Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Windows 7 is now public in a pre-beta edition that was made available to the press. After the Vista imbroglio that has gone on since its release with endless negativity towards Microsoft, that they had to recant and offer a new version is not unexpected at such an early date, and they have been candidly contrite in admitting Vista has not been well received, which was confirmed by Microsoft naming the next version Windows 7 dropping the Vista brand, and hoping this edition number will bring them luck.

There was only a sideways acknowledgement that the User Account Control of intrusive pop-up security alert window is an annoyance, but not that it also disables a calibrated and profiled displays start-up status, which destroys color management functioning. But in Windows 7 the intrusion can be turned off completely and apparently without affecting system security. But the pre-beta watchers had nothing to say about color management, which was again a disappointment in a lack of hyped promised new version implementation in Vista as it was with Windows 2000, so there is no insight yet whether Windows will have anything better in Color Management than the current ICM 2.0 from the mid 1990's.

The only reference to anything even vaguely relative to digital photography was a hint that it and other media support in Windows 7 may very likely be downloadable Windows Live web-based applications. Whether that will be an advantage or disadvantage is not clear as no one has really tried to work with anything like that, but a hint of it came from Adobe recently in their new web-based application recently launched that is so dumbed-down it is even insulting to novice photographers and is really only supportive of the least of people who make point and shoot snapshots. So there is a real question if there will be even sufficient support of serious digital photography except through 3rd party applications like Adobe's, and whether they will work any better or even as well a they have performed on XP.

The same day most of the information I read on Windows 7 on PC Magazine's web site and the ZDnet web site, their premier blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes had a speculative piece "How long until Apple is bigger than Microsoft" which had some rather startling statistics to the effect Microsoft revenue at $15.1 billion is not all that far ahead of Apple at $11.7 billion, and Apple is ahead with cash on hand at $25.5 billion compared to Microsoft's $20.7 billion.

This of course leads to all kinds of fun speculation to heat up the ancient and worn thin PC vs Mac rivalries. But there is now after Vista some questions that maybe Apple 's concept and business model is a superior one to Microsoft's, especially if you consider Apple has a very much better customer satisfaction record. But there is still the problem that once committed, computer users no matter how disappointed will not admit they made a bad choice any more than they will admit any of their political beliefs are wrong, so there will be no stampede to Apple Macs for now, even if Windows 7 doesn't lessens the pains of Vista.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


One of the most positive attributes of digital over film, the cost of film and processing disappears as an inhibitor to making photographs. I notice photo enthusiasts who write to me are taking large quantities of pictures at an occasion, especially recently since large memory cards have gotten very affordable. Like Joe Sixpack with his new Model XX dSLR shot 150 exposures of his 12 year old son's football game. So now what does he do, as he asks can he batch process all these files because he was told to set his camera on Raw to get the best quality images. And, color correcting and adjusting each image manually is very time consuming whether using the software that came with the camera, or even if saved as a batch conversion to high-bit TIIF files and then color correcting and adjusting each image individually in a photo editor.

Of course for another $200 Joe can get either Adobe LightRoom or Apple Aperture and color correct and adjust just one image of the set and apply those settings to all the rest of the set and likely get a good result easily being all the exposures were made of the same subject, in the same environment and lighting. But what about his brother Sam Sixpack who has exposed almost 200 frames stored on his memory card but the subject, locale, lighting, and even the lens used was different to make the photographs. The automatic adjustments in any software editing application don't really work that well or reliably especially if the subjects are unusual like shots made on a ski trip in the snow, for instance.

Should I recommend to Sam Sixpack he would be better off because it would be easier, and probably better to switch modes and save in JPEG and let the camera's on-board processor make the adjustments post-exposure. Isn't that a bit insulting and denigrating after paying over a $1,000 for a dSLR and then use it like a point and shoot?

The idea of the Raw format is to record everything the camera's sensor is exposed to and then saved as a high-bit image file without any post-exposure in-camera adjustment processing. This is to provide the photographer with the opportunity to color correct and adjust each image ideally in respect to the image information contained and the expectations of the photographer. However to a very large extent auto-matic processing can only measure the global attributes of the image file content with no realization or awareness of the subject content, and adjust the image according to hose measurable factors as if all photographs should be the same.

Sadly although LightRoom and Aperture are ideal for pro shooters who make large shoots on assignment, usually the shoot is of similar subjects in the same location and under similar lighting, so they can easily do what I suggested was possible for Joe Sixpack. This is a dilemma I think for the photo enthusiast who is more likely to make pictures of varied subjects in different environments, like on a vacation or at a family reunion. How can they efficiently use Raw and get the best image quality with each individual and different exposure and do so easily and automatically.

Personally I don't think that is a reasonable possibility, but you may disagree. You might think, Oh! That's just Brooks' opinion. My response to that is that much of the last decade I have been scanning my film image library made over 40 years working full-time as a photographer, which has involved literally thousands of scans, and no two scans I have done have resulted from the same image color correction and adjustment settings. In other words experience has taught me all photographs, excepting those bracketed exposures of the same scene under the same conditions, are individually unique, And unless that uniqueness is respected, you cannot realize the full potential of an image. There is no easy way by assuming all photographs are alike which is the fundamental assumption of automatic processing, to realize the full quality potential of a photographic image unless it is given due respect as something uniquely individual and full attention is paid to all of its attributes in the way it is color corrected, adjusted and edited in processing.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I came across a news item out of China that has spread around much of the world but has barely surfaced in the US. Microsoft recently stepped up its campaign through the internet to identify pirated copies of Windows software in use. If an illegal copy is found the screen background is turned black and a notice is printed in one corner that the operating system is an illegal pirated copy of Windows.

The Chinese computer users, legal and illegal users of Windows are indignant over what they perceive is an invasion of their privacy, that if Microsoft can "hack" all their users it isn't fair, and one lawyer has even filed a suit that it is a crime.

Microsoft has even made an offer of greatly discounted copies of Windows but has defended its action of presenting users with the black screen "warning", which only appears for a short time every hour without otherwise disabling the computer.

This Microsoft anti-piracy campaign is seen as a threat and there is a Chinese backlash against Microsoft as it seems most Chinese see little wrong in using pirated software, which is estimated to run 80% of the computers in the country. This is a business dilemma for Microsoft of course, but they have a hard argument to make when a pirated copy of Windows is 1/10th or less than a legal copy, and especially in a country where the average income is still a fraction of what it is in the US or Europe.

But for the typical Chinese computer user, it is also a dilemma considering a large part of the computer components and complete computers sold in the world are made in China, and they nearly all must have Windows to be useful to people everywhere. So the old American saw, what is good for General Motors (substitute Microsoft) is good for America (substitute China) - the Chinese would have a much poorer economy without PC's and Microsoft, as the computer industry supports a big part of China's export industry.

Although even business people in China, at a level that must be aware of how big a part of China's new modern economy computer business is, have the attitude "I'll still use pirated software" quoted from a comment posted to this article as published in China. The curious thing is, what kind of logic supports not seeing that by persisting and supporting pirated software they are shooting themselves in the foot, and don't seem to realize it or care.

What sense does it make for the Chinese to be furious at Microsoft for letting users of pirated software know that what they are using is illegal? And they apparently don't understand why Microsoft is connected to their computer when they use the internet. Is this not a case of a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Apparently few in China understand that Microsoft is part of the "computer goose" that lays golden eggs, and starving the goose by using pirated software may cause them to have less themselves.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


My e-mail inbox often contains some photo related promo piece, most of which I have learned are only worth ignoring. But Workhouse Publicity sent me a piece about Photographers Limited Editions describing it as a showcase for some of the world's best contemporary shooters and the press release was about featuring the work of Howard Schartz currently. However I recognized a lot of the names of photographers that I know are published in the slickest media today, so I decided to take a look, and was entranced in this website gallery for some time looking at the collection of images on display:

The photographers represented have an included collection of images that is quite diverse, but also reflects not just the photographers' interests but what the contemporary cultural elite respond to in vision, style and sensibility. The largest part of the body of work are photographs of people, celebrities but not any the paparazzi pursue like Britney Spears and that Hilton girl; a collection of artful, classy nudes and even more portraits, but also a much smaller selection of city and landscapes, architecture and nature. But as at all levels of society today people and photographers are most interested in other people as subjects.

Browsing through and appreciating the images in the Photographers Limited Editions website gallery also brought to mind another frequent item in my e-mailinbox as well as being a recurrent post in the Shutterbug website Forum, young aspiring photographers looking for advise as to how to break into professional photography. From the outside there seems to be an assumption there is some secret key to becoming a well known published shooter. But beyond education, a lot of hard work practicing and honing one's skills, and of course native visual talent, as well as being able to perceive and visualize pictures in reality, there is no magic key to unlock the portals to success.

However the website gallery collection of images representing many successful photographers provides some basis of insight as to what kinds of images are successful culturally. In fact the very first article I had published in a photo magazine called Portraiture In A Media Mode in RangeFinder in 1972 suggested that anyone photographing people to sell portraits would do well to consider the ideal self-image people have, and that that ideal vision is very much shaped by the way people are portrayed in the mass media, in magazines, ads, television, on billboards. Even the stylized face and figure of a Barbie doll has many of the same ideal attributes you see on the pages of Elle, Vogue and Glamour magazines. So I suggested in a portrait photograph of themselves, people want to see the image in the same style of photograph that is familiar to them they see in the media.

This does not mean that an aspiring photographer should copy exactly the look of the photographs of some current star shooter? Not any more than a singer will be successful mimicking Barry White, for instance. Each photographer has to develop their own unique individuality, but at the same time you cannot be either ahead of or behind the curve of what is the vision and sensibility of current popular culture if you want to find your photographs are appealing to people in general. Photography is and a photographer has to be a part of the contemporary culture in the society in which one is practicing to attain broad acceptance. So if there is any key to success it is to be very aware of what the current cultural idiom is in terms of look and style and visual sensibilities which is also the ideal self-image of most of the people who will be a photographer's audience of clients.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


As Chrstopher Hitchens, our transplanted British intellectual gadfly alluded last night on Larry King (CNN) one of the America's ugliest and cultural lowpoints, the nastiness of our election campaigning, will be over for awhile come 10 more days of torturous embarrassment. But this election period is ending on an even sourer note with a financial crisis and an impending world-wide recession that the most astute economists see as being both deep and long. It may seem like a poor time to start something new, but for me I see it as therapy and an immunity from personal recession depression.

What the new is that I am reviving and rededicating this blog to talk about my perspective on digital photography. as my main professional interest too will likely be affected by the world's economic plight, I am sure. That the flood from old film photography to digital will be slowed to a gentler stream as consumer wallets are zipped shut, and will of course be bad for some in the business, but that revolution is largely complete save the small band of neo-Luddites and those still intimidated by computers.

We are in perilous times afloat in unchartered waters, and there is still a backwater who believe time can be frozen and reversed, but there is no stopping change no matter how frightening the prospects ahead. That some will find their rug pulled out from under them is happening and will probably accelerate before it slows to a stable normality. But focusing on the bad side of the times we are in no matter how disheartening the prospect, does not help to travel through and past the rough water. How one looks at life and the dimension of it I concern myself with, digital photography, allows better things to come from looking at our situation from the positive perspective of hope by focusing on the good side.

Until the crisis we are in captured just about everyone's attention the pace of life seemed like being in the middle of a pack of dogs all chasing their tails. That an economy in recession will slow the velocity of life is a foregone conclusion, and being on a slower road will provide opportunities, as the old saying goes "to stop and smell the flowers". So how about responding to a more relaxed passage through life by making pictures of what we have passed by and missed in the rush to get ahead to who knows where in the recent past?

One of the good things if you already have a digital camera and a computer, even when money is short you can take pictures, and enjoy them on your computer, and unlike past bad times there is no cost of film and processing to inhibit your creativity. I just saw on Bill Moyers PBS show about a project undertaken by a successful music producer called Playing For Change ( that features "street" musicians from all over the world who spread joy and happiness to be alive to all around them. "No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we are all united through music" is there credo and I believe all of the arts, including photography can participate in that same unitary humanism by sharing what is found beautiful and inspiring in the world.

Even the simplest and least civilized of people we know of living isolated in faraway places with meager sustenance all find some way to participate in art whether music, dancing, carving and decorating themselves or their habitat - art seems to be an essential part of our humanity. Long ago when I first started writing for photo magazine, I realized photography as practiced by most people is really the visual folk art of our time. So now in times less distracted by consumerism and getting ahead it may be a good opportunity to use your camera to express yourself and connect creatively to others to support our greater humanity. Even if you have nothing else to give in these tight times the gift of beauty shared with others humanizes us all with the joy of living.