For the Fourth of July this year, our neighbors invited us to join them at an office overlooking Lake Union here in Seattle. At first I wasn’t going to bring a camera. I’ve just finished six weeks of constant work to deliver back-to-back book manuscripts, and toting a camera with me felt like work. My lovely wife suggested I bring it along anyway—I’m glad she did.

The office we went to had a great view of the lake, with the launch barge to our left and the Seattle skyline behind us on a gorgeous, hot day. There was a lot of good food, plenty of desserts, and the chance to just hang out and socialize with good people.

   
 
Lacking the traditional July 4 cloud cover, it didn’t get dark until past 10 p.m. But when darkness came, the sky lit up. We didn’t have access to the soundtrack accompanying the show, so we got to watch it old-school. And like every year, I found myself whooping occasionally at the display. Big fireworks displays are awesome.

Photographing the show was fun, too. It mostly involved setting up my camera on a tripod and anticipating where the explosions were going to be. The hardest part is setting manual focus, because you don’t want the camera hunting for focus on things that disappear quickly. So that took some trial and error. I set my aperture to f/5.6, which lets in a decent amount of light without working with a shallow depth of field. The last key element is attaching a cable release and setting the shutter speed to Bulb mode: when the fireworks happen, you want long exposures to catch the trails of light. With a cable release, you can press and hold for anywhere between 2 to 8 or 9 seconds to leave the shutter open.

Then it’s a matter of enjoying the show and attempting to anticipate when the big bursts will happen. I ended up with plenty of so-so shots, but also a few satisfactory ones, too.

 

  

 

  

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Watch fitting

I’ve now had my Apple Watch for two months (here’s my review for the Seattle Times), and in that time I’ve gotten to know it very well while updating my Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course book (which is available now!). But don’t worry, this isn’t another “here’s my take on the Apple Watch after eight weeks” type of article.

Instead, my latest column for the Seattle Times is all “Practical Apple Watch” instead of “Practical Mac.” I share some of the useful tips and techniques I’ve run across with the watch so far, such as unlocking the watch without using the onscreen passcode, getting notified when emails from VIPs arrive, and, believe it or not, receiving phone calls on the watch.

Read the article here: Essential tips, tricks for living with an Apple Watch.

And since I mentioned my book, I want to point out that through the end of June, as part of a larger bundle deal called SummerFest 2015, you can get the Apple Watch Crash Course and all other Take Control books at a 25% discount when you use the code SUMMERFEST2015.

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Skyward, Redwoods

Knowing that I was away on a photo workshop in Northern California, an editor I’ve worked with for years contacted me with an interesting assignment: to write about how I use Adobe Lightroom in the field.

I’ve spent a lot of time (and three editions of my book The iPad for Photographers) thinking about how best to incorporate mobile technology into photography, and the field keeps moving forward. As a Lightroom CC user, I really like Lightroom mobile and how it syncs photos and adjustments from my iPad to my Mac and vice-versa.

The result is a new article, with a generous helping of photos from the Redwoods, posted today at Adobe Inspire: Take Lightroom on Your Next Shoot.

I outline a workflow for shooting, importing, and reviewing photos within Lightroom and the Creative Cloud ecosystem. One thing that surprised me: I found myself shooting more bracketed photos and side-by-side collections knowing that I could process those easily using the new Photo Merge HDR and Panorama tools in Lightroom CC.

One note, for those of you who have followed this field with me: I bypassed mentions of importing photos to the iPad while out shooting, which leads to special considerations for syncing and loading raw files later. (You can read more about that in my book.) What’s in the article is a streamlined, more sane approach to syncing and reviewing photos that won’t scare away novices.

Check out the article, and feel free to leave feedback here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Boat Street Cafe Morning

My wife and daughter surprised me on my birthday by taking me to Boat Street Cafe for a French breakfast. The meal, the light, and the ambiance, were all delicious. (Click here to view the photo larger.)

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Apple exec jony ive

If you follow Apple, this is pretty big news. Jonathan Ive, formerly Senior Vice President of Design, is being promoted to Chief Design Officer, overseeing the hardware and user interface design groups. The news was broken in an entertaining, wide-ranging essay by Stephen Fry. Ive was already doing that in his previous role, but this move looks like he won’t have to deal with as much of the management involved. Essentially, he’s going to spend more time designing stuff, which ranges from Apple’s products to the new Apple Campus 2 and even the chairs and tables that employees sit in at the company cafeteria.

But what does it mean?? This is exactly the sort of thing Apple pundits and analysts and armchair quarterbacks love to see, because of course we don’t know the implications. Is Ive working on something even more top secret than the Apple Watch? (I doubt it.) Is this the first step out the door, enabling him to spend part of his time in his native England where he’s expressed a desire to raise his kids? (Likely.)

Ben Thompson has a great morning analysis of the move that sets out these options in his always clearheaded way: Jony Ive “Promoted”, the Implications of Not Managing, What about Apple?.

[Updated: Also read Seth Weintraub’s article at 9to5 Mac.]

My quick take is that Ive is probably transitioning to a new, less stressful role at Apple. He can’t leave the company outright, not yet, and he’s no doubt being paid more than handsomely to stay. (One bit of speculation is that by putting Ive in a chief role, Apple doesn’t have to legally disclose what he’s getting paid. Maybe that’s a side effect of the change, but I doubt it’s the driving factor. I doubt anyone would be surprised if Ive makes more money than anyone at the company, given his essential contributions over the last two decades.)

This new title gives him the freedom to pursue all sorts of design and—most important—keep him interested. Interviews in the lead up to the Apple Watch have indicated that he’s exhausted and burned out. For someone who cares about design at such the level that he does, that’s worse than issues of compensation or hierarchy.

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In my latest column for the Seattle Times, I relay a truth about computer users that many of us in the tech field overlook: the desire to reduce complication.

My mother-in-law’s aging iMac died, and we almost just paid to repair it instead of getting a replacement. I explain why in the column, and add in a dash of troubleshooting advice, too: When it comes to computers most of us want to keep it simple.

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Density: Redwoods Panorama

One of the things that’s hard to wrap your mind around in the Redwoods, especially on a first visit, is just how dense these massive forests are. This is a panorama stitched from 13 photos, shot at Stout Grove near Jededih Smith Redwood State Park Campground.

Be sure to view this one larger at Flickr to absorb all the detail!

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Dropbox is now as much a part of my work experience as my Mac, so naturally it would be great to put a Photos for OS X library into a Dropbox folder to create an off-site backup that I wouldn’t have to think about.

However, that’s a bad idea. Brian Webster at Fat Cat Software (who created iPhoto Library Manager and the new PowerPhotos applications) wrote a blog post about exactly why it’s a bad idea (spoiler: Dropbox syncs files and Photos tracks everything in SQLite databases, leading to corruption). Read the details here: Don’t store your photo library on Dropbox.

Clouds edit photos mac2

While I was away on my photo workshop, I put the last touches on an article that’s now at TidBITS, Photos Everywhere with Lightroom CC and Photos for OS X (which enabled me to include some photos on location, like the Yoda statue at Lucasfilm headquarters).

After writing the review of Lightroom CC for Macworld and an overview of what’s new in Lightroom for Lynda.com, I wanted to take a different approach to Adobe’s new software for TidBITS. In this article, I look at how Lightroom and Photos for OS X handle the issue of making photos available on Macs and mobile devices.

Apple’s approach puts your entire library on all devices using iCloud Photo Library, while Adobe turns to its own nimbus, Creative Cloud, to sync selected images between Lightroom and Lightroom mobile on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Read on to learn how the advantages and disadvantages of each approach at TidBITS.com.

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Rotunda at the Palace of Fine Arts

I’m in Northern California to co-lead a photo workshop with my friend Mason Marsh for the next 12 days. The actual workshop starts tonight, but last night we met up in the Presidio with a fun group of photographers who participate in The Arcanum, where Mason is a Master. After shooting the beach at Crissy Field, we ended up at the Palace of Fine Arts, where the cloudy skies worked wonderfully against the lighting of the rotunda.

I’m looking forward to this trip, which is going to be a lot of work but also rewarding (and maybe a little exhausting).

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