Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vacations and Camera Frustration

Last evening, I got back from a three-day trip to San Juan with Kate. It was a great vacation -- the islands are beautiful, we had some really nice (albiet expensive!) meals, and there's a lot of nice hiking and pretty countryside. We stayed at a B&B called "Olympic Lights", which is basically an old farmhouse that has been converted to serve as an inn by a nice older couple; I would recommend it to anyone else spending a night out there (but they only have 4 rooms, so you'll need to book in advance if it's a busy weekend).

Anyway, in the course of this vacation, I took a pile of photographs with my camera. This was sort of the last straw for me: I've been slowly accumulating tons of digital images and just dumping them in a nearly-unstructured pile, and the thought of adding these new images onto the heap was too much. So, I decided to bite the bullet and try out some of the image-management programs that have cropped up over the last few years. Sadly, none of them could really do what I want. It seems pretty simple to me; I really just need a program that can:

  • Import my existing images into its database, preserving structure if appropriate.
  • Store my images in some sort of database structure which allows me to quickly find pictures corresponding to a particular date (or a particular series of images copied off the camera at once) or relating to a particular subject. For instance, sorting into albums/subalbums (i.e., directories) or attaching tags to the images would fulfill this requirement.
  • View subsets of the database (e.g., individual albums, or all the images more recent than 5/2/2005) as thumbnails.
  • Easily and efficiently perform lossless rotation of images by selecting one with the arrow keys and hitting a hotkey -- clicking down to a sub-sub-menu option does not qualify. Bonus points for batch operations (or the ability to safely perform rotations in the background).

Unfortunately, my brief survey came up empty. Only a few programs really seem to provide an abstract "view" of my collection of images, and those often make it far too annoying to perform the one image manipulation operation that I really want, lossless rotation (and that's despite providing a huge number of redundant editing functions that would be better performed in the GIMP). For instance, to rotate images in digikam, you have to pop up a new window (obnoxious) and perform a lossy rotation. (Note: after installing the kipi-plugins package, I now have a 'rotate' option from a context sub-menu, but I have no idea if it's lossless; in any event, it's far too inconvenient to be seriously useful in fixing up a batch of images that I'm copying off my camera). album-shaper struck out immediately for not having a recursive import function -- yeah, I'm going to individually click down to every single one of the dozens of directories where I already have pictures. Right.

Perhaps the closest program to what I want was f-spot, which basically puts your whole image collection in date order and lets you place images in categories using "tags". Unfortunately, it seems to be very immature -- double-clicking on an image reliably crashes it, some perfectly fine images show up with blank thumbnails, and while rotation buttons/menu items are present, they don't actually do anything (it's not documented whether they are supposed to do anything, and if so, whether they'd be lossless). And I have to say that the tagging interface is annoying enough that I wonder if I'd actually want to use this over the long-term: you have to navigate a bunch of submenus in order to pick a tag, rather than (say) choosing from a permanently available list of checkboxes. This is made especially annoying by the fact that there is a permanently available list of checkboxes, but it's used to limit the display rather than modifying the selected image.

I guess the old adage is right: if you want something done properly, you need to do it yourself. So many things to do properly, so little time...


At 9:02 PM, Blogger Larry Ewing said...

If f-spot is crashing and thumbnails are not showing up like that is almost certainly due to an install issue. My guess is that your version of f-spot was built with a different libexif than you currently have installed. Feel free to stop by #f-spot on irc.gnome.org and we can figure out what is wrong.

As far as difficulty in tagging, simply drag the images to the tag or the tag to the image.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger dburrows said...

It appears that I ran into Bug #311473 -- apparently the Debian mono packages changed in an incompatible way in the latest upload and f-spot hadn't been rebuilt yet.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger dburrows said...

I have locked comment posting on this article, as it has become a target of blogspammers. Sorry for the inconvenience.


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