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!