Monday, April 28, 2008

Fireworks Joins the team

My teacher at Humber, Jim Babbage, is a big fan of Adobe Fireworks. During our CSS classes he suggested Photoshop addresses the world of paper and print while Fireworks caters to the web environment. Fireworks takes the place of ImageReady, the little web images program included with earlier versions of Photoshop. After trying Fireworks during my XHTML class last fall and now in the CSS class, I ended up buying a copy.

Fireworks offers tools to quickly and easily size and optimize web images - I recently took on redoing an older web site for practice and was horrified to discover the designer had provided large images of various sizes for the site. Each time the site was viewed, the browser was forced to resize every image on the fly -  shoehorning them into thumbnails in table cells. Fireworks made short work of creating a set of decent thumbnail images and converting the odd jpeg to gif to allow some transparency (I skipped using png files so older browsers wouldn't have problems). 

In addition to the simple sizing and optimizing tools, Fireworks has very powerful tools for prototyping a new web site - even allowing the viewer to "click-through" the various pages to test the navigation design. Once a design is approved, the mock-up can be readily sliced to make the actual headers, backgrounds, buttons, etc. to join HTML, CSS, and Javascript to create a live web site. 

Like  Flash and Dreamweaver, also acquired when Adobe bought Macromedia, Fireworks has a GUI that is somewhat different than the traditional Adobe programs. Some of the image adjusting tools, like curves, look much like those in older versions of Photoshop, while other tools are unique to Fireworks.     

Bye Bye GoLive

Adobe has stopped development and sales of GoLive as of this week. Adobe hinted that GoLive's time was short when it chose Dreamweaver for the web authoring tool in the CS3 suites. I switched over when I upgrade to a Mac and CS3 last fall. 

GoLive was certainly a step forward in the tools I used for the web, but looking back, it added a lot of extra code to a page to track image pop ups and while it had a novel approach to custom layout via complex tables, it sometimes lost its way in the process while giving you code that was very difficult to maintain.

Today's world actively discourages the use of tables in this manner. While I have become accustom to using DW, the interface is a bit different than the traditional Adobe products. I noticed the same thing with Flash and Fireworks - some neat tools but steeper learning curves than say, Lightroom which builds comfortably on Photoshop.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back Up

The importance of backing up digital files was recognized from the earliest days of "mechanization" and "business information systems". The growth of digital photography brings this need to all of us. Today, losing digital files often means the loss of thousands of images. In spite of this, many of us skip backing up files, or do it in a haphazard fashion because of the time involved and the nuisance of tracking various versions of back ups.

For those of us using a Mac computer with "Leopard", Apple's latest iteration of OS X, the back up process has been streamlined and simplified. A program called "Time Machine" automatically backs up all changed files every hour. A clever structure of file pointers gives the impression of complete hourly back ups yet unchanged files are never copied a second time. There is no need to choose which files are saved, or when. And because the saved files are neither compressed nor stored in increments, they can be individually read, searched, and restored at any time.

A recent complement to this program is "Time Capsule", a combination of a wireless base station and large capacity hard-drive. When it is time to backup, the Time Machine program calls up the external hard drive, mounts it, and backs up all changed files. It then dismounts the drive which settles back to wait for the next back up or search for an old file. The Time Capsule, being wireless, can be safely tucked away in another room out of site from the computer.

A second copy of critical files can be saved to another hard drive to be stored in a separate location, or saved to a remote secure server on the web. This protects against catastrophic loss from fire, theft, or other damage. What was a chore on my old Windows systems is now a "piece of cake" thanks to Apple's customer oriented approach to computing.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


When the PHSC was formed 34 years ago, it was very much a camera collector group. Twenty years later, images were of interest to some 15% of our members. Today, that interest has increased along with interest in history and processes. Photography's transition from silver to digital has both increased the number of film cameras and accessories being discarded and reduced interest in film cameras - other than high end brands. At the same time, image interest and value have sky-rocketed.

This year we will have a special section of image dealers at our spring photographica-fair. If you have an interest in old photographs, or wish to sell some, drop by our fair on May 25th. Visit our web site for details. Meantime, don't toss out those old images. They aren't making them anymore....

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Back Room Boys

Like all organizations, the PHSC depends upon a few hardy volunteers who work hard behind the scenes to give our organization a professional face. You would be surprised to learn just how small this group is - all making use of talents learned in the day to day job, or picked up after hours through classes and hobbies.

Within our small group, we have skills including photography, videography, sound system set-up, web design and administration, magazine publication, finance, business administration, writing, editing, selling, promotion, maintenance, illustration, and more - skills common to successful businesses everywhere. But for our society, this work is done gratis - for the love of photography and the history of that marvelous art and science that stormed the world in 1839 and left it changed for ever.

Our "Wet Plate Guy" logo was selected years ago by then editor, Everett Roseborough (still running his studio at the time). Ev decided our journal, Photographic Canadiana, needed a logo and C. LaPlante's little woodcut of an "Intrepid Wet-Plate Enthusiast" of the mid 1800s became part of our society as "a gentle reminder of our purpose". 

Everett would flip the image from time to time - perhaps as an inside joke. You might like to know that Everett, who turned 95 last year, took on the task of editor at an age when many people were well into retirement. His most recent article, on  pre-1930 commercial photography, was published in January of this year.