The Clouds

The Clouds is, in fact, a play by Aristophanes. He who also wrote “Lysistrata”. And who said, famously, that “under every stone there lurks a politician”. If you want to understand ancient Athens and its parallels to today, read Aristophanes’ plays (and their explanations to a modern audience).

But if you want to store your images away from home, there’s the cloud. Singular.

Alas: while The Clouds is ancient history, the cloud is not quite ready. It offers great advantages, of course. Backups that actually get done. Off-site storage. Storage that is accessible from everywhere. One place for your files. Unlimited storage.

But the drawback in today’s world is simple: speed. An image can easily be 15-20 MB, and a shoot can contains hundreds of such images. Until we all have fast fibre right into the house, and all the routers are fast, it is just not practical. The infrastructure does not quite support it. Yet. Try moving a year’s shoots to another provider (you cannot be locked in)—you will see it will take days or weeks or even longer. So the cloud is not there yet for us.

It will be, of course—this is one area where Moore’s Law still holds. As long as human law does not protect the Telco’s and we have a reasonably open, competitive market, speeds to the home will increase

Until that time: store all your images on a hard disk. And back them up onto another disk. And then back them up onto another disk, which you keep off-site, in someone else’s home or studio. Only then can you relax. Each image must be in at least two places, preferably in at least three, one of which should be offsite. Don’t lose your images – every hard disk fails. Not IF, but WHEN.

And if you fail to heed my advice, like the Athenians failed to listen to Aristophanes’ anti-war message, then so be it—just don’t say I did not warn you.

What’s in a name?

What IS in a name? Rather a lot, as it happens.

Take the company formerly known as Artisan State. They do great albums and other print-related items. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Except, that is, for their current name. It is now “Zno“, which every world citizen except an American pronounces as the monosyllabic Russian-sounding “zno”, Vaguely sounding like “snow”.

But the company thinks it should be pronounced as “Zeeno”. Because while the entire world calls the letter Z “zed”, since it is derived from the Greek zeta, Americans, and only Americans, call it “zee”.

And so, apparently, should we.

Except some of us—meaning me—feel rather strongly about language, and while I’ll gladly let Americans pronounce Z as “zee”, or “zoo”, or “za”, or “zeeblebrox”, or anything else they like, I just cannot get myself to do it. Z is zed, not zee.

But of course there is a bigger thing behind this. Namely American exceptionalism and ignorance of the world, and even, if you like, cultural imperialism. Much as I love my American friends, I think they should perhaps educate themselves just a little bit, and realise that the entire world is not America. And something as crucially important as a brand name… why on earth would you choose something that either puzzles or antagonizes the rest of the world? Unless, of course, you only want to sell in America.

So we have problems. Until I live in the USA, I do not want to start pronouncing Z as “zee”, even by stealth, and I do not want to buy from a company that is at the very least either ignorant or culturally insensitive at its senior levels. When I have pointed this out to the company’s support email, all I got was a “we think of it differently”, or some such non sequitur.

So just like I would find it difficult to respect a president who is a racist and a mysogenist (and I am not pointing at Mr Trump here: I suspect he is a lot more intelligent than we think), I also find it difficult to buy from a company that is either ignorant or is trying to push American culture down my throat.

So yes, there is a lot in a name. A name is culture and language, and people care about culture and language.

Am I making a big deal of this? Nah. No big deal. I can buy albums, even good albums, elsewhere. I can recommend other print companies to my students. No skin off my nose.

But I do wonder why a company chooses not to care about antagonizing a great proportion of their market. Are they ignorant, or do they want to push American culture down the world’s throat? I’d say both are equally likely.



To readers in the United States, is now available on the Amazon Echo. You can find it in the skills section of Alexa, listed as “Speedlighter”:


You can use it, for instance, with commands like the following “Alexa, ask Speedlighter for the latest post”, and have the most recent blog post read to you. Not every post on the blog lends itself well to dictation (some depend heavily on images, like Picture of the Day, or some exposure lessons), so blog posts in the “Audible” category will be read. 

New features will continue to be added, and it will be available in the UK soon as well. To readers outside of the US, as Amazon releases the Echo in more countries, this will become available in them. 

Have fun, and let me know how it works for you!

“I want to adjust a bunch of pictures by increasing their ISO by a stop”. Is that something you often want to do?

In that case, you have probably run into a problem. Yes, you can adjust one, then mark the rest in the DEVELOP module’s negative strip and SYNC them:


Ah. But now they are all set to exactly +1 stop – not “whatever they were plus 1 stop”. And that, depending on how you got here, could be a problem. If you have previously adjusted some individually, you will lose those individual tweaks.

The solution?

Do it in the LIBRARY module. Mark them all and in “Tone Control”, adjust the exposure (or clarity, or vibrance) to the relative amount you would like to add. It will be added to the prior value, instead of replacing it.



That’s it. Just one of those little nice-to-knows!


Facebook Messenger

Today, a blog post that is only sideways about photography. It’s about more.

Facebook is where social media happens. There is no alternative: all our friends and relatives are on Facebook. It’s where the world communicates. Great stuff. Ping: Oh there’s Facebook!

Lately, FB has been trying to also take over the messaging world. First by creating their messenger app. Then by making its use (rather than doing it in the Facebook app) compulsory if you are using the FB app on a mobile device. Now, even when using a browser on a mobile device. They really want you to do all your messaging using their app.

But I do not want to roll over. No FB Messenger for me.

First, out of principle. I don’t like to be told what apps I must use. And I think social media and communication should be separate items. Facebook can cancel my account at any time without any reason or recourse. That should not then also kill my ability to communicate!

“But everyone can cancel your account”, people say. Not so. My account is safe unless the admin kills it. But since that is me, I am not afraid. Also, only FB can cancel your ability to communicate if you post something they don’t like on social media, or of someone makes something up about you (that happens, trust me).

“But all business is done on FB”, they say. Yes, that part is true, But to my mind, that is a good reason not to give FB more power, rather than the opposite.

Then, there’s also the practical side.

  • Another app means more memory, more processor cycles, more updates, and yet another UI to use.
  • More pings. When something pings or rings it could be one more thing…
  • It means even more things to check. Messages used to arrive via email. If someone said “I sent you that address last week”, you would check email.  Now, you check email, and you check SMS (phone text), and you check Facebook messages, and you check Facebook proper, and you check Skype, and you check Telegram, and you check Apple iMessage, and you check whatever other messaging methods you use – at least a few more for most of us. So this has made our lives much more complicated. Why add all these levels of complexity when it would be better, obviously, to have fewer rather than more?


It’s a free world: if you use and like Facebook Messenger, good for you. Enjoy. But it’s not for me. Please continue to use email as the main mechanism to contact me. Thanks!