LEARNING NEW WAYS TO DO THE SAME DAMN THING, PART TWO

January 14, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

                                             BAMBURGH BEACH : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to continue my discussion of my attempts to come to terms with a new piece of software to use to process my photos. Once again, I understand that many of you do not use any of these software techniques, but that this discussion can have broader implications on the topic of learning anything new, irregardless of the subject. My struggles with "Lightroom" and "On One" could mirror your attempts at learning a new language, mastering a sport, or doing your taxes. Remember, you don't have to necessarily like these black and white conversions better than the color originals. And just because On One is a Portland company doesn't mean you or I should give them my money, or even yours.

                           BAMBURGH BEACH : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

 

The first point I'd like to make is that taking on a new learning curve doesn't necessarily mean that your old way of doing things was irretrievably flawed. I have my problems with Lightroom, but have largely mastered the program, at least to my level of required competence. I feel confidant that I can process my photos with enough control that I can do anything I need to do within Lightroom's limits. I am just trying to learn to use On One to see if it had certain advantages to Lightroom, in the spirit that It's sitting on my hard drive, and I might as well learn it. I think that both programs are very useful and could be the answer to your prayers; you can try both, as well as most other software, with free trials.

 

     HECETA HEAD BEACH PANORAMA : FINAL VERSION

My main problem with Lightroom has been one of its major strengths, organizing my archive of images. This is almost totally my fault. Lightroom functions in a way similar to iTunes, in that it catalogues your images, or songs, without touching the original photos on your hard drive. Thus your Lightroom catalogue only refers to the photos on your hard drive. You must make sure to keep your catalogue healthy (don't ask about the many ways it can get sick) as well as understanding that the original photo files should be backed up and disturbed as little as possible. The analogy is to the old card catalog in the library, which shows how ancient this whole thing is. The book might be in the library, but if the little card is missing, you won't know about it unless you go look on the shelves. Lightroom soon falls apart if for some reason you allow the catalogue to lose its tether to the photo file.

     HECETA HEAD BEACH PANORAMA : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

Since I am one of the least organized people on this planet, my Lightroom catalog is a total mess. This is compounded by the fact that my original photo files are spread over four external hard drives, one of which is in hospice. I've spent the last month trying to make sure that I haven't lost too many files, and in that effort I have saved some, but probably re-catalogued thousands of files onto Lightroom that I had previously culled! I have listened to most of Lightroom's gurus on how to remedy these problems, to no avail. It has gotten to the point that my latest gambit is to put each of my important photos, let's just say several hundred out of tens of thousands, in their own individual "collection" composed of just that one image. Needless to say, this is is not the way Lightroom is supposed to work, but I pray that it might work for me.

                                            ROSE CITY : FINAL VERSION

                            ROSE CITY : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

On One tries to solve this problem by not organizing your photos at all. It functions more like a browser, looking at your photos on your various computers and hard drives where ever they are, no matter how "lost" they are. The trouble is that no organization means no organization, and so you are reduced to looking through your whole archive, organized or not, in order to find a photo. The photos are all there, arranged in folders that correspond to the mess of your original photo files on your hard drive. You can organize those original files better, but any attempt to organize On One threatens to bring up all of the problems that plague your Lightroom catalog! Since On One started as a Lightroom plug-in, they didn't have to deal with a catalog, since Lightroom already had one, thank you. When Lightroom went to the subscription model, and photographers went ape in their desire for an alternative, On One tried to incorporate all of the things that Lightroom had formerly been responsible for; the most blatant attempt was to introduce a "switch" button that would supposedly bring your entire Lightroom catalog into On One, intact. I think you can see how this might seem to be a shot in the dark, and risk bringing your Lightroom problems right into On One. Talk about a nightmare!

                            TANNER SPRINGS 2 : FINAL VERSION

 

My biggest problem with On One relates to my personal learning style. Everyone has a preferred way of learning things; some of it is individual, some might be related to gender, some to your age. Some like to learn on their own; others through classes. Some can learn from You Tube videos, others from magazines, others from a co-worker. Some learn best by trying things on their own, no matter how badly; others thrive on systematic, organized classroom experiences.  I learn best by reading books, and gleaning new knowledge at my own pace. A book allows me to pick and choose, and refer back, and I just find it comfortable. There are literally hundreds of books on Lightroom, and no matter how contradictory  or repetitive they are, I can usually learn at least something new about the program from each one. Unfortunately, and I will check with Mr. Google today, I have yet to find a book, no matter how lousy, on On One's software suite. That is the price you pay with trying a relatively new software, which just doesn't have the "ecosystem" of the industry leader. For me, all of the videos in the world are mostly unsatisfying replacements for one good book, and this has set back my personal On One education program.

                            TANNER SPRINGS 2 : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

This is compounded by my problem with most computer software, which is the ungodly search for "intuitive." I have come to appreciate that it is only intuitive to the idiot that designed the software, but of course that doesn't help in unlocking any secrets. I am flummoxed by most intuitive solutions, which don't even make sense to me after I've learned them. My son Benjamin's learning method, "just try that button", fills me with both the horror of breaking something and my indignation that uninformed speculation is now a learning method. His admonition that "help" is the route to hell doesn't help matters, if you excuse the pun. After overhearing a group of programmers discuss the "human interface", and thinking that was clearly the whole point, I once asked why programs didn't just include step-by-step procedures as available aids. This group of well meaning experts declared that my "geezer button" would obviously be wonderful, but would put them all out of business.

                           STREETS OF HOPE : FINAL VERSION

                           STREETS OF HOPE : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

So what have I found to be the strengths of On One as compared to Lightroom, based on my haphazard learning curve? I took at least one of Benjamin's precepts to heart, and resolved to convert all of these black and whites using the On One software and just trying something to see what happened. This experiment in terror yielded very good results, and I now feel somewhat confident in using the program, mostly based on not knowing what I don't know. I do know that it works best for me as a plug-in, because it allows me to continue to use what Lightroom does best while integrating some things that On One clearly does better. And of course I am more comfortable with my tried and true Lightroom solutions, which might change with more On One knowledge. The plug-in solution also allows me to use Lightroom's cropping and printing controls, which seem to me clearly superior to On One. And of course, the plug-in will return the new On One version to Lightroom, instead of leaving me with the sinking feeling that all was lost when I realized that if I started with On One instead of Lightroom,  I had to then export the image to my hard drive and then import it into Lightroom myself.

                            SALT & STRAW : FINAL VERSION

On one has several features that justify its cost on their own. One is the "Magic Eraser", which can eliminate "distractions" in an image, whether sensor dust, errant branches, electrical wires, or Aunt Mildred, literally just like magic. They are just gone. Even if it doesn't work, a second pass will do it. While Photoshop has similar controls, Adobe has never granted them to Lightroom. The "Resize" controls in On One are far superior to Lightroom's ability to enlarge a file way beyond its original size to allow for larger print sizes than the original out-of-camera file can support. While there are still enlargement limits based on the laws of physics, it is remarkable how much larger you can print an image using "Resize's" algorithms. On One allows me to stitch together panoramas out of several shots, which also was not included in my old version of Lightroom. And it also includes the capability to work with Layers, so that you can combine several images into one. I do not usually do this, but it is still the one thing Adobe will not allow into Lightroom.

                           SALT & STRAW : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

 

What is interesting about competing software is that of course there is a constant battle of reverse engineering going on, so that new versions will at least attempt to include a new feature based on the competition's previous innovation. Sometimes, like cell phones in the Third World, one can skip an entire level of software innovation. Thus Adobe had to invent a new kind of Layer, "adjustment layers" to handle parts of the same photo; On One went straight to adjustment layers, which I use all the time. These are not really layers, but increasingly sophisticated ways to select just parts of an image to apply with that particular control. On One allows you to portion out an image by color, brightness, or myraid other ways, and apply your changes to just that portion, without resorting to artistically skilled methods requiring "brushing." Specificity of this kind has always been restricted to Photoshop.

                            MR. JEFFERSON : FINAL VERSION

On One's "effects" filters are similar to Lightroom's presets, but much more sophisticated and also allow for adjustment layers. Both can be used as unthinking shortcuts, but since the sliders actually move, you can see what the poetically named preset has actually done to achieve its effects. This transparency allows you to then tweak the preset to your own ends and taste. Lightroom, seemingly in an effort to provide employment for individual gurus, has steadily included less and less presets, while On One just keeps adding them. On One's can be so all-encompassing that they can seem less transparent than Lightroom's, but eventually you can see exactly what the program has done. In addition to the adjustment layer capability, On One includes a percentage slider for each part of the preset, so that you can tweak it down immediately to your taste.

                            MR. JEFFERSON : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

And tweak them down you will, since they are all heavy-handed to some degree. But as long as you learn to do that, and to only apply them where you need them in the image, they are very useful. Of course some are just idiotic, but we are artists, so we can avoid those, just like we can ignore their "names." Some are very good indeed, and they are previewed before you apply them. The Black and White conversion controls are more complete than Lightroom's, with many more "chemical" processes included, as well as adding "grain" (from specific film stocks!) if you are so inclined. The "Dynamic Contrast" filter offers another algorithm which combines contrast, de-hazing, clarity, and sharpening into one slider that sometimes works wonders on an image. The "Vignette" filter offers far more controls than Lightroom's, and the "Sharpening" controls are so complete that they seem to require a book on their own.

                            OREGON TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

This has been an interesting process for me. There are no magic bullets, but I haven't broken my computer or ruined any images. I have realized once again that there is more than one way to do something, and that I needn't apologize for a particular method, if it works for me. All of the images in these past two essays have been processed with On One. Are they better? No. Are they different? Probably, but not to a large degree. Are they inferior? No. Are some things easier, and others harder? Yes. As usual, a combination and a judicious application of post-processing seems to be the answer. The long-standing rule of working on an image only up to the point that a viewer does not recognize what you have done still applies, at least for me. And while I am still "in the box", I've opened the lid a little bit.

                            OREGON TRAIL : FINAL ON ONE FINAL B&W VERSION

 

 


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