Picture of the day

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Best bank ever

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

James, this one is for you:


The Sparkasse bank, Berlin, Germany.

The scream

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

A great iPhone background that didn’t quite fit into the iPhone wallpaper tutorial I just posted, but it was my favorite of todays creations – and the one currently set as my iPhone wallpaper. This is one of my all time favorite shots of my friend Ian, a primal scream taken years ago at an outdoor festival. The full sized original treatment without the iPhone-specific tweaks is here on Flickr.


Right click and ‘Save link as’ to get the full size originals suitable for use on your iPhone.

How to make great iPhone wallpaper

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Being an ADHD design nerd (or is that Apple fanboy) I’m frequently changing up the wallpaper on my iPhone. As a some of the wallpapers I published in an earlier post have crept up to some of my most frequently viewed Flickr photos I thought I would post a quick write up on how I select and make my oft-changed iPhone wallpapers.

I primarily use Photoshop for my image editing work and this process will be easy if you have Photoshop and are comfortable using it. It’s a very simple process and could be completed with virtually any image editor, although ones that can read Photoshop (PSD) files will make it easier to import the template discussed below. If you don’t want to spend money on a photo editing application GIMP is a free option that offers a decent interface and lots of tools to experiment with.

The first step of the process lies ahead: selecting the image to use. Ideally images should fit into one of two categories. These images have either a uniform simplicity, or a design flow that works with the iPhones overlaid controls.

The first type of image that works well has a uniformity to it. Because of the user interface controls partially obscuring the locked iPhone wallpaper images that focus on color or texture will work very well for this as obscuring a part of this kind of image does not hide key aesthetic elements. This kind of image is great for capturing a favorite color or surface while not adding distraction to Apple’s clean and minimalistic design.

Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper
A simplistic background

The second type of image that works well are images with a central focal point that is well buffered by simplicity. As the top and bottom of the iPhone are obscured by the overlaid controls having an image which can appreciated from the lower than center portion of the viewport on the lock screen, and with a background or less important top and bottom that are not critical to the aesthetic appeal of the image.

When taking photos for use as an iPhone wallpaper consider using a very narrow depth of field to direct interest to the center area of a vertical shot. Alternatively for a bolder look consider incorporating strong design elements such as bright angular sections of color. Remember that although the top and bottom will be obscured the image will still bleed through the overlay and provide some visual impact.

Sunlit frond iPhone wallpaper
A more visually complicated sweet spot

Once an image is selected I use the iPhone template pictured below to help me compose it for the iPhone. I found this template on the Mac Rumors forum in this thread. Full credit goes to TheSpaz who created the awesome resource and shared it with the world.

The template is free to download and comes in the form of a PSD template with each element set up in a separate layer with the correct opacity. This template makes it easy to drop an image into the background layer and compose it to look its best on the iPhone.

As your source image is likely much larger than 320×480 pixels you will have to transform the image down to size. By using Photoshop’s free transform option on the layer you can adjust both the scaling of the image, as well as drag it around to ensure that the portion of the image you want visible is perfectly framed by the overlays.

The shot being used in this particular tutorial was taken with a Lensbaby, a lens that adds a significant amount of blur and vignetting away from the center of the screen. This effect helps draw the eye into a subject and simplify the background making it ideal for use in creating iPhone wallpapers. If you have an image you really like, but that does not work well with the overlays due to visual distractions consider vignetting the image in photoshop by gently blurring or darkening the top and bottom edges to draw the eye to the center of the composition.

Because the iPhone displays bright colors so well I usually find that bumping up the saturation of an image 4-8% adds a bit of pop to the wallpaper. A slight bit of sharpening with the unsharp mask filter often helps more detailed images retain clarity on the iPhone’s densely packed pixels. Both of these steps also help make the image look it’s best once it is saved out of the Photoshop format and into either a JPEG or PNG image.

Once you are happy with how your image looks within the preview offered by the template you are ready to save the image and put it on your iPhone. For this process you don’t want the templates overlays added so hide all of the overlay layers leaving your resized and cropped photo and any adjustment layers as your final image. From the file menu select ‘Save for Web & Devices’ to compress your final wallpaper down. I usually save my wallpapers as 32bit PNG images, however JPEG format backgrounds will work just as well.

Save the wallpaper with a recognizable name into the location where you have iTunes set to sync photos from. The next time you sync your iPhone the image will be synced into the iPhone’s library. From there you can view the image with the Photos application and then click the export scarab at the bottom of the screen to select that image for use as your wallpaper.

If you are interested in the image above the version saved without the overlays suitable for immediate iPhone use is here. You can also get the original PSD file here including all the layers, adjustments, and overlays used to create this.

The Something Store delivers

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

A week or so ago I heard about the latest web-meme: the Something Store. It’s a surprise store asking for $10 and in exchange they will send you something. The gimmick: you won’t know what that something is until it arrives at your door. I caved to my impulsive ways and today two somethings arrived at my door, ready and waiting for de-packaging and personal contents enlightenment.

A something has arrived

As you can see the box that arrived is not terribly big. Even my wee EeePC is larger, and both are dwarfed by the 15″ Macbook Pro they alight upon. I immediately rip the box open with the only sharp implement handy.

Obviously I need a better package opening solution

Obviously I need a better sharp implement for my desk, or at any rate one less dangerous. Note to self: pick up giant serrated blade that will look good on a glass desk.

Two somethings taken from the box of multi-something

To help elongate my personal mysterious something experience both something’s came individually wrapped. Within seconds I had ripped into my smaller something, eager to divulge it’s contents.

A small black box

A box! A tiny black box! Heart contain thyself. The box is constructed from pleather-clad cardboard and proclaims ‘Di Capri’ in embossed silver letters. What could be inside?


Cufflinks! Reasonably well put together and styled cufflinks at that. Luckily blue is my favorite color, and rectilinear forms are my favorite shapes. Worth the $10? For something #1 an enthusiastic yes. But what could the other (and ominously larger) something be?

A blue disturbing something

This is either something fantastic, or something horrific.

Yup - it's panties New work uniform?!

It would seem the latter: something horrific yet delightfully soft. Either this is my new lounge wear, or the best white elephant gift for the upcoming holiday season. Worth the $10? For something #2 the verdict is a not so definite perhaps. It should be worth noting that the Something FAQ even specifically calls out the scenario of a feminine something going to a (somewhat) masculine guy so I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

End verdict: the Something Store gets a thumbs up in my book. Don’t bet the farm on them with their specifically random product delivery but for a fun way to blow $10 that’s likely less damaging to your liver than an evening out on the town check them out.

For a few more pictures of the Something Store unboxing extravaganza check out my Flickr set on the topic.

And I still don’t like Zoos

Monday, May 19th, 2008

As my parents could attest I never was much of one for zoos as a child. I had set one of my 101 goals to go shooting at the zoo to see if this was still true, and it is. Out of an overly-hot afternoon at the zoo my favorite shot was one that clearly didn’t need a trip to the zoo to take (assuming I could find Bamboo anywhere else in Seattle):

Bamboo green

I guess not everyone has to be into zoos. Personally I don’t much find animals interesting. Sure I love Skype and having him around is a blast, but I enjoy his companionship rather than a fascination with his non-humanness. From a photographic perspective zoos don’t really do it for me because of the cages and glass – I far prefer getting up close and personal with my subjects, really interacting with them to get the perfect shot.

Oh well, I had fun, learned something about myself as an adult, and avoided heatstroke for another day. All in all a positive way to spend a Saturday afternoon even if I won’t repeat the experience.

An evening of photography with Alissa

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Heavy industrial

Although I’m exhausted today thanks to an evening of night photography with Alissa, it was totally worth it. The idea begun ages ago when she pointed out the shadows cast by the wiring shown in the above photo and ended up being one of my 101 goals. Alissa best captured the beautiful shadows better than I did, but I really enjoyed the evening and the shots that I did get.

Time to get more coffee – I’m too old for this whole staying up late thing!

Becoming my father?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Self portrait

My sister says I’m starting to look like my father. Looking at this image objectively I have to admit that it’s true. Add a few pounds and a little gray hair and I would _become_ my dad!

Red point

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Red point

A sunset inspired photo from my downtown jury duty adventures last week. This is from a giant wall of red glass downtown. I’m also a fan of this photo of a very different part of the same building but red point is my favorite of the two.

Two Union Square by Aperture 2.0

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

I recently discovered Apple Aperture 2.0 and have simply fallen in love with it. It’s hands down the most performant and powerful photo management software out there. Coupled with Adobe Photoshop CS3 (technically the entire Creative Suite) my workflow has been entirely revolutionized. Aperture makes managing a set of 5 photos as easy as managing 10,000. By stacking and grouping photos it’s possible to quickly triage a shoot, find the good shots, and archive the bad shots all with GPU accelerated speed.

Unfortunately I’m come to realize just how unorganized my photos were in iPhoto and am being forced to go on a holy reorganization quest – luckily a not quite as monumental now that I have Aperture to help me out. As a bonus I’m finding lots of old photos that with a little tweaking come out great. It’s like finding rough jewels in a mine, only I don’t have to get all dirty and sweaty – I can just dig away at my desk.

Two Union
A new entry into my series of Two Union Square

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