Computer, gear, photography, review, software

Get your own copy of Excire Foto *** sweepstake powered by the creators of Excire Foto***

Today, I have something special for you. I’m currently preparing a review of the most recent version of Excire Foto. In my opinion, each photographer needs such software, regardless if one is a pro or a hobbyist. While I was preparing the post, a marketing email reached my inbox with keys. I got voucher codes for Excire Foto to raffle them off among my followers. So, you can win one of the serials.

To win one of the vouchers, I want you to post in the comments two things:

  1. why do you want/need Excire Foto
  2. how big is the pile of images on your disk to dig through for finding a certain image i.e. for using it for a competition, a blog post, or friends and family

I’m putting all replies into a hat and ask my daughter to draw the winners.

I’m running the same drawing in my German blog, too. I’m putting each commenter’s name in the hat only once. The comment has to be filed here in my blog on WordPress.com or on my German blog. (No Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook). The drawing will take place after my vacation: June, 14th. Only comments with a timestamp before June 14th, 00:00h are eligible for the drawing.

When entering your comment for a chance to win, you’re accepting to receive a one-time email in case you’re drawn containing the voucher code and some instructions on how to get the software. The data will not be used for any other purpose.

The key feature of Excire Foto are

  • analyzing the contents of your photos by subject, color, shape
  • tagging your photos by using AI
  • maintaining a database with some basic metadata like Camera, focal length
  • everything is analyzed locally on your computer (no upload to a cloud)
  • manual tagging possible besides the AI tagging
  • searching and finding images based on Camera, color, tag, similarity, and many more criteria

Update June, 14th: the raffle is closed. The winners are notified – congrats to the winners 😊

Take care.

Computer, feedback, history, photography, postprocessing, review, software, technical

Throwback Thursday: huge machines

A few weeks ago, I was on the road quite early for capturing flowers right after sunrise. Unfortunately, they were not blooming when I arrived, because of the too cold temperature we had during the last couple of weeks.

On my way back, I stopped at this huge machine, standing in a vast hole in the ground. I’m standing at the edge of the hole. In the back, you can spot another of these machines right above the edge of the excavation. Also, compare it with the white car. This car is a pickup. So, it’s not that small. I’ve never before been so close to such a huge machine. It’s used as a stacker to put the unusable earth back in the hole because they only want to have the brown coal.

I already published images from that digging pit a couple of times. In this post, published about 10 years ago, you can get a bit of an overview. Or, here, you can see, how it looks at night. While you can here find an image of the hole taken with a fisheye lens.

Although I hate how they treat the earth so badly by grabbing brown coal from the ground for using it inefficiently to burn it for producing electricity power, I find these huge machines really fascinating. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the day they are not needed anymore.

Take care!

 

landscape, nature, photography, postprocessing, software, technic, travel, world

adding details from your own memory card to your landscape photos

In July, I was accepted as a guest blogger at nikonrumors.com. Here’s the full post for you, too.

When traveling, I love to be at the sea. I love the uneven coasts more than sandy beaches. I can spend hours photographing waves rolling in and the water sputtering between the rocks. These sprays, unfortunately, appear in different places but never together at the same time. So, I end up with many, many images of the same scene, but with differences in the details. Wouldn’t it be nice, combining these images?

When having taken the single images by using a tripod all of the frames are identical and could be merged by using an HDR- or DRI-software like i.e. Photomatix or AuroraHDR. But, these programs automatically remove those parts changing from frame to frame. So, what else can be done now?

In the early years of digital photography, the dynamic range of the sensors wasn’t as good as it is nowadays. To increase the dynamic range one took a series of identical frames by using a tripod with different shutter speeds to get images where certain parts were exposed correctly and accepting other parts either underexposed or overexposed. After a mild development in the digital darkroom and exporting the images in TIFF format to preserve the most possible information, the frames were imported into a group of layers in i.e. GIMP, Photoshop, or similar software able to work with layers and layer masks to create the final image. You usually don’t need to create your images with a higher dynamic range this way anymore, because of improved sensors and special software taking over the hard work for you. But this workflow is still useful.

In case, your kind of discouraged now, because I’m talking about layers and masks, don’t stop reading. It’s easier than it seems to be 🙂

I’m describing the necessary steps by using The GIMP because everyone can download the software for free from here (http://gimp.org/downloads). It’s available for macOS, Windows, Linux. For Photoshop the steps are nearly identically.

First, create a folder on your disk and put the original images in this folder. This step isn’t necessary but eases the process and makes it more clear. I took three images for creating my final image, but you can include as many as you want to merge, at least two. Keep in mind, the details you want to reveal shouldn’t overlap.

Now, you can start GIMP and click on “File” and choose “Open as Layers”. In the next dialog, navigate to the folder, you created in the first step and select all images in this folder, you want to merge. Now, you have a pile of images, but you only see the one on top of the pile. When clicking on the eye icon left to each image you can make a single (or more than one) image visible or invisible. You can always see only the uppermost one of the pile with the eye icon switched on. I recommend to re-sort the images now, so that the image with the most details you want to

preserve is the bottom image. For all of the other images, you have to add a mask: the layer mask

 

There are two kinds of these masks: white (= full opacity) and black (= full transparency). What does this mean? Think of a sheet of paper you would lay on your photo. What do you see? Right, you only see the sheet of paper, but not the photo. Now, imagine taking scissors and cut a hole in the paper and lay it back on your photo. You can still see the while paper but through the hole, you can see a part of the image underneath the paper. That’s the principle of the layer masks. White means cover-up while black means the holes in the cover.

When adding a black layer mask to all image layers expect the background, you can only see the background. Make sure, all images are taken from a tripod and are neither cropped nor re-balanced along the horizon in post-processing. Otherwise, you must rearrange them now to make sure, they are laying exactly one over another. There are tools available to do so. Adjust the opacity of the upper (= moving) image and switch to the 100% view to do so. There are tutorials available online explaining these steps in detail, so check them out if necessary. I recommend leaving these steps to the final image and do as little as possible to the source images.

the toolbox

Pick the brush tool from the toolbox and select a white color. Click in the black layer mask and paint the white color, where you want to make an additional detail visible. Do this for all details and on all layers masks. Simply paint the white color where a certain detail is located you want to discover and be included in the final image. You only need to paint upon the detail included in the image where you’re working on the layer mask. In case, you painted too much and want to revert it, change the color to black and paint over the white, or use the eraser tool. Imagine of doing a collage where you cut out different parts of other media and stick them on a background image.

before and after

After discovering all the details you want to include in your final image, save your work file as XCF (the native file format of GIMP) or PSD and then export it to TIFF. Despite you could also merge all layers to one and work further with this file, I recommend exporting and do the final work on this resulting TIFF file like removing dust spots with the stamp tool, balancing the horizon, and cropping the image. So, you could come back and adjust your work without the need of starting from the beginning.

When everything is fine, export it to JPG and you’re done!

the final image

 

Take care!

Computer, gear, photography, review, software

Review of Excire Foto 1.0

For this review a got a review copy of Excire Foto 1.0 for free, but no-one tried to influence my review. I’m reviewing the MacOS version, but the Windows version should look and feel the same. The installed version occupies nearly 600 MB of my disk space and an additional 900 MB in my home folder in ~/Library/Application Support/excire-foto. This is the database and thumbnail images of the pile of analyzed images.

After installing the software and starting it for the first time it asks you for the place where to find the images about to get analyzed. Now, the first step is reading all the images and in a second step, they are analyzed and tagged by the internal AI (artificial intelligence). I directed Excire Foto to an image folder on my local SSD containing about 20.000 images in web resolution (~13 GB) distributed among 318 sub-folders. The intake lasted amazingly only about 4 minutes. The analyzing process lasted another 50 minutes.

While playing around with the result I noticed a few things. I sent an email to the support with these things and got some answers very fast. I’m including the answers here as a statement by the support (but translated to English by me).

  • I’m quite disappointed about recognizing the lens information from my exif-data. I already double-checked a couple of images with exiftool and they all contain the correct lens information. I aussume, not all possible exif-tags are analyzed correctly, as it is not standarized which exact tags have to be ues by the camera or software manufactorers. I included some data extracted from my images as an example
    => we’ll check it. If this is correct, we’ll fix it in a future release
  • It’d be nice to correct exif-data maually, as i.e. 2 identical cameras are recognized slightly different because of the usage of different software for developing the raw-images. (= normalizing of data)
    => we’ll check it, if possible from a technical perspective. If so, we could add such a feature
  • Editing / correcting i.e. copyright information in images
    => it’s planned to add an IPTC editor
  • Is there a technical reason, why only 49 images can be selected for tagging? When coming back from a shooting or a trip there’s always the necessity to tag all images with some common / basic tags (i.e. the location)
    => yes, performance it the reason for this limit. We must change this.
  • Do you think about adding a feature to take carre of GPS data?
    => yes
  • It’d be nice to move tags instead of delete and re-create to build hirarchies afterwards or insert an addition layer (i.e. country – germany – _NRW_ – Duesseldorf)
    => it’s already in our backlog
  • showing file and folder names would be helpful for choosing the correct tags. There’s already an option to bring an image to full-screen view (including i.e. the filename), but for using those information for tagging this isn’t really helpful
    => we’ll optimize this
  • for filtering images according to the metadata you’ve chosing boxes instead of circles. When seeing checkboxes, I’m expecting to be allowed to filter for more than one argument instead of radiobuttons.
  • I’d like to reccomed some further filter like 35mm equivalent, sensor size (35mm, APS-C, middle format, MFT, …)

I like the software and how it works. When you start tagging your images now, it’s useful despite the findings mentioned above. Buying the software isn’t a big deal, as it is not that expensive. It’s already useful and helps organizing (and finding) your images. My test was with version 1.0. Before publishing this review I installed the latest update version: 1.0.5. but the behavior is still the same. Surprisingly my installed version didn’t notify me about the update, although it has such a function implemented.

Another surprise was version 1.0.5 finds still 20.066 images but states to show 43.339 images in the default view with no active filter. I guess, here’s an inconsistency,as the numbers seem to be correct when really filtering.

Take care.

 

Computer, macOS, review, software

Gemini 2 by MacPaw (review and ad)

Recently, I reviewed another software: Gemini 2. You know, as a sign of the zodiac Gemini is the sign for twin and that seems to be the reason for the name.

Each owner of a computer knows the problem of constantly shrinking free space on the internal disk. Not only new files occupy the precious disk space, but also duplicate files are consuming space. Gemini 2 should help one to reclaim the space occupied by unnecessary doublets.

After starting the program it asks for permission to your user folder and then starts scanning for doublets

When finished it presents a summary slide showing how much space probably could be reclaimed.

But, don’t trust this! Check the found doublets very carefully which one of the doublets could be deleted without causing problems. It scans the folders as well as your iTunes-library and the photo-mediathek. So, it finds i.e. photos exported from your photo-mediathek to the disk, when they are still in the mediathek as well.

Just in case, you want to try it on your own computer, there’s a free trial version available.

Take care!

Computer, gear, Linux, macOS, photography, review, software, technical, Windows

How to recover lost files – a software review (ad because of naming a product)

Photographers nowadays need solid IT skills for their job. How to run a computer. How to install, update and uninstall software. How to do backups. Know your operating system (Windows, MacOS, Linux) and the relevant file-systems. Each photographer hoards huge piles of valuable data (the images) on his or her computer disks. They need a strategy to recover the images after a disaster i.e. computer theft, hard disk failures or SSD corruptions (you know, each cell in flash storage has a limited lifetime because the cells die after a certain number of write cycles).  Sometimes one is faced with an empty storage card because of an unintentional re-formatting. So, what can you do?

 

The basics

First of all, be prepared! Here you can find information on how to recover such lost files. Get the necessary software now and practice with test data to know the steps when it comes to such a disaster.

In the past, Microsoft brought us FAT as the filesystem. In 1977 it appeared first in MS-DOS. Since then it was developed further and got more features. Because of the ease of organizing data (especially when it comes to sequential writes), it’s still popular for storage cards used by smartphones and cameras.

The computers itself use usually more sophisticated filesystems like NTFS, HPFS, HFS, HFS+, APFS, ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs, btrfs and more. Unfortunately, these modern filesystems are organizing data very differently to FAT and its ascendants like vFAT, exFAT or FAT32. So, recovery data from disks using one of the modern filesystems looks like a game of hazard or spinning a huge wheel of fortune where only one winning chance is set randomly. When using data recovery software you might have luck recovering recently deleted files. On FAT the chance is much higher because of the different principles the data is organized.

Now you might remember having read some reports of found data on thrown-away disks. Yes, that’s true. Forensics are able to recover the blocks of destroyed disks and scratch tiny pieces of data from the disk and reassemble it. Data is organized in blocks. The size of each block is about 512 or 2048 byte, depending on the used filesystem. For getting information like names, account data, credit card information or so, that’s enough. But, look at your images. Each image uses several MB on the disk. To recover your image, it’s a necessity to have ALL blocks and they must be in the right order. A single corrupt byte is tolerable but a couple of bytes can result in a complete loss.

In more than 20 years of handling digital photos, I never lost a complete card. But, 2 or 3 times I deleted a couple of files from the cards unintentionally. In the past, photorec was the tool of my choice. It’s an open-source tool. You can download and use it for free. But, you have to understand, how it works.

First, you have to avoid any further writings on the disk from where you want to recover data. That’s essential for successfully recover files.

 

Photorec (part of the open-source product testdisk)

The installation of photorec is easy. Linux users can install it usually by using their packet manager, while Windows users need to download it from the developer’s homepage and unpack the zip-file. MacOS users can install it via brew

$ brew install testdisk

Now you open a console (Terminal on Mac or Linux, and CMD on Windows). Next, you start photorec by telling it, where to search

MacOS / OS X

$ photorec /Volume/SD-card (or whatever name the card has)

Linux

# photorec /media/SD-card (or whatever name the card has; mountpoint also might vary i.e. /mnt/)

Windows

C:\> photorec d: (or whatever drivename the device has, where you want to recover files. Check it with the Windows Exporer)

If photorec recognizes an already started recovery, it asks you if you want to continue the session or start a new one. Next, it tries to read the directory and offers you to browse where the lost data was stored. Photorec can recover several types of data, not only jpg images. It can also recover lost partitions, if necessary. But that’s beyond the subject of this post.

When you’re fine with the position, photorec needs a location on a different disk to copy the recovered data to. After that, it only needs time.

FAT filesystems don’t delete the data on the disk when files are deleted. Instead, only the first letter of the filename in the directory is replaced by a ‘?’ which makes the file invisible and marks the occupied space as reusable. So, the magic is, photorec reads the directory and scans for filenames starting with ‘?’. Then it looks up each filename and checks based on the location information (block numbers) stored along with the filename if the relevant file is completely available (all blocks from the chain of blocks ’til the end-of-file mark). If so, the blocks are copied to the chosen target destination. But, the filename is lost. Instead, the name of the first data block, where the file was stored, is used to keep filenames unique.

As photorec runs in the console, not everyone feels skilled enough to use it.

 

Disk Drill by Cleverfiles

Recently, I got a review version of a newer data recovery software: Disk Drill by CleverFiles. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS and has a visual GUI to be handled with the mouse. On MacOS the current version needs at least the latest version of Mavericks. But older versions are also available for download, in case your MacOS is still running an older version of OS X for whatever reason. Disk Drill comes as an app to be pulled in the Applications folder only, to get installed.

I installed Disk Drill on my Macbook, which I’m also using for developing my images.

So, I have a lot of images on my disk (raw data), which I process and delete after processing them. Thus, I should have a lot of files potentially being recoverable on my disk. It’s a 512 GB SSD formated with APFS. The deep scan has run for about 40 minutes. But, as expected, Disk Drill found nearly nothing! No raw-file, no jpgs, no text documents or spreadsheets. The only files Disk Drill found were a couple of files I have had in my trash bin, which was emptied just before installing Disk Drill.

My other tests were on a disk formatted with Windows NTFS and an SDcard from my camera formatted with FAT.

Recovering files (raw data written by my digital camera) from the SDcard was very successful, just like expected. A 256 GB drive was scanned in a couple of minutes and offered tons of recoverable files.

I also run Disk Drill on a 1 TB NTFS hard disc formatted by Windows. The scan lasted nearly 3 hours while the well-equipped computer got a lot of stress and the fans run at a high level for certain times. But, I was able to work with it as usual for the whole time. In the end, the so-called deep scan found a reasonable number of recoverable files of different types. Unfortunately, all of them lost their names and were offered to me for recovery grouped by file type. Hard to find the file you accidentally deleted 😦

So, the result is not much different from the outcome of photorec.

Similar to photorec, Disk Drill also works with sessions. But, differently to photorec I was unable to make Disk Drill forget the saved session and do a re-scan after i.e. running a cleanup (I tried to wipe out some files I don’t want to be able to get recovered and check if they are unable to be recovered)

Further functions:

Disk Drill has a couple of further functions.

You can open a backup of an iOS device (as long as you know the recovery passcode) stored on your computer and recover files from iOS backup (iTunes). Works great. You can get contacts, appointments, reminders, photos, and even files.

There’s also a cleanup function. It seems it is to wipe out unused space. But, in fact, I was unable to find any result. So, I can’t say, what this function is doing.

Next, there is a function suggesting it could duplicate the boot disk, but instead it only creates a boot media similar to the recovery boot mechanism you always have on your mac. So, I have to stay with Carbon Copy Cloner for this feature.

After finishing my tests I uninstalled Disk Drill. Unfortunately, a not-quitable tool survived in the menubar. I had to dig through my applications folder and my Library folders to find where this tool resides to delete the files. After a reboot, it was finally gone!

Resume

Now it’s up to you to decide, how often you have to recover lost files and on which filesystems they are stored. I was very interested if a professional tool is better than the open-source tool. The lack of a GUI is a point against photorec. But, in my opinion (as an IT pro for more than 30 years), that’s not so dramatic. I even found the text interface much more straight forward and clearer than the GUI of Disk Drill. On the other hand, I guess, Disk Drill is even more complicated than photorec.

Nevertheless, I repeat my statement from above: be prepared for the disaster because the disaster situation isn’t a good time for such a complicated topic. Get a tool and make yourself familiar with it to avoid making a disaster situation worse.

 

 

Computer, photography, postprocessing, review, software, technic

Luminar 4 is just around the corner

You might have noticed some images online on social media created with Luminar 4 beta. I was also able to have a short test on the beta version recently. I gave it a try, hoping the flexibility and image quality of Luminar 2018 would survive and bring it to a new level in terms of supporting more recent cameras, too.

When starting Luminar 4 and looking at the user interface, it’s very similar to the older versions. As a user of the older versions, you’ll feel being at home at once. Slowly, you’ll discover the improvements, as most of them are under the hood.

For those of you, not familiar with older Luminar versions: it’s a photo editing software in means of processing and enhancing an image just the way the lab did in the old film days. It’s not for doing compositions and montages. It’s for processing raw files and develop them as well as enhancing jpg files i.e. lighten the darks, correct the horizon, remove dust or noise, correct distortions or enhance contrast. All the tools are organized into 4 groups (essential, creative, portrait and pro), plus raw development (canvas) and levels. All edits are done without changing the original file

A very important improvement is the progress in the AI filters. AI is short for “artificial intelligence” and means, the software is analyzing the image and tries to improve it in a means of a very natural mood. I tried it with some of my own images and I was very impressed. Here, in this post, I included an image taken during my recent trip to the baltic sea. It was taken at a windy fall afternoon. The sky was mostly grey with some small blueish areas in between. Not, what you want to have in your images. The bracket fungus on this tree is located on the shadow side of the tree. So, we have a kind of backlit scene that helpt blowing out the sky in the image while having the correct exposure for the tree and the fungus.

out-of-camera JPG

You know, I’m a raw shooter and don’t use the out-of-camera jpg’s, because I know, the raws have much more details, which are lost when shooting in JPG only.

The next image is still the same raw but handed over to the AI of Luminar 4. I know, other raw developer software can do the same, but it’s not as easy as with Luminar 4.

sky enhanced by AI

No further processing, then simply clicking on the AI for analyzing and improving the sky parts. Done!

But, the AI can do much more. You can also use it for replacing the sky. Although I don’t need it in my workflow and don’t like such editing in general, I tried it for you. Luminar 4 comes with a set of different skies, but you can also use your own skies. So, you could take a photo of the sky in addition to your photo and combine them in Luminar 4 for getting the final image.

sky replaced by AI

There are many more options to try and to use for improving your images. In general, the improvements look very natural and much better than they look after using HDR software to process them.

I don’t want to conceal a disadvantage of Luminar 4: Just like Luminar 3, all your edits are saved in the Luminar catalog. Maybe, saving the edits as separate files will come back, as several testers brought this up as a complaint. Remember, it came back with releasing Luminar Flex as a result of the complaints on this same behavior when Luminar 3 was released. Luminar 3 and Luminar Flex are the same, but with the difference in the style of saving the edits: Luminar 3 saves them in the catalog while Luminar Flex saves them as separate files.

Advertisement because of set links:

Currently, Skylum offers Luminar 4 with a Launch-Discount either as a pre-order or you can get Luminar 3 at once and Luminar 4 as soon, as it is released. Remember, the release is just around the corner: Nov. 18th, 2019!!! So hurry, to save some money and get Luminar 4 as soon as possible. As in the past, Luminar 4 is for Windows as well as for macOS. You can use it either as stand-alone software or as a plug-in to Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Apple Photos. On the other hand, other plug-ins like Aurora HDR or Nik Filter are usable from inside Luminar 4.

Nevertheless, when you can live with this disadvantage, Luminar 4 is a fantastic software to bring up the details in your images without too much work. So, it can ease your workflow when improving your images! Not convinced yet? Skylum offers a trial period with a money-back guarantee for 30 days!

Computer, software

reclaim free disk space again (ad)

For a few days, I’ve installed CleanMyMac on my computer. This software is meant to help me freeing as much of my hard disk space as possible. Therefore I can scan my disk for double files, huge (forgotten) files, junk files, temporary files, caches and unneeded audio files needed to support all the other languages beside mine.

It can also help me uninstalling applications. When uninstalling apps manually, always some files remain. Often these are located in my home, in hidden registry files or even in hidden folders (i.e. settings or registrations). CleanMyMac scans the app before uninstalling it to find all those remains and offers to delete them too.

CleanMyMac resides in the bar on top of the screen and watches some internals of my computer (network speed, ram usage, free disk space) and offers help whenever the recycler is too full, an app hangs or so.

The OS also has a good mechanism, to kill hanging apps. So, this feature is kind of useless. There are also some other apps available, that help to uninstall apps without leaving files on the disk. Deletion of i.e. languages files is (in my opinion) useless because they come back with the next update.

So, finding huge files and doublets is the main feature, besides seeing the size of the installed apps. You get an inside view of your hard disk and get the overview to decide which files to keep and which ones to delete

Secure deletion of files (= overwriting them first), searching for app-updates (even for those not from the Apple app store) and deletion of iOS-device backups from iTunes are really helpful. Decide, if you need it. Some of these features are not available otherwise. You could install the free trial and check it out on your own computer.

art, Computer, landscape, nature, people, photo-of-the-day, photography, seasons, travel, world

Monochrome Monday 5-52

The fifth year of monochrome images is over. Wow!

This series started as a part of Monochrome Madness organized by the Australian photographer Leanne Cole. But, after 220 weeks, she, unfortunately, stopped it last year for some personal reasons. Next week, I’ll start in the sixth year. Stay tuned what will come.

This week, I picked up an image taken last year on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I already showed it here, but I picked it because I consider this is the one I love most from the images published here during the last 12 months. You can check them by clicking on this link. If you want to, you can drop me a line, what you think, which is best in your opinion.

Take care!