Proletariat

White Center, WA
White Center, WA

Just for fun, this is what the same spot looks like in Google Street View:

White Center Street ViewSorry, Tattoo & Piercing, you’ve been replaced by Coffee. Also, it looks like Google needs to store high-dynamic range versions of all the Street View imagery and then render it at 8-bits per channel based on the scene being viewed. This would still be a high contrast scene, but at least they could retain some cloud detail. It would be cool if Street View worked more like video games which adjust brightness based on where you are looking (i.e. in a tunnel, indoors vs outdoors, etc.). Get to work, Google!

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Cloud Photography Part 4: Conclusions

Finally, the epic conclusion to my cloud photography experiment.  In part 1 I laid out the details of the experiment in which I would pretend I was a photographer who had to live entirely in the cloud.  Part 2 described the particular challenges of using a cloud based operating system for handling RAW files.  In part 3 I discussed the various web-based photo editing software available today.

The world of cloud computing is moving fast.  After I wrote part 1, Apple announced iCloud and Google began selling ChromeOS laptops.  The argument could be made that cloud storage is pointless since hard drives have become so cheap, but cheap digital storage goes both ways.  If it’s cheap for you to buy one 1TB hard drive, how cheap do you think it is (per hard drive) for Google to buy 10,000 of them?  The biggest argument against cloud computing is the requirement that we hand over our trust to external entities (Google, Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, etc).  The risks of remote storage are real and Dropbox users like myself were recently given a strong reminder of that fact.  Dropbox had a small coding bug with the unfortunate effect that any password would work to log onto any account.  Whoops.  As always, the forces of security and convenience are battling each other.  Do I really need access to my entire digital life from anywhere?  Maybe not.

The cloud, it turns out, is best in moderation.  Placing all of your data in the cloud and relying on web-based tools to process that data can be just as restrictive as working 100% locally.  I ran into one difficulty after another trying to remain cloud-only.  For now, I’d say I’m fully committed to working on my desktop computer with Lightroom.  If you do want to try living in the cloud, here are some things I’d recommend to make things as painless as possible:

  • Work with JPEGs.  Work out what camera settings you like and learn to live with them.  Set the contrast and sharpening low to give you more latitude when editing the JPEGs later.
  • Do as much editing, deleting, and processing as you can before uploading your photos to the cloud.  Google+ has the best photo gallery I’ve seen yet, but it still sucks at quickly going through a lot of photos and deleting the uglies.
  • Watch the terms of service.  This depends on how Serious with a capital “S” you are about your photos, but be careful not to give your rights away as soon as you upload photos to the cloud.
Next, I’ll go through just how much cloud is in my photographic life now.
  • Editing, processing, and exporting is done on my desktop using Lightroom with RAW files.
  • RAW files and full-size JPEGs are backed up locally and to an online backup service not optimized for photos or sharing
  • Large web-sized JPEGs are uploaded to Picasa for personal use, to flickr for sharing, or to this blog for whatever it is I do here.
  • This gives me access to the backups from anywhere and a nice collection of shareable photos that can be embedded in forums, blogs, or wherever with ease.
Ok, how’d the photos turn out?  Below are my favorite 10.  The results were acceptable, but as I said I’m not a convert.  Maybe in 5 years I’ll try again.  Or maybe I won’t have a choice…

Cloud Photography

I’ve recently developed an interest in cloud computing.  As this is a photography blog, I’ve decided to perform an experiment to see whether it’s worth our time for photographers to move to The Cloud.  First, what is cloud computing?  The goal of cloud computing is to provide users with constant access to their software and data from anywhere using any device.  You’re probably already a part of the cloud just by using web-based email.  Your emails sit on a server “in the cloud” and you can get access to them from anywhere with a browser.  Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are the big players in the cloud computing arena, offering lots of free or cheap storage.  Microsoft and Google both offer an entire suite of free office software that runs entirely in your browser.  It’s up to the user to decide whether it’s worth trusting one of these companies with their data in exchange for a lot of convenience.  Convenience that lasts only as long as a constant internet connection is maintained.  Trade-offs abound.

What does this have to do with photography?
Just as there are office apps that run in the browser, there are also photo-editing apps.  Are these apps as good as their desktop counterparts?  That’s what I aim to find out.

What are the benefits of cloud computing to photographers?

  • Persistent backups
  • Instant sharing with clients, friends and family
  • No need for 5 TB hard drives and supercomputers
  • Access to photos and software from anywhere – edit photos from the computer in the hotel lobby or at grandma’s house

And the drawbacks?

  • Software choice
  • Cost – large storage plans can get pricey while good hardware keeps getting cheaper
  • RAW processing – see software choice
  • Trust – forced to trust that Microoglesoftazon will keep your data safe and private
  • Internet connection is mandatory
  • Calibration – colors on different devices vary wildly

Jolicloud
Using Windows or Linux or OSX will make it too easy to cheat and use familiar desktop tools.  Therefore, I will be using Joli OS, the installed version of Jolicloud.  Jolicloud is a free operating system based on Ubuntu Linux that can run entirely in a browser.  When installed on a computer, Joli OS is essentially just a big browser window.  There are some apps that run locally such as GIMP, but for the most part everything it runs must be a webapp.  Joli OS provides some local storage space, but I am going to treat it as a temporary place to store my data before flinging it up into the cloud.

The Experiment
I want to see what it takes to get a batch of RAW files from my camera processed and stored in the cloud using only Joli OS running on a laptop.  The only rule is that I must do the entire process from either Joli OS or a browser.  I’ll document my frustrations and my successes on this blog.  Whatever my conclusion turns out to be, I know I’ll learn a lot along the way.