Thursday, 2 January 2014

A review of 2013

I have been meaning to post some kind of annual review for the last few years, but usually never get around to it. Right now, after a very busy year, I have a few quiet days in which to reflect on the past year and how it might relate to photography in museums.

I intend to use this blog as a personal notepad, of sorts. If I find something that is useful, or interesting, then I will attempt to post it here. There won't be detailed run-throughs of things, instead, notes and pointers on what to do. Hopefully readers can take these and experiment with them.

That said, here are my salient points from the past year:

  • Digital photography is now ubiquitous, and the rate of introduction of new models makes it almost impossible to recommend a specific piece of equipment. More interesting to me, is the fact that the earlier models of D-SLR can now be found on the secondhand market at extremely reasonable prices. Many of the examples for sale are in "enthusiast" condition, having been well cared for and with plenty of life left. These could be of use in setting up dedicated imaging stations, or putting a dedicated camera somewhere inaccessible and simply leaving it there for when it is needed. 
  • Early on in the year, Flickr increased their standard storage offering from 200Gb to 1Tb. To most people this means that every image from their cameraphone can be instantly stored in the cloud, forever. To museum imaging, this is a robust, mature, cloud delivery platform for free. If I upload one image of each collection object, say 10Mb in size, then I have capacity for roughly 100,000 objects. 
  • The Getty Institute released a large number of images, completely free, under their Open Content Program. A project I have been working on is in the process of releasing a large number of images of fossils.
  • I now have development machines running the three major operating systems - Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. More to come on this in the next year. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Linux for museum imaging

I have ordered a cheap secondhand PC as I want to investigate if it can be upcycled to help with image processing.

The specs are a little laughable compared to modern standards, but part of the exercise is to work with easily obtainable kit. So, a quick summary:

  • Dell Optiplex 755 SFF, paired with an existing keyboard, mouse and VGA monitor
  • Core 2 Duo processor at 2.2GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • 160Gb Hard disc
My thinking behind the purchase is roughly as follows:
  • I have run various versions of Linux on one core of a not-much-more-powerful iMac quite successfully in the past. All versions I have tested have run much more smoothly than Windows in the same virtual machine set-up
  • These PC's can be sourced very cheaply secondhand (mine was £75, delivered) as companies upgrade their XP based networks
  • Being designed for enterprise use, most components can be easily accessed and swapped out if the need arises
  • There is no licensing cost associated with any of the software I anticipate installing
  • I intend to use the machine for batch processing, not graphics intensive GUI work, if large jobs need more time to complete, then so be it. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Letting ImageMagick do the heavy lifting

Sometimes, as the files from our digital cameras get ever larger, we find that we don't need such huge files, and need to make a set of smaller images. Think of it as a set of proof-prints for the post-film world.

There are plenty of applications which will do this - iPhoto, Picasa and any number of things supplied with the camera. Trouble here is that the GUI is not really necessary in this case. There will be some performance penalty to be paid for loading thumbnails of the images, and it is likely to be a more than one-click operation.

If you know exactly what you want to do, then this is more easily accomplished in ImageMagick. For instance, I have recently had the need to perform the following steps, repeatedly on several sets of images:
  • Get the image from a locally mounted server directory
  • Make a copy
  • Resize the copy and drop the JPEG quality a bit
  • Turn it upside down
  • Save it into a new folder
To do this in ImageMagick is simple. Unusually for me, this example is in DOS, but a *NIX version would be much the same. In the directory where your original files are held:

for %A in (dir *.JPG) do convert -resize 1500x1500 -rotate 180 -quality 70 -verbose "%A" "path\to\the\resized\images\%A"

And then hit return. Quoting out the paths helps with images with spaces in the names, and the "verbose" switch ensures you have some output on screen. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

What is the Barrow Kipper?

Really good series of short videos leading up to the opening of the New Walk Museum's Dinosaur Gallery this weekend. Even better, there are preshistoric marine reptiles and fossils as well. Having seen the "Barrow Kipper" on the traffic island, I'm looking forward to seeing the real thing!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Disappearing acts"

Nice series of photo slideshows from The Guardian about heritage crafts:

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Hacking work

"Benevolent hackers see the future and pull us toward it."

Friday, 18 March 2011