Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Although there is little difference in the appearance of a dSLR camera and its 35mm film predecessor, that has to do with the human ergonomic way of using tools and obscures the fact digital photography has little in common with film photography.Yes both cameras use lenses and shutters and similar viewfinders, but the process is not alike even though both can produce photographic looking images.

The camera originated as a mechanical, optical-chemical device from the industrial revolution well over 100 years ago. Some of it’s first image making tasks were to record the movement of horses running and birds flying, and provided insights and understandings that began the modern machines of transportation we now have with railroads, automobiles and airplanes. But the cameras and the pictures they reproduced were physical objects made by a machine process of exposing light sensitive silver to the light reflected through a lens onto film. And the process of development was a physical change to the exposed silver by chemical reaction, producing an object and product of a machine, a thing that is a physical photographic image we know as a transparency, negative and print.

For the sake of mutual understanding let’s assume all subjects are a part of nature reflecting light that can be focused onto a light sensitive medium, either photo film or a digital camera sensor chip. Even though the subject may include artificial man-made objects like an automobile, a bicycle, or a house, they are all manufactured from natural ingredients, so they are really as natural as grass, trees, water, air and people.

The one key difference that distinguishes digital from the old mechanical method of producing a photo image of reality is that it is now done with electricity. Another distinction is that the digital area array senor is actually a matrix of pixels or sensor sites which applies its form to the reflected light of a subject. The result is the exposure is a measurement of millions of independent matrix elements which defines a metrical pattern. So what is reproduced is a representation of light measurement reading that fit into a matrix form and the electricity generated by this measurement is recorded as number values of different amounts of red, green and blue values. In other words a metrical collection of numbers recorded as a file that if read with an editor would not reveal a picture. Just pages of rows and rows of numbers and a few letters.

A digital photo only looks like a picture when opened with a photo application and the RGB pixel values are displayed as pixel colors in an LCD display. A personal computer has no idea of what a user is seeing on screen. LCD display adjustment, calibration and profiling will help match the screen image to what is printed using a color managed application like versions of Photoshop. But still the adjustment of image values is mechanical using basically the same mechanical adjustment tools first offered in computer paint programs in the 1980’s - nothing has changed basically just refinements. However there are exceptions in software that does recognize the matrix pattern of image content by a computer. First of all cameras and some photo applications have borrowed surveillance face recognition technology. The Professional Portrait retouching application also recognizes digital camera matrix patterns to automatically retouch face pictures made with digital cameras. And of course the system of automatic image adjustment editing recently released to individual users as Organic Imaging functions on the basis of a massive library of digital images they have recorded and processed over the last decade.

Otherwise the typical personal computer is blind to the information it processes when the content is digital camera made files. The main processor is device independent from the display - there is no personal computer recognition of digital images by either the computer or the display, which is only there to provide a GUI feedback and control of what the computer’s applications are processing. An adjustment of displayed digital photographic qualities has to be evaluated by user’s perception and adjusted by sight and individual judgment. The hardware and software are potentially capable of digital matrix pattern recognition and automated adjustment, but the companies that design, make and sell personal computers so far have not even acknowledged that digital image recognition and automated adjustment based on image recognition is possible or of any interest to users. So don’t expect a new model personal computer that is digital photo image aware  and capable of automated digital image adjustment any time soon. What we are getting is a slicker package design with faster and faster CPU chips, but basically the same design capabilities that were available in 1990.

Of course I must add that scanning film images produces a digital photo file that is electrically generated and a hybrid version of digital photographs. This fact allows the editing of these images advantages of both the film and digital mediums. But unfortunately matrix pattern sensitive automated function like retouching do not work the same to support automatic retouching as effectively as it can be done with digital camera produced portraits. However, the Organic Imaging ( application and process seems to automatically adjust scanned film images as effectively as digital camera made photographs.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


How do you store digital photographic image files is a question photographers send to me in various forms; wanting to know how, and what products to consider. Security that the data stored will be safe from loss or damage is a prime issue, you can’t replace an image file if it is the only one and is lost. File storage has been a computer user issue from the earliest days of personal computing, and for most of the time since then it has been up to the user to provide a solution. There are many choices from hard drives installed in computers to external HD’s connected to a computer; and including mirrored duplicate drive in what is called a RAID system. Then there is the possible choice of disc drives now standardized on CD and DVD, with the recent addition of the Millenniata DVD discs using a proprietary long lasting disc material and requiring a  special LGE writing drive.

In recent times a technology that provides the sharing of commercially owned storage farms called “cloud storage” has been opened to individual computer users either directly or through a photo service company or organization. For the individual user there is an unusually complete and accurate information resource to get an understanding of the “cloud storage” technology on Wikipedia. ( I would be confident the experts in the field have applied thorough editing to this Wikipedia  document to see it is as complete and as objective as possible. And it does cover the subject of data and individual security, indicating that these “cloud storage” services are privately or corporately owned, and the companies could become bankrupt, go out of business or suffer physical disruption and even destruction of facilities by both natural and other disorders could make access via the internet as well as their power supply no longer viable.

That their are security issues is in the news frequently when one or another vendor reports the loss of the personal account and password data of large numbers of ordinary customers. But like any disaster occurs affecting many people it is not news that sinks in, people do not relate to what they now call “big data”, its not personal. But just a few days ago a journalist who writes for Wired magazine had his cloud accounts hacked into and he lost the use of his MacBook, iPad and iPhone as well as all of the data stored on his work tools - he was not backed up on a hard disk of his own. (   This news went viral all over the global village, and at least two major technology companies have since hardened their username/password security as a result.

I cannot claim being clairvoyant about image fie storage security. I adopted an old system using gold/gold CD discs I began using almost 20 year ago, the only affordable system then available. It was a lucky choice as all the image files I have produced over the years are still available to me, I have not lost one file, and no hacker can get even near my CD stored files. I just follow an old saying, “if you want it done right do it yourself”. It is not that I distrust Apple, Amazon or any of the other large corporations that have computer hard drive farms located now all over the world, but many of these companies except Apple did not even exist when I started doing digital photographic images, and many of the familiar companies then are now gone, or on a downward track to who knows where like Kodak. Fortunately, unlike it was back in the 90’s good quality secure storage hardware is available to individuals now at very affordable costs. The only thing you might miss by letting the clouds overhead drift by is convenience, the cloud is not free, you rent space one way or another. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012


The end of this week I received an e-mail LaCie sales notice with a surprise. The LaCie 324i LCD display I reviewed in Shutterbug, was featured with a $769 price. So I called LaCie and spoke with a sales representative and got some interesting news. LaCie is discontinuing its sales of displays and the 324i like the one I purchased and have written about has been discontinued; there are no more new ones available. The $769 price advertised is for refurbished units of  this excellent 24 inch, wide color gamut LCD display. It comes with a 180 day warranty and does not include a hood or LaCie’s calibration hardware and software. 

For those interested in a high quality pro-graphics LCD display the few refurbished models in stock may be a real value. I have been using mine for about two years now and its performance is excellent. But I am sorry LaCie displays will no longer be available as LaCie has been a good source for quality  displays for some years now, and I am still using one of the earlier models I purchased many years ago before the addition of my recent 324i. To connect to obtain more specifics on this sale by LaCie go to:

Monday, August 6, 2012


Tools are an essential part of modern life. Without spoons, forks, knives, pots and pans, preparing food would be a much more difficult task. Without a lawnmower trimming your lawn would be almost impossible. Without wheels you would be dependent on your feet to get around, and that is slow and tiresome.

These tools we are familiar with, as a carpenter is with a hammer and saw. We know how they function and that knowledge allows us to use these familiar tools effectively, and usually safely. In the last 25 years another set of tools based on electronics and digital technology has been added to our culture. Most of us don’t know very much about them although we buy devices that involve these tools, and extend ourselves well beyond our imagination. I can connect instantly by e-mail or phone with someone in Europe, China or as far away as New Zealand. We are all part of the internet, the so-called global village.

But this village may not be a very friendly community. Just today I read about a fellow journalist who had his iCloud account hacked into and he lost all of his access to and data on his laptop, his cell phone and tablet computer, and more. Sadly, he had not backed-up his computer and devices, so he has become a rather lost person without access to his work and livelihood. Extensions of ourselves through modern digital tools can be dangerous if we use them without thinking of the consequences, of what dangers they bring to us.

It won’t get any better as just this week I was informed of a very useful new app (computer applications): it is called Polkast which allows you to use WiFi electronic communications to have complete access to all of your data files wherever they are, on a iPhone, made with a digital camera or stored in your home computer. You can check out this new digital data tool at Another advertised in my favorite computer magazine and recommended by them is a USB facility of a similar nature called CloudFTP, and it makes any USB storage device wireless to share data files from your camera for instance to a computer or USB thumb drive, and more. You can check this out at Hyperdrive CloudFTP listed on Google shopping, as well as listed by

This is not a warning about a present and future of danger to you. Not at all, but it is an alarm for you to learn about what you are getting into using any of these new and extended communications tools. You do need to understand how they work so you can take the essential precautions to avoid serious consequences. These days I get frequent e-mails from photographers who have adopted digital photography only recently, and often also new to using a computer. That means there is a backlog of essential basic how-to that may be missed by recent converts, that those of us who have used these tools for the last quarter century learned, all too often the hard way, by the knocking about you get when flying by the seat of your pants. 

I am glad to help when someone jumps in and buys a new desktop LCD display to use with a laptop, but did not realize to make it work for creating high quality digital photo prints, the display needs to be adjusted, calibrated and profiled too. Or a photographer wants to edit and save JPEG photo files and does not know the limitations inherent to the JPEG standard file format. But sometimes there is little I can do for someone who has an expensive scanner that is no longer manufactured and sold, because there is little support for the product. The one thing I can say that will help, and that is to become as well informed as possible about the tools you are using and be aware of what precautions they demand to make your world as secure as it can be.