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A few more pixels

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 at 9:20 pm

A few months ago I started to notice signs of age on my 24″ display, a solid colour was blotchy, as if the backlight was starting to fail. Oh well, it has given me over ten years of use.

I started to look into a replacement and quickly found that one division of the models is between gaming and non-gaming. For games there were displays with high refresh rates, though the colour range and accuracy wasn’t the best, but they did seem to be on the cheaper side of the scale. The other type typically used “professional” or something about colour in their name, but these were the ones that were coming up on top in reviews of displays for photo/video editing. A downside of the better quality was a higher price, but I got ten years out of the 24″ display, so I need to consider this a long term investment.

Something that I found disappointing was that most displays have settled on a 16:9 aspect ratio. My 24″ was 16:10 which meant a resolution of 1920×1200 pixels. If I got another 24″ display it would likely have a 16:9 aspect ratio which is a resolution of 1920×1080, but the reduction in height was not acceptable. In the 24″ size there were a few with a 2560×1440, yes this is 16:9 but it is greater in both dimensions, but I have briefly used a display of that size/resolution and I found that everything was too small. I know that these days scaling up the interface is a lot better than it used to be, but a 16:9 24″ display would still have a physcially smaller viewing area. This led me to 27″ displays which I found to be only available in 16:9 aspect ratio, but in three resolutions: 1920×1080, 2560×1440, and 3840×2160 (aka 4K). This was a Goldilocks scenario with one being a step down in resolution but larger physically, one that seemed just right, and the final one that was just overkill.

Now that I had a better idea of what type and size of display I wanted it was easier to locate reviews that covered those displays for photo editing. After balancing up the recommended models against price I decided on another Dell (the tipping point was finding a local store that was $200 cheaper than direct from Dell), then I sat on that decision for a while. There ended up being three Dell models I was considering, one released a few years ago, the current model which was similar in price to the earlier one but slightly less well reviewed, and the next model up from last year. My final choice was a UP2716D which I picked up just before Christmas and now my desk looks like this:

Switching to the 27" display

This is the end result of spending all of today of taking everything out, cleaning behind the desk and putting it all back in some kind of order. I do this every couple of years, each time I trying to keep it clean and organised for as long as possible. There are still some boxes to sort through, a tray is miscellaneous stuff and you don’t want to know what is in the drawers…

My old 24″ display had a card reader built into the side, this was very convenient whenever I wanted to transfer photos from my camera, such as when I took the above photo. For now I am using the portable reader that I keep in my camera bag, but I do have a reader in the cupboard that goes in a 3.5″ bay…

Another aside is that for the few days between my impulse purchase of a graphics card and getting the new display was that I was worried that I might have made a mistake. Most of the time the internet says that the maximum resolution of HDMI is 1920×1200, but then later versions of HDMI increased that. All I could find from Dell was that would be the maximum resolution if I used HDMI with the display I wanted to get, I would need to use DisplayPort to use the native 2560×1440 resolution. The new graphics card I got doesn’t have DisplayPort, it has HDMI, VGA, and DVI, so would I have to try to return it and get a different card? Maybe not as other internet searches led me to people listing what resolutions would work between various cards and displays. In the end it worked out fine, but the combination of poor or outdated documentation was annoying.

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A GPU for Lightroom

Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 11:57 am

In the four years since I last upgraded my windows desktop the only hardware change was that I had added hard drives for additional storage. On the software side it is also similar, except newer versions (Windows 10 instead of Windows 7, updated browsers, Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC, etc).

In mid 2015 when Lightroom introduced the ability to use the GPU my initial experience was negative as it broke the develop module. It was detecting the GPU in the onboard video, but was failing to use it properly. It turned out the solution was to install the Intel drivers instead of using the generic Microsoft ones. At the time there were people saying that unless you had a really high resolution display that you shouldn’t bother enabling the GPU, I didn’t notice a different either way so I left it enabled.

I don’t make panoramas that often, but I was glad that there is now merge functionality built into Lightroom, except when it fails. There was one panorama I was trying to merge earlier this year that would fail with an internal error, but it would succeed with the GPU disabled. I only had the default amount of memory allocated to the GPU, but increasing it didn’t help.

I haven’t played games for a long time so the onboard video was sufficient, but a small part of me started to wonder whether adding a graphics card with a decent GPU would be worthwhile. It doesn’t need to be a fancy gaming card, just something better enough than the onboard video.

Last Monday I went along to a Canon Collective workshop that was about shooting panoramas to make into little planets:

Federation Square

When performing the initial merge I found that it would again fail when using the onboard GPU, and then when the GPU was disabled Lightroom would max out the CPU and RAM, failing about half the time. So yesterday I picked up an Nvidia GTX 750 Ti graphics card, the second cheapest card available at local stores, but still rated around 450% better than the onboard GPU.

I don’t notice much difference while adjusting images, but based on what I see in task manager it is using less CPU and memory. However there is a big difference when merging images into the panorama. Where before it would take 15 minutes and all available memory, the same merge now takes around 3 minutes and about half the available memory. So a useful improvement.

The other thing that came out of the panorama workshop was the benefit of a tripod head that lets you pan independently of tilt. The Manfrotto 486RC2 ballhead that I use has one locking action, so to pan I used the kludge of rotating the tripod column. This isn’t ideal so on a whim I checked ebay, within 24 hours I had upgraded the ballhead to the (now discontinued) Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead. This also came with a spare quick release and plate, which I believe I can use to make an L bracket, which will be a post for another time…

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More buzzing in Ballan

Sunday, December 4th, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Last weekend I returned to Ballan for the second BuzzConf. There have been a few write ups, including one in The Guardian and another where it is referred to as BuzzConf 2.0. I disagree with that, Ben and Rick organised a better event than last year, but through a number of minor improvements, so it was BuzzConf 1.1…

My view is that there were two themes running through the weekend, one about what we need to do/change/build/learn in order to get to, and the another about using virtual or augmented reality technology. It was cool to have a quick play with a HoloLens as well as an HTV Vive. That technology is cool, but my feeling is that there are not (yet) many use cases for it.

The weekend was also full of many conversations about all sorts of things. It is from one of those that I got the thing that I am most excited about in the short term: that Alton Brown is bringing back Good Eats as an online series

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Clearing the backlog

Sunday, August 7th, 2016 at 9:58 pm

It has now been two years since I got back from my big US trip and started a new job. For the following year and a bit I rarely picked up my camera, but over the last nine or so months I have been making up for that with some travel, some photo walks, some photography meetups and other events.

Though those who follow me online will have seen more photos than that as for the past couple of months I have been spending a lot of time sorting through the post-processing photos in my todo folder.

This resulted in the following albums:

Looking back I didn’t realise how long this list would be, I makes be even happier that I have caught up.

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Printing big

Thursday, June 9th, 2016 at 10:09 pm

I have written before about how I print images, but I haven’t mentioned what I do with them once I get them back from the camera club competitions.

As they are images that I like and they are all the same size, I bought a number of 16×20″ frames so I could hang them up at home. I like the look of the simple black frame around the off-white mat board, and I have a few larger frames containing some other posters which includes Up Goer Five.

There were two locations that I wasn’t quite sure what would be best suited, in one spot a single 16×20″ seemed a bit lonely and in the other two 16×20″ images seemed two crowded. I realised that panorama images would work better. But what images and what frames?

It didn’t take me long to come up with the two images that would work:

Mechanical

Downtown behind

After playing around with the numbers I worked out that Mechanical could be printed at 21×10″ to go in a 28×16″ frame, and Downtown behind printed at 28×9″ for a 34×16″ frame. Then it was time to work out the various components…

The mat board comes in 40×36″ sheets and the last time I got some I had them cut them into quarters, much easier to handle and no further cutting required as that takes them down to the 16×20″ size. For the larger images I picked up a full sheet, cut it down the middle for the 16″ dimension, then cut those down for the 28″ and 34″ lengths.

The frames were also straightforward and I went down to the place where I got all of the other frames and ordered them. While they have 16×20″ at a standard size, they didn’t have what I wanted as a standard size, but a couple of weeks later (I was in no hurry) I picked them up. At the same time I also ordered a frame to fit the 12″x48″ Up Goer Five poster.

Printing the images involved a lot more research and thinking…

While I had previously printed both of these images, I had printed them on A3+ paper to be mounted on 16×20″ mat board. The A3+ paper is 13″ wide so that is sufficient, but the other dimension is 19″ which is too short. I briefly thought that I could get an A2 sheet that I could cut in half, but that would still only give me a 23″ length which isn’t enough.

So I started to investigate getting the images printed, but as well as the cost there is the uncertainty about the quality of the print. Until something made me think about roll paper which my printer supports.

A significant issue I would have with printing on roll paper is that my printer only supports paper up to a maximum 13″ width. Epson make roll paper at that size, but my preferred Ilford paper is only available in 17″ and up. I could cut the roll paper into smaller sections manually, but apart from being able to print these large panorama images would there be any cost benefit?

If I am printed for mounting on 16×20″ mat board I will leave at least a 2″ border. This means the largest visible image will be 12×16″, but bump that up to 13×17″ to allow for a generous overlap under the mat board.

Hmmm, 17″ is the width of the Ilford roll paper and 13″ is the maximum width of what the printer can take. The roll of paper is 27 metres long, so can be divided up into 81 and a bit sections. A price for a roll is $193 which translates to a per section price of $2.38. From the same place a box of A3+ paper (13×19″) is $57, that contains 25 sheets at $2.28.

So far the roll paper is looking like it would be both more expensive and less convenient.

Looking around I found another site that that has the roll paper on special, for a price that brings the cost down to $1.68. Even once postage was allowed for this is a small but significant saving, so I ordered a roll of paper.

I picked the paper up from the post office after work and I spent the evening printing and then mounting these images. I haven’t been able to get a decent photo of it, but I am quite pleased with the result.

The first image I printed myself for a camera club competition (after various test prints on different papers) was Mechanical, so it was a nice coincidence that it would also be the first print I did on the roll paper. Trimming the width of the first piece of paper was a bit of a juggle as I was cutting along a 24″ length but using a mat that is only 18″ wide. Working out where to set custom paper sizes in the print dialog also took a couple of minutes but once that was entered it was a straightforward matter of selecing the custom size, setting the dimensions of the image, centering it and then starting the print. It was a little bit nerve-wracking watching the print slowly appear, but it worked out.

I also increased the difficulty with mounting this image as I repeated the same treatment I had done previously which was to leave a 5mm border between the print and the mount. This means no overlap and the mount must be cut very accurately, but the final look is the image, 5mm of the white paper, the white core of the mat board on the 45°, the off-white of the mat board, then finally the black frame.

Printing Downtown behind was easier as I had already figured things out, and this time I had the mat board overlap the print, no ultra-precise cutting to leave a 5mm border.

Now that I have gone through all this effort I don’t know when I will next print an image larger than A3+, but it is now an option and once I have used up the last few sheets of A3+ I will be using sections cut from the roll…

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