2017, A Review

In what I hope to make an annual thing, I’d like to use this post to look back over 2017.  The travels, what cameras/lenses I favored, and what my favorite images of the year are.  Here we go, starting with the most straight forward items.

The Technical Stuff

In 2017, I created 21,446 photos and 268 videos.  This makes 2017 my second most prolific year of photography, after only 2016.  It was only slightly above 2011, which is now in 3rd place.

Images Per Year

2017, like 2016, was dominated by a single trip – in this case, my trip to Greenland.  This trip was responsible for 13,298 of the photos and videos.  2017 was otherwise a very low-photo year.  My lowest since 2012, when I last moved across the country.

For cameras per year, it is clear, I favored the D750 over the D800, which is the second year in a row.

It really wasn’t even close.  I think the weight of the camera, combined with the high burst rate really led me to favor this camera.  I also like to use this camera for night time time-lapse/star trails, which artificially inflates the camera usage – 1000 photos taken may only result in 1 final image.

The Leica is the only camera on the list that I do not own.  I had the chance to use it for an afternoon, which was a ton of fun.

My favorite lens for 2017 was the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, followed closely by the Nikon 24-120 f/4.  It actually surprises me that the 70-200 is so high up on this list.  This is due to my Greenland trip where I heavily favored this lens.  The Greenland trip was responsible for 5481 of the 6984 photos taken with this lens in 2017.

I know that simply a large number of images doesn’t equate to a large number of images you like.  A large number of images only means you consume a lot of space on external disk drives, which 2017 certainly did.  2017 consumed 814 GiB, which is certainly a record for me.

The breakdown of Camera:Lens combinations is:


Originally I was going to put my favorite images of 2017 in this space, but I’ve decided to hold that for a new post in the next week or so.  Knowing me, it will take longer, but we shall see.

The Good Stuff – New Stuff

2017 was a small year for purchases.  I purchased a new camera bag for international travel and a new travel laptop.

The Good Stuff – Travels

My trip to Greenland was by far the largest excursion of 2017.  Other than this trip, I had a weekend in Utah; some day trips in and around Seattle; and some visits to family that allowed me to take some photos.

The Bad Stuff – Repairs and Damage

I hope this section doesn’t have large entries every year.  But this year has a frustrating entry.

This year, my D750 was subject to a recall on the shutter.  When I received the camera back after the first repair, there were issues with the reassembly of the camera.  It had to go back in to be reassembled properly.  I was lucky, as the camera nearly didn’t make it back to me for my Greenland trip.  But, I am also thankful to Nikon who went out of their way to ensure that happened.  I am also quite thankful that my D750 has a brand new shutter.  While my D750 has taken nearly 30,000 photos, the shutter only has around 6900.  The D750 will likely continue to be in use for 3-6 more years.

Outside of this, my gear experienced nothing more than normal wear and tear.


Let’s now look at my plans for this current year.

Due to job-related reasons, I’ve relocated from the PNW to Pennsylvania.  But I’ve found a nice place near my new job and not too far from the outdoors.  So I’ll be photographing a new area of the country with new parks and things to explore.  I’ll also be visiting the Atlantic Ocean, which is fun.

In 2018 I hope to have a few more business-oriented aspects to my photography.  Until now, it has been mostly for fun.  In this new year, I hope to pursue tasks which offset the cost of my camera gear and travels.  More details as they become available and I can actually make them happen.

I’m also testing the water with video and learning the basics of producing a video.  I have an idea that I hope to launch in 2018.

Until the next post


The Math of the F/Stop Progression

As a quick post, I’m going to mention something that everyone seems to have difficulty with.  This is a little math-heavy and I’ll try to simplify it.

F/stop progressions.  Why do I have to double my shutter speed when going from F/2.0 to F/2.8?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to double my shutter speed when I go from F/2.0 to F/4.0?

The F/stop is related to the diameter of the aperture of the lens, or the width of the circle of light that shines on the sensor or film.  The key word here is ‘circle’.

Everyone remembers that the area of a circle is area = pi * r^2.  The number in the F/stop is related to the Diameter, which is 2 * radius.  If you want to cut the area of the circle in half, you need to divide the diameter (and thus the radius) by the squareroot of 2.  The squareroot of 2 is 1.4142136 … but for our purposes, 1.4 is good enough.

This is why the F/stop progression is 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, etc.  Each of these numbers are about 1.4 apart (2 * 1.4 = 2.8, 2.8 * 1.4 = 2 * (1.4 * 1.4) = 2 * 2 = 4).  Each stop is the same as increasing the diameter/radius by 1.4, and doubling the size of the opening.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “self, this makes it look like the numbers are in reverse order”.  The piece to understanding the order is in how the F/stop is normally stylized, F/2.8, F/4.0, etc.  The / in math means divided by.  It means the aperture is set to the focal length divided by the number represented in the F/stop.  For example, on a 120mm lens, at F/4.0, the aperture is 120mm/4.0 or 30mm.  If we stop down to F/8.0, the aperture is 15mm.  A circle with a 30mm diameter has an area 4 times the size of a circle with a 15mm diameter, thus, F/8.0 lets through one quarter the light of F/4.0, and is a change of ‘2 stops’.

I hope this helps understand everyone understand one of the less obvious parts of photography.


Useful Tips : Photographing Fireworks and Getting a Result

Happy New Year everyone! This is going to be a quick post about photographing fireworks, and making the best of what you get. It also includes some tips for people who just want to go to bed early.

Tip #1 – Arrive early. In most places, there will be a lot of competition for places to view and photograph the fireworks. If the fireworks are starting “when it gets dark enough”, like the 4th of July in the USA, you want to arrive about 2-3 hours before dark and set up. If it is at midnight, like New Years Eve, you want to be in place at least 3 hours ahead of time, depending on how popular the spot is.

However, if you are photographing from a place you own or rent, you are fine. I like to use my apartment window because #1 – I can set up during the daylight, and #2 – January is cold, and I want to sip my champagne in peace.

Tip #2 – Fireworks are a big light source. This light will bounce around and can create reflections or illuminate things you don’t want seen. If you are shooting through a window, the fireworks can light up your room and cause reflections in the glass. Use a black cloth to eliminate this reflection as much as possible. I like to tape the cloth around the lens and to the glass, if possible. If you don’t have something that is black, use the darkest color available.

Tip #3 – Find your settings early. My go-to is iso200, F/8, 3 seconds. I like 3 second exposures.

Tip #4 – If you can leave your camera, use a self timer. I prefer to use the internal timer when possible (my D800 and D750 both have internal self timers). My older cameras do not. So I set the camera to iso200, F/8, 3 seconds, and set the self timer to start a 35 minute exposure starting at about 11:55 and ending around 12:30. The camera thinks the shutter is being held down and takes back-to-back 3 second exposures, and I get to enjoy the fireworks or sleep. In general, I like my self timers for purposes like this (they also work great with sunsets when you want to photograph them and watch them – this lets you enjoy the event with your significant other). Self timers are also great when you can set things up early, then enjoy some adult beverages which may otherwise prevent you from taking the images.

Tip #5 – If you are trying to take the lazy aproach, be prepared to work with what you get.

Expanding on Tip #5, 2 years ago I set everything up on a self timer, taped a dark cloth to the window, and went to bed. When I woke up, I had about 300 photos, only 100 of which had fireworks. But, the tape I was using didn’t hold, so the 100 fireworks images all looked like this.


While it was disappointing, the right half of the image turned out, so there was hope. Since I knew that the D800 has a crazy high resolution, and I can make big prints from even a vertical crop of a horizontal image, I did just that.

This cropping was able to save my image

I like the results. Especially considering the non-ideal situation that caused these to be my only options. I am setting up one of my cameras for the fireworks this year to try to get something similar.

As I write this, there is about 9 hours remaining in the year. I’m going to spend the next few hours getting 3-4 cameras set up and ready, then probably sit down for a relaxing day. Once the cameras are set up, I’ll make a post on Instagram with what the setup looks like.

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2017.


Photographing the Grand Canyon – Matkatamiba Canyon

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to travel down the Colorado river and photograph the Grand Canyon.

One of the lunch stops on this trip was at Matkatamiba Canyon, which is at mile 148, just before the Matkatamiba Rapids. Our goal was to make it up to one of the waterfalls in the slot canyon and photograph it. Due to how this canyon winds around, it can support a lot of photographers at once at most locations.

Upon arrival, we found the entranceway had deeper water than there was in previous years.

This was not off to a good start. We had to cross a neck deep path with camera gear. While I may have been able to make it, some of the shorter members of the group would not, or at least their camera gear would not.

The solution was to use some of the folding tables as a bridge.

Some of the other people in the group decided to climb the rocks and make it over. Being taller, I took the option of holding my camera gear over my head and wading through the creek.

After passing through this creek, there were two waterfalls to climb. While this first one doesn’t look like much, the right side was extremely slippery, and, at least two people fell. One person managed to have their camera call into the water, but, it was an older Canon 1D series, so it was fine after it dried out a bit.

After this waterfall, there was a chest deep section, followed by a waist deep section, followed by another waterfall to climb. I do not have any pictures of this last waterfall, because there were a bunch of people trying to photograph it, and I wanted to get out of their frames as fast as possible.

At this last waterfall, the slot canyon narrows greatly. I was able to take a quick stop about 1/3rd of the way up to take this photo. There was a small pool here where I could take a small break from the climb.

I was now at a point where only a handful of people would try to venture. Once I got to the top of the stream, I took a look around the corner.

This looked quite nice, and very well could have been my shot. I decided to set up and take a few shots while deciding how much further I wanted to go.

As I was debating whether to continue up or turn back, some other members of my group showed up. One of them climbed up and let us know we were about as far as you could go. I decided if I was almost there, I might as well go to the top. So I did.

About the time I got to the top, a few people were ready to leave. The guides then showed up, having taken a goat trail to get there. They helped a few members of my group get out and head up the trail. A few members of my group decided to start to venture back down the creek. I then had it all to myself.

Since I had all of my camera gear, and a great little spot all to myself, I decided not to waste it, and, carefully set up my camera. At the bottom of the area, there is place to put bags down and keep them mostly dry. Here, there was no such spot.

The pink duct tape on the camera serves a few purposes. #1 – Identification – by the first day, everyone knew that Pink Duct Tape was mine. #2 – Dust Protection – the Grand Canyon has very fine dust that gets everywhere. The duct tape helped keep this dust out of the sensitive parts of the camera. #3 – Pink = Professional. My other camera was marked with Star Wars Duct Tape, so I could tell them apart at a distance.

And here, after all of that story, is the final image. It only took about an hour in Photoshop to get to this point.

Matkatamiba Top

The top of Matkatamiba

Until next time

Using GPX Data in LightRoom


  • This will allow you to add a Latitude/Longitude (aka GPS Coordinates) to your photos after the fact, and without needing to use a GPS receiver on your camera.
  • This allows for a trip where only 1 person carries the GPS recorder, but everyone can benefit.
  • These features have been available since Lightroom 4.
  • The screenshots below are from Lightroom CC 2015, on Mac OS X.

Lightroom Instructions

Terry from Adobe talks about Geotagging – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-9kSbLk26M

Important things to know: The Timezone offset means the difference in the camera’s clock vs your computer’s clock. If your camera’s clock is set to PDT (Pacific Daylight Savings) and your computer is set to EDT (Eastern Daylight Savings), you want to use -3 as your timezone offset. The computer needs to know the difference between your computer and your camera’s clock.

An easy alternative to this is to reset your computer’s clock to the timezone your camera’s clock was set to before using the Geotagging data.

Before We Begin-

Things to Know – Lightroom remembers the location of the .gpx file. It is recommended that you create a folder inside of your [My] Documents folder for GPX logs.

Without full information, Lightroom will guess. If there is a jump in the data, it will pick one side or the other and not try to calculate where you may have been on a straight line. Knowing this behavior, when capturing the GPS logs, I recommend turning off your GPS when you will be stationary for an extended period of time, and turning it back on when you move.

The GPS log will not be 100% accurate, but it will generally be close enough. In many situations, the GPS receiver can have trouble locking on to the location. For the most part, accuracy is within 30m/100ft. In the difficult areas, accuracy is within about 0.1 miles. There are some places, it does look like this-

If you see something like this, it is just due to the age of the GPS chips and the limited accuracy of that location. If you use a piece of software to edit the GPX file, you can just delete this section.

It is also HIGHLY recommended that you perform this on ~5 test files that you have not yet worked on. See “Removing Geolocation Data” below. If you had a device that was geotagging, it is HIGHLY recommended that you do not try to tag a tagged photo.

Let’s Begin
Step 1 – Open the Map Module of Lightroom
Step 2 – Click on the box at the bottom that looks like a line graph (to the right of the Padlock Icon). We will call this the ‘Tracklog Icon’

Step 3 – Choose “Load Tracklog”

Step 4 – Navigate to where the log was stored, press ‘Choose’

This should now load the entire track

Step 5 – Click on the Tracklog Icon, select “Set Time Zone Offset”

Step 6
See “Things to Know” at the start of this section. You will be presented with a dialog box asking you for the timezone offset. This is the difference between your computer’s timezone and your camera’s timezone. If they are both set to the same, choose 0.0.

Note: This assumes that your camera’s clock had at the minutes set correctly. If your camera’s clock was set completely wrong, you can adjust the offset by .1 hours (6 minutes). Good luck! And set your clock right next time.

After setting the offset, press OK.
Step 7 – Using the filmstrip area, choose the photos you wish to tag.

Step 8 – Hit the Tracklog Icon Again, choose “Auto Tag X Photos”

The first time you do this, you may see a pop up about doing reverse location info. This sends the GPS coordinates to Google to fill in the city/state/country/region information for where you were. Turn this on if you’d like. I leave it turned off.

Step 9 – Assuming your test went smoothly; perform the same task on the rest of your files.

Step 10 – Enjoy your map

If you click on one of the numbers, then switch back to your Library View, those photos that were in that area will be selected.

To find files that do or do not have location info, you can go into your Library and do a ‘Metadata Search’.

You can add a new column for ‘GPS Data’, which will let you search for files that do or do not have GPS Data.

I have been geotagging since 2010. If you continue to geotag over time, your map could eventually look like this:

Removing Geolocation Data-

Under the Photo Menu, choose “Delete GPS Coordinates”

GPS data is stored in the .xmp of a photo and in your .lrcat file itself.

If you overwrote a location from a photo that was already tagged (for examply, 1 camera has GPS tagging built in), the only way I know to get the location back is to remove the file from your catalogue, delete the .xmp file (if there is one), then import the file again. Sorry.

If you wish to hide the location data during export, check the “Remove Location Info” box.

Alternative method – Jeffrey’s GeoTagging Plugin

A more feature-full GeoTagging Option is the one from Jeffrey Friedl of regex.info (http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/gps. This plugin has a lot of options and can guess where you were a lot better than Lightroom’s out of the box functionality. If you want to go down this route, the author’s web page has a fantastic step-by-step guide.

Terry from Adobe Talks about Geotagging – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-9kSbLk26M
Jeffrey’s GeoTagging Plugin – http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/gps


Compressed RAW Files

This post is my thoughts on this well intended, but slightly misguided, post on Digital Photography School.  NOTE – this post was written in June of 2016, if something changes, updates will be noted here.

Personally, I always shoot at 14-bit Compressed RAW.  For me, it is better to shoot at 14 vs 12.  While using 14-bit does create larger files, for me, this is not an issue.  But, I do not work weddings or sports where shooting 14-bit may clog down the system due to processing large numbers of large files.

Now, I like math.  I like math a lot.  I also understand light and electronics.  Here are my thoughts.

14 bit raw does not buy you much except when it does.  To fully explain what it buys, I have to explain how your eye works vs how an image sensor works.  I’m going to use an example.

If you take a room with 1 lit candle, then add 1 more lit candle, your eye will really notice the difference.  If you take a room with 1000 lit candles, then light one more, your eye will not notice this at all.  This is because your eye works on relative brightness.  Doubling the light is very different vs an increase of 0.1%.  However, a camera works off of absolute brightness, which means that both examples are the same increase in brightness, or an increase of 1 candle.  Minute Physics has an explanation of this.

With the Gamma Curve, and relative brightness levels, what does the bit-ness mean and what does it give you?

The simplest answer – the bit-ness matters in the shadows and the shadow detail.  If you have a well lit scene with very little shadow detail, there will likely be no easily discernible difference in 12 vs 14 bit.  There will certainly be differences between 12 and 14 bit RAWs, but they are mostly in the file size and the after capture flexibility.  The less you want to push the shadows in the final image (vs at capture) the less 14 bit matters.  If you shoot HDR or shoot brackets for some kind of HDR usage, you should be fine with 12 bit.

In this part, I do not disagree with the DPS post.

Where I do severely disagree with the post is in compression.  This part of the discussion shows where the author lacks computer science skills.

Side note – this is about lossless compression only, and is based on my experience with Nikon cameras.  This does not cover lossy RAW, which is available on Nikon and Sony cameras.  Nor does it talk about sRAW files.

Much like how in photography every choice you make is a trade-off, compression is the same.  But in compression, the trade-off is more interesting.

Let’s take a file that is 100MB.  In this situation, the file can be compressed to 60MB with 1 additional second for processing time.  This file can be uncompressed with a modern CPU in half a second.  The question very quickly becomes — does compression make sense?  The next question is, how long does it take to compress the file, and is the storage system able to handle uncompressed vs compressed faster.  For storing the file, if you can transfer 20MB/sec, the 100MB file takes 5 seconds to transfer and the compressed file takes 1 second to compress and 3 seconds to transfer, for a savings of 1 second.  If you can transfer 100MB/sec, the larger file transfers in 1 second, and the smaller file transfers in 1.6 seconds.

If you shoot compressed RAW, opening the file on a computer later could take slightly longer (due to needing to decompress the file).  But a computer normally is fast enough that this doesn’t matter.  You may not notice a difference in the compressed file vs the uncompressed, especially if you have a SSD and a CPU from the last 3-4 years.

Compression may shorten the battery life on your camera.  The longer the camera CPU and sensor are idle, the better your battery life.  Transferring and compressing both use power.  With a relatively new camera, this is unlikely to make a difference of more than 5% change in the number of images per charge.  My DSLRs can shoot nearly 1000 images on a single charge, so +/-50 isn’t a huge deal.  With a modern camera and a slower memory card, it is more likely that you notice that images save faster if you use compression.  Only once you hit the fastest of the fast for memory cards (say, a latest generation QXD card) would compression increase the time required to save a RAW to the memory card.  I am not saying you should buy cheaper cards, but I am saying that most people will not need the fastest generation of cards, and would be better off buying 2-3 of the previous generation of cards for the same price.  Also, if you compress your files, they will take up around 30% less space on the card, making those 3 64GB last gen cards even better than the 1 128GB current gen card.

In short, the math proves that for the vast majority of people, compressed RAWs will be a benefit.  I will be happy to edit/append this post if I am wrong within the next 2-3 years (note, the year this post was written or updated).


Experiments with Time : Seattle Timelapse, What I Learned

Hello Everyone.

This past weekend, I came up with an idea for an experiment with time.  I was sitting in my apartment, watching storms pass by, thinking to myself “it would be really neat to make a timelapse of these passing storms”.  But the storms came and went over two days.  So I began to think about how you could actually capture something that lasts that long.

After thinking about it for a day, I came up with an idea – a full 24 hour timelapse.  Somehow, I would have a camera take photos for 24 hours.

My first thought was to have 24 hours in 24 seconds.  Since I live in the USA and we use 30 frames per second on our TVs, shrinking 60 minutes to 30 frames means 1 frame every 2 minutes.  After thinking about this longer, I decided this was a lot of work for under 30 seconds of video, so I decided to go with 40 frames per hour, or 1 every 90 seconds.  This works out to 960 photos in 24 hours.  I ended up going with 1000 photos over 25 hours as a ‘just in case’ precaution.

After more thoughts, I decided to go from midnight to midnight.

So, with a concept created, I got ready.  I cleared out my memory cards, set up my tripod in my windows, then set up the camera.  I decided to use my D750 because my D800 is testing out a new tripod, and my 24-70 f/2.8 lens.  My initial thoughts were that the D750 would be better because the low light capabilities are better (turned out this didn’t matter) and because the files are smaller (this DID make my life easier).

For the camera setup, I had to shoot through a window.  So, I added my C-PL to the front of the lens to eliminate as much of a reflection as possible, then used masking tape to hold a dark blue hand towel to the window to prevent as much reflections as possible.  The towel was taped to the window, camera, and tripod.  Because I would be asleep and unable to make changes, I selected f/9 and iso400 in Aperture priority mode.  The D750 has a min shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second and a max shutter speed of 30 seconds.  Back of the napkin math said this would probably be fine.  For the metering point, I picked the only white object in the scene — the Space Needle.  This would also allow the auto white balance to correctly handle the transition from night to day.

And so, on March 7th, 2016, I set up my camera with a timer set to start at midnight, and went to bed.

I woke up at around 7:15 and checked the camera.  Oops, battery is running low, glad I looked.  One more battery change at 6pm was required.  The last battery charge lasted from 6pm to 1am and still had about 40% remaining in the morning.

I am very happy with the results of this test.  Due to a limitation of iMovie, each image ended up lasting 0.13 seconds in the final result, and each hour is around 5.3 seconds.

The first mistake I realized I made was when I first looked at the images.  I always shoot in RAW format.  But now, I needed to convert the images to JPEG.  The conversion took 6 hours.  Next time, I’ll either shoot in RAW+JPEG or JPEG only.  The reason I would use RAW+JPEG is because there is a chance some of the images are good enough to become standalone images.

The next change I would make for the next attempt is to have more images.  I find the resulting video to be quite nice, but, I wish it was longer.  I would probably change to 1 image every 60 seconds and potentially try to go for 2 days.  But, this would require more battery changes, potentially 3 overnight, and probably an external power supply.  There is also less time to change a battery during the night, when the exposures can get to 20 or more seconds.  During the day, when the exposures were 1/400th of a second, there is a lot of extra time for a battery swap.

The final change would be in the framing of the image.  I made the mistake of handling the framing after dark on viewfinder that doesn’t cover 100% of the image.

I would also like to make the resulting video better and more professional.  Right now, this is a rough draft video that was produced quickly to see how well it turned out.  Now that I know how it turned out, I’ll spend some more time on the video, which is something I am not very good at.  Because I started with 24 MPix files, I could finalize the video at 4K, but likely will keep it at HD only.

While I certainly wish I could get lucky and predict when a fantastic sunset will happen (as I look out my window tonight, the sunset is nicer than when I ran the test), this is one of those ‘luck’ things, which is difficult to predict 1-2 days in advance.


Working With LightRoom Keywords

This is a post I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time. This will be a much more technical post than normal.  Sometime I may write more about how I specifically use Keywords.

But first, some background information on how I use Keywords in LR. There are 3 components to Keywords.

  1. Exportable Keywords – this is what the majority of keywords are
  2. Non Exportable Keywords – these allow you to build trees of keywords
  3. Synonyms – these are alternative words to a keyword

Toplevel Keyword List

For the most part, all of the folders shown are Top Level and set to be Non Exportable. I use this system because it lets me build a folder system to store my Keywords, but these do not show up when you export the file. This ensures that your storage folder for ‘Water Features’ is not alphabetically near your location folder for ‘Wales’ or ‘Whales’.

I also use Non Exportable Keywords for family members or exact locations of homes. For example, if I am at a family wedding, and I want to tag my cousin, I might use the non exportable keyword hierarchy of “Smith Family” -> “NY Smiths” -> “David”. If I am careful with my tagging, I can quickly find all photos of my cousin David Smith from the NY side of the family in the future using the LR Keyword search feature. In LR CC 2015 the feature was added to mark a Keyword as ‘People’, which is also a non exportable form of a keyword. I don’t use this right now because it would require me to redo a lot of my tags.

Let’s expand my ‘WORLD LOCATIONS’ folder to see why I use these Non Exportable items.

In this example, I’ve expanded my World Locations, and the subfolder ‘Europe’. This allows me to store all of my location keywords in one place, keeping them separate from other keywords (e.g., “sunrise”, “waterfall”) which may occur almost anywhere in the world.

One of the benefits to making subfolders that are exportable is that you do not need to add those Keywords to your list, they are automatically added on Export. In the case of ‘Rovaneimi’, I’ve added this label to around 1000 photos. But, Rovaneimi is a city in Lapland, which is in Finland. All I need to do is add the Keyword ‘Rovaneimi’ to a photo, and ‘Lapland’, ‘Finland’, and ‘Europe’ will all be added on export. If I wanted, I could make my folder structure something like Europe -> Finoscandanavia -> Finland -> Lapland -> Rovaneimi. It is up to you. For me, folder structure this in depth would normally require justification. I currently live in Seattle. Because I photograph here a lot, I’ve separated the USA into regions. My Seattle photos have North America -> USA -> Pacific Northwest -> Washington -> Seattle. If I had under 10 US States, this extra level of US Regions may not be needed.  Until I had about 20 US States, I kept each one as a sub of USA.

The final part of Keywords I want to explain is Synonyms or Aliases. These allow you to automatically add an additional Keyword to an existing Keyword. These Synonyms are exported as if they are an additional Keyword.

I use these in several different ways. I live in the United States. In the US, all states have a full name and a 2-letter abbreviation. So states like “Pennsylvania” have a 2-letter code of “PA”. Canadian states, like “British Columbia”, also have abbreviations, like “BC”. I can set my label to be “Pennsylvania” or “British Columbia” and set synonyms of “PA” or “BC”.  Obviously, there can be keyword collisions.  One that I frequently run into is that an old camera of mine, the Canon S30, has a tag for ‘S30’.  ‘S30’ is also an old version of the Nissan Z series, which is something I did not find out until searches for ‘S30’ became one of the biggest drivers to my Flickr photos.

I also like to set variations of words in my Synonyms. Last year, I was inside of a “Glacier Cave”. I found that I wasn’t being as consistent as I should have been, and ended up with the additional Keywords of “Glacial Caves”, “Glacial Cave”, and “Glacier Caves”.

If something has 2 different names, it is really easy to use a synonym to add both named in 1 Keyword. For example, “Northern Lights” is a synonym for “Aurora Borealis”. “Aurora Australis” is a synonym for “Southern Lights”. Or if you prefer, you can make “Aurora Borealis” as the Keyword, and “Northern Lights” as the synonym.

In addition to this, I use synonyms is for non-english variations of words or locations. What do I mean? If I go visit Munich, Germany, the locals would spell the city as “Munchen” and the country as “Deutschland”. I like to keep my Keyword as the English version, but add the name in the local language as a synonym. This doesn’t mean I can, or do, add every variation of a place, but I try to use the US English and Local variations.  I would not, for example, add Londres as a synonym for London, nor would I add Pays-Bas for The Netherlands.  I would likely add Uluru as a synonym for Ayers Rock, or perhaps the other way around.

I’ll also add variations for letters that do not exist in English. An example of this is my labels for Thingvellier National Park in Iceland. Icelandic has Thorn and Eth, 2 characters that no longer exist in English. My aliases for Thingvellier are “Þingvellir National Park“, “Þingvellir“, and “Thingvellir“. My sub Keywords are “Geysir“, “Gullfoss“, and “Oxararfoss“. Oxararfoss has a Synonym of “Öxarárfoss“. By using synonyms like this, I can keep my list alphabetized in the way I can remember.

All of this is great information. But what does it do for you? How do you really take advantage of it?

The real power comes from Lightroom’s ability to import and export keyword lists. If we export our keyword list, we can reverse engineer how to build new keyword lists for import.

Let’s look at a partial export for my own World Locations-

Schoenbrunn Palace
{Schönbrunn Palace}
{Other Variation}

What does this export tell us? A Top Level, like “WORLD LOCATIONS” has no indentation. Each sub item is a line lower, with an extra tab. So my “Europe” is actually a “[Tab]Europe”, and my “Austria” is “[Tab][Tab]Austria”. We also see that Synonyms are situated in the same place as a sub item, but are surrounded by {} type brackets. We can also see that Non Exportable items are surrounded by Square Brackets – [].

With this information, it is reasonable to assume that this is also the format that can be imported. Since this is really text, it should not be difficult to manipulate with a programming language like perl or python. It should also not be too difficult to create an input format for the purposes of outputting in the format required for a LR import.

Why do I mention all of this?  Because I’m working on building something like this for myself.  Once I have something that mostly works, I’ll release the code.  I had planned on doing this weeks ago, it is just taking longer than anticipated.


After The Violence in Paris

Paris is a great city. One of the first foreign cities I ever visited, and the first foreign city I ever visited without my parents present (1997). Paris is one of the few foreign cities I have been to multiple times (3 to be exact, 1997 x2, 2004).

The events of this past weekend are heartbreaking. I do not know why, but, to me, it feels a lot like the attacks on the USA on 9/11/01. Je suis Parisien. J’adore Paris. #prayforparis

This photo is of one of the tributes that my current city has for one of my favorite cities. I may live in Seattle, but right now, I’m a Citizen of Paris.

I am happy that the city I live in has done this, and I fully support this action.

I am aware that other city landmarks have done similar things. This is a good thing.

I hope and pray, but do not expect, that this is the last time such a gesture is required.


WiP: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forrest at Night

I recently returned from California on a photo trip.

One of the stops was at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forrest, near Bishop, CA, where I captured this 30 second exposure.

To get this photo, I set up my camera while there was still light from the sun. Then captured a few test shots to see how the framing was, locked the tripod down and ate my dinner.

This is one of the test shots for framing. It is also a 30 second exposure.

Getting the Milky Way next to the tree was due to being prepared. I use an app called Star Walk on my iPhone. There are others, but this is the one I use. Since the app doesn’t need a data connection, only location info, it was able to tell me where the Milky Way was before the sun went down. I then both guessed and advanced the clock on the app to see about where the Milky Way would be in an hour after it was dark. This gave me enough information to line up the frame to get the capture I wanted.

I like the results. The first image only has about 20 seconds of edits in LightRoom, and could use quite a bit more. There is a lot of junk in the frame from other trees in the area. Normally, I would climb the hill to get the right perspective, but, the hill was made of loose shale rock and it was raining. It was not safe enough to take the risk to avoid 20-30 minutes in Photoshop.

So anyways, here is a Work In Progress from a recent trip. I’ll probably have the photos from the trip finished in a few months.