Oct 112009

Alien Skin Snap Art painting effects in B&W??? What the Duck did I think?

Well, surprisingly this is the only variant of that image that would even remotely work.

It’s an image taken from the balcony of our apartment in Villach. Although the day was beautiful and it would have been the last chance to go swimming, I could not afford the time. If you’ve been here yesterday, you may see quite some changes to the sidebar. I have converted most of my categories to tags, there is a tag cloud, the blogroll is back again, and these are only the changes that are visible.

The Song of the Day is “Foot Of The Mountain” from Paul Weller’s 1994 live album “Live Wood”. See a video on YouTube.

1091 – Missing You

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Oct 112009

Here’s another bunch of images made last week in Vienna. The bicycle with the poisonous red is from Tuesday morning, I just couldn’t pass it, the others are from Thursday. It is Saturday night now, it’s raining outside, I am uploading 340 images, six sizes each, to my website and have done so for nine hours. ADSL is a bitch 🙂

Uploading again? Why that? Oh, in the morning, after I had processed these four images, I found some images missing from some posts, sometimes thumbnails, sometimes the main image. With the current layout this seems to be a problem in certain cases. I don’t use “width” attributes on my images (which I should, I know) and on certain posts the browser simply hung indefinitely, seemingly refusing to carry on without an actual image and its width. That’s obviously pretty bad 🙂

I made a check: from an export file of my blog I extracted the image “SRC” attributes pointing to “manessinger.com”. The result was a file with 1887 URLs, one URL per line.

if [ "x$XMLFILE" = x ] ; then
   echo "usage: $0 <xmlfile>"
   exit 1
cat $XMLFILE | sed -e 's/ /\n/g' | \
    egrep 'src="http://www.manessinger.com/images/' | cut -d'"' -f2

I’m printing the code here without explanation, those for whom it may be useful, will understand it anyway.

The next step was to check if all of these URLs are present and which are not. The result was a file with the file names (tail of the URL) of the files that were missing. Again here’s the code, a Perl script expecting an input file with one URL per line, producing an output file with one filename per missing image.


use strict;
use warnings;
use LWP::UserAgent;
use HTTP::Request;
use File::Basename;
use Time::HiRes qw(usleep);

# arguments checking
if (($#ARGV != 0) || (! -f $ARGV[0])) {
    print "usage: $0 <url-per-line-file>\n";

# construct a user agent
my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new();

open(URLS, "<".$ARGV[0]);
while (<URLS>) {
    my $url = $_;
    my $new_url = grab_image($ua, $url);

sub grab_image {
    my $ua  = shift;
    my $url = shift;

    my $request = HTTP::Request->new(HEAD=>$url);
    my $response = $ua->request($request);

    my $base = basename($url);
    if ($response->is_success) {
        print STDERR ("$base\n");
    } else {
        print "ERROR\@$url\n\t".$response->status_line."\n\n";
        print STDERR ("$base MISSING\n");
        open(MISSING, ">>missing.txt");
        print MISSING "$base\n";

Yes, I could have given the file reference as a parameter 🙂 Anyway. This is slightly more convenient than checking 1887 URLs manually, isn’t it? The result were a whopping 340 URLs of missing images. Oops!

Then it dawned on me: I had simply uploaded all images from my image database that were tagged “smugmug”. I have mostly given up tagging images. It’s convenient to know exactly where you’ve taken a certain images, find all images with a sundown taken in Italy, find all images showing a certain person, etc, but when I tag images that thoroughly, it takes me 15 minutes per day. Well, maybe I should do it again, mostly ignoring the backlog.

Anyway. While I had believed that the tag “smugmug” was the one that I had always given, I must have been much more lazy than I had thought. Indeed, some checks in IMatch, my image database, revealed that the missing images were not tagged and thus had not been uploaded.

Now what? Manually finding 340 images, tagging them and copying them to my conversion directory? Possible but tedious. Thankfully IMatch can be programmed. I had to learn it, but learning it and writing a program was still faster than doing it manually.

Sub Main
	' We need an active database to run this script
	Dim db As Database
	Set db = Application.ActiveDatabase
	If db Is Nothing Then
		MsgBox "Please open a database first"
		Exit Sub
	ElseIf db.ReadOnly Then
		MsgBox "The database is read-only!"
		Exit Sub
	End If

	' Check if the result category exists
	Dim rescat As Category
	Set rescat = db.Categories("UNTAGGED")
	If rescat Is Nothing Then
		MsgBox "Please create a category 'UNTAGGED'"
		Exit Sub
	End If

	If Not rescat.Images.Count = 0 Then
		If MsgBox("Clear the category?",vbYesNo) = vbYes Then
			' Avoid flicker when updating the category!
			db.Redraw = False
			Dim rci As Image
			For Each rci In rescat.Images
				rescat.RemoveImage rci
			Next rci
			db.Redraw = True
		End If
	End If

	Dim names(339) As String
        names(0) = "20061017_161745.jpg"
        names(1) = "20061020_173954.jpg"
        ' ... and so on until
        names(338) = "20090919_173043_ps.jpg"
        names(339) = "20090925_154035.jpg"

	Dim i As Long
	For i = LBound(names) To UBound(names)
		' Find the file in the database
        Set img = Nothing
        Set iset = db.GetImages(names(i))
        If Not iset Is Nothing Then
            If iset.Count > 0 Then
                Set img = iset(1)
            End If
        End If
        If Not img Is Nothing Then
		End If
End Sub

Believe it or not, this was my first Basic program. Hmm … well, not really. Now that I think of it, 12 years ago I have written a code generator that allowed Visual Basic programmers on PCs to call C and Cobol subroutines on UNIX and VMS servers via RPC. The tool had generated client- and server-side stubs, thus I already have written Basic, at least indirectly via a program 🙂

Now I had all missing images tagged “UNTAGGED” and could export them to my conversion directory, ready for the resize-and-upload script to process them. And that’s what this script still does. It’s not the resizing, it’s the uploading. On the other hand, I don’t care. It runs in the background and I’m free to do whatever I want.

In the afternoon, after I had started the uploader, I drove to the lake. Weather was fine, and really, the water was still … well … tolerable. It’s quite cool now, but it was in no way uncomfortable.

Here we are. I will post more code examples during the next week. If you don’t care about code, just ignore it. One or the other fragment may be valuable for someone though.

The Song of the Day is “Missing You” from the 1995 Mavericks album “Music for All Occasions”. When I first heard the Mavericks, I was not sure if this is a joke or if they really mean it. It sounded so fifties retro-style, so much like “Kottan’s Kapelle” (a satirical Autrian TV series about Vienna’s police), that I was not sure what to make of it. I liked it though and have bought one more Mavericks CD. See a video on YouTube.

1081 – Lifted

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Sep 292009

That’s the best I’ve got for Monday.

In the afternoon, while walking home, I saw a crane lift a heavy weight of concrete. I waited for the moment when the container would be exactly between building and sky, and that’s what I’ve got.

Nothing special, but it gives me a reason to recommend the Song of the Day: “Lifted” from the 1999 Eurythmics reunion album “Peace”. Nice song. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 272009

Swimming in the morning, in a quiet lake, that’s still warm enough, driving a dramatic mountain road to heights of over 2000 meters in the afternoon, Carinthia is a stunningly beautiful and surprisingly diverse country.

You could tell from these pictures and the many that you’ve seen over the course of the last almost three years. This stunning beauty is marred by the presence of ghosts though.

The Carinthians are a fearful people. The ghost that haunts them most, is the danger of immediate annexation by communist Yugoslavia. Their fear is still awake, more than 60 years since the victorious partisans in Yugoslavia last tried to wrestle parts of Carinthia away from Austria, and in fact 20 years after the end of communism in Yugoslavia and in fact the end of Yugoslavia itself. Spooky, those ghosts, huh?

It all began much further in the past. After the slavic invasion, Carantania was what could be called the first Slovenian state. It emerged in the middle of 7th century and lasted for almost 200 years. Since then, the largest part of what is now Carinthia, was always populated by slavic-speaking people. Christianization of Carinthia was directed from Bavaria though, and soon the ruling class was german speaking as well.

That’s how it ever was until the end of the 18th century. The 19th century brought the same kind of industrialization, mobility of workers and rise of the urban middle classes as everywhere else, and in that process, the Slovene language was increasingly seen as the language of the peasants, and either through active suppression or through economic forces began to wane everywhere but in the rural areas.

After the end of World War I, Carinthia was the place of continuing civil war between a slovenian nationalist faction that proposed incorporation of the southern part of Carinthia into the new Yugoslav Kingdom, and the now german speaking majority. After two years, an internationally controlled referendum decided that a unified Carinthia would continue to be part of Austria.

From then on the Austrian/German nationalist faction in Carinthia continued to play an important role as the guardians of Carinthia’s unity. With nationalism being such a defining part of carinthian history, it is no wonder that this same faction became involved in National Socialism almost from the beginning, and during the six years of Nazi reign, the slovenian population was a target of ethnic cleansing.

With the downfall of the Nazi Empire the leading class in Carinthia should have been disqualified, but surprisingly this was not the case. Now communist Yugoslavia tried one more time to incorporate southern Carinthia, and this was no more than a short episode, ended by Allied occupation, but still the danger was felt again. Carinthia rallied around nationalist leaders and protected war criminals. The ghosts of 1918 were stronger than any revulsion against Nazi crimes.

After World War II Carinthia was ruled by the Social Democratic Party, and many former Nazi members simply changed membership books. In the 1970s Carinthia was in the headlines when the government tried to install constitutionally guaranteed bilingual signs at the borders of towns and parishes. You find those bi- and even trilingual signs all over Europe. It’s no problem in Italy, Switzerland, France or elsewhere, but in Carinthia it caused unprecedented riots and the signs were forcefully removed. The ghosts were back.

Since then there have been countless trials by the government to come to a peaceful resolution. To no avail. The rise of Upper-Austrian Jörg Haider to Carinthia’s political leader was possible to a big part because he instrumented nationalist feelings and hate against Slovenia. A solution would have been against his interests and those of his party. Now, even after Haider’s death, his party rules supreme and it looks as if this could go on and on.

Stupid, huh? Modern Slovenia is part of the European Union, all borders have fallen, there is no cause for conflict any more, and still the ghosts haunt us. I wonder how long this can go on.

The Song of the Day is “Ghost Of Yesterday” by Billie Holiday. I have it on a 10 CD collection that I bought for 10€. It’s not available elsewhere, thus I suggest the collection “Canciones” that I’ve linked to. Hear the Song on YouTube.

1067 – Ride Across The River

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Sep 152009

Forget about post-processing. Yes, I did some things and it’s been more or less random. I followed impulses, and as on another day the impulses would be different, so would be post-processing.

No, it’s not the procesing, it’s the crop. This is what took time, what made me try and go back, back and forth, many times, but now I am satisfied. I really like the balance in this image, and – interestingly enough – it’s a kind of hobsonesque balance that I originally set out to achieve with today’s image, and that I now enforced in this image of last Monday, our first full day in Poland, the day we went to Auschwitz. Obviously taking photographs and processing photographs are two very similar creative processes for me, cropping being very similar to the original process of composing through the viewfinder.

Why I post a past image instead of what I photographed yesterday? Easy to answer: I only made one image, a personal portrait snapshot. We had rain all day and that very fact sucked the creativity out of me 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Ride Across The River” from the 1985 (oh my, so long ago!) Dire Straits album “Brothers in Arms”. This is the very album that made the then new Compact Disc popular. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 152009

You may or may not object to it, but resistance is futile. Today an image is what you make of the raw data that the sensor captured.

These are two images of Saturday, our last day in Poland. We had been visiting Ko?ciuszko Mound in the morning (the image of the spiral stairs is from there), later the salt mines of Wieliczka, and finally, late on that overcast and gloomy afternoon, we drove a little bit around, and that’s where I made the other image.

As to the Image of the Day, I could not really decide what I like better, the B&W version, concentrating on tonal density and contrast, or the color version, concentrating more on the Yin-Yang aspect. I like both. You decide.

The other image is presented in two versions, to the left straight out of the camera, and to the right what I made of the RAW file. This is not a particularly good image, it’s more that I tried what I can do with it and myself was surprised about the result. I post it as a reminder to all those JPEG shooters. You miss something 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Your Own Choice” from the 1970 Procol Harum album “Home”. Hear it on YouTube.

By the way, I had a hard time with yesterday’s image of the town hall in Tarnów. I finally decided to give it an overhaul and have cropped it from below. The result finally has the balance that I was looking for. See for yourself. You may have to reload the page to see the new image.

1062 – Close To The Borderline

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Sep 112009

On Wednesday we made a trip to the mountains south-east of Kraków, the region between the Beskides and the Tatra. In a journal from 2001 I have read about the region, that legions of its inhabitants had gone to America, especially to Chicago and Toronto, but that most of them never had given up their houses.

Indeed you see innumerable of the typical wooden houses being uninhabited. In fact it’s pretty easy to see why: Although the region is beautiful, there is not much work available, almost no industry. My impression is though, that in the meantime tourism has become a substantial pillar of the region’s economy, with Zakopane being the #1 winter sports center in Poland.

Personally I was not particularly impressed though. I am afraid I am spoiled by our own mountains.

Other than that, let me bring forth one gripe that I have with Poland: It’s the habit of the Polish to burn things. We have called this trip jokingly an olfactory trip into the past. Let me explain.

Sometime in my youth it became forbidden to burn junk and plant remains on the fields or in your garden. Neither I nor my parents had ever done such a thing, but it was pretty common among farmers, and I can vaguely remember the protest against the law. It worked well though, and here in Poland I can experience what it means to the environment to not have such a law: It’s crazy, you see fires everywhere, everybody seems to burn some hay, leaves or whatever, and the air is constantly – and pretty unnecessarily – filled with smoke that hangs over the landscape like fog. That’s rather unfortunate, because the pollution by the heavy industry seems to be well under control.

By the way, the final image shows the name of a village. Language is another problem here in Poland, if for nobody else, then at least for me. Normally when I read a name in German, English, Italian, Spanish and to a degree French, I know how to pronounce it, and when I see it, I can more or less immediately recognize it. Not so here. Polish spelling is in a certain way elaborate that makes recognition pretty hard for me, and in some cases, like with this village’s name, it takes some pondering before I even have an idea of how to pronounce it 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Close To The Borderline” from Billy Joel’s 1980 album “Glass Houses”. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 092009

These are images of yesterday, our first day spent entirely in the center of Kraków. The Image of the Day features the cupola of the small church of sw. Wojciech (St. Adalbert), located in one corner of the vast central market square.

The chain looks gruesome, but it is no more than a simple chain, hanging in front on the Dominican Church. On the other hand, were the Dominicans not the order assigned with the duty of the Holy Inquisition? Maybe the chain is not so wrong after all.

The final image was taken when we sat in the patio of our hotel, drinking a glass of beer and enjoying the last rays of the sun.

For most of the images, and especially for the three shown here, I used the Sigma 28/1.8. A marvelous lens and clearly my current favorite as a “normal” lens.

I have made many, many more images, most of them much more characteristic of this city, but it’s the same old story: I tend to go into “documentation mode”.

Most images will help me remember the place. In fact, from many of my past journeys I remember almost nothing but the places where I have taken images, although those I remember well. Thus a yield of 3 out of 200 does not particularly worry me 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Thou Art Gone Up On High” from Handel’s “Messiah”. As always I recommend the 1990 recording conducted by Trevor Pinnock, though you can’t go wrong with John Eliot Gardiner or William Christie either. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 062009

Kraków, Poland, just as promised. My Internet connection is great, the only problem is, that I forgot my computer mouse. Editing images with a touchpad is, well, interesting. I’ll get one tomorrow 🙂

We drove all day, everything went well, but we arrived when it was already dark. I was tired from the road and only went out for half an hour to make some images.

These bronze soldiers stand on the small square just in front of our hotel. I have no idea who they were. There is an inscription at the bottom of the monument, but of course it’s Polish. I’ll ask at the reception tomorrow.

The Song of the Day is “Celluloid Heroes” by The Kinks. I have it on disc two of “The Ultimate Collection”. See a live video on YouTube.

Sep 042009

This is the second (and last) post for today. The image was taken on the construction site in front of the railway station in Vienna. It is again one of those old advertising posters that we saw in “1022 – Past In Present“.

The poster shows a red baby buggy on yellow background. I really would have liked to show the whole poster, but unfortunately it was mostly covered by construction materials. I had the Sigma 28/1.8 mounted and no time, thus what you see here is a radical crop to about 4 megapixels. Still, the image was unbalanced with its vivid colors on the left side and dull stone on the right, and even more so, as the image was visually open towards the left. Going to B&W fixed all that.

The Song of the Day is “Shades Of Time” from the 1968 self-titled Santana album. Hear it on YouTube.