A Photo Tour of Solvang California

The village of Solvang is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, famous for it’s cool climate wines, such as Pinot Noir and Syrah. But Solvang does not follow the local motifs of Spanish Colonial or Cow Town styles. Instead it focuses on it’s Danish heritage. The results are interesting, amusing, and sometimes a bit jarring.Solvang-1

Let’s start with the local Tourist Info building. A whimsical theme is not uncommon in such structures, and this one is certainly attractive. And it sets the theme clearly here: the signs simply says “Solvang, Danish Village”. Got it?

Solvang-2

The theme is pervasive throughout the public sections of town, and even the residential neighborhoods tend to follow suit. Here is Atterdag Square. Sounds Danish to me. But I don’t think thats exactly the type of windmill Hans Christian Anderson might have written about…Solvang-3

Here are some solid, well built structures. I bet the fruit and nut trees aren’t in full bloom in Denmark in early February, and that the temperature isn’t in the 80s° (27°-30°C).Solvang-4

Another set of lovely buildings, forming an inviting courtyard. Most courtyards in California look like they are part of a Spanish Mission. This is a nice change.Solvang-5

Hotels of all price ranges go in for the Danish theme in a big way. I suspect the Danish flag is a foot higher than the US flag here… but that might be lens distortion…Solvang-6

First of many windmills, of the European, not Wild West, variety. I’m pretty sure “Charcuterie” isn’t a Danish word, or food, but there is a broader “anything European” theme, that includes a fair amount of Frace, Italy, and Switzerland. I had a sorbetto…Solvang-7

Again, lovely buildings, though the half-timbered effect gets a bit old; and towers; I suspect the tower-to-building ratio is higher in Solvang than anywhere in Denmark!Solvang-8

This is a handsome structure with a bit less kitch. The non-contrasting half timbers are a subtler touch, and the round top dormers.Solvang-9

The Little Mermaid Restaurant… I was waiting for her to make an appearance. I wonder if this is a sushi place?Solvang-10

A typical street lined with typical Faux-Danish buildings. Considering what most such commercial streets in the US look like, its hard to criticize this.Solvang-11

Hamlet is no more real than the Little Mermaid, but this is FantasyLand, so inventions of British Playwrights are allowed.Solvang-12

Santa’s Village! To be fair, if you are running a soft-serve ice-cream shop, in a town that mandates Pseudo-Danish exteriors, this is a clever twist. Twist… did you get that one?Solvang-13

I would have loved to have watched the Holiday Inn Architectural Team reading the design requirements, and attempting to manage some HI Express branding, while going for Danish!

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Towers, towers, everywhere. And the more carefully detailed ones are quite lovely.Solvang-15

Solvang, home of the Danish Bopper. The mandated form does clash with the real-world content, sometimes.Solvang-16

And the California climate shows through in places. I’m glad building standards did not require felling these beautiful palms.Solvang-17

And here we have it: the first Viking reference. I was expecting it sooner. Kind of a Cigar Store Indian, with modifications.Solvang-18

Jutland? I’ll buy that. After all Danish and Dutch are really just German with more “Js” right?Solvang-19

Lovely weathervane. Not sure just which children’s story it alludes to. Also of note: the crixes holding down the asphalt architectural “thatching”. But my favorite detail: the stork’s nest. There are a number around town, but this is the most nicely detailed.Solvang-20

Not the Moulin Rouge, but I’ll go along with a windmill on a microbrew pub. Could come in handy for milling all that barley, right?Solvang-21

Some effort was put into the detailing here, from the gunstock timbers on the overhung facade, to the diagonal gable “timbers” to the reverse dutch-sliced roof. Every so often I get a stray whiff of “House of the Seven Gables”.Solvang-22

Mexico gets three dishes, France one, Holland one (if they actually invented Hollandaise sauce) and we’ll allow beer as Danish.Solvang-23

I am unaware of the relationship of Denmark to Romania, but in the European Union, I assume they are welcome to come set up shop…Solvang-24

Even the public restrooms must be in theme! Here they have saved the cost of wooden false half timbers, and just drawn them into the stucco.Solvang-26

Jule Hus. We’ll assume this is like Yule Log, with the Northern love of “Js”. So the Danish/Californian version of that special corner of Hell: The Christmas Tree Shop, where Christmas lasts all year long.Solvang-27

Indeed, look at those poor elves slaving away inside!Solvang-28

I’m not sure what flavor of Father Christmas/Santa Claus/SintaKlaus/ChristmasTroll is used in Denmark, but the double image of these somewhat European-looking Santas, with the somewhat European-looking buildings in the reflection sums things up quite nicely.Solvang-29

Tasteful, and tasty, and they do go out of their way to incorporate European elements into the treats. Marzipan anyone?Solvang-30

If you find this all so charming that you must move here immediately, this is your first stop. The classic clock does blend nicely, though I’ve seen these clocks blend into every historic style in America.

Solvang-31

Another tasteful tower, this time with Chinese food!Solvang-32

I must interject that, despite the urban sound of Subway’s name, the Italian (Subway) sandwich was invented in Maine. A fine mix we have here.Solvang-33

Copenhagen Drive-Thru Liquor! Somehow I suspect this is the image that Danes will find most amusing, and will pass around on the internet. Photo credit please!Solvang-34

Home of fine Danish Olive Oils. But actually, a few miles up the valley is Los Olivos; this is olive growing heaven. And a hardware store! I love seeing real nuts-and-bolts businesses surviving in touristy downtowns, offering the things residents actually need.Solvang-37

Lots of great detailing here. The bells were chiming while I was there, and it does take me right to Europe to hear them. Why are American bells percussive, while European bells are melodic?Solvang-38

An actual, not mythical Dane is finally referenced!Solvang-39

We’re on a roll, with a second real, if overplayed, Dane.Solvang-40

Let’s take Nordic in the broader, Scandinavian meaning, not more stringent, Norwegian meaning. And style points for the great Scandinavian Dragons! And the strong Stave Church references!Solvang-41

More good solid detailing.Solvang-42

Oops… a reference to the Danish Alps, it would appear… or the wider European theme.Solvang-43

And another windmill. This town might be a great place for flying video drones. Right through the holes the windmill blades, if you’re a daredevil flyer.Solvang-44

More Stave Church detailing. And bigger Dutch Slice Roofs.Solvang-45

But California does show through in the foregrounds and backgrounds, in places.Solvang-46

A primer in how to breakdown a blocky three story building into human elements.Solvang-47

And look at the richness of the detailing here. Wow…Solvang-48

It was bound to happen, a shrine to HCA. There were Asian tourists posing while sticking their fingers up his nose, as I waited my turn to shoot the sculpture.

Solvang-49

Does this mean Elon Musk is Danish? Or that the Beefeaters vacation in Denmark? Or that the Danes love the Wizard of Oz?

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C. David Tobie: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and its effects on Photo and Video Editors

IceSculpture

Recent studies have found a new type of light sensor in the eye, in addition to the rods and cones we are familiar with for color, and black and white vision. This type of sensor has nothing to do with vision, but may have a big impact on photographers and videographers, as it relates to a condition commonly seen in those who edit images for a living. This article will describe that condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), its symptoms and its triggers, as well as offering suggestions to avoid SAD when doing photo and video editing work under controlled light conditions. Lets take a look at how SAD works.

Imagine that you are a caveman (or woman) who had been wandering the wilds for the last several months. Now it is the cold or rainy season, and you are staying in your cave, near the fire. In order to conserve energy, and help you make it through this season, your body triggers the “hibernate” signal, and several things happen.

First, you start craving carbohydrates. And the carbs that you eat start forming more fat than in other circumstances. This adds both insulation, and extra energy storage. You become more lethargic, with reduced energy, increased sleep cycles, even reduced libido. These changes allow you to stay in the cave, instead of feeling the urge to wander the countryside looking for more food, etc. This describes what happens, but it is also important to understand how it is caused.

The newly discovered sensors are simply luminance detectors, involved in setting our day/night cycle, but also our seasonal cycle. If multiple days go by without high light levels, then the detectors produce chemicals that are key to the hibernation response. There are other factors, though how they interact with the light level sensors is complex. Getting generous amounts of physical exercise also assists in avoiding the hibernations response, as does keeping mentally active and happy.

We still inhabit Stone Age bodies, and these responses are still lurking inside us. It would be easy to think of SAD as a medical condition afflicting some small percentage of humankind. But research seems to indicate otherwise. In the more northerly regions of Scandinavia, where there is little or no sun for months at a time in the winter, virtually all residents show symptoms of SAD. In the year-round sunshine of Southern California, on the other hand, most people aren’t aware of SAD ever triggering.

But SAD is not just for those arctic Scandinavians. Large areas of Northern Europe and the Northern West Coast of North America, while much warmer than the Arctic, are still very gray for months on end. This also increases incidences of SAD.

Now lets move on to the specific jobs of interest: those who spend much of their time in the low-light environments ideal for work on color calibrated displays, typically editing photos or video. It is easy during the shorter winter days to start work before the sun is high, and stay at it until it drops again. Unfortunately, this may be what triggers SAD. First, our eyes are not getting the bright sunlight that keeps the luminance sensors from triggering, plus we are not getting much exercise or physical activity. So we may find that we are gaining a bit of weight, feeling less inclined to go to the gym, and generally not being as active.

Medical options are available for SAD treatment, such as high-luminance daylight balanced light sources. It is important to be quite close to very bright light sources to reach the required dose, so don’t think that replacing the ceiling fluorescent tubes with daylight balanced bulbs will do the trick. But once you are aware of the issue, in many areas there is enough sun, on enough days, to use that as your therapy light source. Those places too gray, or too close to the Arctic Circle, will require artificial light sources instead.

Notice that it is short doses of high level sunlight that are the key here. So while working in a dim editing environment may be the problem, increasing the room lighting while you work is not the solution. That will make your editing environment less effective, while never reaching the brightness levels needed to avoid SAD. So think of SAD treatment, in the form of light and exercise, as something to be done in small doses on breaks, and especially at lunchtime, rather than something that requires changing your all-day work environment.

The best prescription for avoiding SAD turns out to be in-line with the best advice for healthy computer work in general:

  • Take frequent breaks; and by breaks, this means getting up and moving. Don’t eat your lunch in front of your screen.
  • Alternate sitting and standing. If you can’t do your editing work standing, then perhaps you can set up a laptop on a higher surface for other tasks such as email.
  • Get out in sunny locations for at least one longer session in the brightest part of the day. Ideally get outside and exercise at this time. If not possible, consider SAD lights as an alternative.
  • See that the others working in your environment are also aware of SAD, and the value of these methods to avoid its onset, as well as to improve health and energy levels in general. Happy Editing!

C. David Tobie

Changes to Lightroom Licensing: Adobe’s Other Shoe Drops

Lightroom Classic-1.jpg

Adobe created a tempest in a teapot when they announced the subscription plans for most Adobe applications. Due to the heavy resistance amongst photographers, they crafted a special plan, at a very tempting rate, that offered just Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for $9.99 per month. That was enough to mollify many photogs, and over time, some of those who dragged their feet initially have joined this custom subscription plan. Life moved on.

However, I still run into photographers, ones who think nothing of buying the latest premium lens or camera body, who are still in the “I want to buy it, and own it forever” camp. Forever isn’t actually forever, but the sentiment is still the same. One very advanced photographer/videographer recently told me that he’s fine with his now-outdated purchased copy of Lightroom, and that it seems Adobe is going to continue supporting new cameras for it, so that’s all he needs.

Enter AdobeMAX 2017. Amongst the spectacle and the visual fireworks, came the announcement of this year’s product lineup, which contained a few fireworks of its own. The for-purchase version of Lightroom will no longer be updated, and at some point in the near future will not longer be sold. Anyone paying attention would have realized that this other shoe was bound to drop before much longer, so in that sense, this is not surprising.

On the other hand, it is inevitable that those who have been making do with the now outdated standalone software would be upset, and a second hullabaloo would ensue. I’m sure Adobe has been expecting it, though certainly not looking forward to it, just as they were well prepared for the initial explosion when the subscription model was introduced. I can envision their experts warning them to hunker down, weather it, not respond to incendiary posts, and all would be for the best in the long run.

I’ve read my share of those incendiary posts, and they have been educational, both in expressing other views on the process, and in highlighting the pain-points in the transition.

One thing that came into focus while reading them was that there was a similar sea-change made, not that long ago; not by Adobe, but by Apple. Remember when Final Cut turned into Final Cut X, with an interface borrowed from Apple’s consumer product, iMovie? And a number of critical features were suddenly missing? Well, that’s not so different from Adobe’s new version of Lightroom CC, which is simplified, offers some web advantages, and has been provided with a much larger cloud storage limit, but which has many limitations not present in the previous version of Lightroom CC.

If the Final Cut model is followed, eventually some of those features will be reinstituted, but its important to think about why both these companies made changes that they were aware would upset their user-base. In both cases, a larger audience was developing, one outside the current professional base; one that needed an easier interface and other simplifications. And the answer, in both cases, was a new, simpler to use application.

But what of the old user-base? In Apple’s case, some hung on, and regained needed feature over time, but many migrated upsteam, to Adobe’s products, to differentiate themselves from the new amateur users. In the case of Lightroom CC, there is no crisis here, the previous application has not (at least at this point in time) been discontinued; it has simply been renamed.

We could ponder the psychology of the quick switch Adobe has pulled: a new, reduced feature, cloud-centric app with the name of the old app: Lightroom CC. And a new, less than flattering name, for the previous app: Lightroom Classic. We’ll hope that the new Lightroom CC will not suffer the fate of the New Coke, but that example is not without value, because Coca-Cola’s method of walking back the failure of New Coke was to introduce a product… wait for it… called: Coke Classic.

Clearly Adobe needed the full strength of the plain, unadjusted Lightroom CC name for the new product. And just as clearly they needed to create a perception that the previous product, with its more advanced feature set, was not an innately superior option, so could not be called Lightroom Plus, Lightroom Pro, or anything else that implied a lack in the new cloud-based version. So, the professional photographers, in addition to all the other indignities they have suffered in the declining pro photo market, were saddled with Lightroom Classic. I can almost envision a tag line to go with it “Lightrooom Classic, for the Good Old Boys.”

So what does this all mean to the good old boys? Those currently paying their $9.99 subscription price each month can pretty much ignore the new Lightroom CC, continue using The Real Lightroom, as well as Photoshop, store their huge hoard of images locally, take care of their own remote backups, and in general, do what they have been doing for the last few years. It will all work the same way it always has… at least until Adobe drops the next shoe.

Those using older, purchased, versions of Lightroom will hear the loud ticking of the clock; they are already missing some nice, recent tools, and soon they won’t have new camera support, so things will break at some point. Forcing them to join the $9.99 subscription program (still a bargain), and use what will now be called “Lightroom Classic”, which will work with all their libraries and images, and offer a few new tools. Not such a huge trauma, after all.

iPhone 7/7+ Raw Capabilities

iphone6-sample-1

Would an iPhone 7 raw capture have produced more shadow detail, more highlight detail, and less sky noise than this iPhone 6 standard camera shot?

While the internet is flooded with negative articles about the iPhone 7 series and how little new they have to offer (a great way to get clicks, whether you have anything meaningful to say or not), there are, in fact, a number of very interesting new features, especially in the 7+. I will wait to discuss the dual cameras and what they offer for phone photography, as well as the wide gamut P3 colorspace of the new iPhones, until I actually have one in hand (the prudent way to write about any product), but in the meantime I can’t resist commenting on another feature of the new phones, or for that matter other recent iPhones, running iOS 10.

That would be the ability to shoot raw images. Not that the native camera app which Apple supplies (and which accounts for the vast majority of images shot with iPhones) offers such an option; but it is available for third parties to use. Adobe is making a splash by supporting this capability in their Lightroom camera function. But first, lets step back, and think about what raw really means.

Raw means nothing, unless there is more than 8 bits (256 levels) of meaningful data available. So the value of raw functions of any type with iPhones will depend on how much meaningful raw data is actually captured, and made available for use, from these phones.

Experience with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras has shown that ten bits of data is good, and twelve bits is better. But where does such “extra” data show up, since screens often don’t display more then 256 levels per color channel anyways?

It shows up mostly when you make significant adjustments to the file, to open the shadows, or enhance the highlights. And the peculiar way that bit depth in files works, extra bits allows us to keep much more highlight detail, while leaving more bits for further down the range. However, unless the dynamic range captures meaningful data, not noise, in the deep shadows, then the value of that extra depth is questionable.

So what we will be looking for from raw capture as we test the iPhone 7 and 7+ (and iOS 10 with phones from the 6s forward) is the ability to produce more highlight and shadow detail, and the ability to make big density shifts in editing software, without causing “thinness”, which shows up as posterization in one or more zones after the edit has been made.

How will the iPhone 7 series perform in raw mode? These are tiny sensors, which are therefore prone to much more noise, especially in the shadows, and in dim lighting. Perhaps the 7+ with its dual camera functionality will be able to reduce that noise a bit, but  don’t expect  raw capture from the iPhone 7 and 7+ to respond like a recent generation DSLRs when editing. But we can hope that this will provide at least incremental improvement on previous iPhone images.

The real question is whether the improvements by shooting with Lightroom raw, over the standard iPhone camera, is large enough and frequent enough for us to use the Lightroom camera as our default, go-to choice for shooting.

Copyright C. David Tobie

Apple Power Supply Cable Wear

IMG_6544I’ve seen a fair amount written about the problems with Apple Powerbook power supply cables wearing at the end near the power supply. I’ve seen various clip-ons or do-it-yourself gummy solutions that claim to reduce this issue.

Everyone’s assumption seems to be that there is not sufficient cable stress relief, meaning the cable bends tightly at one spot, rather than making a smoother bend over a longer distance, thus relieving the stress at the power brick.

Apple’s stress relief is, indeed, minimal. And yes, the methods suggested do extend that cable relief. But that only solves the problem if the assumed cause of cable failure is correct.

Observing what is actually happening with these cables, they are very supple; Apple would not want to ship a stiff cable, which cannot be wound-up conveniently. And this suppleness means the cable does not fatigue much from being tightly bent; this would be one reason why Apple does not supply an extended stress reliever.

Instead, the motion that I see causing wear in the cable has to do with the sheath not being bonded to the interior components, and a rotation occurring within the cable sheath. This twisting motion eventually stresses the cable sheathing, the internal wires, or both, causing cable failure.

Most stress relief designs do not address this issue. Anyone who has spent time on sailboats knows about the problems that side-winding a rope produces; wind it to the wrong side, and not only will you kink the rope, you may actually open up the strands, significantly weakening it. The ideal solution to avoid kinking, is to straight-wind a line or cable from the end, not the side, both winding and unwinding.

Applying this to power supply cables, the cause of twisting at the end, causing eventual failure of the cable is the method we use to wind and unwind the cable. If we wind it up overhand, but then, instead of reversing that process to unwind it, pull the cable over the end of the power supply, we are building a series of kinks into the cable, and increasing this twisting force every time we store, then release the cable.

Apple has designed their cable storage solution with end plates that force the user to straight-wind the cable both on and off the arms. However many of us do not open up these clips and store the cable on them, but instead wind the cable around the body of the power supply, or simply wind it up on it’s own.

This has two problematic results. First, it straight-winds the cable onto the power supply, or our fingers, but in most cases we pull the cable off the end of the supply, or sideways out of its self-coil to release, it, thus side-winding kinks into the cable in the process. The second problem is that the Apple winding arms are positioned to contain the short stress reliever, and eliminate force against it, or repeated motion of the cable at that point during storage and travel. Any other cable storage method will leave the cable exposed to force and repeated bending at this point, shortening its overall life expectancy.

So while a conveniently supply cable is prone to wear, the best solution to Apple power supply cable wear appears to be storing the cable in the manner Apple planned, plus being aware of the dangers of twisting the cord, and straightening out any kinks that may form, to avoid ongoing twisting of the cable at the point of attachment.

C. David Tobie

 

What Photoshop Is Used For Today

We hear a lot about Photoshop being used to make models impossibly thin, or remove every sign of wrinkles from someone’s face. Photoshop is no longer the day-to-day photo adjustment app (that’s Lightroom’s job); but it is an invaluable tool for a certain type of photo related work: masking and compositing.

The image below shows the before and after versions of an image. Clearly the before was shot for graphic design use, as it lacks the foreground element to make it a final image in its own right. However, that’s exactly what’s needed to create the type of commercial image required to advertise this gelato cart business.

GelatoBaristaCartCombo

This type of image makes it possible to create business cards, brochures, and websites before the cart is actually available. In fact, the “Photoshopping” of the cart into the scene is not the only digital trickery here; the cart does not actually exist, it is a rendering produced prior to building the cart for final okay of paint color and graphics.

If the final image below leaves you hungering for gelato, and you are looking to hire such a cart for a special occasion in the Miami area, contact mritzer@gelatobarista.com, and inquire about availability. Buon appetito!

GelatoBaristaCartFinal

C. David Tobie

Simplified Multiple Image Deletion in Lightroom CC

Adobe applications are powerful; but the flip side of that power is complexity, and the learning curve needed to master that complexity. In the case of Lightroom one of my ease-of-use complaints has always been that deleting a single image was easy; deleting multiple images was a complex, multiple step process any way that you chose to do it.

In the case of the single image, selecting it, and hitting the delete key brought up a dialog allowing you to simply delete it from the Lightroom library (which I never want to do) or to also delete the underlying file from the drive (which I always want to do). I didn’t object to this choice, as it provided a chance to change your mind about deletion, always a good safety factor. However, the same function was not available with multiple images selected; for that you needed to first flag all the images, then run one or another secondary function to delete the flagged files.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.53.40 PM

Apparently I was not the only photographer who found this unnecessary (after all, there is already a safety function) and wished that I could delete multiple images of my choice at a time via the delete key. Because: it now works the same way for multiple images as for a single photo. How long has it been this way? I can’t say, as I’ve only just discovered this convenience.  But, in case others have not yet stumbled across this luxury, I thought I should post a short article describing it. Happy Deleting, Everyone!

C. David Tobie 2015