Riverfest and Views of Troy

Riverfest, Troy NY, 06.19.2010

It was a hot weekend for a street festival. This time it was Troy’s annual Riverfest; multiple music stages, lots of food and arts vendors, and chalk drawing contests.

Riverfest, Troy NY, 06.19.2010 Riverfest, Troy NY, 06.19.2010

Yes, petrodactyls make me happy.

We got there in the afternoon, and with the heat and the mixed crowd I wasn’t really feeling it, so I didn’t shoot much. I threw the manual Pentax 28mm f/2.8 on, set ISO to 400, and put the lens at f/8. This let me use the focus scale on the lens to dial in a depth of field from four feet away to nearly infinity — my plan was to snap “street” style without wasting time focusing or even looking through the viewfinder at all. I just didn’t see anything interesting (which doesn’t mean nothing interesting was going on).

We took a walk away from the festival proper and I forced myself to at least do a few urban detail shots.

Graffiti, Troy NY

Graffiti, Troy NY

Troy NY

With some no pressure photos to process it was a good time to try some new RAW conversion software. So far I’ve been using UFRaw which is a good lean converter that works well as an extension of GIMP. You can do all basic edits in UFRaw alone but I’ve never had a lot of luck getting that up to the same quality as sending to gimp for finishing touches. This time I downloaded RAWTherapee which includes some content management, a bit more fine-grained editing options, and more intuitive batch processing.

Most of these photos were processed in RAWTherapee alone, with the notable exception of the EXIST graffiti which is a blend of two exposures (at +.5 and -.5EV to balance the two areas of brightness). They aren’t quite what I expect from finishing in GIMP, but this software has some really good and smart options, good sharpening and noise reduction, and a very nice history view that UFRaw lacks. I’m using an alpha release so it’s missing a few things, notably curves adjustment which I use as part of my normal workflow, so I may roll back to the last stable release.

Until I get it fully configured there might be a few anomalies here and there. But what’s life without an anomaly or two.

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5 thoughts on “Riverfest and Views of Troy

  1. Paul

    I didn’t realize you were using GIMP up until now. What is making you not use Lightroom? The cost? You might be able to get an educational copy of Lightroom 3, which makes it much more reasonable!

  2. B

    Yes, the cost is one issue, and it’s hard for me to reconcile ahem “free” versions of software with my feelings on ownership of my own creations.

    I could probably get a discounted version, you’re right. I may do a trial at some point, I know Mikey and Seb love it, I just don’t really know that the content management is what I need. Not to mention being on that upgrade path for the future… and the headaches I can see coming from trying to switch to a different system down the line.

    I don’t talk about workflow and content management much, because I actually think that it’s over emphasized. I know, the vast majority of people never think about it, but among those who do, it’s an obsession. I don’t want to become dependent on what is really a very narrow system that I ultimately have no control over. I think most of us have been around data management long enough to have seen plenty of really well-designed systems come and go for a variety of reasons.

    Really, I want to make pictures. That’s it. So far I haven’t had a problem with my non-software-specific cataloging. If the time comes when I do, I’ll look into other solutions.

    A part of it is also my natural tendency to push against the trend. There have been plenty of conversations where Mikey and Seb asked why I use GIMP instead of Photoshop, and the best answer is because I can. I like being on the fringe a little. I do get a bit of sick pride from using obsolete hardware (both the camera and my computer), cheap lenses, free software, etc. I’m not a fan of saying there’s a best way to do things, I’m a fan of results.

    Anyway, one of the things I thought on first using RAWTherapee was that it felt very similar to Lightroom; like Lightroom, it’s much more than simply RAW editing and conversion. We’ll see, maybe it will be enough to push me over the edge.

  3. -S

    There is nothing “similar” to LR on Unix/Linux. And it’s not because it can’t be done, there are very specialized and incredibly expensive software to process video, do color grading or just plain 3D that run on Unix. But there is no good, intuitive software like PS and or LR. You just haven’t used them, I’m afraid it’s a case where you really do not know how powerful they are, and how much time you would save at the end of the day. They are just years ahead, not just on single specific tasks, but on the whole workflow. Everybody I switched to LR never, *ever* switched back. Those tools are not narrow at all, it’s actually the opposite, the way cataloging and smart collections are done for example, there is pretty much no limits on how you can slice and dice your photos. I know my Photoshop *well*, and I still saved some time by switching to LR (sounds like Geico).

    It has become even more important now as I need to keep track of which prints I have sent to the print shop for example, which prints I have sent to a gallery or used in my book *and most importantly in what state or crop*, which photos I received good feedback on, etc. This is not that I love LR, it is that it would be stupidly more time consuming to do it with multiple tools. These are not toys, there is an army of software engineers and usability people behind them. In the long list of decisions I had to evaluate in photography, this is probably the simplest one I had to make: I knew it was going to take me maybe 5 weeks to adjust, but it was just a matter of deciding “when to do the switch”.

    As much as I like Open Source (hey, it’s my *job*), you can’t remotely compare GIMP and/or your RAW toolchain to PS, LR or Aperture. They did *not* come and go, they have been around for years and are still evolving, just like Photoshop has not been dented by GIMP for anything but hobbyist work: for f* sake, GIMP is barely 16 bits color managed in 2010. I would love to say you are learning something here by toying with Linux solutions, but honestly I don’t think so either, I think those parameters you are playing with can be safely hidden for you to ignore by using smart and new algorithms. Case in point the new LR denoiser for example. You can pick up those tools and functions in LR right away and be proficient with them without having to know about Lab color space for example.

    The only argument here is money. That’s a *good* argument; “because you can” is not. If you have the money, there is absolutely goddamn zero reason not to use solutions like LR, period. Even if you do not have quite the money, for people who want to make some money and happen to shoot a lot (and that’s your case), it is the first software they should buy. You do have your 5D to buy first, and calibration tools too, but this really should come at some point. Time is precious, and LR is all about doing things quickly, so that you can get back to shooting.

    So you know me, I call it like it is: I think among all the things you do well, this aspect of your technical work is where you are wasting the most time.

  4. B

    No Seb, you are reading too much in again.

    Cost is the #1 issue, as I said.

    I didn’t say the tools were narrow, but the system. That’s very different, which you know, and I’m sure you’ve taken the proper preparations for.

    You see a need that I don’t. We have different approaches and different goals. So it’s not really accurate for you to say that I will necessarily save more time with one software over another. I think you should know me by now, but maybe not that well; you know what I would do if I had Lightroom? I’d still look at open source software and see what they’re doing. Why? Because it’s there. “Because I can” is an attitude and I don’t expect you to totally get it ;)

    If there’s something I’m not reaching, somewhere I’m not getting, it is not because of the tools I’m using. That includes all of them; the camera, everything. I’m realistic about that. And I am actually doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, I wouldn’t call it wasting time. And if I am wasting time, it’s for reasons that Lightroom can’t fix.

    Also, it’s summer; I’ve switched to gin ;)

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