Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The difference between webapps and “real” apps

Much has been made recently of the shift from desktop-based apps into the “cloud”. Many people now rely entirely on webapps, and with the Google Chrome OS being announced recently, I can only see more and more people converting. In theory, this is a good thing. Platform independent, free, automatically backed up. If your computer dies, you use another, and all your stuff is still there. Brilliant.

However, even with all this news, I’m starting to move back to real apps again. I find I can concentrate more when there are separate applications and windows that I can focus on. I’ve gone from using Gmail entirely in the web browser, to using IMAP to connect to it on my iPhone and my Macbook. I’m considering doing the same on my main computer, but that may involve installing the hell that is Outlook. Especially with email, I can just leave Mail open on my laptop, and it pops up when I get a new mail. A browser can’t do that, even if there is much to be argued for having set times of day dedicated to sorting out email.

I’ve also been using a simple text editor to write words for articles, and then syncing them between computers using Dropbox. I find this also helps me focus. I can close my web browser completely, and this helps me to focus entirely on the task in hand. When I was using Google Docs, I kept on getting distracted by having the rest of the internet just a Ctrl-T away. I also find it much easier to email .txt files to people for proofing, rather than sending a pdf or doc file, which often don’t work, especially cross-platform. It’s also way easier to just drag and drop attachments into an email, rather than having to use a file dialogue, another benefit of using “real” apps.

Overall, I seem to be developing a bastardised hybrid approach to the “cloud”. Currently, though, I seem to have the best of both worlds. The convenience and reliability of desktop apps (with the offline access too, when my internet invariably goes down) combined with the peace of mind and ease of online access/syncing. I’m hoping that Chrome OS is going to go this sort of way, rather than everything being browser based.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

A day of shooting and planning

Went to Manchester yesterday to meet up with Nathan Chandler. Spent the day planning an upcoming project with him, and just generally chatting. Then we went shooting for a while. Didn’t really spend too much time taking pictures, but here are some of the results:





A couple more on my Flickr.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Despite what I've said

It's not about the equipment. Iphone cameras are perfectly good. Planning on doing at least one shot every day. I've said this before, though.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

From last week





I enjoyed this job. Fun people, an interesting talk, and great food.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Some things I’ve learnt recently.

1) If you’re doing jobs that require working from home, set yourself a time scale for work. If you just sit down at your computer and start, you’ll never get things done (or at least I won’t – I get distracted if I’m not specifically focussed on one job).

This has dawned on me recently. I’ve had a load of stuff to do online for gig promotion (go to these gigs by the way) including stuff on some social networking sites and forums. Ass you can imagine, I get distracted by this easily, especially as they’re sites I regularly visit anyway. Since I started being more focussed, though, I’ve set myself maybe an hour or two do do a few tasks, and I’ve not allowed myself to stray from that specific area until the time is over. Then I give myself a bit of a break, but not too long. I’ve gotten two or three times as much stuff done recently because of this.

2) Email is a great tool, but it can massively decrease productivity.

I only have the one email address right now. Everything goes into it: work emails, personal emails, newsletters, forum subscriptions, notifications, everything. Sometimes really important stuff gets lost in the noise, and you end up spending so much time sorting through it you spend less time working.

Using Gmail’s stars and filters is helping me a lot, but I’m still considering setting up some completely separate addresses for other things. One for work, one for personal, and one for newsletters, forums, social networking, etc. I’m trying to decide if this will mean me spending more time signing in/out, checking 3 different accounts, but maybe if I start using something like Outlook instead of webmail, then I’ll be able to do this easily.

2b) Email on the move

I thought having an iPhone was great, allowing me to check my email on the move so I could get stuff done while I was on the train, etc. Instead I’ve found that I miss important things now. Because I’m using IMAP on my phone, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to set things as unread, if I check my email and there’s something that I can’t immediately act on, it sits in my inbox until I’m next at a computer, and then gets missed because it isn’t unread. This is exacerbated by the email noise mentioned before, so now I’m resisting the urge to check my mail in bed before I get up, and while I’m out and about.


3) You need personal downtime

This is the most important one for me at the minute. Working nonstop and then spending the rest of my time visiting friends, my girlfriend, and trying to cram in even more work just isn’t working anymore. I got so burnt out last week that I was working incredibly slowly. However, when I finally got a proper night’s sleep, and then spent some “me time” washing my car and playing my Xbox, I got much more relaxed, and was able to catch up on my massive todo list (incidentally, Gmail tasks is great for this).

Friday, 10 April 2009

Busybusybusy (again)

I seem to go in stages of having nothing much to do, and then have stages where I seem to be flat out loads of the time. Recently, I’ve been working a load as the weather has been great, so work has been busy, coupled with stuff like Mothers Day and Easter. Add that on to trying to keep a social life together and some other projects, and I never seem to have time to myself.

Sometimes you get so wound up in work and personal projects that you forget about other things going on. There were a few people that I’d barely seen over the past few weeks, so I’m endeavouring to make an effort to have some downtime and relax a little more.

I’m getting one or two photography jobs coming in, which is great. I do need to promote myself more though. Business cards need designing and printing, I should probably get myself a website. People don’t come to you, you have to go to them. I’m seriously thinking about upgrading my camera gear soonish too, at least a new lens in the near future. The Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 and the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 are my best options right now, I just need to find somewhere nearby that has them for me to try out. I’m hoping this will give me a little more versatility in the situations I’ve been thrown into recently, concert and event photography where there isn’t a lot of light to work with and you’re restricted on flash equipment you can use.

What else? I’m involved with setting up another two music and art events. Dubbed Van Der Waals III, we already have some great acts lined up, and we’re looking for art submissions to be displayed on the night. Contact me if you’re interested.

I’ve had so little time recently that I’ve been using my laptop more and more, checking email and browsing around the house, and barely using my desktop PC at all. This has the downside that I can’t get at most of my photos or music as I haven’t been bothered to transfer them to my laptop yet (not to mention it only has a 160gb hard drive, not enough room!) A server would be great, or at least something quick and readily available for when I need to transfer stuff. I already have a 500gb external MyBook, but I need something redundant, really. Maybe I could win something from MYDL if I’m lucky.

The American Dollar - Starscapes ( A Memory Stream)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Photography is a bottomless pit.

Photography is a great hobby. For most, it’s pretty accessible. You don’t need a DSLR. You don’t need lots of megapixels. Within reason, you can get similar results for most types of shot with a normal point-and-shoot with some manual controls, as you can with a £5000 professional DSLR. I say within reason, because many situations are helped a lot by having better manual controls, better performance in low light, and a more versatile selection of lenses and accessories. Plus, unless you are enlarging prints to a poster size, you don’t really need 10MP sensors. In fact, one could argue that more pixels lets you relax your composition a little, as you can crop and still retain a lot of quality. I know I’ve fallen into that trap before.

However, no matter how accessible photography is for the hobbyist, once you start to get into paid work, it becomes a lot more difficult. If you’re just shooting for yourself to show online or in a photo album, you can get away with a lot of things you couldn’t in a professional situation.

For example: colour calibration. Most people don’t know or care about it. If the picture from the printer turns out slightly different from the one on the screen, then that’s the printers fault, right? Well, no. You have to calibrate your monitor to show the correct colours. You have to profile your printer, so software knows it’s capabilities and can adjust the picture accordingly. You have to be careful when transferring pictures in between programs, as some use different colourspaces. It’s all stuff that’s important for a pro, as you can’t get away with having colours that aren’t accurate. However, for a beginner looking to sort their colours out, it’s overwhelming. Just a glance through this page reveals how in-depth you can go with it. It’s a lot to read for someone who just wants to print a picture how it’s shown on the screen.

There are similar problems when it comes to post-processing. Go onto any photography forum, and there will be multi-page threads discussing the best way to organise and edit photos. Do you use Lightroom, Bridge, or the one that came with your camera? Do you do RAW edits in that program, or Photoshop? How in-depth should you do your editing before switching to something like Photoshop? What’s the best way to go about sharpening a photo?

There are multiple ways to achieve the same (or similar) effect in a program like Photoshop. People will constantly argue about the best way to do something, and this is extremely confusing for someone just getting into this sort of thing. I’m still not sure on the best way for what I do.

Currently, I import photos from a memory card using Lightroom. Lightroom organises into folders in the naming format “yyyy_mm_dd”. I then add tags to the photos, and maybe make a collection if they’re all the same subject. I then go through them, and flag my favourites, then develop these using the develop module in Lightroom. I do as much as I can using the adjustments in Lightroom, and only export to Photoshop when I need some more control. When I’m done, I usually export to jpeg in a subfolder named “Edited”, with size and output sharpening based on where the photos will end up.

I feel this gives me a decent amount of control, but I’m always looking for a better way to do things. I know that I need to learn more about sharpening and masks in Photoshop. My problem is that I am partially colourblind, so things like white balance and tints are very hard to judge. I do my best, though.

Don’t even get me started on lighting. That’s another post.