1291 – Shoplifters Of The World Unite

 Tokina 11-16/2.8  Comments Off on 1291 – Shoplifters Of The World Unite
Apr 272010

If you need something, without a doubt a shopping mall is a good place to go. Interestingly enough this holds true for Images of the Day 🙂

When I arrived in Vienna I was in a hurry, and besides, the weather was real bad, which was a letdown after sunny Carinthia. It even drizzled slightly and I thought, well, the ultra-wide was perfect on Saturday in that shopping mall in Carinthia, why not try to pull the same stunt here?

So I went there for shopping, in the hope to come back with food and a nice B&W image, but this time color won, and that’s just another good point for not discarding color early.

The Song of the Day is “Shoplifters Of The World Unite“, originally from the 1987 Smiths album “The World Won’t Listen”, but as that’s not available for digital download in the US, I have also linked to “The Sound Of The Smiths”, a collection of 45 songs including 15 out of 18 of “The World Won’t Listen”.

The video on YouTube seems to be from some TV show: obvious playback and not even a halfhearted attempt to cover it. I have no idea how TV stations ever got away with that 🙂

Apr 252010

Today most images are made with digital cameras and all of them in color. Even when you set your camera to B&W mode, it won’t affect the RAW file, which will still be in color. That’s a good thing.

This image has been converted to B&W using two of Photoshop’s B&W filters and a mask, one filter “High Contrast Red” and the other “Maximum White”, The mask on one filter determining where the other takes over.

It still didn’t look as I had imagined. I wanted a darker sky and a feeling of warm afternoon sun in the dome, but without burning out highlights, and without drowning the lower part of the image in black.

What I did was the following: I copied the original layer and took it to Topaz Detail, where I used a garish filter called “Blue Sky”, that I rarely use at all. I vaguely remember having used it once and to great advantage, but I can’t remember the image. Anyway. What this filter does, is lightening greens, shifting them strongly into the yellows and darkening the blues. The idea seems to have been to use it on landscapes to give them a sunny, polarized look, but you can’t ever use it on landscapes at all, so bad does it look. Here in a technical, architectural image, it gave me a stronger contrast between the yellowish panels and the blue sky. Of course now the panels were so bright, that they would burn out in B&W, with the additional saturation that I had applied below the B&W layers. Removing the saturation would not give me the desired look, thus I doubled the “Blue Sky” layer, applied one in “Multiply” mode blended in the highlights, and the other in “Soft Light” mode, blended in the shadows. Finally I toned down the light reflex on the wall, sharpened the image slightly, added a silver tone and this is it.

It wouldn’t have been possible to take this image on film, regardless of what filters I’d have used. It could only be made in digital post-processing. And still, it looks perfectly natural. Digital photography has given us a lot more choices, and it’s our’s to make them.

The Song of the Day is “Roy’s Choice” from the 2001 De-Phazz album “Death by Chocolate”. If you’re going to buy only one De-Phazz album, this must be it. If you’re in the US, I have to recommend plastic, because the album is only available as CD import for a steep price – and it’s worth every cent of it. But hear yourself on YouTube.

Apr 132010

In the morning when I took this image, it was cold, overcast and I was in a hurry. I had planned to make some “real” images later, on my way home, but alas it began to rain around noon and it’s still raining now, at almost 1 am.

Anyway. This may not be a good image, but it is a good example of a nice effect that you can produce with Topaz Detail. They have an effect called “Soft Looking”, that actually takes detail away. Basically it keeps fine detail, suppresses medium detail a little and large detail strongly.

This image is really a worst case for bokeh, and although I normally like what I get from the Sigma 28/1.8, here it fails miserably.

What I’ve done is this: I have duplicated the background a few times. The lowest layer I’ve left as it was. The second was treated with this “Soft Looking” effect, and then I have painted in a mask to take the effect away where the leaves were sharpest. The next layer was also put through Topaz detail, but now to strongly increase detail, with the same but inverted mask. Then I’ve added my “Neutral Blur” (explained in “542 – The Show Is Over, Say Good-Bye“), sharpening and on top another “Soft Looking” of the copy/merged layer stack.

The result is a strong differentiation between sharpness and blur. It does not look entirely natural, i.e. like the creamy blur of an ideal lens, but it really makes a difference. Btw, of all the Topaz Photoshop plugins, Topaz Detail is probably the most useful and produces the most natural results. Highly recommended.

The Song of the Day is “I Keep Mine Hidden” by The Smiths. I have it on a compilation of four songs, two singles and their backsides, that is no longer available, but “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” has it as well. The Smiths catalog is a real mess. Worst of all bands I know 🙂

YouTube has the song.

1091 – Missing You

 Sigma 28/1.8  Comments Off on 1091 – Missing You
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.

Oct 092009

It’s Friday, I’m on the train to Carinthia and this is an image of Tuesday morning.

You know this bicycle. It’s an old friend and I have shown him at least once in “1034 – That Look You Give That Guy“. This week was rather bicycle-centric again. I suppose that I can show you some images of other things as well, but at least what sprang to my eye were mostly bicycles.

As to my site, I suppose I still have some problems. My Feedburner stats show that about a third of the subscribers are missing. This is obviously due to the fact that I have not managed to redirect the old source feed to the new Feedburner feed yet. Does this make no sense to you at all? Never mind, just bear with me while things are still flaky.

The layout is preliminary, I haven’t had time to work on it yet. So far I have not found anything that I like better, but I have looked for black layouts only. This is due to the black background of the Amazon ads. It would be no big deal to change them to white with black text, I’d only need another export/change/import cycle, and with the current blog this would be a matter of a few minutes only.

A white background with black text would make the text better readable, but probably this is worse for the images. As this is a photoblog, I have used black backgrounds ever since, though the sheer number of nice white layouts for WordPress tempts me. Now tell me, what do you like better: the black background that I currently have, or a white background?

On another front I have canceled my SmugMug account today. Feels strange after three years. Just a little bit like leaving an old friend. On the other hand, as far as I can tell from a view in their forums, quite some people are fed up and consider leaving as well.

The Song of the Day is “He’s The Keeper” from Paul Weller’s 2000 album “Heliocentric”. See a video on YouTube.

Oct 092009

It’s Friday morning and this is a picture from Monday. I’m still struggling to catch up. Like I said, I missed the train on Sunday and took Monday off.

This image was taken from the window of my study in Villach, Carinthia. The rest of the day turned out sunny and beautiful, but in the mornings we see fog now.

Like every year this time of the year, the song of the Day is once more “The Morning Fog” from Kate Bush’s 1985 album “Hounds of Love”. Hear it on YouTube.

1084 – To Me You Are A Work Of Art

 Sigma 28/1.8  Comments Off on 1084 – To Me You Are A Work Of Art
Oct 022009

Sometimes I wonder if I should go back to older images and re-do them in Photoshop. Of course I don’t do it, but in many cases it would make so much difference.

It’s incredible how much you learn and how this never ends. Of course it’s the tools as well. Take this bicycle for instance. I have used Topaz Detail to give it an extremely graphic and overdone look, basically by combining the presets “Creative Detail Accent” and “Micro Contrast Detail”. Then I have made a mask to restrict the effect to the bicycle alone. In the next step I have layered on top what I call my “Neutral Blur” (see “542 – The Show Is Over, Say Good-Bye” for details), and as base of the blurring I have taken the original image.

That’s something that I use very often: two opposite effects, both pretty overdone, layered in two groups, one above the other, and then I fine-tune the overall effect by varying group opacities. Whatever the result is, due to the leveling effect of the blur, it needs a “Levels” adjustment layer, and finally I do some sharpening, mostly in the mid-tones and probably again with pulled back opacity. Normally I also apply an edge mask to the sharpness layer, here I simply took the mask that I already had made. Does this make sense? Hmm … I really should make a tutorial of that.

The Song of the Day is “To Me You Are A Work Of Art” from Morrissey’s 2006 album “Ringleader of the Tormentors”. Hear the song on YouTube.

Sep 302009

Don’t ask me why I chose this title. Honestly, I don’t know. It somehow seemed appropriate.

I spent most of this evening trying to create a simple image display application for my new site. It’s not more than a single PHP page, it’s trivial, but as it’s the first time that I write anything in PHP, nothing seems trivial to me. It’s not even done yet. So far it looks OK in everything but Internet Explorer. Sigh!

The Song of the Day is “Life Is A Long Song” from the 1972 Jethro Tull album “Living in the Past”. See sort of a chamber music version on YouTube. Gotta love it.

1081 – Lifted

 Sigma 150/2.8 Macro  Comments Off on 1081 – Lifted
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

Funny that I have never used “September Song” as a title. It was an obvious title for this image, in fact so obvious, that I thought it must have been taken two years ago.

Of all versions that I know of this song, none is better than what Lou Reed recorded for the 1985 all-star collection “Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill”. I know, this record is not available any more, but if you happen to find a copy: get it. It’s so good. Hear for yourself on YouTube.

As for the image, I took it when I went swimming this afternoon. Maybe for the last time this year. Who knows?