Posts in Category: Photography

Monitor calibration in Linux

If you are into photography, then you should already know that calibrating your monitor is something really important if you plan to print your pictures. I recently printed some photos and noticed that the printed colors were considerably different from the colors on my LCD. After comparing my monitor with a few others, it was obvious that mine, and some of the others too, were not color calibrated.

Monitors can be calibrated to display the “correct” colors by using a calibration device, complemented by the vendor software. I decided to buy the Spyder2Express since it had good reviews and a reasonable price. Unfortunately, there is no color calibration device that is supported on Linux by its vendor and I currently use Linux (openSuse) as my main operative system. I could use my work laptop running windows to calibrate the monitor, then export the color profile and import it in Linux. There is an article here on how to do it. With help from one of the comments in that article, I found about Argyll Color Management System. Argyll is a monitor calibration software package for Linux that supports most of the existing calibration devices. It uses the Windows binary software to create a Linux binary in order to be able to communicate with the device to run the calibration tests and create a color profile. It also provides an utility to apply the color profile to your monitor.

The steps to calibrate your monitor in Linux using Argyll are pretty simple. In my case, using the Syper2Express device, all I had to do was runt the following commands(as root, or give the user permission to communicate with the usb device):

$ cd Argyll_V1.0.3/
$ ./spyd2en -v /media/ColorVision/setup/setup.exe (creates binary file to communicate with device)
$ ./dispcal -v -y l -o MyMonitor (runs calibration tests and creates monitor color profile)
$  ./dispwin MyMonitor.icc (applies color profile to monitor)

The generated color profile can also be imported to your post processing software like GIMP in order to use the monitor color profile instead of using a more common profile like sRGB or Adobe RGB.

Harvard and MIT

Originally uploaded by Vitor Rodrigues.

Last month I completed the visit of the 4 major US universities that were on my To Visit list. After Sanford and Berkeley during my internship in California, visited Boston this October for a conference and had the opportunity to visit the Harvard and MIT campuses.

While Harvard is a beautiful place to visit with all the fancy coffee shops and restaurants around Harvard Square and a very nice bookstore, that makes you feel you are still in the XVIII century.

As for MIT, not much to see, besides lots of geeks (yes, they are easily spotable) and lots lots of bicycles in the parking lots. Just a few funny buildings like the ones in the picture.

As for Boston city, although at first it looks just like a small size NYC, after a few walks around the city you can feel its own vibe and style. For food, you must try the Italian restaurantss in the North End. For guided tours, the list of attractions listed on the trolleys is just a joke, i.e., “Access to MIT campus and Harvard Square” means: we let you out close to a subway station where you can catch the subway to there :-)

Photoshop filters on GIMP

For the GIMP users that, like me, keep complaining that Photoshop has so much more filters to do some fancy effects, the agony is over :-)

I just found this today, but it dates back to 2004. There is a GIMP plugin that handles Photoshop plugins. It is called PSPI and it works like a charm on the filters I have tested so far.

Here are the instructions on how to get it working on Windows:

  1. download the binary package from here.
  2. copy the plugin file to “C:\Program Files\GIMP-2.0\lib\gimp\2.0\plug-ins”
  3. start GIMP
  4. click on Menu Xtns -> Photoshop Plug-in Settings
  5. add the folders where you have your photoshop plugins (.exe or .8bf files)
  6. restart GIMP
  7. all the compatible plugins in the folders you specified in step 5 will show up under the Filters menu (*)

This was a new for me, and I’m quite happy as there was a couple of photoshop filters that I like to play with sometimes (just for fun, but still).

(*) For some odd reason, all my plugins appear under the sub-menu “Flaming Pear”, the creators of the first photoshop plugin I loaded into GIMP.

Fall colors

Originally uploaded by Vitor Rodrigues.

Peter Bowers

Peter Bowers is one of my favorite photographers on Flickr. His canoe nature shots are just amazing, and the proof of that is that this shot has been faved by more than 1000 people already and this one is close to reaching 2000 faves, probably the highest number ever reached on flickr. He has always been an inspiration for me since I found his flickr page more than one year ago. The most surprising thing about Peter? He is just an amateur photographer, with a regular job and taking pictures on his free time.

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure to attend a public lecture by Peter, where he explained some of his techniques, his inspiration and we even got to hear about some peculiar stories that can happen to any photographer, like encounters with bears or being gate-locked in a private property :-)

Peter showed 3 8-minute slideshows, and discussed a few shots from each show telling us the story and the technique behind it. Here are a few notes I got from the lecture and that may interest you if you are or want to be a nature photographer:

  • the most important piece of gear for landscape photography is the tripod. You don’t need expensive lenses or ultra-modern bodies… you need a sturdy tripod so you can get sharp images. Some of Peter’s shots were taken with his camera’s kit lens.
  • timing is very important, as the best light is before sunrise and after sunset. In a cold country like Canada, sacrifice is needed :-) Some of Peter’s extraordinary shots were taken at -20C, early in the morning for example.
  • Rule-of-Thirds and Near-Middle-Far rules should be used as guidelines and not strict rules.
  • The “secret” for most of Peter’s sunrise/sunset shots is a ND grad filter, from Sing-Ray. Using the ND grad filter he can get the perfect exposure for both the sky and land.
  • his favorite aperture if F11-F13, and he focus at 1/3 of the depth of field. With such a small aperture, a tripod and a long shutter speed, all the depth of field will be sharp.
  • be prepared to fail :-) Most of the days you will go out and won’t find any decent light to create your shots, so just try again in the future.
  • another thing I noticed in Peter’s lecture is that he likes remote places. Most of his shots are taken while doing canoe trips, and even in the city he likes to take his shots from places hard to get, to guarantee a unique perspective of the scene.

Overall, it was an excellent lecture, one of the many organized by TPMG, one of the biggest photography groups in the world if not the bigger, and from which I’m a proud member.

Here are some of my favorite shots from his pool:

Algonquin pond

Algonquin pond

community strikes back, part 2

After Digg had to deal with its users response to deleted entries from the system regarding the HD-DVD cracking key, not it is the time for Flickr to deal with a similar issue.

The summary: Rebecca found out that some of her work was being sold without her authorization and posted it on Flickr. Later, Flickr staff deleted her post and all the associated comments, and now the community is striking back, creating even more discussion topics about it. As an update, the “thieves” claimed that they were fooled to and didn’t know they were selling copyrighted work.

Toronto by Night

Originally uploaded by Vitor Rodrigues.

GIMP Perspective Clone Tool

Gimp 2.4 will have a new feature called Perspective Clonning. This tool is already available in Photoshop CS3 and it allows you to clone part of your picture maintaining the perspective distortion of the subject.

This feature was developed by Pedro Alonso as one of GIMP’s projects for Google Summer of Code, and you can find some video tutorials and examples on his website. I gave it a try, and the result was this:

 clonning 1

clonning 2

Very neat tool indeed!


Originally uploaded by SkyShaper.
I’m fascinated with some HDR pictures I have seen in Flickr in the last weeks. They are absolutelly beautiful!

For the ones who are not familiar with the technique, it consists of creating an image from multiple shots of the same subject taken with different exposures. This allows us to highlight the sadows and darken the highlights, giving an homogenous light source to the subject. The different exposed picture can be merged with Adobe Photoshop or Photomatix being the second one the most popular HDR tool.

It’s true that most of the times the resulting pictures don’t look real, but there have been some astonishing HDR pictures on the Flickr explore page lately.