Day: August 6, 2007

Databasus interruptus

For some reason, our database is acting up big time today. It started overnight with a move to a new server. Sometimes links work, sometimes they don’t. There’s a data corruption problem somewhere in the database that handles our content and comments.

We’re working on it. If you’re looking for a specific post and it doesn’t come up, please be patient. We may have to do a database purge and then restore from backup.

UPDATE: Found, I think, the problem. The new server is case dependent on directories. The old one was not. I’ll need to make some changes in directory structure. Also, the image sizing software of the old server did not port over to the new one and I’m having to go in and resize images that are more than a couple of years old. Please be patient. We’ll have this sucker fixed as soon as I sort everything out.

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Back to basics

With FloydFest 6 now in the history books the focus for music in Floyd County shifts back to the Friday Night Jamboree and the always entertaining acts that play not only on the stage inside but on the street outside.

The Jamboree is still Floyd’s number one music attraction, attracting bluegrass fans from a wide area.

But it’s not the only game in town and those who want to venture a ways out can find even more. The Old Time Fiddler’s Convention kicked off this week in Galax, just as Blacksburg wrapped up Steppin’ Out over the weekend.

The area is awash in events, from FiddleFest in Roanoke (same weekend as FloydFest) to the acts that play the Winter Sun, Jefferson Center and other local and area venues.

The glut of music festivals, events and shows made one local wag wonder lately is the area is suffering from musical overkill.

God we hope not.

(Note: These photos were from a Jamboree shoot last year.)

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Well, damn!

I’m supposed to be getting ready to head for Washington for the Media Giraffe "Journalism that Matters" seminar but the doctor nixed that travel today after examining my still broken but apparently healing, foot.

He says the foot cannot handle five hours of driving each way plus sitting and standing in a seminar that runs from 1 p.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Wednesday with few breaks.

Damn. I was looking forward to working with fellow online professionals on examining the future of journalism in a digital world.

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A light at the end of the bridge

The Virginia Department of Transportation has extended the time of the green light at the bridge repair job on U.S. 221 near the intersection with Franklin Pike north of Floyd.

We had passed on concerns about the short (15 seconds) of time of the light which controls the single-lane traffic each way through the construction zone. Resident Highway Engineer Bob Beasley investigated the matter and the time has been extended, which lets more cars get through.

Thanks Bob.

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Moving day

Moved to a new server over the weekend and it went live this morning. Until propagation is complete some links may not work and all the database may not have transferred over. We’re working on making sure everything gets up and working. Please bear with us.

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How much is too much?

Another photojournalist who shoots for an area daily has problems with a moon photo I shot at FloydFest. He points out that I shot the photo on July 26 and the full moon did not occur until July 30.  The debate that now rages here and elsewhere deals with what is or is not an acceptable level of alteration in Photoshop. It also stands as a personal lesson to me on what happens when one is not specific enough on what is or is not done to digitally alter a photograph.

Full moon photos are something of a specialty of mine and it’s not the first time I’ve had one questioned. I admitted up front when I posted the image that it was "Photoshopped" (enhanced using Photoshop digital manipulation software).

In looking back over the files, I did enhance the moon too much. When I enhanced the moon I cropped tightly and rounded the edges because the moon, to many, appeared "full" that night..

Even though the calendar full moon was still four days away the moon often appears full due to atmospheric conditions.

The U.S. Naval Observatory says this about full moons:

Although Full Moon occurs each month at a specific date and time, the Moon’s disk may appear to be full for several nights in a row if it is clear. This is because the percentage of the Moon’s disk that appears illuminated changes very slowly around the time of Full Moon (also around New Moon, but the Moon is not visible at all then).

I photographed the scene of the moon over the state at FloydFest using three different focal lenghs: 200mm, 300mm and 600mm (a Canon 300mm f2.8 lenses with a 2x tele-extender. In all I took shot 27 image. Because the shots were taken with a Canon EOS-1Ds, which shoots full-frame at 16.7 megapixels, I did not have the "multiplier" effect of most digital SLRs which use smaller sensors.

The photo at the right is how it looked when it came out of the camera. Lots of fuzziness around the moon in the photo but those who saw the moon that night could see the shadows and detail.

Because the image was shot in RAW format, there is a lot more detail in the image. You can change the exposure, the contrast, the shadws and much more. For example, I can isolate the moon in Photoshop and then use enhancing tools to incrementally pull out the detail that was not immediately visible.

It’s a painstakingly slow process that must be performed at pixel level but if the detail is in the image file you can sometimes retrieve it.

So I isolated the moon and pulled out just that image and saved it as a new file. I made several copies and experimented with different enhancements. With each step, I saved a copy of the image and then went back and worked on another one, saving each so I had a trail of changes. My plan was to use the image in an upcoming class that I would be teaching at The Jacksonville Center to show how Photoshop can bring out detail most might think is not there.

I also sharpened the edges of the moon and cleaned up the haze that was more visible in the photo than to the naked eye. On one version, I cropped in tight and rounded the edges, making a not quite full moon appear full. Working just on these versions took over three hours. Then I worked on two of the background images and dodged out the hazy moon and inserted the enhanced moon back into the image.

The first image I posted was, in retrospect, too enhanced and the moon too sharp and too rounded given the conditions. I went back to another version of the image and backed off three levels  of burning and sharpening and rebuilt the image which is the currrent illustration posted on this web site (left).

It is an example of what can be done with Photoshop if one has the patience and training.

Is it dishonest? It is if you don’t reveal the photo was enhanced. I initially thought I had but I did not include enough detail on how the image was manipulated. The National Press Photographers Association has guidelines on digital manipulation of photos:

As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.

My intention in creating the image was not to deceive the public. When it was posted I explained it was digitally enhanced to improve the detail on the moon. Attendees at the festival that night remarked about the brightness and size of what appeared to be a full moon. Too many, the moon apppeared to be full. It also appears in the video I shot that night and the video was not enhanced. I feel the image above was closer to how the moon looked to the crowd than the one  that first came out of the camera and I tried to explain that when it was posted on this blog. But is is a photo illustration, not a photograph — and there is a difference.

News organizations have differing guidelines for what may or may not been done to digital images. Some prohibit even dodging and burning (lightening or darkening an area of the photograph for emphasis or detail). As one photo editor told me this week: "Our photographers are told to shoot, crop, write the caption and send. Nothing more."

I did explain on this blog that the image was Photoshopped and I submitted another version of the image to the local paper that I freelance for and explained what I did to the editor.  The caption in the paper partially explained how it was taken but the photo was not labeled a photo illustration and it should have been along with an explanation that it was digitally altered. I accept the fault for that and have written a more complete explanation for this week’s edition.

With the exception of a free-lance gig with the local paper, I don’t shoot for journalism purposes, I’m a commercial photographer who produces images and illustrations for clients and for display in galleries and shows. Many of these are enhanced with Photoshop in ways that are acceptable for gallery use but not for publication by a news organization. I also post Photoshop enhanced photos on this web site. It is important for me, and other photographers, to remember that when we work in both venues that journalism has different rules and guidelines. This was the only time in more than 40 years in journalism that I submitted a photo illustration for a news publication and, based on my experience I doubt I will do so again. In the past I have limited my photo illustration work to this blog and for photos which hang in a gallery and which are displayed for sale. I also teach a class in Advanced Photoshop techniques at The Jacksonville Center and will use this photo to both show what can be done and to explain the pitfalls that come with digital manipulation.

It is also important to identify when an image has been altered or enhanced. I tried to do so when I posted the image last week. I apologize to anyone who feels they were misled. It was not my intention.

(The issue is being discussed in the post that included the original photo. I’ve disabled the discussion here so it can be discused in one place and we can avoid redundancy.)

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