Editing Photographs with Darktable on Linux

March 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Every once in a while, I’m left with just a lap­top run­ning linux (Red Hat Enter­prise v7 specif­i­cally) and I need to do a quick bit of edit­ing on a pho­to­graph. His­tor­i­cally the only fea­si­ble option has been to fire up GIMP and puz­zle through the dialogs to try and get some­thing usable. While I am a big fan of open source soft­ware, and espe­cially long-established pro­grams like GIMP, it is just too dif­fi­cult for me to use. I like the Pho­to­shop toolkeys and lay­out. I know there are peo­ple who [a] have no trou­ble with GIMP [b] have installed skins and what­not for eas­ier use [c] both a and b. I’m not one of them. I want my image work­flow to “just work” and GIMP just doesn’t.

But Dark­table does! For some­one like me who is used to Ligh­room, dark­table pro­vides a sim­i­lar inter­face and work­flow as usual. Very help­ful when some sim­ple edits and cor­rec­tions need to be done. How do you go from the start­ing image on the left to the fin­ished on the right?

Click Read More and let’s dig in to the process of tak­ing a RAW image from cap­ture to fin­ished output.

Color Self Portraits, February 2015

February 23, 2015 at 2:42 pm

I do shoot color some­times! These are two dig­i­tal images made while test­ing bat­ter­ies and con­fig­u­ra­tions for off cam­era flash setups. 50mm f/1.4 on the 5dmk2

Nashville at Night, October 2014

January 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Walk­ing around down­town Nashville in Octo­ber 2014. Warm and humid, with a nice sun­set lead­ing into a lit­tle ten­sion early in the evening. Taken with the Fuji X100.

Hibiscus, Ocean Springs. December 2014.

December 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm

One a recent short-notice trip to the Mis­sis­sippi Gulf Coast I was with­out any cam­era but my cell phone (LG G2). There was one last bloom on my family’s back­yard hibis­cus, a bril­liant pink with orange and yel­low pollen. But the chance to explore the black and white capa­bil­i­ties of the tool du jour called so strongly, and I’m taken with the results.

Taken with the default Cam­era appli­ca­tion, and mod­i­fied in the Android Pho­to­shop app, but just crop­ping and lev­els. Amaz­ing what portable elec­tron­ics can do these days.

The Rejection

September 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Mov­ing to a new town is fun. New peo­ple, new inspi­ra­tion, new places. And, if you’re lucky, new pho­tog­ra­phy oppor­tu­ni­ties. And Nashville has been quite kind with those opportunities.

But then you get the note. “Thank you for apply­ing, but your work was not selected…” We’ve all received that mes­sage at var­i­ous times. I’ve cer­tainly got­ten my share of them before, but last week was the first time I’d been hon­ored with one since mov­ing here. And it broke the hot streak, which really I had no con­trol over any more than a MLB player’s socks have con­trol over his bat­ting aver­age. There are just so many fac­tors — the juror, the other sub­mis­sions, the pre­vi­ous work the juror saw, the goal of the call, etc. It’s as if the actual work is just a small, small piece of the puzzle.

And so it’s easy to get a lit­tle frus­trated, a lit­tle down. Why bother cre­at­ing any­thing if it might as well sit in a drawer? No one dreams of being Vivian Maier!

Accents 2014 #3

Accents 2014 #3

Sub­mit­ting work is a lit­tle like send­ing your child off to school. I’ve writ­ten about this before, and I still think it’s a work­able metaphor. You believe your work is unique and incred­i­ble but now your child will be part of a group where every­one believes their off­spring is spe­cial and has just so much to share with the world. And some­times your child doesn’t get picked for the lead role in the play, or even picked for any role. Which hurts, right? It stings and you feel judged both as a par­ent and you feel your child’s per­cep­tion of judgement.

But you pick them up, and you pick your­self up, and keep on with life. There are lessons in rejec­tion. We can hone our craft when we don’t make a cut. Even though there may not have been much con­trol over the selec­tion process, it is still an oppor­tu­nity to revisit and refine.

There will be future shows, and maybe even future shows where the same work is accepted. The time will come but only if we try again.

When I Rode Greyhound

May 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Ear­lier this month, I took the Grey­hound Express from Nashville to Atlanta for a con­fer­ence. I wanted to save costs wher­ever pos­si­ble, so a rental car was out — over a week, even the cheap­est option gets really expen­sive. Also, book­ing early on Grey­hound gave quite a dis­count — it was a whop­ping $15 for a round trip ticket. 20x cheaper than fly­ing, and free bag­gage was included.

I took a taxi from the house to the Nashville Grey­hound sta­tion (Eryn was already out of town on another trip). Sur­pris­ingly high-tech for Nashville, these lit­tle Tax­iMagic appli­ances are quite handy when you want to avoid cash in taxis. Atlanta taxis could take a lesson!

Greyhound Trip, May 2014, 01

I arrived at the bus sta­tion a full hour early, which gave plenty of time to check out the clean-but-cramped space. Lines every­where, snaking around the dif­fer­ent “express” areas. A tip — you stay with your bag­gage the whole time. After I had got­ten my bag tagged, I thought they would take it to the bus, akin to com­mer­cial air travel. But no — you stay as close (or as far) from your bag as you desire, car­ry­ing it out to the bus when the time comes to board.

Greyhound Trip, May 2014, 03

Photo Exploration: Self, Exit/In. January 2014

March 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

They say never meet your heroes. I’ve found that be mostly true, espe­cially with musi­cians. I can recall numer­ous shows where the per­former dis­ap­pointed me. Either in energy, or pre­sen­ta­tion, or just being not that great onstage. But Self’s 20th anniver­sary release show for Sub­lim­i­nal Plas­tic Motives blew that mantra away. The show was sim­ply incred­i­ble. I enjoyed the open­ing bands (espe­cially Glos­sary), and when the open­ing notes of Bora­teen started up I was over the moon. Thanks to Exit/In for open­ing up such a great venue for the show, and thanks to Matt Mahaf­fey and the rest of the band for doing a show in Nashville.

I’ve touched on con­cert pho­tog­ra­phy before, and I’d say that the num­ber one issue with such work is the phys­i­cal loca­tion. Venue’s can have vary­ing rules on where/what to shoot, the light­ing can be dif­fi­cult (at best), and staff aren’t always the most under­stand­ing when it comes to pho­tog­ra­phers want­ing (or need­ing) to get “the shot.” For­tu­nately this night didn’t need any sneak­ing or cajol­ing, either to get my cam­era into the club or to take pho­tos. Although it was my only time to visit Exit/In, I have high hopes for return vis­its. I espe­cially like that to reach the facil­i­ties, one must walk up a set of stairs right by the stage. It was from this van­tage point I made the pho­to­graph below.


Self, Exit/In. Jan­u­ary 2014

There is always the feel­ing of “Did I shoot too much? Did I still some­how miss the shot?” with con­certs. They last for hours and most per­form­ers are so ener­getic they move far too quickly for the required (rel­a­tively slow) shut­ter speed to get enough light. Addi­tion­ally, in the dark­ened room pretty much every­thing looks good on the camera’s LCD dis­play. So it is a mish-mash of shoot­ing a whole lot of pho­tos and throw­ing out an amaz­ingly large num­ber of them — even those that looked great the night before in pre­view. But, with a lit­tle prac­tice, once can incor­po­rate the dif­fi­cul­ties above and find some treasures.

For instance, by the end of a long show the musi­cians may be sweaty, disheveled, even a lit­tle drunk (or oth­er­wise ine­bri­ated). Maybe they have slowed down — they aren’t quite as ani­mated, but more expres­sive. The crowd may have even thinned out a lit­tle so you can stay longer in the prime spots. I took plenty of shots from the front of the stage, but this side image I really love. Matt has been play­ing these notes for a long, long time and I some­times won­der how artists who have been per­form­ing the same work through mul­ti­ple decades keep the music fresh for them­selves. I think there must be some sort of a med­i­ta­tive state, some­thing mind­ful and yet with­out active con­trol. Where the right actions hap­pen nat­u­rally, and that frees up the musi­cian to really hear the rest of the expe­ri­ence — the other per­form­ers, the crowd, maybe their own heart­beat. To step into the void, so to speak.

And I think about my own pho­tog­ra­phy, my own moments of shooting-without-thinking, and per­haps that’s why I really love con­cert pho­tog­ra­phy. When the air between the stage and the lens opens up, and the musi­cian and the pho­tog­ra­pher let their media engage with­out human inter­fer­ence — just human motivation.

Photo Exploration: Kathleen, Dancing at Night

October 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

When the time came to leave Asheville, I real­ized that there were a few ses­sions that were “must-do” before the move. One of these was to work one-on-one with Kath­leen Hahn, a dancer/choreographer/innovator/all-around-great person.

We were orig­i­nally going to do her Fever dance from four per­spec­tives, shot in the freezer sec­tion of a local Ingle’s. Mid-way through our first per­spec­tive, secu­rity let us know that pho­tog­ra­phy was not allowed. Which was a relief in a way, as it did make clear that danc­ing is absolutely allowed in the gro­cery. So — if you are ever look­ing for a place to per­form a dance piece, I’d say con­sider Ingle’s. Even light­ing and always a crowd.

Since our orig­i­nal plan didn’t work, we decided to move to a more open envi­ron­ment. The ten­nis courts in Mont­ford were ideal — empty of peo­ple, col­or­ful and avail­able. Kath­leen started her rou­tine and I started mak­ing pho­tographs. I loved the results — some of the stills are incred­i­ble, as you can see here and here. But at some point in the pro­cess­ing, I started won­der­ing if they images could be lay­ered to any pos­i­tive out­come. With the gro­cery pieces, three lay­ers per image seemed suit­able, but the hor­i­zon­tal stage and lines of the ten­nis courts opened the image up for more. I think this final image is taken from thirty indi­vid­ual frames.

Kathleen, Fever.

Kath­leen, Fever. August 2013

Each of the frames had to be adjusted to fit the image as I was hand­hold­ing the cam­era and not par­tic­u­larly intend­ing this result. But the paint and net gave reli­able guides to com­bine the frames into one. I used Pho­to­shop to place the lay­ers, which are all com­bined with the Lighten mode. I then did a gen­eral Adjust­ment Layer for con­trast and white bal­ance over all the frame layers.

I’m very excited about this piece, as it resulted from what could have been a dis­ap­point­ing end of the orig­i­nal ses­sion. How­ever, if we’d stayed in the gro­cery we would have never found the ten­nis courts as a venue. I am also pleased with the dig­i­tal work — I had been shoot­ing film for so long before this ses­sion I had for­got­ten some of the ben­e­fits of work­ing with vari­able ISO’s, quick frames per sec­ond and (vir­tu­ally) unlim­ited image stor­age. A good use case for the flex­i­bil­ity of digital.

Thanks to Kath­leen for being part of this session!