the deep shallow

The Deep Shallow

As many of you know I live near a big lake and often venture out to collect images for desktops and really it astounds me that I have been able to go to the same place for years and continue to find things to shoot. A recent storm must have taken a number of trees out as there were a few pines laying across the edge of the lake, one of which is the tree seen above. It’s a wonderful spot to relax because you can walk out onto the end of it and sit out over the water. The first time I did this a huge fish came out and tried to nibble on my foot which was laying barefoot in the water on a warmer day. As long as the city leaves the tree there I’m sure I will continue to visit the spot. Sad news though, the small four or five car parking lot at the head of a small trail that I have been going to for over 10 years will be closed in a couple of weeks for some unknown reason leaving my long time access point to my favorite local spot a thing of the past. Such is life.

As for the photo here, I thought a classic minimal bokeh filled shot would be appropriate and I know how much they end up being enjoyed around here. To get the camera so close to the water I placed a finger on the underside of its body so I could feel when the camera body was as close as I could manage without dunking it in. I have had this lens so long I am familiar with its range enough so that I can shoot blindly fairly confidently when needed. The image as you see it is straight off the camera. I was tempted to sharpen things up a little and mess with the balance of color and contrast but fought the urge simply to share an image with zero post work in order to contrast the heavily straightened photo from the previous post and further illustrate that post is not something you have to lean too heavily on if you find the right conditions to shoot in.

It’s amazing how three or four simple choices can make or break an image. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and the newest addition brought with the digital age, white balance. Obviously thats simplifying it, camera and lens choice as well as film choice when applicable, has a lot to do with it as well. I firmly believe that any camera from a disposable junker, to a simple point and shot, to an $8,000 DSLR can be pushed to take interesting photos. I have proven this to myself over the past few years of experimenting with so many different old film cameras. While many may not have the range of possibility or expandability that others have it still stands that any camera has its strengths and weaknesses to be exploited.

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Motel

These images were taken in route to Baltimore at some point last year and I had all but forgotten about them until I had a look in my Aperture library on the hunt for some new wallpapers to post. I wonder what the allure of old neon signage is. Perhaps just a reminder of days gone by or simply a kick of nostalgia for those like myself that feel drawn to this kind of beautiful old craftsmanship. It was a grey, quiet day while driving and lead to photos equally as drab so I decided to have a bit of fun with the post processing. The original image was a flat sort of grey so I increased contrast with a subtle S in curves and added an orange/purple tint to the shadows to aid to the old feel of the image a little bit.

The biggest step out onto the post processing plank that I decided to take this time is something I wanted to mention. It is in regard to the first image above. If you look at it you may realize that its perspective is impossible. To shoot the sign straight on I would have needed a scissor lift or tall ladder to get high enough in the air. You may notice that you are able to see the underside edge of the letters yet the lines are straight as if I was directly in front of the sign. This perspective shift is what bellows and tilt shift lenses do best but I have no such lens to shoot with so, with the aid of YoungDoo I took her advice and straightened the lines in an effort to clean up the image using a lens correction filter to “correct” the lower perspective I had to take while shooting.

 

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I don’t normally do such things but thought why not give it a try, it seemed like a subtle enough image to try this with and I feel the result ended up with a cleaner image overall. I wanted to mention this process because I know that I can seem pretty stubborn about using post processing here sometimes but wanted to make it clear that I am not wholly against it. I simply like to encourage photographers to fully understand the tools and techniques to get great images straight off of the camera rather than rely on messy destructive post technique to fix images.

To give everyone an idea of what kind of difference this effect made on the image I have included a wallpaper version in the zip that shows the original perspective with the lines having more of a natural slope to them. Some of you may prefer the more natural perspective So I thought it would be nice to include in the download.

I see this type of advice more and more on photo sites across the web and it is a welcome sight to see. In the coming year I hope to continue to write articles and suggestions about this and I have a couple of projects and ideas brewing to make this fun and interesting.

On another note, the first image above is not available as an iPad or iPhone wallpaper. The only way I could have managed to make this happen would have been heavy photoshopping and cloning which I am not much in the mood to sort out. The roof above the letters was just too close to the word for me to get the shot and allow for enough space above the word to frame it well for that kind of crop. Especially for the tricky iPad rotating desktop square crop. Hope you understand why I decided to leave this off this time around. The second image, however, does have crops for the other devices.

To download the images above in full desktop resolution simply CLICK OR RIGHT CLICK HERE to download a zip file which also contains the other crops of the second image for your iDevices. Please mind the terms of use inside the zip file which clearly state that you may not re-host the images anywhere else without my permission, these are distributed exclusively through fiftyfootshadows unless permission is given otherwise and commercial use is prohibited. They are for your own personal use as a wallpaper, thanks so much for your understanding and support and enjoy!

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Jambox

For years now I have been looking for a great, well rounded portable speaker system for my every day life. Something simple to use, constructed well enough to be tossed in my bag on any given day, and sounds bigger than it looks. I have had a number of speaker docks around over the years but none have ever really been outstanding enough of a product to make me truly happy with the performance. There has always been a compromise between big sound and size. The smaller docks I owned always sounded tiny which is to be expected, it’s the nature of small speaker systems to not have a robust sound. The larger docks often had decent sound but were never truly portable.

So years go by and I had all but given up on the idea of such a portable speaker ever existing that would fulfill my crazy standards and desires for such a product. That is until I saw a photo of a Jambox somewhere online one day. I think it was on my iPad flipping through Flipboard actually, haha. Funny that something as seemingly ordinary as seeing a photo of a new device would manage to stick in my mind as a valid memory to keep around but this managed to do just that. The simple, elegant little box just looked the part of something I would gravitate toward. Upon further research I discovered that not only was it a pretty object to look at but it had the performance to match this unfounded object lust I had acquired. It seemed to have sturdy construction and the audio performance to match the hype but then how do you go about trusting the internet these days. Most information I read about it was the same old uninformative reviews or product suggestions. But like the AiAiAi headphones I bought a few months back I just had a good feeling about this one so I put it on my list of things to pick up when possible.

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Along comes Christmas and low and behold a Jambox managed to make its way into my hands. I was certainly anxious to see if this little box would hold up to the grand expectations I had for it and sure enough the Jambox has met and exceeded my expectations. First thing out of the box you notice is the build quality. It’s like a little brick of a speaker, fits easily in the palm of your hand and it feels good to hold at that. The silicon rubber finnish is robust and sturdy and the wrap around grill with its slick, subtle pattern feels as though it would take a lot of prying to pull off. No screws, no un needed functionality or weird “tuning” switches, just a basic set of buttons for volume, bluetooth headset actions and an on off switch that doubles as your access to activate its pairing mode.

So lets talk about that for a second here, the bluetooth nature of the device. While there is a line input in the speaker it is primarily a stereo bluetooth unit and pairing could not be any more simple, quick and effortless. Simply press and hold the power switch in its upmost position for a second and the speaker will speak to you telling you it has put itself in pairing mode. (The same voice will also tell you the battery life or the number of an incoming call) On my iPhone, iPad, and even my Macbook the process of choosing the Jambox as its source is as simple as can be and takes no more than 30 seconds to a minute at the most before you have everything set and ready to go. If the device is paired already it is as simple as turning the Jambox on and it is good to go.

All charging is done via a micro USB cable so you could easily charge this off of your laptop or computer if you don’t feel like carrying around the small included usb wall charger. What else does it come packaged with you may wonder? A USB wall charger as well as two lengths of USB cord, one of which is quite short and very easy to always have handy in your bag. It also comes with a nice flat 1/8″ male to male audio cable for hooking the unit straight into any device with a headphone out, a nice option for quick use with a laptop while keeping the bluetooth function paired to your phone. And last but not least it has a great case to carry it around with you. The case folds elegantly down and is held in place with four small magnets. it’s a welcome thing that they did not take the Apple route with accessories. You have everything you could need right out of the box.

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I was incredibly surprised at the battery life of the Jambox. It has a built in battery that is capable of pushing the speaker at high volumes for HOURS, I have yet to fully run the battery down before I feel I could go ahead and top it off. The battery life the bluetooth connection drains from my iPhone is more the issue at hand as the speaker itself has no problem going for hours and hours on a single charge. As for that issue, the battery on your iPhone or iPad suffering because of the wireless connection is something I have come up against but for me personally I am more often than not around an outlet and have to charge up my phone through the day anyway so its not so much of a concern for me. An easy way around this is simply by using the included audio cable and plugging an iPhone straight into the speaker which of course breaks a bit of the cool factor but works wonders at keeping the iPhones battery going strong should I need to.

So wait, theres more! The speaker also has a microphone built into it so it can be used as a bluetooth speakerphone which I find is pretty effective and handy sometimes but not really much of a deal breaker for me.

Last but not least, the sound of the unit. First off, you can not expect it to put out as much audio as a large docking stereo, it is limited by its physical size BUT this thing sure does try its best to keep up with its bigger speaker siblings! I have never head a small speaker system hold up as well as the Jambox. It’s an incredible feat for such a small enclosure but the low end really does have a substantial kick to it. I won’t recite their marketing jargon here but I can say that I am amazed at what a well rounded sound this little speaker emits with little sacrifice to the higher or midrange frequencies.

Something to keep in mind is the amount of bass that you hear is entirely dependent on the surface you set it on. If I am in bed at night watching a tv show or movie on my ipad at a medium volume it astounds me how the mattress resonates the low frequencies and makes for a really satisfying sound. Casual use in the office or out and about on the job site provides an amazingly capable sound and often, with the electronic music I listen to rich in low end, the speaker will physically move around on the surface it is on. I have only heard the speaker distort when clearly pushing it beyond its abilities which is to be expected from any speaker really.

I could easily recommend this to anyone with a similar need for a great portable speaker to accompany your lifestyle on the go. It is a truly brilliant device that was clearly engineered with loving hands and an ambitious goal to bring a huge sound to a tiny enclosure and nailed it. The one thing that is a little hard to swallow is the $200 price tag but honestly this fine work of engineering is worth every penny and would make a wonderful addition to any day bag or picnic basket.

For mor information on the unit you can visit the manufacturers page here. They can be found for sale at any Apple retail store as well as many outlets online including the always wonderful Ghostly Store.

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a perfect ending

A Perfect Ending

As you may of noticed from the video in the previous post I have a lot of photos that never even get shared online and I often pull from my back catalog of images when looking for new wallpapers to post. I have been sitting on this one for a few weeks now and am finally getting around to toss it up for everyone. As I was cropping it down for various devices I was messing around I kept messing about with slightly seeing if it worked any brighter or darker but really, it is just perfect as it was straight off the camera so I let it be. The photo was taken on YoungDoo’s last night in the US in the fall and we had this perfect evening as the sun set over the lake. Everything was just this lovely dark shade of orange and purple and I won’t soon forget that sunset. One of those which linger long after they have passed.

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Looks better over on the Vimeo page because they don’t allow HD streaming without a paid account.

Before watching the above video, here is a little background on the idea for those of you interested.

While traveling this past fall with YoungDoo we brought along a ton of cameras and used them all to the best of their ability. With my affinity to film I found myself focusing on shooting with my film cameras but unlike my trip to India I decided to make an extra effort to also get plenty of fun shots with my 5D as well. This amounted to collecting somewhere around 3000 photos in my Aperture library.

I am usually fairly conservative and more guarded with what work I share online these days, no real reason why other than I feel usually I don’t like to show all my cards at once you know? I do end up sharing my favorites all the time but there are often a lot of photos that lay by the wayside for my personal perusal or sharing with friends and family more so than sharing with the big dark scary internet.

That said I really wanted to have a little fun with the digital images taken while YoungDoo was visiting and turn them all into a stop animated video of sorts which is clearly not my idea but I knew it would be fun to try so I have been looking for ways to do this for a long time now. I went through iMovie and a number of demo’s for apps only to be disappointed but upon the opening of the Mac App Store I was pleasantly surprised to find a modestly priced app capable of doing what I needed and after having a go with the demo I jumped in and have finally made the video I set out to make.

The software is kind of tacky and the feature set is heavily limited but their target audience is not for tinkerers like myself so I don’t really mind. It does one thing and it did it well enough for my needs at the moment. For those of you curious the software is called Smoovie… Not a typo. It is actually a really efficient little app that handled the large amount of images thrown at it better than most I tried. The one compromise here was that the images are cropped to a 4:3 aspect ratio which I liked more than a 16:9 ratio of HD. I later added the exported animated movie into iMovie for titles and music and now have this video to share.

The end result ended up so fun for me to watch I knew I wanted to share it with everyone here as well. There are holes in the timeline from the trip as I did use a film camera a lot of the time but you still see a touch of everything we did together. I really hope YoungDoo lets me use all the photos she took on her camera as well and I we will have a short film on our hands hehe. It moves pretty quickly so don’t blink!

Now, as I mention on the Vimeo page for the video I thought that by sharing something like this I could give a closer look into the trip as well as showing everyone a small peak into my casual shooting habits such as how many photos of any given subject I take. Nearly all of these images are straight raw photos as all I did was an export of the entire trip project library. So, without further adieu I will leave you with over a month of photos condensed into four minutes of time at 12 frames a second set to the wonderful music of Shigeto (from his wonderful New Crossings EP). Enjoy!

Pixelmator

Pixelmator

After seeing so much attention being drawn to the new mac app store I saw an opportunity to put my review/suggestion hat on and focus on an application I have been using more and more lately. That wonderful piece of indie code is called Pixelmator. Before jumping in it’s good, I feel, to offer a bit of background, and share my opinions on editing photos digitally.

I have been using computers to edit images and design for as long as I can remember. I know there are more and more of todays youth able to say that these days but digital imaging and me really do go way back. I remember clearly using photoshop THREE (even version one a small bit on an older computer in the corner of a computer lab) to create design in my first design course way back in high school. This is just before version four came along and changed everything with the introduction of layers. Before then things were so much more convoluted. It’s a bit hazy in my mind but something as simple as a drop shadow or embossing used to require an elaborate mess of alpha layer editing, selection masks, and effect trickery. It was no pleasant feat.

Needless to say we have come a long, long way in the past ten years or so and design programs have grown increasingly powerful and make it easier and easier to do some really crazy things that once took a true mastery of the applications being used. To stay focused within this review I am zeroing in on the elephant in the room, Adobe Photoshop. My how it has grown, and my oh my has it had an ever increasing ability to cannibalize a niche in the marketplace.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of alternatives around for your average digital photo maker but not many as stuffed full and as bloated as Photoshop. I am really not too sure what else they could add to it. But then again, I have been saying that for a while now yet they still manage to cram in some new tech that pushes photography more and more into a corner, leaving it’s humble roots hiding in the dark as it mangles the definition of a photograph to include any manner of heavy digital grooming. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

Photography is not a preset.

It makes me fear for the creativity within the medium. While some of you may feel as though digital tools amplify creativity I somehow feel as though it is stunting many young photographers growth and understanding of the art form. It’s an often debated subject and I have no real answers outside of my own personal opinions but I can admit to strongly believing in a less is more approach to photography digital or otherwise.

That said, I encourage those of you using Photoshop heavily in your post photo work to heavily offset average imagery before sharing it with the world should think seriously about the approach. After being in the field for so many years it gets really easy to spot those who abuse these new technologies as an easy way create something that contains any breath of emotion. Heavy photo manipulation is often cause of a trend or a gimmick and I rarely see it lead to images having any more truth or fulfilling narrative within them. This is not to discourage exploring, simply to raise awareness of a growing laziness attacking creativity.

This goes not only for Photoshop but for other applications such as Lightroom or Aperture as well which can be just as easily used and abused to lay it on too thick. Before you jump on the offense train of thought I would also like to mention that I am not at all ANTI post editing. I have done my fair share of tweaks to images I would have otherwise lost in post but I would like to stress the value of understanding photography starting with the basics. Let’s just leave the new wave of cell phone photography out of this one for now, feels like an entirely separate beast really.

SO at any rate, setting all that work flow philosophy aside, I started to notice something over time. There was a  distinct decline in the amount of editing I would do within Photoshop. When I shoot digitally now I am using Aperture to manage and adjust images as they come into the computer. It simplified my whole workflow ten fold. The basic editing tools offered within Aperture (or Lightroom for that matter) have been more than enough since the introduction of such software. I realized the only thing I was doing within Photoshop was cropping images and tossing in that little pixel font wartermark for wallpaper images. On occasion I may go as far as to use the Smart Sharpen tool or add a couple subtle tweaks in the curves but for the most part, the tools and mess that I was surrounded by never ends up getting touched.

This made me think, surely there is an alternative. The simplification of my workflow has lead me to rely much less on something as elaborate as Photoshop and using a buggy, aging version of the program often lead to more frustration than it was worth. So I looked for another option out there that does not cost an arm and a leg, but also offers a substantial set of tools for image editing and takes the overall quality seriously. I was quickly reminded of Pixelmator. An application I shrugged off years ago with its earlier releases because I thought, rather smugly to be honest, there was no such thing as an alternative to Photoshop. It’s got to be in the dictionary by now right? It didn’t really even feel like a question worth asking, Photoshop wasn’t an option. It just WAS the option.

As I continued to think about it I came to imagine that only about 25 percent of Photoshop users actually even bought the app to begin with. Seems to me the high cost of the application has driven countless casual tinkerers and emerging professionals alike to accidentally find a copy of some pro Adobe software loaded on their computer.

After revisiting Pixelmator from an earlier purchase as part of one of those random bundles of apps I realized that it was more than enough for me. The basic toolset for any photographer, casual and often otherwise, can be found in Aperture or Lightroom, hell even iPhoto alone and for those with more specific needs like myself Pixelmator is more than enough.

The tools offered are right in line with the core Photoshop way of working with cloning, layers, a simple but effective set of filters, and more. Working in the app is simple, elegant and focused and many of you that may be used to a photoshop workflow will automatically have a fair idea of what is going on. The only thing that may take a little getting used to are a few shortcuts that are differ from what you may be used to. It’s truly a joy to use really. I feel lighter using an application without so much bloat clinging to every click and that simplification feels good.

The only real frustration I have come across thus far has been within the type tool, something which they have openly confessed to be lacking. This and a couple of tiny things about the workflow that I am adjusting to such as not being able to drag a layer form one file to another, which has not been much of a bother at all.

At risk of getting caught with my foot in my mouth in the future, I can admit that my trusty old copy of CS2 will not be deleted from my laptop just yet, Illustrator is still my go to app when starting a new design, but I have all but vowed to make a firm switch over to Pixelmator for my everyday photo and wallpaper creating needs. From what I have been reading it is still very much in active development and will continue to grow with time which I look forward to.

As an added bonus, Pixelmator is available on the new Mac App Store for the wonderful cost of $30 for a limited time (how limited has yet to be seen). If you are using a ghost copy of Photoshop or, like me, just feel frustrated with the bloat I would certainly suggest you have a gander over at what Pixelmator can offer you. At this price you don’t really have much to loose.

While I am at it, I could easily suggest you give Aperture a go. I know there are a lot of Lightroom users out there that went with Lightroom based on the assumption that its Adobe, surely thats the one to use without much consideration of what else was out there. I have used Aperture since version one, switched briefly to give Lightroom a go but missed the workflow of Aperture and am now a happy camper using Aperture 3. Now that it’s only $80 I can easily recommend it for anyone not already using something a bit more capable than iPhoto. Maybe, I will save this for another day ;)

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powder two

Powder

As the snow started to fall on christmas morning I thought to myself, aww, thats nothing. Surely this won’t amount to anything! Only to discover the following morning that the world was covered in a powdery white blanket. So I did what every self respecting photographer did that day and went out with my camera for a while to see what I could capture. I ran through a roll in my Hasselblad only to later discover I overexposed the whole roll by two and a half stops but did manage to salvage them in the developing process. I also took a number of digital snaps as well and a few of them came out nicely.

I had fun working with such a low contrast subject and the image above ended up being among my favorites which seemed to work well as a wallpaper image. I can admit to a fair amount of delicate retouching to get the balance of grey and white on the verge of being totally blown out but I am happy with the result. I hope those of you not totally sick of dealing with piles of snow around you find a place in your mind to enjoy the beauty in such a gift from the skies.

To download the full resolution wallpaper simply CLICK OR RIGHT CLICK HERE which will get you a zip containing the terms of use as well as deskop, iPad, and iPhone crops for your gadget wallpaper unification needs. Please, do mind the terms of use and never re-host the images without permission and never use these for any commercial use, they are for your own personal enjoyment as desktop wallpaper imagery.

I appreciate everyones ongoing support and I look forward to showing you what I have been working on and I can’t wait to move forward into a great new chapter in the world of 50ft. See you next time!

iPad visitor direct link.
iPhone visitor direct link.

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

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By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

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These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

-John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com