Gotcha! Manual Mode and Auto-ISO setting

Many DSLRS have an auto-ISO or auto-sensitivity feature that adjusts the ISO setting of the sensor automatically to compensate for changes in lighting conditions. This is a handy feature when in an automatic exposure or program mode, as it means that your aperture or shutter speed settings won’t be as limited by the available light.

When shooting Aperture (Av) or Shutter (Tv) priority, this can be very handy. If I want to keep the digital noise level under control, I can always set a maximum ISO for the Auto-ISO feature.

The problem with Auto-ISO, at least on my Canon EOS 60D, is that it is on by default, even when shooting in Manual (M) mode. This effectively turns Manual mode into a dumbed down Auto-Exposure mode, since the ISO setting will adjust to try and give the correct exposure no matter what aperture or shutter speed you set.

This can be a pain if you are using Manual mode to manipulate the exposure above or below what the camera’s meter recommends.

There are other opinions on this. For instance, I found this article, “An In-depth Discussion of M + Auto-ISO for Canon SLRs” in which the author argues that Auto-ISO should be the norm, even for manual shooters. Personally, I will need to experiment more before I buy that argument.

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Auto Lighting Optimizer settings on Canon 60D

For those of you with a late-model Canon DSLR, other features to become familiar with are “Auto Lighting Optimizer” and “Highlight Tone Priority.” These features are relatively recent and probably poorly understood. Suffice to say that they are designed to correct exposures when lighting values are out of range of a good exposure. Highlight Priority Mode will attempt to correct blown out highlights, while Auto Lighting optimizer will attempt to even out the luminosity of the overall exposure. While these features can help to prevent common, but annoying exposure errors, Canon’s manual warns that they can also lead to unexpected results when manually overexposing or underexposing a composition.

Digital vs. Analog Photography: Commentary

I’ve been following an interesting conversation on the Macintouch web site and the relative merits of digital vs. analog (or “wet”) photography.

As someone who learned photography on film about 30 years ago, the discussion resonates with me. While digital photography lacks some of the tactile qualities of film photography, I feel much more free to experiment and to make mistakes. Once my equipment is paid for, each exposure is effectively free, whereas in the film days I was forced to be selective about each picture I took because of the cost.

With tools like Aperture and Photoshop, I have very fine control over how my photos turn out, and I can sometimes undo the damage caused by bad exposures or other factors.

What do you think?

Here’s the link: Photography: Commentary.

Recovering a lost Aperture 3 library

The battery on my 2008 15″ MacBook Pro is dying an ugly death. Last night the battery level dropped precipitously as I imported pictures from an SD card into Aperture 3. When the battery level reached about 75%, the MacBook shut off in mid-import.

I plugged the computer in and rebooted, expecting to complete the import. Not so. Aperture 3 quit unexpectedly every time I tried to launch it. I ran (or tried to run) the built-in diagnotic trio of Repair Permissions, Repair Database and Rebuild Database  by holding down the Cmd-Option combo while starting Aperture. Aperture happily repaired permissions, but quit while trying to repair or rebuild the DB.

I was able to start Aperture with a fresh library, so I determined that it wasn’t the Aperture prefs or executable that were causing the problem.

But how could I get my 64 GB of photos back in some coherent form? Any attempt to import the contents of the corrupt Aperture Library into a new empty library resulted in “The Crash.”

I right-clicked on the Aperture Library and used “Show Package Contents” to navigate to the folder containing all of the masters (original JPEGS and RAW files). I decided to import the contents of the Masters folder into a new Library.

This procedure worked, but my Projects and Albums were all still toast, as were my Faces and Places data.

Faced with the prospect of having to restructure my photo library from scratch, I cast about on the Internet and found this little gem, which I want to share:
Aperture 3 rebuild library – SQLITE MISUSE
The procedure outlined in this post basically involves deleting the SQLite database files that make up the Aperture Library and then forcing the Library to rebuild from scratch. I can only surmise that I couldn’t do this before, because Aperture was choking on the original, corrupted database files while trying to rebuild.

A word to the wise: Always backup your computer.