I’ve been going back through old image folders looking for unprocessed photos that are worth spending time with. I recently came across some photos from a visit to Chincoteague, Virginia in 2010.
The ocean was particularly angry one morning, and I remember standing on the beach shooting the surf while trying to keep myself and the camera dry from the salt spray. In order to slow the shutter speed down enough to show the motion, I had stopped my lens down to – according to the metadata – f40. I didn’t remember having a lens that stopped down that much, but sho-nuff the old Canon 100-400 did!
Of course, at f40 every dust spot on the sensor is going to be visible, and on some of these photos there were dozens, perhaps a hundred or more. It’s a pretty safe guess that the reason these photos hadn’t been processed was because of all the spots. I’ve never been meticulous about cleaning my sensor, and it shows. But one of the advances in Lightroom that I am now able to take advantage of is the Spot Removal tool. The technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where I was able to salvage this photos. It involved a lot of clicking and a certain amount of adjusting, but a lot less futzing than I would have had to do back then!
One of the more recent additions to Lightroom is the “Transform” function, in particular the perspective correction tool. I find myself making use of this tool a lot, as it “corrects” photos where I’m forced to shoot from an angle – side to side and up to down – and making them look normal. I don’t generally use it to “cheat” but rather I like to use it when I don’t have a choice about where to stand.
I’ve been going back through some old unprocessed photos and came across a group of sunrise photos from 2010 in Belhaven, North Carolina. One of the distinguishing features of the harbor in Belhaven is a break wall that separates the harbor from the larger Pungo River. The break wall is a well-recognized landmark of this area, but the problem I always have with it is that it doesn’t run perpendicular to the places I photograph from. As a result, there is always a perspective mismatch between the horizon line and the line of the breakwall. They never looked right when I processed them, so I’ve always been hesitant to use them for anything. Until now.
Looking at this photos, I wondered if the perspective correction in Lightroom could be used to “fix” the position of the breakwall so it looked “right” in my photos. Lo and behold, it does! There is a little bit of falloff in focus in the areas that are actually father away, but it’s hardly noticeable. And yes, I could have done this a long time ago in Photoshop. But that misses my point. And of course, someone who lives there and is used to the view would likely recognize the change immediately. But for most folks, they wouldn’t notice the difference.
I’ve attached a couple of photos as examples, including one “before & after composite. I think it turns a photo that never looked quite right into one that looks pretty good for all but the pickiest few among us. And chances are they don’t read this blog! 🙂
I don’t usually get too excited about software, but the most recent update to Lightroom has me pretty intrigued. Most of the changes were cosmetic in nature, related to the layout of certain menu items. But Adobe has introduced some new and improved Develop profiles that I really like. I’ve never been able to come up with black & white conversions that I was consistently happy with, but some of the new profiles are pretty sweet. I might even give Monte a run for his black & white money! The color profiles are pretty nice too. I’m still working and fiddling with them, but I think I may have found some new tools!
Long-time readers will recall that a little over 3 years I embarked on a project to build my own computer. With my son’s expert assistance (as in he did all the hard work) I built a PC from parts and installed Apple’s OSX on it – a “Hackintosh.” I had been a Mac user for a long time, originally purchasing a Powerbook, then an iMac and more recently a MacBook Pro. I needed a new computer then and liked the idea of building my own, and was intrigued by the idea of running OSX on it.
For those who like messing around with computers, building a computer can be a fun and interesting challenge. For people like me who mostly just want to have a reliable and reasonably competent tool, the time and effort required to keep up with software updates and the workarounds required to run a non-native program on a computer got to be more than I was interested in doing. More recently I started running into problems with the App Store telling me that the software was up to date, but the part that Adobe CC looks at to determine if I am able to run the latest version of their software thought it was an older version. The steps required to fix that problem didn’t seem to work, and I finally decided to make a change. Also, I was never able to get my Canon printer to run on the Hackintosh.
My choices essentially came down to two. I could shell out the money for a new Mac, but new Macs are quite pricey these days, and the ones that I thought I needed to do the job are several years out of date. Probably OK for my needs, but I was having a hard time with the idea of spending a bunch of money on a new computer, just to end up with my current box sitting idle and useless. My second option was to install Windows on my current computer and run the software for which all the parts were intended. It’s still a very capable computer, with a fast processor, 500GB SSD and two 2TB hard drives, lots of memory and a good video card. So that was what I decided to do.
With my son’s help (gracias, Kevin!) I mapped out the steps required to replace everything I used on the Mac with its equivalent on Windows. And it actually wasn’t much because I don’t use a lot of stuff – the two biggest challenges were (1) moving my photo files – 4 hard drives in all including backups – from Mac-formatted hard drives to Windows-formatted hard drives, and (2) finding a suitable replacement for my backup software.
The Mac vs. Windows arguments have been going on for years, much like the Canon-Nikon-Fuji-Olympus-Sony-Etc. arguments for cameras. But when it comes right down to it there just isn’t a lot of difference between them these days. I use a Windows computer at work, so other than having to remember to close or minimize from the right instead of the left, they’re essentially the same. Lightroom and Photoshop look and act the same, Chrome looks the same, and Office for Windows is pretty much the same as Office for Mac. A few other odds and ends and I’m pretty well covered.
I’m not going to go into a lot of details on how I solved the two problems because I don’t have the expertise to answer questions. For the transfer of photos I purchased software from Paragon Software called HFS+ for Windows. That allowed me to see the Mac-formatted (HFS+) hard drives so I could copy the data over to newly-formatted Windows (NTFS) hard drives. I originally intended to use Paragon’s Backup & Recovery software, but just couldn’t get comfortable with how it worked. I ended up buying GoodSync, which works more like the SuperDuper that I used on the Mac. There is no Windows version of SuperDuper, but GoodSync comes pretty close. I may experiment with other software, but so far it seems to do the job.
At this point I’m most of the way finished with the conversion. My two external backup drives are still in Mac format, as I want to be sure that all the Windows stuff is operating correctly before I wipe out those drives and copy the backups to them. There is probably a slight risk there, but I think it is wise to be sure before committing. And I haven’t tried to hook up the printer yet. Hopefully this weekend will give me time for that project. Since it involves starting up the printer and wasting a certain amount of ink, I want to be sure I have adequate time to complete the process!
So that’s pretty much it! Over the course of the last 18 months or so I’ve gone from a Canon user to a Fuji user, and from a Mac user to a Windows user. But I’ll bet you won’t notice any difference in my photos from either move. And hopefully I’ll be able to forget about the computer for a while and just go take photos!
Few things get on my nerves more than clutter. A messy desk, a disorganized garage, an overloaded closet – those are things that just drive me crazy. Now I’m not the most organized person in the world – Kathy would probably suggest that my head is probably the least organized thing on the planet, but that’s another post! But I can’t stand to make room for stuff I don’t use. Or worse, have to have extra storage for stuff because I’ve run out of room for all that stuff I don’t need.
When I started in digital photography, I applied this desire for order to my workflow. I have a very structured, well-organized and repeatable method for keeping track of my files and backing them up. That way I always know where I stand on my organization, editing and processing. Part of that workflow has been that I never delete files. I remove unused files from my Lightroom catalog but leave them on my hard drive, with the idea that storage is cheap and that it was better to have them than to delete them.
I currently store all my photos on a 2TB hard drive in my computer. That is not much by many peoples’ standards, but because I don’t create huge files in Photoshop and don’t have a 50 megapixel camera, I figured that 2TB would last me a long time. Lately I’ve approached the limit on those drives, and knew that it was probably time to do something about it. I started looking at upgrading to larger drives, but while storage is relatively inexpensive, I have a total of 4 drives, two internal drives (main+backup) plus two external drives (onsite+offsite). I haven’t yet sprung for cloud storage. I don’t completely trust it and would never use it as my only backup, so as long as I need to have physical backups anyway, I didn’t think there was much point in also having cloud backup. Plus, there are lenses…. 😉
One of the things I started thinking about was that there are a bunch of files on those hard drives that are no longer in my Lightroom catalog, files that I’ve already decided aren’t worth keeping and that I could get rid of. I have no idea how many, because by looking at the files in Finder there isn’t any really good way of telling which files are in the Lightroom catalog and which ones are not. I originally toyed with the idea of just exporting the existing catalog to a new drive, or erasing one of the existing drives for the purpose. But part of me wanted to look at those old files “one last time” to make sure I wasn’t getting rid of any hidden treasures. So as long as I wanted to be able to do that I came up with what I think is a workable solution.
What I have done is to use Lightroom’s Import function to “re-import” all those files into the Lightroom catalog. They are already in folders – the same folders that all of the “keepers” are in, so all I have to do is import them in their current position. I started about a week ago and have been importing them a year at a time. By going year-by-year, and folder-by-folder within each year, I’m keeping it at a manageable amount and am not moving or deleting files until I’ve looked at them. In the event that I come across files I want to keep – and I’ve found a few – it is very easy to put them aside so they don’t get lost.
I’ve gotten through 2004-2008 so far – admittedly not heavy years filewise since I had just started in digital and was still shooting some film. I forgot to track the number of files and amount of storage for the first two years, but am keeping track now and should be able to have a pretty good estimate when I’m done. Right now between 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008 it looks like I’m at about 23,000 files deleted and about 236GB freed up. The folders seem to be getting bigger the farther I go, so it will be interesting to see how those numbers increase as I continue.
This is pretty geeky stuff and I can’t imagine anyone reading this post will care about more detail, but if anyone wants additional detail I’ll be happy to answer questions or emails. But it won’t bother me if no one asks! In the meantime I’ve thrown in some photos from 2005 for your viewing pleasure. It seems I photographed a lot of sunrises and sunsets back then!
Ever since I started using Lightroom to process and manage my photos, I have continuously updated and improved my workflow. I’ve used my workflow as the basis for teaching Lightroom classes, individual tutoring and consulting. I carefully devised a workflow that suits my needs, primarily of organizing and identifying my photos, as well as using the various tools such as Pick flags, color labels and star ratings to tell me exactly where in the process a given photo or group of photos was.
As efficient as my workflow has been, one of the big downsides is that I was spending a lot of time in the Develop module for each of my photos, even those that were mostly “snapshots” and would probably never be printed or posted on my website. What eventually happened was that I only had a small percentage of photos that were marked as “finished” and had thousands of photos that had not been processed. These files are ones that I had marked with a Pick flag – meaning that I thought there was some merit to the photo that warranted further processing. And that backlog was getting larger and larger, to the point where I thought I would never get them caught up.
Part of my workflow over the years has been to create a group of Develop presets to apply to these photos when I import them from my card. I have a set of presets that take care of 90-95% (or more) of the work I do on a photo. But as good as these presets are, they won’t address things like dust spots and crooked horizons, so I would still go in and spend countless hours tweaking and fine-tuning all of those photos, regardless of whether or not they will ever see life beyond my hard drive.
One of the many lessons from my recent experience with dipping my toe into the mirrorless camera pool is the realization that the files from the Fuji X-T1 hardly needed any follow up tweaking. I was so impressed with the files right out of the camera that in many cases I didn’t do a thing to them, and anything I did do was purely aesthetic, or “because I could.” It was playing around with the files from that camera that made me take another look at my regular workflow and realize that the files from my Canon cameras were also really good, but that I had gotten myself in the habit of working with all of them that I had lost sight of the fact that all that extra work wasn’t really doing anything significant toward improving the photographs, but it was taking an enormous amount of time!
I have had a really difficult time letting go of the idea that every photo had to be “completely done” before I marked it as done. Since most of my files never go beyond my own computer, it’s been my own personal hang-up, and I decided that if I wanted to change it I could, so I did. For the last month or so I have been trying really hard to “trust the Force” and let the presets do their work. I still review each individual file for level horizons, dust spots or other things, but have been working really hard to only make those few corrections and to – as much as possible – leave my hands off of those other controls. So far it has worked pretty well. I can get through a lot more photos at one time, and the extra efficiency leaves me the discretion to spend more time with a particular photo or group of photos when I want to. And gradually my backlog is starting to recede, and that is a really good feeling.
In an upcoming post I will talk about some of the benefits of processing old photos with the new software and will show some examples. Sorry, but that will have to wait while I work on some more photos!
I’ve recently begun a project to go back and “finish” processing photos from prior years that I never got around to finishing. These are photos that I had marked as “Picks” but for many reasons just never took the time to finish. It’s been an interesting project so far, and there have been a few photos that, now that I have gone back and looked at them again, are ones that I wonder how I overlooked.
I’ll write about the details in a future post, but my Lightroom catalog contained more than 8,000 photos that had Pick flags but had not been processed. That number is miniscule by many people’s standards, but it has been a huge personal monkey on my back for a long time, so I decided to do something about it. I finished 2011, then decided to go back to the Beginning of Time. So far I’ve completed 2005 and the number is now down to 6,700. Woo-Hoo! 😉
2005 was a good year. I purchased my first digital SLR, a Canon 20D along with a few lenses in April that year. We traveled to the Smokies early that year, and I have a few decent photos from there and spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In May we headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week. We also spent some time in the mountains later in the month.
In July we took the first of our two trips to Alaska, this one to celebrate our 25th anniversary. That was a Really Big Deal, and I brought back a few decent photographs.
After that it was back to North Carolina, mostly the mountains in the fall, a cruise and that was about it. It was a fairly “light” year as far as photos are concerned, and my Lightroom catalog for 2005 now contains only 755 photos. I was still shooting film then, and there are about 90 scanned slides in a different folder. Chances are if I ever decide to use any of those they will need to be rescanned, since I don’t think they are up to today’s standards. Plus, the more I work with digital files the less I want to work with the old film scans.
My conclusion after looking at all these files is that I was still a very “subject oriented” photographer back then. I made a lot of documentary shots, with a few of them showing signs of what I feel I am looking at today. Considering that I was just learning digital photography and really just getting started in photography in general, it shows that I still had a lot to learn but had a pretty decent start.
Generally when I am in the process of taking a photograph, I have a basic idea what it is going to look like when I am finished processing it. When I’m sitting at the computer working on an image, it just sort of “develops itself.” Most of the time the direction I need to go with an becomes pretty clear to me. I open up an image in Lightroom, work on it a bit, and after a few basic tweaks it is pretty much done. Unless I’m going to make a print, there isn’t a whole lot more I do.
This particular photograph has me a little perplexed. I processed it exactly how I expected to. It’s a little more processed than usual, but there’s quite a lot of dynamic range going on here. But for some reason, I just can’t seem to get comfortable with it. There’s nothing really “wrong” with it, in fact a lot of people would probably wish that they had taken it themselves. But for some reason I am struggling with it.
It’s a typical Cowee Mountains Overlook sunset. It’s got a nice sky, detail in the foreground, and there’s a lot going on. Too much, I think. It is a very “busy” image, as opposed to a lot of my photographs that are a bit more simplified. I’ve definitely processed it a lot more than I usually process an image. Maybe that’s it, I’m not sure.
I think the thing that I keep coming back to is that it doesn’t seem like it’s mine. It’s the sort of landscape photograph that I’ve taken for years, but I just can’t seem to connect with this one. No, I didn’t switch memory cards with someone by mistake, but it’s just such a departure from the type of photography I’ve been doing recently that I may just have to spend some time with it to figure it out. In the mean time, it just doesn’t feel like my style, and I find that interesting.
I’m still not convinced that this is the successful photograph I thought it would be when I made the frames, but I’ve enjoyed working on this one. I originally envisioned a high-contrast, low-saturation photo and thought it might work in monochrome, but (a) I think I’ll always be a color sort of guy, (b) I never did get the hang of what a black & white photo is “supposed” to look like, and (c) I might not be working on a good enough example. Hard to say.
I think it’s a pretty interesting scene. It’s a little cluttered, but I feel it has good balance and good light. In the post sunset twilight I was trying to capture an old-timey look that would suggest a vintage photograph, although not necessarily black & white, rather than one taken with a new-fangled digital camera.
I recently sold a couple of prints to a repeat customer, and before I made the prints I went back over the files, as I often do, and made a few tweaks to take advantage of a more recent version of Lightroom than I used when I originally processed the photos a few years ago. As I was going through my library, specifically the folder where one of those prints resides, I went back and looked at some of the other photos in that folder. As often happens, a number of my “picks” for that day hadn’t been processed, and I was playing around to see what some of them might look like processed. I came across this version that I think I like even better than the first. It is a different flower, but the composition and the lighting make it a bit more dramatic than my original favorite. I made a small print of this one, but think I may have to go a little larger and make one to hang on the wall.
My “former favorite” is below. I’ll be interested in thoughts on how the two compare.