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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INKJET'S SILVER LINING

“There are relatively few things I truly despise: beets, liver, Karl Rove and RC paper, in that order. RC breaks my heart. It’s to those who print on matte rag paper yet remember silver gelatin before the Hunt brothers cornered the market on silver in the late 1970’s that I address.”

Pulling a perfect print from the wash was one of the great joys in life for a photographer. While still wet the image glowed supernaturally, tones luminous and rich. Judging how much it would dry down was one of many subtle skills gained in a darkroom. Working all night with a bottle of scotch and Miles playing, we were ecstatic in our solitude.

The small miracle of a silver gelatin print yielding its hidden image in the developer and the joy of the process was unequaled for me in the digital realm until recently. With the introduction of inkjet paper that emulates the look and feel of silver paper a rather larger miracle has been produced.

A whole generation has grown up thinking expensive, delicate rag type paper such as watercolor or other less costly types of matte papers are what you use to make prints. To them, this paper is photography. Better this then plastic, resin-coated stock. For those who embraced RC paper in the darkroom, or it’s evil mutant digital version, I can’t help you, hasta le vista. There are relatively few things I truly despise: beets, liver Karl Rove and RC paper, in that order. RC breaks my heart. It’s those who print on matte rag paper yet remember silver gelatin before the Hunt brothers cornered the market on silver in the late 1970’s that I address.

It’s true many in my generation have embraced rag papers as I did, at first because the alternative was the horrific sheen of plastic. What choice did we have in the early days of digital? Good rag papers are an important link to art and the history of printmaking, and can deliver stunningly beautiful prints for the right images. I grew up using it for etching and lithography, not photography. But over time, every generation of digital printmakers has grown to just accept matte paper as the norm.

The difference for me is simple: matte paper absorbs light and looks flat. A traditional silver paper of the type I grew up like Kodak Polycontrast F, famous as Ansel Adams favorite, or Agfa’s Portriga Rapid or the orginal Ilford, had a “supercoating” of a hardened gelatin giving it what was called a semi-gloss surface. It wasn’t glossy like RC paper, but it had a sheen that reflected light and gave depth to the blacks. And that difference was its power.

After a speech at RIT four years ago where I lamented the lack of an inkjet substrate equaling the look, feel, and tonal range of long-ago papers I was approached Eric Kunsman of Booksmart, a talented local digital printer and bookbinder in Rochester. He told me my wait was over. He was testing a brand new paper from a new company called Innova.

The company was formed by a band of Hanemuhle rebels who left when the parent company refused to fund their dream of making and distributing a paper that rivaled silver gelatin for inkjet printing. There was a story about an eccentric German scientist who also missed silver paper laboring to solve the technical challenges involved in getting a silver gelatin-like emulsion on a cotton paper base.  Innova got a hold of this guy and set the goal of producing a fibre based baryta paper that no one could tell from silver.

Until that moment, no major manufacturer appeared to be interested in this idea. I’d spoken to Epson and others and was told that it was technically too difficult and expensive to produce, and there was essentially no demand. Yet here came this little company with the crazy idea that there were photographers who remembered and missed the silver print. They also felt there were plenty of people still printing away on silver paper that might be tempted into digital printing.

With the invention of Innova FibaGloss paper the doors opened and Hanemuhle, Ilford, Epson and others got the religion and all today now distribute similar papers, creating choices and competition. I’m mentioning Innova because they were first, remain my favorite and now thankfully sponsor my projects. But I do this also from pure self-interest: I hope photographers will buy this extraordinary paper so I get to keep printing with it.

Tequila, Mexico. ©2009 Doug Menuez. At Fotokina a silver gelatin print of this image was hung next to an inkjet print made on Innova FibaGloss in a comparison test. Most photographers chose the inkjet print when asked to identify the silver print.

Tequila, Mexico. ©2009 Doug Menuez. At Fotokina a silver gelatin print of this image was hung next to an inkjet print made on Innova FibaGloss in a comparison test. Most photographers chose the inkjet print when asked to identify the silver print.

For a long time I did not even realize how I was missing silver paper. I was caught up in learning to master inkjet printing, especially the amazing color possibilities. I woke up in 2003 while comparing a black and white silver print I had made of men in vats of agave juice making tequila from my book “Heaven, Earth, Tequila” to a rag print. The first thing I noticed was the true continuous tone, the rich blacks and overall luminosity made me feel I could almost fall into the print. The rag paper had its lovely texture and handmade feel, but the image lost some impact. I felt separated from the content by the paper. And then I really noticed the limits of ink jet. While it was much easier to use Photoshop to dodge and burn I started to see where the lower gray tones were blocking up, the upper grays jumped to white and subtle banding I’d ignored somehow. Measuring the d-max showed the silver print to have deeper blacks as well.

Knowing there was no such thing as a semi-gloss silver type paper on the market at that time, I began to further explore image processing and printing with the goal of getting as close to continuous tone as possible. RIPs and processing techniques for digital converting color files to bw from Greg Gorman and other tips from Seth Resnick helped. And overall, there has been tremendous progress in inkjet printing. But even so, I grew to miss the look and feel of my old paper more and more.

In the late 1980’s I was experimenting with digital printing on rag and other papers, printing on wax printers at Adobe, where I was documenting the engineers, and later at Electronics for Imaging, where they were developing what later became the Fiery RIP. Around late 1992 I printed a portfolio on an early version of Supermac’s dye sublimation printer, a breakthrough on price and color. It had what was essentially continuous tone, far more similar to silver than what I could get from inkjet, with its dithered ink droplets. But the trade off was that the paper was resin based and it also faded quickly. I turned to Iris printers and lush watercolor papers. Those papers quickly became available on the much, much cheaper Epsons, so I joined the hunt to make beautiful prints with inkjet.

And that was all good until my wake up call. Sometimes we forget what we truly love and what defines us. Now my long nightmare is over. For me a big quest in digital is to find and implement metaphors for what I had in analog. Now I’m pulling prints out of my inkjet printer with that same rush as I had pulling them from the wash. They glow.

So the challenge is lessened but is essentially the same: to make prints that move us emotionally. It’s about the image, but also the print as object, as a beautiful delivery system for the subject matter. The choice of substrate says as much about the photographer as the content of the work and can affect our perception of the photograph as subconscious filters. To each their own of course, but I finally found mine; the look and feel of silver. Can’t beat that.

Saturday
13
June 2009

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