Cloudy with a chance of apps
I’ve ranted and moaned. I’ve stood in front of rooms full of photographers decrying it as a petty money grabbing scheme, pledging a loathing so deep I’d be the last man standing, never to give in… And then last week I fell flat on my face: I subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud — specifically the new Creative Cloud Photography Plan.
So what changed? How is it a better deal now than it was just a few weeks ago? Not much actually, except for the fact that Adobe has now finally stopped playing their silly “LIMITED TIME OFFER! ORDER NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!” game and have made the photographer bundle an actual, permanent product — no prerequisites, no expiring deals and more importantly no "this may cost $50/month when you renew next year, who knows?". Of course when you sign up they do have a disclaimer about the price being valid for a single year, but that’s just legalese — that $9.99 US per month is now for an official product just like the rest of their offerings, price point included.
For me that was THE main hurdle… I couldn’t accept the uncertainty and the whole shroud of mystery surrounding something I depend on day in and day out. They needed to commit before I did.
The other factor in my decision had much more to do with a change in my general mindset: all-you-can-eat subscription models have infiltrated much of my daily life now. I don’t think twice about Netflix and wouldn’t dream of getting rid of it; We’ve recently added Next Issue (the magazine equivalent of Netflix) to our monthly bill and we enjoy it as well — being able to read everything from Wired to Rolling Stone, to Vogue and Vanity Fair… That’s a lot of extremely inspiring photography and I’m rediscovering material I simply wasn’t exposed to anymore. Yes, the web is fantastic and Flipboard is amazing but there’s still something to be said about very targeted curation and editorial content speaking as a single voice.
So in this context, Creative Cloud becomes much more coherent. The fact that at then end of the year I’m looking at $120 for both Lightroom and Photoshop suddenly makes more sense to me than paying $79 for a Lightroom upgrade alone — which is usually an annual affair anyway. Obviously right now the value is diminished by the fact that I already own LR5, but I have to admit I’m enjoying my return to Photoshop. It’s like coming back to a messy but comfortable home after a long, long trip abroad.
I’m pretty sure you’ve all read all there is to read about the new Photoshop CC 2014 Release version so I won’t get into it here. I’m back to Photoshop after quite a few years and while I can’t say I’m crazy about the UI OR the generalWindowsy look of things (seriously, this app is NOT attractive) it does work. The tight integration with Lightroom is also a nice bonus and a welcome addition. Photoshop is Photoshop: it’s huge, it’s powerful, it's not pretty but it does it all. I’ve managed extremely well with the (very) surprising Pixelmator these past couple of years but this is a different beast altogether.
The other big part of the equation is Lightroom Mobile, which is only accessible as part of a Creative Cloud subscription. Yup, this was yet another reason for my anger and rampant cynicism but… Meh… Life’s too short. I have to admit I’m rather impressed by both the application itself AND how seamlessly it syncs with the desktop version of Lightroom. Paired with the X-T1’s wifi capabilities it becomes quite an interesting combination: I can send the images to my iPad Air, import them into Lightroom Mobile, edit and — with this newly released version— give them a star rating. When I sit at my desktop it’s all there and I can just pick-up where I left off. Inversely, any further processing I do on the Mac will update the images on my iPad as well.
The app is still pretty basic but the fact that it’s able to render the changes I make in the more complete desktop version gives me hope that the underlying technology can actually do much more than it currently does. Curves would be an essential addition. This alone would allow me to replicate most of what I usually do. Accessing custom presets would be huge — although I wonder if this could pose legal problems with things like VSCO Film or Replichrome if sync is involved.
Lightroom Mobile syncs with Collections on a case by case basis so every Collection in the library can be selectively synced. I’m still reflecting on the ideal workflow but for now I’ve settled on two synced Collections: a temporary “work” Collection called iPad Edits (that I use to import select images I wish to work on) and a self-explanatory iOS Wallpaper Collection which provides a quick way to send images I’d like to use as wallpaper on my iPad, essentially giving me an rough equivalent to Aperture’s Photo Stream integration. That’s it for now.
Two things to note: 1) The mobile app can only sync with ONE catalog at a time. Keep this in mind if your work spans multiple catalogs 2) On the Mac, images from iOS are imported into a file called Mobile Downloads.lrdata that resides in the same folder containing the catalog. This file is actually a container (a folder masquerading as a file) and while it can be browsed by right-clicking (Show Package Content) or by using the Show in Finder command from Lightroom, I prefer moving the files (via Lightroom, always) to a new folder on my external media drive as soon as I can, simply for the sake of my own organization and keeping everything together (I also rename them for the same reason). The good news is that since Lightroom Mobile relies on Collections, which are just virtual objects living in a database as opposed to physical folders, these changes don’t affect syncing in any way; the new names even propagate without a hitch within a few minutes.
So: all good right? Hmm… Is anything in life ever perfect? I’ve always updated Lightroom without much thought, even using Release Candidates without ever running into serious problems. But after updating to LR 5.5 I ran into a bug that had me worried my catalog had become corrupted. When trying to reorder images manually within a collection, I was greeted with this beauty:
As error messages go, this one’s a doozie. Not cryptic at all right? Totally non threatening too… I spent the better part of my morning troubleshooting this by first checking the integrity and optimizing, then reloading a backup catalog, then another, only to realize this error was not only random (affecting certain collections or folders some of the time) but also present in multiple client catalogs; so this wasn’t just ONE corrupted file. I still don’t know what’s going on but after messing around, I’ve at least found a way to circumvent it: when I get the error, all I need to do is toggle the filters on and off and the problem goes away. Actually I need to: - Dismiss the error dialog - Disable the filters (command-L) - Move an image around while the filters are off.
After doing this fun little dance I can re-activate the filters and move everything normally again. What’s interesting is that — so far — the fix seems to stick between restarts, meaning it’s probably overwriting something in the database that’s somehow been messed up in the upgrade.
The fact that I ran into this after signing on for an annual commitment wasn’t the best feeling in the world… But of course, bugs DO creep in and over the years I had to deal with serious ones in Aperture as well. Just bad timing in this case I guess. Or retribution for all my bitching… ;)
Capture One Pro 7
Not much to say about this yet but I wanted to point it out before the deal ends: Phase One is having a summer sale and discounting Capture One Pro 7, bringing the price down to $149 (instead of $299). I’ve never been sold on CP7 but I thought this was a good opportunity to dive into it more seriously so I purchased a copy. The sale runs throughout June so there’s only about a week left if you’re interested. I’ll probably have more to say on the software eventually…
Complete change of subject… I was having coffee, reading my usual Saturday morning feeds when I stumbled on a new app in the App Store: AVEDON. Obviously we’re talking about an app dedicated to showcasing the photography of Richard Avedon, a pioneer and one of my personal favourites — not just for the brilliance of his work but also for his absolute dedication and obsession with the craft. If you have an iPad and are even remotely interested in his photography, get this app right now. It’s beautifully done, clean (befitting the photography itself) and best of all: free. As value propositions go, this is hard to beat.
The app is self-contained so you’re looking at a 500MB download of incredibly inspiring and seriously humbling material. You can find the app here. As is often the case with work of this caliber, it makes you want to pick up the camera and shoot… Which is what I did. The images below were shot directly at a 1:1 ratio with the X-T1 and 56mm f/1.2. They were initially processed on my iPad in Lightroom Mobile (while lounging on our deck - The Good Life™) but the final editing was done on my Mac.
See how it all comes full circle in the end?...