art, culture, leisure, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, urbex, work

Throwback Thursday: RIP Photokina ?!?

One week ago, I got an email from the Photokina team, the team behind the (former) world-leading fair for photography. Since 1950, every second year in September all eyes worldwide were directed to Colone in Germany to see the latest products and services for photographers: cameras, lenses, tools, gear, paper, printing machines, and so on.

Over the last couple of years, there was already a change visible. In my 2016 Photokina review, I already talked about it. 2018 was the last year the fair was held in the traditional way. Starting from 2019, they changed the frequency and the time of the year to face the changes in the photography business: Starting from 2019 the fair should run each year in May. (I wasn’t at Photokina in 2019, because I was in Wales at the same time). In my opinion, changing the time to May was a bad idea. It’s already vacation time. New consumer electronic products are already introduced at CES in January and for the shops, it’s too early to order products for Christmas. So, I really wonder which audience they want to address.

The other problem is, although we’re taking more photos than ever, only the tiniest part of them is ever printed and put in an album. In my opinion, more than 99% of the photos are taken with a cell phone and will never leave the device (expect from being put on FB or Instagram or being forwarded by a messaging service like WhatsApp, signal, or telegram to only name a few of them). And instead of printshops and laboratory, we only need a computer, software and maybe a desktop printer. And, we have an enormous diversity spreading from the pro wedding or product photographers to the ordinary snappers.

Over the last couple of years, we can notice an increase in camera and lens prices, while, on the other hand, the revenues of the manufacturers are decreasing. In 2015 I was asked by a fellow blogger about my opinion on the future of cameras and wrote a post on it (sorry, it’s written in German, but hopefully, this link works for you to translate it into English). When looking into it today, I see, many things I prophecized are already a reality.

Back to Photokina. In 2020 Photokina was canceled because of the Covid19 pandemic. 2021 now is also canceled because of the still ongoing pandemic and no-one is able to predict if we’re able to run a fair for several hundred-thousand visitors safely. So, this cancelation was already overdue. Now, the email is titled by “Photokina bis auf weiteres ausgesetzt” (suspended until further notice).

Now, the Photokina team has to use the time very carefully to re-invent themself and come back with a (new) concept attracting the manufacturers as well as the audience. CeBIT is an example, where the management did the wrong decisions. CeBIT is history (1986-2018). Is Photokina also already history? When looking at Gamescom (2009-), you can see, a renewed concept can make a fair successful. In the beginning, in the early 1990s, one of the fair halls at CeBIT was dedicated to gaming. Over time, gaming became more and more room. But, at some point, someone came up with the idea to dedicate a complete fair to only gaming, and it became a huge success. Even changing the location from Leipzig to Colone wasn’t able to stop the success.

As I stated above, the audience is extremely diverse in their needs and interests. Photokina could stay relevant when concentrating on pro-level photographers, and leaving out the consumer part. But, the fair needs to refinance itself by getting the entrance fees. During the last years, the entrance fee was already quite high and raised each time. So, I was wondering about many of the visitors. I had the impression their only purpose was filling the room. Many, many visitors seemed to be completely uninterested in the exhibitions. When planning with fewer ordinary visitors (this would probably re-attract more pros), the entrance fees would need to be increased even further. Although pros might be able to deduct the entrance fees from their taxes, I’m not sure if that’s enough.

CeBIT has had similar problems. Once, computer and IT were a small part of the Hannover Messe Industrie (industrial fair). Spinning the computer sector off, was a great and successful idea. But, with the upcoming success of computers, more and more ordinary people interested in computers became attracted by the fair the halls became extremely crowded. Gamescom was able to absorb many of the people interested in gaming, but still, too many people were visiting the fair making it more and more uninteresting for the businesses because they were unable to talk to their business customers. House fairs, organized by either the manufacturers or by big distributors, were taking over and the importance of CeBIT decreased.  In 1995 about 755000 visitors and 7500 exhibitors were visiting the fair. In 2018 only 200000 visitors and 2800 exhibitors found their way to Hannover. That was less than during the first CeBIT in 1986.

visitors exhibitors
2014 124.731 752
2016 125.995 694
2018 116.218 529

source: https://www.auma.de/de/ausstellen/messen-finden/messedaten?tfd=koln_photokina_150229

photography, review

Happy Anniversary to me and you!

anniversary-2xYesterday, 10 years ago I started this blog and I’ve never thought it would remain so long!
At that time, a project I was managing with co-workers and suppliers from Sydney, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Paris, London, and Poland ended. As the communication language was English, I acquired some proficiency I was kind of proud of. At the same time, I came up with the idea to be able to show some of my photos to a broader audience. While discussing the second topic with a co-worker, he recommended giving blogging a try and I did. But, instead of blogging in German, I combined it with keeping my English skills active and started writing in English from the beginning. When looking back to the early posts, I really wonder how much my English skills increased since that time.
I wrote nearly 2000 posts, nearly 7000 comments were made, nearly 1000 followers alone here at WordPress, and on average 100 visitors coming over each day. (OK, there were times with more than 200 visitors a day, but it seems to me, many people gave up blogging for Instagram and Facebook as I see many blogs, I follow or used to follow, are abandoned or even closed).
A big thanks to me for writing all this and a huge thank you to all of you out there, for reading, liking, reblogging, pingbacking, following, and commenting. You kept this blog running!
On the other hand, I’m not sure, how long this blog will remain. The recent changes in the backend, especially the force to use the block-editor, are horrible. Up to now, I was able to ignore the block-editor and work with the so-called classic editor, which works well for me and is IMHO even better than the block-editor. In the interface of the classic editor, I have everything right at hand. The interface is very well designed and fast. The block editor as well as the recent admin interface are ugly and slow. The block-editor forces me to use design elements like a page designer. But, I only want to write and not design each post. I’m a photographer and not a web-page designer. So, I’m quite unsure about my future of being a blogger.
I know the new admin interface and the block-editor for a long and still hate it. Many things are so complicated when having to use them or even impossible. Newly created WordPress blogs it is even impossible to use the classic-editor. So, I feel forced-out by Automatix and wordpress.com.
Another option for me could be, moving away from WordPress. Either using a different service or moving the whole blog to my own webspace, where I have another blog running for many years and everything works still fine. But, who guarantees that the self-hosted blog will remain to be able to use the classic-editor withing the wp-admin interface.
photography, review

5 years of Instagram

While checking some security settings on Instagram, I noticed, I had an anniversary earlier this week: On September, 21st 2015 I created my account on Instagram.
In the beginning, it was a personal account without the intention of building a community or something like that. Instead, I wanted to learn about it and see, if it could replace or complement my blogging. After some time, I started using Instagram as a complement to my blog and it still is. Most of the time, I’m posting images I’m currently working on but sometimes I also post instantly current encounters, which are considered more personal.
For some time I’m considering creating additional accounts to separate wildlife from the landscape and personal images. Some time Instagram got the ability to manage more than one account. What do you think? I’m still unsure.
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.

 

culture, history, landscape, nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, travel, world

I’m back …

… from Iceland (again – finally).

This trip wasn’t planned long ahead. Instead, a friend asked for company for his trip with the option to fit my own plans into the schedule. It was a fantastic road-trip around the island in 15 days. While Iceland and its weather were very cooperative, the surrounding circumstances weren’t 😬 Our departure tickets were booked for June 13th in February, but the governments decided to open the borders not before June 15th and my departure airport was not offered until a week later. So we needed to re-schedule the flights and I had to book an additional train ticket to Frankfurt 😕. The next problem was the connection train to Frankfurt was canceled, but an alternative worked (despite the extra effort for further train changes 🙁). Fortunately, the departure terminal in Frankfurt also changed, but to the one reachable more easily and even faster.

The way back home also came with lots of problems. Online check-in didn’t work by using the airline‘s mobile app. When using my computer I noticed, my flight was canceled without notification. So, I hung in the queue for getting an agent to help me solve the problem. Originally I booked a flight with a stopover in Oslo. Suddenly the Webpage said, my flight was rescheduled to July 1st instead of June 30th and would end in Oslo instead of Düsseldorf. My travel agency was unwilling to help me keep my schedule. The only offered a cancellation with a refund.

So, I booked on my own with a different airline by using the airline sales portal instead of ordering via the travel agency again. But instead of departing at noon, my flight started at 7:45 a.m. which meant I had to get up at about 3:15 a.m. In addition, I had no breakfast and lost 6 hours on the phone. So, the last day of the trip was a complete disaster. While writing this, I‘m sitting in Copenhagen waiting for my connection flight. 2 hours are over, two more to wait.

Now to the better part 😊. In the end, I have 515GB images (= 18.700 raw files) and about 1000 images taken with my mobile on my disk 😳. All the images are presorted but still not reviewed. So, a lot of work is waiting for me 😲.

Our trip led us counter-clock-wise around the island. Nearly 4000 km! That’s about 2400 miles. Our days started early: about 8:00 with breakfast and at around 9:30/10:00 we sat in the car, a 4×4 offroad pickup with a hardcase above the platform for our luggage and containers with food. Despite the hardcase a lot of dirt came inside the cargo bay 😳😲😫. Apartments and hotel rooms were booked ahead, each for 1-2 nights. Usually, we were able to get in the rooms without assistance, as we usually arrived very late. Often around midnight: midnight-sun made it possible! 😊😊

During the last days, I was thinking about, which image I’d choose for today’s post. I wanted an image representing not only a certain part of Iceland or a special event. Finally, I decided to take an image taken with my smartphone instead of my camera (only 4 of my camera images are developed until now). Despite it is taken at a very specific place and thus can’t represent the whole island or the whole trip, it does represent Iceland.

When the Vikings arrived in Iceland more than a thousand years ago, they were astonished by the nature of the island. Initially, they assumed to have arrived in Valhalla, the heaven in their belief because many parts seemed to have sprung up from their sagas. In one place they met a pool, where the water quite regularly sprung high in the air, which they named: Geyser. And nowadays the name of that first natural water fountain is the generic term to describe all of these hot springs around the world.

The term ‘geyser’ dates in English to the late 18th century originating from Icelandic Geysir, the name of a particular spring in Iceland. It is related to the Icelandic word geysa ‘to gush – Wikipedia

Sidenote: the original geyser isn’t active anymore but a couple of meters beside a new one erupts approximately every 5 minutes. Once, the fountain of Geyser was 70-80 m high, while the fountain of Strokkur only reaches 25-35m. Gesyer erupted last in 2000 after an earthquake.

Take care!

flowers, landscape, nature, photography, plants, review, seasons, spring, world

Throwback Thursday: mouse view

There are different ways to make images more interesting. One of the technics to do this is changing the point of view. You might remember my post on this a couple of weeks ago. Here I used an existing small animal’s trail for bringing your eye-level way down to the eye-level of a mouse or a frog.

Take care!

 

animals, bird, gear, nature, photography, review, technic, travel, wildlife, world

A special head for wildlife photographer

In the past I wrote about tripods. A tripod always has a head to mount your camera on. There are many discussions, what kind of head is the best: ball-head, one-way tilt head, two-way tilt head, and three-way tilt head.

Some tripods came with a certain head attached to the middle-column which is not replaceable while other come with replaceable heads or even without a head, where you have to buy one on your own choice.

The head of my old tripod wasn’t replaceable while my new one came with a replaceable ball head. My monopod came with a replaceable 1-way tilt head.

For wildlife photography these heads are not really helpful. The tilt heads are not fast enough to follow the animals and the ball head can’t be fixed fast enough to be a stable ground. Therefore I have a gimbal. I simply dismount the head from either my tripod or my monopod and attach the gimbal instead. Because of the design, the gimbal is quite stable but I can move it around very fast, if needed.

When sitting in a hide where I have enough room to set-up a tripod, I mount the gimbal on top instead of the ball head. When I want to move around in the field or wait in a tiny hide, the gimbal will be mounted on the of the monopod. Both work very well.

My gimbal is made of aluminum and weighs about 1 kg. It’s 19.5 * 7.5 * 21 cm ( 7.7 * 3.0 * 8.3in). It has the correct screw thread (3/8 “) to attach it directly on most of the tripods and monopod with detachable heads. The plate to mount the camera follows the arca-swiss standard.  So, if you already have such a plate, it will fit here too, if not, never mind, the gimbal brings one. There are also some long tele lenses around where the lens mount flange is also fitting in an arca-swiss mount without a separate plate. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the gimbal should be able to carry gear up to 18 kg (39.7lbs).

The heaviest lens I used a couple of times weighed about 5 kg. When adding my camera there was about 6,2 kg attached to the gimbal, resulting in about 7.3 kg to carry for my tripod. 

To mount such heavy gear to the gimbal needs some fine adjustment to distribute the weight equally. That’s why the lens mount flange is below the lens and the flange is that long. Even when the screw on the top left side is loosened the camera and lens have to be in balance. Now, you tighten the screw a little bit, that you can still move the camera easily up and down but it does not have to swing back automatically. The same for the horizontal turning.


I own this gimbal for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. Compared to the standard heads, this is really a game-changer, also for the monopod. In my other post, you can read about me first struggling a bit when using the monopod. The gimbal helped me out a lot.

 

When I got the gimbal, it was quite hard to move the swing, but after a short time, the oil inside became softer and the swing was easier to swing up and down.

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.