Tools of the Trade
Producing artwork and photos for this website is a time consuming process, but it would take even longer still if the tools I use didn't work as well as they do. On this page I'd like to give "mad propz" to a number of products or companies that have indirectly contributed to my work.
This page also acts as a blatant form of product placement, so if any of the six companies mentioned here actually read this site, I should just make it clear that I'm more than willing to accept any free merchandise you send my way... :)
Jump to: Cameras | Hardware | Software
Digital cameras are incredibly useful pieces of electronics, enabling the user to capture personal moments, record memorable events or (sometimes) make animal noises at the touch of a button.
« Canon EOS 20D
My first Digital SLR camera, replacing the tiny point-and-shoot Optio S at the end of 2004. The EOS 20D is a huge, heavy, expensive and damn sexy piece of Japanese engineering. Without doubt, millions of professional photographers from around the world would agree with me.
While the world of DSLRs takes a little getting used to, it's such a wonderful system once you start using it, and quite frankly I can't go back to using 'consumer'-level cameras anymore, even the little meow-machine below...
All newer photo galleries were shot using the 20D, but the two earliest galleries were taken using the Optio S.
« Pentax Optio S
In September 2003 I purchased my first digital camera, a Pentax Optio S. Having used a few other digital cameras in
the past, that gave me an idea on what sort of features I'd want from a camera, leading me to this purchase.
The sheer size of the camera alone is incredible which means that I can take it with me anywhere, but this tiny camera
still performs exceptionally well, producing crisp and clean images. It also makes a "Meow" noise...
Sometimes described as "like software, except you can't download it for free off the internet...", computer hardware is the stuff you need to run the software (see below) that helps you develop your photos, create your artwork and/or peruse pornography.
Rather than spew off useless stats about how powerful my PC is or how many hard drives I have (I can't count that high...), I'd rather spend a minute giving credit to a set of human interface devices that've been very good to me for many years. If they ever stop working I'll be upset.
Wacom Graphics Tablet
While it would be great if I had a Wacom graphics tablet, it would kind of ruin the ongoing joke I have with someone where I'm going to buy a Wacom any day now, which I've been saying to him regularly for the last 5-6 years.
Instead of using a tablet to create artwork the conventional (and much easier) way, everything you see in my vector galleries were painstakingly created using a:
« Logitech mouse & keyboard combo
My beautiful blue Logitech Mouseman Wheel Optical & my Logitech Cordless iTouch Keyboard have endured a lot of stress over the years, with the keyboard even surviving being run over by a car (long story, don't ask...).
Unlike the models they make today, my mouse doesn't have more buttons than you have fingers, & the keyboard layout hasn't been utterly butchered either. Pure bliss!
Generally speaking, I'm fairly picky when it comes to software... I also have no qualms about staying loyal to software that clearly isn't the widely-accepted standard. Instead of IE or Firefox, I use Firefox's uglier & slower cousin Mozilla for web browsing. For image management I still use the 7-years-old ACDSee v3.0 because I didn't like any of the 5 versions they released after that.
Likewise for other software I use for image management & production, my preferences also don't follow the status quo. As you'll read below, the dream team of Macromedia Fireworks 8 & Macromedia Flash 8 get a thorough workout here on Pants, even though Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are the main competition (and long-running industry standards) in image editing and vector illustration software.
I've worked extensively with Fireworks & Flash over the course of four major revisions, partly because every time I've tried to test-run Photoshop or Illustrator, without fail I'd always run into incredibly clunky, awkward and unintuitive interfaces. Now that Adobe bought out Macromedia, I imagine that they'll discontinue work on Fireworks, but because Flash is still a flagship product I'll just have to hope that they don't muck it up too much when they Adobe-ify it.
Last on the list is Phase One's Capture One Pro, which is slowly becoming more recognised in the field of RAW photography, but is still probably overshadowed by Photoshop along with Apple's Aperture on the Mac.
« Fireworks 8
Fireworks serves multiple roles in the image production pipeline for all my work. The software is primarily used as a general-purpose image
editor for cleaning up images, for manipulating photos, and for composition or layout work, so it's responsible for the pictures you see in the news
posts on the front page or anything else on the site.
The batch processing features are handy for compiling the Pants photo galleries, although some images get individual treatment in
addition to the batch work. Finally, every image that's displayed on this site is optimized using Fireworks, be it a photo for a gallery,
a screengrab from Flash, even the little gradient backgrounds on the website.
One area which I feel is lacking in Fireworks is with actions like colour or contrast/tone adjustments for photographs. For this reason, I used to rely on
a second program, Paint Shop Pro 7, for minor enhancements. Since I made the switch and am now using a DSLR camera and shooting in RAW mode, this has become entirely unnecessary, with another program taking PSP7's place (see below)...
« Flash 8
The most common use for Flash is for creating animation
or interactive content for display over the internet. I'm sure you've seen a
typical Flash movie before - one of those TEH FUNNAY webcomics or a crappy puzzle game.
Other people like to use it as a complete replacement for
traditional website authoring, choosing to forego accessibility and common-sense, replacing it with an overdose of useless
animations and a "cool"-sounding background loop. It's become the modern-era equivalent of the <blink> tag,
only far more annoying.
Although I've probably been guilty of some of those things in the past, Flash is my vector-based graphic authoring environment
of choice. I'm using my FlashPowers™ for good instead of evil now, trying to harness Flash's powerful vector rendering engine to produce
complicated and detailed creations. All the stuff in the Vector Artwork section was created exclusively using Flash.
« Capture One Pro
When using a fancy DSLR like the EOS 20D, you can either let the camera churn out JPEGs whenever you hit the shutter (like most cameras work) or alternately you can record images as raw data, the idea being that you process (or 'develop') the images on your PC at a later date.
Both formats have their advantages, but the ability to make infinite adjustments to color balance & exposure settings means that the RAW way is much more desirable. It took me several attempts to find a RAW workflow that wasn't clunky, but as soon as I found Capture One I made the switch to shoot in RAW and I haven't looked back since...
Now I've matched the speed & flexibility of my old JPEG workflow, but now am enjoying the benefits of advanced adjustment, proofing & processing features.