Morning fog hits San Francisco

Photo from December 7, 2005

I drove before sunrise from the South Bay to San Francisco this early morning in order to accomplish two things. One was to photograph a Christmas card to send to friends because of my newly-launched, just finished eCards for Plaxo. The other was just to see the legendary view from the east peak of Mt. Tam.

On the drive back, I pulled over to the side of the road and took some handheld photos of which this is one. I liked this angle because from here you can see both the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge in the frame, while still having enough foreground to show the distance and frame the photograph.

Morning fog hits San Francisco
Mt Tamalpais, Marin, California

Nikon D70, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR
3 exposures @ f/13, iso 800, 70mm (105mm)

While I did make a christmas card, I never processed the other photos until this project came up on my Aperture to Lightroom migration list.

Continue reading about this photo after the jump

AVCHD movies in Aperture

My new camera takes video, but unlike my previous ones, the highest resolution video (1080p) only writes in the should-never-have-been-invented [AVCHD specification][avchd].

AVCHD has weird support on Mac OS X. If you insert a card with it, iMovie will recognize it. However, Apple Aperture and iPhoto will not. Since the video and metadata for the clips are [split over many files][file structure], you can’t do a straight import into any of the above.

While there is [an excellent free tool for viewing AVCHD video streams][vlc], this means that in order to work with this video *as a photographer*, I need to transcode the video. This was not obviously done until I ran into [this post on AVCHD on the Mac][AVCHD video workflow].

ClipWrap diskimage

There exists many other cheaper ([and free][handbrake]) solutions for transcoding, but I opted for the more expensive [ClipWrap][clipwrap] mentioned in the article for a couple reasons:

1. Most other transcoders, re-encode the video. On the other hand QuickTime is a container format, not a codec. What ClipWrap can do is re-wrap the AVCHD in a quicktime container without changing the codec. This is much faster, but, more importantly, *it preserves the original encoding with no loss*.
2. ClipWrap can also transcode the video like other converters.
2. In both cases, ClipWrap can preserves the video creation date.

ClipWrap conversion

There are some caveats though:

1. A rewrapped file may not be viewable on the computer without the free tool, [Perian][perian].
2. A rewrapped file cannot be directly worked with in iMovie, instead you need to transcode into [AIC][aic]. I think you are fine if you are a Final Cut Pro user, but I stopped using that product a long time ago since I’m not a videographer.
3. Be aware of the funky file structure. Look for the videos in /PRIVATE/AVCHD/STREAM/*.MTS, not your camera’s media folder. You lose any of the other metadata also (pretty much worthless)
4. Be aware that AIC files are uncompressed more than H.264 in a ClipWrap Quicktime/AVCHD . This means you want to store it in this format, only work with it this way.
5. I don’t (yet) have a workflow for converting from rewrapped Quicktime to AIC. 🙁

This means that I store:

1. In my archive originals folder, I keep the original *.MTS files.
2. In Apple Aperture, I import re-wrapped quicktime MOVs.
3. If I need to work on videos, I transcode the AVCHD MTS’s into AIC and then import into iMovie. I lose the Aperture integration this way. 🙁

I did get it to work this way. Here’s an example I edited from the [Plantronics][plantronics] Launch Party last week:

If you don’t have video working, here are two photos I took with my other camera:

Water pool

Water pool
Plantronics Launch Party, Dogpatch, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G
1/100sec @ ƒ2.8, ISO3200, 28mm

Dry ice cocktail and champagne

Dry ice cocktail and champagne
Plantronics Launch Party, Dogpatch, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G
1/30sec @ ƒ3.2, ISO5000, 48mm

Now if only I can come up with a work flow for the RAW images that doesn’t involve [a lot of work][unsupported RAW] or [exiftool][exiftool] [hacking][exifhack].

[More photos and videos from the Plantronics Launch Party][plantronics photos].

[plantronics photos]: “2011-0138 SF Potrero Hill—Plantronics Launch Party @ Obscura Digital—tychay @ Flickr”
[exiftool]: “Exiftool by Phil Harvey”
[unsupported raw]: “Unsupported RAW workflow in Apple Aperture”
[plantronics]: “Plantronics WIreless Heasets, Bluetooth Headset, Office and Contact Center, Enterprise Solutions”
[AVCHD video workflow]: “AVCHD HD video workflow on Mac OS X—ECHeng”
[avchd]: “AVCHD—Wikipedia”
[file structure]: “File:AVCHD actual file structure—Wikipedia”
[handbrake]: “HandBrake”
[perian]: “Perian: The swiss-army knife of QuickTime components”
[clipwrap]: “ClipWrap”
[aic]: “Apple Intermediate Codec—Wikipedia”
[vlc]: “VideoLAN: Official page for the VLC media player: the open source video framework”

From Photo to Finished—Automattic

10 Minute Lightning Talk for the Automattic Meetup at Seaside, September 2010

Automattic is the company I work for. The company is distributed worldwide and once a year we gather at a remote location and meet face-to-face. This year, all the employees are taking a little time during the meetup to compose and give at least one presentation for each other, talking about any subject we are passionate about.

For this presentation I chose the subject of photography. Specifically, taking one photo from start to publish describing how I took the shot and the editing steps I chose.

Like many bloggers—Automattic is also known as WordPress—I’m passionate about photography and I felt that many of the other people it the room might be interested in it also—our founder and CEO’s online handle is “photomatt.”

I hope you enjoy this presentation!

This was the second presentation I gave that day. I composed it just after I finished the first.

This presentation will be expanded into a post around Christmas. Look for it!

Geolocation sharing in Aperture 3

A lot of people are complaining that the flickr sharing feature in Aperture 3 is missing geolocation data (Places).

This is not true, all you have to do is go to Aperture > Preferences… > Web and check the box to “Include location information for published photos.”

Geolocation sharing in Aperture 3

Then click on the “radar” buttons to the right of the Flickr sets in Aperture to force a resync. Your image geocodes will be re-uploaded (I noticed in my case, it re-uploaded the images instead of just resyncing the metadata, but that bug may have been fixed in Aperture 3.0.1).

Here is a photo I uploaded via Aperture 3’s flickr sharing:

The Concourse Level

The Concourse Level
Westfield San Francisco Centre, Market Street, San Francisco, California

Sony DSC-WX1
1/30sec @ ƒ2.4, ISO160, 4mm (24mm)

I was so tired after the run, I could shop no longer…or rather, watch my friends shop. I decided to hang outside and take photos of the curvy escalators in Westfield San Francisco. And I actually needed to buy a suitcase from the Tumi store, too.

You can see it has been placed on the map automatically.

Sync, not Upload

One thing a lot of people don’t realize is the flickr sharing is a synchronization, not an upload. This means that edits you make on flickr appear as metadata modifications in the original file. (I think it does not sync down changes to the image, but new images in a set do get brought down.) It also means you can’t do an upload without creating a set. It also means you are limited in the tags by what tags you explicity upload (instead of tag hierarchy). It also means you are limited to the amount of resizing you can do on export. It also means you can’t do things like add a watermark on your export. It also means you can’t batch add to a group, or another set, or anything without using flickr’s online organizr.

If you don’t like that, then that’s why Frasier Spears is still selling FlickrExport and has recently updated it for 64-bit. I own it, and use it.

Frasier, Bernie, Greg and Amy

Fraser, Bernie, Greg, and Amy
Buzz Andersen’s 5th Annual WWDC Party
111 Minna, South of Market, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, SB-800
1/30 sec @ ƒ/2.8, iso 1000, 24 mm

Fraser Speirs with some of my friends. I got really shit-faced that night (it was my birthday so I was making everyone buy me drinks).

I believe I uploaded this image with his software. 🙂

Oh yeah, the “check mark” you see next to the image in Aperture’s Flickr albums is the image actually uploaded/synced with flickr. I have no idea how to change it other than deleting it and dragging a new one. This is a major bummer for me.

Faces sync in Facebook

Faces are synced back in Aperture. You can tell because Facebook added faces are now searchable. Right now, getting the Facebook Faces back into your Aperture faces is a little buggy. The only way to do that is to go to the set, click the “Name” icon, and manually go through each image confirming the facebook entries by clicking the “f” icons and hitting return. Still it does guess faces well.

Faces Facebook syncback

Photo from this article was synced to Facebook and Flickr.

Basically click on the “f” and then hit return and those names will be synced back. Notice that even though Alicia Kenworthy has only been tagged in a different Facebook photo, it guessed the face here.

I hope they fix that.

Black and White film effects

The film effects section of my last article on Aperture presets reminded me that I really like the film effects in nik Color Efex Pro and nik Silver Efex Pro.

I thought I’d try to emulate them in Aperture with a set a presets, starting with black and white film.

Download the presets here. Current version at time of this writing is 0.4.

(Note that my friends of Aperture Users @ Flickr are thinking of creating a website to house presets so I don’t know how long I’ll keep updating this. In the meantime, I added Pavel Sigarteu’s SinCity, El TiDY’s presets, and Ian Wood’s Aperture 2 Image Presets Project to the download.)

In order to show the B&W film effects, I hacked in an extension to my IMG Mouseover plugin. Above the image there’s a control panel where you can click to see the effect of the preset (and compare it to Silver Efex Pro):

Mark Kater

Mark Kater
Tagged, Financial District, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/30sec, ISO160, 35mm (47mm)

Click on the controls above to test the different film presets. Mouse rollover contain images processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

(Note that Aperture has decided to have a brain fart and replace all my photos even if they haven’t been changed at all. This breaks the images in Flickr. I tried my best to fix this. If any are broken or incorrect, please tell me in the comments below and I’ll fix them.)

Continue reading about How to use Aperture presets and about black and white film after the jump

More Aperture presets

More Aperture presets

Aperture Presets are not new to Aperture 3. Before this however, you had to apply them by using the lift-and-stamp tool and share them by generating an Aperture project. It was never a very good solution. But my recent post on presets, made me look into our archives for some Aperture 2 settings to add to my Preset Library.

Download the presets here. Current version at time of this writing is 0.3b.

Without further ado, here they are: (Remember to mouseover the images to see the pre-preset versions…)

Sky Enhancer

The Bay Bridge — Graeme's Sky Enhancer

The Bay Bridge — Graeme’s Sky Enhancer
Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Sony DSC-WX1
1/320sec @ ƒ7.1, ISO160, 4mm (24mm), panoramic video

This photo was a sweep panorama of the Embarcadero to the Bay Bridge was done by the amazing Sony WX1 on my walk home from the San Francisco Farmer’s Market.

Graeme Smith came up with this setting darken and saturate the sky. When coupled with a brush and other enhancements, this should be a pretty good start for landscape photography.

Outdoor Contrast

Everybodys Happy Man — Bakaris Outdoor Contrast

Everybody’s Happy Man — Bakaris Outdoor Contrast
Chinatown, San Francisco, California

Sony DSC-WX1
1/250sec @ ƒ7.1, ISO250, 4mm (24mm)

On a street corner in Chinatown there’s a guy yelling, “Happy! Happy! Happy! Everybody’s happy!”

Bakari finds this levels tweak adds some much-needed contrast to outdoor photos.


Music at the Ferry Building Farmers Market - heber's Cross Process

Music at the Ferry Building Farmers Market – heber’s Cross Process
Ferry Building, Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Sony DSC-WX1
1/125sec @ ƒ4.5, ISO80, 18mm (100mm)

These band was playing at the Farmer’s Market. I think they’re from the Haight normally.

Aperture now has two cross-process presets, but I thought I’d bring in the one created by heber vega also. Cross-processing probably started with a mistake from dipping films in the wrong chemical bath during development… now it creates an interesting recognizable effect.

Film Look

Scott Beale - Film look

Scott Beale – Film Look
Varnish Fine Art, South of Market, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
1/60sec @ ƒ1.8, ISO800, 50mm

Scott Beale, a fixture of the art, culture, and technology underground scene of San Francisco back when it really was underground decided to celebrate adding cloud hosting services at Varnish when I took this photo of him. Varnish Fine Art was recent victim of eminent domain.

This is an old trick from the video camera world. One way to get video, in Final Cut, to get a look resembling a movie was to adjust the output curve of the finished video to resemble film’s characteristic curves. You do this by creating an slanted S bend in the curve. Since Aperture 3 finally has curves, it was time to create a “film look” preset, which I did.

Hope you enjoy the presets, and contact me if you have other suggestions for more.

Keep shooting.

Preset looks

After a year of bouncing rumors and requests among friends and watching Adobe erode Apple’s marketshare, Aperture 3 is finally out. As far as I’m concerned, the people who are disappointed in the update probably shouldn’t have bought Aperture in the first place.

One of the things in the new Adobe Lightroom that is implemented (and improved on) in Aperture 3 is the concept of presets. This is one step closer to having me abandon my insanely slow Photoshop workflow for something that is fast, can be undone, and doesn’t chew up disk space. But the thing that was bothering me was, will it blend? Can I really get away with not leaving Aperture unless I really, really have to.

Let‘s see what I can create in a few minutes of fiddling around.

Vintage Film

The Fallout75’s Vintage Film effect tries to mimic the fading that occurs when a photo starts to fade over the years: the process is outlined here. Here is what I get in Aperture when I try to follow the same rules:

Paul Kim - Vintage Film

Paul Kim -Terrys Vintage
Automattic, Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, NOKTON Classic 40mm f1.4 S.C.
1/750sec, ISO160, 40mm (53mm)

This is my Vintage Film preset. Mouseover the image to see the original.

Here is the output in Adobe Photoshop CS4 when the action is run:

Paul Kim - Fallout75 Vintage Film

Paul Kim -Fallout75 Vintage Film
Automattic, Embarcadero, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, NOKTON Classic 40mm f1.4 S.C.
1/750sec, ISO160, 40mm (53mm)

This is Fallout75’s action. Mouseover the image to see the original.

You can see that Fallout75 has two undocumented effects: a brightening of the center region and a vignetting on the edges. I can emulate this, but I didn’t know what I created the current version of the action. I suppose that’ll be for later.
Continue reading about One more preset and downloads after the jump

Unsupported RAW workflow in Apple Aperture revisited

Now that Aperture 3 is out, I need to update one area of my previous article.

No, Aperture 3 doesn’t support the Olympus E-P1/E-P2/E-PL1 or Panasonic GF-1 RAWs (yet).

There is a workaround, however, for doing sorting, selecting, and metadata in Aperture 3.

  1. Select un-viewable RAWs in Apple Aperture 3’s thumbnail view
  2. Cmd-click to get a contextual menu and choose “Set JPEG as Master.”
    Aperture 3: Setting JPEG as Master

    Mouse over the image to see what happens after “Set JPEG as Master.”
  3. Do work to create a select, rate images, and the like.
  4. Catapult workflow with some adjustments. You’ll now need to be in 32-bit mode on Apple Aperture 3 to use it.
    Aperture 3 in 32-bit mode

    How to open Aperture 3 in 32-bit mode (always).

    Trying to return to “Set RAW as Master’ and then Catapulting yields and “Editing Error” as the backdoor used by Catapult is now closed. 🙁

    Editing Error in Aperture 3

    Therefore, you must export masters manually to the drop folder, generate RAWs, and then Catapult. If you do so, you can’t reimport the sidecar xmps, currently.

Here is some proof:


The House
North Beach, San Francisco, California

Olympus E-P2, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 50mm f1.1
1/8sec5, ISO200, 50mm (100mm)

Image processed from ACR in Aperture. Try as you might, you can’t recover clipped highlights.

(BTW, the images were uploaded with the new built in Flickr support, so we’ll see how good sync is—it appears to be uni-directional. For instance, I just found out movies aren’t supported in Flickr sync, so videos are synced back as stills.)

Mushroom rice with grilled prawns looks like it’s alive
The House, North Beach, San Francisco, California

Olympus E-P1, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
00:15, 1280×1070, 30fps