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All posts for the month March, 2009

So… After writing about the end of winter twice, and getting a new fresh thick pack of snow a day later, I think I can now safely say that it’s over for this year.
Last Saturday it snowed from 6 in the morning until late in the evening and we got about 15 cms of new snow. After that the temperature has gone up and it really looks like things are on the fast track towards spring.
Snow on the streets and pavements is pretty much gone and the huge piles that were shoved to the sides of the roads are almost visibly disappearing.

It’s only a matter of time now…
To wave goodbye to this year’s winter, I give you one final snowy shot. The rabbit which passed here was also on its way to spring.
How poetic… :)

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/16, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/16, Tamron 28-75mm

Last summer, when I finished the education at Rocky Mountain School of Photography, I decided to sign up with Digimarc. We had endless discussions about how the web is the perfect place to grab images without paying for them and several of our teachers had been in the situation where they -by accident or not- found out that a company had used their images without permission. So we talked about how to prevent those kind of things from happening and which ways were the best ways to go.

Digimarc was one of the ways. Digimarc has created a plug-in for (among others) Photoshop where you can incorporate an invisible digital watermark uniquely registered to you.
I signed up for it.
And with that, I also signed up for the tracking report, which supposedly tracks down your images with that unique digital watermark on the internet. It cost me a whopping $499, but hey! If it would get me to chase people who use my images without permission, I might be able to claim that money back from them, right?

So I started using the plug-in and Digimarc them with my own unique invisible digital watermark.
The first thing I noticed was that this Digimarc is everything but flawless.

It’s very sensitive when it comes to certain color combinations in regards to visibility. When used with certain kinds of images, there’s a whole issue about how it changes the pixels. Not that you actually get to see your unique digital watermark, but see below what I mean (you might have to click on the image to check the bigger view in order to see the difference clearly):

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So as long as there’s a busy background with many different structures and colors you don’t really see it (you will if you know where to look, but anyway…). However, if you have an even background the “invisible” digital watermark completely screws up the image.

And then there’s the tracking report function. That’s the thing I paid $499 for.
I have a vague memory of one of our teachers telling he tried it, but it didn’t really work for him.
I figured it couldn’t be that bad, but I guess I should’ve listened.

After two months of being subscribed to the service there was no mention in the tracking report of finding any of my images anywhere. Not even on my own website.
I wrote a mail to helpdesk and asked what the usual time was before images were tracked. They told be to have a bit more patience, that it could take anywhere from 2-6 months.
Fair enough, I thought. The internet is a big place, many websites to crawl through.
So I let time pass. I let six months pass. And according to the report the service still hadn’t found any images. I let seven months pass and still no images were found. I let one more month pass just for good faith, but when the tracking report still came back with zero found images I decided it was time again to ask for some explanation.

“This does seem out of the ordinary that our search engine has not been able to locate any of your images if they are not posted within password-protected sites, web pages behind firewalls, Flash-based galleries or database-driven websites that are not open for spiders to crawl.”

My own website only has a flash opening page, but the portfolio is pure HTML / CSS only. Coded it myself, so I know.
Then they wanted me to send some straight links to my images, so their vendor could do a direct search. So I sent them a stack of links directly to my images, on my own website, on this blog, on Imageshack and on another website still.
And again I let time pass. I let one week pass. Two weeks, three weeks… And when after four weeks the tracking report still hadn’t reported any of my images, at all, not even from the straight links that I sent them, I found it well enough. I found I had been sufficiently patient.

So I wrote a mail to helpdesk again in which I kindly told them I paid $499 for a service which was supposed to track images on the internet where I couldn’t find them and that it couldn’t be the idea of the service that the customer supplied links to where to find the images. That I found my patience had been enough after over nine months of nothing and that I thought a reimbursement of the invested $499 was in place.

And even though the tracking service didn’t function properly (or actually, not at all), the customer service does deserve a compliment, because they made no issue whatsoever out of my reimbursement request and the lady told me she’d arrange things with their finance department.
(Now I just hope that it won’t turn out to be a second Rodale where I have to chase after my money for a year).

But anyway… Conclusions of the story:
1) Digital watermarking sucks, it destroys your images
2) Digimarc’s tracking service needs a lot of work before it actually functions
3) Don’t always second guess your teachers, sometimes they actually CAN be right (sorry David ;) )
4) Best way to protect your images? Big fat visibly transparent watermark right in the center of the image.

In a previous post I wrote that Winter was on its way out.

Well… Apparently Mother Nature has changed her mind. It’s been gorgeous weather the past couple of days, but now the temperature has dropped again and there’s going to be some more slush/snow.
I love winter and snow and what it does to the landscapes, but when it gets this crappy dirty winter-aftermath I’m pretty fast fed up with it.

Let’s see how long this will last…

D200, ISO100, three exposures of 1/45 sec, 1/20 sec, and 1/10 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm, HDR post-processing

D200, ISO100, three exposures of 1/45 sec, 1/20 sec, and 1/10 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm, circular polarizer, HDR post-processing

D200, ISO100, 1/6 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/6 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm, circular polarizer

D200, ISO100, 1/3 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/3 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm, circular polarizer

D200, ISO100, 1/3 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/3 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm, circular polarizer

D200, ISO100, 1/30 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/30 sec @ f/11, Tamron 28-75mm

… how today’s society and networking has opened up everyone’s life.
I don’t know exactly how it is in the rest of the world, but here in Finland, if you have your phone number publicly registered, your life is an open book to anyone.
If you have a name and you send it in a text message to a certain number, you’ll receive a message back with all given names, registered address, phone numbers and providers. If you have a phone number and send that in a text to a certain number, you’ll get all given names, registered address, and providers. If you have a car license number and text that to a certain number, you’ll get the name of the car owner, address, everything. And since recently you can even request tax and income information about people by sending a text to a certain number.
And aside from the registered name of the phone you sent it from there’s no identification or legitimation necessary.

Yesterday my better half was called by a guy who had her name, home address AND work address and he said that he was from a flower store and had a bouquet of flowers to deliver to her and asked to deliver it to her work or home. She only had to confirm the exact house number, which she then gave.
The flowers would be delivered by the end of the day.

So after the first happy surprise (I hardly ever give her flowers ;) ) and after the day had gone by without flowers, we started wondering.
So this morning my better half called the flower store and it appeared that this guy had called a good handful of people, but only in our neighborhood, with the same story.
Police report has been filed, but until now it’s unclear what the purpose of this mysterious caller was.

But he did have all this information.
Our home address, our names, her work address. And gullible as my better half is, she also gave the guy my phone number, because I was home the whole day…
I’m not totally trusting every one just like that, but I believe that if someone would’ve called me with a totally believable story like that, I also would’ve taken the bait -hook, line and sinker.

It’s a scary thought. With personal information being so accessible and people being able to get and other people so willing to give more personal information it can only lead to bad things…

Or…?

We’ve had a good amount of snow still in the past week, but temperatures are going up and it looks like -slowly- spring’s pushing its foot in the door.

It’s going to take awhile still before all the snow is gone and I’m sure I’ll get a few shots of “winter” still, but in case I might not have the time (if I get buried under a load of work or something *G*) I went out for a little shoot yesterday.
It wasn’t cold, actually it was quite pleasant to be out. I should do that more often…

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4.8, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4.8, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/5.6, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/5.6, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/5

D200, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/5, Sigma 10-20mm

… with a pang of pain…

The weekend’s been a terribly busy one. I got a brief for a brochure of about 200 pages last Friday and I have to have the first pdf for correction ready by Tuesday, so you can imagine what schedule I’m on. I spent probably 35 hours at the computer in the past 2,5 days. Not exaggerated.

I’ve been playing a lot of music and when I just turned on Amy MacDonald and track 2 (This is the Life) started playing I found myself wandering off to a -so it seems- distant past when I spent three months in the US.
I remember playing this CD quite a lot when I was there and for some reason I always have a very strong association with music to events or things I was doing at the time I was listening to a certain song or CD.

So there I was…
Looking at myself biking to school, going out for trips with people and spending time with the great, wonderful people I met during those three months. It’s been one of the best summers of my life, and it’s been the summer that has gone by the fastest. Those three months were like a week, it was that intense.
I’m feeling a sting in my gut as I write this.

I miss you guys. I miss you all a lot. And I wish we could do it all over again.
When are we going to do a reunion?
I mean… SERIOUSLY!!

We spent the weekend in Stockholm, doing some touristing. Once every now and again we just hop on the ferrie and take a 2-day cruise.
Last time we did it is already a couple of years ago and we were in Stockholm on a Monday. That day all the museums and cultural things are closed. This time we planned better :D

This time we visited the Royal Armory, part of the Swedish royal castle.
Very nice, indeed. And very much worth the visit.

We strolled in, I with my camera bag and tripod and down in the basement where the whole history of carriages is set out, I set up the tripod to take some nice pictures.

D200, ISO100, 30 sec @ f/9.5, Sigma 10-20mm

D200, ISO100, 30 sec @ f/9.5, Sigma 10-20mm

So after the first few pictures we moved on to the next part. We noticed another guy coming in just after we continued to the next part and it was only a short while later when the alarm went off. The guy who had just come in strolled on and told us he’d “probably stepped too close to the fence”.

Half a minute or so later the guard came rushing in. He came straight at me.
He was very polite, yet very strict and told me I was not allowed to use a tripod. Professionals paid extra for the privilege of using a tripod, so he said.
We checked and double-checked at the entrance, but we found no note or sign which stated that the use of tripods is prohibited.
Owwell… He didn’t confiscate my memory card, so I have at least two images with tripod. Wooohooo! *LOL*
The rest I was forced to shoot with flash (ugh!).
Did give some nice effects here and there, though (with some rear-synch flash, or a spooky white balance setting…)

D200, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5, on-camera flash

D200, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5, Sigma 10-20mm, camera's own flash

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4, Sigma 10-20mm, on-camera SB-800

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4, Sigma 10-20mm, on-camera SB-800

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4, Sigma 10-20mm, on-camera SB-800

D200, ISO100, 1/90 sec @ f/4, Sigma 10-20mm, on-camera SB-800