One way to tell you’re maturing as a photographer

I’m convinced one of the more significant tipping points in the maturation of a photographer is when you make that mention shift from “Damn, I only got 20 keepers from my photography today” to “wow! I have two keepers from today’s work!”.

That may seem like a trivial shift in mindset, but I don’t think it is. It’s a combination of a realization that you have a lot of good work in your library already, and an understanding that what you’re trying to do is add better work to it, not just more images. And that it’s okay to decide not to add stuff into your library just because it’s “good enough”. 

Posted in Photography

Look up the word “cluster” in the dictionary, and you’ll see HP’s logo….

HP’s Smartphone Announcement ‘Soul Crushing,’ Says Matthew McNulty:

But Matthew McNulty, the former senior director of the HP Enyo team, Enyo being the successor to webOS, said he would be surprised if HP used webOS for its new smartphone since many engineers have left the company, including McNulty who departed HP for Google in May.

However, if he still worked at HP, McNulty said the announcement from Whitman would have been devastating.

Matt’s right, and I think he speaks fairly for most webOS/Palm people, current and former.

But I think we need to be careful about trashing Meg here. 

We have to remember that Palm (the company) was a bit of a cluster — and the first phone shipped when it had to, not when it was ready to ship. And Palm was running out of money. And then HP stepped in and turned Palm into a much better funded cluster, and HP really did try to help Palm be successful. Except HP then got sidetracked into its own series of clusters, whether it was Mark Hurd (who along with Shane Robison were the primary supporters behind buying and funding Palm) being forced out over his choice of dinner companions, or HP hiring Leo (WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? OMG, WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?) and Leo trying to blow up any part of HP he didn’t understand, which was big parts of the company. 

So when Meg was brought in, her primary function was as a field surgeon, trying to keep the patient alive long enough to get to the hospital. Massive damage was done to HP and to webOS, and most of the webOS damage was almost of the “innocent bystander at a drive by shooting” type as a side effect of Leo’s attack on the PC division. 

Meg could have just written webOS off and shut it all down as a damaged investment not worth fixing. Given how many much bigger and strategic problems she had at HP when they brought her in, nobody would have blinked at that. But she brought in Marc Andreesen to help her figure out what to do, and they committed even more funding to give it a third life as an open source technology. Whatever you think about Leo, HP and how badly they screwed up things with webOS and Palm, it needs to be remembered that at least a couple of toes were shot off by Palm itself with it’s own gun before Leo pulled out the Uzi.

And in all honesty, Meg has done a rather amazing job of giving WebOS another chance, and has been honest about it. She could have used the “there are just too many bigger problems I need to deal with” excuse and shut it down cold. She could have put it on life support, or funded it just enough to let it fail and then said “I tried”. She could have just stuck it in a closet and quietly killed it a few months later when things quieted down. But she put an honest effort and honest levels of funding into giving it a shot, and she deserves full credit for that. 

And to the credit of the folks sticking it out with webOS (unlike myself, who ran like a rat off the ship when I had a chance to without any regrets…) they seem to be doing what they need to do, and I’ve been really impressed with the results so far. So maybe, just maybe, what Meg set in place will succeed. I’m sure rooting for it. And she deserves credit for that. Given how badly Leo screwed everything up, I’m frankly amazed how much progress she’s made at HP so far. Still a long, hard path for the company as a whole before it’s fixed, if it ever is, but IMHO, it’s in good hands. 

Posted in Computers and Technology, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area

Now Imagine If Amazon Had Bought Palm And WebOS

Now Imagine If Amazon Had Bought Palm And WebOS – SplatF:

So here’s an interesting exercise: Imagine if Amazon had acquired Palm and WebOS instead of HP. While WebOS and HP’s TouchPad tablet were ultimately failures — and the deal timing doesn’t really work — it may have resulted in a more interesting partnership and more successful products.

What WebOS did well is exactly what Amazon’s Kindle Fire needs: A beautiful, clever interface, second only to Apple’s. (And even better than iOS in some ways.) Combined with Amazon’s expertise in e-commerce, digital media, and its aggressive pricing, a Kindle TouchPad might be an even more compelling device than what Amazon has built on its own.

There are some major problems with this idea, of course. Amazon’s app ecosystem mostly exists because companies are already developing for Android. Building the Kindle Fire around WebOS would have meant far fewer apps, at least in the short-term. Or perhaps the WebOS team could have remade its user interface for an Android-based tablet, but who knows how long that would have taken or if it would have been any good. (Not to mention any economic or logistical problems with this combination.)

But, still, an interesting idea! Jeff Bezos clearly cares about becoming a great tablet maker, and Palm’s team — led by ex-Apple executive (and now Amazon board member!) Jon Rubinstein — might have helped. It’s hard to imagine Amazon blowing the Palm acquisition worse than HP did. It might have even been a great combination.

The app ecosystem isn’t that big a deal. you could take it a couple of ways. If Amazon has bought Palm, they would have had Palm’s partnering and business development team, which was pretty darn awesome. You want to convince people to write apps for a platform? First, you need a team who knows how to make those connections and sell the opportunity. And then you need an opportunity they can sell. “Hey, this device will be plastered on the front page of for the next two years at this price point, and we’re going to push it hard into the hands of everyone we can get it in front of. And if you commit to shipping this, we’ll make sure your app gets a month of favored placement in the catalog during the holiday season and you can demo it at the launch announcement”.  If you need to, for key apps you can sweeten the deal with anything from outright subsidies (“we’ll hire two developers for three months”), marketing and publicity, any number of things. 

Amazon’s story was easier being on Android to some degree, but this is a very manageable situation if you have the right people and management commitment. 

Or Amazon could have built an Android compatibility layer into a WebOS-based device. Quite technically possible for the right teams.

Or what I’d most likely have done in their shoes: take the webOS user-visible interface components and port them to Android to replace the Android versions. Basically throw out the underlying technology and run the webSO front end on Android. The bad news (for Palm/webOS at least) would be that Amazon wouldn’t have needed a huge chunk of Palm to do that, it only would have needed to bring over a 100-150 people, more or less. Which is, from what I can see, about the size of the webOS GBU under HP today, so the end result would have been about the same, at least as far as leaving dead bodies on the side of the road during the death march… 

And if Amazon DID investigate buying Palm back at that time (and I honestly have no idea one way or another), that’d be the thing that killed that deal. Palm at that time was only interested in a buyer that would keep them together and let them continue to try to build the product. “Parting out” the company was only an option if they couldn’t find a buyer that’d continue the operation. HP would and did. A deal where someone bought Palm and then laid off 2/3 of the company wouldn’t have been on Ruby’s A or B lists (and there were — rumors say — a number of players looking to buy Palm for the patents and throw all of webOS and it’s people into the recycling bin…. Depending on what rumors you heard, ALL of the offers other than HP were that kind of deal. I know that’s what I was expecting…)

There are rumors (and again, I DO NOT KNOW. I wasn’t in the meetings, if there were any) that Amazon investigated buying  webOS after Leo blew it up and HP was looking at options (and exits). And that Amazon ended up walking away from it because the costs of operating the organization was way beyond what they considered affordable because of the costs associated to supporting the cloud aspects of webOS. So it’s possible Amazon kicked the tires on this twice, but if they did, the first time, it probably was a deal Palm wasn’t interested in, and the second time, the price tag made webOS too expensive for them to take on. 

So I think webOS on Android on Fire (so to speak) was definitely something that could have been considered and could have given Amazon some nice options to work with, but the cost of making ti happen would have been way beyond what it would have made sense to pay to get it. 

Posted in Computers and Technology

“Has anyone talked to you about your ACLs?”

So there I am, lying on my back on the table, and this very nice doctor has a death grip on my leg and is wobbling my knee. Then she says “Has anyone ever talked to you about your ACLs?”

And I laugh. Kind of a hollow laugh. Yes, that’s not a new discussion.

Suddenly, the knee catches, and then lets go again with a crack. Remember those boring days in class when you used to quietly crack your knuckles, and one of them would insist on going off with a sound that could be heard three classrooms away? Yeah, that sound. She jumped. I twitched a bit.

It’s been about five years since I stepped in that gopher hole and sprained my knee, except it wasn’t a sprain and it didn’t get better. It gave me a matched set: torn meniscus in both knees (the other dating back to high school days, back before arthroscopic surgery existed), and, as I found out that day, arthritis. And my stretchy, loose ACLs and MCLs. 

Since then I’ve been taking 1000mg of Relafin a day, and for the most part it’s done pretty well. With something like this, you have good days and bad days and sometimes you have to be rational and give it a rest. The thing I’d noticed is that — as expected at some point — there were more rest days and fewer go days, so it was time to see where things stood.

Arthritis is progressive, it doesn’t get better, the only question is how fast or slow it gets worse. At the far end of this tunnel are brand new titanium knees and a note from my doctor to the TSA. (“Dear sir. no explosives, just hunks of metal where his kneecaps used to be. Sincerely, his doctor”). 

So I scheduled myself to radiology for pictures, and now I’m on a table scaring the crap out of my doctor as my knees simulate a semi-automatic rifle. Fortunately, no shrapnel. So we talked over where I was feeling what, and she moved things around and clucked her tongue a bit and asked me about my ACLs, and then we looked at the pretty pictures.

It’s about what I expected. The right knee is close to bone on bone (hint: not fun). But overall, it’s progressing on the slow side. This is good, because we all want to delay knee replacement as long as possible, if only because artificial knees only last for a couple of decades, and the longer we stick with the original equipment, the less chance we’ll need to swap in a second set down the road. Although if I live to see my ultimate goal on how to die (“in bed at the hands of a jealous husband. at age 90) maybe I should be rooting for needing three sets of replacements… 

I suggest we boost the dosage of the Relafin. She suggests there are better ways to destroy your liver. She pops over to the desk and comes back with the needles. The look a foot long, but really, only about 3″. It’s time for my first cortisone shots! lucky me. She’s good. I almost don’t feel the left. The right is a tighter gap and she slides off the inside of the kneecap a bit — you feel it, but I can’t say it hurts. Just a funny feeling — and then that’s done. I was warned I’d probably want to haunt the couch with ice bags the first night (they were right), and then we’d see how well the knees reacted. 

Cortisone is a steroid. It’s a massive anti-inflammatory. It’ll knock down the irritation and swelling for weeks if things go well. I’m eligible for cortisone every three months as long as it does the job. When it no longer does, that’s when we have to start considering “other options” (so to speak). 

And so far? they feel better than they have for a year. I tried cutting the Relafin completely to see if we could do without it (and give my liver a rest), but decided that wasn’t quite right. I’m back on half the dose of Relafin I’d been taking, which means I have some leeway for ramping it up again if I need it. I’m moving better, more or less pain free, and subjectively, the joints seem a lot more stable, loose ACLs not withstanding. 

Cortisone isn’t risk free. Use it too often, it can cause degeneration in the joints — make things worse, not better. That’s something to remember when if you follow sports and you hear about all of these athletes taking cortisone shots to get ready for games. Something to remember next time you hear someone babbling about overpaid athletes; a number of them are making a conscious decision that’ll likely lead to orthopedic problems for the rest of their lives, just to be there for that game. Stop and think about the number of retired athletes in their 40′s and 50′s having knees replaced now. They’re making sacrifices most of us can’t conceive of, and will end up with physical challenges they’ll live with the rest of their lives long after the money stops coming in. 

But for me, a more conservative approach. And the early results mean I’m now a lot more mobile than I have been recently, and I’m trying to take advantage of that. I don’t want to be that guy driving through Yosemite with a scooter hooked to the back of the car. Of course, if that’s what it comes to, it’s better than some of the alternatives, no? 

What really matters is not letting stuff like this stop you… It may slow you down, but use that as an opportunity to enjoy the view, not an excuse to miss it completely… 



Posted in About Chuq

Something I’d like to see in cameras: Going beyond high ISO

Behind The Lens: HIgh ISO:

The Stream and Pool image I posted last night was shot at ISO 1600. I would have never considered this high an ISO in the past but my new 5D3 handles it with aplomb and 17X22 prints should not be a problem. I did it because I could see that on the LCD screen, the ISO 100 pictures had very blurred out water totally devoid of the lovely reflections I was seeing. Even 800 didn’t help but ISO 1600 and 1/8 of a second at f11 solved my problem.

This thought triggered something that came to mind over the weekend while out and realizing I’d forgotten my filter pack.

A couple of weeks ago a friend brought over his new Canon DX1 and I got to actually touch it. We spent an afternoon calibrating the micro focus for all of his lenses, and then after dinner, spent some time experimenting with the ISO to get a sense of how high he could crank it before noise became a problem.

My feeling was that the noise level of the DX1 at ISO 16000 was very close the noise I see on my 7D at ISO 1600 — in other words, something that I’d deal with as part of a normal workflow in my images without thinking about it at all. Starting with ISO 32000, we saw enough visible noise that I’d want to do more to the image, but I found that Nik’s Dfine plug-in cleaned it up using default settings without any noticeable loss of sharpness or any problem with image quality.

Just thinking about those ISO numbers kinda makes my head hurt. Having the ability to crank a camera to ISO 8000 without thinking changes the ballgame in so many ways it’s scary, especially for someone who still vaguely remembers shooting high school football under the lights with Tri-X. I know my “real film” days still impact my thinking in terms of ISO usage, and I’m still retraining myself to see ISO as a strategic choice, not a “you have to keep it as low as possible or the noise will kill you” of the elder days; I’ve finally gotten comfortable going out and shooting in the ISO 400 range without twitching.

Forgetting my filters this weekend got me thinking, though. Why haven’t camera manufacturers gone the other way?

What are the most common filters we still carry with a digital camera these days? The polarizer, and ND filters. I’ll save the debate on Grad-ND filters for some other blog post, but it’s “generally” understood that the two filters you can’t simulate/fix in Photoshop or via HDR are polarizers and using ND’s to slow shutter speed to smooth water flow and other similar uses.

The question for ND filters is, why don’t cameras do this? When we can take a sensor and make it work from ISO 50 to ISO 32000 without breaking a sweat, shouldn’t the sensor geeks be able to find a way to turn the ISO sensitivity off in the other direction? Give me ISO 25? ISO 12? ISO 0.000032? (we’d have to figure out what to call this: what is 10 stops below ISO 50, anyway?). If raising ISO to these levels is figuring out how to make sensors more sensitive without destroying the image with noise, why can’t we reduce sensor sensitivity and allow photographers to replace those ND filters with an in-camera setting?

Seems to me this should be possible. Perhaps it’s because we (as photographers) haven’t been asking for it?

So — I’m asking!

What would it take to make the ND filter obsolete and support it in camera?

Posted in Photography

Should I work for free?

Should I work for free?:

Jessica Hische’s flowchart for determining whether or not you should work for free for somebody. In summary, if it’s for a legitimate business: no. Otherwise, it depends. Easy to laugh at, sometimes hard to implement.

My friend Duncan points to this “don’t work for free” piece that’s been floating around the net. 

It’s interesting to see a bunch of people who are making a living selling photos tell other people who aren’t to please stop doing things that might help those people who aren’t making money on their images break into the business enough that they can start getting that income.

That’s my problem with this. It’s a bunch of people who HAVE gotten over that hump telling the rest of us to stop trying. 

I admit it: I sometimes license my work for free. Why? Well, because in some cases, it gets my work exposure. In other cases, it gives me a reference or the ability to point at an image and say “hey! this is licensed!”. That’s something you can market around, and to put it bluntly, it’s easier to get a foot in the door if you can show that foot’s gotten in other doors already. 

And sometimes I do it because I think it’s a situation where it’s worth donating an image. I’ve done that for a number of charitable organizations, and I’ll continue to where I think the cause is worth it. Does that cost a “pro photographer” a sale?

That’s no more my problem than my lack of paying jobs is the pro photographer’s problem. 

But I’ll make a deal here. When I start seeing photographers saying “hey, rather than hiring me, go buy this guy’s stuff” and referring some jobs off to people like me, I’ll stop donating images that these photographers seem to think are costing them sales. Deal?

I’m not holding my breath. 

This is a lot like the Gary Fong suggestion that photographers be certified (ht Zack) . Who’s going to certify photographers? 

Well, of course, other (pro) photographers.

This is, whether you call it that or not, a guild; you don’t get in the guild unless those in the guild give you permission. And frankly, the primary purpose of a guild is to limit membership, so that the members can maintain their prices and limit competition by limiting the numbers who can compete for jobs.

Which is a really great thing — if you’re in the guild.

There are some skill sets where guaranteeing your skill set is  a good idea: surgeon is one. Plumber and electrian are others. That’s why those professions still have licensing requirements and some form or another of apprenticeship and skill validation.

But photographer? Licensing “pro” photographers is really nothing more than an attempt to limit the number of photographers in the field, to limit competition.

This proposal will have just as much success as the stock photographers who tried to convince people not to use microstock. 

Or those telling photographers not to give away photos. I see the advantage to YOU for me to not give away photos. 

What’s in it for me? I’m not seeing much. So why shouldn’t I?

Posted in Photography

A Few thoughts on Apple vs. Samsung

No huge essay on the outcome of the Apple/Samsung trial, but a few bullet points I thought I’d write down for your amusement…

  • Apple spent 5 years and a lot of resources inventing the original iPhone. It’s hard to think back to what life was in mobile phones at the time, but it was, more or less, a device like a Samsung Blackjack. Which was a decent and boring phone.
  • Samsung spent literally weeks grabbing pieces of Apple’s design and technology and stuffing it into their phones. The people attacking Apple and saying this decision stifles innovation don’t understand what ‘innovation’ means.
  • For the record, I think the current patent system is broken. But until everyone comes up with a consensus of how to fix it and get that consensus implemented, those are the rules.
  • There’s a segment of the geek population that has a strong opinion of “if we don’t like the rules, we’ll complain and ignore them”. If you think the rules are broken, fight to get them changed and fixed. Don’t just whine. Many companies, from Napster to now Samsung, have ignored the rules and ended up paying for it the hard way.
  • My views of the patent system being broken, I believe Apple deserves some protection from what Samsung did. If you make it legal and acceptable for a company to grab innovative ideas that quickly and that easily, where is the incentive to keep innovating?
  • Which parts of what Apple did deserve protection and for how long, I don’t pretend to know where the lines get drawn. I do hope this decision catalyzes that discussion and pushes patent reform forward. (I’m not holding my breath. I also believe we need trademark and copyright reform. I’m not holding my breath there, either — but the continuing of extension of copyright and loss of material falling into the public domain is another aspect of this same big problem).
  • Samsung’s best attack on appeal is through prior art, which I think the jury mostly ignored. And I do believe on appeal some (but not all) of this judgement will be set back. And should.

My bottom line: Apple deserved to win this case, but I’d like to see the win ultimately narrowed and tied to some key intellectual property innovations. Samsung deserved to lose, and their lawyers need to have a long, loud talk with company executives loosely titled “what the hell were you thinking saying those things in writing, anyway?” They were so blantant at how they ripped off Apple that it’s hard to have any sympathy for them, even given my belief the current patent system is pretty damn broken.


Posted in Computers and Technology, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area

How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community [not really. more like amused]

Day4 – How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community:

It is somewhat disturbing at times when the bandwagon takes of and speeds up, without people being critical. People stand up for situations that may never have happened, and spin on it which ultimately results in that it will be trated as facts, or a faktoid.

We wanted to test this, how easy is it to spread disinformation?

Apple is the world’s largest company, so they can take a few knocks. The community around Apple is often very active, especially before an upcoming Keynote where it is expected that the company will introduce new products. In September is one, and everyone expects the iPhone 5 to be announced. Rumors are flowing about the phone, its appearance, its features, its materials and so on. We found this was a fitting goal for our test.

One afternoon we sketched out a screw in our 3D program, a very strange screw where the head was neither a star, tracks, pentalobe or whatever, but a unique form, also very impractical. We rendered the image, put it in an email, sent it to ourselves, took a picture of the screen with the mail and anonymously uploaded the image to the forum Reddit with the text ”A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws ”.

Then we waited …

Nice hack. I admit I looked at the screw, decided it was probably a plant, and sat back to watch the show. I wasn’t disappointed. (why did I think it was a plant? The screwhead seemed both too complex and at the same time easily circumventable. It’d take the folks who build the tools for the self-fixers almost no time to work around the hack, but the screw itself would be both expensive to manufacture and not reliable in the real world. IMHO)

Not the first time this has happened. Won’t be the last. a lot of the sites who depend on page views to drive ad revenue frankly do not care if it’s accurate or not; they just like having stuff out there they can stuff ads on. Their fan base breaks down into two groups: the folks who don’t take this crap very seriously, and the folks who take it all way too seriously. Either way, accuracy isn’t high on the list of values people demand of the sites. A few of the sites are actually pretty good, but many are simply in it for the page views and don’t care. 

Back when I was with Mama Fruit, they took the rumor sites a lot more seriously than they do now. I think Apple’s come to terms with the reality that this stuff is to some degree or another going to leak, and trying to suppress it only spreads it further, so for the most part I think they try to ignore most of it and not encourage people to pay attention, which is a strategy I always suggested back in the day. Takedown notices merely focussed attention on rumors and gave them free publicity. 

I also used to suggest that a way to counteract the rumor sites was through an active disinformation campaign; hit the rumor sites where it could potentially hurt with the audience you’re trying to convince to stop paying attention to them by giving the rumor sites information proven to be wrong enough that their audience writes them off. A campaigned of designed but incorrect rumors laid down on the rumor sites could create enough havoc that even the rumor sites wouldn’t know which leaks and leakers to pay attention to. At the very least, you could make their lives a bit of hell for a while and sit back and enjoy watching them twitch… 

No, I never got Apple to take that idea seriously. There have been times in the last few years where I’ve wondered if they finally picked up on this idea (I still wonder about the “Apple is building their own TVs” rumor setup, since it’s a perfect thing to catch people’s attention and get them arguing over while Apple goes off and does something completely different — and notice how the rumors in this space have now shifted away from the TV back to set top boxes and content? Hmm.)

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but what the heck. Once I tweaked a couple of web pages I managed. Nothing major, just a couple of “inadvertent” links to pages that didn’t exist that were commented out. Very ambiguous stuff, just to see what happened. And like these folks, then I sat back and watched the show. 

See, even then I knew there were rumor sites scraping as much of Apple as they could looking for changed pages and mistakes like this. It didn’t take long, and it hit some of the rumor sites. We got told to fix the pages, the links got pulled, and things settled down again, although every so often for a few months after that, some site or another would speculate on what those links were for. (hint: they were for making you wonder what they were for!). 

And yeah, I got yelled at for doing it…. But it was more than worth it, just to watch people hyperventilate over it. Sometimes, it’s worth a kick in the pants to see the show…. 

(and I can still say that I know the truth about, and you don’t… neener. And no, don’t bother asking…).


Posted in Computers and Technology, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area