San Giorgio At Sunset

Photograph © George A. Jardine

Coming up on consecutive Saturdays, I’ll be leading two, short 4-hour workshops on special subjects in Lightroom. Our Saturday, October 25 workshop will be focused on Keywords, Collections & Metadata, and in the November 1 workshop we will take a deeper dive on working with metadata, covering Virtual Copies, The Non-Destructive Workflow & XMP.

These two workshops promise to be smaller than usual, providing us with the opportunity take a deeper dive on several important subjects. See the Front Range Photography Meetup Group website for more details.

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Venice 2014

Photograph © George A. Jardine

I was recently asked to write a piece for an organization on Digital Asset Management, and one of the requirements was that it be 400 words. I didn’t push back on this requirement, or even ask why. But it reminded me of negotiating with one of the fast-food style video education aggregators, when they told me that my videos should be no longer than 5 – 7 minutes, because “no one will watch a video longer than 5 minutes.” Which of course is utterly ridiculous. You get what you ask for… meaning, if you pander to an audience that isn’t looking for comprehensive video education, then you will get what you deserve: an audience that wants fast-food video, pre-digested, and then spit out with a barnyard sound.

Despite that limitation I thought a bit about what I wanted to write for this particular org, and decided it was time to share a little project I’ve been working on. It’s a bash script that automates the process of downloading photos, synchronizing camera clocks, adjusting timestamps, renaming files, and making backups. It was a fun and interesting project because doing projects like this forces me to formalize my thinking… or my process, meaning… organize it in such a way that it can be scripted, and then, taught.

Not an easy thing to describe in 400 words!

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to write about, so that’s what I wrote. And by cutting every corner imaginable—while trying to preserve at least the core of the idea—I ended up at 1100 words. Which didn’t fly.

OK, that’s understandable. I would have rejected it too. It’s vague, out-of-context, and incomplete. But I still feel that it should be published, so here is (almost word-for-word) what was submitted.

Workflow is hard.

Well, let me take that back. My workflow is not hard. It’s easy. In fact, it’s so easy that it’s essentially finished at the push of a button.

But let’s back up a little, just to be sure we’re all talking about the same thing. In this article, when I talk about workflow, I’m talking about your basic import workflow. How you get your pictures downloaded, organized, renamed, stamped with basic metadata and keywords, and backed up. In this article, I’m NOT talking about how you identify your best shots, or process them, or export them for your clients. That becomes a much more subjective process that is very difficult to formalize.

What I’m talking about here is the part that you can formalize. And that part consists of the repetitive steps you take (or should be taking) each and every time you sit down to download new photos. How do you go about formalizing a workflow? I admit, this is not the easiest part of the process, because it requires working backwards. You have to start at the end, and think about what you need to do to get to the finish line.

Venice 2014

This process takes time. You don’t just come to it one morning, and decide you can work out the steps. Workflows evolve, and you only come to a series of discrete workflow steps after doing it a bunch of times, and after making a lot of mistakes. To make things even more complicated, formalizing an import workflow requires taking into account a lot of disconnected, but interrelated pieces.

To start that process, I began by thinking about my goals: what are my requirements for the end game? After working on my own Library organization—as well as teaching it for a number of years—I know that I want my entire photo library organized chronologically, with a very specific folder naming routine. The thinking behind why I feel chronological organization works is way out of scope for this article, but I’ve written extensively about it here and here.

Venice 2014

I also have very well-defined ideas about what’s important in file names, which I’ve written about here and here. So basically, the timestamp (includingYYYY MM DD HH MM SS + GMT offset) ends up as part of my filename sequence numbers. (After all, why dream up my own subjective sequence numbering system, when we already have a universal one?) Further, whenever I’m traveling I always record a GPS tracklog that I store with the photos, and I use that tracklog to geotag every photo that I shoot on location, which I’ve written a bit about here. I’m a bit fanatical about making sure my geotags are right on the money, and I also always shoot with at least 2, and sometimes 3 or 4 camera bodies when traveling. This means all my camera clocks have to be accurate, as well as perfectly synchronized. Shooting with more than one camera and expecting your photos to always sort chronologically by the one truly universal piece of metadata across ALL operating systems and file formats (the file name!), also requires that my camera clocks are all accurate and synchronized.

The difficult thing about camera clocks is that they all drift a little bit, and to make matters worse, they all drift at slightly different rates. Further, I absolutely hate trying to get them all synchronized to the second (almost impossible) for the geotagging and file naming before every trip. All of this has led me to a system where I never set my camera clocks for local time, but always leave all of them set to UTC. My system of making sure each camera’s clock is perfectly synchronized meant I that was adjusting the timestamps for every single outing anyway, so I might as well correct for the local time zone at the same step in the workflow, which I’ve written a bit about here.

Venice 2014

Whew! Still with me? OK, that’s not an exhaustive list of my end game requirements, but I think it probably gives you the idea. To make it all work, I developed a system of creating and applying time zone offsets and clock corrections that can be made more or less “automatically” by simply photographing a synchronized clock on my phone or computer screen at the end of every camera card that I shoot.

The final piece of the puzzle was formalizing the series of steps required for import and backup as a bash (UNIX) script. I plug in a camera card, and fire up the script in a terminal window. The script opens the last photo on the card so that I can see the image, and asks me for two things. 1) it asks me to type in the local time that I see in the photo, 2) it asks me for a folder name and destination for the final photos. The script then uses my system clock to work out where I am and what the computed offset will be for both the local time zone plus or minus the camera clock drift for each individual card download. It makes backup copies using rsync (with checksum verification) as well as calculating and storing checksums from the actual camera card during download. It renames the files, and puts them all where they need to be.

Venice 2014

Capturing and storing the checksums directly from the camera card allows me to go back for verification at any time in the future, even after the files have migrated from drive-to-drive across multiple backups. This helps me detect bitrot and a host of other potential causes of corruption, for the entire raw file, not just the raw data, as DNG validation does. And, the checksums are captured at the one point in the workflow when I will visually inspect each and every frame shot, which is the one time you are most likely to see corruption and be able to identify its genesis.

It’s all wrapped up in one simple bash script, but writing the script wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was looking at what I do each and every time I sit down to download photos. Formalizing the exact steps and sequence required to take me from A to B, ensures that it will happen in precisely the same way every time, and it forced me to streamline, eliminating or correcting any flawed pieces of the process.

Venice 2014

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Arctic Tern

Photograph © George A. Jardine

My two-day, weekend workshop is coming up in just two weeks: October 11 – 12. This intensive Lightroom workshop is sponsored by the University of Denver College of Professional and Continuing Studies. We have a special agenda for this class, with an intermediate-to-advanced look at location catalog workflows on day one, and a deep-dive on professional correction techniques using the Develop module on day two.

If you’re in the Denver area, and you’re ready to take your Lightroom and digital imaging skills to the next level, please check out the details on DU’s website.

Registration and class details for my workshop, can be found here.

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A Few Pictures From Venice . . .

by George on September 27, 2014

GPS: 45°26’16″ N 12°20’7″ E

Venice at Night

Photograph © George A. Jardine

We’re back from our bi-annual ICP workshop in Venice. This year we had a record number of students, and they were—by far—my best group ever. We were very lucky to have such a fabulous range of talent and personalities. Thanks to our students, this workshop was incredibly rewarding.

Venice was easier for me this year, mostly due to two factors. First, the superb organizational efforts of The International Center of Photography, our incredible lead guide Sara Verlicchi, and her parent organization, Experience Plus. Second, the weather finally cooperated with this workshop. We had a day or two of rain, but mostly mild temperatures and great skies.

Click here to see the photo gallery.

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Majuli River

Photograph © Martin Sammtleben

This last June I taught my first workshop in Iceland with Geraldine and Martin from Wild Photography Holidays. (You can see a small gallery of my photos from that workshop, here.) That workshop was great fun and a huge success so we’re doing it again, starting with Assam and the tribal villages of Nagaland.

This beautiful and remote region stretches from Bhutan to northern Myanmar (also called Burma) across northeast India. Our adventures will take us to Kaziranga National Park, to exotic tea-growing regions in Assam, and into areas with numerous ethnically-unique hill tribes. You’ll have plenty of one-on-one time with the instructors, making this is your time to hone skills and expand your photographic vision, shooting in some of India’s most colorful and remote areas.

If you’re ready to take your photography to the next level, this extended 14-day workshop is just the thing you’ve been looking for. Martin and Geraldine run the best-organized, and most hassle-free workshops I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend. I’ll be guest instructor for digital and everything Lightroom (but of course, you’re welcome to use any software you like!), while Martin and Geraldine will be your expert guides and photographic instructors.

Click here for more info on this exotic workshop to Assam and Nagaland.

Click here to check out the long list of fantastic workshops offered by Wild Photography Holidays.

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Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan for Photographers . . .

August 7, 2014

Photographs © George A. Jardine Recently I was doing a bit of consulting with at a prominent photographer’s studio in Aspen and found that they were still using Photoshop CS6 for their retouching, which is not at all uncommon. I asked why not upgrade to the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, and the answer was […]

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Take Your Photography to the Next Level at this University of Denver Weekend Lightroom Workshop . . .

July 21, 2014

Photograph © George A. Jardine I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be leading an intensive, two-day Lightroom workshop at the University of Denver College of Professional and Continuing Studies this October 11 – 12. If you’re in the Denver area, and you’re ready to take your Lightroom and digital imaging skills to the next level, […]

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A Guest Blog For Jakob de Boer . . .

July 9, 2014

Photograph © George A. Jardine Jakob de Boer has been a customer, advocate and friend for several years. When he built his new website he asked me to contribute a guest blog entry, and so… guess what I decided to talk about? Library organization! Here’s the link. Jakob is a fantastic photographer, and so I […]

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Iceland Workshop Coming To A Close . . .

June 9, 2014

Photograph © George A. Jardine Back in Reykjavic finally, after a fantastic opportunity to travel, shoot and teach with Wild Photography Holidays. On this trip we photographed and hiked glacier lagoons and beaches along the southeast shores of Iceland. You can see a small selection of my photos from this trip here.

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We’re Off To Iceland! Please Read If You’re Purchasing Videos . . .

May 30, 2014

Photograph © George A. Jardine We’re heading to Iceland this afternoon, for what promises to be another great workshop with Wild Photography Holidays! If you’re thinking of purchasing online videos while I’m gone (until the 10th of June or so…), please remember to read the instructions, and be sure to look for the “Return to […]

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