Tulip Sunrise #2

I know, it’s another photo from last week’s sunrise photo shoot at the tulip fields. But I can’t help sharing the beautiful light we encountered that morning (especially since it’s a very gray and rainy day in Seattle today). Enjoy!

[Interested in purchasing a print? Go to Zenfolio or 500px.]

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Misty Tulip Sunrise

Premiere photo site 500px has just published an article of mine that takes a high level overview of what an iPad can do for photographers: How an iPad Can Improve Your Photography. Think of it as the ultra-compact version of my iPad for Photographers book, covering the options for using the iPad as a portfolio, importing photos to the iPad and reviewing them in the field, adding all-important metadata, editing the shots, sharing images, and more.

I’m actually quite excited to appear on 500px, not only because I like what the company is doing, but because the people who post and read at the site tend to be extremely talented photographers. It’s fabulous company to be in.

Tulip Sunrise

(Click the photo to view it larger)

Waking up at 4am to drive an hour north isn’t my definition of a good way to start a Saturday morning. This weekend, however, my family and I (yes, my daughter, too) headed at dark to Mount Vernon, Washington to photograph the tulip fields at sunrise. The weather cooperated nicely, with enough clouds in the sky for texture but also letting through the brilliant bright sun as it crested over the Cascade mountains.

After about an hour, the sun lifted into a thicker, higher cloud bank, which was the signal to go get breakfast (at Calico Cupboard in La Connor).

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LRmobile 150pxAdobe released Lightroom mobile for iPad last night, and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve written a brand new ebook for Peachpit Press covering it: Adobe Lightroom mobile: Your Lightroom on the Go.

The book features 53 pages of detailed information on how to use Lightroom mobile, including lots of tips on how to get the most out of Adobe’s new remote tool. And it costs just $8! As near as I can tell, this is the first book about Lightroom mobile on the market. (Update: Victoria Bampton, aka The Lightroom Queen, also released a book. Go buy her book, too!)

The book walks you through creating and syncing collections from the desktop version of Lightroom, as well as creating collections on the iPad itself (and why you’d want to do it). It also goes into detail about the app’s editing features, covers the many gestures used to speed things up, and more.

Here are some page samples. Buy it now (not-so-subtle-hint), and let me know what you think!

LRM ebook pages 03

LRM ebook pages 04

LRM ebook pages 01

LRM ebook pages 02

Adobe has just released Lightroom mobile, an iPad app that synchronizes with Lightroom on the desktop and provides a great deal of editing capability on the iPad.

I wrote Macworld’s First Look about it. Adobe also wrote about the app on the company blog.

And here’s a first for me: I’m quoted in Adobe’s press release! (Yes, mine is one of the quotes that journalists often skim over, sometimes rolling their eyes as they do so.) The folks working with the development program for Lightroom mobile approached me, since I’m the author of The iPad for Photographers:

“Adobe Lightroom mobile transforms the way I am able to work with my photographs because now I can review and process photos when I’m comfortable and creative, and not just when I’m at my computer,” said Jeff Carlson, educator and author of The iPad for Photographers and Adobe Lightroom mobile: Your Lightroom on the Go. “It also works as a malleable photo portfolio on my iPad. As I add or remove images from a collection in Lightroom mobile or on the computer, the changes stay synchronized. When I need to show my work those photos are already set up to be viewed.”

I’ll definitely have more to say about Lightroom mobile soon, but Adobe’s posts and my First Look article are good places to start.

Mount Vernon Field

Click photos to view them larger (better)

Light is the most important element in photography, but timing plays a huge role, too. Unless you’re staging everything in a studio (and even then timing is extremely important, capturing moods and angles and positions), you’re usually at the mercy of some sort of timing. That means triggering the shutter at the right moment when something amazing happens in front of the camera (you think whales breach at the photographer’s whim? Ha ha ha ha ha ha), or being amid the trees when autumn colors erupt for their brief window before winter shuts it all down.

This week I went to Mount Vernon, Washington to capture the colors of the annual Tulip Festival. The area includes dozens of tulip fields that are amazing to see in bloom. Rows and rows of red, pink, purple, yellow, and white tulips wonderfully receding to perspective points under broken clouds.

Tulips Poised

Except the timing was off. Most of the flowers looked as if they still needed a week before opening. A man who works at the Roozengaarde farm (one of the largest, and certainly the one that caters most to the flock of tourists that arrive) said the fields would be full of color in five days. The plantings were still impressive, but more so because of their potential than for their appearance.

That said, the timing was also on, in a sense. My mother-in-law was visiting and my wife took the day off from work so we could make the hour’s drive to the tulip fields. My schedule allowed me just that day to steal away in the middle of the week. If we hadn’t visited Mount Vernon that day, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

Even better, the weather was perfect: sunny with patchy clouds, warm in the sun and crisp in the shade. The ground, branded by overlapping tractor wheel prints, swelled with water but remained firm at the surface. It felt like walking on a stiff waterbed (if you remember those) in places. The air was clean and occasionally scented with turned soil and some elusive blossom that I couldn’t identify (despite sniffing around like a dog on the hunt for bacon).

So, with my photo bag slung across my back and camera ready, I did what a good photographer should do and worked to make some good photos.

Tulip Bundles

They weren’t the ones I had in my head before we arrived, but that’s important too: If you’re not open to making photos of what’s in front of you, you’re going to miss a lot of great shots. I didn’t make nearly as many images as I thought I would, but a few keepers emerged.

After a couple of hours, we packed up and had to head back to Seattle (starving bellies competed with the reality of impending traffic). Even though abbreviated, it was a good day out in nature and behind a camera.

Timing is absolutely important in photography, but often timing means “take the time available to go shoot,” even if it’s not at peak color.

Daffodil Field

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Chinatown Streetlamp

I’m having a great, but very busy, time at Macworld/iWorld 2014 in San Francisco. In addition to appearing on a fun panel about creative technology with Serenity Caldwell (@settern), Chris Breen (@bodyofbreen), and Kyle Lambert (@kylelambert), I filed my Practical Mac column for the Seattle Times. In it, I note three Seattle-area products that caught my interest: Microsoft Office for iPad, Cloak 2.0, and the upcoming BusyContacts.

iPad Office not the only local hit at Macworld

If you’re at the show, be sure to swing by my 10 a.m. “iPad for Photographers” session in Room 131 and say hi!

A few quick caveats up front:

  • I’ve not used an Oculus Rift VR headset, and I’m not even much of a gamer anymore.
  • I’m working on multiple projects right now and I’m sleep deprived.
  • I’m highly caffeinated.

Still, the news that Facebook is buying Oculus for $2 billion ($1.6 billion of which is Facebook stock), I, too made jokes on Twitter about it.

I mean how could I not? A giant social media advertising company is buying a company that is designing, of all things, virtual-reality (VR) hardware and software.

But I think it could turn out to be a savvy move on the part of Zuckerberg in the long run, based on two tangential relationships I have. (Look, I warned you up front. I’m not trying to be a hard-hitting journalist here. I’m actually typing this on my iPad in a quiet kitchen while more coffee brews.)

I know a guy (who I’m leaving anonymous here) with many years of experience (those are real years, not stretched Silicon Valley years) managing servers at Internet service providers. He knows more about network hardware than I know about most things, and just looking at the impeccable ways he strings cable so it’s not a mess tells you that right away.

A few years ago, he left what seemed like a solid job to go work for Facebook in one of their new data operations centers. This was before your parents had joined Facebook, so it sounded pretty crazy. But he pointed out that even then, the amount of data pouring through Facebook’s machines was immense, especially the vast numbers of digital photos. Although he was going to work for a company best known for its trivial content and sketchy privacy attitudes, it was clearly one of the most interesting, most challenging places to be if you wanted to shape how data on such a scale operates.

I know another guy, Mike Matas, a designer and photographer I’ve met a couple of times who left a successful startup to work at Apple, designed the original iPhone battery icon (among many other things), and then left the world’s biggest fruit company to blaze a trail as an independent software developer again. He and a small band of folks made the interactive version of Al Gore’s book Our Choice, gave an impressive TED talk about it, and looked poised to usher in a new chapter (ha, it’s the caffeine) of interactive ebooks.

Facebook bought his company. Facebook wasn’t, as far as I can tell from the outside, interested in making ebooks. They wanted design talent. And since Matas has been at Facebook, he and his colleagues made big changes to the Facebook Camera app (right as the company bought Instagram for what now seems like a small amount, $1 billion) and recently released the much-lauded Paper app (well, lauded for the design and interactive elements, not so much the stealing of another company’s name).

Now, the thing that ties these two men together, and how it relates to Oculus, is this: They’re both still at Facebook. Part of the Silicon Valley culture, it seems, is that people don’t feel obligated to stick around at companies for too long, especially people who’ve sold their companies and hang out until their options vest.

I admit I don’t know the first man beyond social interactions and I don’t know Matas at all aside from an introduction and a nod hello, but my sense is that more is happening at Facebook behind the blue curtains. My purely gut-level impression is that there are actually two “Facebooks.” The ad-generating behemoth that traffics in funny pictures and quasi-inspirational quotes and an abundance of auto-playing videos and ads is the Facebook of now, and because it’s yoked to impressions and traffic and eyeballs (eww), it has to do all these obnoxious things because that pays the bills even as advertising revenue is losing its effectiveness.

The second Facebook is the one of tomorrow, which doesn’t have to be tied to the current one except in the sense that those Upworthy posts are paying for these two men and plenty of other talented people to work on innovations whose effects are still a few years out.

That’s where Oculus fits in. VR has always been a few years out. It’s the technology that appears in all the movies because no one can make it really work in the real world. But from what I’ve heard, the Oculus folks are genuinely on to something, which likely won’t make its full effect as a pair of digital ski goggles strapped to your head. And Facebook, which has a lot of cash—and more important, a lot of potential—can afford to scoop up this startup now for the future Facebook to work and play with.

It’s easy for us to look at things as they are now and wonder how disparate pieces fit together. Ten years ago, Apple started playing with touchscreen technology in its labs, invented a prototype iPad, then shelved it for a spell until the opportunity arose to create a phone. A phone, from the company that only made computers that were for artists and music players that were for kids, according to much popular opinion. Now look at us. I just wrote this piece on my iPad and it’s likely you read it on an iPhone, iPad, or other touchscreen device.

Coffee’s brewed. Time to tackle the next challenge.

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume mailing list that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.