Oh, hi. Remember me?

So, hey. Remember me? I used to blog here.

Yeah, well… I keep intending to, but things keep happening. And blogging keeps losing to “sleep” on the “what do I do next?” list in the evening.

The good news is, some really good stuff has happened. For instance…

When Google+ was updated to support communities, I decided to experiment with them. The result was the Bird Photography community. I really, really like how G+ has implemented these communities, it’s very well thought out and fairly easy to manage. I was joined early on by a second person as a co-founder, and we’ve been working together to get the community operating the way we want it to and to create the culture of the group. It’s worked quite well so far, and there’s a great community of users there now. We’ve passed 2500 members and are quickly headed towards 3,000. Because we want to stay ahead of the growth curve, in the last ten days, we’ve brought in four new moderators to help out and help us implement some new things within the group. A good bit of my writing energy has been focussed there, but now that the moderators are on board, I can relax a bit and be a bit less hands-on.

As a side project to the community, I started Bird Photography Today. This was my first experiment with Google+ pages because I was curious how well they’d work as a curation tool. The answer: they’re pretty good. This page is an experiment in curating into one place the best of the Bird Photography community as well as other content of interest to Bird Photographers that I find on G+ and around the net. It’s still a rather informal thing, but I expect to expand its scope and when I can set up the right toolchains, migrate that content around to other services and see what useful forms I can mutate it into. Right now it’s very much community-centric, and there’s a lot of really good photography being showcased there, but I’d like it to become a resource bird photographers can use as a reference for what’s going on across the net. Someday: right now, I’m just dipping my toe into that.

That experiment convinced me it was time to move to my third generation of my curation experiment, and so I retired the tumblr toy and replaced it with the Stuff You’ll Like page on Google+, paired with a twitter feed, which you can follow @CollatingLife. I even did one of my patented crappy icons for it, so I must be serious.

Seriously, though, by using Hootsuite as a front end administrative console that feeds submissions into both the G+ page and the Twitter feed, and then using a WordPress plug-in to suck in the Twitter feed and turn it into the blog post every night, I think this is a nice way to track down and distribute a curated feed of the things I run into around the net every day that I find useful and interesting. Thanks to adopting in Hootsuite in the front end, administratively it’s a lot easier and has a much lower-hassle factor for me, although my workflow is still desktop based. I am working towards being able to do my curation work mobile as well some day, but it’s not here yet.

Why my continuing work on these curation tools? I see them as signal amplifiers — helping the quality content out there surface so others can more easily find it in the noise generated by that huge firehose of data the internet spews out every second. This kind of curation work is one way we can all help the good content get noticed — but a key to these kind of curation systems are that they have to be low-friction and low-hassle for the curator, or it won’t happen reliably. If we can figure out easy ways to do this kind of curation, then maybe we can start seeing larger numbers of these curated feeds happening, and if we do, there’s a lot of work we can do analyzing and processing those feeds to help find the consensus views on the information most useful and interesting to people — so we can present it and give it visibility. (this general process is one reason why I like Prismatic and have made it my primary discovery service. They’re doing interesting work there.

Feel free to hook into this either on G+ or on Twitter.

The other thing that has sucked up my spare time (and then some) the last few weeks is that I upgraded to LightRoom 5.

Well, the LightRoom upgrade was painless. Really, it was. But once I started working with Lightroom 5, things kind of mushroomed. I uttered those infamous words “well, as long as I’m working on this, I ought to…” and –

Okay, have you ever told your spouse “I’m headed out to the garage for a bit. I need to change the oil in the car.” — and then when dinner hits and she comes out to see if you’ve been crushed under the car she finds the engine spread all over the floor in pieces? Yeah, when you open the hood, things don’t always go as planned.

Or in my case, they went exactly as planned — but I kept expanding the scope of the plans. As long as I’m here, I’ve been meaning to get to….

Yeah. That.

Since last we spoke, not only have I upgraded to Lightroom 5, I…

Completely restructured how I store photos on the hard drives, partly because I’ve shifted to using an SSD in the laptop (much smaller, so the images wouldn’t fit on it while traveling).

With LR5′s Smart Previews, I now had the ability to leave the RAW files at home. Except for key files I wanted with me on disk, and of course the catalogs. And some of my workflows broke badly, especially those depending on virtual copies, which have to reside in the same folder as the original.

And while fixing that, I realized that meant I had to rethink how I was storing different versions of an image on the disk — the image file I use as the primary master is different than the one I use for print is different than the one I use to create wallpapers and MAY (or may not) be different than the one I use to upload to sites like flickr, and… So I had to beat this chaos into submission.

And while fixing that, I realized I needed to rethink how I named files, because I had to actually be able to find the right version later without wasting 15 minutes searching.

And while fixing that, I had to rethink some of my keywording strategies to support these changes, and that meant changing a bunch of smart folders that depended on the keywords.

Somewhere along the way I remembered there were a bunch of images I wanted to resharpen because their sharpening frankly sucked and every time I looked at them on Flickr I winced. So I did.

And then the whole controversy about Photoshop’s move to Creative Cloud and the pricing kicked in, and people started whining about not being able to open PSD files if they stop paying for Photoshop. And the upshot of that was a decision to see just how far I could pull myself away from Photoshop in my post processing, and also making a decision that a PSD file could no longer be used as a permanent holder for an image. So yes, that means both reprocessing a bunch of images to experiment with new workflows methods — and I’ve come up with one that doesn’t use photoshop at all, unless I need to use a specific operation within photoshop (like content aware patch, or the occasional adjustment with a layer mask). That, and high-end printing, are the only reasons I’m using Photoshop for photos now, and my plug-in workflow now uses TIFF instead of PSD, and if I DO use photoshop along the way, the final result is now saved to TIFF, so if my Photoshop ever turns into a pumpkin, my images still work.

And while I was busy beating my head against those particular walls, I decided to say bugger all and I ended up mass resharpening a lot of my images (MUCH improved, if not individually crafted), and then reprocessed from scratch my best of show images, and decided (because I’m insane) to take all of my HDR images (ALL my HDR images) and reprocess them from scratch. And…

And along the way, I added in some new keywording sets and started attaching them to files, and a bunch of new views into the catalog via smart folders, and some new diagnostics against the catalog (again with smart folders) that tell me when I’ve screwed up some part of a  workflow or something is “wrong” in there, and…

Yeah. And once I was done, I’d touched about 2500 images, reprocessed around 650 in some way or another, including a couple of dozen HDRs, and here we are three weeks of long evenings later, and honestly, I really like the end result. It was totally worth it. About half the images I’ve uploaded to Flickr got refreshed, and another 150-200 got deleted and uploaded as new images because of various limitations in how lightroom, the uploading plug-in and flickr all want to interact. Lots and lots and lots of bits flying around the room for lots and lots of hours….

But, like going out to change the oil and coming back having rebuilt the pistons and retimed the crankshaft, the end result seems pretty good for now. And there’s a huge amount of fun stuff in there to blog about, which I intend to do. There are things I’m doing with Lightroom that I haven’t seen anyone else ever talk about, and you may well find some of this useful and interesting for your own purposes…

And now I don’t wince when I look at my images on Flickr. That alone is priceless…

And yeah, I’ve even taken a few photos. but honestly, not many. Summer is not the best nature photo period here in the Bay Area, but shorebird migration is starting up. And it’s not too far off that we’ll be headed up into Oregon for some honest to god vacation time.

but until then, less Lightroom, more writing. Maybe. Hopefully…




This entry was posted in About Chuq.
  • http://about.me/esoltys Eric James Soltys

    That is another impressive icon for @CollatingLife. I haven’t visited Prismatic in quite a while. I find it easier to visit a handful of news sites instead.