Testing, Testing

Loring Lens Test
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[If you’re not a photographer, you might want to skip the rest of this off-topic post and just enjoy the pics of a pretty bike. —Alan]

I shoot primes, mostly because I like sharp, fast lenses, and sharp, fast zooms are out of my price range. I’ve also come to really enjoy the fact that primes enforce a particular angle of view, and as I get to know them, I envision that angle of view before putting the viewfinder up to my eye. This encourages me to do more pre-visualization than I do when I shoot with zooms.

I’ve recently been buying and selling a few lenses, adjusting my coverage a bit, and strengthening my line-up in the focal lengths I use the most. One of my new lenses arrived today – a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. Like any photographer would have to do, I immediately went out and fired off a few shots just to give the lens a run around the block. I still need to learn the ins-and-outs of this lens, but after a quick 10 minute session I’m already very pleased with the output. I’ve read only great things about this lens (sharp, clean, quiet, fast focusing), and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Going forward, this will be my go-to lens for bike close-ups.

Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Workflow

I receive a fair number of questions regarding my blogging methods and workflow. So while I don’t ususally like to go off-topic, I’m guessing this information will be of interest to a fair number of our readers. If you’re not a blogger, I’ll see you tomorrow… :-) —Alan

Workflow is simply the sequence of steps through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. In this case, I’m going to talk a bit about how a blog post goes from idea to post; what steps I take and what tools I use in the process.

Process

Most of my posts start off in Google Docs. When an idea presents itself, I sketch out a quick draft in a new Google Docs document and save to the web. This allows me to get an idea down on “paper” before it vanishes into thin air. Later, when I have more time, I access the doc and continue to work on the post until the text is finalized. For a short news item, this might take just a few minutes and one visit to Google Docs. A full bike review or a long op-ed piece might take multiple days, or even weeks, and a dozen or more sessions. The ability to access documents at any time, on any computer, makes Google Docs an indespinsable tool for my particular workflow (more on this later).

Once I’m done editing the text, I copy everything into BBEdit for formatting. I apply all of the HTML markup manually within BBEdit including structural code, links, and styling. I prefer to code each post manually instead of depending upon the visual editor within WordPress; this ensures portability and compliance, as well as giving me precise control over formatting and styling. (Note: For quick posts that I’ll finish in one session such as news releases or product announcements, I sometimes bypass the Google Docs step and write directly in BBEdit.)

Most of my posts include a photo. Typically, I write a post first, then I capture the photo (or multiple photos) to accompany the post. Less often, a photo will trigger a post idea and the process is reversed. Once I’ve captured a photo and processed it through Photoshop, I manually upload the image to my webserver via SFTP using Fetch.

By the time I get to WordPress, pretty much all the work is done. I copy the fully-formatted post into the WordPress editing window (with the visual editor disabled), type a title, choose a category, check any post-specific preferences, preview, and post. This last step takes all of about a minute.

Photographic Workflow

I use a fairly standard photographic workflow. I typically shoot raw; import, sort, and tag with Adobe Bridge; convert and make global adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw; and finally, crop, retouch, and apply more involved adjustments in Photoshop. I save fully processed images as PSD files, then export to JPG for uploading to the web.

Mobile Blogging

My biggest challenge is producing 1-4 blog posts per day and managing a busy blog while simultaneously working a demanding, full-time job and making time for family and friends. To make it work, I have to take advantage of those little snippets of time between this-and-that to write and process photos. I carry a 13” MacBook Pro and an iPod Touch in my bike bag at all times; the MacBook is used for content creation, and the iPod Touch is used for comment moderation and e-mail. For internet access, I use a Novatel MiFi mobile hotspot that provides a 30’ bubble of Wi-Fi coverage for up to 5 devices. This allows me to do things like write on the train, process photos during my lunch break, and moderate comments while walking to the bus.

Tools

  • 21” iMac
  • 13” MacBook Pro
  • iPod Touch
  • Wacom Drawing Tablet
  • Novatel MiFi Mobile Hotspot
  • Canon 50D w/assorted lenses and accessories
  • Canon G10
  • WordPress (self-hosted)
  • Google Docs
  • Bare Bones BBEdit
  • Fetch
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Bridge
  • Adobe Camera Raw

I hope this window into my workflow is helpful for my fellow bike bloggers who are just getting started. And if you’re an experienced blogger, I’d love to hear about your methods and workflow in the comment area below.

FILE Magazine

FILE Magazine online is one of my favorite places to browse unusual and creative photographs, so I was surprised and thrilled to learn they added one of my photos to their collection the other day. Here’s a little background on FILE:

The purpose of FILE is to collect and display photographs that treat subjects in unexpected ways. Alternate takes, odd angles, unconventional observations – these are some of the ways photographs collected in FILE reinterpret traditional genres. We leave the Kodak Moments to the family album, the glossy fashion spreads to Vogue, and the photo finishes to ESPN. Rather than taking the well-trod paths, we veer off to get a different perspective.

If you’re interested in photography, spend a few minutes perusing the collection at FILE; you may not find too many bike photos there, but you will find plenty of ideas and inspiration.

FILE Magazine
“The Visitation” at FILE

Mobile Blogging with the iPad

[This is veering pretty far off-topic (OK, waaay off-topic), but I know quite a few of our regulars are bloggers themselves, so I thought this might be of interest to those individuals who are doing some mobile blogging. —Alan]

Our daughter turned 15 last week and for her birthday we had an iPad reserved for her at our local Apple Store. We went down Saturday morning and got in line an hour before they opened. When we arrived there was already a crowd, but we timed it about right and got in with the first wave. It was a fun experience and the kid’s excited about her new computer. So far she’s impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the UI, the already good selection of apps, and the stunningly beautiful display. She’ll be using it for school work (running Pages), e-mail, movies, music, chat, and just about everything else she was previously doing on three separate devices. Dad’s quite impressed as well.

I’m still trying to sort out in my mind whether the iPad truly has the potential to be the ultimate mobile blogging device. I was skeptical going in, but the performance is much better than I expected, and the browsing experience is on par with my MacBook (if not superior). The big advantage is that the iPad weighs 1.5 lbs. compared to my MacBook at 4.5 lbs. The big disadvantage is that there has yet to be a photo editing app produced for the iPad/iPhone OS that does what I need it to do. If my blogging approach was based more on text and less on imagery, I’d probably already own an iPad. In the meantime, I’m waiting and watching to see what types of apps are released to fill the void for advanced photo editing. For those of you who are doing quick crops and uploads of photos direct out of the camera, this device could be a near perfect mobile blogging tool in my opinion.

As an aside, the EcoVelo header — the one at the top of the page that includes the rotating images — is a Flash object. As was true for their other mobile devices, Apple has chosen to not support Flash for the iPad. If you’re a new iPad user, you’ll notice a single, static image in place of the normal slideshow at the top of the page. The site’s not broken; since the iPad won’t display the Flash object, I put together a work-around that serves up a static image instead. If you normally read EcoVelo on a handhald device, you were already getting served our Mobile version sans graphics, and if you view the site on a standard browser, nothing has changed.

(UPDATE: Thanks to a little prompting from Greg, I figured out how to set-up a slideshow using jquery and the “cycle” plugin, so we now have a Flash-free slideshow on the iPad and iPhone. Thanks, Greg!)

Mobile Blogging Tools

Like many people, I watched the debut of Apple’s iPad yesterday with great interest. I was particularly curious because I just recently purchased a 13″ MacBook Pro to increase my mobility as a blogger and photographer, and I was concerned that the iPad would render my recent investment obsolete. After looking over its features very carefully, I’ve come away both disappointed and relieved. On the one hand, I was hoping (naively, I suppose), that the iPad would be able to run what I consider must-have applications like Photoshop and Lightroom, and it clearly is nowhere near capable of running any professional desktop applications (nor was it intended to). So in that sense I was disappointed. On the other hand, the fact that the iPad isn’t going to cannabalize the MacBook line-up is a relief because I depend on them for my livelihood (I’m also relieved I didn’t end up regretting the purchase of an expensive new computer… LOL).

I’ve seen posts by a number of bloggers who seem very excited about the iPad as a mobile blogging tool. For text-based bloggers I can certainly understand the appeal. But I have to wonder how effective it would be for someone like myself whose photos are such an important part of what I do. I’d love to hear from bloggers who are considering the iPad about how they plan to set-up their workflow, and how they plan to manage photo processing in the mix.

As an aside, my son, who is also a graphic artist, brought up an interesting point that I hadn’t considered at all. He said that even if the iPad could run the applications he needs, he wouldn’t want a touch screen for design work because the fingerprints and smudges would be too visually distracting for the type of detailed work he does.

Canon S90

I don’t own this camera, but based upon the specs it has to be just about the ultimate on-the-bike shirt-pocket camera for serious shooters. Check out the specs:

  • 28mm-105mm (eqiuv.) f/2.0-4.9 lens
  • 3″ 3:4 TFT LCD monitor
  • 15-1/1600 sec. shutter
  • 10.0 Megapixel, 1/1.7-inch sensor
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Auto, P, Av, Tv plus full manual shooting modes
  • Lens control ring
  • Raw capability
  • 3.94 x 2.30 x 1.22 inches (100.0 x 58.4 x 30.9mm)
  • 6.942 oz. (196.8g) with battery and card

Canon USA
DP Review
Ken Rockwell

Big Ol’ Jet Airliner

We burned a year’s worth of carbon for two people today. Yup, we got on a big-ol’-jet-airliner and flew coast-to-coast. This was a big deal for us because we’re pretty much homebodies most of the time, staying close to family and work, staying out of the car and off of airplanes, takin’ it easy on Mother Earth, etc. …LOL. We’re super-excited to be on this trip though; we’re doing a photo shoot for one of our favorite bike companies for their 2010 catalog. This will be Alan’s first official gig as a “professional” photographer (we’ll use that term loosely). We don’t have any idea where this adventure will lead (not this little adventure, the larger adventure of capturing images for compensation), but we’re having fun and stepping through a door that’s been opened for us. Stay tuned — we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program in a few days.


 
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