Ep: 221: Adobe’s Lightroom Split Personality – and more

Episode 221 of the PetaPixel Photography Podcast.
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Featured: Photographer and Emmy award-winning filmmaker, Mike Olbinski

In This Episode

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Show Opener:
Photographer and Emmy award-winning filmmaker, Mike Olbinski opens the show. Thanks Mike!

– Get 20% off your order at PhottixUS.com using code PetaPixel20. More at LensShark.com/deals.

Adobe finally gives Lightroom a speed boost and forks the road with hints about its future…and what I think they can do to help the cause. (#)

Sigma gains news fans while helping those in a way it didn’t need to. (#)

A well-known tripod company expands with a new brand via a Kickstarter campaign. (#)

Canon goes big with its G1 X Mark III. (#)

A drone collides with a commercial airliner in Canada. (#)


A reminder about my new show with Brian Matiash, the No Name Photo Show.

Connect With Us

Thank you for listening to the PetaPixel Photography Podcast! Connect with me, Sharky James on TwitterInstagram and Facebook (all @LensShark) as we build this community.

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The Role of the Slit-Scan Image in Science and Art

The use of slit-scan photography is actually quite old. It is often called line-scan, photo finish, or streak photography. Slit-scan photography has a rich and colorful history rooted in chemical analog photography. This technique is often used to visualize high-speed events such as missiles and bullets, although it is probably best known as photo finish photography used to determine the outcome of races.

In the past, slit-scan photographic systems used a sheet of film that was moved past a slit. These cameras were most commonly used as photo finish cameras at races and could very precisely measure the time one horse might have won the race by, for example. There were a number of designs of these systems. One of the most interesting slit-scan cameras had the camera and film moving at the same time to create a panoramic picture. The last camera on the market to use this technique was the Spinner Dolphin 360 made by Lomography.

Modern times have replaced film with digital sensors and slit-scan photography is more popular than ever, although most people have never seen the results. Slit-scan imaging solves a number of problems found in industrial applications. Quality control inspections found in high-speed assembly lines can look for product defects in real time. Industrial applications are the most common uses of the technology today. Although it not the most popular form of photography, the resulting images are often a surprise to the photographer and can be quite stunning and beautiful in their own right.

To make a slit-scan image a large number of images are collected in video format. To create a slit scan image, one row of pixels is extracted from each frame of the video and placed adjacent to the same row from the next frame. Each row of pixels represents a duration of time. If the video was recorded at a rate of 30 frames a second, then the row of pixels will represent 1/30th of a second. The resulting image is really a representation of motion and time. To figure out how much video to collect, count each frame of the video as one pixel in the width of the image to be part of the final image. In this case, I collected 4 x 60 x 30 or a grand total of 7200 images. Thus my final image was 1920 high and 7200 pixels wide. The 1920 comes from the video frame placed vertically to get a larger pixel count in that direction.

To extract the slit-scan image out of the finished MOV file I use a useful program written by Martin Dixon called Slit-Scan. It is a free download and is available from this website. The program is available for both Mac and Windows operating systems and requires the programming environment called Processing to running. This is by far the easiest way to make slit-scan images currently.

To measure the results of a toy car race, students in my class recorded two Matchbox cars going down a track. The video was recorded at 1000FPS with an Edgertronic camera.

A typical photo finish image of a Hot Wheels car race. The red car crossed the finish 114 pixels in front of the blue car since each pixel in the horizontal direction represents 1/1000th of a second, the red car won the race by .114 seconds. The slit-scan image is a very powerful tool and useful for making image measurements. If the length of the car is known, then the pixels can be measured in the horizontal direction to determine the amount of time for the car to pass a fixed point. From this information, the velocity of the car can be calculated.

Ocean waves are recorded when moving. Since each pixel in the horizontal direction represents 1/30th of a second, the wave motion can be measured.

If the camera is rotated, the extracted slit scan becomes a panoramic image. Here a junction in the college’s hallways is imaged by Nate Dileas, Scott Semler, and Makayla Roof from my high-speed imaging class. Since the camera was moving very slowly, Nate ducked around the camera and was recorded twice. This is a classic strategy for this technology and dates way back. If you look at old panoramic images you will almost always see at least one individual that is included twice in the photograph.

In this picture, a colleague Dan Hughes volunteered to sit patiently on a rotating chair. The resulting image is a peripheral slit scan image sometimes called a peripheral portrait and reveals the full circumference of his head. This technique has been used to record Roman vases, and tread wear patterns on tires.

Instead of a human subject, a peripheral slit scan image is collected of a rotating Dahlia flower. The flower has the slit of pixels extracted from the video is parallel to the axis of rotation. If the extracted row of pixels is not parallel or taken at an angle the resulting images can be quite weird and surprising.

The same dahlia flower as above is used to make a slit scan image, but here the row of extracted pixels is at a 90-degree angle to the axis of rotation. I personally find these images new and exciting to make. Even after making these images for 20 years, I still never quite know what to expect.

An off-axis image of another Dahlia flower this image was extracted from a full resolution .mov file taken with a Canon 5DMkIII.

The same dahlia flower movie file used to make a peripheral slit scan image of the flower.

A bouquet of spring tulips imaged off-axis make a unique twisty picture. The flowers were placed on a turntable that took three minutes to make one complete revolution. This image was collected in camera by using a Better Light scan back camera which had the scanner parked in a fixed position. The camera has a feature that allows the taking very high-resolution panoramic images. The full image requires approximately five minutes to collect because the camera’s operation itself is slow.

Here a dahlia flower is imaged with the axis of the rotation and the camera offset by 15 degrees. Strange effects are quite common with this technique.

Downtown Richmond VA is imaged by collecting a high-speed video from an iPhone 6 pointed out the window of a moving car. The handheld image shows the aspect ratio is not correct – the car should have been moving slower. Slit-scan imaging is commonly used to map the ground from high flying aircraft. Surprisingly, aerial slit scan still uses large and long rolls of film even in 2017.

Slit-scan is used to record the patterns on a cone seashell. Another example of peripheral streak imaging.

The technique is used to capture the arrangement of corn kernels in Flint corn. Flint corn is also known as Indian corn or calico corn and is a common decorative corn seen here in the United States throughout the U.S.’s Thanksgiving holiday. This image shows the variation of the placement and color of the kernels of corn around the full corncob in one image.

Many images just look strange like this slit scan image of a historic flashbulb firing. The slit image is used to determine the timing of the flash here the M3 flash bulb is brightest for about 20 milliseconds. As in all of the slit images time goes from left to right here.

An abalone paua shell from New Zealand is imaged as an off-axis slit scan image. The constant pattern at the bottom is due to the rotation stage being turned off.

Have you ever wondered what beach glass placed on a rotation stage placed on a second rotation stage imaged in off-axis silt scan photography would look like? I have and pictured above is the result. Oddly enough, this image will be familiar to readers that are used to looking at rotation charts for the moons of Jupiter which are displayed in a similar pattern.

For a number of years, I have been intrigued by the unique patterns displayed by objects in a variety of ways through the use of slit can imagery. I hope the interested reader will give this technique a try.

About the author: Ted Kinsman is an assistant professor of photographic technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He teaches advanced photographic technology, light microscopy, and macro photography courses. Kinsman specializes in applying physics to photography. You can find more about him and his work in his faculty profile and on his website.

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Review: The Yongnuo 40mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens for Nikon is Bad

As far as I am aware, Yongnuo’s latest entry in its ultra-cheap prime lens lineup is the first F-mount 40mm pancake lens that features autofocus. I was excited to hear the announcement back in September as I’ve always been jealous of Canon users and their 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens with its ridiculously slim profile.

The closest we have for Nikon’s F-mount is the manual focus Series E 50mm f/1.8 lens, the manual focus Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 lenses, and the manual focus Voigtländer 40mm f/2 lens. I’ve longed for an F-mount autofocus pancake lens since I was first struck with GAS, and now with Yongnuo’s release, it looked like I would finally be getting my fix.

Alas, all of the merits for this $94 lens aside, its biggest failing is its utterly incompetent autofocus capabilities.

The Good

  • The size is right. Not quite as slim as Canon’s 40mm pancake lens, but smaller than anything else Nikon is offering.
  • Decent enough image quality wide open. I don’t really care about sharpness — especially corner sharpness — too much, but I have had some lenses look just absolutely atrocious when not stopped down and this is not one of them.
  • Close enough focus. Not nearly macro level magnification, but a minimum focusing distance just under 0.3 meters gives you bigger magnification than Nikon’s 50mm offerings.
  • The price. I paid $94 on Amazon for a f/2.8 lens that’s actually usable at f/2.8.
It comes with a USB port through which you can update firmware if you own a PC and in which you can collect dirt and dust if you own a Mac.

The Bad

  • Plasticky filth all around. The mount is metal, and thank goodness for that, but just about everything else is plastic. I actually prefer quality plastic to quality metal as I place a premium on weight reduction, but this is not quality. This is garbage plastic. I’ve owned several plastic kit lens and loved them all, but this lens just feels wrong.
  • The autofocus sucks. Just awful. Imagine the glory days of contrast-detection autofocus from your first point and shoot back in 2004. Now imagine that camera trying to autofocus on a clear white wall in the middle of a dense fog. At night. That’s what trying to autofocus with this lens feels like. And it’s noisy as hell too, which ordinarily wouldn’t bother me but I’m tired of defending this lens so I’m gonna mention it.
  • Manual focus sucks too. There’s no automatic-manual override feature and you don’t deserve it anyway for paying less than a $100 for a lens, but there is a switch that converts this lens from automatic to manual and you’ll wish it hadn’t. The only way you can tell which mode you’re in by feel is the hard stop at infinity and close focus. There is simply no tactile feedback from the focus ring, which feels in danger of falling off at any moment.

The Pictures

I didn’t venture far with this lens beyond my yard, and I don’t think I will in the future either. These images aren’t quite scientific and they certainly aren’t artistic, but they should give you an idea what you’re in for if you choose to part ways with $94. Minor global adjustments to tone were made in Lightroom with no changes to sharpening or noise reduction. All pictures were taken with a Nikon D750.


The bokeh is altogether not unpleasant to my eye – a clumsy way of phrasing that it shouldn’t matter too much in pictures taken with this lens. There is an aspherical element in there which can make this lens prone to “onion rings” in specular highlights if you care about such things. I don’t.


Pixel peepers can find some modest chromatic aberration at wide apertures which you would expect for a lens that costs $94. I personally don’t concern myself too much with defects that can be corrected with one click in Lightroom.


More Thoughts on the Autofocus

My default setting for autofocus areas is a central group of 21 points, which this lens never could figure out. I wound up shooting most of these pictures with a single central point of focus. Eventually, I got some minor improvement by switching from AF-C to AF-S, though at no point for any of these pictures was this lens free of egregious, conspicuous hunting.

Phase detection autofocus through the viewfinder exhibited hunting was just as bad as live view. And this was in broad daylight! I held my finger on the shutter waiting for focus to lock on this contrasty-as-all-hell mailbox and it never landed.

I tried three more times and every test was just as bad as the first. Autofocus this awful is unforgivable; couple that with terrible manual focus and there just aren’t enough good points left for me to recommend this lens to anyone.


Those of us waiting for a useable autofocus-capable pancake lens for Nikon still have some waiting to do. I will say that I’ve had some good experience with Yongnuo’s 35mm f/2 prime lens, though most online reviews disagree with me. It’s not a perfect lens, to be sure, but the autofocus on the 35mm is usable and does not hunt nearly as bad as their 40mm lens. And I’m glad there’s another company out there making inexpensive prime lenses to spur on some competition.

Hopefully, in the future, Yongnuo can release a firmware update that will fix these glaring flaws. And since we’re hoping, maybe Nikon will get the picture and release a solid Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens of their own. As it stands, for F-mount autofocus pancake lenses, Yongnuo is the only game in town, but it’s a game nobody should play.

About the author: Cody Cobb is a photography enthusiast and medical student. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, 25 Photographs. This article was also published here.

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Urbex Photographer Dies After Falling from 20th Floor of Chicago Hotel

An urbex photographer was killed after he fell from the 20th floor of a luxury hotel in Chicago.

CBS Chicago reports that 44-year-old Eric Paul Janssen died on Monday at around 3:30 p.m. after trespassing at the LondonHouse Chicago luxury riverfront hotel. After falling from a 20th floor wall, Janssen landed on a 6th-floor rooftop 14 stories below.

Janssen was reportedly shooting photos on the 20th-floor ledge when the accident occurred, sources tell CBS Chicago.

The photographer had nearly 4,000 followers on Instagram, where he regularly shared photos captured in run-down, abandoned locations as well as the rooftops of tall city buildings.

“Chicago has been an amazing experience,” Janssen wrote in his last Instagram post, shared the same day as his fall. “Made some new friends. Reconnected with some old friends. Had a really wonderful time exploring this great city.”

Birth. School. Work. Death. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Chicago has been an amazing experience. Made some new friends. Reconnected with some old friends. Had a really wonderful time exploring this great city. . Shoutout to everyone who I met up with in Chicago: — @johnnymeant — @oasisjae — @tony_sarria — @the0thers1de — @abandonedfl — @trespvss — @savage__artist — @kaylaabug6 — @allyperkins — @patoxdj — @taylor.appleseed — @sportynice11 — @brianamaeee — @tat_ventures — @atavisme — @mjinnyc — @jakerybu — @shamueld — @faithspeer7 — @hobbesthetyger — @jim_farkle — @jennybaileyy — @madeillne — @pongooleboy — @nikokaps_ — @_mr_sanchez_ — Dan (who isn't on Instagram) •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• And a very special thanks to @detroitunseen who I've never met but deserves a big Thank You!!! . . . . . . . #filthyfeeds #discarded_butnot_forgotten #abandoned_junkies #abandon_seekers_ #trailblazers_rurex #sfx_urbex #abandonedafterdark #exploreeverything #urbexnesia #grittyside #decayporn #urbex_utopia #infinity_unguarded #urbex_disciple #froggy_explorers #urbanexploration #sfx_decay #abandonedplaces #abandonedcentral #loves_decay #urbandecay #detailsofdecay #kf_urbexabandonedmasks #urbexphotography #abandonedarchitecture #modern_ruins #ig_captures_decay #filthyfeeds #OutcastAmerica #dilapidatedvisuals

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“Finally started reading Hidden Cities: A Memoir of Urban Exploration by Moses Gates,” Janssen wrote in another post just 3 days before his fall. “For those who still view ‘No Trespassing’ signs as more than a silly suggestion this book is not for you. For those who understand that there are entire cities hidden behind those signs awaiting exploration and discovery, then you should read this book!”

Hidden Cities •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Finally started reading Hidden Cities: A Memoir of Urban Exploration by Moses Gates. My buddy @6millionstories gave it to me at the beginning of the year but I just never found the time to crack it open and jump in. Now is that time and it's such an amazing tale. Every sentence resonates with my soul and only whets my insatiable curiosity. . For those who still view "No Trespassing" signs as more than a silly suggestion this book is not for you. For those who understand that there are entire cities hidden behind those signs awaiting exploration and discovery, then you should read this book! . Photo by the incontrovertible @allyperkins . . . . . . . #traveldeeper#exploringtheglobe#livetravelchannel#passionpassport#tlpicks#beautifuldestinations#travelawesome#welltravelled#wonderful_places#exploretocreate#sonyalpha#artofvisuals#moodygrams#theimaged#streetmagazine#streetmobs#pgdaily#createcommune#streets_vision#main_vision#fatalframes#ig_colors#ig_nycity#agameoftones#createexplore#heatercentral#way2ill#thecreatorclass#streetdreamsmag

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The Chicago Tribune reports that Janssen was a long-time journalist and the vice president of a newspaper group in Memphis, Tennessee. He was also the father of three children.

This isn’t the first time a photographer has died while trespassing at a high-rise in Chicago: back in December 2012, a 23-year-old rooftopping photographer died after falling into the smokestack of the 42-story Hotel InterContinental.

Image credits: Header photo of the LondonHouse Chicago by Lou Stejskal

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Pholio: A Searchable Hard Drive That’s Like an Offline Google Photos

Pholio is a new device that’s aiming to take on Google Photos with a hard drive for your photos that’s searchable by using keywords. The difference here is that Pholio keeps your data secure, and searchable while remaining offline and not relying on cloud services.

Once plugged into a device, Pholio will automatically search through it and back up all of your photos and videos. You are able to store either a high-resolution copy or a smaller optimized version (3-4 MB for a photo, or 720p resolution for a video). If you choose the optimized version, Pholio will still provide you with a link to find the original, higher resolution file quickly.

Pholio has a 500GB capacity but, for those looking for more storage, there is a 2TB Pholio Pro available. Any devices you give access to can browse the hard drive, whether they are a Mac, PC, tablet, or smartphone.

Pholio already has 20,000 descriptors that it can harness to pull out the right photos for your keywords, but you can also tag your photos with new keywords so that it can keep learning.

It also has “fast and accurate” face detection, allowing you to collate an album of photos of a particular person. Pholio even allows you to search within videos, finding “the perfect still shot” without having to watch the full playback of the video.

In a coming update, there will be options for backup services and encryption, too.

It may not be part of the recent push toward cloud storage, but Pholio believes that keeping local control of your images is necessary. The device keeps your images in your own hands, rather than relying on you “handing over” your photos to other companies.

Here’s a brief video introduction to Pholio:

Pholio is available for £200 (about $260) during its launch phase on Kickstarter. That’s provided it reaches its $125,000 goal and successfully delivers. Delivery is expected in January 2018, although a number will be ready “in time for Christmas.”

(via Pholio via The Verge)

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Zeiss Unveils the Milvus 25mm f/1.4 for Canon and Nikon DSLRs

Zeiss has just announced the Milvus 25mm f/1.4 lens, adding the 11th lens to the Milvus family of full frame DSLR lenses. It’s the fourth Milvus lens to have fixed aperture of f/1.4, joining the 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm.

The Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 was developed for Canon and Nikon DSLR users who shoot landscape and architecture, as well as for photojournalists who need a wide lens for photos and videos.

“The completely new optical design ensures superior performance across the entire image field,” says Zeiss Product Manager Christophe Casenave. “This results in high-contrast photos and a harmonious bokeh.

“Even at full aperture, there are hardly any color fringes. The finest details can be reproduced in high definition and contrast all the way into the corners.”

The lens features a durable metal body that’s protected against dirt and dust. The focus ring has a 172-degree focus rotation angle that allows for precise manual focusing. The Nikon version of the lens has a de-click function for smooth and continuous aperture adjustments.

Here are a few sample photos captured with the Milvus 25mm f/1.4:

Photo by Tim Allrich
Photo by Ralph Koch
Photo by Ralph Koch

The Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 will be available for Canon EF and Nikon F starting on November 2nd with a price tag of $2,400.

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7 Tips for Getting Natural Smiles in Photos

Getting someone to smile naturally on camera can sometimes be a difficult task. Here’s a 2-minute video by photographer Mathieu Stern in which he shares 7 techniques for getting your subject to grin from ear to ear in seconds.

It is often said that the engaging of the eyes makes a smile natural, but that’s not something that can be easily faked. Even though some of Stern’s ideas and tips may seem “cheesy,” that in itself may be enough to squeeze out a natural smile, or chuckle, from a model.

Something as simple as saying “money” instead of “cheese” when smiling works wonders. Pronouncing “money” ensures that the model drops their jaw as well, leading to that golden smile. It also has that surprising, novelty factor which can be quite amusing and unexpected.

Another super simple thing to do is to encourage your model to relax their facial muscles. This makes for a very subtle, but equally drastic, change to the shot. It’s very easy for someone to tense up their face without realizing it, and simple encouragement to focus on those muscles will return them to a more natural look.

Check out the video above for more advice on drawing out real smiles.

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