Landscapes and Post-Industrial South Wales

Stuart enjoys taking great photos and uncovering the stories behind them.

His main photography project is Merthyr Road - a look at the history and the legacy of the industrialisation of the South Wales Valleys.

Towards Pontypridd

Desktop Wallpaper: Livingstone

Posted by Stuart Herbert on September 3rd, 2012 in Desktop Wallpaper.

Livingstone

This week’s theme draws on the statues, memorials, and eye-catching street decorations seen on the streets of Edinburgh.

This is a statue of Livingstone, the famous Scottish explorer. It stands very close to the Scott Memorial.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Yesterday was pay day, and one of the first things that I did was to buy a licence for Adobe’s Lightroom. After many years – and tens of thousands of photos – I’ve decided that I’ve just had enough of Apple’s Aperture.

If you don’t have the time to read the full article, my reasons can be summarised as:

  1. Aperture has become far too slow to enjoy. On the exact same hardware, Lightroom is much quicker – even with much larger files.
  2. I’m not happy any more with the colours that I’m getting in photos after post-processing with Aperture. No such problems with Lightroom to date.
  3. I’m fed up to the back teeth of Aperture continuously crashing on me in recent weeks.

Aperture – The Digital Processing Pioneer

Apple’s Aperture is one of the true pioneers of digital photography processing, thanks to its introduction of non-destructive editing and extensive tagging and metadata support from the very beginning. I remember buying it at the same time that I bought my first MacBook Pro, because there was nothing else remotely comparable to it. Adobe had made Lightroom available as a free beta at the time in competition with Aperture, but it would be a long time before Lightroom could organise and manage any reasonably-sized collection of photos.

But how times have changed.

Aperture – Fat And Very Unfit In Middle Age

Today, I find running Aperture incredibly painful.

  • It has become very slow to open. This isn’t helped by Aperture frequently insisting that my Aperture Library needs upgrading – even though Aperture itself hasn’t been upgraded since the last time the library was opened, and sadly by the repeated repairs of my Aperture Library after the latest Aperture crash.
  • It has become very slow to run. Previews are slow to load from disk, and whilst they are loading the user interface frequently becomes totally unresponsive. Adjustments are slow to take effect, and it’s difficult to keep in a creative mindset when you’re waiting for software to catch up.
  • The regular background processing has been a performance pain ever since Aperture 3 was released, and I’ve failed to tweak the app’s preferences to put a stop to it. Everything seems to point to the preview regeneration that goes on in the background, but I can’t say that I’ve pinned it down categorically. If it thrashed both CPUs in my MacBook Pro, maybe it would be more bearable, but I’ve never seen Aperture taking full advantage of multi-core CPUs no matter how unresponsive it gets.
  • It’s having another of its crashing phases. Early versions of Aperture were unreliable, and would crash when switching to and from full screen. Then we had many years of relative stability, which sadly have come to an end this year for me. The last few versions of Aperture crash in ways I haven’t learned to predict (and so minimise / avoid), and after each crash, it can take several minutes for Aperture to repair the Aperture Library before I can return to editing photos.

In the past, I’ve thrown hardware at the problem. The MacBook Pro I use Aperture on was the top-end model of its day. The only reason my MacBook Pro has 8GB of RAM is for Aperture. My Aperture Library sits on a high-speed external RAID array connected via FireWire 800 rather than the slower USB 2 ports. I’m sure Aperture would benefit from an upgrade to the latest Retina MacBook Pro and its 16GB of RAM.

But I’ve reached the point where I’m getting fed up with having to feed Aperture’s voracious appetite.

It isn’t just me. My wife is also an amateur photographer, and she gave up on Aperture long before I did over the performance issues. She runs her Aperture Library off her internal drive (much faster than USB 2 or FireWire 800), and has a fraction of the photos than I do. Yet, she sees the same problems that I do.

Aperture – Off-Colour And Looking Very Unwell

Perhaps even more importantly though, I’ve decided that I’m just not happy with the results of post-processing photos using Aperture any more. In the last two years, something’s changed – something that I just can’t put my finger on – and the colours in my most recent photos that have been fed through Aperture just lack a tonal subtlety that I can’t find. The photos from our holiday in Northumberland show all the colour life that I could want, especially this shot of green ivy on the wall in Berwick Harbour, but shots like this one of Coad-y-Lan Lower Comprehensive School, Tyfica Road from earlier this year just don’t have it any longer. The exact same kit was used to take both photos, and they were processed and proofed on the same screens. The only difference was the version of Aperture used – and how much I no longer enjoy using Aperture.

I think that Aperture has to be a contender for the worst piece of software that Apple make today. And I’ve reached the point where I’m happy to abandon it and try something else. Especially after a recent demo of Lightroom put things into perspective.

Lightroom – Running Circles Around Aperture

One of the guys in the office is a budding professional photographer. One day, he was kind enough to bring in some kit that I was thinking about purchasing, but as we did some test shots to help me evaluate the camera and lenses, what really surprised me was watching him processing photos on his MacBook Air using Lightroom.

Apple’s MacBook Air makes a couple of important sacrifices in order to slim down enough to fit inside an envelope. Older models don’t have a lot of RAM, and they don’t have dedicated graphics chips for Aperture and Lightroom to offload processing work to. They have to make do with the integrated graphics on the CPU – and “make do” is putting it politely. And yet, Lightroom seemed to be running very happily despite these constraints, with its library stored on an external drive plugged into the slower USB 2 port, handling much larger JPEGs off a Canon 5D mk3 compared to the JPEGs off my Nikon D300s.

Slower computer for image processing. Slower storage. Larger files. Yet much faster to work with.

I’ve spent the last month using the free trial of Lightroom on my own MacBook Pro, feeding it JPEGs off my own Canon 5D mk3. The Lightroom library lives on the same external RAID array as Aperture. Because of the size difference between files from the Nikon D300s and the Canon 5D mk3, Lightroom should be slower, if only by a little. But the performance difference between using the two packages – Aperture and Lightroom – is substantial, with Lightroom remaining snappy to use and responsive at all times.

I’m much happier too with the results of editing inside Lightroom. There are a couple of differences in the controls – Lightroom’s Clarity control in particular has no obvious corresponding control in Aperture – but maybe because I can tweak each photo in real time, and I’m not having to wait for the app to show me the results of each change, I’m finding it much easier to bring out the rich colours that the camera is capturing.

There are other things in Lightroom that still haven’t caught up with Aperture yet – especially full-screen previews and editing – but the improvements in performance and editing have me enjoying my photography once more.

I’m Not Binning Aperture Entirely

I still have over 300GB of photos in Aperture – many of them still to be published – and I have no plans to try and export them into Lightroom. I’ll keep Aperture around for dipping back into my historical archive (which I’ll be doing throughout September for my wallpapers!), and I’ll keep updating Aperture in the hope that things improve over time.

But it’s been over a month now since anything new was imported into Aperture, and I can’t see that changing in the immediate future.

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Inspire A Generation Sign

This week’s theme is another stretch of the Thames Path, using photos taken between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier. I went for a walk up there a couple of weekends ago, but with outdoor temperatures soaring well past 30C and little cloud cover, I was only able to spend a couple of hours out with the camera before getting burned to a crisp.

To finish the week, I’m going with this photo of a sign that was flying outside the O2 Arena reminding everyone of the theme of the London 2012 Olympic Games – to inspire a generation. I thought they did that superbly both with the Olympic Flame journey throughout the country before the games, and when they cauldron at the Olympic Park was lit by up and coming young atheletes of the future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s wallpapers. I’ll be back on Monday with some more to share with you.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Dusty No Parking Cone

This week’s theme is another stretch of the Thames Path, using photos taken between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier. I went for a walk up there a couple of weekends ago, but with outdoor temperatures soaring well past 30C and little cloud cover, I was only able to spend a couple of hours out with the camera before getting burned to a crisp.

Today’s choice is a bit different to my usual style, but hopefully it’ll catch your eye as much as it did mine. Recent visitors to O2 Arena (aka The Dome) probably won’t have wandered around to the south-west side, far away from the Olympic venue and all the places to eat and drink, where everything is covered in a thick layer of grey dust from nearby construction work.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Barbed Wire Against The Sky

This week’s theme is another stretch of the Thames Path, using photos taken between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier. I went for a walk up there a couple of weekends ago, but with outdoor temperatures soaring well past 30C and little cloud cover, I was only able to spend a couple of hours out with the camera before getting burned to a crisp.

My wallpaper today is this shot of some barbed wire against the blue summer sky. As someone who’s only really used to central London, it was quite a surprise to see just how industrial the Thames still is out at Greenwich. Much of the river is fenced off, with plenty of barbed wire to prevent access.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Silver Telegraph Pole

I hope you had a great bank holiday weekend. Ours was punctuated by a midnight car crash, when a young couple crashed their car into the front garden of the friends we were staying with. Thankfully both occupants got out alive, at the cost of one written-off car and one demolished garden wall.

This week’s theme is another stretch of the Thames Path, using photos taken between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier. I went for a walk up there a couple of weekends ago, but with outdoor temperatures soaring well past 30C and little cloud cover, I was only able to spend a couple of hours out with the camera before getting burned to a crisp.

Today’s photo is this shot of a silver telegraph pole seen amongst all the industry of the southern bank of the Thames. I loved the silver colour of the wood itself, and how the cables framed the pole against the summer sky.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Three Towering Poles

This week’s theme is the Thames Path between the picturesque village of Sonning and the growing town of Reading, which has become my new home during the week. The Thames Path runs for a grand total of 184 miles, from the Cotswolds in the west of England through to the iconic Thames Barrier at the east end of London, and it’s a subject I’ll be returning to every now and then.

The David Lloyds building at Winnersh Triangle is one of the most eye-catching of all the buildings that you can just spot from the Thames Path between Reading and Sonning. These were about the only clouds in the sky, and I was lucky that they were in just the right place 🙂

It is a public holiday here in the UK on Monday, so I’ll be back on Tuesday with more photos to share 🙂 Have a great weekend, and let’s hope that the weather co-operates.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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River Bank Reeds

This week’s theme is the Thames Path between the picturesque village of Sonning and the growing town of Reading, which has become my new home during the week. The Thames Path runs for a grand total of 184 miles, from the Cotswolds in the west of England through to the iconic Thames Barrier at the east end of London, and it’s a subject I’ll be returning to every now and then.

The River Thames is quite wide along this stretch of the river bank, allowing the low summer evening sun to sneak under the trees for moments like this one. It took 12 attempts to get this shot right, but I think it was worth the effort 🙂

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Roof Tiles Of St Andrews Church

This week’s theme is the Thames Path between the picturesque village of Sonning and the growing town of Reading, which has become my new home during the week. The Thames Path runs for a grand total of 184 miles, from the Cotswolds in the west of England through to the iconic Thames Barrier at the east end of London, and it’s a subject I’ll be returning to every now and then.

The roof of St Andrews Church in Sonning is very eye-catching when it catches the setting sun on a warm summer’s evening!

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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Leading You Astray

This week’s theme is the Thames Path between the picturesque village of Sonning and the growing town of Reading, which has become my new home during the week. The Thames Path runs for a grand total of 184 miles, from the Cotswolds in the west of England through to the iconic Thames Barrier at the east end of London, and it’s a subject I’ll be returning to every now and then.

Once you get past the Reading Blue Coat School at Sonning, the land to the south of the Thames opens up with plenty of side paths trying to tempt you away from the river bank. If you live nearby and feel the need to escape the urban sprawl for a bit to unwind and collect your thoughts, it’s a lovely area to stroll around on a warm summer’s evening.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Photography: Merthyr Road | Daily Desktop Wallpaper | 25×9 | Twitter.

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