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Consumption and Cycling and Geography and Photography07 Apr 2010 at 12:07 by Jean-Marc Liotier

One fellow mapper on complained that there was very few comments about the Amod AGL 3080 GPS logger from other OpenStreetMap users… So here is one.

I liked my trusty Sony GPS-CS1 GPS logger, but autonomy of barely more than a good riding day was too short for my taste and the one Hertz sampling rate was too low for satisfactory OpenStreetMap surveying by bicycle or roller-skate, though it was plenty for walking.

After sifting through various reviews and specification sheets, I declared the Amod AGL 3080 the true heir to the Sony GPS-CS1. And after a few months of use I am not disappointed.

AMOD AGL 3080 GPS logger

This solid little unit is simple to use : normal operation requires a single button. After mounting as USB mass storage with a standard mini-USB cable, a pass trough GPSbabel is all that is needed before the data is ready for consumption. There is also a handy second button for marking waypoints – I use it mostly to record points of interests. The AGL 3080’s SiRF Star III chipset provides satisfactory reception – subjectively much better than the GPS-CS1’s, and the storage capacity is more than you will need for anything up to a transcontinental ride. It uses three AAA batteries, which makes it practical for underway replenishment while making the use of rechargeables possible too. For a walkaround, PocketGPSWorld has a review with detailed pictures.

But what I appreciate most is the ability to configure the output NMEA sentences for the best compromise between autonomy and the richness of the of logged data. 6 logging modes can be by cycled through by pressing the “MARK” button for as much precision or as much battery life as you wish to adjust as you go :

Mode LED Status Output format Interval (seconds) Records Duration (hours)
1 “Memory
Full” on
GGA/GSA/RMC/VTG 1 260 000 72
2 “Memory Full” flash Only
1 1 040 000 288
3 “GPS” on GGA/GSA/RMC/VTG/GSV 5 260 000 360
4 “Battery Low” on Only
5 1 040 000 1440
5 “Battery Low” on GGA/GSA/RMC/VTG/GSV 10 260 000 720
6 “Battery Low” flash Only RMC 10 1 040 000 2880

The not so good is that the absence of rubber gasket on the battery compartment hints that this device is not waterproof. Like the Sony GPS-CS1 it has been through rain with no apparent problem, but pushing my luck too far will probably result in corrosion.

The ugly is that I have yet to find a way to strap the Amod AGL 3080 securely. It features a strap slot on only one side, making any balanced setup impossible. Supplied Velcro strap can connect it to a carabiner, but the resulting contraption dangles around wherever you attach it – I hate to have dangling things attached to my kit. The Sony GPS-CS1has a pouch that features a convenient Velcro strap to conveniently attach it to a any strap – I use it on top of my backpack’s shoulder straps or on top of my handlebar bag. The Amod AGL 3080 has nothing like that and I have yet to find a good way to mount it on my bicycle – for now, rubber-bands are the least worst option.

But for 70 Euros, it is a bargain if you need a cheap, simple and flexible GPS logger for photography, sports or cartography. Buy it – and then tell me if how you succeeded in mounting it on a bicycle or on a backpack !

Military and Photography and The media08 Jan 2009 at 20:19 by Jean-Marc Liotier

The latest issue of the excellent The Big Picture at the Boston Globe, is about the Israeli assault on Hamas in the Gaza strip. While I was looking at the pictures, it dawned on me that the Israeli have a severe media problem. We only see the mighty war machine, the pyrotechnics and the unlucky hapless civilians caught in the middle. This is Hamas propaganda material served on a platter. Why are the Israeli letting the images sway public opinion against them ?

It is not the first time that Israel has to deal with adverse public opinion. Let’s take this example from 1982 by Jonathan F. Keiler in “Who Won the Battle of Fallujah ?” (January 2005 issue of Proceedings) :

“Dating from the siege of Beirut in 1982, Israel has practiced a complex and limited form of urban warfare. In Beirut, this involved a cordon around the city, accompanied by limited attacks with artillery, ground, and air forces to put pressure on the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Syrian forces inside. The IDF did not launch a general assault on the city; it awaited a political solution that resulted in evacuation of enemy forces under the auspices of outside powers. Despite the IDF’s restraint, it was depicted as little short of barbaric by much of the international media. The PLO’s evacuation was treated as a victory parade, rather than the retreat it was, and the PLO lived to fight another day. The battle was a tactical victory for Israel, but a strategic defeat.

The Beirut experience and ongoing domestic and international pressures color Israeli doctrine. Throughout the current struggle, the IDF generally has not occupied Palestinian cities, a notable exception being seizure of the Jenin refugee camp. The Jenin operation is the exception that proves the rule: the IDF was castigated for its assault on Jenin and falsely accused of perpetrating a massacre”.

Palestinian civilian deaths cost Israel a lot of international support – it is in Israel’s best interests to avoid them. With the hypothesis that Israel is a more or less rational player, we can posit that they are taking precautions against them – and that is what has been historically shown. But whatever the precautions, striking targets embedded within urban zones and with no no prior evacuation of civilians causes significant collateral damage, especially if the presence of civilian near targets is not entirely incidental. So the Palestinian civilian death toll should not come as a surprise to anyone. Israel had enough experience to know that it was going to have a major media crisis on its hands. So why has Israel let adverse news leak so easily ? They are obviously trying to control the media by banning journalists from Gaza, but this action actually has an adverse effect : the result is that Palestinian voices are dominating the media.

Other players have shown that keeping a lid over ongoing politically sensitive military and twisting them in a favorable way is practically possible, even in the age of ubiquitous satellite communications. In “Grozny 2000: Urban Combat Lessons Learned” by Timothy L. Thomas of the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, we read that the information war was successfully made a priority by the Russians :

“In 1995 the Russian government lost the propaganda war by default. This time it made every effort to control the media and ensure that its view of the war dominated public opinion. Russia won this information war from day one of the fighting and is still winning. The government and military control access to combatants and censor reporting that could undermine support for the war. Reports of Russian military successes have fueled support for military activities among the populace. However, some military spokesmen have altered the facts and limited independent reporting so much that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.

With few exceptions, Russian journalists have not complained about the media management, and instead have picked up much of the military’s jargon, such as references to “working” in the city instead of bombing or assaulting. Media control was formalized in December 1999 through the mechanism of Resolution Number 1538. The President of the Russian Federation created the Russian Information Center whose job it was to filter information before providing it to the mass media and to control the dissemination of foreign information. Such tight media control was absent in the first fight for Grozny, and it cost the Russians dearly. One analyst noted that after the first Chechen war, the Russian military came to the conclusion that they had to first play out the information war against the Chechen resistance, as in their opinion the Chechens had succeeded in morally disarming public opinion in Russia”.

In Gaza, this battle is being won by Hamas and Israel does not seem to be performing information warfare any better than Russia in 1995. Considering how sophisticated the Israeli intelligence apparatus is reputed to be, one can only wonder at such poor performance. Hamas on the other hand can happily stand back and watch Israel do all the work for them.

Recently, the United States did a much better media control job at Fallujah. Media coverage was quite tame and few images leaked outside of the United States military approval. It may be because the United States took care of cordonning off Fallujah and emptying it of its population as much as possible before assaulting. At the time, Rory McCarthy estimated that “many of Falluja’s 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting“. Israeli precipitation precluded such evacuation in Gaza, and it is dubious that they could have afforded that luxury either given the lack of destination for potential evacuees. But they could have emulated some practices such as embedding journalists. The newly published “Tactique Générale” manual (FT-02) of the French Armée de Terre mentions that in every Marine company in Fallujah there were four or five embedded journalists. With empathy toward the troops they are following, the embedded journalists can provide a semblance of counterweight to the insurgent’s natural propaganda support.

Hamas ruthlessly censors how Gaza is painted in the media – journalists don’t seem to mind too much and the public does not seem to even notice. Maybe Israel could have done a better job of suppressing information channels, but it cannot operate the same way as Hamas : letting reporters roam with relative freedom is one of the costs of operating as a democracy. The problem is that the free flow of information is antinomic to media warfare. States such as Israel are left with a difficult dilemma : protecting a free society with authoritarian methods is the path toward corruption, and the United States have sufficiently illustrated that fact. But after all, maybe the target audience of Israel’s actions is in Gaza, not in the rest of the world.

Photography05 Aug 2007 at 9:36 by Jean-Marc Liotier

A few weeks ago I was dealing with strongly backlit black skinned subjects with the occasional shadow and highly contrasted clothing… Needless to say that I had to go wild with exposure compensation and I was not quite self-assured. So I ended up falling back to more chimping than usual.

To tame the bright sunlight sunlight I was wearing a pair of sunglasses. The lenses being corrective for my rather bad myopia I needed to keep them on. So with the combination of unsure exposure and not having my clear corrective lenses I ended up chimping with sunglasses. I suspected this was a daft idea, but now I have seen the results there is no doubt left about it.

LCD monitors on camera backs are quite inaccurate for tonal quality and even more at a less than perfect angle. And looking at them in bright sunlight is as bad as looking at a CRT monitor in daylight. So I guess that chimping has its limits – at some point the instinctive exposure skills of the expert film photographers of old show that their value are still current, even in the digital world.

Photography and Picture of the day18 Jun 2007 at 8:45 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Sometimes even clumsy old men like me manage to frame action. I quite like this picture I took last week-end of my daughter impacting the bottom of the pond after loosing her footing on the slippery bottom :

Now you are certainly all in awe of the über-quick action photography skills that yielded this nice aquatic instant. But then you are mistaken – this sort of picture is not really about the reaction time but about anticipation.

I was actually busy portraying the other girl when I sensed Pauline entering the pond and the periphery of the frame. First lesson : even when shooting keep the other eye mostly open so that you remain aware of your surroundings in spite of the viewfinder’s tunnel vision.

I knew that Pauline was barefoot and that on the smooth marble bottom she was bound to slip – and I had no time to stop her. So I just kept my index fully pressed on the shutter button and went cyclic, capturing frames continuously and as fast as my camera would bear. In three seconds I had a dozen frames and only this one worth keeping.

But I no longer care about a keeper’s ratio : a few years ago digital began to erode that notion, but now with thirteen gigabytes in my pocket I have enough memory so that the number of frames I record is no longer relevant at all. Second lesson : if there is even a remote chance that something interesting might happen, shoot first and ask questions later.

If you shoot video, this certainly sounds very familiar and it is : what I am actually doing is shooting a four frames per second video and later choose the frames I like. The purists are probably shuddering at the thought, but nowadays action photography is just video frame grabbing with a lower frame rate.

Photography frame rates are increasing, with the Canon 1D MkIII producing ten 10 megapixel frames per second with live preview, but video definition is increasing too – the Red HD digital video camera produces twelve megapixels at sixty frames per second with quality similar to a modern DSLR albeit at a quite different price point. You may have missed it, but convergence has already happened.

Journalists now have the technical means to produce photo as well as video. Just as people choose to make color or black and white pictures, whether you do it or not will soon be a matter of style, not of technical limits.

Code and Photography22 Mar 2007 at 11:41 by Jean-Marc Liotier

My quick and easy tool for renaming files straight from camera in a way that will make sense in most contexts is now even better.

Changelog :

  • Field order has been changed in order to fit even more situations
  • The script now tolerates upper and lower case file name extensions
  • Prefix can be personalized : your initials probaly make more sense than “IMG”
  • Extension case set is now set according to user configuration

Example :

“my current directory/img_6051.jpg” taken the 2nd of December 2005 at 9:07:59 AM (according to the embedded EXIF metadata)

becomes :

“my current directory/20051202.090759.JML.6051.my_current_directory.jpg”

Set your personal parameters in five seconds, and call just one simple command with no arguments for the whole directory. How easier can it get ?

See it, download it !

Photography25 Jan 2007 at 22:11 by Jean-Marc Liotier

When Ange asked me to begin thinking about pictures for her upcoming music album, I took that as an opportunity for more Strobist inspired learning about what multiple flashes can do. After laying about my pocket studio of three 580EX I set a large white sheet across the room and set color balance using the Expodisc, an accessory I don’t leave home without anymore.

Meanwhile, I sent Ange applying a very generous layer of makeup foundation. And then I sent her for more. I too was shocked the first time I saw the enormous amount of makeup applied on a model, but makeup for looking good across a lens under flash light has nothing to do with the makeup that is used to spruce up looks under normal circumstances.

The post-processing is done with Gimp using mostly some clone brush with the spray nozzle to clean up a few remaining spots and some wrinkles. It could be much better, but these pictures are probably not the ones we will be using for the album cover – for now our work is about learning the techniques and discovering the possibilities. I am quite pleased with the lighting and the model preparation – and so is the model, but we still have a world of potential for more sophistication.

I am still very far from performing such captures in a controlled way – for now the process is still an haphazard stumble between semi-random trials and errors. Part of the problem is that I do not keep notes of the lighting setup I choose for each shot. I must admit that EXIF has made me lazy : I don’t bother to take any notes because I know that I’ll find all the essentials inside each file. But the camera still does not record the position of the flashes…

Some day each flash unit shall have an inertial guidance system aboard to record its 3D position and some transmission channel to pass it to the camera at capture time. But for now I have to fall back on something less futuristic…

As I went looking for tools I found that Kevin Kertz shared his rather nice Photoshop lighting setup shapes template. I like the concept and the drawing produced with such tools are rather nice instructional medias. But if I had the luxury of a desktop environment for taking such notes I might as well use Blender for describing lighting. But maybe that would be overkill…

So at the moment, an old fashioned notebook is all I can suggest for remembering studio flash setups… Too bad I can’t even read my own handwriting… If anyone has a suggestion for an efficient way of taking flash setup notes in the field, please do contribute a comment !

As a consolation while we are mentioning lighting you may want to read Chuck Gardner’s photography and lighting tutorials and especially the one where he illustrates how lighting is all about the subjective perception of contrast and relative brightness. I’m not there yet… But the longest journey always begins with a single step.

Photography28 Dec 2006 at 0:55 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I just bought a handful of cheap metal screw mount hot shoe adapters. I have not yet had a chance to use them. Actually I might say I have been lucky not to have used them yet… While learning about umbrella adapters I just stumbled on a piece piece of practical advice whose timing could not have been better :

“Oh, and before I forget, as soon as you get it, if the shoe mount is made of metal put a piece of electrical tape on the top of it where the flash sits. It could screw up the electronics in the month’s-rent-worth-of-strobe you have sitting up there if you don’t. I’m not kidding about that”.

One more reason to have a large stock of duct tape at home. And one more reason to read Strobist’s blog – if I needed any…

Photography27 Dec 2006 at 0:18 by Jean-Marc Liotier

My photographic output is generally well received by models and friends alike, but they are not a very critical bunch so being content with the status quo would be utterly presumptuous from my part. But there is no danger of that, as kaizen is very dear to my heart.

Although I now have a good grasp of basic tools such as various selection implements, levels, curves, noise reduction and sharpening, my retouching skills are still very far from anything serious. Training helps me creep slowly forward, but it has now been a few months since it dawned on me that those skills probably won’t improve much more until I get myself to learn dealing with layers and transparency. Spray painting with the clone brush on the background layer is better than nothing, but a good layered makeup with gaussian blur and assorted masking trickery is what I am really aiming for.

The tool I am missing is called “adjustment layers” : “an adjustment layer typically applies a common effect like brightness or saturation to other layers. However, as the effect is stored in a separate layer, it is easy to try it out and switch between different alternatives, without destroying the original layer. In addition, an adjustment layer can easily be edited, just like a layer mask, so an effect can be applied to just part of the image“.

So I went looking for explanation on how to use adjustment layers. I found Tea Leaves explaining how to use adjustment layers with an example in the context of Photoshop – according to him “it is like having a darkroom notebook that also remembers exactly how to edit your pictures for you. It really is magic“. Matt Greer explains in more detail the benefits of adjustment layers :

“The benefit to using adjustment layers is that no edit is permanent until you flatten the image. You can even save the image with all of its adjustment layers as a Photoshop Document (.psd), and when you reopen it, all the changes you made to the adjustment layers will still be there for you to change back, remove, or alter.

If you were to, for example, edit curves without layers, then go on to change saturation, crop the image, then add vignetting, the only way to go back and change what you did to the curves would be to go back in the history, to when you changed the curve (thus losing all work done since), or start the image editing from scratch.

With adjustment layers, however, so long as that adjustment layer is still there, you can go back and alter the adjustment at any point in the editing process”.

Phong explains how easy it is to add an adjustment layer, and Martin from explains their power at further length. So far so good, I’m sold on adjustment layers ! But what about my photo retouching tool of choice, Gimp ?

Gimp lacks adjustment layers and users have been complaining about it for quite a while. Actually I should say that the lack of adjustment layers is an essential part of the classic list of rants against Gimp. Raphael Quinet, webmaster from 2001 to 2004 says : “Adjustment layers will not be in 2.4. This will probably have to wait until the GEGL-ification of GIMP is complete (i.e., GIMP 3.0)“. Raphael even mentions a feature wishlist item about about adjustment layers that has been open as a bug since 2002.

GEGL-ification of GIMP ? That could take a while. There have recently been a few encouraging noises about a revival of GEGL’s development, but by all estimates GEGL still appears on the same horizon where it has stayed there for the last seven years. GEGL is supposed to cure GIMP‘s woes by letting it scale freely in image sizes, number of layers, bit depth, functionnality and anything else you might imagine. GEGL looks very promising and the rumor says that it is rooted in very sound foundations. But in the context of GIMP, GEGL smells like a severe case of second system effect. I am not betting my money on a GEGL-ified GIMP appearing anytime soon. I do believe that GEGL will deliver an awesome next-generation graphical framework, but for GIMP it will be too late.

So where do GIMP refugees run to ? Photoshop is quite expensive, and CS2, its latest incarnation is does not run well in Linux with Wine. But hope is not lost : Krita has had adjustment layers for almost one year. Krita looks like the light at the end of the tunnel, the potential savior also bringing forth the high bit depth colorspaces that will one day enable the full 16 bit workflow that begins with the RAW image files. Krita even already mention adjustment layers in its documentation – that is a very good sign. So for now I am going to take a very close look at Krita and experiment with it with the goal of replacing GIMP in the short term. Adjustment layers alone pushed me to consider migration but with the prospects of a 16 bit workflow on the horizon my motivation is now even stronger.

But with all this talk about tools, let’s not forget to sharpen those retouching skills too. And while retouching let’s not forget about those photographic skills either. Let’s start with this example of bad lighting :

Under bounce flash, the shadows under the cheeks of this particular model are not nice. Next time I’ll try using my brand new pocket studio lighting to get rid of them… And that illustrates that as usual there is more than one way to improve an image. After a whole article of ranting about image manipulation tools I want to conclude by putting them back into perspective : digital hackery will always come second to getting a good exposure.

Consumption and Photography and Picture of the day26 Dec 2006 at 12:23 by Jean-Marc Liotier

After agonizing for a few months over a lighting equipment purchase decision I finally took the plunge and bought a couple of additional Canon Speedlite 580EX, in accordance to the teachings of the guru of small shoe-mount flashes.

Even cheap AC powered lights provide more power than the Canon portable strobes will ever put out, but I can carry the portable strobes anywhere in my backpack and set the up on a whim – and that fits my lifestyle much better. As Strobist says : “larger strobes have their place, but they tend to spend a lot of time in trunks and stuffed under beds. But the small, everyday strobe is always in the waistpack ready to go“.

I began playing with my new toys on this Christmas week-end as I happened to have a willing model at hand. My first setup was definitely random and the results are rather haphazard but I have at least the above picture to be quite happy with.

After that first experience I can already say that I do not regret my decision. A bunch of 580EX are really a pocket studio all by themselves – and with a €4 screw mount adapter I can even make good use of those flimsy toy tripods given away with breakfast cereal packs and spotting scopes. I now have ample room to grow my lighting skills and have loads of fun on the way. Expect more multiple flash experiments !

Photography20 Nov 2006 at 1:14 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I tought I had a couple of hours to spare but a planning misunderstanding had me pack my kit and take off in less than three minutes – and I managed not to forget a single thing ! I did not even know I was that well organized… But you will surely be disappointed to learn that there is no secret about it : I just happened to have everything sown about the livingroom, grabbed a large bag and I threw into it about anything in sight…

I then had to catch the metro and run across Paris carrying all that on my back… I’m glad I choose to rent the 300/2.8 + 1.4 TC instead of the 400/2.8 that would clearly have broken my spine.

Everything set for aperture priority at 2.8, 1600 or 3200 ISO, partial metering, AI Servo (or at least I thought so…) and my new darling : custom function 4-3 (AF and AE on the ‘*’ key, AE lock at half shutter press, shutter priority at full shutter press). Now let’s get those pictures !

The first impression is that the Canon EF 300/2.8 L is one hefty chunk of glass. I rented it this morning and barely had time to get to know it. Its handling is a new experience in every way. The whole assembly is a solid chunk of metal, rather more like a blunt as a medieval blunt weapon good for knocking out bovines than like the delicate optical machinery that it actually is. It certainly feels quite enduring but I don’t really want to find out how much considering the enormous deposit check I had to leave to its owner. Even the lens shade is really built for abuse – nothing like the flimsy plastic appendages for use with my f/2.8 L zooms.

In fact, compared to the EF 300/2.8 L anything I have handled before now feels flimsy. I thought that the 70-200/2.8 L was pretty nice but the 300/2.8 L is just from another world. I cannot comment about image quality because I had to use high ISO and the noise precludes any meaningful judgement. But the autofocus I can comment on : it is the fastest I have ever used. Even the 1.4x teleconverter does not slow it down noticeably !

This is also the first time I use a fixed focal lense. Fixed focal makes framing much harder but the AF speed and the aperture are worth it. But keeping track of the action at a focal length of 420 mm while framing correctly is a major challenge.

From the end lines, 420 mm is fine for action two thirds of the way. From the side lines maybe I should also have tried it with no teleconverter, especially as night fell the extra stop would have been very welcome.

Depth of field at 420/4 is very short – so short that it makes me painfully aware that focusing skills are not up to snuff. Setting the correct AF mode could have helped too

As usual the best frames are the ones that could have been… I sometimes managed to have the subject in the frame and sometimes I managed to have it in focus… But rarely both at the same time. When I succeeded it is most often because I have been able to anticipate the action. I pays hugely to understand the game your are shooting – and alas my understanding of football is still at its beginning. I am beginning to notice more details but the feints still get me : for example it is hard to anticipate when the player purposefully looks in one direction and then shoots in another completely unpredictable one…

Constantly changing light conditions during the game were a pain to adapt to. From direct sunlight and shadows in broad daylight to dusk to badly lit at night there was no way to just meter and forget. Checking the histogram from time to time was more important than ever. And don’t even mention color balance : I relied on the camera’s automation and I was way off 80% of the time. A gray card to use maybe four times during the game would certainly certainly be the cheapest and easiest way to improve the quality of my images – it is now on top of my shopping list. I also experienced a few errant exposures dues to incomplete flash recycling during bursts, but that is not yet worth getting a Canon CP-E3 for. Overall, exposure was not that bad compared to how bad my focusing and framing were.

The framing was pretty bad but I know that the only way I am going to improve it is to shoot more football and learn to anticipate better. Maybe I also need to accept that I am not going to nail every single possible shot and that I must concentrate on selected parts of the game. Better framing will also give better image quality in the end product : better framing means less cropping. Less cropping means more pixels to work with and also better results from Neatimage : my Neatimage profiles are designed for the camera’s nominal resolutions and give pretty mediocre results at lower resolutions.

Blurry images are also sometimes partly caused by camera shake, but since subject movement is at least as great as camera shake I do not think a tripod would be a good idea compared to the monopod I am using. But the video people are doing it so maybe I’ll give it a try. If I do that I’ll have to thing a suitable head for that purpose – for now I’m quite clueless about tripod heads. And if there is enough light a higher shutter speed makes that a moot point.

So to sum up, here are the axis of improvement along which I am going to work :
– Focusing : exercise on anything that moves fast and impredictably… In that matters, kids playing are surprisingly comparable to football.
– Framing : shoot more football at the same level.
– Color balance : use a grey card.

I am not very happy with the end result of my work on that day, but to me it was an excellent learning experience : I am beginning to understand where I want to go and the path to get there…

Code and Photography19 Nov 2006 at 1:45 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I usually shoot a football game using two cameras. When I publish a gallery I want images from both cameras to appear as a single stream. Of course that is easily done by using a naming scheme that puts an alphanumerically sortable timestamp right after the event’s invariant name. But that only works if both cameras have been synchronized before the event starts… Of course I forgot to do it. No problem – Exiv2 comes to the rescue ! A simple ‘exiv2 ad -a 48:08:30 *’ saved my day (actually two days, eight minutes and thirty seconds)… Thank you Exiv2 !

Brain dump and Knowledge management and Photography18 Nov 2006 at 1:20 by Jean-Marc Liotier

After a football game three months ago I wrote womething about forgetting AI servo :

“I surely made the focusing on action even worse by shooting with AI focus instead of AI servo. I’m quite ashamed of that mistake. Maybe I forgot to set it up properly because I’m not used to do it on my 300D which does not offer that choice… As usual, discovering new hardware on the event is a truly bad idea… I guess that’ll serve me as a reminder to force AI servo next time and to get intimately familiar with new hardware before covering an event”.

Well… I just did that again : for the football game last wednesday I set both cameras on AI Focus. How daft is that ? I am furious at myself. The manual of every Eos body in the last 20 years has been clear that AI Servo is the proper autofocus mode for sports. What was I thinking ? I was even wondering why the autofocus was a bit slow to start tracking while I was believing that I had set it to AI Servo… I could probably have had three times more keepers ! At least I guess I won’t forget to set it to AI Servo next time…

I feel incredibly stupid. 10k Euros worth of hardware dangles from my neck and I can’t even set the AF mode properly. This morning I felt too ashamed to tell anybody. But keeping silent would have been a grave mistake : an important part of experience capitalization is that you should not be afraid of explaining the most horrendously stupid mistakes you made.

Many knowledge management projects are rather useless because their participants refuse to show how they failed. Everyone loves to tell a success story and let their ego bask in the praise lavished upon them. Too bad because the failures often contain more actionable information than the success stories. And since people want to avoid failure even more than they seek success, a failure story will anchor new knowledge even more efficiently than a success story.

For example, during the run up to D-Day, the entrance of a commando training camp in Britain was graced by mock graves with obituaries describing the fictional deaths of trainees. That was recognized as an efficient way to impact the trainees and get the important safety messages accross.

So you can really pay your peers a big favor by telling them your worst. As the demotivator poster says : “It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others”

Code and Photography17 Nov 2006 at 1:42 by Jean-Marc Liotier

IPTC is the industry standard for photographic metadata so that is what you should use. As usual, a little shell scripting makes life easier so let me introduce you to the comprehensive answer to all your EXIF and IPTC metadata manipulation needs : Exiv2. Using it I whipped up a trivial, quick and dirty way to tag a bunch of files with the generic IPTC metadata of your choice. Edit the script to your taste with your own data and you are set.

Yes it is most trivial, but it is news to me and it is all I need… So there – scratching your own itch and all that…

Last but not the least : be aware that Gimp will rudely overwrite IPTC metadata with no warning and no point. The developers are aware of that and fixes will be forthcoming in an undefined future release. So along your digital photography workflow make sure that you tag your batch of pictures downstream from editing them in Gimp

Code and Photography and Systems16 Nov 2006 at 0:42 by Jean-Marc Liotier is another trivial script I wrote that saves me much manipulation each time I come back to my workstation with removable media full of photos. It copies all images from a removable media to the directory of the day (created on the fly if not existing), autorotates them and sets the permissions right. It is what I use prior to putting the pictures in an appropriately named directory and running to name them according to my standard.

It does about the same thing as but it does not handles the mounting and unmounting because it assumes a removable medium that Ubuntu mounts automatically. As a bonus there is a very slight addition of polish. I should backport some of the polish to, but since I no longer use it and received no feedback about it my motivation is quite low.

Photography15 Nov 2006 at 10:37 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I have another lucky opportunity to shoot an international soccer game from the sidelines on invitation by the Guinean national team. Last time’s soccer photography packing list was about a true ghetto rig. This time I managed to gather quite enough decent hardware :

That is definitely serious hardware. I guess that any excuses about a poor rig won’t be taken seriously this time… Building on my previous soccer photography experience, here is what I intend to do :

  • The 300/2.8 with the 1.4x Extender will go on the 30D perched on top of the monopod assembly.
  • The 70-200/2.8 L will go on the 400D with the BG-E3. The 580EX will join them as soon as speed at f/2.8 and ISO 1600 falls to 1/125s.
  • I’ll keep the 24-70/2.8 at hand just in case there is really close action. Last time, except for the penalty shoots and a few lucky close encounters, the 24-70 on the second body was way too short. I felt that the 70-200 would be much more useful. I’ll test that hypothesis today.

We’ll soon see what I can do with all that…

Consumption and Photography14 Nov 2006 at 22:31 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Today I got a Canon Eos 400D in the mail. I could not resist playing with it this morning before heading for the office. The very first impression comes from the better quality of the finish, a mode selector that does not slip under sweaty fingers and instant power-on. The feeling that comes right next is how tiny the grip is – with the 24-70/2.8L it feels downright ridiculous. But the improvements soon let me forgive that : bigger buffer, AF mode control, second curtain flash (CF 9-1), custom function 4-3 (AF and AE on the ‘*’ key, AE lock at half shutter press, shutter priority at full shutter press), flash exposure compensation on the body and an autofocus that I don’t feel like swearing at constantly… All of the major annoyances of the 300D are gone – life is good !

In order to have some decent hardware to cover tomorrow’s soccer game, I borrowed a Canon Eos 30D from my friend Guillaume. I played a bit with it and was immediately in awe of the superior ergonomics. Bigger viewfinder, bigger grip and quick control dial make the 400D feel like a toy in comparison. Even the Canon BG-E3 I bought along with the 400D does not really bridge the gap. Apart from that both cameras actually perform similarly. The feeling of quality and the manipulation speed are significant advantages – the question is open whether you should spend the difference to get them. But the reasons why I borrowed this body are the five frames per second compared with the 400D’s three and the ISO 3200 maximum sensitivity compared with the 400D’s 1600. Five frames per second at ISO 3200… That is fast enough to catch that perfect action frame I’m after ! I don’t need that sort of speed often, but for soccer it is really necessary unless you want lots of blurry frames with no ball in them…

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