A Continued Recommendation for The Center For Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University

Street Shooting - BU CDIALast summer I posted my initial thoughts on the Professional Digital Photography program at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA), as well as some short video clips from the studios. While I've been attending the 18 month part time program I've received numerous inquiries requesting additional advice or insight about the program. I've decided to synthesize my email replies into a single blog entry for the benefit others who may be interested as well. Below you'll find an update on my experiences and some helpful advice.

CDIA DP101 LabI absolutely love the quality of instruction, facilities, and equipment available in the Professional Digital Photography program at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts. They have a well thought out curriculum, outstanding instructors, and state of the art facilities. They are so successful that they've purchased a large building across the street from their primary location in Waltham, MA to effectively double their capacity. They also operate a new campus in Georgetown, Washington D.C., and I've heard they are opening additional campuses in San Francisco, CA and Austin, TX.

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Using the CFC Proxy in a ColdFusion Cluster

The CFC Proxy API was introduced as a supported feature in CFMX 7.01. It allows you to call ColdFusion Components (CFCs) from Java classes such as a standalone servlet running in the same JVM. In order for this to work, the Java class must be loaded by the ColdFusion classloader rather than a higher level classloader in the J2EE container. To load a Java class with the ColdFusion classloader, the class's jar file must be specified in ColdFusion's web.xml under the cf.class.path parameter. To avoid managing multiple copies of a custom jar file between ColdFusion instances clustered on JRun, you can put a single copy of the custom jar file under a central location outside the JRun root directory. Then modify the web.xml for each CF instance to point to that jar file in the cf.class.path entry. Surprisingly, there is no documentation on using CFCProxy on livedocs.adobe.com, but instead you can find this reference on Ben Forta's website. The reference describes the API and provides a brief example implementation. A few details are left out such as how to compile the custom Java class, so I'll provide a quick walk through of how I set all this up...

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Photography Web Utilities and My Recent Work

The holiday season has come and gone with little blogging on my part, but there's a few photography utilities for the web that I've wanted to mention. Its been a busy season with a couple weeks in Barcelona and a regular evening schedule at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at BU. It won't get less busy for me, so now's the time to share...

Lightroom SDK: Flickr Export Plugin
Lightroom Flickr Export PluginThe SDK (Software Developer's Kit) for Lightroom provides software developers a way to build custom plugins for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. An example plugin to Export photos directly from Lightroom to Flickr comes with the SDK, so download the Lightroom SDK to get it. Even if you don't care about the SDK and aren't a software geek, download it anyway just to get the plugin to make your Flickr workflow even easier.




SlideShowPro for Lightroom
Speaking of Lightroom (yes, it is my favorite piece of image software right now!), for just $25 you can buy an excellent plugin for Lightroom to export stylish and sophisticated Flash-based Web Galleries for your website. Its very easy to use and provides an intuitive panel of gallery styling options. Previously, to use SlideShowPro you had to understand the Flash Authoring tool in order to get started, but with Lightroom its now incredibly simple to use. Here's where you can check out a Web Gallery example of the SlideShowPro plugin for Lightroom




FlickrEdit: Backup Your Flickr Library
And speaking of Flickr, I've recently read some recommendations for FlickrEdit, free utility that permits you to backup all your images on Flickr to your local desktop, among other things. I haven't used it yet, but it seems like a very useful safety net to have around.




Photographic Storytelling with Soundslides Plus
Moving back to the topic of Web Image Galleries, I've just stumbled across a remarkable Flash-based tool from Soundslides geared towards photojournalists that enables you to easily synchronize digital audio recordings with a collection of photographs. Check out this newspaper article Through the Artists' Eyes to view two wonderful examples.




HDR and Tone Mapping with PhotoMatix
Although Photoshop CS2 and CS3 have a built-in automation tool for generating HDR images from multiple exposures, I've been giving Photomatix a test drive because it has been touted to have better fine-tuned control over the Tone Mapping process. In fact, I find that when using Photomatix I have had more success with HDR, just take a look below for some recent examples. There's lots of detailed knobs and sliders during the Tone Mapping process in Photomatix, and to save time later when I produce a satisfying result Photomatix allows me to save my settings. Later, when working on a new image I can try on some of my previous settings to quickly see if any produce a pleasing effect.





The Tower of Our Sea La Proxima Dirty Business


There we have it... I hope you find some of these useful as I have. Now, since I've got your attention, here's some of my recent work both from the studio at CDIA and from my recent trips to Barcelona and San Francisco. Enjoy!

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Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Adobe Lightroom: The gifts that give then give again

If you're giving Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop CS3 for the Holidays this year, or if you're lucky enough to receive them as a gift, read the EULA to double your gifting fun!

I've seen very little mention of the Adobe End User License Agreement, or EULA, for these products in the blogosphere, and I haven't spoken with anyone that already knew about this little gem either. Specifically, the EULA is the license that Adobe gives you as the purchaser or user of the software, and that license states the terms under which you are legally permitted to use them.

Both Lightroom and Photoshop CS3 EULA state, under section 2.4 Portable or Home Computer Use, that you're allowed to install the software on not just one, but two of your home computers! Yippee!!! There is a small caveat that technically you're not permitted to use the same product at the same time on the two computers, but unless you're a serious Type A Multi-tasker then I doubt you'll have to worry about that... The official Legalease from the EULA is as follows:

Adobe Lightroom EULA

2.4 Portable or Home Computer Use. The primary user of the Computer on which the Software is installed may install a second copy of the Software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable Computer or a Computer located at his or her home, provided the Software on the portable or home Computer is not used at the same time as the Software on the primary Computer.


Adobe Photoshop CS3 EULA
2.4 Portable or Home Computer Use. The primary user of the Computer on which the Software is installed may install a second copy of the Software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable Computer or a Computer located at his or her home, provided the Software on the portable or home Computer is not used at the same time as the Software on the primary Computer. You may be required to contact Adobe in order to make a second copy.


Further, when Lightroom was still in beta version back last January, the Lightroom Program Manager, Tom Hogarty, posted to a forum thread that you may choose a different operating system when installing the second copy, just in case, for example, that you have PC as your primary computer and a Mac Powerbook as your second, then you're good to go.

Strange Days Indeed: The Snappah Hits the Big Screen

The SnappahA nonprofit called Sea Studios Foundation is making a film in cooperation with National Geographic Television and PBS, called Strange Days on Planet Earth, to be hosted by Edward Norton. This film will spotlight key issues affecting the health of the world ocean and highlight cutting edge scientific research.

A producer recently contacted me to request the use of one of my studio photographs entitled "The Snappah" for use in Season 2 of the program due out this winter.

The Snappah (a play on how a Bostonian might refer to a Red Snapper) was a creative shot I came up with one day while in my class on Introduction to Studio Lighting at CDIA. The image just popped into my head of an Alice in Wonderland type of outrageous dinner setting with a fresh fish too huge for the plate, accompanied by absurd utensils, and a bouquet of something with real punch. That morning I took a walk through Whole Foods Markets for inspiration, and voila, I was smitten with the snapper.

I'm absolutely thrilled on so many levels to know that one of my images has become so successful. On Flickr the image quickly made it into Explore, Flickr's most interesting photos for a given day, and was complemented by scores of comments and favorites. To have the image used in PBS science documentary in conjunction with the National Geographic Society is a dream come true and validates all the time and hard work I've been putting into goal to become a professional photographer.

You can read more about my experience at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University in Waltham, MA.

Adobe MAX 2007 - I'm there in spirit

Making Hard Things Easy


As Jason Delmore, ColdFusion Product Manager, says:
"You really distilled our CF message".

CDIA Introduction to Lighting Theory, Its a wrap!

This week we wrapped up another great photography course at CDIA, Introduction to Lighting Theory DP114.

This module will explore and demonstrate the use of light so that students of light will be able to recognize the physical properties of light: direction and quality; hard vs. soft; and that they be able to modify light to suit the needs of their photography. Students will also learn how to identify and work with varying color temperatures.


Of most practical value to me was learning how to use a light meter to measure incident light (the actual light hitting a subject), whereas the camera's TTL metering measures reflected light (the brightness of light reflected off a subject). We also learned how to use light glass and metal and work with their reflective properties using diffusion screens, reflector discs, or gobos, and either natural ambient lighting or photoflood (constant) lighting indoors. Before moving on to indoor settings with artificial lighting, we initially honed our skills with portrait shooting outdoors using ambient lighting combined with the tools mentioned earlier. My favorite part of the course was learning how to do Black Line and White Line Photography with glass, also known as Bright Field and Dark Field.

The strength of the class was the actual instruction of lighting theory, lessons which I found highly valuable. The weakness was we were expected to peform all our shooting in groups of 3 or 4 during short bursts of time in class when we'd have to set up tables and lighting and later break them down, and I felt unable to achieve a satisfactory level of quality in my photography because I felt rushed.

Halfway through the course I realized I needed to set up a home studio where I could spend longer periods of time and have the freedom to play around and test various lighting scenarios. To that end, I spent a day running errands to Home Depot for clamps and extension cords, to JoAnn Fabrics for inexpensive black cloth to line the walls and velvet to shoot small objects on, to Staples for black and white foam boards, and finally to Hunts Photo and Video in Melrose to purchase a Smith-Victor 4 Light Photoflood Kit. Total cost for the whole basement studio was close to $600, not including the ping pong table already in the basement.

Next week we refine our lighting skills and learn to use strobe lighting or flash in course DP111 Introduction to the Studio.

www.flickr.com

An Experiment with Improved File Upload Handling in CF 8

ColdFusion 8 Application Server offers an important improvement regarding memory utilization during the uploading of large files via the CFFILE tag. This entry will offer an experimental observation to demonstrate the improvement in CF 8, but first I'll expand upon each of the related settings and provide some usage scenarios.

Request Throttle Settings
The ColdFusion 7.01 Administrator introduced new file upload settings to better control file uploads. The broadest setting is called Request Throttle Memory, with a default of 200MB, where its purpose is to regulate the cumulative impact of all concurrent large file uploads on the ColdFusion server. The adjacent setting for Request Throttle Threshold, default of 4MB, is the minimum size of file uploads for which the throttle should regulate, anything below the threshold is ignored by the throttle. Further up on the Settings page is also the new field Maximum Size of Post Data, with a default of 100MB.

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Linux Magazine on using Flex with PHP

In the August 2007 edition of Linux Magazine, the editor contributes an article about the usefulness of integrating PHP with the free Flex SDK to achieve a Rich Internet Application (RIA) in a Web 2.0 world.

Flex and PHP
by Martin Streicher
Linux Magazine (full article available online with free registration)


The author begins by a short comparison of the RIA technologies of AJAX vs. Flex, and goes on to suggest that while AJAX is touted as an alternative to Flex UI's, AJAX suffers from a lack of rich media integration such as video, music, or animations and carries the risk of varying JavaScript behavior across different browser implementations.

The article does a great job describing architectural differences between classic web applications and RIAs. In a multi-tiered Rich Internet Application the application server technology such as PHP, or better yet ColdFusion, acts as the controller to implement business logic and interacts with deeper service layers that interface with the database. However, on the client side, Flex runs in the browser to perform data input validation, displays data visually via drill-down charts and graphs or via paginated data grids, and provides real time updates to changes in data (via Live Cycle Data Services a.k.a. Flex Data Services).

Furthermore, Flex provides a smart looking user interface and seamless user experience akin to typical desktop software while lacking the notoriously painful white screens of death during page refreshes that are commonplace in the Web 1.0 world. In effect, more work is done in the browser as a means of distributed computing, leaving the application server to focus on business logic and freeing it from having to generate the UI again and again across requests.

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Pluggable Web Gallery Templates for Lightroom

Earlier this week, Photoshop Product Manager John Nack blogged about the interactive, Flash-based Web Gallery templates from Airtight Interactive which plug right into Lightroom. When viewing a photo collection in the Web module of Lightroom you can then select the template, customize it, then hit the upload button to magically produce a fun photo gallery on your website. Lightroom already comes with a large suite of HTML and Flash-based gallery templates, but you can't deny that those from Airtight Interactive are SWEET! My favorite is the PostCard Viewer.

I recently published two photo collections using the PostCard Viewer. Although I love the presentation, I still pine for the social interaction found on Flickr such as commenting, notes, and groups.

For my class on Photographic Seeing at BU's Center for Digital Imaging Arts, I was assigned to shoot some locations while keeping in mind several techniques of photographic composition, including:

  • Rule of Thirds
  • Frame within a Frame
  • Decisive Moment
  • Leading Lines
  • Negative Space
  • Pattern
  • Long Depth of Field
  • Shallow Depth of Field
  • Panning
  • Blur
  • Creative Use of Whitespace
  • Dynamic Use of Color


You can decide which is which on the final selection from the Photograph Seeing project, displayed with the Postcard Viewer. Also, as recently blogged about you can also check out my Faces of India project, also in Postcard Viewer format.

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