Collection of Recommended Articles

Here are some articles that stuck with me long after I finished reading them. The Chameleon

On June 8th, an administrator rushed into the principal’s office. She said that she had been watching a television program the other night about one of the world’s most infamous impostors: Frédéric Bourdin, a thirty-year-old Frenchman who serially impersonated children. “I swear to God, Bourdin looks exactly like Francisco Hernandez Fernandez,” the administrator said.

Chadourne was incredulous: thirty would make Francisco older than some of her teachers. She did a quick Internet search for “Frédéric Bourdin.” Hundreds of news items came up about the “king of impostors” and the “master of new identities,” who, like Peter Pan, “didn’t want to grow up.” A photograph of Bourdin closely resembled Francisco—there was the same formidable chin, the same gap between the front teeth. Chadourne called the police.

“Are you sure it’s him?” an officer asked.

“No, but I have this strange feeling.”

This story is also the basis for the 2012 documentary The Impostor, currently on Netflix.


The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever.

They also refer to it as “The Incident” or “That Incredible Series.” It’s the only time anyone can remember a local recreational bowler making the sports section of the Dallas Morning News. One man, an opponent of Fong’s that evening, calls it “the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in a bowling alley.”

Bill Fong needs no reminders, of course. He thinks about that moment—those hours—every single day of his life.

Most people think perfection in bowling is a 300 game, but it isn’t. Any reasonably good recreational bowler can get lucky one night and roll 12 consecutive strikes. If you count all the bowling alleys all over America, somebody somewhere bowls a 300 every night. But only a human robot can roll three 300s in a row—36 straight strikes—for what’s called a “perfect series.” More than 95 million Americans go bowling, but, according to the United States Bowling Congress, there have been only 21 certified 900s since anyone started keeping track.


The Innocent Man, Part One & Part Two

On April 12, 1987, Michael Morton sat down to write a letter. “Your Honor,” he began, “I’m sure you remember me. I was convicted of murder, in your court, in February of this year.” He wrote each word carefully, sitting cross-legged on the top bunk in his cell at the Wynne prison unit, in Huntsville. “I have been told that you are to decide if I am ever to see my son, Eric, again. I haven’t seen him since the morning that I was convicted. I miss him terribly and I know that he has been asking about me.” Referring to the declarations of innocence he had made during his trial, he continued, “I must reiterate my innocence. I did NOT kill my wife. You cannot imagine what it is like to lose your wife the way I did, then to be falsely accused and convicted of this terrible crime. First, my wife and now possibly, my son! Sooner or later, the truth will come out. The killer will be caught and this nightmare will be over. I pray that the sheriff’s office keeps an open mind. It is no sin to admit a mistake. No one is perfect in the performance of their job. I don’t know what else to say except I swear to God that I did NOT kill my wife. Please don’t take my son from me too.”


Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant

Two teams of surgeons begin the procedure in tandem: one group carefully strips the donor’s face of every necessary component, while the other removes the damaged layers of tissue from the patient. "You have what is basically a mask from the donor and you bring that into the patient’s operating room," says Maria Siemionow, MD, who leads the Cleveland Clinic’s face transplant program. The next step is critical: surgeons hustle to reconnect the arteries and veins from that mask with the patient’s blood vessels. If they do it right, that white mask flushes with pink. "You don’t know until you see the blood coming back," Siemionow says. "That’s how you know the face is alive, and the surgery has worked."


A Murder Foretold

 Rodrigo Rosenberg knew that he was about to die. It wasn’t because he was approaching old age—he was only forty-eight. Nor had he been diagnosed with a fatal illness; an avid bike rider, he was in perfect health. Rather, Rosenberg, a highly respected corporate attorney in Guatemala, was certain that he was going to be assassinated.

This incredible true story would make a riveting Hollywood thriller.


The Case of the Vanishing Blonde

After a woman living in a hotel in Florida was raped, viciously beaten, and left for dead near the Everglades in 2005, the police investigation quickly went cold. But when the victim sued the Airport Regency, the hotel’s private detective, Ken Brennan, became obsessed with the case: how had the 21-year-old blonde disappeared from her room, unseen by security cameras? The author follows Brennan’s trail as the P.I. worked a chilling hunch that would lead him to other states, other crimes, and a man nobody else suspected.


Raising the Dead

Shaw touched down on the cave's sloping bottom well up from where Gomes had landed, clipped off the cave reel, and started swimming. There was no time to waste. Every minute he spent on the bottom—his VR3 dive computer said he was now approaching 886 feet—would add more than an hour of decompression time on the way up. Still, Shaw felt remarkably relaxed, sweeping his light left and right, reveling in the fact that he was the first human ever to lay line at this depth. Suddenly, he stopped. About 50 feet to his left, perfectly illuminated in the gin-clear water, was a human body. It was on its back, the arms reaching toward the surface. Shaw knew immediately who it was: Deon Dreyer, a 20-year-old South African who had blacked out deep in Bushman's ten years earlier and disappeared. Divers had been keeping an eye out for him ever since.

Shaw turned immediately, unspooling cave line as he went. Up close, he could see that Deon's tanks and dive harness, snugged around a black-and-tan wetsuit, appeared to be intact. Deon's head and hands, exposed to the water, were skeletonized, but his mask was eerily in place on the skull. Thinking he should try to bring Deon back to the surface, Shaw wrapped his arms around the corpse and tried to lift. It didn't move. Shaw knelt down and heaved again. Nothing. Deon's air tanks and the battery pack for his light appeared to be firmly embedded in the mud underneath him, and Shaw was starting to pant from exertion.

David Shaw's story was also featured on episode 515 of This American Life.


Higher, Colder, Deadlier

Mont Blanc is Western Europe’s tallest mountain, and the world’s deadliest. For four young English climbers—friends since boarding school, two of whom, Rob Gauntlett and James Hooper, had already become the youngest Britons to scale Everest—it held the promise of adventure, camaraderie, and escape from mundane worries. But on January 9, as the author reports, two of them plummeted nearly half a mile to a brutal death, leaving questions to be answered.


The Curse of Cow Clicker

So it’s ironic that Bogost’s breakout hit—the game that has made him a celebrity within his industry, attracted tens of thousands of players, and even earned him a bit of money—is a cynical trifle he whipped up in a matter of days. It’s a Facebook game called Cow Clicker, and it’s unlike anything Bogost ever made before, a borderline-evil piece of work that was intended to embody the worst aspects of the modern gaming industry. He meant Cow Clicker to be a satire with a short shelf life. Instead, it enslaved him and many of its players for much of the past 18 months. Even Bogost can’t decide whether it represents his greatest success—or his most colossal failure.


The Incredible True Story of the Collar Bomb Heist

At 2:28 pm on August 28, 2003, a middle-aged pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells walked into a PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. He had a short cane in his right hand and a strange bulge under the collar of his T-shirt. Wells, 46 and balding, passed the teller a note. “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000,” it said. “You have only 15 minutes.” Then he lifted his shirt to reveal a heavy, boxlike device dangling from his neck. According to the note, it was a bomb. The teller, who told Wells there was no way to get into the vault at that time, filled a bag with cash—$8,702—and handed it over. Wells walked out, sucking on a Dum Dum lollipop he grabbed from the counter, hopped into his car, and drove off. He didn’t get far. Some 15 minutes later, state troopers spotted Wells standing outside his Geo Metro in a nearby parking lot, surrounded him, and tossed him to the pavement, cuffing his hands behind his back.

Wells told the troopers that while out on a delivery he had been accosted by a group of black men who chained the bomb around his neck at gunpoint and forced him to rob the bank. “It’s gonna go off!” he told them in desperation. “I’m not lying.” The officers called the bomb squad and took positions behind their cars, guns drawn. TV camera crews arrived and began filming. For 25 minutes Wells remained seated on the pavement, his legs curled beneath him.


Art of the Steal: On the Trail of World’s Most Ingenious Thief

Carefully, Blanchard entered through the window he had unlocked the previous day. He knew there was a chance of encountering guards. But the Schloss Schönbrunn was a big place, with more than 1,000 rooms. He liked the odds. If he heard guards, he figured, he would disappear behind the massive curtains.

The nearby rooms were silent as Blanchard slowly approached the display and removed the already loosened screws, carefully using a butter knife to hold in place the two long rods that would trigger the alarm system. The real trick was ensuring that the spring-loaded mechanism the star was sitting on didn’t register that the weight above it had changed. Of course, he had that covered, too: He reached into his pocket and deftly replaced Elisabeth’s bejeweled hairpin with the gift-store fake.

Within minutes, the Sisi Star was in Blanchard’s pocket and he was rappelling down a back wall to the garden, taking the rope with him as he slipped from the grounds. When the star was dramatically unveiled to the public the next day, Blanchard returned to watch visitors gasp at the sheer beauty of a cheap replica. And when his parachute was later found in a trash bin, no one connected it to the star, because no one yet knew it was missing. It was two weeks before anyone realized that the jewelry had disappeared.


Adobe Lightroom 5 beta Advanced Healing Brush

A close-up look at Adobe Lightroom 5 beta's new Advanced Healing Brush. Although you can see a video from Adobe showing off Adobe Lightroom 5 betas's Advanced Healing Brush, I wanted to show some examples at 100% so we can really take a close look at this new tool. Often times I find a video will really show a new software feature but when you scrutinize it at 100% the results can be disappointing. First off, here's Adobe's video showing the new tool.

Now let's look at a real world example. One thing I often have to retouch is logos off of shoes. Take for example the NBA logo on these high tops. I'll first look at the side logo then the one on the tongue. The full image is first so you can see how close I'm working.

Black family photo
Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 1.34.14 PM

First I painted the area to be retouched and the results are below.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 beta Advanced Healing tool sample

The sampled selection does not match so I looked around the image for a better match. The other areas on the high-top didn't quite fit so I sampled from another shoe. Even though, the other shoe was a different color, and different texture, it was a better match because both areas were relatively smooth. The match is not perfect, and it's up to you if it done well enough. There is a mis-match of texture most noticeable on the right. Remember this is at 100% so when zoomed out, the texture will be less noticeable. This example illustrates that you can ignore color when looking for a sample area.

Lightroom 5 advanced healing brush example
Adobe Lightroom Advanced Healing Brush results

Now for a the logo on the tongue, a similar problem. Adobe Lightroom 5 beta again sampled from a nearby area that wasn't a good match, so I moved the sample to the top of the toe area. The sampled area has a crease which transferred to the new area.

Advanced Healing Brush in Adobe Lightroom 5 beta
Selection Change in spot Healing Tool of Lightroom
Advanced Healing Brush Results

It's a major advantage to be able to paint in a selection rather than be confined to a perfect circle. My first two efforts offered mix results but I'm still optimistic about their promise. For best results you will need a good area to sample, but that has always been the case. Adobe should be applauded for their efforts to improve the retouching tools in Lightroom even if they overlap with the features of their flagship program Photoshop.

Adobe Lightroom 4 vs Lightroom 5 Beta Benchmark Speed Test

Update: Now that the official version of Lightroom 5 is out, I've rerun the speed test and I can confidently state that exports and previews build at identical speeds in Lightroom 4 and Lightroom 5. Original Post Below

I've taken the opportunity to run some benchmarking test to find out if Lightroom 5 beta is faster or slower than Lightroom 4, specifically rendering 1:1 previews and jpeg exports. For my speed tests, my computer is a 2012 (unibody, non-retina) Macbook Pro 15″ quad-core 2.3ghz i7, 16GB RAM, and 5400rpm hard drive. My raw image files are from a Canon 5D Mark III. Time displayed in seconds, shorter is better.

Lightroom 4 vs Lightroom 5 beta speed tests


Rendering Previews were comparable but the exports were tremendously slower. I did not apply any adjustments to my files so I can't blame the new tools. I double checked my results. We can only hope that the final release of Lightroom 5 will be much faster when exporting images.

Another interesting feature of Adobe Lightroom 5 is the new Smart Previews. Smart Previews allow you to build 2540 pixel length previews that will work offline so you don't need to store all your files locally or carry around an external drive. You will need to build the Smart Previews before you take your original files offline. In my testing, Smart Previews build in a little over half the time as 1:1 previews, but remember at 2540 pixels on the long end, they would be half as long and a quarter of the area of the full 1:1 previews. The Canon 5d Mark III files are 5760 pixels on the long end.

From DPReview

How much space do you save? We're still running comparisons, but in a Lightroom 5 public beta test catalog containing 1100 raw files, the standard Previews.lrdata file (which contained 1:1 previews) took up 3.65GB of storage. We exported this same catalog of images using only Smart Previews and the resulting Smart Preview.lrdata file weighed in at a meager 420MB. The size of each Lightroom catalog (.lrcat) itself was essentially identical.

So Smart Previews would allow you to have about 8.5 times as many images locally versus raw images.

The Oscars Should Give Up

Although I did enjoy all the movies up for 2013 Academy Awards Best Picture, nothing quite stole my heart this year. I was surprised by Silver Linings Playbook and I have a soft spot for David O'Russell, but I wasn't head over heels for it. Django was great but not as good as Inglorious Bastards or Kill Bill. Argo, the winner, was hampered down by sappy Hollywood cliche. The best movie I saw last year was Bellflower but that was released in 2011. I have to wonder how long the Oscars will matter? The whole affair seems like a relic and I'm waiting for something to kill it. For lack of a better idea, how about an American Idol type show with viewers picking the winner. Yeah, I know, that means Bieber wins every category but so what? Was I the only one who hated, hated, hated, Forest Gump and could't get through Dances With Wolves? Gladiator? Lord of the Rings? Titanic? Good Grief.

Apple as Censor

Apple has pulled the iOS app 500px from the App Store. Here is Apple statement:

"The app was removed from the App Store for featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines. We also received customer complaints about possible child pornography. We’ve asked the developer to put safeguards in place to prevent pornographic images and material in their app."

I'm not sure what "possible child pornography" means. The developers claim they were told their app easily allowed users to search for nude photos. A forth coming app update will apparently rectify the matter. It will be interesting to see how the update will fulfill Apple's guidelines. The developers claim they already pull any pornographic material but do allow for artistic nudes.



DP Review's Raw Converter Showdown

DP Review compares Lightroom 4, Capture One Pro 7, and DxO Optics Pro 8. I'm surprised by inclusion of DxO Optics Pro and saddened at the exclusion of Apple's Aperture. The article compares many aspects of the raw converters but ultimately concludes it's up to the user to decide what is most important. I've never used DxO Optics Pro and don't know anyone who does. Capture One Pro I've always found difficult to use, although it's speed is impressive. For now, I'm sticking with Adobe Lightroom because of it's cataloguing, key wording, workflow, retouching, and plug-in architecture.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters LACMA Screening

The documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters is having it's lone screening in Los Angeles at LACMA  January 24th at 7:30pm. Crewdson is know for his large scale portraits of small town America. His extraordinary productions could be mistaken for film sets as he uses full scale production crews and cinematic lighting techniques. Tickets are available to purchase online here. Apparently Gregory Crewdson and filmmaker Ben Shapiro will be at the screening.

Adobe Lightroom 4 Performance Comparison with 4GB and 16GB of RAM

Adobe Lightroom 4 can be a real resource hog and so it’s worth taking a look at your hardware to see how you can improve performance. I’ll be testing 1:1 preview rendering and jpeg exports on a mid 2012 MacBook Pro quad 2.3ghz unibody machine. First the machine was tested with the stock 4GB of RAM and then later with 16GB installed. Here are the results. chart 4gb vs 16 gb ram lightroom 4

Lightroom is showing about a 10% increase in speed performance comparing 4GB to 16GB of RAM. Perhaps not a very significant performance gain in preview renders and jpeg exports. However, as I detailed before, increased RAM does allow you to run more programs along side Lightroom 4, such as Adobe Photoshop, and it does allow you to work for much longer before needing to restart. The increased RAM will also store your recently accessed Lightroom previews so those will load quickly.

This test machine had a traditional 5400rpm spinning hard drive which I opted for the increased capacity. If your wondering about an SSD drive, you may want to read this detailed post which determines that SSD drives have a marginal impact when rendering previews with Lightroom. Although an SSD drive will help with scrolling through thumbnails in the grid mode.

In short, more RAM will improve the overall usability of Lightroom 4 but performance benchmarks are not the best measure of those gains.

How Much RAM Does Lightroom 4 Use?

I’ll cut straight to the chase, Adobe Lightroom 4 will use all available memory in a MacBook Pro, although how much you need depends on your workflow. Now for the long answer. Using Activity Monitor on Mac OSX and running Lightroom 4, I monitored how much RAM was free or used. You can read about Activity Monitor on Apple’s website, but I’ll give a quick synopsis. The pie chart represents the computers total RAM, red and yellow is used and unavailable, respectively. Green is free and available. Blue is recently used but available. In brief, red and yellow is bad, but green and blue are good.


One thing I learned from observing Activity Monitor is how much page outs reflected my Mac’s performance. Page outs happen when RAM is not available, and so the operating system chooses to write information to the hard drive. There was often page outs whenever my Mac would get sluggish or show the dreaded spinning beach ball of death. In my case, I also observed that page outs would occur even if there was inactive (blue) RAM which should be free to use. Page out were minimized only when there was plenty of free (green) RAM. More on this later.


Let’s look at Lightroom 4 with 4GB of RAM installed on a 2012 MacBook Pro core i7 2.3ghz. After a half hour of running Lightroom 4 and iTunes, 1GB of RAM was available, plus there was already 179 MB of page outs. Over the course of a day and a half, I ran Lightroom 4 along side Photoshop, Safari, Mail, and iTunes. Out of 4GB of RAM installed, just 500MB were free, but the real sign of insufficient RAM is the whopping 4.77 GB of page outs.

activity monitor 4gb ram

Lightroom 4 did run okay during this time. Yes it did occasionally get sluggish but I never felt compelled to shut down and restart. Contrast this with my 2009 Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro which had 8GB of RAM but was nearly unusable with Lightroom 4. This is where RAM only tells half the story. Apparently, you can get by with less RAM if your processors are speedy.


Now let’s look at the same 2012 MacBook Pro core i7 2.3 ghz with 16GB of RAM. After a full day of using Lightroom 4 along with several other programs, the Mac still had 4GB of free memory and only had 48 KB of page outs. After 5 days, the Mac was down to just 100 MB of free memory and wrote 2.3 MB of page outs. Lightroom 4 ran very well during this time. In the Lightroom develop module, I applied brushes and gradients in an attempt invoke slow downs but performance was quite snappy.

activity monitor 16gb ram


When running Lightroom 4, viewing many full screen previews will consume nearly all available memory. I was able to quickly use 13GB of RAM scanning through 500 full screen previews in 30 minutes. It seems that Lightroom will store recently viewed previews in RAM. This is a good scenario, since Lightroom can quickly grab those previews out of memory should they be needed again.

Activity monitor 16gb ram at start up

Mac activity monitor 16gb ram

So, on one hand, 16GB of RAM will greatly reduce the sluggishness that occurs during page outs and will allow you to work without restarting for much longer. However, cycling through a few hundred previews will quickly consume most of 16GB of RAM and likely much more if available.


In my observation, Lightroom will take full advantage of any available RAM on a MacBook Pro. The more previews you load, the more RAM is used. 16GB of RAM allowed Lightroom 4 along with several other programs to run for several days. With 4GB of RAM, Lightroom ran well but did exhibit occasional sluggishness. But on an older system, a Core 2 Duo machine, 8GB of RAM did not overcome the aging processors. Apply these observations to your own experience to determine your purchasing. I recommend at least a quad core Mac, then as much as RAM as you can reasonably purchase. It's my observation that the processors are much more important than RAM.

These are subjective conclusions based on my experience using very limited test machines. I’ve made some conclusions about memory and page outs based on observing Activity Monitor. I did not give a hard answer to the question, “How much RAM does Lightroom need?,” because it depends on your own work habits and what processors are in your Mac. A new Mac with a faster processor can run Lightroom 4 smoother than an older Mac with more memory. Feel free to send me any insightful comments via email.

AquaTech Sound Blimp for Canon Review

AquaTech Sound Blimp for Canon 5d Mark II I recently used the new AquaTech sound blimp SBC-5D for Canon 5D Mark II. The blimp is a departure from the long standard Jacobson blimp. The Jacobson blimp is a box and the AquaTech blimp is a form fitting case like a large firm glove around the camera. Overall, the AquaTech sound blimp is a pleasure to use. It looks and feels like an oversized DSLR. The hand straps allow for comfortable hand holding of the body, and the contoured shape is easy to grip.

The body has four points of control: the shutter release button, a rear playback button, the rear dial, and the back button (the asterisk or star button typically used for AE lock or focus lock.) The shutter button is a large fat button in the expected spot. It triggers the shutter via an internal release cable. It surprisingly requires a very firm press to trigger. It would be great to have the button be easier to press to help minimize camera shake. The playback button works great. It’s a metal button on the back that pushes through the case and presses the camera's playback button to review images. The back of the case has a rear window fitted for the lcd so you don’t lose the ability to review images when your camera is encased in the sound blimp. The rear dial first requires a press in motion before it will engage. This is to prevent accidentally changing your aperture. A clever design and it works well. The rear dial can cycle through images when in playback mode.

One great benefit of the AquaTech sound blimp is the lens barrels will zoom your lens when spun. This is a huge advantage in the field if you might need to change your focal length, and allows various crops of your subject if your stuck in one spot while shooting. Attaching the lens barrel is as simple as spinning it onto the body. To remove, a slight pull is required with an unscrewing motion.

I found attaching and removing the lens from the camera difficult. You can not pull or push the lens through the opening so you must remove and attach the lens each time. To attach the lens, you must first insert the camera to the AquaTech body then attach the lens around the front. This means of course your shutter is exposed. Around the lens opening, there is some padding and the fit is tight to get a lens through. To remove the lens, it’s difficult to press the lens release button on the camera. This is a design trade-off of having a fitted sound blimp body. The difficulty in attaching and removing the lens needs to be considered when planning a shoot. If you need to change lenses or remove your camera from the blimp, then plan on taking time or have an extra body and lens combination. Also, consider that noise is made when opening the sound blimp and removing body.

The camera shutter noise is not perfectly silent when shooting photos in the AquaTech sound blimp. It is muffled. If your expecting complete silence, you’ll be disappointed. However, I’ve used the camera on a film set and it was more than adequate. At a certain distance, the noise is barely perceptible.

Note the Canon 5D Mark III body will fit in AquaTech’s sound blimp for the 5D Mark II. You will lose two controls, the rear dial and the back button because they do not align. I typically use the back button for focus, so not having that button means using the shutter button for focus. The playback button works normally, but the window for the lcd is off center and will slightly crop into your viewable image. Not having the rear dial, means you can’t change aperture or review images past your last shot. If you want to use the 5D Mark III, it is perfectly workable in this housing.

In brief, The AquaTech sound blimp is a winner and a much welcomed product. The comfort, ease of use, controls, and ability to zoom lenses is a huge relief to photographers needing a sound blimp.


Lightroom 3 vs Lightroom 4 Benchmarking Previews and Export

I previously ran benchmark tests comparing Adobe Lightroom 4 performance between a mid 2009 MacBook Pro and a mid 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro. It’s worth going back and seeing the difference in performance between Adobe Lightroom 3 and 4.1. Again, I will benchmark time to render 100 1:1 previews and export 100 jpegs from a Canon 5D. The tests were run on a mid 2012 non-retina unibody MacBook Pro 2.3 core i7 and again on a mid 2009 unibody MacBook Pro 2.66 Core 2 Duo. Benchmark chart lightroom macbook pro

Lightroom Export jpegs Benchmarks chart

In my test, Lightroom 4.1 is slower than Lightroom 3 but less so with the newer processor. On the 2009 MacBook Pro, Lightroom 4 is 15-18% slower than Lightroom 3, but on the new 2012 model Lightroom 4 is only 10% slower in these benchmarks. I’m not sure why this is the case especially considering the new 2012 model has only 4GB of RAM.

These test measure the performance of preview rendering and exports, but what about the general performance of Lightroom 3 vs Lightroom 4? I know that with my 2009 Macbook Pro, the Develop module was rather useless once any brushes or retouching tools were used. The machine would hang to a halt. On the 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro, these tools keep up with my speed of work.

So if you have upgraded to Lightroom 4 and it feels slow, you are correct. Upgrading to a newer hardware will surely help. Going back to Lightroom 3 wasn't an option for me because Canon 5D Mark III files do not process in Lightroom 3.

If your curious to see how your machine compares, please read my previous post on how I set up my benchmarking test.

MacBook Pro Mid 2012 vs 2009 Lightroom 4 Benchmarks

My mid 2009 15" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo was chugging along just fine and I was not thinking about an upgrade. That quickly changed when I upgraded to Adobe Lightroom 4 to process my Canon 5D Mark III raw files. Suddenly I was getting tons of hangups and rendering previews and exporting files were taking forever. The worst was the develop module of Lightroom 4 which was nearly unusable. Any brush or clone edits would grind my MacBook Pro to a halt. So it was time for a new machine. I was tempted by the Apple's new Retina Macbook Pro but the I couldn’t justify the higher price. At first glance, they are priced $400 over the non-retina counterparts but after outfitting it to my needs with more RAM and a larger flash drive or portable external drive, the price quickly soars. So the next generation MacBook Pro will have to wait until next time when flash drives are larger and more affordable. I wrote about the Retina MacBook Pro previously.

I opted for the base model 15" 2.3ghz because I didn’t think there is a big performance gap between 2.3ghz and 2.6ghz. MacWorld has some good speed comparisons.

I ran some benchmark test between the two machines, namely 1:1 preview rendering and exporting jpegs. Here’s how I set it up if you want to compare. Reboot the Mac. Make a new clean Lightroom catalog. Import 100 raw files. No develop setting are applied. Select all, then go to Library>;Previews>;Discard 1:1 previews, just in case Lightroom has built any previews. Then, select all, Library>;Render 1:1 Previews. Start timing. At the top you can see the progress bar. Stop timer when text underneath progress bar says Task Completed.

For the exports, select 100 images. Export to internal hard drive. No file renaming. File setting are jpegs at 100 quality, sRGB color space, no image resizing, 300 dpi, no output sharpening. Click export and begin timing. Stop timer when complete. (You’ll hear a pop sound if you have not changed general preferences.) Repeat to check your results. Here are the results for Canon 5D Mark III as well as the original Canon 5D. Version Lightroom 4.1. The older machine is a mid 2009 15" MacBook Pro 2.66ghz Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 5400rpm Hard drive. The newer Mac is a 15" quad-core 2.3ghz i7, 4GB RAM, 5400rpm hard drive.

Benchmark chart Adobe Lightroom 4 MacBook Pro mid 2009 vs mid 2012

A three years difference in models gains about 2.5 times increase in performance. Note that the new machine has only 4GB RAM while the older Mac has 8GB. When I upgrade the RAM in the new Mac, I’ll add those comparisons to see any differences.

One thing this chart does not indicate is how the develop module performs. I said earlier my main gripe of my old machine was dealing with Lightroom 4’s sluggish develop module. I couldn’t figure out a way to benchmark the develop module. I can tell you that I haven’t seen any spinning beach balls and everything is moving along quickly.

One surprise of the data was that previews and exporting times for the larger Mark III files compared to the original 5D files are only 20% slower. I was expecting a bigger difference since the Mark III files are twice the size.

In the near future I will test the speed difference between Lightroom 3 and 4.

Ice Trucker Alex Debogorski's Junk Car Collection

At the end of 2011, I was fortunate enough to travel to Yellowknife Canada to help photograph the ice road trucker Alex Debogorski. Alex is a behemoth of a man and has a personality to match. He is has a mighty strength, enormous crushing hands, and a bellowing free flowing chuckle. Ice Road Truckers is a documentary style show on the History Channel. Yellowknife was the farthest north I’ve ever traveled. It’s located 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Of course, it was super cold and the sun barely rose over the horizon during the day. The town is fairly industrial and the people are very friendly.

While on Alex’s property, he gave us a tour of his collection of broken down vehicles. There must have been 100 vehicles on his property. The collection consisted mostly of classic American cars from the 1970's, trucks from the 50's, and a variety of construction vehicles and busses. Alex loved these old rotting vehicles.

rusty tailgateOld GMC truckjunk truckjunk cadillacjunk yard vehiclejunk car snowrusty car frontold suburban wagonrusted classic carchrysler in snowsnow prints on carold ford car rustednorthern lights canada

 Also, I took a shot of the northern lights. The long exposure gave a deep blue sky and greenish lights. In person, it looked like fast moving wispy clouds because the visibility wasn’t ideal. So what you see here is much more dramatic than in person.

El Segundo Plaza Dusk Shoot

Baby Bird Productions asked me to shoot some basic store front properties for one of their clients, Federal Realty’s premiere properties at El Segundo Plaza. This means an early morning shoot to capture what looks nice in the morning light, then taking a break midday through the high sun, and then in the later hours shooting the buildings that look great in the evening light. The best part of the shoot was the fact that they wanted a dusk shot in the evening. I chose a composition featuring the restaurant Marmalade Cafe and the Mac store since it was in a good spot for late light to skim the front, and architecturally pleasing. First I prepared by selecting an angle well in advance, then I staked out my space in the parking lot and waited for the sky to turn a rich deep blue. From then on it was a matter or waiting and bracketing. I did ask a couple of shoppers walking out to their cars if they could drive in front of me so I could be sure to have some trail lights in the foreground. The few people I asked were happy to oblige. After shooting the dusk image, I ventured over to El Segundo Plaza's The Edge area for a night shot. All the light in the sky was gone by then so it was purely black. The area was well lit enough that I could still make a nice image with a long exposure. During the editing, I chose an image of the restaurant that had a balance of deep rich sky and night lights on the building. I composited some trail lights from another image in the foreground. A night time image from The Edge was a straight capture. Thankfully, it all worked out and Baby Bird Productions and Federal Realty were happy.

El Segundo Plaza architecture dusk photo
long exposure night architecture

Above, Marmalade Cafe and Mac store. Below, El Segundo Plaza's The Edge district.

Fun Find Using Google Image Search

With so many stock photos sold, it’s impossible for me to track their usage. When I do find out about there usage is usually through one of the models from the shoot. Someone they know will see the image, recognize the model, then the model will forward the link to me. There is a better way to find images. I heard about Google’s image search and decided to run some of my stock photos through it to find them on the web. You may be familiar with searching for an image by typing in text in the search box but you may not know that you can also drop in an image and Google will try to find that image across the web. I tried this with a few of my stock images. Most of my stock images I found were the typical use scenario I expected, but one did strike me as quite unordinary. I photographed a biker and a scraggly man and released the images as stock. I was curious to see how they were ever used. I found them on a post at Aviary. They were humorously mixed with an image of Emma Watson of Harry Potter in an “emergency sexandectomy.” I think it’s something you just have to see to understand.

Emma Watson

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american biker portraitscraggly man

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Emma Watson Sex Change



And the video showing how it was made.

Oh my! Needless to say, I could never have imagined this use scenario and I’m glad I took the time to search. The bottom of the post explains the composite was not done in Photoshop but in Aviary’s web tool. Also if you want to search for any of your images through Google’s image search click the camera at the end of the search box then upload a pic or drop in a url of a hosted file. Unfortunately, although I was able to find many instances of the original Emma Watson image, I could not find the original source to give credit to the photographer.