After writing my initial impressions of Mylio, I have now used it “operationally” to keyword and rate a set of around 700 photos taken over 15 days in Norway. This is pretty much my usual workflow, first I concentrate on initial culling, key wording, and rough ratings, and then I start working on optimising the selects from the RAW file. I’ll then set them aside and do something else for a while - like film scanning - and then come back to do a final select.
So far I’ve most worked on the Mac version of Mylio, although I have used the sync functions to send thumbnails to my iPad and iPhone. The editing stage works well, but with some reservations. I find the select/filter tools a little awkward to get my around: once you understand that they work globally, not on the selected album or object you are working with (so the reverse to Aperture), then it becomes clear. It’s a different way of working, but probably fine. But there’s some strange view switching going on when editing the filter settings - apparently this is a bug, which will be fixed. Once I’d got everything settled down, I created a “Norway 2015” album and started working from there.
Here I did encounter a few annoyances. I’m not too wild about Mylio “inventing” keywords for me: it creates a keyword for every folder it “watches”. I don’t want it do this, it is adding useless clutter and making looking up keywords harder than it needs to be.
I’m also not sure why the EXIF data in the info panel is so small and hard to read. I often want to see what f-stop I used when rating photos. Mylio doesn’t make it easy! Yes, you can adjust the text size, but this is universal. The small size is fine for me, I just want that vital camera data to be more readable. Same goes for the keyword display in the same panel.
But so far, so good. My first pass reduced the count from 700+ to around 200. I’m casting quite a wide net to start of with. So, I sat down intending to send the whole set to Iridient Developer for stage 2. Except that I can’t. You can select “Open In…” for 1 image, but not multiple images. That is a bit deflating. In fact, that’s enough to make me give up on Mylio for now. No way am I clicking 200 times when any other comparable application would allow me to send the whole set in one action.
There are a few other issues I’ve now noticed. In the RAW development tools, Mylio does not apply embedded lens corrections, at least not from my Olympus E-P5. If I was planning to use this feature, that would be another showstopper.
Finally, it would appear that the “Mylio Cloud” has been quietly dropped. It is not longer mentioned anywhere on the website, but instead a vague reference to being able to integrate at some point (but not today) your own choice of cloud storage has appeared. This seems like a major change of strategy (and possibly a good one), and I would expect to find some official announcement or explanation. The fact that I can’t - and I have spent while searching - is a little unsettling.
So for me the jury is still out on Mylio. It looks promising, it has potential, but the message is a little confused. There seems to be a strong focus on the social media market, which of course is understandable, and mandatory if you have the usual airhead VC backers to deal with (not that I’m saying they have). But, Mylio, remember that Facebook and Flickr users expect to get stuff for free. They will not pay you, certainly not $100/year. They are not the “pro” market you seem to be addressing, intermittently. I’ve spent long enough (far too long enough) in IT startups to see the early signs of failing momentum. I do hope I’m wrong when I’m beginning to see it here. Really I do, because I want what Mylio is promising, very much.
Lasersoft are continuing to add new features to Silverfast 8, and one very welcome recent addition was the return of the integrated “Virtual Light Table” file browser (VLT). The VLT was a feature of several incarnations of Silverfast v6, and I assumed that it would not return to v8, but here it is. It’s better integrated, much more user friendly, and so far, 100% stable.
The VLT is included in all versions of Silverfast HDR and HDR Studio from 8.0.1r48 onwards. It’s accessed by clicking the lightbulb in the upper left corner. The view can switch between browser only, split browser / viewer, and viewer only. When the viewer is available, a loupe-type tool provides a localised magnified view of a small part of the image. I wish this feature could be included in the editor mode as well. At present, basic metadata in the form of ratings and labels can be added. To open a file in the editor, it needs to be dragged to the Job Manager icon, and opened from there. This is not 100% intuitive, although it is in harmony with HDR Studio’s multiple file handling mechanisms. It would be nice to also have a more direct way of switching in a future version.
Until now I’ve used PhaseOne Media Pro to manage the workflow from HDR scan, to TIFF output, and to final edit in Photoshop. The VLT offers an alternative and more direct approach, at least to the initial steps. Essentially it occupies the same place in the workflow as Adobe Bridge.
Another recent addition to Silverfast, which in this case sees it adding a feature which rival Vuescan has had for a long time, is enabling DNG output for linear “HDR” and “HDRi” scans. This is an interesting development, and it seems to encourage Adobe Camera RAW, or Lightroom, as an alternative to HDR Studio.
Other recent updates have included the ability to share directly to web services including Facebook, Flickr and Dropbox. This doesn’t really fit into any current workflow of mine, but nevertheless, it’s nice to see Silverfast being continuously maintained and improved.
Now, all I need to add is my standard plea for Version 8 to add support for my Minolta Dimage Scan MultiPro…
My rate of photographic gear acquisition has slowed down quite drastically over the past couple of years. This is partly due to gear fatigue, partly due to finding other ways to spend money, but mainly because photographic technology has arrived a such a level of adequacy that frankly, new cameras make very little difference, however much they get trumpeted as the New Messiah. Certainly there are some exceptions, where the technology is different enough that it might have photographic potential. A good example being Sigma’s recent cameras. But otherwise we’re really in a period of small incremental changes, and to my mind at least the biggest potential is making cameras more intuitive and enjoyable to use. So really my gear lust has turned more and more towards lenses, and over the last 18 months I’ve acquired two new ones, the Panasonic Lumix 14mm (28mm equivalent) and the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 (35mm equivalent). The 17mm is a fairly recent newcomer, and one I hesitated over for many months. According to the rent-an-experts on the various inter web fora, it’s a truly dreadful lens, the production of which is little short of original sin. According to expert brick wall photographers it’s terribly soft at the corners and has so many things wrong with it that a combination of couldn’t rescue it. Then again, looking at the actual photos of real things posted by Olympus blogger Robin Wong it’s rather nice.
A lot of my very early photography was done at 35mm, mainly because that’s what cameras came with in those days, if not 50mm. So film compacts like the Minox ML and Olympus XA, both of which I resurrected last year, unconsciously trained me to use 35mm. And of course, many consider 35mm to be the classic “street” focal length. And yet in the digital era, I’ve never had a 35mm prime lens. Somewhat discouraged by various people claiming it is a difficult focal length to use, especially if you like 28mm - which I do, sometimes - I decided the best thing was to try fixing the Olympus 14-42 “kit” zoom at 17mm and seeing how that worked for me. Well, it turned out very well, so I decided I’d like to have a “real” 17mm lens. Olympus actually make two, an f/2.8 “pancake”, which gets even worse reviews (yeah, whatever), and the newer f/1.8 with the “clutch” manual focus system. After a lot of months of hesitation, I sold the Lumix 20mm (very highly rated but never really worked for me), and I eventually decided to go for the f/1.8, in black. And it’s been pretty much glued to my Olympus E-P3 ever since. It’s a really nice lens to use. The clutch system is much more effective on this lens than on the 12mm, which doesn’t really need it. The wide aperture is great for low light, and also gives a quite adequate level of depth of field control, unless you’re an absolute fanatic about having about 1mm of the field in focus. Is it “soft at the corners” ? Does it show chromatic aberration in high contrast ? I have no idea - certainly if it does it doesn’t detract from any prints I’ve made. I guess if I zoom in on-screen at 200% I might find some lack of perfection, but it won’t keep me awake at night. It’s just a very enjoyable and rewarding lens to use, and for me that’s quite enough to justify buying it.
Here are a few samples:
Final word: the thing is, you just have to decide how the photographs you want to make are going to be best achieved, and in particular by what angle of view. Then choose the lens to match your needs. Never mind if it’s “soft at the edge”, or has 0.5% barrel distortion, or whatever. To 99% of your audience it won’t even register, and the other 1% only like cat and brick wall photos anyway. But if it works well for you and the way you seen the world through a camera, it will make your photography better.
I have just uploaded a new gallery, simply called “Ice”. It contains a set of photos taken at various places and times, all featuring ice in diverse, and mainly quite abstract, forms.
This set has been edited with a new RAW processor, Photo Ninja, the successor to the highly regarded Noise Ninja. I have to say I didn’t really expect to see much new in the world of RAW software at this point in time. I’m quite happy in general with Apple Aperture, although I keep an eye on Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One, and in particular Iridient RAW Developer. But none of these offer anything other than barely perceptible advantages over Aperture, if any at all. Aperture’s RAW engine is highly under-rated for some reason, perhaps simply Apple fatigue, although I suppose it depends on what camera you use. But for my Olympus & Ricoh files, I have no complaints. And the workflow is head & shoulders above anything else.
So why bother with anything else ? Well, Photo Ninja is actually quite, remarkably, different. If there is one defining thing about it, it is that you need to go against habits and wise teachings, and let it do its thing. Once you set up a few preferences to steer it the right direction, its first attempt is usually pretty remarkable. Unlike other RAW processors, it has a real “look” of its own, which I suspect people will love or hate. There is scope for plenty of fiddling, with a mix of standard and less standard controls (such as “illumination” which is a sort of contrast control that can be linked to exposure). But often I just come back to the auto settings - something I NEVER do usually. A huge amount of thought has gone into Photo Ninja’s automatic algorithms, and they should not be thought of as the usual “auto contrast” white / black point settings most rivals offer.
Photo Ninja is a version 1.0 release and it does seem to do some weird things on the odd occasion. One of the images in the set it did something very weird indeed to, so I’ve used the Aperture version CORRECTION: I take it back. It was user error on my part. Nothing weird at all. Speaking of Aperture, Photo Ninja integrates with it extremely well and supports multiple round-trip editing of the original RAW file. I don’t believe anybody else has worked that one out. So you can retain Aperture’s excellent workflow and management features whilst using Photo Ninja as an alternative convertor.
You can get a free demo of Photo Ninja, so I suggest that if you’re interested, you just try it. If nothing else it will give you a new perspective on your images. The photos in the “Ice” set are the first I’ve published in a long time that were not processed in Aperture. I’m not yet sure I’d want to use Photo Ninja exclusively, but I’m certainly going to keep it around.
On my recent trip to Iceland I was very lucky to cross paths with Peter Cox, a leading Irish landscape photographer who I had been vaguely aware of from some time, through the series of essays he has written for Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape site.
Peter, apart from being a very talented photographer, is clearly a good businessman - he runs his own gallery in Killarney - and is hugely entertaining. He also appears to live somewhere where there are at least 36 hours in the day, because apart from all this he finds the time to jointly host a weekly podcast, The Circle of Confusion, and now, a video series called “Dynamic Range”. His partners in these escapades, professional photographers Neil McShane and Roger Overall each add their own spice to the mix, and it all ends up being entertaining, informative, and, well, very Irish. That’s a good thing, by the way.
There are currently two videos in the series, Episode 1, and, naturally, Episode 0. Episode 0 - or The Pilot - is documented as “Learning Video Production the Hard Way” on The Luminous Landscape. It is perhaps apt that it features there, since the Luminous Landscape Video Journal (“LLVJ”), seemingly now in retirement, is something of a trailblazer for this type of video. Kudos as well to Michael Reichmann for basically promoting a competitor. Actually, Episode 0 is a bit of a disappointment, in that it is far less of a disaster than it is billed as. I was really hoping for total humiliation. Episode 1 irons out the kinks and is very smooth.
The general format for The Dynamic Range will be familiar to LLVJ subscribers: photographers travel to a location, take photos, talk about them, and naturally talk about gear - whilst apologising for talking about gear. The show is presented by Peter and Neil, with Roger directing off camera. Of course, this being Ireland, there is one factor that the LLVJ didn’t always have to deal with: atrocious weather. The Irish weather seems to be determined to foil Peter and Neil, but they soldier on grimly, and usually demonstrate that the maxim that there is no such thing as bad weather for photography holds true. Although that Irish weather does sometimes get the last laugh.
I was heavily into Ireland in the 90s. I couldn’t get enough of the place, especially the South West of Cork, and the west coast in general. Probably my favourite place in Ireland was Westport in County Mayo. But the last time I went was 2002, and it wasn’t a great success. So it has faded a bit from my mind. These videos bring it all back though, and show what a great, and possibly under-exploited photographic resource Ireland is. This does give me the excuse to drag out a few badly scanned and generally so-so shots from 2002 that have not yet seen the light of day. I might even have a go and tarting them up a bit.
So far, the Dynamic Range is going strong. The production values are impressive, and are improving at a rapid rate. Whatever the slightly ramshackle air that might be being conveyed, there is no doubt that a huge amount of work is going into these productions, and personally I’d say they are already at Broadcast TV standard. The format avoids the overlong talking head sequences that made some parts of the LLVJ a little boring, but there are some weak spots.
The weakest, in my opinion, is the “gear” section in Episode 1. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with a “gear” section, in particular if it concentrates at least in part in showing people how to get the best out of standard tools they may already have - such as tripods. But there’s really very little point in talking about Neil’s geared tripod head, with just a long shot where you can barely see said tripod, and no mention of the manufacturer or anything else. Same with the clip-on viewfinder - I wasn’t the only one left wondering where I could find out more. This section just didn’t work.
There’s also a lot of interesting talk on using filters, generally, but again this could be made more practical by adding some close-ups and before / after, or with / without shots. Generally, perhaps some material, for example reviewing of photos, could be shot off-site and edited in in post-production. Things like this would serve to tighten up the show a bit. And personally I would like to see a little more of the photography, with perhaps, who knows, some innovative ways of talking us through why selected shots work - or not.
The humour certainly works. The ending pan (I won’t spoil it) at the end of Episode 1 is a classic. Oh, and Peter, I got a fabulous rainbow shot in Keflavik :-)
It will be interesting to see how they can keep interest up. My feeling is that the travelogue format works fine to start with, but after 2 or 3 episodes it will need something added to the mix. But so far, so good. The Dynamic Range is not free, but it is good value for money. At one level, it’s pure entertainment for photographers, taking you so close you can smell the peat fires burning. And I certainly picked up a few tips, and some food for thought. And a rekindling somewhere of a desire to return to the Emerald Isle…
You can see a brief preview of Episode 1 here (why do they make it so hard to find ? I’d have put it on download page, personally). I’d be interested to hear what you think of it.