QUEST FOR MOBILE: Update on iPad Pro + Adobe LRM

Using iPad Pro with Lightroom Mobile- how pro can we go? 

The challenge I’ve taken on is to try to re-create our current Aperture workflow for assignments in the field using iPad Pro and Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Lots of folks have gone before and figured this out in one way or another but I’m sharing my own attempts here. A further caveat is there is so much we don’t know yet so please correct me as needed.

It’s been a few weeks now of shooting personal work on my new Sony a6300 and learning Lightroom desktop and LR Mobile. The first big question I had was: can I download SD cards with RAW files directly to iPad? And yes, that was a no brainer. Files go into Photos but LRM sees them and brings them into LRM instantly it seems. I need to understand that better as to why Photos is in the middle, but at least I did not have another import step.

The level of retouching available in the latest LRM is astonishing. Especially with the iPad Pro and pencil. Pixel level adjustments…! Overall, I’m really excited because for sure I can completely replace my Aperture workflow for all my personal work, using just iPad Pro and LRM. This means all my street photography, walk about and small projects.

The next big step was taking Lightroom and LRM into the field on a professional assignment to see how far we could go. My first assistant Demetrius Fordham and I did that last week for FedEx in Minneapolis. Interesting!

Before we started the shoot my question was if I could download CF cards directly to iPad Pro and get my RAW files on there. We did some tests in my hotel room And yes you can, but with some caveats, plus it took a few days of research and testing to get this to happen. Again, people out there are onto this, but there’s not a lot of information partly since Apple just began supporting RAW files. I went through a few wrong adaptor combinations until I got it right.

For CF cards, you need the Apple Camera Connector adaptor which has both a USB input as well as a lighting connection which you must have to power the CF card reader. That’s the main thing – the iPad can’t provide the power but with the power adaptor it’s all good.

Downloading CF card w/Raw files in hotel rom using Apple Camera Connector Adaptor

Downloading CF card w/Raw files in hotel rom using Apple Camera Connector Adaptor

Again, the download was fast and easy and LRM pulled the files in from Photos immediately. I could then edit (yes the old fashioned term meaning to select, cull, choose images, not retouch them) in LRM. Easy. And you can sync to Lightroom on your laptop or main desktop. You can even merge catalogs, similarly to Aperture.

So at this point I know I can download RAW files directly from SD and CF cards, sync all over my devices, edit (cull) and do corrections on my iPad Pro. Some cynics might point out that if you have to find power for your iPad to use the CF card reader it’s not truly a mobile field solution. But since you still have to recharge your iPad I’ll ignore that, plus we always have cigarette lighter power adaptors anyway. (UPDATE: We can use Mophies making this non-issue.)

And I also figured out that the iPad Pro 12.9” is my preferred size to work on. I just love the bigger screen and keyboard when editing.

ROADBLOCK: THE BACK UP PUZZLE

We also knew at this point after much research that there was not going to be an easy way to do simultaneous backups from the iPad as we must do on any pro shoot. Normally we have a copy of all the files going to the desktop/laptop and to 3 or 4 external drives for all files on import.

This then is the big roadblock for us on a professional production. We did find some tiny solid state drives online that seem to connect to iPad Pro but we’d need them in 500GB size at a minimum. The largest they had available at the moment was 64GB. We played around with a powered USB hub and other ideas but really the only easy back up solution is iCloud.

Given that on this shoot we shot over 100 GB per day (insane but…) and our internet in the field is a kind of slow Verizon wifi card, not to mention the hotel wifi speeds are usually pretty slow, the cloud is not going to work. And it won’t really work in the near future for this size shoot until the planet is covered with blazingly fast wifi. Even overnight.

You could workaround this by airdropping files onto your laptop or desktop and backing up to externals from there but that kind of defeats the exercise. Of course for my smaller projects the cloud works fine. So where does that leave us? In a very promising middle ground.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

Did I mention that we actually switched our entire professional workflow from Aperture to Lightroom in the first hour of our shoot? We did. Steep learning curve but it all worked out great.

So here’s what we can do that I’m absolutely thrilled about:

We can download our CF cards as usual in the field (We convert a van into a digital mobile lab with Eizo calibrated screen plus sometimes a laptop, sometimes a Mac Pro, power inverter, etc.) and it’s syncing with my ipad/LRM almost immediately. So we’ve changed to Lightroom and LRM and it’s terrific.

Demetrius can keep working on backups and downloads and I can sit nearby on breaks or back in my hotel room after each day with a glass of wine, editing on the iPad Pro and it all syncs back to the catalog on the laptop. This is a breakthrough for our workflow because I have to stay on top of the editing or I’ll never get selects pulled for the client at the end. Truly, that’s brilliant!

Plus the iPad Pro is just fun. Did I mention the pencil and pixel level image correction? To sum up, the iPad Pro is a terrific field workflow solution with LRM for all my personal work. And we’ve found an amazing time-saver for the pro workflow by having the whole project sync to the iPad Pro for easy editing and corrections.

Apple and Adobe working together is powerful good news for photographers and filmmakers. I’m sure I’m tapping only a fraction of what’s possible at this point. And it’s only going to keep improving and probably pretty quickly. It’s a process. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Digital Tech/First Assistant Demetrius Fordham downloading CF cards in Lightroom to a laptop in our digital mobile van.

Digital Tech/First Assistant Demetrius Fordham downloading CF cards into Lightroom to a laptop in our digital mobile van. ©Doug Menuez using iPhone6s

 

Sunday
18
September 2016

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RESPECT THE LEARNING CURVE: Further notes on my iPad Pro/LR Mobile Journey

“Respect the learning curve,” a saying I learned from engineers inside Apple back in the early 90’s when I complained about some complex new software. The other saying they had was “you have to waste an hour to save 10 hours,” both very wise and true. Once you put the time in to learn, productivity soars.

And that’s where I am now, on that steep part of the curve, where it feels like an acid trip – flashes of complete lucidity and understanding in between hours of confusion. So all you read here is likely wrong or incomplete, please bear with me.

The good news is I have both iPad Pros (both sizes) set up and running with LRM and syncing with my desktop, as well as my phone. This flexibility is simply the coolest thing about the process so far. Yes you can download RAW direct to the iPad it seems but I am waiting for the thunderbolt adaptor which should come today so I can try that. Meanwhile I’m downloading to the laptop and synching to LRM.

Forgive me all you LR maniacs, this is all new to me, BUT it’s freakin awesome to go back and forth. This is cool. I imported my raw/jpegs into Lightroom and synced with LRM. I went to the iPad and there was the collection, nice. I scrolled through and found an image to retouch and yes it was NEF, Nikon raw. I make my corrections, bw etc and then went back to the Desktop and boom, all there, very very fast. I understand this is done with instruction sets so only lower res jpegs are traveling, details…

For my previous workflow, we had Aperture on a laptop with a fresh library set up and would download the memory cards as we worked, backing up everything to three separate HDs at the same time. At the end, we’d copy the Aperture library to one of the drives which I could take with me for editing. If we were traveling on to another shoot or location, I could dropbox the updated library with all my edits for my studio to download and merge with our master Library (or fedex a drive), or on our return we’d merge. And we’d copy the RAW files onto our server when we return or via Fedex. So now, I’m going to try to replace or improve on that system.

We may be able to take the iPad Pro instead of the laptop if we keep it data free. I’ll go shoot, download the shoot, edit and so forth on the iPad. Since LR Mobile is syncing everything the “master” library/catalog is anywhere we want it to be it seems. I have to decide if I’m going to keep one catalog and separate shoots by collections, or make a new catalog for every shoot… tricky to get my head around that. But after each shoot we’d wipe the iPad clean. This assumes no shoot gets above 128 gigs or 256 gigs in case of the smaller one. And then comes the back up: I need to figure out how to back up in real time like we do now, as I don’t think I can connect HD’s to the iPad. That’s key. And the cloud seems unrealistic, even overnight, for as much data as we generate. Especially in some hotel in whereverville. Sometimes we are shooting 20, 3o, 50 gigs a day or more. Crazy I know.

So issues remain in regard to ICC profiles and color management and how much retouching I can actually do on iPad and what will likely get done in studio. If I can solve the back up in the field problem, then we’ll be exploring how far I can go with the iPad Pro. At some point it will make sense to bring everything back to studio for final retouching and exporting for delivery to clients but we’ll see…!

IMG_4703

Lightroom Mobile syncs across both size iPad Pros and iPhone 6s. Cool.

Monday
29
August 2016

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MY NEW PORTFOLIO V.12.2 2016

New port cover_500xI’m very happy to share my latest portfolio update: a mix of new commercial and personal work merged with some of my favorite projects here: http://bit.ly/21aoyD3  Many thanks to my agents at Stockland Martel for patiently working on this with me. I’ve been so lucky in my career to be able to collaborate on global brand campaigns for A list clients. That work is fun and satisfying because I’m being hired for my eye but also because it funds my personal documentary projects on subjects I care about. (see www.fearlessgenius.org)

The process of creating a portfolio is sometimes gut-wrenching. You end up doing a lot of deep thinking about everything you are doing and why, and probably that’s a good thing. I was reminded recently by a former student of an essay I wrote in 2009 about creating your “fuck you” portfolio; a liberating process to find your true voice by letting go of fear. This is about making a portfolio that shows what you truly, deeply, passionately love to shoot. And want to get paid for. The essay still rings true to me, despite all that has changed for photographers since: http://dougmenuez.com/on-chaos-fear-survival-luck/

TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TO EMBRACE ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The idea is that if you are trying to make your living solely from your photography you can’t just follow the herd and present what is selling at the moment. Although that will get you started, perhaps, it won’t last as tastes change and ends up crushing your soul. You have to do the hard work to figure out what you see that no one else does.

Once you have refined your eye, you have to build a solid financial foundation and business structure to support your vision, like all entrepreneurs who chase a counterintuitive idea. Imagine a lifetime of satisfying, creative challenges. It can happen but it’s extremely hard, no different from a tech start-up in many ways.

The problem is that if you follow my advice you are more likely to fail. But if you don’t you won’t ever hit it out of the park and live the dream. You just can’t be for everybody, only the best creatives who get what you bring.

I’ve failed hard a few times and find that the path can be a more of a cycle that we end up repeating now and again. I’m still on the journey, learning new things as I face new challenges. But I know from experience that the reward for risking everything and pushing myself to grow is indescribably sweet and worth all the pain.

 

 
 
Sunday
06
March 2016

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NEW WORK FOR VANITY FAIR

THE SINGULARITY IS NEAR: REALLY COOL OR UTTERLY TERRIFYING?

My recent book “Fearless Genius” shows the brilliant innovators of the digital revolution in the 1980’s and 1990’s inventing the technology that created the world we live in today. That got me thinking about the future of technology development and what’s coming next which led to an incredible assignment from Vanity Fair, written by the brilliant Kurt Andersen here:  http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/11/artificial-intelligence-singularity-theory  It was an amazing opportunity to shoot documentary portraits of leading proponents and skeptics of the singularity, who are having a crucial ethical debate about the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence.
The stakes are high and could affect human evolution or halt it completely. In the galleries above and below  you can see Ray Kurzweil, now director of engineering at Google, who believes computers will gain consciousness by 2029 when a kind of singularity will occur and humans will transcend biology. With Peter Diamandis, creator of the X Prize, and others, they started Singularity University which I photographed as well, where innovators and entrepreneurs gather to learn about the latest and coming technologies. I also shot leading skeptics Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer and now at Microsoft Research, Mitch Kapor, a PC software titan who leads several foundations working for social change.
Followers of the singuarlity believe a new wave of technology is coming fast that will bring major breakthroughs in health and longevity, among other benefits to mankind as we head toward the ultimate AI solution. Some proponents have suggested that when the singularity happens we’ll be able to achieve immortality by uploading our brains into a hive mind and leaving our bodies behind. Really cool, or utterly terrifying?

 

Friday
28
November 2014

Something to SAY

Legendary creative director John Doyle recently asked me to make portraits of kids who are working to overcome severe stuttering problems with the help of a nonprofit organization called Our Time, which John is rebranding as SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young. I have an old friend who built a career as a top photojournalist despite a severe stuttering problem. From him I learned a lot about the challenges people who suffer from this disability go through and was so impressed by how he overcame his problem to succeed. Shooting kids is always a tough job. Even as a parent and someone who has always shot kids, I know from experience you can’t push things or try to control things too much. You have to be patient and open to the kid’s frame of mind, and try to connect. Essentially, you are a passenger on their train.

John said he needed a lot of portraits, all in one day to save money as the project was pro bono. In this case, we were talking about young kids but also teens. Which raises a whole host of other issues around self-esteem, identity, and general discomfort with self-image that are just part of the package of growing up. Add in a disability like stuttering, and I knew it might be tough to deliver the portraits I envisioned.

I wanted to connect emotionally with the kids and try to show their sense of pride and accomplishment for what they were overcoming. It was an exciting opportunity. John and I talked at first about photographing to seven or eight kids, then maybe 12 or more. I thought on the outside we could get to 15.

Then he asked if I could shoot 20 kids—in one day. Hey, I’m game for anything. But to connect with these kids and shoot a range of images in the time allotted with a limited crew and budget (the crew was paid) was a daunting thought, to put it mildly.

Then came the shoot day––big surprise: The kids came in and rocked the house. They burst into dance, they sang, they talked and talked. We had a blast! It was such a gift to meet them and be part of their world. And we got the 20 kids done, barely, as the natural window light faded and our studio time ran out. It seems the Our Time/Say program is working wonders with these bright kids. And I just got a lovely note from John thanking us and saying how happy everyone was with the pictures. It’s a project I’m extremely proud to have been part of.

Sunday
09
March 2014

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Copyright hopes & Representative Nadler

     I was delighted to part of a panel meeting recently with Rep. Jerrold Nadler at Columbia Law School in New York City to discuss the future of copyright. Representative Nadler was interested in hearing the views of a range of artists and publishing veterans from his district as he considers a transition to a leadership role in the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, IP and the Internet.
Above photos ©Doug Menuez. Left: Chris Barron of Spin Doctors opens the copyright meeting with a solo performance. Next photo: Sandra Aistars, Copyright Alliance, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, right, with the NY Times Ken Richieri and legendary TV director Vince Misiano (backs to camera) continue the discussion after the meeting. 
     Put together by Washington, D.C. based Copyright Alliance, and led by Sandra Aistars and and Pippa Loengard (Columbia Law School), with participation by Ken Richieri (EVP and GC, New York Times Co.), Ed Klaris (SVP, head of IP Conde Nast), me, talking about my documentary and commercial work, which funds my non-profit work, Robert Stolarik (freelance photojournalist for New York Times), Vince Misiano (director of episodic TV, including West Wing, and National VP of the Directors Guild), Russ Hollander (DGA Associate National Executive Director).  Sandra described the informal meeting with Rep. Nadler as covering constitutional issues related to copyright and how copyright supports creators and journalists in their work – creating and disseminating various types of works, supporting jobs, allowing artists to pursue charitable work by licensing their works, etc. Also joining the discussion was ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik and General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Mickey Osterreicher.
     Singer/songwriter Chris Barron of Spin Doctors performed solo with acoustic guitar to open the meeting and told his classic starving artist to rock star tale and made an appeal to Rep. Nadler to help preserve the opportunities for future songwriters. I couldn’t help but quote the lead singer of the band Cracker, David Lowery, from his appearance on Kurt Andersen’s Studio 360, whose hit “Low” was played on Pandora 1 million times and earned them a total of $16.85. Hmmm…
     I believe compromises will need to be made as the law is clearly outdated, but copyright remains a vital tool for artists and content creators to earn a living. Rep. Nadler was funny, sharp and sympathetic and pointed out that enforcement is sorely lacking, without which any law is meaningless. He implied sacrifices would have to be made by both sides and described a hypothetical outcome with photographers being thrown under the bus to make the point of how extreme the debate might get. Despite this scary moment, I felt terrific about his approach and think he will bring fresh eyes and an open mind, which is all we can ask.
     I’m hoping we can educate the next generation that they too can feed their families, put kids through college, buy a house, all through the power of the copyright of their works. It’s pretty amazing and most young people I meet have no idea or completely ceded their rights away to some misguided digital pipe-dream. These rights are written into the US Constitution and functioned pretty well for 200+ years, let’s keep it going.
Saturday
06
July 2013

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CICADA SUMMER

The strange subterranean world around us has opened to release the Cicada after 17 years and our yard is abuzz. My wife Tereza adores these creatures that terrify me.

To me they are red-eyed monsters. She gathers them up and lets them climb her arms, gets them out of the driveway to safety while telling me stories about playing with them as a child in Brazil. YIKES! But I have to admit, they are definitely cool looking. Scary but cool.

Monday
27
May 2013

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The Cause of the Global Financial Meltdown?

©2013 Doug Menuez
Apparently a new trend among tourists visiting the mighty Wall St. bull sculpture has been added to the previous fad to rub the bull’s balls. Now they do a head thrust. Go figure! This image is from a previous post about my recent shoot for Nikon’s new Coolpix A camera: SANDY, MEET NIKON; NIKON, MEET SANDY | DOUG MENUEZ 2.0: GO FAST, DON’T CRASH
Thursday
14
March 2013

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SANDY, MEET NIKON; NIKON, MEET SANDY

My wife and I awoke in our apartment the Monday morning after Hurricane Sandy hit to find we had no power and, worse, no plumbing and, even worse, no Internet. As for cell service, it was ridiculously spotty. We were 16 floors up, our apartment surrounded by water, with a production meeting scheduled with my clients from Nikon’s Tokyo ad agency K&L, who had arrived from Japan just before the storm. We were supposed to shoot a worldwide marketing and ad campaign for a top-secret new camera, the COOLPIX A. And Nikon was also planning to shoot a video of me working with this new camera, directed by the distinguished director Naoki Fukada. I hadn’t seen the camera, let alone learned how it worked or used it. Let’s just say I was very nervous.

Our clients—who were on the 16th floor of the Standard Hotel—also awoke to find they had no power, toilets that didn’t work, and no means to communicate. My studio building on West 26th Street, which houses my servers, computers, and gear, was flooded, along with the whole neighborhood. The basement and first floor remained underwater, with crews pumping water like mad into the street. I called 300 hotels to try to find a place to stay, with no luck. Finally, after a frantic few hours, I managed to secure a friend’s empty apartment uptown where my wife and I could evacuate. I got our stuff up there and myself back down to my studio to secure our servers and get ready for the production meeting.

We met in my freezing, dark studio to plan the shoot, which started on Wednesday and ran through Friday. Mr. Miyama, the veteran producer, and his associate Naoya Watanabe were already hard at work booking talent who’d been cast the Friday before. We had about 20 talent to locate in the middle of a disaster, all around the boroughs. Real people plus the model agencies had to be contacted and logistics arranged for talent and crew. Everyone on our crew and most of the talent were without power or transportation. How would the talent even get into Manhattan? The bridges and tunnels were closed, and subways and trains were all down. It was hard to see how we could manage all this. I was more than worried at this point.

The meeting started. I asked Gen Umei, my longtime friend and client from K&L, if he thought we should reschedule the shoot. “No! Absolutely not! We must proceed!” Then he smiled and we both laughed, because over the last 10 years we had shared some amazing but extremely difficult shoots for Nikon around the world. This would be no different.

The producers and agency folks were also talking about our predicament when suddenly everyone got quiet. Gen was opening a black bag and pulling out three prototypes of the new Nikon COOLPIX A. He instructed us to never say its name, as it was so top secret. We all signed nondisclosures and agreed to no Facebook or Twitter postings. We decided to call it our “friend” for the rest of the shoot. I would be the first in the world to use it, and I was beyond excited.

The COOLPIX A looks like a gorgeous, small black rangefinder, but actually is the world’s smallest compact DSLR with a DX CMOS sensor. When I held it, I was surprised to feel that it was made of metal, not plastic. And it came with a fixed 18mm 2.8 lens (equivalent to 28mm), which was a fine idea, the 28 being a classic lens for street shooting. I was in love. I’d been hoping Nikon would make something like this for years. My favorite thing to do is walk the streets and document what I see, and I’d always wanted a very lightweight, unobtrusive camera that could also deliver high-quality files. Well, here it was. I read the specs: 16.2 mp files, 4 frames per second, and full 1080 p HD video with stereo sound. And I could shoot manual. Clearly, this was designed to be more than an advanced amateur point-and-shoot; it would also meet the needs of pros. There was more to learn, but I wanted to go shoot with this thing, storm be damned.

We produced shoots with some very interesting talent and situations, and it was pretty wild getting around the city, to Brooklyn and back, with our driver sitting on a gas line for three hours every night. Mr. Miyama and his team managed to get almost all the talent to all the shoots, although almost all our locations were closed due to flooding. Most of our shoot was to take place on the High Line, for example, and months of meticulous location scouting and planning had been invested, but the High Line was closed down. We scrambled for replacement locations.

In between the produced shoots, they let me roam freely around the streets so I could grab real moments. Although they were paying me to test the camera and appear in a promotional video, I have never promoted something that did not truly work for me. The COOLPIX A was a dream to shoot with. Fast, quiet, small, and nonthreatening. Fun. And after I got the files downloaded, I confirmed they were beautiful. Outstanding results for such a small package, the lens bokeh was lovely, and it was superb at low noise in low light, as expected with anything Nikon.

By Friday, we had a great range of stuff from all around downtown, from West Chelsea to the Lower East Side to DUMBO. But we were all completely exhausted. (It also felt surreal not to be covering the disaster itself.) I had been driving pre-dawn every day from the Upper West Side—I still didn’t have power at my apartment—down to our shoot. I was really missing my home, clean clothes, and the other things we take for granted. But as I learned the extent of the damage that the horrific storm caused in the other boroughs, I realized how incredibly blessed I was compared to those who lost everything.

I said goodbye to Gen and my clients that night and started to drive uptown to my wife, Tereza. As I reached the corner of 26th Street and 10th Avenue, there was a surge of light all around as the power was switched on after five days of complete darkness in lower Manhattan. Tenth Avenue had been under water, but now lights were glowing all the way down the avenue. What an incredible sight. We got our shoot done despite Sandy, and I was going to go home after all.

Monday
04
March 2013

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