Let’s sidestep the argument as to wether climate change is happening. Let’s sidestep the research saying it’s going to happen and let’s remove ourselves from the contradictory opinions.
Instead think for a moment as to whether it’s right for me to use a water filter on my tap so I can have clean drinking water. Think for a moment as to whether is it right for me to wear a face mask that absorbs the various chemicals from traffic and coal fired powered stations in the air before my lungs do. Think for a moment if it is right that I have to buy organic food just so I can support farmers who farm with a method that promotes wildlife diversity.
I don’t think it is it right. It’s stupid, I shouldn’t need to do it.
Pollution isn’t natural and it isn’t what I call progress if we lose so much in return. If we stopped spoiling up the very environment we live in, we wouldn’t be having this discussion as to whether we are heating up the earth or not.
It also saddens me that we are constantly arguing over who or what is turning up the heat instead of talking about the beautiful and important things we are losing.
Recently I’ve had to make use of iMovie to create a few videos where I’m employed. I’m not really a video guy, all I have ever produced for myself are audio slideshows; putting still images together with audio. It seems however that if you’re a photographer then you’re also a videographer where I work.
Having very recently started from scratch with creating my own workflow and coming across a problems, they are still fresh in my mind and I would like to share them with anybody else interested.
Immediately the biggest problem for me were MOD files. iMovie doesn’t read them and the cameras at my work sometimes create these types of files depending on what quality setting I find them on. Since my employer has a Windows based setup I’m out on my own with regard to gaining help from colleagues. It’s my fault that I bring my Mac into work, but there’s no way I’m using a networked Windows setup that has been setup in Cantonese. The various cameras they employ here are also setup up in Cantonese!
Thankfully I found a free app which converts video files from one format to another. It can be found on the Mac App Store here. It’s a great app and the developer has been kind enough to make it free for download (thank you). It took me a while to find it online because most other software titles are demo versions or cost $30 and all of them are for Windows anyway! So it’s not just Mac users who have to fiddle with these things.
The MTS M2TS Converter says its designed for Sony, Canon, Panasonic and JVC cameras. I can say it does work when it comes to MTS files, so if you’ve had issues with these file types your problems are almost over. The aforementioned cameras seem to change their file type when you change the shooting quality, I was in a situation where some files would work and others didn’t. But as I mentioned earlier, depending on the shooting quality, the file type changes. Here I find good old Handbrake conquers everything and I will get mp4 files from it.
My other problem has more to do with iMovie and how my Macbook Retina work together. I have the current top of the line quad core version with 16GB of Ram. There is plenty of processing power for me to make use of. But, what’s frustrating is how iMovie can’t multitask; allowing the user to import and edit movies at the same time. I checked my CPU usage and it’s nowhere near maxing out my laptop. So it’s frustrating to wait for iMovie because of the way it has been designed.
So it magnifies my next problem. It was only recently that I came across my next problem with iMovie, I was importing a mp4 movie which iMovie had no trouble with in the past. Processing took two hours and then nothing, nothing showed up in my project library, I didn’t realise, went to work, couldn’t find it and imported it again thinking it was an oversight on my part. This time I remembered importing it and nothing showed up! What’s worse than a locked up iMovie taking two hours to process a movie? A movie that doesn’t show up in the library after you’ve processed it!
Another google search brought me to a discussion about the same issue that others were having. It seems not all MP4 files weren’t created equal, those with the H.264 work fine, others without it as I understand it don’t. The next piece of software to download is MPEG Streamclip from http://www.squared5.com. Again it’s a free download and again I want to thank the developer for making it so.
The best bit with this software? You can process your files into MOV format in the background with Streamclip while working with your movies in iMovie. Processing time regardless of which app you use still takes two hours, but the flexibility with separating both time consuming tasks into two is very welcoming. Also once your files have been converted in MOV files, iMovie takes about one minute to process again. So there are other benefits beyond file conversion.
There is a nifty, new app on the App Store for those of us who want a way to create a watermark directly from our iOS devices (not universal, but you can of course use it on the iPad in x2 mode). It is free for a limited time and can be found here. The app itself is called Marksta and was conceived by another photographer looking for an effortless way to add his watermark to his imagess directly from his phone. The British Journal of Photography (BJP) interview him in more detail here.
For me, at the moment, this app is ideal as I only have an iPhone for my photography and I can’t be bothered to import the images into Pixelmator and work on them from there in order to then upload them to another location online. Now everything can be done on my telephone, on my commute even! The app is very intuitive; you just run along the options offered along the bottom of the app and inside a minute you have an watermark for your iPhone photography.
If there is one complaint I have, it is because of the pedant in me, not actually because of the app. John D McHugh states he made Marksta because his work was being stolen online. The thing is you can’t steal images online, you can only copy them, hence the term ‘copyright infringement’. If McHugh’s images were actually being ‘stolen’, a nifty watermark won’t actually be of much use.
Jonathan Jones writing for the Guardian:
I speak as a recovered digital photography addict. I more or less stopped taking photographs at all once I realised I was subscribing to a cheap self-deception about the originality, beauty and meaning of my tens of thousands of pictures. An enthusiam has frozen into revulsion. I love the convenience of digital cameras and their potential to create beauty – but I hate it, too.
When did my photophobia begin? When I realised that I was buying into the same delusion of grandeur as everyone else. I have a decent camera and it can take lovely pictures. It has a close-up focus that can capture perfectly crisp images of a flower petal or a bee up close. So I think the moment it all went wrong was on a visit to Kew Gardens. There I was, having fun snapping water lilies, when I realised that about a hundred people were doing the same thing. Grannies, kids, babies, all with cameras and a sense of being artists. I am waiting for dogs and cats to get their own photo-sharing site for their genuinely beautiful snaps.
I think the main problem immediately lies with Jonathan Jones’ perspective on photography, not with the behaviour of Instagram, in his decision to take lovely pictures of flowers and bees; the same, accessible, non-taboo, subject material that everybody else points their camera at and has done since the Kodak box brownie. Instagram quite rightly lets us share these images, but it certainly isn’t digital photography or Instagram that’s at fault here. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!
I was in Victoria Park here in Hong Kong back in November 2012, with plenty of photographers chasing the butterflies, around the greenery. The most professional, seasoned photographers seemed like they were standing at the back, resting their heavy cameras on monopods, almost knowing, instinctively when it was the best time to get the wining shot. In front of them was the closest you could possibly get to a polite scrum, with many younger photographers competing for space amongst themselves and those passing by, who were inspired by the silent commotion to join in for a few shots with their compacts.
Ignore the lack of his originality, something which Jones should be scolded for, but where is the imagination to make images of something more meaningful in that moment of personal crisis? This is instead of assuming ‘grannies, kids, babies’ are deluded artists or to blame Instagram. If one feels photography is cheap, it’s because one is not spending enough time with the photographic medium.
When I saw all these photographers taking pictures of butterflies on my trip to the park, I thought it would be fun and much better to take pictures of the photographers chasing the butterflies instead, it would also be a slight commentary on the spectacle of it all. It seems too simple to get disgusted with photography. Even what you don’t photograph can and will be a statement on our world.
Has Jonathan Jones stopped to think about why everybody takes pictures of what amounts to being the mundane? Surely he is aware that we the general public are socially discouraged from taking pictures because either they are a photojournalist, weird or viewed as a pedophile. Imagine the variety of photography on our news feeds and timelines if we concentrated our gaze and interest on ourselves or on other people outside of what are still Kodak moments. There is a minority of people who do, it’s a shame many other people don’t do it, you’re not weird or a pedophile if you do and that area of photography isn’t the reserve of the photojournalist.
I wished the Victorians had Instagram because not many people know that the Victorians photographed the dead or the dying. Not in a macabre ways (though by today’s standards it probably would be), but in a way where the dead person looked like they were in-between life and death. Victorians even dressed dead people up so as to look their best for the camera. The Victorians did this with the aim of preserving their deceased relatives beyond the physical with a belief they were capturing their soul in an image. Imagine a Victorian gaze uploaded onto the Internet mushed up with today’s type of photography on your newsfeed/dashboard.
This stems from the larger problem of what we have been conditioned to photograph (just google ‘kodak moments’) and what we have come to think of are supposedly ‘proper pictures’ from other images we see everyday. Now this isn’t a call to action to photograph dead people, more of a polite request to acknowledge there is more for us to photograph out there and to photograph something different within your world.
At the same time, I don’t think it can’t be done with single images, those that make a quick comment and are digested within seconds off a newsfeed, they need to be something longer or viewed under a differing context and not necessarily something complicated either. When I say longer I mean through a photo essay, photo series or a visual diary. Something that anybody can sustain if they spend more time with their camera than Jonathan Jones.
I recently started a visual diary in the summer of 2012; just something to show friends and family (though it’s open to all) back in the UK what I was witnessing here in my new country of residence. I’ve been brought up academically as a photojournalist, working on long term projects, working with and documenting other peoples. How I photographed, has changed when I began photographing in a diary format, I have taken on another awareness of the photographic medium, which makes me think in other creative ways. Again it comes with spending time and developing that awareness, I’m at an advantage to the layman, but it’s a skill I believe anybody can pick up.
That is how we can solve the problem that Jones incorrectly addresses without blaming fashionably unpopular social network ‘x’, until we do, don’t expect anything to change on your respective timeline. Instagram is here to share our photography, not teach us photography.
My calendar says our last episode was in August. Last week I pushed out a new episode.
It’s kind of special in that it’s the first one from Hong Kong, second I’m joined in person by my good friend Jack Barker. Jack helped me get set up in Hong Kong when I first arrived. Jack’s been here for over two years now so I thought it was a good idea have him join me and stay on topic as much as possible about this special region of China.
We discuss how a little about this area’s history, difference between here and the UK and why HK for the most part is seemingly better for us both. We go off track with some mention of the new James Bond film – Skyfall and we argue the difference between land reclamation and building an artificial island (turns out, there is no difference).
There are no real show notes, other than to check out this wiki article on Hong Kong.
The audio quality takes a hit with this one because it’s being recorded straight off the laptop’s mic. I’ll be looking into getting a better setup before my next guest.
Parts one and two are in the form of blogs posts which can be found further down this site.
I gave myself something less to think about this week.* I purchased the current top of the line Retina MacBook Pro with all the trimmings, 16GB of RAM, 2.7Ghz Quad Core processor and a 750GB SSD. In addition I consider myself lucky to be living in Hong Kong at the moment as this wonderful machine has cost me almost £800 less than it would if I walked into an Apple Store in the UK and handed over my debit card. There is another story behind purchasing this laptop, but I’m saving that for the next episode of JPG podcast.**
I’ve bought a complete machine, the first time in which I have done so and I don’t have to think about upgrading it later, this is it until it dies. I’ve already joked to friends that this is the last Apple Mac I will ever buy. This is where buying the top of the line is refreshing for me; I don’t have to think about any upgrades and the reason why I have given myself less to think about.
I have always bought a laptop with the view to upgrade the battery, memory and the hard disk later on, right at the point when the machine was starting to lag behind my expectations. I always bought the low end model with the capable processor. Purchasing this new computer I can’t upgrade has caused me to think about my previous computing experiences; this laptop is different to everything before it and I’m in a different space mentally.
On reflection I found owning those previous laptops bothered me; making an anxious because the constant quest to find upgrades later took up a large portion of my time. Memory was the easiest kind of. I would buy as much as the laptop could handle by going to crucial.com even though the website isn’t straightforward, but as a geek I put up with the site in order to get the benefits of more RAM. When it came to the hard disk, I think I went to all the websites that sold them; measuring attributes and prices against one another and then finally settling on one model before a newer one came out and then later buying that one as well. I was also always taking a peek in the SSD section of these websites to see if theprices were worth their asking prices yet.
I remember owning a plastic MacBook a few years back. I upgraded the hard drive three times, going from the stock 80GB drive to a 200GB, a 320GB version and then settled on a 500GB model (all 7200rpm models); more instances than when I owned an actual desktop computer (remember those?). It didn’t stop there, I even removed the optical drive and put in another 500GB drive after that! Even further down memory lane, I even went to the effort once of opening up a G3 iBook in order to upgrade the hard disk. For anyone who doesn’t know, there were forty screws of different sizes between you and achieving upgrade nirvana with those laptops. Hence the praise Apple received when they made upgrading the MacBook lines easier when they were first announced. Though I think it was to help them more than it was to help us.
Apple have always being difficult in the initial purchasing process; they were always stingy with their laptop configurations. Apple never included enough RAM or the specs of the hard disk were unsatisfactory in the initial price. This forced me and probably many others to choose a costlier model (more profit for Apple) or I would have to upgrade the ‘Mac of your dreams’ with third party upgrades. The third parties were always cheaper so I always took that option with the acknowledgement that I would be opening up the machine myself. Something else I don’t have to do anymore either, that also means less clutter around the house; I owned two difference screwdrivers and other bits and pieces from left over upgrades.
A Different Computing Experience
By owning a Retina MacBook Pro I’ve lost something that I thought in the past was important to the computing experience. I was always thought I was buying a Mac for the long term, when in fact over a shorter length of time I was spending my personal time looking for these ways to make upgrades; so it wasn’t just money I was spending. In my view there is something to be said about owning a sealed up machine because it liberates me from all this. I can just use the machine with no expectations of taking it further technically unless I wanted to buy another external hard drive.***
In the long run, I can envision Apple lifting our burden from buying third party hard disks at some point. What if everything you owned was stored online on iCloud? Imagine a Time Machine backup sitting online with the transfer speed equal to satisfy even the most impatient among us?
Even OS updates, besides the low price is something we don’t have to think about anymore. When I updated to Mountain Lion, I remember thinking some games took longer to install. Apple’s Gigabit ethernet through Thunderbolt helps, but my point is that an OS install took less time than an application install.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve realised this isn’t a typical review. I don’t really want to talk about the technical aspects beyond the Retina display, but naturally this is a fast and capable machine. All the connectivity options are what I want (especially when there aren’t that many, just two USB and Thunderbolt ports really), the speakers have amazing depth to them when you consider how they have been squeezed into the aluminium chassis. The weight and thinness is something to really admire, especially when my previous machine was the 13″ MBP, which was thicker and heavier. Most of my music feels fresh from being freed from the MacBook Pro’s tiny speakers. Geekbench results have this new laptop score double over the machine I’ve replaced. When I re-acquire Aperture and record new episodes of JPG Podcast, I’ll be putting it to the performance test. At the moment I haven’t had less than 10GB of RAM free, even after opening every page of John Siracusa’s Mountain Lion review into its own tab in Safari!
The screen itself is fantastic, the clarity to photographs and text is so sharp even at any resolution above ‘Best (Retina)’, which takes me to the bit of the screen that actually impresses me more; the ability to change the resolution! I haven’t been able to do this since I last owned a CRT monitor, hello 2004. Owning an LCD where you can change the resolution is also something I can’t take for granted, I love it!
I’ve always wanted a laptop that had desktop like performance and everything I would want in the one machine, the monitor really was the last sticking point for me. I never liked external monitors, I can’t stand all those wires everywhere. To think I have the same screen real estate as the 17″ MBP that I originally wanted, makes me more than satisfied when it’s coupled with the smaller physical size of a thinner 15″ MBP and in some cases the performance capabilities of the MacPro. The resolution at 1920 x 1200 is still sharp at a normal viewing distance.
I have two quibbles related to this machine, one, the font rendering in Safari is a bit weird; refreshing text incorrectly, it was doing it plenty while writing this review. The second quibble is the unusually long wake up time. I hope both of these are fixed in a future update.
I would continue now to further buy laptops like this just for the existential advantages I just described, yes the cost is steep and not for everyone when it comes to Apple products, but what I’ve described equally applies to say a Lenovo. I know there have been huge articles and discussions about the pros and cons to not owning an Apple Mac you can’t upgrade yourself; with a lot of people poo-pooing Apple because of the lack of upgradability after purchase, but if you are planning on buying a new Apple Mac, consider the benefits of this mental space freed up. I’m really enjoying this MacBook Pro more because of the route I took.
* I’ve managed to sneak in another discussion about minimalism.
** JPG Podcast isn’t dead, it’s coming back next month. I just have no internet to host shows. I’m borrowing wifi from anywhere at the moment until I get my own data connection.
I’ve been waiting for Apple to release the Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt cable (as I write this, the online Apple store is just now accepting orders for them, both of my current drives are Firewire 800 (with USB2) and I had to resort to the USB2 to transfer my work onto this machine. Now I have a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter, I’ve realised Thunderbolt can only power one device on this chain I had set up with Firewire 800. Firewire 800 is capable of supplying 45 watts while Thunderbolt only supplies 10 watts. This means I can no longer daisy chain my two portable hard drives. I would need to buy a second cable adapter or constantly unplug and swap each drive between the one adapter to make the two backups. Source.