Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Another Trip Round the Sun (and a return to a special place)

Well I find myself at the date of our Anniversary and wondered what to do this year.

Back in 2006 Anita took me to a part of Koivusuo which was an excellent trip, and was about my first trip skiing. I'd had about 12 days ski experience at  that time and so I was not required to pull a sled or carry much ... just cope and keep up. Suffice to say it was one of the most memorable ski trips I've had. Click the image below to take you to an old post on an old website for more on that story...



That particular day was substantially colder than this day (about a week after that date on the calendar).

The road in wasn't cleared all the way, so I had to ski the last few Km along the road leaving the car at a maintenance administration point off the side of the road (nobody was there)



So I put on my skis and headed down the road. Some snow mobile rider had been down there (probably from in that shed there and probably to check firewood at Hanhikoski) and so that made the trip a lot easier to ski (than the deep soft snow).

Today was just under freezing, about -3°C or something like that. There was little breeze and I quickly got down to just my fleece and shirt.


Ahead of me was this view:


and up at the top of the road there is pretty much were we parked the car on my first trip. Its about 4km to here from where I left my car this time.

The track entrance was far more "over grown" since last time but the heavy snow had bowed down trees and left a most amazing scene for me.

A quick (and shakey) look around



This picture is at that lump of snow bowing down a small pine that ended the above video ... more detail in this picture, but the video above provides context not had in a picture.


That snowmobile rider was really keen as this was quite tight going but I'm glad he "cut a trail" for me. So at the place where the forest got thicker (and the trail more or less got tougher) I decided to call it quits and head back. This is looking back at where I'd come (and yes those are only my ski marks).



Besides I knew that the weather was going to get "bad" meaning warm ... and snow sticks to skis like shit to a blanket in those conditions ... yes I know cos last weekend I had to walk home carrying my fucking skis.

Anyway the ski (well, pick and hunt a path) through that was beautiful and breath taking ...

On the way back I had my lunch beside this hut ... just staggeringly deep snow ... my skis are 2.1 meters long and I was still sinking about a foot deep with every step,



This "storage" of lumber had so much snow on the cover roof that if I got close enough to see down the crack to the bottom I couldn't capture the top but far enough back and it just looked like a mushroom ...



I'd previously checked the weather and knew that it was due to get rain (god help me, rain on soft snow in -1°C, what a shitfight) So it was about time to head back. Indeed knowing this is why I didn't press on the last 1.4Km from where I gave up to get to the destination.

So as I left my lunch spot it indeed (as predicted) started drizzeling on me ... you know, that annoying tiny stuff that just wets you after an hour or so in it. I wasn't getting "wet" without my Goretex coat on so I just stayed with the fleece (which is a little water repellent) but my pack got a nice layer of ice on it.


nice ...

So I packed my skis onto the roof, got in the car and came home to have a glass of wine and some cheese.

This is now my 5th Anniversary without Anita ... in a couple of years it will be longer without her than the time I had with her.

I find that its getting easier to actually deal with living, its either that I'm getting stronger at carrying it or the clarity of memory is fading. I can't be sure which. I would say that its now at the point where I can do most things and just have a background sadness at times.

Today I laughed at many lovely things and the simple joy of being out in such a beautiful place. Peaceful and alone. I skied well enough that I'm sure she'd be proud of me.

I hope you enjoyed the trip too.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

quick n dirty Snapseed example

I thought I'd throw this together to show you what I get with a little bit of effort from Snapseed and moving the images from my Camera to my Phone (using a USB OTG cable and card reader).

The JPG from the camera was this:


which is sufficiently exosed but a bit flat. I'm not that "camera guy" who futzes about in the field rooting about with exposures. I look in the viewfinder and get exposure 90%  (not too dark, not washed out) right and move on.

This isn't a bad shot but its a bit flat ... but then this is why I use RAW, so  I can process later. As it happens these days I can do that in stages of the day (pick your down time) as long as my phone has battery.

I have the camera set to capture RAW + small JPG (which is 2048 wide and usually enough to email or Facebook anyway if it didn't need tweaking). As discussed in an earlier post I:

  • transfer the JPG and RW2 files to my phone via a utility (I use ES File ...)
  • run raw2dng app to convert my RW2 files to DNG
  • open the regular image browser to see my files and open to Snapseed from there


So here's what I did



Which got this as the end product:


I recommend you open them both in separate tabs so you can switch between them and observe the differences them in an  A <> B manner.

As I've observed before the raw2dng app is not preserving the lens corrections (which Snapseed will honour if they are there) so there is a difference in barrel distortion between the images.

Still ... when raw2dng gets around to adding that it will be a compelling processing method.

Friday, 17 February 2017

with a little help from my friends

Sometimes we get to places by ourselves, other times we need a little help from our friends or even strangers along the way.

I've been finding that I've slowly made my way out of the dark places (enough to see a few things off in the distance, apart from just the darkness around me) and I just wanted to post about this a little.

Sometimes you help yourself, sometimes you work with others ...




and other times you get dragged up by your arm ...of course its all about timing and so anyone wanting to pull their friends up must wait till they are ready for it ... it may seem like you should do it earlier, but often I think you can't.

Friday, 10 February 2017

the unpaved road


A conversation with a friend of mine this morning had me articulate a thought which helped make it solid for me (rather than the background of what I know and unconsciously operate on).

She said that flowers don't grow on paved roads , which is of course one of those classic cliches which has a central nugget of truth.


The problem as I see it is that flowers are  the seeding bodies of plants and from seeds new plants grow, external to the soil. So a flower grows from a plant, which in turn grew from a seed and used the soil to do that.

If the mind is the ground, then for the mind to grow, the idea of the seed needs to be copied into the mind and by the work of the mind the mind grows the flowers.

So its an active thing (requiring work and thought power) unlike the observance of the flowers.

Its even a little more work than that because YOU have to scan the idea into your mind, I can't actually plant it there.

So its a bit like the baby bird squeaking from the nest ... the parents can vomit up food in its belly for it, but eventually it will have to go feed itself. It needs to learn to feed itself and learn to identify what is food even.

The little cliche holds value but only if we think about it.

I see many people who quote cliches but seem to never have thought about them. I guess they're like directions painted onto the road ... things for others who travel that road can see and use to navigate, but the road never knows what's blocking the sunlight.

here comes the sun


Well, yesterday I was out on the lake skiing. When I left it was foggy but bright ... as only shallow mildly dense fog can be.




but as I moved across the lake to the destination (a small island) the fog began to lift.
(an image from yesterdays post)


which meant that soon after I got to the island the fog was clearing and the sun as shining on the trees directly.

Now because its about -6C the fog starts growing as crystals on everything  (which is why the trees look snowy even though it hasn't been snowing). So these fine crystals soon melt when hit by the sun.


and the bits shaded by the sticks stay "white" with frost ... and can indeed continue to grow a little while before all the fog is gone. You can just see that the last of the fog is in the lower left of that shot.

Seen from the side a little while later the contrast is even more stark ...


looks beautiful doesn't it ... it adds up to striking contrasts from behind



it was a grand day (and yes that's my ski there and no, some moron on a snow mobile did the rest of the mess)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

A day on the lake


when one is over 50 birthdays aren't really about the sort of celebration that involves cake and booze ... well not to me ... its more about the celebration of the fact that you're alive and you can go out and do stuff.


In Finland there is a word "Retki" ... it means an outing with a lunch ... so I took a sandwich and a thermos out and went for a short but pleasant ski to a place that I like.

Here's some pictures for you (saves me writing an essay)

Just across the river at the old docks




looking into the sun across a (small) island


which is a beautiful place despite its small size



the island serves as a wind break ... and snow forms in small banks behind it.


Ok ... well ... I'm about done now ... so thanks for coming

:-)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunny Day

Was nice and sunny today, so I went out with the GF1



Quite a nice day, and people were walking around on the lake too


Processed and uploaded (indeed written) on my phone.

:-)

Thursday, 2 February 2017

raw2dng app on Android (what I've learned so far...)

Recently I wrote up my findings of using Snapseed and an app for Android called raw2dng (here), which extended the ability I'd already found (but was a bit pointless) when having a look at how well Snapseed actually processed the files. To understand that I took some RW2 images from my Panasonic GF1, converted them to DNG and then transferred to the phone. I wanted to see if the noisy results I got from my phone was because of the phone sensor (which I assumed it would be). Read this post about that process.

Back to the app, as the name of the app implies its intention is to make an Adobe DNG file from your Cameras native RAW file. It will also make a TIFF and a JPG (if you didn't already have that). So keep this in mind as it does not facilitate other operations (like file copying).

I guess that I should start out with some basic assumptions I have.

Assumed:

I normally have my camera set to RAW only. I normally don't bother with the JPG because all RAW files have a JPG in them and if I want JPG then I'll just pull that. Its smaller but I've never found myself wanting to make a big print from an out of camera JPG, 99% of the time what I want with JPG's is to Facebook, email to friends or the blog here. Thus resizing down from 12 or more MegaPixels was what I ended up doing with JPG's

If for some bizzare reason I wanted something that looked like that (usually inferior) Out Of Camera JPG image, I'd still convert my RAW file using any number of tools that I have available and just get a better image anyway. This preference shapes my thinking in the following workflows (for reasons which will become clear).

If you were a JPG only shooter ... well then for a start you won't be processing RAW anywhere (let alone on your phone) and if you were an occasional RAW shooter, specifically setting RAW for a shot here and there then some of the issues raised won't effect you either.

I've been enjoying being able to just carry a USB-OTG cable (like this one) to allow me to simply move my images from my camera, to my phone so that I can process them and then email / facebook / blog them simply when I'm away from my computer (I'm writing this on my computer).

The problem is however that unless one wants to just use the JPG on your phone then more sophisticated processing requires the use of the RAW file. That's something which until recently I wasn't able to do with my Android phone but (as I wrote about here) is now available.

The system is pretty good but has a few bumps in the road which I wanted to address in this post which would transform the app from an interesting thing to play with, to a viable tool.

Workflow

Take a breath this isn't short even as a summary.

summary option 1: this option uses less memory and speeds things up
  1. use the App to read the RAW (in my case RW2) file from the cameras SD now mounted USB OTG
  2. select a file destination for it to write the DNG to which more than likely will need to be your phone primary storage
  3. tap "CONVERT" and wait till its done (depending how many files and how fast your phone is you may want to have a beer)
  4. You may then find the dng files in the location you set


summary option 2: this option uses the most memory but may be simpler but has some issues
  1. navigate to the camera SD card with your file explorer (I use ES File Explorer, you may have your own fav) and copy the RAW files you want and the JPG if you have them (again, see the discussion on this). 
  2. navigate to where you want them and paste
  3. use the App to read the RAW files you just pasted (yes you'll need to navigate there
  4. select a file destination for it to write the DNG to the same location
  5. tap "CONVERT" and wait till its done (depending how many files and how fast your phone is you may want to have a beer)
  6. You may then find the DNG files in the location along with your RAW and the JPG
  7. feel free to now delete the RAW files to recover storage space.

And that was the summary... So if you're not put off yet (I'm stubborn and the appeal is still there) lets go on to...

Discussion

Ok, lets get into the nitty gritty. Fundamentally this app is pretty good, but is very poorly integrated into the Android system in some ways and requires the user to understand lots (or give up) if its to be used as more than a curiosity or toy to pull over one file at a time.

The app allows you to browse to the USB mounted directory, but its a little unclear where that is if you don't know much about the file system. Happily I do so that's not a problem.

I just "up" the directory tree from where it lands by default and then look for the location in /storage which is the USB mounted "disk". In my phone's case that's called UDiskA and the others are sdcard0 and sdcard1 (for the on-board memory and my own expansion microSD card). This is where I pick UDiskA from on the app on my phone


one navigates "back up" the tree by the tap on folder called ..

So far so good, one then needs to tick the files one wants to bring across (I usually don't want to bring everything over) and navigating your own cameras SD card is something that people either know about or don't (if you don't ,then try a tutorial or plug it into a reader on your PC and have a look at the structure or just give up now).

Choices

Now we face choices, some need to have been made before you started taking pictures.

Are you a RAW + JPG kinda photographer or a RAW only kinda photographer?

This is an important question due to the way that (at least my) Android works with images and file systems (you know, your SD card and where shit is).

Most "image browsers" (or Gallery applications) that you use to show your images will only work with JPG images. So if you want to use the "picture gallery" to look through your images you'll need to keep that FIRMLY in mind. This is because you'll need to either
  1. only bring one file over and work on it
  2. wish to browse through the files you've brought over visually
Snapseed allows you to work direct from your Gallery App on the DNG file if (and only if) there is a JPG of exactly the same name in the same folder. If not then you'll need to use another application (like ES File Explorer) to send it to. If there isn't then you'll have to browse the file system with Snapseed and then open the DNG directly. 

NOTE: no preview will be visible for those DNG files.

read that again....

So unless you wish to make an act of memory as there will be no preview available for your DNG files (assuming you have made more than one) you will need one.

If you shoot RAW + JPG then you'll be more able to see the required files. I recommend you do this for other reasons that will become clear soon. I normally don't do this because the embedded JPG in the RAW file is normally all I need, but in this system no. So I recommend that you use RAW and the JPG ...

The next choice is how are you going to get the files across from the cameras SD card?

Easiest way: If you use ES File Explorer then its easiest, grab the RAW and the JPG and copy them into a folder on your phones memory ... which is essentially meaning you will be following the 7step process above.

This is of course slower because you'll end up doing reads on the RAW file twice:
  1. reading the RAW file to copy it to your phone
  2. raw2dng will be reading the RAW file to write the DNG file (onto your phone)
If its one or two files no problem, if its many files, then it will be much more tedious and  ... well you may just run out of space on your phone using option 1

I want to bring a bunch...

So assuming that you want to use raw2dng to make only the DNG files as a copy from your SD card onto your phone then you need to make a setting choice (in the app) of where the output for the new DNG files will be.

A trap for the young player is that the app defaults it to the same location. On some versions of Android (later ones) this is forbidden ... so one needs to write to the only place one can, the primary storage ... annoying, but that's life thanks to the rectalCavities in at Google, writing the Android source who saw fit to do this after 5.0

This of course means you'll have the DNG files but no JPG files as discussed above. So you'll need to do another operation in ES File Explorer to copy that again (annoying right). However if (like me) you select the most compressed JPG option and the smallest JPG size (has no effect on the RAW) then that's fairly fast.

The app does offer a JPG option, so you can re-run the same selection on the RAW files you've already ticked (in the file picker) but to be honest that's as slow as making the DNG was.

your call.

One last critical point

Snapseed respects the lens correction data that is embedded in the RAW files, DNG files which I have made on my my PC using the Adobe DNG to RAW converter. Looks sweet to see things as they should be (with pincushion distortion and chromatic abb already removed for you) , however raw2dng app does not seem to embed this in the DNG it makes, so you'll notice doorways suck with wide angle lenses.

Conclusion

The app makes it very cumbersome to work with more than one or two files (unless you can memorise file names). If the photographer wants to bring a bunch of files across then they would need a preview method, and thus dragging over the JPG's from the cameras SD card into that folder are helpful. To make matters worse the app de-selects your selected images after its done the conversion so you'll still need to go back and select them again AND its still slower to read the DNG and make a JPG from that ... easier to just copy in ES File Explorer as discussed.

As I see it the app developer could make a trivial change to the process and while it was writing the thumbnail preview into the DNG, it could then create a JPG file with that (already obtained) data.

The benefits of this approach would be to put both a DNG and a JPG with common name in the same folder thus allowing the various image browser softwares to see the JPG and have it automatically associated with Snapseed.


For the forward thinkers, I've already tried using DCRAW (which is blindingly fast at extracting the thumbs from the RAW) but that has the problem of naming the extracted file something like Pxxxxxx.thumb.jpg which is then not associated until one manually deletes the .thumb from the name.


Is it worth it?

Well to me yes, because I don't like the flat images one gets in some situations, or the blow outs in others. Here is a Before / After version of on image from the weekend with my Panasonic


Sky and snow was flat and the image lacked contrast. I could also have used the JPG and processed it, but then the shadows had too much noise.

This image needed a lot of help in fact too much  ... the camera OOC was pretty much DoA



with blown highlights and inky shadows which has nothing to rescue. However from the RAW (which had more) I was able to make it into this


Which still has blown reds (and isn't as good as colour Negative film would be) but then, I don't need to explain this stuff to those who already are "converted to RAW"

So, if you need / wish to have RAW processing on your trip, and don't want to drag your laptop along, this is the best way to go as of right now.

;-)