Curve Ahead

Curve Ahead, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I went to visit the parents this past November and Dad took us driving around the county with the express purpose of finding some interesting photographs. This was a happy accident and another in my "Through the Windshield" series. (OK, it's not a real series. But it does seem to be a trend.)

I love roads and driving so I personally enjoy the feeling of this shot. Your milage may vary.

A bit of work went into this, believe it or not. The image was rotated a bit clockwise and then cropped to focus on the road and avoid some power lines. I removed some distracting elements, made some targeted exposure adjustments, curves adjustments and then sharpened with Topaz Detail 2.

The End Of The Year 2010

Well another year has passed and the things many of us wanted to do at the beginning of the year have either been completed, are partially done or have been completely forgotten about.

One of my personal goals was to get my online presence more firmly established.  I am a geek after all, and one would assume I have the "street cred" to back that up.  No blog?  No Twitter?  No way!  So I think I've done an adequate job working towards that end.

My goal for 2011 is to kick things into a higher gear with more personally created content like editorials and tutorials.  Maybe even include some video.  And maybe some merch.  Who's up for some digital monkey love?  (Don't answer that!)

Regardless, if you read the blog as either a regular or someone who just happened upon it, I thank you and would love to hear more from you either through the blog comments system or via @tomgehrke on Twitter.

Except for you (and you know who you are).

So even though this is a little early...

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My Dizzy iPod App

I admit that I am an Apple fan. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of the fact. It is what it is. Frankly, I'm an equal opportunity geek. As such I see a lot of pros and cons in technology from lots of sources. That said, this is going to be a gripe about the iPod app that Apple puts on their iDevices.

My first complaint is that after several years, the iPod app still does not have a landscape mode. Granted, portrait is a better orientation for the vertical way that the menus/listings are laid out, but reformatting for landscape navigation should not be that difficult.

This, however, is relatively minor. I've gotten pretty good at navigating with everything rotated 90 degrees. It's a little silly, but not rant-worthy.

The big problem I have is this.  My iPhone is on a stand, in landscape.  Presumably it knows that it is horizontal.  It is a smartphone, right? So when a video starts to play, why-oh-why does it play as if the phone is standing vertically?

This is what I see:


So what do I have to do? I must tilt the iPhone back on its stand until it is flat and then roll it back forwards as if to say, "Here, boy! Roll over. Yes. That's it. Who's a good boy?" That's not the experience I want. If it were, I would hit the animal shelter after work.

I guess it is pretty clever of Apple in a way. Since the UI is designed vertically, my guess is that they assume that nobody would be stupid enough to navigate horizontally. If we have to navigate to a video in portrait it just stands to reason that starting the video in portrait makes sense.

Well guess what? I am exactly that stupid.

Now I'll just go listen to the Sword and Laser podcast where there is no video. (And, yes. I'm obviously a Tom Merritt fan.)

My Blackberry Is Not Working! [BBC]

On the off chance you have not seen this video yet. It's smart and funny and, of course, from the BBC.

Pensive Pachyderm

Pensive Pachyderm, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I really love the texture and coloring on this elephant I photographed at the Memphis Zoo this past year. So when processing the image, I really wanted to bring out the roughness of skin and gradation of color. I used Photomatix, Topaz Adjust and several adjustment layers in Photoshop to come up with the final image.

What's Next For Delicious?

I went to see what Yahoo! had in store for Delicious.  The expectation was that the link would pull up an announcement on  a possible sale.  Instead, I got this.


This does not bode well.

Tron: Legacy Soundtrack Deal at Amazon.com



I am listening to this right now and so far so good.  I've been looking forward to the movie for quite a while and this has to hold me over for another 10 days or so.

You can grab the entire album as an MP3 download for just $3.99 in the Amazon store.

Hop on your light-cycle and go get it!

Adobe Updates Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3 and Camera Raw



I woke up today to an update alert.  Apparently Adobe has a little pre-Christmas present for everyone who owns Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3.  Here is the breakdown:

Adobe Photoshop CS5 (12.0.2)

  • A number of potential security vulnerabilities have been addressed
  • Top type and font crashers found in the field have been addressed
  • A number of performance issues have been addressed
  • Crash opening 3D layers has been addressed
  • Color Engine crash has been resolved
  • Intermittent file format issues addressed
  • Shift scrolling bug fixed
  • Sharpen crasher fixed
  • Marching ants not seen at certain zoom levels fixed
  • Metadata focus distance issue addressed
  • File info bug addressed for Orphea Studio jpg's
  • TWAIN crashers fixed
  • Brush cursor bug fixed
  • Histogram progress bar issue fixed
  • Droplet issues addressed

Lightroom (3.3)


  • Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Canon PowerShot 95, Nikon D7000, Olympus E-5.
  • Corrections for issues introduced in previous versions of Lightroom 3
If your updater isn't working, you can grab the updates at the link below.

Space Battleship Yamato Clip

This clip from the Japanese movie "Space Battleship Yamato" (based on the anime of the same name) looks... AWESOME!  Granted, it's in Japanese.  But you don't need to understand the language in order to appreciate the coolness.

This clip shows the initial launch of the Yamato and the initiation of the firing sequence for the Wave Motion Gun.


For comparison, here is the scene from the original.

Coming Home

Coming Home, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I took this photo on my way home from visiting the parents this past Thanksgiving. It is an HDR image that started as four separate exposures shot with my iPhone 4, cropped and then processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Topaz Denoise, Adjust and Detail.

It all started as an iPhone HDR experiment that I blogged about the other day. As I played around in Photomatix with the non-HDR original exposures that the iPhone keeps, the scene really started to grow on me.

The Cars of James Bond Infographic

I love cars, James Bond (in a manly way, of course) and infographics. CarInsurance.org has just the thing for that. Trifecta!

History of Bond Cars

Two Great Tastes....

I use LastPass and I've always been intrigued by Xmarks, but never made the jump because I was primarily using Firefox/Weave at the time. When I started spending more time in Chrome, Xmarks was on the way out.

Looks like I may have a second chance.

LastPass Acquires Xmarks, Keeping Free Bookmark-Syncing Plans Available

Exposing for the Best iPhone HDR Results

I realize that iPhone HDR is old news, but since my original iPhone HDR article is the most viewed posting, I thought I might take another stab at things.  This time with a little more of a serious look.

The point of my original post was to say that while HDR is a useful built-in option, it still requires some basic understanding to use effectively.  I want to follow that up by taking a look at one way to improve your in camera HDR photo taking: Exposure.

Exposure is key to HDR photography.  Multiple shots are taken at different exposures and then merged in a way that results in an image with more detail than the individual pictures have.  When done manually, one might target the exposure for each image to capture detail in a specific area.  For instance, with one image you might underexpose the image to pull out the details in what would normally be an overexposed sky and with another you might overexpose to pull out detail in a rock formation seen in deep shadow.  Unfortunately, because the iPhone completely automates the over/underexposed captures, all you have control over is the "normal/middle" exposure.

The question I had is whether or not the iPhone's autoexposure was the best starting point for a good HDR result.

The Exposure Test

iPhone HDR Exposure Test


Photo 3 is pretty close to where the iPhone set the exposure and the HDR result is not horrible.  As I mentioned in my previous article, iOS HDR works well to correct some common exposure problems.  But can we do better?

The exposure point for Photo 1 was set to the brightest area.  This, not surprisingly, underexposes the rest of the frame.  The iPhone does a decent job at pulling back some detail.

For Photo 2, I set the exposure point to a darker area of the sky.  The result is a dark original and pretty good detail in the HDR.  The foreground might be a little darker than I would like, but there is detail there that you don't get in any of the other HDR images.

Photo 4 was exposed based on the extreme foreground area.  The sky in the original is completely washed out.  Again, very much like Photo 1 (except at the other end of the light range), iOS HDR pulled back some of the detail in the sky, but could not get it all.

Photos 2 and 3 are obviously the best of the bunch.  Just eyeballing, my preference was leaning more towards the manually exposed Photo 2 versus the auto exposed Photo 3.  This was due in part to the amount of perceived detail as well as the white balance.

Clipping Results

While this was all somewhat interesting, I was also curious about how much clipping was occurring at both the low and high ends.  Keep in mind that the iPhone spits out an 8-bit JPG so you are not getting the full range of values.  Clipped pixels represent image data that is gone forever.

iPhone HDR Exposure Test - Clipping


The iPhone seems to do a pretty good job at avoiding clipping at the low end.  Surprisingly so (at least to me).

In Photo 1, I expected deeper blacks considering the original was so underexposed to start with.  I suspect that the iPhone did not use it at all.

Photo 4 obviously has heavy clipping at the high end.

I was a little surprised at the difference between Photos 2 and 3.  I actually expected more high-end clipping in Photo 2.  So I am still partial to Photo 2.  Opinions will vary for numerous reasons and I could be convinced otherwise with a good argument.  Feel free to leave comments with your thoughts.

Conclusions

It appears that auto exposed images can result in a reasonable final product.  Not surprising given Apple's "it just works" reputation.  However, I have seen nothing to change my opinion that understanding how Apple has implemented their in camera HDR is important to getting the best results possible.

The fact that low end clipping is minimal in all of these leads me to think that I might start edging more towards underexposing to make sure I get as much detail in the high end as possible.

Epilogue

On a whim, I grabbed all of the original images and had Photomatix handle the HDR.  I did very little tweaking other than adjusting for some ghosting due to some cloud movement.  It's an interesting comparison.

iPhone HDR Exposure Test - Originals

Update 12/3/2010:

I did a little more tweaking on the Photomatix processed version.  Check out the results.

The Cape

This seems interesting. The effects aren't great and it looks a little cheesy, but that's never stopped me from enjoying shows and movies in the past. "The Cape" appears to be a low-budget take on Moon Knight and Batman.

Hey, it can't be worse that a lot of what NBC has been pushing lately. Right?

Mission Trip

This Thanksgiving I am taking a mission trip.  The destination?  Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The goal?  Bringing technology to the Amish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

As I wing my way back to Lancaster, PA to visit the parents, I thought I would share a photograph that I took back in 2007. This is another one of my "I was too lazy to get out of the van so I took the picture through the windshield" shots.

Processing-wise, this was mostly some level adjustments. (Through the windshield shots tend to be low-contrast.) I added a very slight DoF blur and vignette to try to bring some depth back. (Through the windshield shots also tend to be very flat.)

Mazda Design Change [AutoWeek]

I am something of an automotive enthusiast. While I'm not the kind that can tell you the displacement of a 1972 Dodge Whatchamacallit, I like to look at, read about and pretend to drive cars.

I also have an artsy side (in a totally masculine way, of course) and I have a deep appreciation for a car's appearance.

The past few years I've noticed that the most head-turning vehicles (and I'm talking more about standard day-to-day drivers) have come from Japan. Mainly Nissan and Mazda. One thing I did not realize until I saw this article from AutoWeek is that Mazda has a named "design philosophy". In retrospect, I should not be surprised by this.

So begins the transition from "Nagare" (flow) to kodo (soul of motion). And based on the Shinari concept (pictured above), it's right up my alley. (With the exception of the corner "intakes" in the front fascia.  Ew.)

Race on to the AutoWeek site to read more!

After much hype (and one van), Mazda rethinks design plan

Frolicking Bear Cub

Frolicking Bear Cub, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Memphis was pretty toasty in May and since we are well into Fall at this point, I'm already missing the warmth. This bear cub wasn't feeling the heat at all as he romped in the watering hole that the zoo had provided for him and his brother. Or sister or cousin. I'm not really up on the genealogy of this particular bear family. Not that I keep up with other bear families, mind you.

Needless to say, get me near water with a camera and I am all over it. Throw in a cute animal (yet still dangerous, I'm sure) and one can hardly go wrong in my book. Well, hopefully not.

And thank goodness for long lenses.

So this picture got the Photomatix treatment to increase the tonal range. (Frankly, I believe a curve adjustment in Photoshop would have done just as well.) I then added a very slight lens blur to the background to add to what was already there because I felt that it was still a little distracting. Some burning of the background and edges to make the bear stand out and a bit of Topaz Detail 2 in spots (mainly the face and water splashes) finished things up.

Resting Wolf

Resting Wolf, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

This photograph was taken at the Memphis Zoo this past May.

I used Photomatix 4 to increase the dynamic range. I then I made some targeted exposure and curve adjustments. A touch of lens blur to increase the DoF just a bit and the application of Topaz' Detail 2 filter on the face finished things up.

Guarding the Pass

Guarding the Pass
Guarding the Pass, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

More from the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.

I went ahead and purchased Photomatix for some HDR processing. Of all of the options available, it seems to be the defacto gold standard for quality.

The pictures I took at the GotG were with HDR processing in mind. So while most of them were handheld (versus tripod), I did use bracketed exposures (0, +2, -2) with the hope that the software could compensate for any camera movement.

At any rate, I will be posting more of the results of this learning experience as I find the time to go through my shots.

Peeking Through

Peeking Through, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I recently took a bunch of photos at the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois (not to be confused with the Garden of the Gods in Colorado). This picture was partially an experiment in some "non-obvious" HDR. I created it as a black and white image because I have a thing for interesting textures and nothing brings that out more than getting rid of those distracting colors (said the colorblind guy).

GoldenEye The Story Behind the Scenes

I'm still looking forward to seeing the Goldeneye remake on the Wii.  It was the "gold standard" for first person shooters on the N64 and my friends and I spent countless hours screaming and shooting at each other.  All in good fun, I assure you!

So to whet your appetite, check out this behind the scenes look at what should be coming next week (with any luck)!

Watch it!

"Rhythmic Circus" at West Kentucky Community and Technical College

RC07, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

On October 23, 2010, "Rhythmic Circus" performed at the Clemens Fine Arts Center at West Kentucky Community and Technical College. And while I did not come prepared to take photographs, I made the best of the gear I had with me (the only lens with me was the 70-300mm).

So check out the entire Flickr set as I continue to update it over the next few days.

Free Software - Adobe Lightroom Presets by onOne Software

Our friends at onOne have put together a little Halloween present for us.  OK, so it's probably not for Halloween, but it is free.  Those of us who use Lightroom will appreciate the 190 presets that help you to "correct color and tone" and "easily add creative effects".

Even if you want complete control over the image development process, these presets offer at least a decent starting point.

Go bag it!

Adobe Lightroom Presets - onOne Software

How I Cancelled My Xbox Live Gold Subscription

It was a long time coming, but I finally cancelled my Xbox Live Gold subscription. The only reason I upgraded from Silver to Gold was for the Netflix support.  This was before Netflix started showing up in every set-top box, TV and toaster.  I have been meaning to downgrade for a while, but Microsoft does not make it easy to do.  At least they make it much easier for me to give them money than they do for me to keep it.

Today Sony updated PS3's to allow streaming of Netflix without the use of a disc.  Today I decided that I wanted to keep my money.  Especially in light of recent rate announcements from Microsoft.  Considering how ubiquitous Netflix has become, I wonder how Microsoft can justify its inclusion in the higher tier option.  I suspect that I am probably one of a minority who subscribed solely for Netflix.

But I digress.

If you have enabled the auto-renewal option of your Xbox Live account and you wish to cancel that, the following should help you find your way.

First, sign into your account by pointing your browser to http://live.xbox.com.  Once signed in, click on the Contact Information link.


On the left-hand side, under the "My Account" section, click the Membership Level link.


Now on the page you see before you, it gets a little tricky.  Or maybe it's just me because I am colorblind.  My eyes immediately go to the area that says "Modify Membership".  There are some obvious form controls there with a radio button to select an option and then a "Next" button.  This is a red herring.  Your eyes need to scan up the page a bit to the status area that describes your current membership information.  The text next to the "Automatic renewal" label is what you want.  This is actually a link.  Click it and ignore the form entirely.


Now don't be confused that the resulting page gives you little indication of the action you are attempting to perform.  Apparently this is an attempt to distract you from completing your objective.  Do not fall for it.  Click the Next button.


You successfully avoided that trap, but now they take another tack.  Maybe, just maybe, you didn't realize what you were asking for when you clicked the auto-renewal status link.  You silly person, you.  

Failing to entice you into changing to a different paid subscription plan, they would finally really, really like to talk to you about this decision you have so steadfastly been trying to make.

Click Next and laugh maniacally.  (The laughing is optional, but highly recommended.)


Finally, some options directly relating to the task at hand!  Select the Off radio button and then click Next.


If all went according to plan, you should see some confirmation.


And if you check your Membership Level again, you can see that the auto-renewal status is now "OFF" and the text is no longer clickable.


It's a piece of cake once you know how it's done.

I hate companies that make things more complicated in order to keep you tied into a service or try to up-sell you by injecting needless steps into the process.  I understand why it's done, and I won't go so far as to say it's evil, but I do think it is an insulting practice and it is a terrible idea from a customer service perspective.

Or maybe the experience here is a simple case of poor user interface design and I am reading too much into things.

Regardless, if you were looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope this helps you find your way out.

Feed Your Reader Needs With Feedly

Occasionally I am asked how I keep up with the latest news in geekery and my other favorite pastimes. One of the tools in my box is a browser extension called Feedly.

If you already use Google Reader as a feed aggregator, then you are 99% of the way there.  Visit the Feedly site at http://www.feedly.com and install the extension for your browser.  Then as long as you were logged into Google Reader already, you will see your feeds formatted much like a magazine or news paper.

There are several options for viewing your feeds, but my current preference is the digest view where I get several articles groups according to my Google subscription groups.  It's a great way to find what's new and relevant in bite-sized pieces rather than having to slog through an ever growing, chronological list.

Expanding an article marks it as read, but you can also mark entire groupings as read or all of the articles linked on the page.  Perfect for catching up and getting rid of those duplicate postings that say much the same thing.

A picture being worth a thousand words, you can go from this...


To this...


Not bad!

Throw in the ability to pull in your Twitter timeline and a few Flickr photos and it's well worth the price of admission.  Oh yes.  That price is free.

Take a taste and give Feedly a try right now!

Which Internet Enabled Set-Top Box Should You Buy?

I have started a Google spreadsheet with comparisons of the latest streaming media devices (Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, etc.) and I am making it available for anyone interested.  There are several view options, but I am linking to the List view because that give you the capability to do column filtering and sorting.

Internet Connected Media Device Comparison Spreadsheet

Leave me comments if you find problems or want anything added.  This is a work in progress.

Also Feel free to contact me on Twitter.

Superman II Recut Ending

Found this through Boing Boing this morning and it made me laugh. Definitely a more realistic alternative to the infamous "amnesia kiss".


It also reminded me how cheesy the movie was. The music. The acting. And come on... Superman tripping over a bear skin rug? Really?

Tiltshift in Lightroom [Lightroom Blog]

I have to say that it never occurred to me to using Lightroom for tiltshifting. My Photoshop technique can get a little complicated depending upon the scene, but for a typical, basic effect this works extremely well. What's more is that this is a non-destructive (no pixels were harmed in the making of this image).

Tilt away!

Tiltshift in Lightroom - Lightroom Blog

Hands Up!

Hands Up!, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Another one of my animal friends from the Memphis Zoo. Gotta love the orangutans.

Ten Adobe Lightroom Tips - [NYTimes]

I have been using Lightroom more and more in my workflows and find that I have the most success if I do as much as possible in Lightroom before moving on to Photoshop. By following some of these tips, you may very well find that, for some images, Photoshop becomes unnecessary.

Ten Photo-Editing Tips From a Pro - NYTimes.com

Review the Gmail Security Checklist

I have been extra sensitive to my security online recently and have been taking steps to ensure the safety of all of my accounts.  Gmail is a big one, obviously.  Good news.  Google very kindly provides a wizard-like, 18 item checklist to help with the task.  I highly recommend reviewing it if you are a Gmail user.

Batten down those hatches!

Gmail Security Checklist

Welcome to the Future: Introducing eLEGS

I have been a little slow in posting things for my "Welcome to the Future" (WttF) articles where I try to point out things that may seem somewhat normal today, but which just a few years ago were the stuff of science fiction.  So when I came across the following announcement from Berkeley Bionics, thought it was interesting and then considered just moving on, I had second thoughts.

Now any of us who were around during the 70's probably remember the Bionic Man (and spin-offs).  An astronaut has an accident and parts of his body are replaced with mechanical components.  So we aren't quite there yet, but cross that concept with what we're seeing in the Iron Man movies of today and you end up with some pretty cool technology just the same.

This started out with military applications such as HULC, but there are some day-to-day, quality of life applications as well.  The following video was not only interesting from a technology standpoint, but you can really see how it impacts people who "yesterday" had little to no hope for ever walking again.


Introducing eLEGS – see the personal exoskeleton in action | Berkeley Bionics

Simianus Digitalus

Simianus Digitalus
Simianus Digitalus, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

The site mascot. Hopefully will be incorporating him into a blog "rebranding".

View Art Masterpieces In HD [Haltadefinizione]

There are quite a few iconic works of art. Many of us will never get to see them in person and the best we might do is a printed poster or whatever postage stamp sized image we find online. Until now.

The Haltadefinizione project is making available online, high definition photographs of such works as "The Last Supper" by da Vinci, "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli and several others.

Fraser Speir's iPad Project

One of the more interesting things I've gotten to do at work lately is to try to incorporate some Apple technology into our infrastructure.  As a fan of Apple, this is both exciting and a little disappointing.  Since they are so consumer oriented, the options to manage The Apple Ecosystem(tm) from an enterprise perspective are pretty limited.

That said, Apple products do offer many possibilities in non-consumer areas.  One of these areas is in Education where they have traditionally had some success.

Fraser Speirs is a software developer who teaches Computing at a school in Scotland where they have loaned out iPads to every single student.  If you are a fan of seeing technology used in new and interesting ways, you owe it to yourself to follow Mr. Speirs' blog.  Many of the issues he has come across, I have seen myself and some of their lessons learned can be applied in other areas.

Watch Out, Zombies!

I see my productivity taking a hit with Left 4 Dead 2 coming out this Tuesday (October 5, 2010). I already own it on the Windows side, but rarely cranked it up since it was a pain to shut down everything I was working on to Boot Camp it.

The Sacrifice

Photography Tips from National Geographic

Where better to get some photography tips than from the people known for consistently creating both gorgeous and compelling images.  I'm talking about National Geographic, of course.  Follow the link below and prepare to be inspired.
Photo Tips, Photos, Galleries, Videos, Photography - National Geographic

3D Star Wars? Are you kidding me?

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that George Lucas is planning on re-re-re-re-re-re... re... re-leasing Star Wars in 3D. Really? Because the 3D experience in Avatar proved that 3D was viable. Really? All of this despite the evidence that movies filmed for 2D and then later converted tend to... well... suck.

Is my incredulity coming through here? This is the same George Lucas who refused to release Star Wars on DVD for years after the format could be considered viable. So next year you will finally get the movies on Blu-Ray and then the following year will start the 3D super-duper, extra special, pad George's retirement fund edition releases.

I swore off the entire Lucasverse years ago. He is more than welcome to run his business however he likes, but my personal opinion is that I think he lost whatever he had years ago. I was already annoyed by the double/triple/etc. dipping that was going on back in the VHS days and the ridiculous prequels (of which I only saw Phantom Menace) and his... "reimagining" of the original three movies only cemented my disdain for the entire franchise.

Like many children of the 70's, I was a huge Star Wars fan and I have fond memories of those days. But those days are gone and there is no going back. I will mourn those days as much as any pop culture icon deserves to be mourned and move on.

OK. I'm done.

'Star Wars' saga set for 3D release starting 2012

Creating Backgrounds for the iPad

I know what you're thinking.  Any picture can be a background.  The iPad lets me pick something from my Picture Library, move and scale it.  How hard can it be?  No wait.  You are thinking that backgrounds on the iPad are silly.  At least those that are so busy looking that the app icons get lost.

OK.  Fine.  So I don't know what you're thinking.  But it doesn't matter.  This is supposed to be about what I am thinking anyway.

The iPad screen is 1024x768 and you might imagine that any 1024x768 image will do the job.  The problem is that the iPad screen is also 768x1024.  Confused?  Basically, this is the difference between Landscape and Portrait orientations.  So we need to create an image that is as large as each orientation's longest side.  A 1024x1024 picture is what we need.

This piece of information might be all you care about at this point.  But if you are like me, you will soon realize that there is another factor to consider.  Apple overlays three bars across the backgrounds (at least on the lock screen): the status bar (where the carrier, signal strength, etc. is displayed), the time and date area and the unlock bar.  We probably want the most interesting parts of our backgrounds to miss these areas and remain unobscured.

And one more twist.  The size of these bars are different (both height and width) depending on the orientation.  Lovely.

Confused yet?  Well a picture is worth a thousand words (lucky for you).



Click the image to see it full sized.  You might even want to save it somewhere to use as a template.
If you decide to use this as a template, you can overlay a picture on top of it and reduce the opacity enough to see the boxes.  By scaling and resizing  your image to completely fill the 1024x1024 square while keeping the "important" bits inside the "sweet spot" area, you should end up with a background that works reasonably well in either orientation.



And the following shows the end result in both Portrait and Landscape.



Of course, you can always just guestimate.

The background used above is called Seagull Cyanotype and can be found in my Flickr iPad Backgrounds set.

ENHANCE! [Gizmodo]

One of my pet peeves in movies and TV is where the Authorities are reviewing video footage to find clues regarding the perpetration of some crime.  Invariably, the local cameras have been taken out, but the criminals neglected to account for the convenience store camera across the street.

So with this grainy, low-resolution picture, the super-smart police person/detective/android points to a portion of the screen, barks out some coordinates and yells ENHANCE!  And wonder of wonders, through the magic of whatever technology is available to the Powers That Be, details are created ex nihilo.

It's enough to make one weep.

Enter Adobe with some plenoptic lens technology and this is not a completely farfetched scenario.  OK, it still is.  But this is almost as cool anway.

ENHANCE! [Gizmodo]

If you have no interest in lenses, then at least enjoy this sketch with the crew from Red Dwarf.

Top Ten Myths of Copyright, Plus One [Pixiq]

Thought this was a pretty interesting post regarding copyright.

Top Ten Myths of Copyright, Plus One | Pixiq

Frankly, between this and the reported issues with Creative Commons, I'm not sure there is any reasonable way to protect one's creations.  Then again, I'm not even sure how much protection I need or want.

Feedly Is Having Problems

Feedly is a service/browser extension that creates a magazine-like view of your Google Reader feeds.  I love it and whenever I have to be without it for some reason, it makes me sad.

This is one of those times.  They appear to be having some technical difficulties based on the tweets I saw from them yesterday and the default Apache page from their web server.


But hang in there.  This is the first major outage I have experienced with them so I am inclined to cut them some slack.  In fact, when they are back up I might just throw together a quick review for those of you unfamiliar with them.

Check it out!  (But not right this minute.)

http://feedly.com

UPDATE - 2010/09/26 2:20pm CDT
Looks like everything is back up and running.

Blu-Ray Picture Quality Rankings


I came across this today and as an HD snob, it seems to me to be a very useful resource.  Basically, this forum posting is updated with listings of Blu-Ray releases grouped by picture quality rankings.  If you care about getting the best looking releases possible, you will want to keep the following link bookmarked.

The New PQ Tier Thread for Blu-Ray - Rankings - AVS Forum



Old Columbia Marquee

Old Columbia Marquee, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I'm somewhat fixated on the Columbia theater in downtown Paducah, KY. I wish it were a living, breathing business instead of a reminder of what was.

The things that really stand out to me are the metal, glass and terra cotta bricks and decorations. I would love to see what it looked like at night with the neon, signs and lights on.

An Apples Versus Androids Comparison

I am not an Android hater by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, while I have never touched an Android phone, I would love to have one to play with.  Unfortunately, I am not independently wealthy and I'm not sure what I would do with another phone.  But I digress.

Today Android 2.2 (aka "Froyo") was released for the Droid X on Verizon.  And this is a Big Deal.

What confuses me is that Android 2.2 was released around the end of May.  The Droid X was released by Verizon in mid-July (that's about a month and a half later) and it had Android 2.1 installed.  So today, at nearly the end of September, the phone finally gets the latest and greatest.

So for the last four months we poor iPhone users have had to endure the shame of not having features that come with Android 2.2 when 2.2 has only existed on all Android-based handsets in potentia?

My problem is that it appears that different standards are applied depending on which phone OS camp you sit in.  So I can't install any application I want on my iPhone without jailbreaking it (which I refuse to do), but I can install iOS updates pretty much the day they are released.  "Open" apparently means different things to different people.

The reality is that each phone OS ecosystem has its pros and cons.  Let's stop pretending that Apple and Google (and RIM, Microsoft, etc.) are fighting a battle over ideals.  Ideals might make for great marketing, but ultimately it's about how much cash these companies are raking in that matters most to them.

15 Years of Internet Explorer Logo Design


This article from the Internet Explorer team blog is a pretty interesting look at how much thought goes into some of the most basic things that most of us never even consider.  If you have any interest in logo design, this is a great peek behind the curtain.

User Experiences: Evolving the blue “e” - IEBlog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

TinkerTool Updated


TinkerTool is a utility for Macs that allows you to easily configure hidden OS features.  It's pretty handy even if you only use it for one or two things.  Here is a rundown of the latest changes.
  • Added preference for Snow Leopard and iTunes 10 to use a standard window with title bar and horizontal buttons for controlling iTunes.
  • Added preference for Apple Mail to prefer the plain text alternative when displaying messages.
  • Added preference for the Dock of Leopard and Snow Leopard to automatically hide all other applications when using the Dock to switch to or launch an application.
  • Added preference for Safari 4 and 5 to disable all RSS features.
  • Changed the layout of the General pane to enhance compatibility with small screens. The Dashboard settings have moved from the General to the Applications pane.
  • Changed the layout of the Snow Leopard pane to enhance compatibility with small screens.
  • Enhanced compatibility with Safari 5.
  • Corrected a problem where reactivation of deactivated login items was not working as expected in Leopard and Snow Leopard.
You can find a complete change log here - TinkerTool: What's new?

Personally, it's worth the download just to put those iTunes buttons back where they belong.

So go get it!


Terry Pratchett, Author and... Swordsmith?! [News.com.au]

Terry Pratchett is my favorite author.  Ever.  His output is incredible just in terms of the number of books he has released.  We are talking some quality stuff here.  I own a good percentage of his catalog (mainly Discworld novels, naturally) and have read most of them several times at least.  I am a huge fan and I have to say that the following story does not really surprise me in the least.
Go, Sir Terry!

Terry Pratchett creates a sword with meteorites | News.com.au

Star Blazers the Movie Trailer [YouTube]

Oh, how I hope this ends up coming to the States as a subtitled Blu-Ray!

Fonts! Get Your Free Fonts!

I love a good font and there are are a plethora of options out there, but if you want to avoid the seedy underbelly of font trafficking, you will probably want to give FontPark a try.  They offer tens of thousands of non-commercial fonts so the odds that you will find something that works for you are pretty good.

Follow the linkage below for more information.

Free fonts for both commercial and noncommercial use | FontPark.net

Get Off My Back!

Get Off My Back, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I took this picture of King Louis IX in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum and was disappointed to find that I had completely blown the focus. Instead of Louis being sharp, his horse's head was the focal point. Ugh!

But when I looked at the horse, I was struck by a funny thought (funny to me, at least). So I just kind of went with it, defocused Louis even more and then made adjustments to make Mr. Ed even more prominent.

Probably not my best work, but it beats leaving something on the cutting room floor (figuratively speaking).

Plus, the sentiment seems all to common lately.

So Why *Are* Apple iPhone Users Slow to Upgrade?

Localytics poses this question. Why are Apple iPhone Users Slow to Upgrade?

image

I think this is the wrong question.  It is way too generalized.  All this study seems to show is a comparison between 3GS users going from iOS 3.x to 4.0 and Android users going from 2.1 to 2.2.  When framed that way, there are several answers that seem obvious.

Unless you are synching your iPhone regularly, people may not realize there is an update.  An OTA upgrade is more "in your face".  The study actually does point this out and that was the point of this graph given the "Benefit of OTA upgrades" caption.

Next, one upgrade represents a move to a completely new version and the other is a point release.  People seem more incline to jump right into incremental upgrades because the perception is that there is less chance that something major will break.

In a related thought, Apple's application ecosystem might have something to do with this.  A full version upgrade is more likely to cause issues with applications already being used.  A delay to allow developers the opportunity to get apps tested, updated and into the app store seems likely.

And finally, there is the matter of the return on investment.  Is the time it takes to download and install the update and the risk that something will break worth the perceived benefits.  There seemed to be, in general, a higher level of satisfaction with iOS 3.x than there was for Android 2.1.  Add to this the amount of time between Android 2.2's release and when it was actually pushed out.  It was clear that 2.2 offered huge improvements over 2.1 so that by the time the update trickled out, everyone was primed to grab it.

I love statistics (actually I love the graphical representation of data), but I'm not sure this is an apples to Apples comparison (pun intended).

Free Photoshop Addon - Photoshop Edge FX 2.0

This add-on for Photoshop adds some nice border effects to your images.  It seems fairly straightforward and appears to allow you go create your own borders and effects if so inclined.

Oh!  And did I mention that it's free?

Photoshop Edge FX 2.0 - Enhance your photos!

iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back [Gizmodo]

This pretty much sums things up for me so far. Folders and threaded conversations in mail, FTW!

As mentioned in the article, Netflix is a bit wonky, but those are the kind of issues that these developer releases are designed to weed out.

iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back

Like A Dove

Like A Dove, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Broadway United Methodist Church in downtown Paducah, Kentucky.

This is a HDR image created from two exposures using Photoshop CS5's new HDR Pro feature.

Art of the Title Sequence

A buddy of mine sent me a link to a really interesting site.  While some movies may jump right into the action and give you title credits that are either easily missed or obnoxiously apparent, some make the entire title sequence almost a little featurette that is quite engaging on its own.

The Art of the Title Sequence site showcases these gems.  Thanks for the link, Todd!

Art of the Title Sequence

Seagull Cyanotype

Seagull Cyanotype, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Seagulls are nasty, mean birds that are a plague upon any town that borders water. But then they can be so darn pretty sometimes. Stupid birds.

Captured this one flying over the waters of Lake Erie off a pier in Sandusky, Ohio. Granted, it's probably cliche' and boring, but that's the thing about photography. You're allowed to be cliche' and boring. I hesitated to do anything with this picture because of that, but I liked how it made me feel and thought there might be one or two people out there who would agree.

If you want to use this as wallpaper or a background on your desktop, iPad or iPhone, use the links below.

iPhone Background | iPad Background | Complete Wallpaper Pack

Old Guardian

Old Guardian, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

This tree was growing right in the middle of the path and for some reason it really stood out to me.

So this is actually a composite of two shots taken at different exposures. It's not a HDR image, but I did use a slightly underexposed shot to pull a little detail back into some overblown areas.

The DoF blur is actually real for once (I didn't add it in Photoshop). Otherwise, there were some channel and curve adjustments made as I converted the original color image to black and white.

Acme Barber

Acme Barber, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I love finding these little slices of Americana. This was taken in downtown Sandusky, Ohio on a trip to Cedar Point. I enjoy the colors in the bricks and the neon sign, but there is something that is iconic in a good, old-fashioned barber pole.

It also amuses me to think that this must be where Wile E. Coyote gets his hair cut.

Hipstamatic Competition Results [ACMP]

The Australian Commercial and Media Photographers just completed a photography competition which required using the iPhone camera and the app Hipstamatic.  Check out the winners and then go review all of the entries for inspiration.

Hipstamatic Competition Results

iPhone HDR Photography Testing

December 1, 2010
You may also be interested in a later article: "Exposing for the Best iPhone HDR Results"

If you are anything like me (Heaven help you), then you were excited to hear about the built in option for High Dynamic Range (HDR) in the upcoming iOS 4.1 release.  Granted, there are apps that do this now (and very well from what I hear), but to have something reasonably good out of the box would be great for the consumer.  At some point I'm sure there will be comparisons between what you can get in apps and what Apple is offering, but for now I am interested in judging the built-in option on its own merits and flaws.

Anyone who has attempted to create HDR photos in the past by combining multiple images taken at a range of exposures knows that the first thing that needs to be done is to align the images (the software typically handles this).  Almost every time someone explains how to get started you will hear how maintaining a steady camera is crucial and the use of a tripod is strongly recommended.  This is not particularly feasible with the point-and-shoot nature of the iPhone, but to be reasonably successful, Apple needs to make things as fool-proof as possible.

Since I like to start with the hard stuff first, I took some pictures on the way in to the office this morning since the sky was just gorgeous.  (Don't try this at home, kids!)

iPhone HDR Test 1

The top shot is the "original" picture.  It is was the iPhone would have produced without the HDR option enabled.  The bottom shot is the HDR image that the iPhone produced.  You get a good feeling of what the possibilities are.  The ground in the HDR shot has visible detail where in the original the details are way underexposed.

However there are ghosting issues.  Ghosting occurs when the different exposure images have not been aligned properly or if something changed between one shot and the next.  I was curious to see how fast the iPhone camera was while taking its three shots and what it would do, if anything, to ensure proper alignment.  This probably wasn't a fair test.

But I'm not a fair kind of guy!  A quick look at the HDR image above on my iPhone didn't reveal any ghosting on the iPhone display (at least not while driving 60mph) so I figured I would kick things up.

iPhone HDR Test 2

If a car traveling west at 60 miles per hour takes a picture of a truck traveling east at 60 miles per hour, will the picture suck or is the photographer just ridiculous for even trying this?  The answer to both is "yes".  It seems safe to say that the iPhone really tries to get it right even though the result is not particularly usable.

Let me reiterate that these tests were totally unfair.  So why bother?  Because a consumer may think that they can hit the magic Make-My-Picture-Pretty button and just leave HDR enabled all of the time.  I think it's a good bet that most people do not understand the HDR process so their expectations may be set a little high.

I wonder if there is a way for Apple to add something to the camera app that checks for alignment problems based on some threshold and warns the user to review the picture for ghosting or recommend that HDR be disabled if more of the same kind of pictures are going to be taken (e.g. taken from a moving vehicle).

What about something more reasonable?

iPhone HDR Test 3


This is where Apple will really shine with their customers.  In an everyday kind of setting with a very typical problem that people have with regards to exposure, the results here are pretty good.  Foolproof even.

I love the iPhone 4 camera and it's true that the best camera is the one you have with you.  Between the large number of great photography apps and Apple's continued improvements, it's a great time to be a shutterbug.  I cannot wait to keep playing.

My First Computer

In one of the IRC rooms I lurk in, someone asked everyone what the first computer they owned was.  Sadly, I think mine was the crappiest since most of the responses were like 286's or something with a math coprocessor.

So follow the link below and kick it old school.  Chiclet keys, baby!



Mattel Aquarius - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

eBook Paralysis

The linked article almost perfectly presents my concerns about eBooks (and eComics). As consumers we are being corralled into a complete publishing ecosystem. Well, maybe not complete since with the rise of "app-based computing" we are not being tying to hardware platforms. (e.g. I can read a book from Amazon in my Kindle app on my iPad.)

I recognized almost as soon as the iPad was released with the iBookstore that I was going to need to make some choices. Worst case, I would buy a book wherever I could get it and then have to remember which store that was in order to open the appropriate application to consume it.

Going with the best ecosystem would seem to be the answer, but while Amazon has the lead here, the race is still awfully close where Apple is concerned. My inability to make a choice has completely paralyzed me. I have paid money for exactly zero books or comics right now.

Sorry, you can't open that book here – Telegraph Blogs

Photography and Creative Commons

A couple of tweets have come from Scott Bourne (@ScottBourne) in the past couple days regarding giving up control of your images. Specifically when uploading to Facebook. This doesn't really surprise me.

I was going to tweet him back and ask for his thoughts on Creative Commons, but before I did that I thought I should search to see if he had already weighed in on the topic. And indeed he had!

What You Don’t Know About Creative Commons Could Kill You- Going Pro 2010

It was quite illuminating. I have been posting to sites with a CC license and after reading Scott's thoughts, I am rethinking that position.

Unfortunate Headline: "Microsoft BPOS Cloud Suite Hit by Access Problems"

The following headline really illustrates how Microsoft marketing really works against them much of the time.

Microsoft BPOS Cloud Suite Hit by Access Problems [PCWorld]

Netflix Comes To iPhone/iPod Touch


I had to look at the calendar this morning because I thought it was Christmas.  Under the tree (ok, in my iTunes app updates queue) was an update to the iPad Netflix app which adds support for iPhone and iPod Touch.

Things look a little basic so far.  So while I'm not seeing options like "recently watched" yet, your instant queue, the ability to browse by genre and a search function are ready and waiting to help pump that video to your device over wi-fi or 3G.