Archive for June, 2007

June 24th, 2007 dotted line

Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit

The Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art is holding a retrospective of the French photographer’s work until August. They have a large collection of photographs on display, and while I don’t know a lot about street photography or photo-journalism, I was impressed by many of them. If I were to try to describe what I see, they:

  • are exclusively about people
    • often interacting with their environment, and vice versa
    • often interacting with each other
    • often reacting to a situation, or expressing a clear point of view
  • often have a strong sense of space and shape, that relates directly to the human subject(s)
  • often exquisitely, perfectly timed, freezing the decisive action or moment of the scene being played out
  • sometimes remind me of a Norman Rockwell painting, in the way humor is found through incongruity and juxtaposition (the word humanity also springs to mind)

Or if I were to put it another way, what he does for me, is capture succintly, people simply being people. Even in his commissioned portraits, his subjects rarely look directly at the camera, so that the final result feels more like one of his street shoots.

June 23rd, 2007 dotted line

Washing machine woes

Somehow I managed to put my jeans into the wash. Now, while that’s been known to happen occasionally, I did manage to leave everything in my pockets this time (don’t ask). Here’s how they fared after a full spin and dry cycle:

  • Money made it, just a little worse for wear at the corners and hologram intact – I guess they make bills pretty tough.
  • Fisher pen is working, albeit dented.
  • Suica (train pass) also survived, still getting me through station gates.
  • Alien registration card too (the ink is fainter).
  • And credit card – that would’ve been a hassle to replace here.
  • The cell phone did not, which I was a little bummed about – my address book is gone. Unlocked, it had been with me on trips to the States, South-East Asia and Australia, and I’d only had it a year. I was surprised the SIM card made it though – my new phone takes a micro SD card, and I think now that will have a pretty good chance of surviving a similar mishap.

June 19th, 2007 dotted line

DAM software

Digital Asset Management is becoming a big deal for many photographers, professionals and occasional shooters alike. I hadn’t really thought much about it before, but my recent acquisition and subsequent digitizing of historical family photographs brought home to me the need for a tool that would allow me to treat the collection as a library – complete with cataloging, search and organization functionality. A comprehensive survey of the DAM software market can be found here.

My basic requirements were:

  • Flexible labeling of photos – multiple labels, and ability to specify a label hierarchy
  • XML export of the catalog – including labels and their hierarchy
  • Support of open standards (IPTC, XMP) to avoid vendor lock-in
  • Ability to write these tags to the image files (or sidecar files), for the same reason

I quickly settled on a trial of the v4 beta of idImager (Pro version) – this is a public beta program. One of its key features for me was full XMP support (I can verify that all tags are written out to my JPEGs), but on top of this, the beta version introduces two killer features that take my ability to catalog and make sense of my family photo library to a whole new level.

The first is label relationships – instead of imposing a single inheritance hierarchy on my labels, I can arbitrarily link any two labels together, and specify their relationship to each other. For example, Peter and James are linked by the father-son relationship. This means I can build complex family trees from the various person name labels in my catalog, very easily (find me all photos which contain Peter and his sons) – resulting in very expressive and powerful image searches.

The second is area tagging (which you see in Flickr‘s annotations feature), the ability to mark an area of a photo, and associate a label with it. Absolutely indispensable for large group photos to figure out who’s who.

The program has a fairly intuitive interface – I rarely had to refer to the user manual, which is saying a bit, because this is an application with a feature set geared towards pro users. The user community is active, and I have to mention that support from the developer, Hert, is second to none. I’ve logged two bugs and a feature request so far over the week, and responses have been forthcoming each time within 24 hours – pretty amazing when you consider that he’s the sole developer of the product.

June 18th, 2007 dotted line

Digicam deal

I popped into Bic Camera on the weekend, and got what I think is a bargain on a digital camera. Bic is selling the Fujifilm F31fd compact digicam, if you take into account their loyalty points and current campaign, for roughly USD170 – that’s about $50 cheaper than I can find on pricegrabber, and it’s probably worth noting that it’s initial release MSRP was USD399. Widely considered the best camera by far for low-light/no-flash pictures (and best-in-class battery life, at a rated 580 shots per charge), at the price it was hard to resist. With the current emphasis on megapixels by camera makers (it offers a “paltry” 6 megapixels worth of resolution), it’s hard to imagine another camera like this being introduced in the market again, at least for the time being. I really missed having a compact camera around on a recent trip to Malaysia – this one fits the bill nicely.

June 10th, 2007 dotted line

Scanning prints

I have about 4-500 old family photographs from about 50 years ago that I thought would be great to digitize and distribute among relatives that are spread around the world – considering my paternal grandmother came from a family of thirteen, that’s a lot of interrelated history there.

So I got a Canoscan Lide 600F scanner from BIC Camera last night (178,000Â¥ – including 10% back in points, about USD135) – the salesman told me that the warranty and software were only good for Japan, but that I could download the drivers online. Sure enough, they were there on the Canon website, and I didn’t even bother opening the packaged CD. The device itself is relatively slim, and wonder of wonders, doesn’t need its own power supply, running off USB bus power (you need to use the provided USB cable though). The software was rather painless to install and get going – a machine restart was necessary for me, but not mentioned in the install guide.

I used Canon’s CanoScan Toolbox downloaded online, and for batch scanning of prints, it’s a breeze. Simply layout up to ten photos on the platen, and the software automatically straightens and crops correctly, provided you follow its guidelines of 1 cm between the platen edge and other photos – in this it does a great job. You need to set the correct orientation in a preview screen after scanning, and before saving – some way to automate this would’ve been nice. Perhaps the interface could have been a little cleaner, there’s a memory leak problem if you attempt to scan a number of times in the same session, so you need to restart sessions each time – not a big deal as I mapped one of the scanner buttons to bring up the Multi-Scan mode. Anyway, testament to how efficient the workflow was – I started last night and was done this evening getting through 478 photos, 4 x 6 and smaller.

Quality-wise, nothing to quibble over – scanning at 600 dpi, a 100% crop is shown below (without any sharpening). I’m very impressed with the technology and the whole experience.

Sample Crop

Now to start mailing those CDs out…