Saturday, 14 August 2010

Putting a face to the name - a self portrait

I was rummaging through a few folders during my recent archiving exercise and had forgotten about a self portrait session I did last year.

Here is one of the images featuring my well gigged Warwick Fortress 5 string.
I had this bass custom made (I'm a Southpaw) in Germany and features gold hardware and MEC pickups.

The lighting was a simple daylight balanced static lamp through a softbox, above and camera left, set back to increase light fall-off.

The majority of the effect was achieved in post-processing with a dark vignette added in Lightroom 3.

One of the regrets from my 25 years on the road as a bassist is a lack of photographic memories, which is kind of why I like providing musicians with images to keep forever.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

My digital darkroom/mancave/shed

I live in a house full of women, including a very demanding 4 year old daughter. Even the three budgies are female and extremely noisy.
Sometimes I can't hear myself think, so I decided to convert my 
8ft x 8ft shed into a mancave...a place where I can edit and study in peace.

Less than 12 months ago, it was dark, dingy, cold, wet and so full of junk, I’d abandoned even trying to enter it and considered putting a ‘Condemned’ sign on the door. The apex of the roof was letting in copious amounts of water every time it rained.

My first step was to re-felt the roof and let the shed dry out thoroughly. The second step was several trips to the local refuse centre to clear years of junk.

I carried out internal and external repairs to the woodwork then sealed evey joint with silicon sealant (walls, ceiling and floor). I then lined the ceiling and walls with 2 inches of recycled plastic insulation.


The floor was lined with two layers of foam cored aluminium insulation. I covered the floor with thin plywood and the walls with MDF board.

The next stage was left to the professionals.
I called in a qualified electrician to run power out to the shed.
This stage was a real headache, as we had to run power from a new 30 amp circuit breaker at the fuse box located at the front of the house, under all the floors and out through the rear kitchen wall.
We hit obstacles (literally) at every step of the way and had to lift carpets and cut access holes at various points to get the armoured/weatherproof cable through the floor joists.
We eventually got the cable underground and out to the shed and installed a fusebox with ELCB breakers for sockets and lights.
We installed ample double power sockets and two fluorescent tubes.


The next challenge was internet/network access.

My wireless network was a non starter as the signal was too weak.
A little research pointed me to Ethernet over Power adapters. One is installed in the house and hard wired into a switch, the other plugged into the shed switch.
The adapter set cost around £60GBP and have worked flawlessly since install.

I bought a refurbished PC which has a reasonable spec for the price and runs on Windows 7 Ultimate.

I set up RDP connections between the house and shed which is surpringly fast on Windows 7. I can sit at the house PC and RDP into the shed PC as if I were sat in front of it. I have direct links to my backup drives from the shed.

The next priority was heating.
It gets very cold in the North East of Scotland and we have just endured the coldest and most prolonged cold snap for 30 years. A halogen heating system actually made the shed more comfortable than the house!

I built a number of work units and worktops which have a dual purpose.
The shed looks to all intents and purpose like an office, but the work units hide all the normal shed type junk…tins of paint, tools, DIY stuff etc.
The last stage was to add a few creature comforts like a midi stereo system and more subdued lighting, and finally a 100db alarm system and bolt cutter proof padlocks to the door.
The compromise was the colour scheme (I would have preferred a neutral grey to prevent colour casts when editing)


My wife also won over one wall of the shed with a freezer and fridge. I stole the fridge back and it now serves as a mini-bar. I can stick my head in the freezer in the summer months when it gets too hot.


I now have a peaceful/quiet cave to edit images in peace and I plan to return to another abandoned project (due to noise issues) of creating video tutorials. I may even be able to lay down some bass grooves.
Maybe I should add a red ‘Recording’ light to the outside of the door?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Smaller and Future Proof

I've commenced a mind numbingly tedious 2 day task of applying IPTC data and keywords to my entire image library...a self inflicted penance for my laziness and ignorance on the subject.

The keywords are to help me quickly track down images and the IPTC data is to apply basic copyright information to make my images more traceable.

I've created a template, which applies the basic, repetitive information on import into Lightroom.
From there I can add additional information to the imported collection.

The second task I have undertaken is to convert all of my Canon RAW images to DNG format.
(Digital Negatives)

DNG is an open source file type which has two main advantages
  • Smaller file size
  • future proofing
My research on the subject reveals the jury is still out on the subject of DNG.
Some are concerned that vital information may be removed from the manufacturers' proprietary RAW format file, and may affect the file when using the manufacturers' bundled software applications.

I don't use any of the the Canon software, especially as Lightroom now fully supports tethered shooting.

I have triple backups of all my files.
The original files live on my main drive.

They are backed up to a USB external drive, which in turn is synced overnight to a second USB backup drive.
Periodically, I burn the backups to DVD and store off-site.

I prefer to use external drives, in case I suffer a hardware or operating system failure that prevents me accessing my drives on my main workstation.

In the event of a failure, I can simply plug the USB drive into any other workstation.

I have been bitten more times than I would like to admit for having a sloppy archiving/backup routine.

I like to be able to sleep at night without worrying about this subject!