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Archive for the ‘Computer Technology’ Category

The Gift of Organization

Dec 15

In Computer Technology at 9:40am


I’m not much of a computer person. I can use one, and get myself around, but the nuances, controls and finessing of these machines, which is second nature to some, elude me. Organization and knowledge of where things are is important though, as I generate a lot of pictures.

So when the folks at Mylio asked me to beta test this new program (the name Mylio stands for “my life is organized”) I jumped at the chance. I was most recently set adrift by Aperture, and for me, PhotoShop and Lightroom are the deep end of the pool. This seemed, dare I say it, simple. In the sense that even I could use it.

The above snap is my desk at a Marriott Courtyard in Florida. I have just ingested yesterday’s take, and presto, via the miracle of Mylio, it has propagated to my Ipad air and mini, and my phone, simultaneously. I didn’t ship in the whole take, just selects, and the program sorts out what type of deliverable (thumbnail, preview, orig) goes to what machine, based on that machine’s storage capability. When I go home and open Mylio, it will automatically recognize one of my home based storage drives and populate it with this take, as well. Presumably I will be doing something else, like running a wash of my clothes brought home from this, the last trip of the year. It’s wild. It’s not a heckuva lot of work.

And, when I edit on my laptop, and convert something to say, black and white, it updates across the devices, including my Iphone.


Which is cool. There’s yards more for me to go, of course, but the learning curve with this seems like a curve, a relatively gentle hilltop summit, and not an assault on Everest. And the best part is that I’m having fun. I have now got my entire Iphone library, some 3,000 or more images I snapped with the darn thing that were just rambling around on my phone, with no backup at all, backed up, edited and dispersed across several devices.

I’ve lost a fierce number of pictures over the years, from changing agents, to lost slides, to crashed hard drives. This offers the beauty of nearly instant duplication, across the board. Which means memories saved.

More tk…..


New responsive blog design, and DVD downloads!

Dec 4

In Computer Technology, News at 7:39am

Hey Gang, Drew here…..

A couple of really cool announcements to make, that have been several months in the making…

First off, our blog is now fully responsive, meaning that it’s been optimized for any size and orientation of computer screen, tablet, or mobile device.  This is a huge step in making the blog that much more easily accessible for all you mobile blog readers out there.

If you’re looking at this blog on your computer, just drag in the corner of your browser, and you’ll see the blog adapt as it gets smaller…pretty cool stuff.  A huge thanks to Josh and Andy at Few Loose Screws for helping educate us in this department, and getting it all up to speed.

We’re also about to launch a brand new, responsive version of our “What’s in the Bag” page, with tons of product descriptions, photos, etc.

Here’s two examples of what the blog looks like on an iPad and iPhone, when held vertically (turn it on it’s side, and it’ll adapt as well)…

More big news: The Language of Light DVD is now officially available as an Instant Download, and it’s in HD!  We know that getting the DVD on an international scale hasn’t always been easy, due to import taxes, shipping, etc., so we’re very happy to now be able to offer this to you.

Further, we’ve included several new options as part of the DVD download..

– Each download includes two versions to choose from: 720p and full 1080p HD.

– The entire DVD download is now available for $129.99 (the hard copy is $159.99)

– You can even download individual DVD chapters, if this is of more interest to you.

If you want to check out in-depth descriptions of what each chapter is about, just click on the INSTANT DOWNLOAD link at the top of the Language of Light page…

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

(Many thanks to Drew who, in between road time, has been laboring on this design update and the download option for a long while now….) More tk….

Field Test- The ioSafe Rugged Portable Hard Drive

Sep 20

In Computer Technology, Equipment, Field Test, Videos at 7:19am

Hey guys, Drew here.  ioSafe recently approached us about testing out a a couple of their Ultra-Rugged Portrable Hard Drives, so we thought we’d give them a bit of a workout…

These guys boast some pretty impressive stats (see their site for the full scoop):

  • crush resistant to 2,500/5,000 lbs. (depending on model)
  • fully suspended to withstand drops of 10 ft.
  • waterproof to 10 ft., in fresh or salt water, for up to 3 days

If you search around a bit, you’ll find videos of people showering with them, handing a drive and a hammer to a toddler, and even shooting one with a shotgun…all of which it survived.

We can only hope that our drives won’t ever have to deal with that, but we definitely run our drives through the mill more than most.  Already this year, we’ve logged about 150,000 miles on Delta alone, and between Joe and I, we usually have about 6TB of drives with us.

For several years, we were using a bunch of LaCie Rugged’s, but found that the firewire ports were prone to burnout, and we’ve had several crash on us over time (as can and will likely happen with any drive).  The thought of them being “rugged” was appealing, but they didn’t really live up to their name, and felt like we always had to baby them.

Enter the “Ultra” Rugged drives from ioSafe.  We’ve been trekking around the world with six of these guys (1TB units), and after 5 months of abuse, I think we can give them a solid thumbs up.  We’ve happily ditched our LaCie’s, made these ioSafe drives our primary on-the-road storage, and so far, it’s been smooth sailing.

Here’s what we like about them:

– Right out of the box, they come with one year of data recovery service (up to $5,000), which starts as soon as you enter an activation code on their site.  You also have the opportunity to upgrade that to three or five years.  That’s some peace of mind, before you even take the drive into the field.

– The build is impressive.  They’re definitely heavier than our old drives, but the all-metal construction is solid, and we don’t feel the need to be extremely delicate with them, as we do with other drives (as clearly seen in the video up top).

Note from Joe….. Drew and Cali had a great time messing with this drive. I kept coming up with cheeseball blog titles like “Taking a Drive for a Drive,”or other nonsense, but they wisely overruled me. And, at the end of the video, that’s not me screaming. It’s my crazy uncle who does our archiving. More tk…

The iPad Interview

Oct 1

In Computer Technology, Friends at 6:48am

Bill Frakes and Joe McNally iPad Interview from Manfrotto on Vimeo.

While I have to admit to being simultaneously over and underwhelmed by Photokina, one really fun thing happened. Bill Frakes and I did kind of a Penn and Teller, Mutt and Jeff, Harry and Sally…, wait a minute……kind of thing with the iPad, the new must have, go to, touch screen thingamawhooziebopper that promises to change everything. I mean, it’s so cool, even I have one. (Gift!)

What’s not to like about a device that makes all our pictures look snappy and great, even when they’re (at least occasionally)  a bunch of highly processed turds?

Technology aside, the fun thing about the week was hanging with Bill, and then doing this first ever, ballyhooed, much anticipated, cast of thousands side by side interview on the Ipad with him, done at the behest of the Manfrotto School of Excellence. What was even cooler was that we did the interviews at separate times, and both of us, when asked about favorite shooters, and who we looked up to when first taking a camera in hand, our answer came back the same–W. Eugene Smith.

Hanging in this biz for a long time gives lots of stuff to you, one those things being friends and colleagues. I have known Bill for many years, first as a premier newspaper shooter out of Florida, and then, for a long time, one of the cornerstones of Sports Illustrated’s photo operation. He is the quintessential road warrior, logging so many miles every year, he makes me look like a shut in. And here’s the thing: In an age when making a good or even great snap or two seems deceptively easy, Bill defines what it means to be a pro. That means he hits it, and hits it hard every time out. The amount of grief and blockage he’s gotta drill through on every job is daunting. Logistics, shipping, credentials, access, time, weather, prima donna athletes, over controlling PR folks, red face coaches–all can conspire against the shooter and make every job feel like storming the gates of Mordor.

Then, after all that exhaustion, by the way, you gotta shoot some pictures. Which he does, in astonishing and defining fashion, time in, time out. He’s shot more SI covers than I can count, and in many ways re-defined, or even invented all over, how to cover major events. I mean, he’s terrific moving and shooting the sidelines, which is a lot of what sports guys need to do. But, when it comes to the obsessive determination it takes to run 60 to 70 remote cameras at the finish line of the Kentucky Derby just to get that split second, winner by a nose picture, he takes a back seat to no one on the planet.

And then, given the love of his craft, and drive to excel, he continues to do it, year after year, even after the magazine, given limitations of space, and occasionally editorial vision, use only one frame, or, sometimes, none at all.

Which is why, wisely, he is in the forefront of the video DSLR surge, and using multi-media on the web to tell stories with lots of pictures and sound, and not simply be constrained by paper and ink. Check out his website…..

In Tampa….Kelby Tour stop…should be a blast…..more tk…..

The McNally Workflow..

Oct 20

In Computer Technology at 6:28am

So this is one of those topics Joe and I are asked about on a very regular basis.  We usually just answer these questions one-by-one, but got an interesting email from one of our readers, Jose Fernandez, a little while back, and figured I might as well just lay it all out.

Here’s why I do the post-processing, not Joe:

As a disclaimer, and to cover my ass, I’ll be the first to admit that we as a studio don’t necessarily do things the “right” way.  Are we entirely satisfied with our post-production/archiving process?  Not exactly.  The thing is, any busy photo studio is constantly producing massive amounts of imagery, and keeping up with it all isn’t always a walk in the park.  On top of that, technology is one of those amazing things that we all are challenged to stay on the cutting edge of.  Computer software, hardware, camera gear- it’s all evolving so quickly, that even if you know your best option today, in another week there’s something else out there that’s potentially better.

Speaking of which, we’re happy to say that our entire studio is now archived on Drobos. We’ve had three 4TB Drobos, along with an old Apple X-Serve RAID (8TB) for some time now.  Just made the move to off the old X-Serve RAID and replace it with a 16TB  Drobo Pro, which is much quieter, more energy efficient, and the user interface is much more intuitive.  Funny (well, not really) how five or six years ago, that old X-Serve was top-of-the-line, cost well over 10K for 6TB of storage, and we’ll be lucky to sell if for a grand now…oh technology.

As for the hardware basics, we have four workstations in our studio, which is entirely Mac-based.  Each station is equipped with an Apple 30″ Cinema Display, and mine is also graced with a Wacom 21″ Cintiq.  Sounds like a lot of screen space, and it is- but having all this speeds up the post-process tremendously.  The Cintiq brings a lot of fun back into editing, that you never knew was there with a mouse.  Once you build one into your workflow, you’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming to go back to a mouse.

I’m not gonna get into PS tutorials, color calibration, etc., as not to bore you to death, but I do hope to just lay out the BASICS of our workflow, and hopefully start a discussion with all of you- so here goes.

The Software: Aperture is the heart of our system. We organize our files on it, and shoot tethered with it in the field. Joe also does his slide shows out of Aperture. It’s a really varied program with lots of processing and organizing power.

-Whenever we can on location, we shoot tethered into Aperture or  Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2.   Both are great programs in their own right, but there are certain strengths of each which dictate which one will be used in specific situations. The loupe tool in Aperture is a great quick way to double check sharpness while on the fly, and we can easily compare recent shots side-by-side (which CCP doesn’t do).  Aperture also allows the camera to write to the card as well as the computer, which the current version of CCP does not. (Which can be dicey.) With that said, for demo purposes at workshops and such, Aperture’s a no-brainer, since we’ll typically shoot jpeg’s at these types of events.  When it comes to RAW files, they both have issues, so take your pick.

Another occasional tool we use for quickly browsing files in the field is Photo Mechanic.  It’s a really fast, down and dirty way to view thumbnails and make selects.

-We import our cards using Aperture’s Card Importer, a plugin for the program that let’s us import up to eight card simultaneously, while adding metadata.

-From there, the photos go either through Nikon’s Capture NX2, then to Photoshop, or sometimes directly into PS.  Really all depends on what I’m trying to do with the photos.  Each program does certain things better than another, and it’s all obviously preferential.  One very cool feature in NX2 is the Color Control Point tool, and I’d suggest downloading a free trial and giving it a go- If you shoot Nikon. (Joe loves this program. He refers to it as PhotoShop for dummies. One click saves lots of potential layers in PS.)

Not to go too deep into this, but in PS, there’s a million things you can do, and even more ways of getting there.  “Typically”, I start with a layer to remove any dust, minor blemishes, etc.  From there, it’s on to curves, etc., etc..  We also have really grown to love the PS plug-ins made by Nik Software.  Used in moderation, they help us make certain effects take minutes which would typically take much longer to do…definitely one of the most useful additions to our post prod. process as of late. For a small operation like ours’, with limited staff, time is a huge factor, and the Nik options really can cut hours out of the post process.

One important point to make is that there generally isn’t a huge amount of post done in our studio.  Joe comes from the Kodachrome generation of sorts, and I’m very lucky to do his post, as he’s one of the few people I’ve ever known who consistently produces near perfect files right out of the camera, and I truly don’t mean that to kiss his ass.  If there’s one lesson to learn from all this, it’s that last sentence.  After all, if your photos aren’t so hot when you shoot them, they’ll probably still suck after post-processing, right?  Strive to make that great frame while shooting, not in post.  That’s a whole different discussion though..

-The last step in our process really comes down to organization.  There’s many ways to go about this, but our weapon of choice for the past few years has been Aperture.  We do all of our key wording and folder organization here, and it’s really a lifesaver.  After all, part of my job is to keep track of almost 30TB of digital files.  I can easily search for any file we need and output a “version” of that file, while never moving the original.  There’s a handful of other programs like this, but Aperture just seems to make the most sense to us.

All of our slide presentations are also done through Aperture, and it’s great to be able to use the bluetooth Apple remote to go through it all.

Like I mentioned in the disclaimer at the start, this isn’t necessarily the “right” way do do things, and nobody can tell you the right way (sorry).  As a photographer, part of your job is to find out how several people you admire work, and take what you wish from it, and I guarantee that if you walked into a room of 10 top shooters, all would have different advice.

Hope this covers most of the basics, and feel free to comment back with any other questions..