In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog September 12th, 2009

Suphanburi Part 2/Review, BreezeBrowser Pro



We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese Orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]

Feature Photograph

Lady on The Lake

Not a month passes when I don't miss looking at B&W prints captured with my Olympus OM series SLRs. The unique look of Pan-x, Tri-x, and other B&W emulsions is something that grows on you over a period of time. There was a time when I'd carry different bodies loaded with different films, and then have to stop and think exactly which B&W film would best render the composition I was currently evaluating.

Truly good B&W photography still either eludes most DSLR users, or it really makes them work for it during post. Much has to do with the limited dynamic range of DSLRs over film, the use of anti-aliasing filters, infrared filters, the DAC converters, and the fact that the DSLR has been built from the ground up to render color images as its final output. There was one exception, a Kodak DSLR I think but for the life of me I can't remember the exact model number of this B&W only DSLR.

Film, with its multiple emulsion layers renders B&W like nothing else out there. This gives me ideas and I just wrote down on my 'to-do' list "Do a special on B&W Photography using your old OM equipment" and in the margin I wrote a smiley face and another note that says "This will be a lot of fun!"

The feature photograph isn't significant because it was captured with film. There would be nothing significant about a film captured great B&W image.. it's done routinely. This feature photograph is unique because it's a pretty decent B&W image DESPITE being captured by a DSLR.

I really like the composition, the subject has light playing off her hair and skirt in just the right amounts to make it interesting. The fence to the left leads the frame, and the background is both interesting and non-cluttered at the same time. Interesting shadows and light play the entire scene. There are two additional things I like about this image. a. It was taken in Thailand, but it could have been taken anywhere. There's no way to tell. b. She was checking her LCD for decent shots.. ;o)

Ayutthaya Slices

Another interesting B&W conversion. At first the lady manning the weed whacker seems out of place balanced up there on a fence, at least until you realize she's really on a grass lawn and it just looks that way. And the more you look at this image the more you see a variety of surfaces, horizontal, vertical, doorways, fences, walls, spires, and the light is hitting most of them differently. It's not a great image, but perhaps it's an interesting one. Sometimes that's all we get.

A Night in Surphanburi

Tom Tweetomdel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative. Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area. Somehow he found time to put together a like 364 page book of his travels around Thailand!

When Tom agreed to become part of our small select product review team I was both excited and grateful. I hope you enjoy this and future reviews by Tom. For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books. Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: [email protected]

Noodle Shop

As the sun was setting I was starting to get hungry and needed some energy. As I walked along the streets I looked for a decent looking place to eat. I found a nice noodle shop on the corner. I ordered up a bowl and got a drink and relaxed a bit. They had a TV going and on the TV was a Korean program dubbed in Thai. As I walked around town that evening I saw a lot of TVs tuned to that program. It gave the place a quaint feel as everyone was watching the same show.

Lizards on the Sign

As I was wandering around town I saw a sign for a bank. The glow in the dark night sky was warm and comforting. Apparently not just for me as the sign had a bunch of lizards on it. Added a very tropical flair to the place. I saw these little lizards hanging out on or near lights a lot.

The Market at Night

After dinner and some wanderings I went back through the market I had visited. The night gave the place a very different feel. The lack of lighting punctuated by the lights on the stalls tended to draw ones focus and hide the complexity of the place. It made it feel more understandable, more accessible.

Fruits in the Night

The glow of the light gave the fruits a whole new appeal. The number of shoppers in the market went way down but it was still a lively place.

More Market Street

There were several market streets at night. The main one and then this market on a smaller street.

Family Affair

A young girl mans the family booth. It was very common to see children working with their parents in the family stores.

Suphanburi Street at Night

With the tower in the background. The place was still full of life and activity after dark.

Night Games

As I was walking past some compound I noticed some lights and a gathering of people which was odd. Looking through the grates of the wall it looked like a small group of people, probably related playing something similar to croquet. It involved balls and mallets and such things. They had some snacks and seemed to be having a good time. At first I thought this was a large family compound but it turned out that it was the grounds of one of the temples.

The Night Market

Further down the road I ran into a large night market. The edges of the market were lit with neon strips and the glow of the lights from under the vendors tents gave it a warm feeling as they cut through the smoke from the kabob vendors. Some mellow Thai music wafted through the air. While it was a busy market it was relaxed so I went to check it out.

In the Market

There was nothing especially interesting or exotic about the products for sale. Most of them seemed to be clothes and accessories though there was a good share of produce as well. But it was neat to mill about the place and check out the people.

Picking Out the China

A nice Thai couple shopping for house wares.

Curry Press

One of the more unusual things I saw was this device that was rigged up to pound stuff into curry paste. It was functional but it looked a lot like a giant long necked bird of some kind.

Many Stalls

I thought the scope of the market was pretty large for such a small town. While it didn't compare to other larger markets in Bangkok I really enjoyed the time I spent here. It had an open and relaxed feel I didn't get at other markets.

Gas Station

Heading back I went by this gas station. It was very similar to gas stations we might see in America yet it felt different.

As Evening Deepens

As the evening wore on and I moved further away from downtown the streets became pretty deserted. You would still see someone every now and then but it’s not like normal where you see people all the time. Suphanburi was a small town after all.

Review, BreezeBrowser Pro

Introduction

Breeze Systems $69 BreezeBrowser Pro has been installed on my computer(s) for close to seven years. It's a software product which I used to find invaluable, but about a year ago my latest renewal expired and I found myself for one reason or the other not that motivated to renew. So I didn't. Over a year has passed and I found myself wondering if anything with the program had changed much, or if a revisit would remind me why it was still on my computer.

BreezeBrowser Pro is a mature and refined image browser which has almost every major function a professional would expect a top level image browser to have. More, as a mature product there are no glitches during use or problems during installation. Breezebrowser Pro just works, and it works great across multiple platforms including a P4, Core 2 Duo, Dual Core, and a new i7 workstation, all of which I've personally tested.

The folks at Breeze Systems sent me the keys and in less than ten minutes I'd downloaded and installed the latest version and started browsing through my rather large image library. It felt like hooking up with an old friend who I hadn't see in a long time. Comfortable and rewarding. We knew so much about each other, but time had passed and we had much catching up to do.

Why did I stop using BreezeBrowser Pro? One word: Lightroom. Adobe's Lightroom came on the scene hot on the heels of Apple's Aperture and it was love at first click. Before my workflow was Windows Explorer, Breezebrowser, and Capture One Pro before finally making it to Photoshop. Suddenly it was only Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom has most of the image browser features I needed and the convenience of having them integrated into a top quality RAW converter should not be understated.

Let's take a closer look at BreezeBrowser Pro and see what's under the hood, and then see if perhaps it has evolved in such a manner that I'll want to reintegrate it into my workflow alongside Lightroom.

The Main View

AF Point Overlay (notice the single AF point is directly on the eye?)

The main view in BreezeBrowser Pro puts a large preview image, exfil data, a histogram, and some simple controls for rotating the image, moving to the next image, or bringing up more exfil details. The normal expected menu choices run across the top and icons for common functions are located underneath the menus.

Under the "View" menu one of my favorite functions can be enabled. "View Focus Points." See in the sample above the 45 AF points overlaying the image? Notice the enabled/used AF point on her left eye is red? BreezeBrowser Pro reads your original image and knows which AF point you used, where it was on the sensor, and then overlays it onto the image for your review. This function is invaluable!

Many photographers both amateur and professional routinely turn out softer images than I personally find acceptable. And it's not necessary. By paying attention to your lens selection, settings, AF mode, and where you place your autofocus point, you can ensure your images are always tack sharp.

The problem is that most photographers don't have a way to review their autofocus points so they never catch their errors. Usually, only your factory software will allow you to review which AF point was used and we all know most of you have never broke the plastic cover on the software that came with your camera much less installed it. We shun OEM software for a reason, the reason is most of it is junk and a waste of our time. More, we don't want to clutter our hard disk and registry with such software.

BreezeBrowser Pro allows us to review our AF points, where they are on the subject, and this ability to review can help improve your images by magnitudes. Whenever I get a new camera and learn its AF system, its habit to go over each and every shoot with BreezeBrowser with the AF points view enabled. I do this with difficult shoots, or any shoots where I seem to be getting too many soft images. This is especially true with portrait or wedding shoots. BreezeBrowser doesn't lie. If you missed your AF point it will be right there for you to see. You'll no longer need to blame something else. Has anyone noticed many photography forums are full of posts about "defective lenses?" I've never had a defective lens.

Thumbnail View

Large Thumbnail View

The thumbnail view lets you navigate your computer and network through the folder tree on the left, and your thumbnails are on the right. Breezebrowser Pro is FAST! It creates and displays thumbnails faster than any program I've ever used. Display is near instantaneous. You also get a choice of thumbnail size. What you see in the image above is the "large" thumbnail size.

Extra Large Thumbnail View

The "extra large" thumbnail size is special in that you can set the size to whatever you like. In the above image the thumbnail size is set to 320 x 320 pixels. You can also drag the folder structure window pane along the width to take up any extra room that remains.

Small Thumbnail View

Above you can see the "small" thumbnail size. I wonder if anyone notices there is no "medium" choice? Only small, large, and extra large. As you move over the thumbnails a customizable set of exfil shooting data appears in the status bar that runs along the bottom of the working space. The thumbnails themselves show the type of file (TIF, RAW, JPEG) along the top, and the file name along the bottom. The layout is both informative and intuitive.

Multiple Monitor Support

Spanning Two Monitors

As you can see from the image above BreezeBrowser Pro can take advantage of multiple monitors in several ways. One of the most common ways is to simply stretch the program across your entire monitor or two monitors side by side like I did in the sample above. If you have one of the new 30 inch monitors you can stretch the BreezeBrowser Pro along it's entire width and fill your screen(s) with hundreds of thumbnail images. You can also place an "actual image" window on any monitor and control it through the UI on another monitor.

"Actual Image View" across two monitors

At any time you can right click and choose "View Actual Image" and this will bring up a separate window with the actual image and not preview. Using your mouse's scroll wheel you can easily zoom in/out as desired. If you have two monitors side by side you can view the actual image across both monitors like I did in the sample above.

You can also go to "Preferences" and set up BreezeBrowser Pro so that the sequence of windows suits your tastes. For instance, I have my installation set up so that clicking on a thumbnail automatically brings me into a large preview image. I can then flip through individual large preview images, or go back to the thumbnail view. At any time I can right-click on an image and choose "View Actual Image." You can change this order in Preferences. For instance you can click on a thumbnail and have it automatically bring up the actual image vs. a large preview image. Almost every feature in BreezeBrowser Pro is customizable.

Extra Features

Geo-Tagging Options

In the above image you can see I've clicked on the "Tools" menu and highlighted the "Geo-Tag images using GPS Data." There are several more GPS choices as "Geo-Tagging" is becoming quite popular. In fact a regular contributor to this column, Akulka, has purchased a geo-tagger hardware device and has promised a full review after he's used it awhile. I can't wait, sounds like a lot of fun and very useful to boot! I've been entering the coordinates of some unusual and hard to find shooting locations using my hand held GPS for years. Now it appears to have become a lot easier and automatic.

HTML Web Gallery Setup

Another great feature is BreezeBrowsers ability to build a HTML image gallery to post on your website. Depending on your web skills you might find this very useful. Personally I don't find it nearly as useful as Lightroom's Web Gallery module which allows you to easily build and upload Flash or HTML web galleries, nor nearly as capable. Still, it's a nice feature nicely integrated. There is also a slideshow function.

Many View Options

Under the view menu you can see many choices including overlaying grid lines on the image. You can choose a host of view options to suit most any need. There are also options for updating IPTC and exfil data. Basic RAW conversion is also featured.

Summary

Overall I really enjoyed using BreezeBrowser Pro after such a long break from its use. It reminded me of just how fast and easy to use a image browser should be. Installation was very fast and smooth, no errors or issues over the last few weeks I've been reviewing the program, and did I mention it's fast? It's very fast!

Will I integrate BreezeBrowser Pro back into my workflow? No. While Lightroom's browse function isn't nearly as fast nor intuitive as BreezeBrowser Pro, its compensated by me already being in Lightroom to process RAW images. I think we're going to see image applications more and more workflow specific, or in other words tailored to the most common workflows photographers use. Each products feature set assumes a photographer's workflow to need a certain set of features and this assumption will make or break the success of an application. To be fair, these companies don't really assume anything. They put a lot of effort into customer feedback and research.

And this brings me to the sticky question of if I'll renew my BreezeBrowser subscription? I'm not yet sure. I do like being able to bring up such a capable browser when searching for images but I miss not having a exfil or keyword search engine as Lightroom does. I'll also GREATLY miss the ability to review each shoot with the AF point overlay. For now I can use my old version with the cameras I have to do this, and when I upgrade my cameras I'll probably find myself upgrading so BreezeBrowser will support my new camera and allow me to review my AF points. Which in effect is allowing me to review my photography skills. I'm not exaggerating this. If you're having issues with soft images download a trial version of BreezeBrowser Pro and see where you've been going wrong.

I really like BreezeBrowser Pro. It's one of the best browsers on the market. If you have a need for such a browser you won't go wrong with a Breeze Systems product. In the near future we'll be reviewing DSLR Remote which I can tell you now is the best such product on the market. Look for the review soon.

Photography News of Interest

These images will either gross you out or make you laugh your head off. Maybe both. Okay, I'll admit it. There have been a few relatively rare occasions I've visited Wal-Mart in less than my finest attire. Check out The People of Wal-Mart here.

The last few weeks have been great for photographers as camera manufacturers announce some very interesting and worthwhile new cameras and gear. This week Panasonic announces a major update to its GH(1) micro 4/3's system called the Panasonic Lumix GF1. This micro 4/3's system isn't much bigger than many pocket point and shoots, yet it's sensor is many times bigger and so is the resulting image quality. And then there's the interchangeable lenses! How about a real hot shoe for a capable external flash? I think I see one of these in my future and you can check out a hand-on review of what might possibly be the ultimate travel camera (at least until Leica announces their new M9) to date here.

Panasonic also announced two new Micro 4/3's lenses. the Lumix G 20mm / F1.7 ASPH which you can see here and the new Panasonic Leica 45mm F2.8 Macro with OIS that you can see here. Keep in mind that the Micro 4/3's system has a 2x multiplier factor to compare it to 35mm equivalent lenses, so the 20mm is really a 40mm and the 45mm a 90mm. Rumor has it that the yet to be announced Leica M9 will be full frame! Which means these lenses will work as actual 20mm and 45mm lenses.. if they ever market them with the proper mount which I'd guess they will.

The US media, until now, has been careful to not show the more graphic images from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. You also won't see people hanging themselves, the blown off torso of a man tortured with a C4 belt, or young female motorcyclists beheaded by a phone wire like you will here in Thailand. When it comes to showing pictures of casualties or war both sides of the issues have valid points. On one side we want to show respect to the service member and his/her family and we can certainly well imagine the horror from words alone. On the other side we have those who say such brave men and women pay the ultimate price for our freedoms and their heroism/braveness/story needs to be told. Which side are you on? You can see the photo in question and a local story about the photo here.

It's no longer a secret! Right before this column went to press Leica announced the worst kept secret of the year, the M9. Folks, this is a relatively small FULL FRAME camera that can fit in a large pocket.. and takes some of the best optics (lenses) ever made. In fact, it takes the lenses made for these rangefinder cameras dating back some 40 odd years and more, to the present. 18mp's (who cares it's full frame!) This is a travel camera which is great for landscapes and people, not a sports or wildlife camera. This is perhaps the best travel camera ever! And you can read about it here. This is not for the faint of heart. It retails for $6995 USD's and if that bothers you don't even ask about the lenses. Leica optics easily run more than the top Canon and Nikon glass.

Leica has been busy. They've also announced a APS-C sized sensor camera which is even smaller than the M9. It's called the X1. This camera is small! It has a fixed lens and fits in the palm of your hand. For sure a cool camera which you can read about here. I just wish they'd tell us how much it cost.

Readers Submissions

Steve,

Thank you for your reply. I'm sending you a few pics, feel free to use them (or not) in your readers' submission section.

Here is my brief narrative :

"I was in Vietnam and Cambodia this summer in July and August and I'd like to share a few pictures I took with a Canon point and shoot camera.

Tran Quoc pagoda in Hanoi is beautiful, I tried to capture the peace and quiet of the place in the picture.

Hoi An was also another highlight in my trip, it's a very atmospheric town which makes you feel like you went 80 years back in time.

My first stop in Cambodia was Phnom Penh. I really enjoyed the cruise on the river at sunset.

As I'm interested in history, I just couldn't miss the killing fields. It was really harrowing. The pictures speak for themselves.

I then went to Siem Reap where I took tons of pictures. Here are my

favourites: some Apsaras in Angkor Vat, Banteay Srei (I love the reddish colour of the stones), Preah Khan (I like the perspective and the colours on the picture), Ta Phrom."

Don't hesitate to abridge and/or correct any mistake, English isn't my first language (my parents are Vietnamese but I was born in France 36 years ago and it's where I live and work :).

Take care,

Jay

Jay –

Thank you for the submissions! Very nice work. No worries at all about your English skills. I always admire those who can converse and write in second, third, and even fourth languages and of course I'm a bit envious.. :)

I especially liked the image of the door way with green mold.. Spectacular! And with a point and shoot nonetheless..

Thank you and we look forward to more submissions from you.

Steve

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers Questions

Hi Steve,

I’ve got a short question about flash photography. I’m playing around with that flash now, trying to get some indoor shots of family and friends, but there’s one thing I’m not getting.

The flash, when in auto mode, will ensure that the subject on which I focus is properly exposed, and this is working pretty well. However, and this is also mentioned in the user guide, the background exposure is still done through the shutter speed, which means that even though I am using a flash, my shutter speeds are still very long in aperture priority mode. Since I’m shooting handheld, and the fact that I’m shooting people that have a tendency to move, I get blurry pictures.

I know that the best solution would probably be to use one or more slave flashes to expose the background as well, but since I don’t have that, would the best workaround be to use shutter priority instead? This way I can set the exposure time, but obviously it results in a darker, underexposed background. I know that with only 1 flash and no tripod I cannot have both a properly exposed subject AND a nicely exposed background, so what’s the best middle ground here?

Would appreciate your advice. I still have a week left here, and would like to take some nice shots to bring home to Bangkok.

Thanks.

By the way, my brother loved the flash as a gift. Couldn’t believe he was really getting it. Thanks for helping me giving him such a nice present.

Best regards,

KVW

Hi KVW –

I knew this question was coming.. ;o)

Using a flash opens up all sorts of creative possibilities. When shooting portraits for example you have the choice of:

Exposing the background and foreground the same.

  1. Underexposing the background.
  2. Overexposing the background.

There are legit reasons for all three, depending on what you're trying to achieve. Generally, I try to underexpose the backgrounds which has a few benefits I greatly enjoy.

  1. I think a properly exposed subject against a darker background looks more 'right' than any other way.
  2. You get a shorter shutter time.. which allows for a greater handholding range.
  3. The flash tends to 'bleed' less into the mid ground.

Aperture priority mode with Canon and their speedlights SUCKS BIG TIME. This was the hardest thing for me to get used to when going from Nikon to Canon. Totally inconsistent, the program that makes the decision sucks, etc, etc, etc.. the only time this works well is for fill flash in relatively good light when the ambient light is already bright enough for good shutter times.

For the same reason Shutter Priority isn't all that great either.. useful for stopping action.. but you're still limited to a relatively slow sync speed so who cares.

I use three modes with the speedlights.. for the following uses.

  1. Aperture priority — If in a hurry, such as a wedding, and the ambient light is strong enough then I'll use AP for fill flash needs.
  2. Full Auto TTL — I use this for fast moving events where getting the shot is more important than anything else.
  3. Full Manual — this is what I use most of the time, even for weddings and other events. A professional flash makes using manual easy.. and you'll wonder why you ever used anything different. Not only does it allow for full creative use of subject/fill/background.. but also the direction of the light and whatever modifiers you want to use (softbox, reflectors, etc)

Note: A professional grade flash system is 100x easier to use in full manual.. than OEM speedlights. You can put this system in your mental checklist along with a full frame.. ;o)

Soon.. you'll be asking about flash brackets, off-camera cables (have one of the expensive cables for off-camera use.. barely used.. ;o)), and the other common stuff..


Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

This has been a tremendously tiring week, yet I haven't got much work done at all! In fact, until about an hour ago I couldn't even muster the strength to start this week's column. With our fearless leader out sick last week and who knows about this week, I figure you guys need something to read.. ;o)

The renovations were complete 48 hours ago! We've spent the last two days cleaning, putting furniture back, more cleaning, more furniture moving, and more cleaning. Lots of cleaning because there was tons of dust! Dust was everywhere. But I must say the home/offices look great and I'll really enjoy working in them over the coming years.

We have an individual workshop scheduled for a few 'nights' this weekend in the entertainment district. We'll be learning about low-light photography (really, we will) If you see two large farangs with even larger cameras wandering around Soi Cowboy or Soi See.. or maybe even Patpong.. stop us and say hello! If this one turns out interesting enough I'll write a main feature about our experiences.

Have you enjoyed the reviews recently on Resize Magic, Helicon Focus, and Helcion Filter? I hope so because we have more reviews in the pipeline and the software developers seem eager to have us test drive their products. I'm trying to accept mostly those products of interest to our general readership, and even a few for our more advanced members. In the coming weeks look for reviews on:

Genuine Factuals

  1. PTGui
  2. Photomatix Pro
  3. Nero, full suite
  4. Focus Magic
  5. Breeze Systems Breezebrowser Pro and Remote Pro
  6. Imagenomics Portraiture Pro, Real Grain, and Noise Pro.

Infocus Blog

Where does the time go?

I've been really busy lately and time has rushed past me like a Pattaya bound train full of western tourists using turbo-boost!

It started back in April. Knowing my son would be here for the months of June and July I wanted to get far ahead on this column so I could give him 100% of my time. Watching your dad hunt and peck on his computer all night isn't the reason you take a 20 hour plane flight halfway across the world.

Starting in mid-April I started writing like mad. I had the material from previous time in the field and with a lot of work, by the time I picked him up at the airport I was two months ahead! For two months I didn't think about writing this column which in reality takes a great part of every week to produce. And for two months I traveled around Thailand with my son, did whatever assignments came my way, and we had a great time.

And then the summer ended. Fortunately I had more material gathered during the summer and I wrote a series of necessarily understated and muted articles on my time in Mae Sot and the refugee camps and orphanages. It was during this time that the renovations on my home/offices started and things have never been the same since.

It was necessary for me to be here each and every minute the workers were here. Otherwise I'd come home and find a wall constructed across the middle of my living room, or a bridge to nowhere leading off the balcony. You never really could tell what they'd come up with so I decided to stay home for the duration.

As you already know the renovations are complete and the digs are certainly a lot nicer and more modern. But it's been five weeks since I've been out in the field capturing new material for this column. It takes a considerable amount of planning, time, and money to get out there and capture these places.

Which brings me to why I started this blog entry. I want to thank all of you. Why? Because if it wasn't for your questions, readers submissions (some really great ones), a few guest Outing writers (Thank you Tom Tweedel!), and everyone else who contributes to this column then I never would have been able to keep it going. Thank you!

In the coming weeks I'll get out to places previously unknown and get some great material to share. In the meantime things might be a bit threadbare.. but it won't last long.

Please keep the interesting questions and submissions coming!

Until next time..