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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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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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.

Interactive Google Map of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is a proposed development in Massachusetts that will convert a former railroad bed into a 25 mile, multi-purpose trail stretching from Chelmsford to Framingham, passing through the towns of Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, and Sudbury too . The trail is logistically broken out into three phases, each to be developed sequentially as fund-raising and litigation with abutters move along in parallel.

The BFRT website is chock full of useful information for to help support the building of the Rail Trail. The map which diagrams the route and its 3 phases is rather vague unfortunately. I decided to diagram the bicycle path's proposed route using Google Maps instead, which allows for precise plotting, zooming, and both map and satellite views.


View Larger Map

I would love to see the whole network of rail trails in Massachusetts developed to encourage bicycling for sport and commuting since the roads are so very hazardous here. For starters, a connector trail to join the BFRT with the Assabet River Rail Trail would extend the trail network to Marlborough, Hudson, Maynard, and Stow. It would be a dream to also connect it to the Minuteman Bikeway that runs from Bedford to Cambridge and provides access to the Alewife subway station and Boston.

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Morf Transit - The Burlington Vermont Welcome Wagon

While in Burlington Vermont this weekend, I setup to do an HDR image on Church Street, the pedestrian thoroughfare with cross traffic at every block. An HDR image at night requires several long exposures taken in sequence.

While in the middle of the sequence, this driver from Morf Transit taxi service pulls up to wait for a client and stops right in front of me, although there was plenty of space in front of and behind it.

Morf Transit's Beligerent Driver

For 5 minutes I wait patiently with my wife beside me, just chuckling to ourselves over his parking tactics. No bigggie..

After 10 minutes I'm wondering if I should just move closer to the church in the distance and start over. The driver begins honking his horn to notify his clients that he's ready.

At close to 15 minutes of waiting the driver continues honking, and rolls down his windows to get some air. I took this opportunity to request if he wouldn't mind pulling forward a bit, and the conversation goes roughly like this:

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CDIA Sneak Peek: Videos of CDIA Photography Studio

Here's a few glimpses into Studio C at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts. About a fifth into the program, the Professional Digital Photography students move into the studio to learn flash photography using strobe kits, soft boxes, gels, and other creative equipment.

First here's a few of my shots from this weekend, followed by a couple quick videos around the studio to watch students at work and play.

Coffee Talks Whipped Decadent


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Ubuntu @ the Library -and- Vista SP1 Will Install XP

Jessamyn, a Flickr contact and the daughter of one of my friends at my photo club, recently posted a great video on YouTube about installing Ubuntu Linux. As a Librarian in Vermont, she was tasked with repurposing several computers donated to the library, each of which had a potentially unlicensed copy of Windows installed on it. Watch Jessamyn wipe the Windows off the computers, install Ubuntu Linux, and show how great Linux really is. She captured the whole procedure in this short and humorous video.

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Faces of India - A Photography Project

As a student at Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts, my first photography assignment was given in the second class, Camera and Workflow II. The assignment was called The Faces Project, and the goal was to take at least 100 photographs of faces, to be narrowed down to 50 for sharing in class, and finally to 2 for large format printing. Ideally, the student would narrow down the project to a particular theme, such as people laughing, people over 60, people jumping, or even (yes) people blowing their noses. While one of the project lessons was to get students to become comfortable with the camera and to quickly navigate and make best use of the exposure controls, the underlying lesson was a social one rather than technological one. As future professional photographers, the ability to confidently interact with and among strangers should not be overlooked. In fact, many of the students expressed a feeling of dread when given the assignment because, like myself, many are introverts or not highly social, and the thought of blindly walking up to strangers to ask for their photo made many a butterfly spin around our stomachs.

As I travel to India for work on occasion, I decided to choose the theme of Faces of India, since I was to be in Bangalore for a short while. At first, I thought the Faces project would be an impossible one. At times I was overcome with fear when contemplating photographing people in a foreign land, but at the same time I knew that I could accomplish this task that the results would likely be fantastic because of the diversity of culture and people found there.

Hostess at the Leela Palace Ingama Focus on the Future
Faces of India Project


The project got off with a few fits and starts, and I warmed up by photographying those with whom I work in the Adobe office in Bangalore. I'm very grateful for their cooperativeness while I fumbled around with positioning them, taking shots, and retaking more shots. They had a lot of patience with me. Soon a few key concepts emerged that I would quickly adapt to which would progressively help make the Faces of India project more successful. I didn't learn them all at the same time or in this order, but here's a few important ideas that became very useful:

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Professional Digital Photography at CDIA

This year I've taken a big step towards turning a long time personal interest into a professional skill. In May I enrolled in the Professional Digital Photography program at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts, or BU CDIA for short. The curriculum spans 24 classes over nearly 18 months, and requires the commitment of 2 nights per week and every other Saturday.



First Class at CDIA
First class at CDIA
Over the years I've been able to study at various local universities to build web technology skills, including Bentley College, Brandeis University, Harvard Extension School, and BUTrain (Boston University's corporate education). Compared to CDIA, I would be hard pressed to describe a curriculum or facility that was more current and state of the art, or better staffed with highly qualified instructors. CDIA's facility, conveniently located on Moody Street in Waltham, can hardly be called a campus, although it occupies three floors of a huge building converted into classrooms and studios, and will soon expand into an adjacent building that formerly housed a Jordan's Furniture store. In retrospect, only Harvard's Extension School rivals CDIA in quality of equipment and facilities as well as teaching ability of instructors.

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Google Wants to Get into Your Genes

The Biotech startup 23andMe aims to take genomic analysis up a notch, up several notches really, by bringing genomics down to a personal level backed by 21st century technology. In an SEC filing in May 2007 it was disclosed that Google floated 23andMe a whopping $3.9 million in addition to an previous loan of $2.6 million. [Via Bio-IT World]

As it turns out, this is not mere business nor even coincidence since 23andMe's co-founder Anne Wojcicki is none other than the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Wojcicki briefly commented that her goal is to use proprietary software tools, "to allow individuals to gain deeper insights into their ancestry, genology, and inherited traits and, ultimately, the option to work together to advance the overall understanding of the human genome."


As a software engineer and former biologist, I'm all for it. I wish Google and 23andMe many years of happiness and bliss together. Now if 23andMe only had an office in Boston...

(Funnily enough, the URL for the Bio-IT article ends with first base. >insert Beavis and Butthead snickering< *hee hee*)

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