And another lake

Deininger Weiher is a small bog lake south of Munich. It got formed in the last ice age it’s it’s quite shallow, only 1.8m deep. My plan was  to go around it on the bike but for some reason that eluded me, bike riding is forbidden between may and mid-september. So I just took a walk around it, the area is quite nice and peaceful. Made some pictures to, of course ;-)

Bike riding

In the past month or so I finally started to ride my bike a bit more. I thought it’s about time to do some more movement and to take advantage of the summer, which won’t last for much longer now. So whenever I went to Munich I just put the bike in the car and I took it with me. And whenever the weather was nice, I would just go riding after work for 1-2 hours or so.

Munich is a city where the infrastructure is excellent for riding a bike. There are bike tracks almost everywhere on the roads and sidewalks. And in addition to that, there is the Isar river which goes through the city. On its banks there are bike paths all over the place, paved or gravel, so you can ride all day long if you want.

That is where I did most of my riding. My hotel is somewhere at the east city limit so I would just ride to the Isar (only 15 minutes away) and then I would just go either north or south along the Isar. And of course, I would always have my camera with me because the whole area is just beautiful. Just see for yourself, some of the pictures I made along the river:

I also thought it would be a good idea to track my rides and since my N85 has a GPS unit inside there is an easy solution for this. Nokia used to have a beta program called Sports tracker, a small application which would run on your phone and it would record your route, along with stats like speed, altitude, distance, etc. The program was discontinued but recently a new company picked it up and improved it a lot. The application itself has been improved and a new service was launched at http://www.sports-tracker.com. The routes tracked on your phone can be uploaded to the service and then you can view it on the website on a map with all kind of interesting statistics. The pictures you take with your phone during the ride can be also uploaded, so whoever looks at the website can see what it was like.

And the nice thing is, all this is free. The company makes their money by selling a heart rate transmitter belt which you can pair with your phone over bluetooth. Then the program can also record info about your heart beat which allows you to train more efficiently. While nice to have, it’s somewhat expensive and nobody forces you to buy it.

The program is of course not only for riding but for all kind of other workouts: walking, running, skying, working indoors, etc. For example, you can see what one of my  typical ride looks like.

Schowo madness

We just got out of this yearly festival thingy which goes on in our fair town. I mentioned something about it in one of my posts from last year, basically for 5 days the city “celebrates” something, although I have no idea what. During this time they have all kind of “entertaining” events in the city center. Yes, that is exactly where we live. There are all kinds of stands with food and drinks and also 2 stages where bands come and play.

This is considered an attraction in this area so people come, and they come by the truckload. For 5 days, from friday until tuesday, these events last from morning until midnight. Some might even think this is a great thing and a great place to have fun.

Well, NOT if you happen live here, I can tell you that! One of the stages is right in front of our house so unless you happen to live in a bunker 100m underground, then there is no way in hell you can have a moment of quiet and peace, even with the windows closed. Which we could not really do because there were above 30C outside. This was really horrible.

Last year we planned to take vacation days during this period and just get out of the city. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and we had to stay home and endure for 5 days this madness. And they play this horrible fanfare music shit they seem to like to much here in Germany, beer tent music we call it. I imagine if you are completely drunk, in a mass of equally drunk people, then this music might appear appealing to your beer-soaked brain. Not our case.

And when they are not playing the beer tent music, they play those old stupid pop songs or “schlagers” how they call them here. I really don’t get this, maybe they were popular 30 years ago but now ? How come they can’t bring some normal bands which could appeal to people younger than 60 ?

Then not only do we have to cope with this auditory cacophony but they play it so damn loud. The volume is so loud you can hear that shitty music booming through the house even with your hands over your ears, you can feel the house vibrate, hell you can feel your insides vibrate. There were a lot of complains about that last year and they promised they will try to keep the noise down a bit this year. Bullshit, nothing happened.

All this until midnight. And once they stop, it’s not over yet. It takes another hour until the banging stops, until the drunks stop yelling at one another, until they stop pissing in trash cans or in flower pots.

Here are the people who organized this “wonderful” event:

What is the most obvious part of the picture ? Yes, the beer. What a shock. Thank you for 5 days of my life that you wasted!

Digital workflow

A while ago when I got my camera (well, the “real” camera) and the first week of euphoria and countless of useless pictures passed, I realized that I need some sort of archiving mechanism. So I did some research and after much reading I arrived at the solution that I used ever since. It’s a combination of what I read on various sites and blogs (unfortunately I don’t have their addresses any more) and some of my own ideas.

I usually work either on my computer at home or on my laptop when I am away. I could either keep the images on the laptop/desktop and sync them when I am at home or just work on a portable hard drive. The portable disk made more sense so I got myself a 320GB Seagate FreeAgent Go USB drive, storage is quite cheap these days:

The drive is nice, physically small, fast and big enough for what I need. I just connect it to whatever computer I happen to be using, the desktop at home or the laptop while I am on the go.

To manage the photo collection I use Adobe Lightroom, which is in my opinion the best tool for the job. Lightroom organizes photos in “catalogs” and I personally have 4 of them:

  • Incubator: this is where I import the pictures from the camera. Once the pictures are imported, I go through them and delete the trash right away. Then, the most important step, I edit the pictures’ Metadata which is made very easy by Lightroom. On import I already insert common copyright info (my name, website, etc) but now I also update the image location, the city and country. Based on this info and the image timestamp, Adobe makes managing very large collections quite easy.

    After I do that, I work on the images and I edit them in Lightroom as needed (brightness, contrast, exposure, noise reduction, sharpening, color correction, etc). Depending on what I want to do, I might send them to an external editor for further processing: Photomatix for HDR or maybe Adobe Photoshop for more complex editing. Only after the processing is done I decide what to do with the image. I use 2 color labels for that:

    • Green: images which I consider to be “keepers”, this is where I choose the pictures I might publish on Deviantart or other similar websites.
    • Blue: personal images. They are things like portraits, family pictures, and so on.
  • Selected: This is where the images labeled as “Green” go.
  • Personals: This is where the images labeled as “Blue” go.
  • All Raw: This is where I copy every image from the Incubator catalog. It includes images of both blue and green labels as well as the raw images. This is a sort of backup catalog and I don’t usually look here often unless I need the raw version of a image to recreate something. This is also the biggest catalog since it contains all the pictures I made so far.

Each catalog has its own folder on the USB drive and images are organized based on the date: Year – Month – Day. That is done automatically by Lightroom when the images are imported from the camera. The powerful filtering makes it quite easy to sort through thousand of image:

I almost always shoot in RAW and not in JPEG. Yes, the resulting image can be up to 20MB, much bigger than a JPEG and you need to spend some time to post process it in Lightroom but you are much more flexible and the end result is far superior. I only export JPEG copies of the images I want to upload on the web. So far I don’t have problems with the space, the biggest catalogs are the AllRaw and Selected, with 42GB and 17GB.

Once the images in the Incubator are copied to the other 3 catalogs and I make sure they are correctly imported there, I empty the Incubator. This whole process works ok for me. The portable hard drive makes it easy to switch between laptop and desktop, where I have the same tools installed.

Of course, backup is important too. The catalogs themselves (which are actually the Lightroom databases) are backed up on my home NAS server, as well as the physical images. I may switch soon to backup to the cloud backup everything on the Jungledisk account. The whole portable drive is fully encrypted with Truecrypt  so even if I somehow loose it, nobody can really rummage through my personal collection.

That’s about it. I don’t know if this is the best solution and I am sure it does not work  for everybody or it might be overkill for some but it suits my purposes ;-)

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