Category Archives: Computing

Articles relating to computing in the field of photography

Instagram Presence

The image-driven social networking site Instagram has been on my mind for a while, and I have been mentally debating with myself whether to establish a presence there.

I always saw it as a site for mostly non-photographers to instantly publish random images of anything and everything, captured on the move with a mobile phone-based camera.

Picture girls posing in front of mirrors, plates of food, cats doing amusing things, etc.

I wondered if it had any value for fine-art photographers.

I also considered that it would be yet another presence to maintain, and frankly, I have a minimalist approach to Internet presences.

Fortunately, to my delight, I have discovered that many serious photographers I follow also established presences on Instagram, and they’re posting many of the images I see on more photography-focused sites.

So, this week, I took the plunge and established my own presence on Instagram.

https://instagram.com/xenedis/

It’s something new for me, and the way it works is vastly different to any other imaging site on which I have, or have had, a presence.  I’m slowly getting used to it, but I’m sure there’s a whole world of great images out there for me to discover, and I sure have plenty of my own to publish there.

Image Statistics

For quite some time, I have been wanting to gather the EXIF data from all of my published images, and produce some statistics on various criteria such as exposure settings and equipment used.

During a recent period of renewed creative energy in the form of computer programming rather than photography, over the past month I finally developed automated code-based functionality in my site to extract, analyse and present what I consider to be some interesting statistical data about my collection of published images.

By its very nature, some of this data can be quite dry and geeky; but the results do show some interesting facts in terms of exposure and equipment preferences, and in some cases the results were surprising to me.

Note: If you don’t care what equipment I use, what exposure or stylistic photographic preferences I have, or you don’t care for numeric data generally, it is advisable to skip this long article; but if that kind of geeky thing does appeal to you, keep reading.

Presently, my site gathers data and presents tabular data, which lists from most frequent to least frequent, the numbers of images captured:

  • with a particular camera;
  • with a particular lens;
  • with a particular telephoto extender;
  • within a particular focal range;
  • at a particular focal length;
  • at a particular shutter speed;
  • at a particular aperture;
  • at a particular ISO sensitivity;
  • during a particular year;
  • during a particular month; and
  • on a particular day.

I have also produced what I call a ‘time trend’, in the form of a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

In this article I am going to break it down and explain the trends I see.

What this exercise has shown me is that the raw numeric data alone does not tell the whole story; there are some ‘human’ elements which can explain why a certain exposure setting or piece of camera equipment rates higher or lower in popularity than would otherwise be expected based on my knowledge of my preferences.

So, let’s look at the trends.

At the time of writing this article, there are 1,600 images in my gallery, which were shot over an eleven-year period from 2005 to 2015.

Camera

I have owned three digital SLR cameras in that time.  Here is the breakdown by camera model:

# Camera Images
1 Canon EOS 5D 893
2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II 519
3 Canon EOS 20D 188

 

The Canon EOS 20D was my first DSLR, and I owned it for over three years.  I shot many images with it, but over the years I have deleted some of the images I published, as in those early years, I was an ‘anything and everything’ kind of photographer without much discernment.

My Canon EOS 5D lost its life to a rogue wave during a seascape shoot in 2010, and on the same day I replaced it with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.  I owned it longer than my Canon EOS 20D, and owned it for a similar amount of time to my current camera (the antiquated but still as-useful-as-it-ever-was Canon EOS 5D Mark II), but much of what I shot with it was during a period of frequent activity and rapid development.  In other words, I shot a lot, and got better at it.

Most of my best work has been shot with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but over the past few years, as further analysis will show, my output in terms of quantity has significantly decreased, but my output in terms of quality has significantly increased.

This explains why my current camera is the least used.

Lens

I have owned many Canon EF lenses over the years, some of which I have sold.  I have also ocasionally used a few lenses I have never owned.

To me, the lens usage statistics are more interesting, and there are some surprising results, which can again be explained by ‘human’ factors or circumstance.

Here is the data:

# Lens Images
1 Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 562
2 Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 181
3 Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 173
4 Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 161
5 Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM 100
6 Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 98
7 Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM 93
8 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM 78
9 Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM 36
10 Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM 34
11 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 31
12 Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 24
13 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM 17
14 Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 3
15 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 3
16 Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM 2
17 Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 1
18 Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L 1
19 Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM 1
20 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 1

 

It’s no surprise to me that my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is the most frequently used lens of the 20 featured, as my main forms of photography over the years have been those which lend themselves well to ultra-wide focal lengths.

I have shot a lot of architecture, cityscape, landscape and seascape images, particularly since 2008, so that lens occupies the top spot in terms of usage.

What could be considered surprising, but in hindsight not so surprising, is the presence of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens in second place.

I sold that lens nearly seven years ago (and ceased using it up to a year before I sold it), but I bought it in 2005 on the day of its release, and, as explained earlier, I shot anything and everything in those days.  It was my ‘walk-around’ lens, and hence it got a lot of use.  The last published image I shot with that lens was in November of 2007, which was a long time ago now; yet still features prominently due to my experience and the development stage at the time.

I will not go into detail about all 20 of these lenses, particularly those with which I shot less than a handful of images, as those lenses were borrowed or tried; but I did want to draw attention to my two super-telephoto lenses, as by nature of my overall subject matter, they’re not commonly used, but some particular circumstances have made them surprisingly prominent.

The first is my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM.  I have owned it since 2007, but it gained its most significant usage half a decade later in 2012 when we visited Africa for the first time and fell in love with wildlife and the photography thereof.

In the early days it was used sparingly and for nothing particularly serious.  A few years later I went through a phase of aviation photography, during which it was used more; but our South Africa trip in 2012 was where that lens came to shine.

That leads me to my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.  It presently sits in 8th place, yet it is my most recently-purchased lens — I’ve only owned it for over a year.  What drove it so high up, relatively, was our trip to Kenya, where I used it, by my rough estimate, 98% of the time.  I took two other lenses  (16-35/2.8L II and 70-200/2.8L IS) and also used a 300/2.8L IS for a few shots, but the 400/2.8L IS pretty much lived on the camera.

This example shows how a lens, which has spent the least amount of time in my rig, can achieve such relative prominence due to one significant event; namely, a wildlife safari in Kenya.

Telephoto Extender

There isn’t much to say about the prevalence of my Canon telephoto extenders, as there are only two models, they work only with particular Canon EF L-series lenses, and in my case, I tend to only use them with my two longest lenses.

All that can be said is that of the two telephoto extenders, the Canon Extender EF 2x II features more prominently, which can be explained by the two Africa trips we have done.  On the first trip to South Africa, I used it with my 300/2.8L IS, giving me 600mm of focal length (ideal for wildlife photography); and on the second trip to Kenya, I used it with my 400/2.8L IS, giving me an even better 800mm of focal length — absolutely wonderful for frame-filling images of big cats and birds.

# Telephoto Extender Images
1 None 1,448
2 Canon Extender EF 2x II 98
3 Canon Extender EF 1.4x II 54

Focal Range

This particular category is amongst the most interesting to me.

In developing my statistics gathering and reporting system, I initially only looked at actual focal lengths; but further into the project (actually, after ‘completion’), it dawned on me that breaking down focal lengths into distinct focal ranges would be more useful and revealing than reporting on single focal lengths alone, especially as the presence of zooms can mean lots of isolated cases of esoteric ‘no man’s land’ focal lengths appearing (such as 33mm or 98mm).

I used Canon’s definitions of focal ranges as the baseline for my own categorisation of focal ranges, and crunched the data to produce the following table:

# Focal Range Images
1 Ultra-Wide (16-23mm) 485
2 Short Telephoto (70-135mm) 350
3 Wide (24-35mm) 285
4 Medium Telephoto (136-399mm) 227
5 Long Telephoto (400-800mm) 196
6 Standard (36-69mm) 57

 

I have known for years where my preferences lie in terms of focal lengths.

I like ultra-wide and ultra-long focal lengths, and not much in between.

My architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images were mostly shot with an ultra-wide lens, which easily explains the occupation of the number one position by the ultra-wide category.

The second spot is occupied by short telephoto ranges, which I specifically use (particularly the 85mm and 135mm focal lengths) for portraiture and still-life.  I have many portrait images in my gallery, which allows that focal range its prominence.

The standard focal range is my least used focal range, which is no surprise, as for years I have regarded the 50mm focal length with complete disdain, and have also boycotted ‘standard’ focal lengths, as, quite frankly, they bore me.  Given the standard focal length of 50mm more or less replicates what the human eye can natively see, it has no interest, as it’s neither wide and expansive, or long and detail-revealingly tight.

While I have owned both a standard zoom and a 50mm lens in the past, for most of the time I have had no lenses with focal lengths between 35mm and 70mm.  I just have no use for them, and my subject interests do not require or lend themselves to such focal lengths.

Focal Length

As outlined in the previous section, statistics about focal length ranges are more useful and revealing than statistics about individual focal lengths, particularly as there are over 700 available amongst the lenses I own or have owned; but for the sake of completeness, here are the statistics:

# Focal Length Images
1 16mm 430
2 35mm 137
3 85mm 125
4 24mm 102
5 135mm 98
6 300mm 93
7 600mm 73
8 200mm 66
9 400mm 51
10 420mm 43
11 105mm 37
12 70mm 35
13 50mm 33
14 180mm 30
15 800mm 24
16 23mm 14
17 25mm 13
18 40mm 11
19 18mm 11
20 17mm 10
21 27mm 9
22 21mm 7
23 28mm 7
24 100mm 7
25 19mm 7
26 140mm 6
27 95mm 6
28 130mm 6
29 32mm 6
30 26mm 5
31 560mm 5
32 115mm 5
33 252mm 4
34 165mm 4
35 145mm 4
36 73mm 4
37 67mm 4
38 125mm 4
39 29mm 3
40 173mm 3
41 90mm 3
42 185mm 3
43 120mm 3
44 20mm 3
45 75mm 3
46 22mm 3
47 80mm 3
48 88mm 2
49 45mm 2
50 58mm 2
51 195mm 2
52 160mm 2
53 65mm 2
54 78mm 2
55 150mm 2
56 170mm 1
57 270mm 1
58 220mm 1
59 31mm 1
60 168mm 1
61 72mm 1
62 96mm 1
63 55mm 1
64 104mm 1
65 153mm 1
66 148mm 1
67 84mm 1
68 98mm 1
69 190mm 1
70 110mm 1
71 60mm 1
72 33mm 1
73 30mm 1
74 360mm 1
75 92mm 1
76 47mm 1

 

The main points of interest in this table are the double-digit and triple-digit occurrences towards the top of the table.

16mm is by no surprise my most prolific focal length, due to my architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape photography.

Moderate telephoto and long telephoto focal lengths also tend to dominate, which is driven by my subject choice, and also the fact that most of my lenses are primes.  The use of telephoto extenders on the big lenses, and the use of focal lengths at the extreme ends of a few zooms, also contribute to the particular focal lengths and frequencies documented in the top 20 rows of the table.

Shutter Speed

My shutter speed usage is reported in a rather long table, too.

I haven’t drawn any analytical conclusions from this particular data, but apparently I favour 1/200th of a second.

Of interest towards the bottom of the table is the occasional very long shutter speeds I have used.

My longest exposure was just over an hour, and there have been a few over the years than ran for single-digit minutes, and one which ran for ten minutes.

The 30-second shutter speed has achieved sufficient prominence, and otherwise most shutter speeds are in the middle-of-the-road territory of up to 1/500th of a second.

# Shutter Speed Images
1 1/200th of a second 114
2 1/125th of a second 77
3 1/160th of a second 77
4 30 seconds 62
5 1/500th of a second 55
6 1/250th of a second 52
7 1/100th of a second 52
8 1/320th of a second 50
9 1/640th of a second 44
10 1/400th of a second 43
11 1/50th of a second 41
12 1/60th of a second 37
13 1/1,600th of a second 36
14 1/80th of a second 36
15 1/1,250th of a second 34
16 1/2,000th of a second 29
17 1/40th of a second 29
18 2 seconds 28
19 1/800th of a second 28
20 1/1,000th of a second 28
21 1/2,500th of a second 27
22 5 seconds 26
23 4 seconds 26
24 15 seconds 26
25 1.3 seconds 25
26 1/25th of a second 23
27 8 seconds 23
28 2 minutes 22
29 3.2 seconds 22
30 1 second 21
31 10 seconds 20
32 0.3 seconds 19
33 1/8th of a second 18
34 1/30th of a second 18
35 0.6 seconds 18
36 1/15th of a second 17
37 1/20th of a second 17
38 1/4th of a second 17
39 1 minute 17
40 2.5 seconds 16
41 0.5 seconds 16
42 1/6th of a second 15
43 1.6 seconds 14
44 0.8 seconds 14
45 6 seconds 14
46 13 seconds 14
47 1/13th of a second 13
48 20 seconds 13
49 1/3,200th of a second 13
50 1/10th of a second 11
51 25 seconds 10
52 4 minutes 8
53 1/8,000th of a second 8
54 1/4,000th of a second 8
55 1/5th of a second 7
56 1/5,000th of a second 6
57 0.4 seconds 6
58 45 seconds 5
59 5 minutes 4
60 3 minutes 4
61 1/6,400th of a second 3
62 6 minutes 2
63 1 minute and 20 seconds 2
64 19 seconds 2
65 7 minutes 2
66 1 minute and 30 seconds 2
67 1 hour and 7 seconds 1
68 3 minutes and 32 seconds 1
69 2 minutes and 28 seconds 1
70 10 minutes 1
71 6 minutes and 15 seconds 1
72 15 minutes and 24 seconds 1
73 15 minutes and 1 second 1
74 2 minutes and 43 seconds 1
75 29 seconds 1
76 10 minutes and 1 second 1
77 39 seconds 1
78 12 seconds 1
79 3 minutes and 7 seconds 1
80 55 seconds 1

Aperture

The statstics about my aperture choices are quite interesting — to me, at least — as they show that despite my preference for having the widest aperture in a given focal length, I don’t always use those wide apertures.

Here is the breakdown:

# Aperture Images
1 f/8 332
2 f/2.8 239
3 f/5.6 233
4 f/11 214
5 f/4 132
6 f/9 71
7 f/2 66
8 f/1.4 48
9 f/1.8 38
10 f/13 34
11 f/1.2 32
12 f/6.3 27
13 f/10 21
14 f/16 20
15 f/7.1 16
16 f/3.5 12
17 f/14 12
18 f/3.2 11
19 f/4.5 10
20 f/5 8
21 f/1.6 5
22 f/20 5
23 f/2.2 4
24 f/18 3
25 f/22 3
26 f/2.5 3
27 f/32 1

 

The fastest lens I have is f/1.2, and the two longest focal lengths I have don’t get any faster than f/2.8; yet f/8 seems to be my most frequent aperture.

Again, this is easily explained by my proliferation of wide-angle scenic images.  Even though I shoot these with my 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, I rarely ever use that lens’s maximum aperture; for in shooting architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images, I want a wide view with a deep depth of field and rich, sharp details from foreground to background, which calls for narrower apertures.

The difference between f/8 and f/11 is not great, but unsurprisingly f/11 is in the top five.

Another common aperture I use is f/2.8.  I have four f/2.8 lenses, two of which are super-teles, which I almost always shoot wide-open.  I didn’t buy fast super-tele lenses to shoot at f/8!  My Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM also ostensibly gets used wide-open more often than not.

The moderate-to-slow aperture of f/5.6 also appears rather frequently, which I figure is likely to be the result of using my Canon Extender EF 2x II on my 300/2.8 and 400/2.8, giving me 600mm at f/5.6 and 800mm at f/5.6 respectively.

I also use f/5.6 frequently for portraiture.  Even though my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens is my go-to lens for portraits, I don’t frequently shoot it wide-open.  Just because a lens can be shot at extremely wide apertures does not mean it always should be shot at such apertures.

Towards the bottom of the table are extremely narrow apertures, which I rarely ever use.  One must be careful to avoid diffraction caused by very narrow apertures, which leads to softening of fine details.  If a deep depth of field is required, there is little benefit in stopping down beyond f/11 or f/16 at wide focal lengths, as apertures of f/8 and f/11 tend to achieve a very acceptable compromise of sharpness and depth of field.

ISO Sensitivity

The statistical breakdown of my usage of different ISO sensitivity ratings was no surprise at all, but it remained interesting to see.

The top five spots are occupied, in order, a stop apart, starting from the lowest native ISO rating my cameras have offered.

I have known for years that I favour as low an ISO rating as possible, and for most of my photography, I can get away with this; but for wildlife and some other low-light photography (such as band/musician performance photography), I have simply needed to push the ISO rating to achieve acceptable shutter speeds to freeze movement in low light.

# ISO Sensitivity Images
1 100 835
2 200 342
3 400 170
4 800 58
5 1,600 35
6 50 31
7 320 24
8 1,250 22
9 500 19
10 1,000 17
11 640 13
12 3,200 11
13 160 11
14 250 6
15 6,400 4
16 125 2

 

According to the data, the most extreme ISO sensitivity rating I have used is 6,400.

Year of Capture

The next set of criteria I examined in my image statistics was time; specifically, which years, months and days of the week were more popular.

Again there are some unsurprising results, but a few others stood out as interesting.

# Year of Capture Images
1 2007 334
2 2008 304
3 2006 212
4 2012 189
5 2009 183
6 2010 113
7 2015 101
8 2011 67
9 2013 52
10 2014 33
11 2005 12

 

Over a ten-year period, my most frequent activity happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  It was during this time that I rapidly developed my interest in photography, and spent many weekends shooting, as well as travelling domestically on photography-centric trips.

I was also a more generalist photographer, shooting all manner of random subjects.  My style and subject matter preferences were only in their infancy of development.  All of this explains my proliferation at the time.

The year 2005 features as the least frequent year.  It was the year in which I first bought a DSLR.  I had been shooting digitally since 2002, but had not really established much of a presence online, and I didn’t consider photography a serious or even semi-serious interest.

From 2011 to 2015, my output took a serious decline in frequency.  I became less interested, de-motivated, occupied by other interests and priorities, and I had become extremely fussy about what I would shoot and when.

With the exception of 2005, for which very few images are still published online, my record low year is 2014.  I really shot very little, and my peaks of interest were few and far between, with only a few images here and there, most of which were captured during domestic trips we took, and during two photographic workshops I attended during the year.

I had stopped shooting seascapes — in fact, my last seascape image was shot in 2013.  Even now, I remain disinterested in shooting seascapes, and it feels like a photographically significant chapter of life which has more or less closed.  I know I can always return, but for now the desire remains lacking.

The year 2012 is the exception to this long-running ‘lull’ period, in that a massive trip to South Africa was the main contributor towards my output that year.  I also had some frequent and productive seascape shoots that year as a result of a photography group with which I was quite actively involved at the time.

The present year, 2015, remains a low-output year, except for one event: our Kenya trip.  I shot thousands of images in Kenya, and have published 95 images at the time of writing.  Otherwise, I have shot only six images, and it was late in April before I shot the first!

Month of Capture

The breakdown of months is interesting from an academic viewpoint.

Here are the details:

# Month of Capture Images
1 June 270
2 January 193
3 October 167
4 April 157
5 December 141
6 May 134
7 March 112
8 September 104
9 July 95
10 February 92
11 August 71
12 November 64

 

I cannot offer any explanation as to why June is in the top spot; even though most of 2015‘s images were shot in June, it would still be a popular month.  In my part of the world, it’s winter, and pre-dawn seascape shoots during winter mean being cold and wet.  Unappealing!

January’s number-two place makes sense, as I tend to take time off work in December and January, and apparently I’ve been out and about over the years.

November is the least popular month, which is interesting, as 2015 has been a low-output year in terms of quantity, and November is only a month away!

Day of Capture

There isn’t much of interest or surprise in the statistical breakdown of days.

When I was a frequent (weekly, even!) seascape shooter, Sunday was my day.  Saturday follows very closely behind due to its status as a weekend day which is generally busier than Sunday.

# Day of Capture Images
1 Sunday 583
2 Saturday 561
3 Friday 145
4 Wednesday 103
5 Tuesday 85
6 Monday 72
7 Thursday 51

Time Trend

Lastly, I have produced a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

I haven’t looked much into what this indicates, as the year and month breakdowns already discussed paint a better picture; but it remains never the less an interesting exercise to see how my actvity during the same month over an eleven-year period can experience peaks and troughs.

Time Trend Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2005 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 2 3 0 2 12
2006 3 22 2 22 12 42 7 6 19 20 13 44 212
2007 65 0 66 5 17 19 19 9 46 27 32 29 334
2008 30 36 20 34 16 52 24 14 13 14 8 43 304
2009 30 16 9 31 24 28 12 5 4 11 5 8 183
2010 5 5 9 13 11 13 15 16 15 2 3 6 113
2011 8 3 0 15 8 4 6 5 1 10 3 4 67
2012 27 8 6 28 12 13 10 4 1 80 0 0 189
2013 21 0 0 1 19 3 1 2 0 0 0 5 52
2014 4 2 0 4 13 1 0 6 3 0 0 0 33
2015 0 0 0 4 2 95 0 0 0 0 0 0 101
Total 193 92 112 157 134 270 95 71 104 167 64 141 1,600

 

In conclusion, it has been an interesting exercise to gather and analyse my image data to see which cameras, lenses, exposure settings and points in time were most and least significant; and if you’ve read this far, congratulations, as this indeed is a long, dry article which analyses the sorts of information about which most people would not care.

For me, the data I now gather and report can be useful in recognising trends in my photography over the years from an EXIF data viewpoint, but it essentally remains little more than an academic exercise which was rewarding from a creative and geeky viewpoint.

Web Site Refresh

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found a creative and technical outlet in the form of Web site development, and I’ve been channeling that creative urge in cosmetically (and to some degree, functionally) re-developing my Web site (http://www.xenedis.net).

Specifically, I’ve been mucking around with more CSS (cascading style sheets), and finding ways to use it more for layout, as well as graphical and textual effects.

I have had a Web site of some form or another since 1996, and I was pleased with my 2008 re-design, and the few minor changes in the following years.  However, it needed some cosmetic refreshment to give it a more current look.

My previous design consisted of a black background, which can be great for presentation of images, in that the colours appear more vibrant and stand out; but black can be too harsh on the eyes.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve come up with a newer look.  The basic structure is the same, but graphically and in terms of layout, I feel it is a more modern look and presents my images and the accompanying text better than my previous site.

I’ve also added some extra functionality to allow viewers to view my images larger by clicking a button, which will then present a clean, simple overlay showing the image in 1,024px format.

Below are some screen captures of how my site looks as of 21 December, 2014 (click the previews for a 1,600 x 1,067px full-size view).

This is the main page:

Main Page

Main Page

This is the view presented when selecting an album:

Album View

Album View

This is the album menu:

Albums

Albums

This is the image display page, showing an image in 3:2 (landscape) aspect ratio:

Image View (3:2)

Image View (3:2)

This is the image display page, showing an image in 2:3 (portrait) aspect ratio:

Image View (2:3)

Image View (2:3)

This is the image display page, showing an image in 1:1 (square) aspect ratio:

Image View (1:1)

Image View (1:1)

This is the large view display page, showing an image in 3:2 (landscape) aspect ratio:

Large View (3:2)

Large View (3:2)

This is the large view display page, showing an image in 2:3 (portrait) aspect ratio:

Large View (2:3)

Large View (2:3)

This is the large view display page, showing an image in 1:1 (square) aspect ratio:

Large View (1:1)

Large View (1:1)

I am quite pleased with the new look, and I’m sure my experimentation and enhancement work is not finished yet; in time to come, I’m sure I’ll make more changes here and there.

500px: Amusing Alignment

One of the photographic image hosting/gallery sites on which I participate is 500px.

I tend to browse through the ‘Popular’ image pages on a regular basis.  These pages show previews of 20 of the most popular images, ranked in order of popularity.

Tonight I discovered a rather amusing alignment of two separate images by two separate photographers.  Rather than explain it, I’ll let the following screen capture do the talking.

500px Amusing Alignment

500px Amusing Alignment

I found it very amusing, and it was one of those rare times when such an unintentional alignment of graphical elements was interesting and effective.

Long-Overdue Memory Upgrade

I’ve just performed a long-overdue RAM upgrade on my mid-2009 MacBook Pro 17″.

When I ordered it in mid-2009, I ordered it equipped with 4GB of RAM (2 x 2GB DIMMs).  At the time, equipping it with its maximum of 8GB was considerably expensive.

Three and a half years later, I’ve doubled my Mac’s RAM from 4GB to 8GB.

The upgrade is something I’ve had buried in the back of my mind for a few years, but I never took affirmative steps until yesterday while I was engaging in some hi-tech retail therapy.  I called into the Apple Store in the city and during my visit I enquired about RAM.

Naturally, the Apple-branded memory was expensive, but the staffer recommended I order generic RAM online.

I did some reearch this morning, and headed out to purchase a pair of 4GB RAM modules.  For the very inexpensive sum of around $62, I’ve given my three-and-a-half-year-old Mac a new lease on life.

I’m already seeing a much faster response from applications.  While I haven’t processed any images in Photoshop yet, it sure loads faster, and I’d expect I’ll be able to complete my work more quickly.  With 4GB of RAM, saving 16-bit, multi-layered, half-gig-sized PSD files tended to take much longer than desirable.

Now the challenge is to go out and shoot some images!

Sanity-Saving Tips for Mac OS X Upgrades

On the past two occasions on which I have upgraded my Mac’s operating system to the latest release, I have encountered show-stopping problems after the upgrade.

When upgrading from OS X 10.7.2 to 10.7.3, upon rebooting and logging in, the menu bar, buttons and other user interface elements were graphically messed up with ‘test pattern’-like colour sequences, making them unreadable and unusable; worse than that, every application or utility I tried to launch would crash immediately.

When upgrading from OS X 10.7.3 to 10.7.4 today, upon reboot, my Mac got stuck in a power-up loop, in which it would switch on, play the startup ‘bong’ sound, display the Apple logo, and then shut off and do it all again, endlessly.

After the first upgrade, I was advised to use the download the Client Combo package and update my system that way rather than using the Software Update utility; so, I restored my system from a week-old Time Machine backup, and then updated the OS via the Client Combo package, which executed seemlessly.

After today’s upgrade woes (using the Client Combo package), the fix was too boot into safe mode, run the Disk Utility, and repair both the disk (which was fine) and the filesystem permissions, which typically, and certainly today, needed some love.

Fortunately, this fixed my most recent problem; but it seems that after two botched upgrades in a row, I should expect problems, and that a disk/permissions repair will be par for the course.

So, to save people some upgrade grief, I offer these tips:

  1. Download the Client Combo package from the Apple site, and later use that to perform the upgrade rather than updating through Software Update.
  2. After downloading the Client Combo package, perform a Time Machine backup to not only one external hard disk, but two.  If it’s necessary to restore from a Time Machine backup (as has been the case for me once before), it’s advisable to have two copies in case one gets corrupted, or in case the disk fails.
  3. After running the Time Machine backups, reboot the system, and then run the Client Combo package once the system is back up.
  4. Expect post-upgrade problems if your system is ‘old’ and has been through multiple OS X upgrades, as indeed mine has.  Be prepared to boot into safe mode and run the Disk Utility to repair the disk and its filesystem permissions if necessary.  Also, keep a Mac OS X DVD close by in case it’s necessary to boot from a clean system image and commence the long process of restoring from a Time Machine backup.

Back Online with a New Hard Disk

After my recent hard disk woes, my computer is back online.

Yesterday I booked an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar and took my machine there.  I explained to the rep the system freeze I had experienced during an innocuous operation, and that during my diagnosis the disk repair utility decided it could not repair the disk.

He booted my machine off a portable drive, and at that point I was able to copy my most recent important data from my drive to my portable drive.  This meant I didn’t lose a week or two worth of data since the last backup.

The rep then performed some more diagnosis on the disk.  During a disk check, fsck complained about I/O errors, which I knew was not good.  I already figured that the disk had physical problems (bad sectors, perhaps) and that a replacement was a likely outcome.  I was already mentally prepared for the inconvenience of downtime and a lengthy rebuild.

Unfortunately Apple didn’t have in stock a hard disk with the specs I needed (7,200rpm and 500GB).  I asked Apple to order one, but I explained that I’d also try and find one somewhere else.  The rep had no problem with that approach, and told me to inform the Apple rep who’d later call me that I’d no longer need the disk.  It’s a part that isn’t a special order, and would get used eventually by another customer.

Today I sought a new hard disk from a supplier, and found a suitable model for a significantly lower price than Apple was asking.  I picked up the new disk on my way home, replaced the faulty disk and set about the long and tedious process of installing the OS, my applications, configuring the machine and restoring my data from my backups.  I didn’t need Apple to install the disk or the OS, as I could do both of these things myself and rather conveniently avoid the associated service fee.

It’s been an inconvenient, time-consuming experience, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been had I not been so religious about backups and redundancy; but in spite of it, I have come away with some key learnings, which I intend to put into practice.