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Monthly Archives: January 2012
Superficially, this is about Silicon Valley disrupting the media industry. We’ve seen the effect of downloads on the Music industry and the Film and Television industries don’t want any repeat of that scenario thank you very much!
The case of the start up band who have to pay for their rehearsal space, pay to print up CDs and Publicity material, hoping to make at least some money back through sales, only to have their hopes dashed by cynical downloaders purloining their content for free is also well heard. I am a photographer and have found my photographs on Google, adorning sites I’ve never heard of. A magazine recently offered me the princely sum of £2 for one picture – an improvement on last year when two magazines with high street distribution deals printed photographs of mine for no fee! At first glance, this embattled artist is tempted to agree that SOPA is not a bad thing.
But of course embattled artists are not the only losers, and if any government is passing legislation solely to protect the rights of struggling artists, frankly I’ll eat my hat. There are other players with much more to lose and this is why there is such a fuss about SOPA.
This debate is about control. Control over the internet. Or to put it crudely, delivery of the internet into the hands of the vested interests providing content through established channels like print, film and CD. The proposed legislation allows a body that alleges copyright theft to have a web site closed down without due process and without evidence. ie. Guilty until proved innocent.
Secondary liability ensures that link sharing sites such as Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg etc will be liable for prosecution if they are found to be distributing links to copied or pirated material. In this scenario even Facebook and Google+ would be threatened. In effect, this makes any company hosting pirated or copied material or links to that material vulnerable to frivolous litigation like never before. Big companies have very deep pockets and will have no qualms about disrupting the pretenders to their throne by forcing expensive lawsuits to be defended.
What has this to do with the US Government bill? The sponsorship of government advising think tanks by corporate interests has been extensively documented as has the use of lobbyists by various industries to influence government thinking. In the UK, where I live, the extent to which media corporation News International influenced successive General Elections can only be guessed at, but it is well documented that Rebekah Wade was a regular guest at the homes and offices of successive wannabe prime ministers. No coincidence when the Murdoch owned Sun, News of the World and Times all backed the same horse.
Furthermore, the subsequent appointment of Murdoch fan Jeremy Hunt to the Ministry of Culture and the decision to allow Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB to be waved through could be interpreted as payback for the press support for the Tories before the election. It was only stopped by furious protests from the public and one newspaper’s, The Guardian, tireless quest to expose the illegal activities taking place in the News of the World under the auspices of Rebekah Wade. Nobody should remain in any doubt that corporate interests influence and in some cases dictate government policy.
Back in the US, SOPA and its little brother PIPA are merely the instruments by which the corporate interests that control the old media, hope to wrest control of the new away from Silicon Valley. It should be resisted at all costs, not because we prefer anarchy, but because democracy is founded on freedom of choice and if there is no freedom of information then there is no freedom of choice. I don’t mind sacrificing a few photographs to uphold that principle.
Followers of iPhoneography will know Snapseed for its iPhone and iPad implementations. It is in my opinion the best value and possibly the most full featured editing app available to mobile photographers. Nik Software of course are equally well known for their professional editing tools Silver Efex Pro and Viveza to name but two. The release of Snapseed for the desktop at £13 in the Mac Store poses an interesting question – who is it aimed at exactly?
I decided to test the capabilities of the software using a problematic photograph I’d taken in Iceland. In the original RAW file, the picture was underexposed because of the unusual amount of pure white snow in the picture. I needed to boost the exposure to bring the snow up to the brilliant white it was in real life, but in so doing, lost the detail of the mountains. Bringing the red jacket through completely overexposed the snow.
I exported the file to jpeg as it was intended for the internet – this immediately set me on the path to a downgraded picture, so it may have been better to have taken the RAW file, however Snapseed does not offer the same degree of control over the RAW image as Aperture, relying on the underlying OS support for RAW in order to deal with the picture.
Snapseed offers two categories of adjustment, Basic and Creative. The Creative adjustments are mainly combinations of filters and textures – not what I was after here. The Basic controls offer Image tuning, Cropping & Straightening and Details. Given the issues I mentioned earlier, the main work was going to have to be selective. I needed to bring out the red of the woman’s jacket and bring up the detail of the mountain in the background.
Snapseed uses the same u-point technology in Image Tuning that Nik apply to their professional tools. Click on the area you need to adjust to create a Control point, adjust the size of the control point so that the changes are localised and then apply contrast, saturation and brightness as required. These controls gave me exactly what I needed. I was then able to use Details to bring out the structure. Time elapsed – about fifteen minutes.
For £13, this software is good value – as a taster for the professional tools it is excellent. I would not use it to create prints or images for print publication, but for internet publication I think its fine.
Positives: RAW Support, Ease of use, speed, price
Negatives: limited feature set (but very reasonable for the price)
Conclusion – although the feature set is limited, it is capable. This is very much a fun application delivering decent results quickly and easily. It does not offer the same levels of resolution as Aperture or Photoshop. Its mobile photography++. iPhone editing for the desktop and an inexpensive introduction to Nik Software!
I’m just back from a short trip to Iceland, possibly the most amazing country I’ve ever visited! Outside of Reykjavik, conditions were hostile. Temperatures of -5C dropping to -10C at night with a windchill factor that threatens to strip the skin from your bones. Magnificent, outrageous landscapes take the breath away, its a landscape photographers dream.
The most useful thing I learned, embarrassingly was the thing that prevented me from photographing the most vivid display of the Northern Lights I’ve seen in five separate sightings (Alaska, Finland and Canada providing the other venues). The thing about the Northern Lights is….they don’t last. It is dark, probably windy and very very cold.
I prepared diligently, composing my shot (of photographers shooting the lights), setting up the camera in advance with a wide angle lens mounted on the tripod, remote trigger attached. Exposure set to “bulb mode” so that I could take long exposures. The idea was to pick up the whole kit, set the tripod and start taking pictures.
At first everything went according to plan. The hotel called me at first sight of the lights and accompanied by half a dozen other photographers I rushed outside, planted the tripod and waited for the other photographers to take up positions. The wind had taken the temperature down to what felt like -20C, seriously cold, and when I pressed the trigger to open the shutter….nothing happened. I then made the cardinal error – in a panic, I carried the camera indoors so that I could check the set up – immediately the lens and LCD screen misted over. Disaster.
So my top tips for successfully photographing the Northern Lights are these.
1. Prepare kit beforehand – you’ll have a couple of minutes of good shooting conditions if you’re very lucky.
2. Most DSLR’s won’t expose for longer than 30 seconds without being set to “bulb mode”, when the first action opens the shutter and the second closes it. Details will be different depending on what camera you have. My Canon displays a timer on the LCD when the shutter is opened on first click.
3. Choose a moderately high ISO – 800 or so – my problem was caused by there not being enough light to register at ISO 100. Schoolboy error.
4. Choose a mid range Aperture value – you want the light, but you don’t want a narrow depth of field if you want to put some context like a building or in my case other photographers in sharp silhouette.
5. Take as many shots as you have time for at different ISO settings and duration. This is pure guesswork, you won’t have time to inspect the results.