Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Summer Holiday (Vacation)

This column is dedicated to Linux and photography. It started out as a platform to rant and rave, to show that I am both cantankerous and crotchety. Over the last twelve months photography and Linux has come on leaps and bounds, or at least it appears that way to me. I am however far from a creature of habit. I still drift my workflow according to the situation. Final edits are often done with the Gimp, but I do use other things. LightZone is my preferred tool for adjusting lighting. I use Geeqie to review a shoot. There I go again, repeating myself. What has this to do with holidays?

It is August and here in the Northern hemisphere it is the holiday season. I have just packed my bags and set off on the annual family trek to the coast of Devon in the south west of England. It is a beautiful part of the country. The coast is full of coves and inlets that were, thankfully in the distant past, home to smugglers. The point here is not to teach you how to smuggle contraband but talk about taking photographs of the coves and manipulating the resultant images. The big problem is exposure. Lots of water and sky, lots of deep shadows mixed with brilliant highlights and not much approaching a mid grey tone to take your exposure from.

When I set off on my holiday I want minimum luggage. I have a small car and it is packed with everything that makes my holiday, photography is just a means of recording the time. It is not the purpose of the week. I am going to relax. I take my DSLR but limit myself to a single lens and I take a compact point and shoot. The only other luxuries are spare batteries and my laptop. In truth the laptop is there for other things as well. I have no tripod, no fist of filters. I am just after holiday snaps, an Instamatic would probably suffice.

What is my problem? Today we have a multitude of photographic correction tools. I tell you I use LightZone, but this is a commercial product. I only have it licensed for my desktop. I can run it in trial mode on my laptop but this is a slightly crippled version. I also believe in following the terms of a license. I prefer open source licenses but if they are worth what I believe then I must comply with other licenses, if I use software issued under their regulation. In short, I do not use LightZone to correct my exposure on the laptop. The excessive choice I have for tools was now my problem. I could use the Gimp, of course. This was not my only option. In fact I decided to try Rawtherapee. I struggled with getting the exposure correction I wanted. Help!

What a disaster. Not Rawtherapee but my inability to understand what I was doing. I was getting holiday snaps. Losing sight of that almost spoilt the holiday. I did not need perfect exposure, composition was secondary to the content. The pictures were memory joggers, an aide memoir for later years. They were badly exposed, composition was none existent and yet everyone was happy with them! It just goes to show that there is something more important than getting it correct, knowing your audience. This is a valuable lesson for any shoot. All the Linux users crying for this software or that utility should take a step back and ask what they are taking their pictures for. Windows/Linux/OSX, it does not matter. What matters is the end result.

And for the record after the holiday I can report that I used the point and shoot more than the DSLR. I did not use Rawtherapee, I will now use that back at home to compare with the Gimp and LightZone. The laptop was used briefly to review using Geeqie, but only to check I had captured the moment. I enjoyed my rest and Linux ensured I concentrated on the pleasure rather than the work. I have posted a couple of snaps, you can see that the quality is poor but I did enjoy myself.

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