The beauty of Frankfurt.

A missed connecting flight through Germany turned a 45 minute layover into a 24 hour photo safari!

Vielen Dank für das Aussehen!

How Lightroom 4 is better at everything.

Having spent more time than I care to admit lovingly crafting my pictures in Photoshop and filling my hard drive with enormous non-destructive edits of all my photos, I was browsing around seeing what's new in the world. It's upgrade season after all, that magical time every year when all the software houses start bragging about their new little buttons and redesigns.

Now, some things in life rely rather heavily on a leap of faith. Because the practical understanding and explanations just fall flat after a while and then a massive gap in understanding between the parts you understand and what you see opens up. For me, one such example is how screens work, and not those lame LCD ones, the real, honest, logic defying greatness of good old CRTs. Here's a breakdown: Graphics card splits a video signal into red green and blue values, cool, sends them through a VGA cable, gotcha, electron cannon fires streams of energy through a deflection yolk painting a chemical phosphors to produce pictures, redrawing them 75 times a second... Wait, what? Its a damned lie, just go: Graphics card > Magic > Picture, and be done with it.

This week, I saw some of that magic again, and it has a dark blue cape of awesome and they call it Lightroom, the 4th.

Honestly, I thought Lightroom was a rebrand of the older "Photoshop Elements", from the same school of thinking as that technological gem "Premiere Elements". "Elements" of course referring to Adobe making a less powerful version of one of it's powerhouse software packages, and then marketing it to house wives and the rich stupid people - putting in place an upgrade path when those saps finally realize that the elements they want don't come in the capital E versions. It's not a rebrand. Not even close. That would be like calling Mayonnaise re-branded eggs.

If you have ever "fixed" a photo in Photoshop, you know the tediom associated with large parts of it. Because it's a modular and insanely powerful pixel pusher, it's bordering on doing brain surgery with a sledge hammer. In many ways, it's fantastic, you get to structure your workflows around your needs.
You can create scripts for repetitive tasks, have dedicated workspaces for various tasks... and if you suddenly change your mind, you have the full arsenal of dedicated tools to bring your vision to life. This doesn't change the fact that it is actually overkill for a quick grade, but the alternatives are not really anywhere close to solving the same problems and like I said, you don't want to go plod around in Elements unless you are really desperate.

So what makes it so great? Let me show you. I went to Mozambique last year and apart from large volumes of rum, beaches and afternoon naps, there were sunsets a plenty. Rich orange and red eulogies that ripped open the horizon. So one afternoon I climbed the water tower behind our house to get a picture, camera strap clenched between my teeth and a graduated neutral density stuffed into my swimming trunks. Even with the filter the best I could coax out of the situation was this:

That's the beauty and power of the African sun, and it's own special way of telling you to give up any hope of having some foreground detail. I was about to try and cheat a few more stops into the exposure when the sun quickly dove over the horizon, probably sensing my intentions. Oh well.
Getting home, I convinced that little jpeg that it had more to give than it believed it did. It took a while but I got what I wanted. And now, a year later, I'm going te same with lightroom.

Here is a super quick breakdown of both.

Step 0.
Foreground separation. (aka, the boring bit.)
I'm lazy, so quick selection goes to the rescue for those pesky leaves, not perfect, but good enough. Quick selection tool is still one of those wow tools.

Total time: about 45 minutes of aimless clicking, probably around 20 minutes earnest work. Bottom line... not the kind of thing you want to be doing for every picture. Take that Sun!

That is the best slider that man has ever made.

That's like 5 stops, brought back from the dead. No detail lost. No mattes, no selections. No mess, no fuss. Honestly, the first time I saw this in action I just played with it for a while. I was like a kid playing peek-a-boo, laughing like a lunatic. I felt like a god. Pitch black to detail. If that doesn't impress you, you're dead inside.

And before the RAW kids out there start making a ruckus, ignore them. Don't trust people who carry around uncompressed sensor dumps, that's just plain weird. This is a simple jpeg, turned HDR. Air punch!

Another awesome inclusion is lens profiles. Even the best glass has some distortion. This was taken with the Nikon 18-200 VR, and it's got some personality quirks when it comes to the telephoto range. The only lame thing is not all lenses are included... yet. My 35mm f1.8 has more barrel distortion than a drunk pirate, I would very much to see that disappear with a click as well. Until then, I'd still recommend Dx0 if you have glass problems.

So you see. This is some serious grading muscle. And the nice thing about Lightroom is that you don't even have the option to do those more heinous manipulations that make people not trust your pictures. Liquify, clone stamps, content aware fill and scale. To heck with them I say! If someone tells you that they edit in Lightroom, you are free to picture them huddled in a dark room staring at developing trays, you have just about the same toolset... except with sliders. Because:

This is revolutionary. I haven't been this blown away by sliders since chicken licken opened up... If I were to high 5 the person that made this, I would take their arm right off.

So that's my opinion of Lightroom 4. I approve, if you haven't noticed. It's good, for oh so many reasons. The main one being time saved, and file management, I can once again use my hard drive for the really important things in life.

I went back into my archives and took the most high contrast pictures I could find and slid them to comprehension. Remember that even magic sliders can't undo poor decisions when your pressing the shutter button, nothing can save a crap picture, but I'm proving a point here. Roll over for the lightroom corrections. (Blogger won't pre-load images so just hover for a few seconds.)

With great power comes great responsibility. Shadows are good. You want them, this is just a godsend for those times when you really don't have a choice or you lose just a little too much of those yummy details in the dark bits. I expect this to be rightly abused for a long time, just like every other filter Adobe introduced. (I'm looking at you poster edges)

Don't worry, be...

I am a happy person. Not quite kittens pooping rainbows happy, but happy. Or, that’s what I happily thought as I happily re-read my posts from the last, dunno, when I started posting. And fricken hell am I one whiny twat. I like ranting it seems. And it’s not even that I’m like that all day long.

It’s the internet’s fault. And blogging. And probably my own misanthropy. The fact that the internet is so delightfully powerful is daunting, and I think it’s probably a case of not wanting to be just another nitwit posting shit that doesn’t do anything to make the world a little more bearable. I have massive respect for what the web is, and what it could be, and I didn't want to do it an injustice by putting up incoherent scribbles. It was a noble goal, I guess, but every stupid cliché has a counter cliché and in trying my best to sidestep the hipster blogger mentality, I pretty much just tripped and fell straight into the arrogant and overbearingly opinionated pit. Well played brain. I’m not one of the violent acres or the radical bacon's, or even a Maddox, regardless of how angry or vengeful I’d like myself to be. And regardless of how much I enjoy reading someone who is honestly upset over something and retells it in an entertainingly rancorous way; I clearly don’t get angry often enough to justify that level of benevolence. The irony of the blog title combined with the posts is starting to dawn on me.

Why would I spend weeks painstakingly fretting over lame little design choices and then spend two or three hours grammar and spell checking my articles, only to be mildly unfulfilled and still pissed off? I shall call it: 
Blag-rage (n):
The anger that arises after being given a voice, and then not having as much to say as you think you should.
Let’s face facts. Sometimes life sucks balls, and you get over it. And sometimes it really sucks balls, and you’ll get over that too. Life is a ride, as my friend reminded me today. Fact is, keeping a mindful eye on why I’m angry is keeping me down. All in the name of blogofuckknows, hell I even have this whole broodingly high contrast black and white post title picture thing going on, I clearly meant business. It’s time to rethink these little posts. I’ll leave the old ones up, like a yin-yang thing.

I really don’t expect this blog to make me money, or change lives, honestly all I wanted it to do was give me a higher res upload for my photos so I can share them with people who aren’t my friends on the book face, and maybe push the content a little further into the conceptual range. Oh, and help me remember things, I’m ludicrously forgetful about things that are important. I honestly forgot that I was flying to Sweden the day I was supposed to pack. I’d already made other plans. What I do remember is trivial crap, I can tell you that all the golf ball brands in the world make balls with even numbered dimples. Isn’t that cool? The only one that doesn’t, has 333 dimples. I recently spent a three tedious weeks diligently reading every single stupid, badly laid out and poorly designed fact on THIS WEBSITE. (It’s a trap, don’t do it.) I finally broke free when the power went out and all my tabs closed and I was too lazy to restore the previous session, good times.

The fact that unpleasantness is bountiful and half the people you will meet are dicks in their own right, does not mean that I should go home, painstakingly craft a nice little niche on the internet for my own happiness, and then promptly re-hash all the shit that makes me angry. Staying angry, or looking for reasons to rant about is more the purview of small minds. I broke up with an otherwise very really nice girl once because she was angry all the time. Funny how I let that anger slip into my life now, maybe she was a blogger too... Anger is shit.

Blogging is weird. It’s like the world is listening, or that’s what the little lizard voice in your head tells you. But you know it’s not true, check your google analytics, half those hits are you checking up on it. Besides, we post way more intense shit on big social media. But we THINK people are reading, and I know few people with a skin thick enough to truly not give a fuck and say what they want to. I know the only people that have read this are my friends in the office, a far more accomplished blogger lady in Sandton, one cool architect in Cape Town, some freaks in the UK and a very wise philanthropist in Australia… and probably one or two nut jobs in south east Asia. Hi guys, happy to have you! Sorry for the antipathy. There were a few hits from the eastern block and I can only assume that it's my supermodel future wife building up the confidence to send me a "Marry Me" email. The rest of the world? This blog uses words, and words are hard. So I’m guessing after the picture they just gave up.TLDR. My one picture post had 25 times the traffic of my home page... sigh.

I like to think, a lot, like a lot alot. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. One day the internet was down for 8 hours at work and I started getting so fidgety I went scrounging for some old magazines in the corner just so I could have something to read. If I don’t have at least one interesting tab to gaze at while I’m rendering or actively wasting company time – hell, then I’m not living. I just need to funnel that into something a little better than thinking of clever adjectives to describe things that most people I am friends with already agree to be asinine. As for the rest of it? We can have violently passionate rants about the economy/religion/Voldemort and superman when we go drinking, like everyone else. 

Haha, it feels like a right of passage into the blogosphere to blatantly fuck up, let’s just hope there’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Cool. Colon closed bracket, bitches.

How television makes you a better person.

I hate reality television. It's a waste of time and energy. Sure, who doesn't like to stare at someone else and get that little air of superiority pumping, go human race! Ironically the watchers are those who don't even try. Given most contenders fail, but there they are, proud as punch and enjoying their 15 minutes. I have however seen some changes in the world that can only be attributed to television, and not all of them are bad.

"Fancy eats" are what my friend calls them. Culinary creations inspired, weekly, by the one show on the reality TV schedule that doesn't let the audience choose or holds up some arbitrary measure of success. Master chef simply makes people want to cook better food. And they buy from organic markets, they spend time in the kitchen, they make meals more sociable and then they enjoy the whole affair with a little spark of self-improvement mixed in. I'd hate to reverse myself, but if more shows on television did this, hell - maybe it ain't all bad.

My ex girlfriend used to say that people who watch a lot of television are more emotionally mature than people who don't. That's complete bullshit though, but I think her sentiment wasn't all the way off the mark. People who watch a lot of television are taught to communicate in a different way to people who don't. And if you're an especially empathic member of the society, television might have an even stronger effect on you. You can watch it at home, away from the pressures of real people, and you can start mentally emulating those personal aspects you value so highly in Meredith Grey, or Gregory house or one of those saucy vampires or whichever choice of the month show's lead strikes your fancy. You can learn to talk and act like someone you like, but someone who doesn't exist, and that's something people forget.

Here's the rub. You can't have deep, complex human emotion bubbling under the surface if all you have is barely over half an hour and you need to drive a plot line, and more often than not, a sub-plot as well. This season you need Dr man sexy to marry Dr woman sexy, but today you need them to work with their ex's to help an amputee orphan run with their puppy again, all the while maintaining some appearance of human complexity. All that salty emotional turmoil that we generally keep inside our heads until we find what we need to say and find the right time to say it, can't happen here. That's why there is very very rarely a situation where a character will change their mind.

Our lead characters need to verbalize every time their hearts takes a knock, so the audience knows that they aren't robots, but you can't just say every single emotional response you have, could you imagine what a nut job you would seem like? It would be like reading some deranged obsessive compulsive's twitter feed. Its insanity, no-one talks that much. But they don't. They always have some succinct summary of what a sane person would say, in one tenth of the time. Even when they've just been through more than a single person would go through in a lifetime.

Remember that this isn't a movie where you have the luxury of having time to show a single person's state of mind gradually present itself over the course of 2 hours, and tailored with specific supporting characters and a specific plot line. This is broadcast television, here you have many characters, each catering to a slice of the demographic pie, tailored to squeeze every possible pair of eyes onto the screen in that small prime time gap between work and bed.  So now we still need to make it interesting and cater to the deep need for human interaction that we
don't get anywhere else anymore, and we have to make it work with 6 characters, once a week and in 42 minutes (leaving enough time for advertisers to capitalize on our sudden emotional vulnerability) and as much as this sounds like a recipe for disaster - humans change, society and communication change as our ability to communicate changes, so it can't be all bad can it?

We're complicated creatures and it's not "I talk, therefore I am", we need time to make decisions. I'd rather hear a single sentence that says something than 20 different ideas that contradict themselves and hold no water.

This is television, and like anything that you devote a lot of time to, it will change you. I'm just hoping we all eat well while we change the way we expect other people to talk, and realize no-one can have a Gilmore girls conversation in real life.

On the one side, go on, keep making us better dearest television. On the other, let's remember that we were not put on this earth to vote for the next pop idol.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

*EDIT. Found a fanstastic website. If you're curious. Treat psychoactives with respect and awareness.

Drugs are a problem. But not the kind you're thinking. Nobody really knows what the hell is going on you are either in one of two camps. Either you’re a user, or you are scared to death over them.

I had a discussion with my mother about drugs, kind of a role reversal deal. I quizzed her on the why not, and what’s wrong etc. I got some interesting answers that I completely disagree with, but I expected them. My mom’s a pure and honest Afrikaans woman born in the late 50’s. I expect her knowledge about drug use to be about as far reaching as her ability to navigate an iPad. What bothered me was the conviction of her answers, it’s that almost religious fervor that comes from having an idea deeply imbedded in you from someone you trust. Not something that you know, from experience.

Not that I  would have preferred my mom to be a tik cooking wizard, but honestly a joint somewhere along the line wouldn’t have hurt. That’s pretty intense to say and I realized that as I typed it, but I stand by it. My mom believes that doing drugs will mean that you change as a person, you’ll lose your job, you’ll get every communicable disease known to man, you’ll probably go insane and ultimately this downward spiral will end with your untimely demise. Speaking of, a favorite story people tell is the guy who did acid and thought he could fly, so he jumped from a 10th story window. Good riddance, I'm inclined to agree with Bill Hicks: “if he thought he could fly, let him take off from the ground and check it out first. Fuck it. He's an idiot, he's dead. Good. You don't see ducks lining up to catch elevators to fly North do ya?” And it’s true, stupid people do stupid things, really stupid people… well, they make life difficult for the rest of us and are the reason everything has a warning label of some sort. Putting a blanket of blame over drugs is counter productive.

It’s the same kind of psycho peer pressure that is applied to vegetables, everybody hates broccoli. And I’d venture that a sizable portion of that dislike is born from being told how much it sucks, from everyone. Parents, teachers, friends even cartoon kids hate broccoli, and now we wonder why people are hesitant to change their eating habits, it’s hard to fight global consensus. Sure, there’s a bit of a separation between green veg and vegging out on pot, but I think the point is well made.

Too many people have this preacher stance about drugs and when pushed they recite facts, partially remembered from high school talks and doctor’s lounge pamphlets. Conversely, the drug crowd doesn’t do a great job in communicating openly, but they are generally less verbal because they don't want to be judged, or maybe they are just paranoid that you are a Narc. What’s the bottom line? good luck with trying to have a discussion that isn’t tainted by someone else’s opinion or misinformation.

Society hates drugs, well no, it’s hard to hate something that doesn’t really exist. But they hate the people who use drugs, those vile, dope smoking, pill popping, lower level, criminal underworld types that would shank your skinny ass for the coins in your back pocket just to get another hit of the sweet fumes, cooked over Bic lighters in tin foil teaspoons in dark alleys. It’s not even regular old disliking, it’s hard core hate and disgust, like racism, class-ism, well generally any -ism. The kind of hate that’s been fed to you, it’s something you are taught, meticulously, over and over again until you forget that there even was an alternative to start with. There’s another word for that kind of convincing but the cold war is over and sleeper agents are really so 90’s.

Society does this hypocritical hating, while sitting in little groups at bars, smashing tequila and overdosing on crates of imported beer while double dosing on prescription medication; and still… from the little bar stools of high-horsery they pass judgment. My favorite reality television host is hopelessly addicted to Vicodin, but he’s not hated, there's a fan club.

One day alcohol too will be illegal, fuck knows it kills enough people, oh wait, we’ve been there, that worked so well last time. Is it just another case of people blaming something else for making stupid decisions and not raising their kids well enough to make good decisions? Better we take the decisions away, yes, now I feel safe. Hey! What’s on TV?

Trying to stop drugs by raiding high schools and sending kids to jail is about as effective as grinding aspiring into your ear canal to solve a headache, all the words are there, they are just in the wrong order.

Some quick thoughts. Not all drugs are created equally, let's just get that out of the way. There is a vast and irreconcilable difference between something that was created in a laboratory by a team of Phds and something that grows naturally in your backyard, without you probably ever noticing. There is no law against eating apple seeds, even though if you had a whole bunch they could kill you. Nor with any other poisonous plant, people generally assume that it goes without saying. Grouping drugs into one massive pile of badness is lazy and sends the wrong messages. Taking a palm full of temazepam is going to give a far less pleasant experience than a palmful of weed. Learn the differences and be specific.

Quick thought, unregulated drugs are worse than regulated drugs. Let’s face it, if people want something badly enough. They will get it, whether it’s an unreleased game, product, whatever their hearts desire. Piracy is big. We do what we can to stop the spread of the “disease”, but it is always treat the symptoms not the cause kind of thinking that’s applied. Sopa was a miserable failure, and not the first attempt to “help”. The prohibition was probably the longest running example. Thousands of people died and went blind from bathtub whiskeys, and it gave us the mob. Today, alcohol is a fricken cash cow, it’s unfathomable how much money is spent and made on even a single brand of beer in a single day. But it’s ok, because we regulate it. Have some beer, hell, get trashed. You know it’ll make you dance like a dork, feel great while doing it, whatever, you just go have a good time. Remember that it’ll seriously mess up your minor motor skills and reaction times – so best you not drive ok? We’re not totally stupid, so if you do we’re going to test you for it and then you’re going to be in trouble because you now put other people’s lives at risk and we can’t have that.

Because drugs are illegal, they have to be farmed, manufactured and transported under the radar of the government. This means no quality control, no price regulation, no work unions and no fair competition. You have to bribe and rely on corruption to even have it enter the country. Here's a drug related story for you to illustrate the point:

Let's say Arthur has some crack to sell, he's been selling it for years and has established a rather regular crowd of repeat customers. One day McPusher starts selling down the street from his and promptly starts stealing some of the regulars. It's hard not to see why, his product is better packaged, his service  representatives are courteous and well dressed, his corner is more accessible and he allows for drive-through purchases - absolutely stellar business model. Arthur wouldn't really need to go to his factory and call a meeting of the board to rethink his business strategy or packaging to remedy this, instead he broadcast messages his five roughest employees, marches over to McPusher's place of business and you gently revoke his license to sell with a semi-automatic pistol. Bullets are cheaper than marketing.

If you are a single mom working for said business man and you are tasked with working all weekend, missing your kid’s soccer game, you can’t really go complaining to the department of labour about the unreasonable hours at the crack den. Neither can you claim workman’s compensation for inhaling all the fumes through a rolled up t-shirt, nor will you be able to apply for unemployment when your employer inevitably “goes out of business”.

The consumer suffers too, they don’t know what’s in their little rolled up package. Lots of things are white and powdery and it could just as well be washing powder cut with anthrax for all they know. The only trip that would be good for is one to the morgue, and then to add to the little statistics on those pamphlets people misquote from the doctor’s lounge. There’s no 0800 number, no complaints department, no customer care, no SABS. If you went to the police to complain about bad drugs, you'd go to jail for possession. A lot of people die needlessly from this crap. In fact, people are so scared to admit that they did drugs that they lie on the admittance forms when their friends overdose, it’s retarded.

There are some big movements to try and fix this crap, moms camping outside nightclubs handing out clean needles (Hepatitis A, B, C and Aids all kill a hell of a lot more people than exstacy and heroine), they aren’t even trying to change people’s minds, just trying to make it easier to be responsible. Hahaha, responsible drug addicts, there’s a thought. Realistically it will never change until governments suck it up and realize that taking part in the regulation and education will save a lot more lives in the long run than publishing stupid victory articles about the amount of weed they kept off the street this week. Yay! Look at all those tightly wrapped packages! Hmmm, but now the supply chain has broken down so the dealer on the street will have to make his stash last longer leading to more washing powder overdose deaths. Oh well, at least that drug police guy is looking happy. He probably never had a joint either.

Until 1961 it was a criminal offense to commit suicide in England, one which carries the death penalty. (Don’t know if that’s irony or if they just want to help you finish the job) It’s not fighting the problems, just putting the threat of punishment into people who would think about it. Honestly, if someone is thinking about killing themselves I don’t think the threat of the death would dissuade them. Anyway, more important would have been to ask why do people get so violently unhappy with their lives that they would rather kill themselves than suck another molecule of oxygen through their nostrils? Answer that and set up a system to help. But suicide is an intangible thought all the way through until it isn’t. Drugs aren’t. They exist in the real world as powders, pills, and plants. But finding and destroying them is not a battle that can be won, people will huff glue when they run out of the good stuff. Same thing, find the causes, I guarantee you no-one ever overdosed just to spite someone else. And no-one kept doing drugs just because they wanted to piss their parents off. Until then, stop lying to your kids. Half truths are lying, omission is lying, especially in this case. And take that stupid air of superiority off your face when you talk about drugs, everyone is uninformed and just because a guy overdosed in the school next to yours, that doesn’t make you an expert.

Face that what you’re teaching your children might not be true and keeping them in line with fear only works so long. Even the most timid 5 year old grows a pair after a while and "being scared" stops being an excuse not to do something. And they will believe your godlike presence just because you are their parent, at least until they go to a music festival or club and get offered something by somebody they like and trust. Someone who isn't forcing them into it, and who has answers that aren't threats of insanity and homelessness. At some stage they will figure out just how full of shit you were and by then all the other nice life lessons will go flying out the window as well.

Honestly, South Park does a better job at drug education than parents.

Pretty people in Profile.

Some behind the scenes shots from a commercial shoot we did back in 2010. Somehow it never felt right putting them up on facebook, I think they will live a long and happy life here instead.

These photos were shot on:  a camera.

Thanks for looking!