Usually pictures including people does not make for good desktop wallpaper, one exception is images of your beloved one, which do not make sense to share, and another exception is images of scantily clad celebrities, which is some circles may be popular but in others are highly controversial. But as a photographer I prefer to take photos with people, those pictures have more soul. Still, how such pictures can be turned in generally usable wallpapers? Make sure people are not recognizable, turn them in silhouettes, is a perfectly cromulent way.
16 September 2014
15 September 2014
I was away for the week-end, so I continue clearing the summer wallpapers queue after a small gap (initially planned the climax for the Sunday). Hope you will enjoy them, no matter the timing.
12 September 2014
As anticipated, today my free wallpaper series is completed with yet another part from this summer backlog (good new for those uninterested: two more parts and I will stop for a good while). Now is about birds flying above the sea and in front of a rising sun. Quite a lot of empty space to host desktop icons.
11 September 2014
I'm not sure why I liked to call those images "post-industrial" when the cranes in the background are from a large and very active naval yard, still I think they are a worthy addition to the series (and free, of course, as in CC-BY-SA).
10 September 2014
As hinted the other day, there are more posts in the queue for my free wallpaper series. Today we are going to the beach! ...and if I wouldn't be so used with the one I keep using for a few years, I could see myself going with the first.
09 September 2014
Now, when the summer is over, I look back and notice quite a lot of summer-ish pictures which people may want to use as desktop wallpapers. Damn! my last post in the free wallpaper series was in the winter! My backlog of picture is considerable, so there may be 3-4 more similar posts to follow if I feel there is interest.
03 September 2014
I am a bit late writing about this here, but on September 1st a new edition of the Wiki Loves Monuments photography contest started globally, with 34 countries registered to participate.
It is happening in Romania too, for the 4th time (I am again part of the team) and for us the start is promising so far: in the mid of the 3rd day we are well past the 1k images mark, something which happened much later (7 to 13 days) in the previous editions. Let's see if the contributors (and this includes you, my readers!) will be able to keep up. BTW, this year our prizes improved too.
01 July 2014
I was invited to be a member in the jury for the Wiki Loves Earth 2014 photography contest in Brasil and I joined gladly: it was both a honor and an opportunity to see some places which otherwise I don't expect to see any time soon. Also it was an opportunity to share from my experience with 3 editions already of the similar Wiki Loves Monuments in Romania. Now, as the Brasilian contest has published its winners, I want to share a few conclusions. First, it was a success from any point of view, from the impressive number of images (around 7000), to the exposure the team managed to receive, with presences on the most important technology and photography magazines and portals in the country. Then, a lot of impressive places I wish I could see in person, a good selection of winners and a first place image I really like and envy the photographer who took it.
'Amanhecer no Hercules' by Carlos Perez Couto, CC-BY-SA, winner of WLE 2014 Brasil
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and I have a couple of pet peeves about the contest. First, not once I found myself shouting in my head 'They didn't hear of the rule of thirds in Brasil?' I saw too many otherwise nice pictures with the horizon line cutting the image in half for no good reason, which could be way better with a 'correct' composition. Second, I had the feeling some participants misunderstood the purpose of Wikimedia Commons and sent unedited images: is OK to upload thereedited images as long as you do not change the reality. I encountered a lot of photos which can easily be improved with a few simple edits: framing (crop and/or rotation), color/exposure adjustments (curves, levels, brightness, saturation), sharpening and such. Some photos could made the top 10 if they had be edited as such. Fortunately, grace to the license, such improvements can be made at a later date by any contributor.
Still, the Wiki loves Earth 2014 contest didn't end: is still ongoing in a few other countries and will conclude with an international contest. Best of luck to all participants! Have good photos and all of us will win (including myself as an ordinary Wikipedia user).
30 April 2014
Recently I took a very colorful and quite abstract picture, which I thought would make for an interesting 'pop art' effect. The process is really basic and obvious, but I decided to share it for anyone who want to learn a quickie.
So, I opened the image with GIMP. Since I want the final collage as a 4x4 composition, increase the Canvas Size to 200% on both directions.
Then Duplicate the image layer.
Repeat the duplication until there are enough pieces to cover the image. I need 3 duplicates, for a total of 4 pieces.
Select each piece and with the Alignment Tool move them to cover the image (one right, one bottom, one right and bottom).
Now the aligned pieces should fill the entire image.
Leave one layer as is (if you really want, you can edit it too) and for the second open the Hue-Saturation dialog.
Move the Hue slider left or right until you are happy with the new color set.
Repeat for the other layers until you have something like this:
Export and you are done:
Here's a different use case for a similar effect: I had a single background for the water drop photos, but adjusting the Hue made it appear the pictures are more different than in reality.
PS: as someone told me, I should print this at some big size and try to sell my 'pop art' creation for a ginormous amount of money.
Which Firefox user interface do you prefer?
- Firefox 29 (the latest, just released)
- Firefox 4-28 (still on long term support)
- Firefox pre-4 (before the "keyhole")
- Seamonkey (the suite)
- I don't care (as long at it open web pages)
22 April 2014
Usually I don't edit much my landscape photos, not because I don't know how but I prefer them this way. Still, recently I felt the need for some more advanced processing for a picture, it enjoyed some success so I decided to share the process. The tools used were UFRaw (in the form of the GIMP plugin), Luminance HDR and, of course, GIMP.
I passed by this scene in the nearby park at the "golden hour" and it looked photogenic, but I wanted to make it more dramatic. One can increase the drama in a landscape photo by using a HDR treatment, but not having the tripod with me (for a proper HDR image you need at least 3 images with exactly the same scene but different exposures) I decided to go for pseudo-HDR. For this, I set the camera recording mode to RAW.
Note: the real purpose of a HDR image is to have details both in the shadows and in the highlights, beyond what the camera sensor can record, the improved drama is a side effect.
The RAW image was imported in GIMP via the UFRaw plugin 3 times: with normal, -1 and +1 exposure. If you really want, you can try doing the same starting from a single JPEG an simulate the exposure bracketing with color levels/curves, but I wouldn't advise: if from a RAW you can recover some lost image details, in JPEG they are gone forever.
The result is 3 JPEG images, one under-exposed, one exposed properly and the other over-exposed, which are to be combined in a HDR. For more drama, you can bracket with more than one step.
I imported the JPEGs to Luminance HDR and set their exposures manually to -1, 0 and +1 (or whatever values you used for RAW development). Then just press "Next" a few times, there is no need to adjust parameters, nor align the images (they were obtained from the same source).
Now we have a High Dynamic Range image, which can't be used or viewed as-is on a normal computer display, it has to be converted back to Low Dynamic Range, but optimized for what do we want from it (details in shadows and/or highlights, drama, whatever).
Time to pick one of the presets in the right column, one you think is the best for your case.
Then I adjusted the color levels a bit (if you prefer, the levels can be adjusted later with GIMP or any other image editing app).
Now the image can be exported as a JPEG benefiting from the HDR/pseudo-HDR treatment. You can leave it as-is if you like.
However, I opened it again with GIMP for more refinement: sharpening and color curves adjustment, to make the colors warmer. This is my end result.
10 April 2014
We learned (link in Romanian) the Romanian government is negotiating with Microsoft for a Windows XP support extension in the public administration. This is the free market at work and there may be solid arguments for doing so (yes, I would prefer my tax money to be spent on Free and Open Source Software instead of making business with a convicted monopolist, but realistically I don't expect this to happen in the foreseeable future).
My source of amazement is: once the patches and the delivery infrastructure are set for the first government (UK), then the costs for adding any subsequent government is approaching zero: computers in Romanian administration usually have Windows installed in English, so there is nothing to translate, the infrastructure to deliver patches is there and the network costs are the same or lower (presumably patches fro XP are smaller in size as patches for Windows 7). Apparently ending support for XP makes a lot of business sense for Microsoft, they suddenly started receiving important sums of money for things they did only a week ago for free. Who would refuse that?
08 April 2014
Like many of you, I too received the Mozilla email about "helping" with communications regarding the "activities of the past week", which is an euphemism for the Brendan Eich scandal. It comes with a FAQ you are expected to quote when talking about the issue.
Since all communications from Mozilla on the topic were opaque, either in blog posts with comments disabled or emails from generic addresses where is useless to reply, I finally decided to write something. Anyway, April 1-st, when I learned about the topic, wasn't a good day to write about serious issues. It may be not me my business what happens inside the Mozilla corporation, but if the Mozilla community feels a need to guide my public communications about it, then maybe it is.
So I am totally unhappy with Mozilla to caving-in to pressure from bullies. It creates a serious precedent and a slippery slope. What's the next step? Once a new CEO is announced, no matter who he is, the browser will be blocked by anti-gay websites? It looks like we are going towards a Balkanized web, where the "best viewed with [Internet Explorer|Netscape Navigator]" buttons are replaced by "blocked for browsers whose CEO have private opinion X".
Seriously, instead of personal political opinions of the Mozilla CEO I was more concerned about him wasting resources on the mobile OS unicorn while the browser looks more and more like a Chrome copy-cat.
18 March 2014
There is a good understanding of DPI among hardware geeks (they may boast about how superior is tablet X due to a higher DPI display), still I am surprised to see how many people from the photography world do not understand this (sometime don't want to learn, on the "is technical stuff, I am an artist and not care about technical details") to the point it becomes ridiculous, so I will try to explain it with simple words, in case someone will pay attention.
DPI stands for "Dots Per Inch" and is a characteristic of a hardware device (for example a computer/tablet/phone display). It says how many pixels are in one inch (1 inch = 2.54 cm). Example: the computer I use to write this piece has a 38 cm wide display, which is 38 cm / 2.54 ~= 15 inches. Considering the horizontal resolution is 1600 pixels, then it has a resolution of 1600 pixels / 15 = 106.67 DPI. Of course, the higher the DPI value, the better looking the image will be on your display, as it will enable to to see finer details.
Now, what is a good DPI value for your print? This depends on its intended use, of course :) A 300 DPI is considered good enough for a quality print, like those in the glossy magazines, where you look closely and expect to see fine details. When printing a poster which will be seen from a couple of meters, you can lower the DPI value at 100 and for a billboard to be seen from tens of meters, you can go way lower: it does not mater the printed points are huge when looking closely, nobody will do that.
Now another practical example to illustrate the ridiculous part and how to deal with it. For a recent photo exhibition (it is still on display), the requirements were "100x66 cm at 240 DPI". This is ridiculous: 100 cm / 2.54 = 39.4 inch, 39.4 inch * 240 DPI = 9456 pixels and 66 cm / 2.54 = 26 inch, 26 inch * 240 DPI = 6240 pixels, so to satisfy it you need a 9456 x 6240 photo, which means 9456 * 6240 = 59005440 - you need a 60 Megapixel camera to produce it. Nobody in the target group for that expo has access to such a camera. What to do?
Knowing the people, I can safely say most of them just ignored a requirement they don't understand, and even if they understand can't follow. Still, some tried their best and this is the right thing to do, consider other exhibitions have sane requirements you can, and then should, follow, like the one asking for 1400 x 933 at 96 DPI.
The most obvious thing to do is to resize your image to achieve the needed resolution in both pixels and DPI (GIMP example below). This is sensible thing to do when you scale down the image, as in the 15 x 10 cm case, (reduce the pixel resolution count) and you can optimize interpolation method and post process your image. However, when it would need to scale up, as in the 100 x 66 cm case, is not only a waste of resources and time, extrapolation will lower the image quality so the result will be worse than printed at a low DPI value.
Of course, as I told above is specific to photography. For illustration/vector graphics is a different matter, we may talk about at another time if there will be enough interest.
27 January 2014
A fan of my photos keep asking for large resolution versions of various pics (I usually put online web-optimized stuff) so I cave in, that's the explanation for me having often posts like this.
The images below are pretty-much made in camera (they were edited with GIMP only for crop, resize, BW conversion and color curves adjustment). The motion blur is created in-camera, with the following recipe (which you can learn looking at EXIF data): put a somewhat long exposure time, 1/10-1/15 of a second, start moving the camera and then press the shutter. The first and the last are made moving the camera on the vertical axis and the second by rotating the camera and zooming at the same time - pretty easy but you will need a bit of exercise to achieve a smooth movement.
22 January 2014
Last week when I read about the request for comments on Wikimedia supporting MP4 video I wasn't at my computer, so I couldn't vote and later forgot about it. My position here is simple: supporting proprietary and encumbered formats can only harm the open web, so Wikipedia and all the other Wikimedia websites endorsing it would be a huge blow for the openness and community, so I strongly oppose. However, I acknowledge a lot of the existing devices produce content in such formats, so I guess a reasonable compromise would be allowing such uploads but then transcode the videos in open formats and serve those for viewing.
Today I was reminded about the issue by a message on some Wikimedia mailing list by a message worded in such way, I can easily label as "pro MP4 spam". It was a good incentive for me to finally answer the RFC/vote.
Still, I am disturbed to see a "product manager" at Wikimedia Foundation campaigning for MP4, especially when the public opinion is strong against it (at this moment it records 251 votes for no support, votes for contributing only, no view and only 132 for full support, so more than 2:1).
08 January 2014
Red Hat and CentOS joining forces is a really smart move and it potentially is a win-win scenario for all parties involved: Red Hat, CentOS, community, end-users, FOSS. I won't enter into details, since a lot of people are talking about this already.
However, what baffles me is how little people understand the reasoning. So many comments frame it in the old context: a lot of projects need a no-cost Linux solution, and if they can't use a Red Hat derivative, they will use a Debian flavour and later when money will get involved, they will buy support from Canonical instead of Red Hat. Yes, this is a solid reason, but is the old reason. What we see now is something else.
The real reason for Red Hat embracing CentOS now is written plainly everywhere, from the press release "Red Hat is once again extending its leadership in open source innovation by helping to establish a platform well-suited to the needs of open source developers that integrate technologies in and around the operating system" to the FAQ "Red Hat is taking an active role in the CentOS Project to accelerate the development and broaden the reach of projects such as OpenStack by expanding our base."
These days Red Hat is selling not only the established Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but quoting from the same press release, things like "OpenStack, RDO, Gluster, OpenShift Origin, and oVirt" solutions. Compared with Linux, those technologies have so far less traction but comparable potential. Having CentOS as a strong player and supporting all those technologies will make them more popular and increase the chances for a later sale of more than RHEL.
Everything mentioned above is Free Software, so it can be a win-win for all of us. Of course, there are dangers (GNOME 3, I'm looking at you!) but there are safeguars: if the srpms will be easier to get, projects like Scientific Linux will have the life easier too.
02 January 2014
For the New Year night I chased some fireworks pictures, but in the wrong place (had to stay near home) so the result was not spectacular (I didn't have high expectations for the fire show in the nearby park). But having the gear with me and noticing the park at night, which do looks different, I turned on them for more pics, which were then posted in the usual places. Receiving a specific request on some social network for high resolution, I follow with a blog post with wallpaper sized versions:
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