to listen to four times British Press Photographer of the Year, Ken Lennox, talk about his experience as a press photographer and picture editor. And what a fascinating evening it was.

Starting out sweeping the floors of a friend’s uncle’s darkroom, Ken sold his first photo to the Daily Express 55 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. He’s taken picture in war zones, of the Royal Family, of celebrities and politicians – in fact, pick a major event of the last few decades and Ken Lennox was probably there!

He convinced Bob Geldof to visit Ethiopia (at a time when he was convinced people would think he was cashing in on the plight of others); he captured the first pictures of Lady Diana Spencer (as she was then) at Balmoral; he was sued by Michael Jackson (he took the famous image showing the state of the star’s face after extensive cosmetic surgery, resulting in years of legal wrangling and extensive abuse from Jackson’s fans); he has pictures of Terry Waite as a newly-freed man; of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; of the first gulf warthe Russian Coup from 1991; and many, many more subjects.

Ken’s pictures show a tenacity to get “the shot” at a time when press photography was about turning up, getting something good and running. Newspapers are tomorrow’s chip paper, he says – and pictures are only interesting on the day. But there’s clearly far more to it than turning up and grabbing the shot.  Ken has stories of stake-outs to take pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales (including some of the games of cat-and-mouse that were played) and, despite overstepping the mark at times, he clearly built a rapport with the Princess during his time as a royal photographer (although he also has stunning images of other members of the family, right back to 1959, and including The Queen Mother standing in a river, fishing for salmon, aged 80 – followed by an image that appears to show her describing “the one the got away”!).

As a news photographer at war he tells tales of running up a £1.3m Inmarsat bill to let British troops phone home  (later paid by a Saudi King) as well as sleeping in a nest of sandbags on the top of a tank.  His gear of choice (for war photography at least) was three bodies (two and a spare) three lenses (70-200mm is perfect, he says) plus a long lens (although you don’t use it much as it might be mistaken for a gun). Add some clothes, a satellite phone, water, chemicals, etc. and that’s quite a lot of gear to carry (even if he calls it travelling light). Ken’s tales include tragic stories of other photographers who didn’t make it through alive and it’s clear that he’s had to abandon his equipment on a number of occasions so I asked what he does to “get the shot” without a camera.  He tells me that you make do, you borrow someone else’s spare, and that despite the competition, photographers will help one another out.

Asked which is his favourite shot, he says that he can’t say it’s his famous image of Mrs Thatcher in tears (as she left 10 Downing Street for the last time), because it’s out of focus. It may only by a fraction but he knows it (even though Time Magazine called it one of the 20th Century’s greatest images). Ken says that 90% of his pictures are taken with a manual focus and that blurring or movement is OK but focus is important. As a result, his favourite picture is one of Lenny Henry in an African hospital, with a bed frame made of string and a floor that looks like it’s in a slaughterhouse.

Ken still shoots today (his portfolio includes images from the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton although his LinkedIn profile says he specialises in PR, advertising and magazine reportage)  but he admits times have changed. Once, he says, the question was never “how much?” but “how quickly can you get here?”. Today, magazines don’t have the money to pay for shoots and photographers need to earn royalties over an extended period in order to cover their costs.  He still gets to travel but whereas once he had a “fizz” inside (will he survive?), today it’s not quite the same, it’s more commercial than the “mad newspaper stuff where you can do what you want”.

Asked how he feels about today’s technology, Ken doesn’t appear to have any desire to return to the days of film – he sees the benefits of the digital age where pictures can be shot, edited and on the picture editor’s desk within minutes. What he doesn’t say (although I suspect he might agree) is that anyone is potentially a press photographer today, and “citizen journalism” is adding to the difficulties felt by professional photographers. He’s pretty critical of his students though – encouraging them to get out there and take more photos – to shoot until people react, to turn around and look behind for a photograph (don’t just look  at your subject – think about the reaction of a crowd, reflections, etc.) and topping off with a quote:

“All photographers take photographs – professional photographers make them.”

[Which sounds very much like the advice I was given several years ago by Charlie Waite]

(Incidentally, the photographer Ken most admires is Tom Stoddart)

Sadly, Ken doesn’t have any intention of writing a book – although he undoubtedly has the photos and the stories for a fantastic piece of literature. He claims to be “too lazy” and, even though his wife Sue [Crawford] is a freelance journalist, he says it’s not worth her time. That’s a shame; it seems to me that Ken worked through the glory days of press photography, had a great time, and has a fantastic portfolio to show for it. And if you get the chance to listen to him talk any time, it’s well worth it – there are many more colourful stories that I couldn’t tell here!

A day out with Canon at London Fashion Week (#LFW)

London Fashion Week“Would you like bubbles in that?”. Quite possibly the best way I could ever have been asked if I would like my orange juice transformed to a Bucks Fizz!

That was two weeks ago as I was enjoying a day at London Fashion Week, as a guest of Canon UK and Ireland. Even as a long-time Nikon shooter, I was fascinated to see how Canon supports professional photographers at events like this. Indeed, whilst I get the feeling that photographers generally favour one over the other for a given genre of photography (nature, landscape, fashion, portraiture, etc.), Nikon were conspicuous by their absence.

Whilst what I know about fashion is almost infinitesimally small, I was amazed by some of what I saw in my day at Somerset House. Fashion Stylist (and Canon’s VIP Hostess) Amanda King expertly guided us through a succession of showrooms including displays from up-and-coming designers like Palmer//Harding andChristopher Raeburn with his fascinating creations of re-manufactured clothing. I also saw catwalk displays fromOsman and Amanda Wakeley – and was surprised to note that the costumes were not wacky and unpractical, as I had expected, but actually something I could expect to see in a boutique.

Marking out your place...Caution: photographers at workI have to confess though that the real fascination for me was the environment in which the photographers work. From the tiny spaces where each ‘tog marks out their place to the dedicated facilities for photo editing and uploading images, it was an amazing insight into the work of a fashion photographer. IMG_5770(Edit)Canon Professional Services (CPS) were on hand to loan equipment, carry out minor repairs and generally support the photographers who, in turn, remain loyal to Canon for their equipment purchases. What I wasn’t expecting was the noise that the bank of cameras made during the catwalk shows. Not the classic noise of motordrives (not these days anyway) but an erie click, click, click which one spectator commented sounded more like insects chirping. Aside from the soundtrack to the show and the applause at the end, it was the only sound to be heard, that and the instructions barked at the models who stray away from the catwalk lights!


I had an amazing day, for which I’d like to thank Canon for their fantastic hospitality. This is Canon’s twelfth season as principal sponsor of the event, organised by the British Fashion Council to promote British designers in a global market. If you don’t think that means much – consider that the UK fashion industry supports around 1.3m jobs with a direct value to the economy of £21bn. Surprised? Yep, so was I! My pictures don’t really do the event justice but they were at least shot on a Canon camera (I reclaimed my Ixus 70 from my son, who has recently adopted it as his own). Maybe one day I’ll return with my DSLR? I can dream…

More pictures from my day at London Fashion Week (including some that are actually fashion-related!) are available on Flickr.

(The images in this post are © 2011 Mark Wilson, all rights reserved and are therefore excluded from the Creative Commons license used for the rest of this site.)

What exactly does that Lightroom preset do?

A couple of weeks ago, I was messing around with some presets I’d downloaded from the ‘net for Adobe Lightroom.  I quite liked the effect but I wanted to know what they were doing.  The version of Lightroom that I’m using (2.6) doesn’t let me edit an existing preset so I turned to the ‘net to find out how to work out what settings were being applied.  After asking my question on Quora it was less than 24 hours before Rob Sylvan responded and explained it’s as simple as exporting the preset as a .lrtemplate file and viewing it with a text editor.

Unlike Adobe’s extensible metadata platfrom (.XMP) files, Lightroom presets do not use XML but the format is pretty easy to follow (Mike Sweeney has written about Lightroom 3 presets and they look pretty similar in Lightroom 2.x to me). By examining the contents it should be possible to work out the changes that the preset makes.

Here’s an example I picked up from the ‘net that emulates Ilford HP4+ black and white film:

s = {
id = “D6783909-3334-45C7-A277-10FF62F8D9CE”,
internalName = “Ilford FP4+”,
title = “Ilford FP4+”,
type = “Develop”,
value = {
settings = {
AutoBrightness = false,
AutoContrast = false,
AutoExposure = false,
AutoShadows = false,
Brightness = 50,
ChromaticAberrationB = 0,
ChromaticAberrationR = 0,
Clarity = 30,
Contrast = 25,
ConvertToGrayscale = true,
Defringe = 0,
EnableColorAdjustments = true,
EnableDetail = true,
EnableGrayscaleMix = true,
EnableSplitToning = true,
EnableVignettes = true,
Exposure = 0,
FillLight = 0,
GrayMixerAqua = 36,
GrayMixerBlue = 10,
GrayMixerGreen = 36,
GrayMixerMagenta = -14,
GrayMixerOrange = 10,
GrayMixerPurple = -20,
GrayMixerRed = -25,
GrayMixerYellow = 38,
HighlightRecovery = 0,
LuminanceSmoothing = 0,
ParametricDarks = -6,
ParametricHighlightSplit = 75,
ParametricHighlights = 0,
ParametricLights = 5,
ParametricMidtoneSplit = 50,
ParametricShadowSplit = 25,
ParametricShadows = 0,
PostCropVignetteAmount = 0,
PostCropVignetteFeather = 50,
PostCropVignetteMidpoint = 50,
PostCropVignetteRoundness = 0,
Shadows = 5,
SharpenDetail = 25,
SharpenEdgeMasking = 0,
SharpenRadius = 1,
Sharpness = 25,
SplitToningBalance = 0,
SplitToningHighlightHue = 0,
SplitToningHighlightSaturation = 0,
SplitToningShadowHue = 0,
SplitToningShadowSaturation = 0,
ToneCurve = {
ToneCurveName = “Medium Contrast”,
VignetteAmount = 0,
VignetteMidpoint = 50,
uuid = “92CAD954-CC15-49BE-89C1-46F88058904E”,
version = 0,

Cloning my Mac’s hard drive to gain some extra space

My MacBook (bought in 2008, unfortunately just before the unibody MacBook Pros were introduced) has always been running with upgraded memory and storage but it was starting to creak.  Performance is okay (it’s not earth-shattering but all I do on this machine is digital photography-related workflow) and it won’t take any more RAM than the 4GB I have installed but I was constantly battling against a full hard disk.

After a recent holiday when I was unable to archive the day’s shots and had to start filling my “spare” (read old and slow) memory cards to avoid deleting unarchived images, I decided to upgrade the disk. I did briefly consider switching to a solid state solution (until I saw the price – enough to buy a new computer), then I looked at a hybrid device, before I realised that I could swap out the 320GB Western Digital SATA HDD for a 750GB model from Seagate. The disk only cost me around £73 but next day shipping bumped it up a bit further (from Misco – other retailers were offering better pricing but had no stock). Even so, it was a worthwhile upgrade because it means all of my pictures are stored on a single disk again, rather than spread all over various media.

Of course, no image really exists until it’s in at least two places (so I do have multiple backups) but the key point is that, when I’m travelling, Lightroom can see all of my images.

I didn’t want to go through the process of reinstalling Mac OS X, Lightroom, Photoshop CS4, etc. so I decided to clone my installation between the two disks.  After giving up on a rather Heath Robinson USB to IDE/SATA cable solution that I have, I dropped another £24.99 on a docking station for SATA disk drives (an emergency purchase from PC World).

I’m used to cloning disks in Windows, using a variety of approaches with both free OS deployment tools from Microsoft and third party applications. As it happens, cloning disks in OS X is pretty straightforward too; indeed it’s how I do my backups, using a utility called Carbon Copy Cloner (some people prefer Super Duper). Using this approach I: created a new partition on the new disk (in Disk Utility), then cloned the contents of my old hard disk to the new partition (with Carbon Copy Cloner); then test boot with both drives in place (holding down the Alt/Option key to select the boot device); before finally swapping the disks over, once I knew that the copy had been successful.  Because it’s a file level copy, it took some time (just under six hours) but I have no issues with partition layouts – the software simply recreated the original file system on the partition that I specified on the new disk.  There’s more details of the cloning process in a blog post from Low End Mac but it certainly saved me a lot of time compared with a complete system rebuild.

Now all I need to do is sort out those images…

From snapshots to social media – the changing picture of photography (@davidfrohlich at #digitalsurrey)

My visits to Surrey seem to be getting more frequent… earlier tonight I was in Reigate, at Canon‘s UK headquarters for another great Digital Surrey talk.

The guest speaker was Professor David Frohlich (@davidfrohlich) from the University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre, who spoke about the changing picture of photography and the relationship between snapshots and social media, three eras of domestic photography, the birth and death of the album and lessons for social media innovation.

I often comment that I have little time for photography these days and all I do is “take snapshots of the kids” but my wife disagrees – she’s far less critical of my work and says I take some good pictures. It was interesting to see a definition of a snapshot though, with it’s origins in 1860’s hunting and “shooting from the hip” (without careful aim!). Later it became “an amateur photograph” so I guess yes, I do mainly take snapshots of the kids!

Professor Frohlich spoke of three values of snapshots (from research by Richard Chalfen in 1987 and Christopher Musello in 1979):

  • Identity.
  • Memory (triggers – not necessarily of when the photograph was taken but of events around that time).
  • Communication.

He then looked at a definition of social media (i.e. it’s a media for social interaction) and suggested that photographs were an early form of social media (since integrated into newer forms)!

Another element to consider is that of innovation and, using Philip Anderson and Michael L Tushman’s 1990 theory as an example, he described how old technological paths hit disruption, there’s then an era of fermentation (i.e. discontinuous development) before a dominant design appears and things stabilise again.  In Geoff Mulgan’s 2007 Process of Social Innovation it’s simply described as new ideas that work, or changing practice (i.e. everyday behaviour).

This led to the discussion of three eras of domestic photography. Following the invention of photography (1830-1840) we saw:

  1. The portrait path [plate images] (1839-1888) including cartes-de-visite (1854-1870)
  2. The Kodak path [roll film] (1888-1990) from the Kodak No. 1 camera in 1888, through the first Polaroid camera (1947), colour film cartridges (1963) which was disrupted with the birth of electronic still video photography (1980-1990)
  3. The digital path (from 1990)

What we find is that the three values of snapshots overlay this perfectly (although the digital era also has elements of identity it is mainly about communication):

Whilst the inventor of the photograph is known (actually Fox-Talbot’s Calotype/Talbottype and Daguerre’s Daguerrotype were both patented in 1839), it’s less well-known who invented the album.

Professor Frohlich explained that the album came into being after people swapped cartes-de-visite (just like today’s photographic business cards!) which became popular around 1850 as a standard portrait sized at 2.5″ x 4″.  These cards could be of individuals, or even famous people (Abraham Lincoln, or Queen Victoria) and in 1854, Disderi’s camera allowed mass production of images with several on a single sheet of paper.  By 1860 albums had been created to store these cards – a development from an earlier past-time of collecting autographs and these albums were effectively filled with images of family, people who visited and famous people – just as Facebook is today!

The Kodak era commenced after George Eastman‘s patent was awarded on 4 September 1888 for a personalised camera which was more accessible, less complex than portrait cameras, and marketed to women around the concept of the Kodak family album.  Filled with images of “high days and holidays” – achievements, celebrations and vacations – these were the albums that most of us know (some of us still maintain) and the concept lasted for the next century (arguably it’s still in existence today, although increasingly marginalised).

Whilst there were some threats (like Polaroid images) they never quite changed the dominant path of photography. Later, as people became more affluent, there were more prints and people built up private archives with many albums and loose photographs (stored in cupboards – just as my many of my family’s are in our loft!).

As photography met ICT infrastructure, the things that we could do with photography expanded but things also became more complex, with a complex mesh involving PCs, printers and digital camera. Whilst some manufacturers cut out the requirement for a computer (with cameras communicating directly to printers), there were two inventions that really changed things: the camera phone and the Internet:

  • Camera phones were already communications-centric (from the phone element), creating a new type of content, that was more about communications than storing memories. In 2002, Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen, Ilpo Koskinen and Esko Kurvine studied the use of mobile digital pictures, not as images for an album but images to say “look where I am”. Whilst technologies such as MMS were not used as much as companies like Nokia expected [largely due to transmission costs imposed by networks] we did see an explosion in online sharing of images.
  • Now we have semi-public sharing, with our friends on Facebook (Google+, etc.) and even wider distribution on Flickr. In addition, photographs have become multimedia objects and Professor Frohlich experimented with adding several types of audio to still images in 2004 as digital story telling.

By 2008, Abigail Durrant was researching photographic displays and intergenerational relationships at home. She looked at a variety of display devices but, critically, found that there was a requirement for some kind of agreement as to what could be displayed where (some kind of meta rules for display).

Looking to the future there are many developments taking place that move beyond the album and on to the archive. Nowadays we have home media collections – could we end up browsing beautiful ePaper books that access our libraries?Could we even see the day where photographic images have a “birthday” and prompt us to remember things (e.g. do you remember when this image was taken, 3 years ago today?)

Professor Frohlich finished up with some lessons for social media innovation:

  • Innovation results from the interaction of four factors: practice; technology; business; and design.
  • Business positioning and social shaping are as important to innovation as technology and it’s design.
  • Social media evolve over long periods of time (so don’t give up if something doesn’t happen quickly).
  • Features change faster than practices and values (social networking is a partial return to identity – e.g. tagging oneself – and not just about communications).
  • Some ideas come around again (like the stereograph developing into 3D cinema).
  • Infrastructure and standards are increasingly key to success (for example, a standard image size).

I do admit to being in admiration of the Digital Surrey team for organising these events – in my three visits I’ve seen some great speakers. Hopefully, I’ve covered the main points from this event but Andy Piper (@andypiper) sums it up for me in a single tweet:


Allowing people to download a subset of images on Flickr

My photostream on Flickr is reasonably well locked down.  I try to strike a balance between sharing and protecting my intellectual property (not that I use it to generate an income…).  Basically, I don’t add watermarks but everything is All Rights Reserved © (although they could be licensed, if they were good enough); only I can access my original image files; only I can print my images; and only I can download images.

RNLI Little Haven 7A few weeks ago though, I was enjoying a family holiday in Wales and I saw the local RNLI lifeboat crew returning from an exercise. I picked up my camera and grabbed some snapshots (and that’s all they were – there was no planning; I was shooting straight into the sun, etc.) but the Helmsman asked if I could send the images to him. Email’s not great for shipping around 12 megapixel images, so I thought I’d share them via Flickr. Unfortunately it seemed that I couldn’t let him download the images… not unless I dropped the security on the whole photostream.

Then I found a workaround.  Even though the default license I selected is All Rights Reserved ©, I can change the license on selected images. Granting a Creative Commons (i.e. Some Rights Reserved) license to the Little Haven lifeboat images gave others the option to download them. Result.

I’m sure this information is buried somewhere in the Flickr website but it didn’t come easily to me, so I’m sharing it here – hopefully it’s useful to someone else!