Today at around 11 a.m. I headed off to photograph the local Carnival celebration in Portsmouth, Dominica. Portsmouth is the second largest city in Dominica, though it is not really a city, but more of a fishing village. I had thought about going down to Roseau, the capital of Dominica, and where the larger Carnival festivities would be taking place, but I changed my mind and thought it might be more interesting to shoot something local. After living in the area for over six months, I figured it would be kind of cool to focus on the same locals I see every day.
After a short mile and a half walk, I was in Portsmouth. The weather was just holding out, with a few light rain drops here and there, and mostly overcast skies. For something like this I like to pack light, and so I brought only my Canon 20D, an EF-S 10-22mm 3.5-4.5 lens, and my 70-200mm IS 2.8. I have a small Domke bag, which I like to use for street work, as it can hold the 70-200, and a flash if I need it. I can also stuff my wallet, extra batteries and memory cards in there with out a problem. I find this simple kit (sans flash for today) works out great for street work, as it is lightweight and indiscrete.
Once I made my way down to town, I just followed the music. The town looked like there had been a huge party there the night before. Carnival goes from Sunday until Tuesday and the biggest parties are at night. I quickly found the party, which consisted of a large tractor trailer pulling a flatbed with a band on top, and a crowd of locals dancing all around. It was quite a sight. The Portsmouth locals had dispensed with the standard Carnival costumes and were basically just following the truck through the streets, dancing in its wake.
I spent a while photographing the dancing and eventually the truck operators decided it was time to call it quits. They promised to come back later in the afternoon and the crowd dispersed. After a while I walked back home and took some shots of a few fisherman on the beach.
Once I was home it was time to start playing with my new toy, Lightroom. I started up the trial version and inserted a memory card. Just as quickly as my machine recognized the card an import window appeared asking me how I would like to handle the import of images into Lightroom.
I had spent some time with the beta version and was pretty familiar with using the import panel, but it has changed since I last played with it. The options are fairly obvious, and seem pretty intuitive. I had to make a few decisions with regard to how Lightroom would rename files, and organize the images into folders, and that was about it. I also had the option to set up a Metadata preset. This is a really nice feature and I decided to go ahead and create one that I could continue to use throughout this project. I still prefer the IPTC power of PhotoMechanic by Camerabits as the ultimate batch metadata handler, and I really wish both Apple and Adobe would take a few hints in this regard. For instance, why do I need to enter the date the pictures were taken in the IPTC area? With PhotoMechanic I can simply tell it to copy over the camera’s EXIF date and I’m done. This seems like a pretty obvious and necessary feature to me.
I directed Lightroom to store all of my images sorted into folders by date, and I placed them in the Lightroom folder in my Pictures folder. Later in the week I plan to experiment with moving these images from place to place using the finder. But for now, they are sitting in one spot.
Lightroom organizes things a bit differently than Aperture. One of the major differences is that Lightroom doesn’t use Projects to hold images. Instead the images are first referenced by where they exist on the hard drive. In the Library module in Lightroom you can quickly look at your shoot by using the folder panel to find your images. You can also create as many Collections as you would like, which are sort of akin to Albums in Aperture. With these collections you can ultimately organize your library in any way that you would like.
I haven’t really decided the approach I like best. When I first began using Aperture, I was a little thrown off by the Project concept, but now I really like being able to export an entire project, metadata, masters and versions, and everything as one single package file. This is a nice feature that is totally absent in Lightroom, or at least I haven’t found something similar as of yet.
One nice feature in the Library module of Lightroom that jumped out at me is the Metadata browser. I can quickly search through my entire archive for images taken with a particular lens, a certain camera (by serial number even) or a myriad of other metadata. This is pretty nice, but I am not sure what type of usage it will see in the field. So far it is just sort of fun. I do like having the browse by date feature available. Aperture really makes that a hard thing to do, by having to create a query every-time you want to find images from a particular date. One thing that would be nice in Lightroom would be the ability to customize the Metadata Browser so that I could browse by whatever I wanted and not just the prepackaged fields.
This brings me to my next point. The search function in Lightroom seems a little lacking. Aperture’s query HUD has all the bells and whistles I can think of and works very much like a search would be performed in the Finder. Why can’t I add additional search criteria in Lightroom? It’s true, I can perform a text based search and then add filters to that result, but that’s about it. It’s not too impressive when compared to Aperture’s query HUD and the ability to create Smart Albums.
Another basic element that I have found missing from the Library module is some type of parallel to Aperture’s Vault system. Scratch that, I found it. Lightroom does have a built in backup system, where you can have it automatically save a second copy of your images to a separate location on import, and you can have the program automatically back up its database periodically. But it isn’t quite as intuitive as Aperture’s Vault system. It took me a while to realize it was even an option, and it really only allows for a single backup, though I am sure there are ways of getting around that limitation. I should say here that I have never been a huge fan of Aperture’s Vault system, but at least it is easy to set up and seems to work. If it had some sort of scheduler I think it would make a pretty decent system. Lightroom on the other hand, has the scheduler, but trying to figure out how to get it all set up is a bit complicated, and in the end I just decided not to worry about it and rely on my own backup software to achieve the same result.
Well, after a few hours of playing with Lightroom I can say this: I really like it. The interface is pretty nice, and it seems to be zipping along at a pretty decent pace on my MacBook Pro. So far it has been pretty intuitive. I still don’t know how to lift and stamp metadata, and I miss hitting F for full screen mode and a laundry list of other Aperture features I have gotten used to, but overall it has been a pleasure to work with on the first day.
I even managed to create a simple web gallery of images from today’s shoot. The Web module looks like a real shining star for Lightroom and I can’t wait to investigate it further. To check out today’s gallery go to http://www.micahwalter.com/oreilly/day1/.
Tomorrow I am headed out on a boat ride to a “Secret Beach” here in Dominica. We will be leaving at 8 a.m. and will be back before noon. I will then take a lunch break and head back to Carnival for more festivities and hopefully some better light.