What the heck do you do with a photo of Half Dome?

Taking a pretty picture of Half Dome from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park is incredibly easy. You put on a telephoto lens (90 mm equivalent, say), aim the camera, and shoot. I goosed it up a bit in Lightroom and used the new de-haze control:

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Not a thousand words here, but just one: Boooooooooring.

But, if you take it into Topaz Adjust and choose Spicify, you get this:

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I was in California for a week, and got seven photos worth showing you, all processed by Lightroom and Topaz Detail or Adjust. To see them, click here.

Two Lightroom non-alternatives

From time-to-time I take a look at Lightroom alternatives. Not because I’m thinking of switching, but just to stay informed. ($10/month for Lightroom + Photoshop is an incredible bargain.)

First, I tried Lightzone. Didn’t get far, because the screen font was too small to read on my monitor, with no way to make it any bigger other than to change the resolution of the monitor, which is out of the question. So, can’t say too much about Lightzone. Maybe whoever works on the Windows port can get a better monitor for Christmas.

Next up, DigiKam. Lots of features, but it won’t work for me because (1) the raw editing is incredibly clunky, and isn’t parameterized like Lightroom (no going back to tweak an adjustment), and (2) no way to export JPEGs to a folder, something I do all the time when I create magazine and books, prepare a slideshow, upload to Photo.net, and lots of other things. I couldn’t believe the app couldn’t do this, so I spent a couple of hours working on it, but I’m convinced. Maybe they think that since they’re changing actual image files, they can stand for themselves when you need a JPEG externally. That’s hopelessly wrong.

In the course of investigating digiKam, I came upon several very positive online reviews and user comments, and found most of them pretty sad. A combination of group-think, denial, ignorance, and boosterism. They don’t know what they don’t know. One guy made a comment that he didn’t use Lightroom, but his brother did, and, from what he could tell, the two apps were pretty much the same. Another reviewer was bothered by digiKam’s white screen, figured out how to make it gray, and then showed screen shots of digiKam and Lightroom side-by-side and figuratively patted himself on the back.

digiKam comes from the Linux world, although there are ports to Mac OS X and Windows, and the Linux people usually grade on the curve. If the Linux, MySQL, and Apache developers had that attitude, they would have gotten nowhere.

If a Lightroom competitor comes forth, it will most likely come from Affinity, whose Photo and Designer apps probably are giving Adobe sleepless nights. But, like Adobe, their apps don’t run on Linux.

Visiting Manzanar

In 1943 Ansel Adams photographed Manzanar, the War Relocation Center where Japanese-Americans were interred. I have published two versions of the book he wrote, Born Free and Equal, and a collection of all of his Manzanar photographs. You can find those books (and the others I’ve written) here.

Last Saturday I visited Manzanar, which is now a National Historic Site. There’s not much left other than building foundations and roadways, the restored Pleasure Park (but with no water), the cemetery, and the auditorium (now the visitor’s center, with an excellent museum), which was built after Adams’s visit.

But what you realize when you visit that you can’t get from the photos is that the place is huge, it’s hot (even in September), and it’s windy. I was uncomfortable walking around for an hour or so while I took photos. Living there must have been hellish. In Adams’s photos the people look comfortable enough, but his visit was in Winter, as you can see from the snow on the mountains.

Here are four photos I took along with corresponding Ansel Adams photos from 1943.

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MagCloud 20% off

Just got an email saying that MagCloud has a 20% off sale until August 30, so you might want to print your PhotoMag magazines sooner rather than later. The promo code you need is SAVE20. (See this post and this post.)

(I’m not connected with MagCloud and don’t get paid when you use the service. The only way I benefit is in helping them stay in business so they’re around when I need them. I have a vacation coming up.)

PhotoMag for Mac now, too!

Well, the whole point of using Electron is that it’s portable, so I decided to test that out by firing up the Mac, moving the code over, and seeing if it would run. There were a few very minor glitches, but I got it running perfectly, near as I can tell, in less than an hour. So, you can now download it for the Mac, too.

PhotoMag: a new app for creating photo magazines

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When I return from a vacation I like to create a photo magazine containing a few dozen photos. Nothing as prestigious or expensive as a photo book, but much handier to pass around to family and friends than a phone or having them gather in front of a computer screen. The equivalent of one of those photo albums that could hold 12 or 24 4×6 prints. It’s not a book you design, with custom page layouts, but rather a book that you stuff with prints as quickly as you can. (If you want a fancy book, there are many ways to create one.)

With MagCloud, the magazines are cheap. For example, I just made one with 60 photos for $6.40. (Twenty cents a page, with two photos on a page. Add two pages for the covers.) Doing a book with Blurb would cost about $25. (MagCloud is owned by Blurb, who bought it from HP, manufacturer of the printers that MagCloud uses.)

You can easily create a suitable PDF with Lightroom’s Print module, but I don’t like the way it positions captions. For one thing, you have to reserve a fixed amount of space below each photo for the largest caption. It’s better to vary the size of the photo, so the photos are bigger if the captions are short. Also, Lightroom has no provision for front and back covers, which are full-page-size photos. You have to add them to the PDF with another program, such as PDFsam Basic (free) or Acrobat (expensive). And, of course, not everyone has Lightroom.

I developed a great app for producing these magazines called ProofSheet, but it’s Mac only, and I have no interest in programming a similar app for Windows. For a while I used a PHP program that I wrote that formats the pages as HTML, and then uses the browser’s print facility to create the PDF. That worked fine, but it was impractical for anyone other than me to use, because it has to run locally, not on a server. Uploading the photos to a server is too cumbersome and too slow. Installing a local server is too much to ask of most people.

Recently, I wrote PhotoMag, using the portable technologies offered by Electron. It does as good a job as ProofSheet, but has fewer formatting features. (No page titles or information above the photos, only below.) It’s fine for my purposes, and it might work for you, too.

If you want to use PhotoMag, it’s free, and you can download it here. It’s for Windows 64-bit only. I’ve only tested it on Windows 10, but it might run on earlier versions as well. It’s implementation is entirely portable, and I expect I’ll have a Mac version in a few weeks, but don’t hold me to it. (Meanwhile, you can use ProofSheet on a Mac.)

How I do backups now – updated

When I last blogged about my backup plan, I was using Disk Master Free to do a backup each night, in addition to the continuous backups with Bvckup and CrashPlan. A reader suggested that having both local backups online all the time made then accessible to ransomware and viruses. So, I dropped the Disk Master Free backup and replaced it with two full backups once a week, alternating weeks. That way I get a week to discover if one of them has been compromised during the short time it was online. I’d have to go to CrashPlan with its time-consuming restore only for the files not on the last good backup. Safer, and not much additional work.

So, it’s:

  • Continuous backup with Bvckup and CrashPlan.
  • Once-a-week to alternating disks (also with Bvckup), kept offline when not being written to.
  • Photos to Amazon S3 a few times a year.

ImageVerifier for MacOS

Now you can download ImageVerifier for MacOS directly from my website, instead of buying it from the Mac App Store. You get a newer version, and I get a larger piece of the pie.

If you have the Mac App Store version and you want to upgrade for free, send me a support request and confirm that you have purchased the Mac App Store version.

I’ve changed the version number of the Windows version to match that of the Mac, so they’re both now 2.10.

The download link for both platforms can be found here.