Flickr EXIF Search, Part 2

I’ve done a bit of experimentation and learned a few more keywords one can use to search for photos in flickr by their EXIF data. I have also gleaned the pattern that seems to have been used for coming up with the keywords. They appear to be abbreviations.

KeywordMeaningAbbreviation forUnit
xelminimum exposureEXIF exposure lower limitseconds
xehmaximum exposureEXIF exposure higher limitseconds
xflminimum focal lengthEXIF focal length lower limitmilimeters
xfhmaximum focal lengthEXIF focal length higher limitmilimeters
xalminimum apertureEXIF aperture lower limit
xahmaximum apertureEXIF aperture higher limitf-number

Perhaps there’s a way to specify an exact exposure, focal length, or aperture without having to use both the lower and higher limit keywords together. If so, I haven’t found it yet.

I also haven’t yet figured out how to specify fractional exposure times (shutter speeds of less than one second). It seems to treat all decimal values less than 1 as simply 0. The text displayed above search results is not always correct. For example, when one uses xel or xeh to search for photos taken with fractional exposure times (shutter speeds of less than 1 second), the text displayed above the search results incorrectly rounds the fractional exposure times down to 0. Similarly, when one performs a search using xfl or xfh independently, the wording displayed above the search results does not correctly reflect the way these keywords function. The words shorter and longer are interposed.

Obviously, not all of the kinks have been worked out. Maybe that’s why these keywords remain undocumented. I have started a discussion thread about this in the flickr ideas group.


Flickr EXIF Search

Flickr EXIF Search, originally uploaded by blech.

Recently, I have begun to tag each of my photos with information about the camera and lens used to take the photo. It’s easy to add another tag to a batch when I’m uploading new photos. However, it’s a bit more time-consuming to go through my old photos on flickr and determine which photos were take with which lens.

Then I had a thought: the camera model used to take a photo is encoded in the photo’s EXIF data; so are the focal length, shutter speed, and aperture. The specific lens used is not included in the EXIF data, as far as I know. But using the information that is is there, it ought to be possible, I thought, to locate all the photos that were taken with a particular lens.

This led me to search for a way to locate photos on flickr based on their EXIF data. Amazingly, there's very little information out there about how to do this. I did find this one photo though, and in it one can clearly see two search parameters that don’t seem to be publicly documented by flickr:

  • xfl — the maximum focal length; find photos with this focal length and shorter;
  • xah — the minimum aperture (maximum f-number); find photos with this aperture and wider (this f-number and smaller).

Using these parameters, it's possible, for example, to perform the following search:
Find all of my photos tagged with climbing, with an aperture of f/2.7 or wider, and with a focal length of 50mm or shorter.

I have only one lens faster than f/2.8: my 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. So any photos returned by this search must have been taken using this lens.

Does anyone know if these and other EXIF-related search parameters are documented anywhere? I'd really like to learn more about how to perform searches using EXIF data.

Also, I would really like to know how to perform batch operations on the search results. Is there a way to add all of the results of a search to a batch in the flickr organizer? If not, there ought to be.


Goodbye, Mama-mama

_MAL0274.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

This morning at 6:40 A.M., my maternal grandmother Etha Johanaber Howard died peacefully in her bed, surrounded by her loved ones.

My “mama-mama” was a role model in my early life. She exemplified the virtues of love, compassion, patience, and hard work. The holidays we spent at my grandparents’ home in Dallas are some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Etha suffered several strokes in recent years that left her body and mind diminished; but I‘ll always remember the thoughtful, kind and dryly witty character who could communicate volumes in a wink or a glance.

The last time I saw my grandmother was two months ago in Dallas, when the family gathered at my aunt Melanie’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. The photo above shows Etha getting to know her great granddaughter Evelyn, as my mother Alaire and sister-in-law Kelly look on. Evelyn is my brother Ethan’s daughter and she is the first of her generation in our family.

Mama-mama was a dear friend, loving grandmother, and an important person in my life. She will be sorely missed!

Sacuye’s second salsa social simply super

_MAL2448.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Last night a bit after eight o’clock, I showed up at Chicago on Hornsgatan for a bit of dancing at Sacuye’s second salsa social of 2008. It was fun an a good workout too — I changed shirts twice during the evening because I was sweating so much. I danced with many charming and talented women, including the ever-lovely Hanna, pictured above. Thanks to Jonas O. for taking the photos of me.

Without further ado, here are thirty-nine photos from last night's social.


Stephen Colbert to end the WGA strike?

The WGA strike continues, and the major studios continue to be miserly over internet residuals. Despite lacking his writing staff, Stephen Colbert has been back on the air for a while now. In last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen struck upon a brilliant idea: that he alone has the ability to end the confrontation between the studios and the writers guild.

In the episode, Stephen discussed his father’s role in helping to bring about the end of a strike of black hospital workers in 1969. Stephen’s father was the administrator of the hospital at the time. Stephen’s guest on the show was the union leader who had negotiated with his father on behalf of the striking workers.

Stephen ended the show with a song dedicated to his striking writers: he, his guests, and the Harlem Gospel Choir joined in to sing Let My People Go. Pure genius.

I can imagine another episode of the Colbert Report in the not-too-distant future: representatives of the studios and the WGA come on the show to announce that both parties have reached a mutually satisfactory agreement, ending the writers’ strike. Satirical comedy programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report often speak the truth when the traditional news media are too gutless to do so. In the context of the satirical Colbert Report, the contentious points of disagreement in the WGA strike could be aired in a humorous way, allowing each party to speak the truth while allowing the other party to save face; and each side could show humility by indulging in a bit of self-deprecating humor.

It could work — assuming of course, that the actual details were honestly and fairly worked out beforehand behind the scenes. It would be another feather in Colbert’s cap, and to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.


Dance lessons at SalsaAkademien

_MAL2336.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

The dance troupe Sacuye recently chose a new name for its teaching operations: SalsaAkademien (The Salsa Academy). This week they proudly opened their new dance studio near Odenplan, at Odengatan 89. It’s just next-door to Container, the place where ClubSalsa used to arrange socials on Sunday evenings. SalsaAkademien is offering free trial classes for all of this week and next. Wednesday evening I attended several of the classes: level 4 salsa, footwork & body isolation (pictured above), and finally level 5 salsa (renamed from level 4+ to reduce confusion*).

Marina’s body isolation exercises were challenging as always. I swear that woman must have some snake genes in her, the way she can move. The level 5 course was more difficult than I expected, in part because one particular dance move vexed me. I kept messing it up, and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. After the class, Ibi showed me what I needed to change, and with a few repetitions, I got it mostly right. It was then that I realized that I had already learned this move years ago, but had only forgotten it, probably due to lack of use. Once I did the move a couple of times, the memory of how to do it suddenly manifested itself again in my conscious mind and merged with the newly-formed memories from practicing the move that evening. Then it suddenly clicked and I could do it without problems. The brain works in mysterious ways.

I brought my camera along and took a few photos during and after the classes. You can see how nice the new studio is! All ten photos from the evening’s lessons are online.

* Marina insists that the so-called level 5 course is not truly what she considers level 5. Apparently, there aren’t yet sufficiently many dancers of that caliber in Stockholm to merit the existence of such a course.


Tuesday morning update from Stockholm

It's snowing here in Stockholm! Alright, it’s not much snow — just a dusting to be honest — and it won’t last either, because the temperature’s due to remain above freezing for the next few days. But it’s something! We haven’t had any snow here in a couple of weeks, and we have to be thankful for what few signs of winter we see. The place looks much brighter and happier with a layer of snow covering everything in sight.

My Mac Pro has been acting up lately, crashing hard every once in a while. When the crash happens, applications begin to hang one by one with the spinning beach ball of doom. When the problem occurs, even sshd dies, so I cannot login to the Mac from another computer and see what’s going wrong. No errors are written to the system log after the hang. I’ve done a full check of the system memory, eliminated external devices, and disabled nonessential kernel extensions*. Still, the problem remains.

Another, perhaps related problem is that the Mac doesn’t remember the startup disk I select. It insists on booting from the Windows XP partition I have installed on my second internal hard disk unless I hold down the Option key at startup and manually select my Mac OS X 10.5 volume. Oh, and the Mac refuses to boot at all if my FAT32-formatted 60GB 5G iPod is connected. Strange.

So last night before I went to bed, I reset the SMC and PRAM. We shall see if that has fixed the problem. If not, it may be time to place a call to Apple.

* What became of Extensions Manager? Mac OS X was supposed to eliminate the possibility of extensions conflicts. However, these days, more and more programs are implementing features by way of kernel extensions (.kext files in /System/Library/Extensions), and these programs can cause just as much havoc as misbehaving Extensions in Mac OS 9 ever did. Mac OS X needs a tool for troubleshooting this sort of problem.


Sunday afternoon at Karbin

_MAL2116.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I spent a few hours Sunday afternoon at Karbin, mostly climbing with Elin, Emma & David. I also ran into several other folks there, including Fredrik and his sister Christine, pictured above. I climbed with them for a while, and them climbed a bit with Frida and Ewa.

To capture many of these photos, I attached with a sling to an anchor at the top, and used my 70-200mm lens pointing downward. It takes a bit of preparation, but I have the routine down pat: the camera is on its own sling attached to my harness, and the backpack in which I carry the camera has a carabiner on it so I can quickly attach it to the anchor when I reach the top. It takes only a minute or so to hook into the anchor and prepare for photography.

Here are the thirty-four photos I posted from the day.

A bit of salsa at a new club

_MAL1889.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Saturday night I went down to Club Kaos on Upplandsgatan to check out the scene. There was an event there that night called Guantanamera. It was less than stellar. The music was a mix of salsa, reggaeton, and other Latin dances. I wasn’t too pleased though because there was too much reggaeton and too little salsa. The sound quality in the downstairs area was also very poor. Oh well, I might give the place another chance someday.

Remember Ingrid — the sweet woman who shared a room with me and Stina in Kittelfjäll? Well, by complete coincidence I met her there at the bar. She was out with a girlfriend who’s going to get married in a couple of weeks They were painting the town red, going from one club to another and apparently having a blast.

Here are a few photos from the evening.

Always check the camera settings first

I had been wondering why many of my photos had a reddish or yellowish cast lately. I’m using a new camera, so I figured that it just worked differently. I adjusted the photos after the fact in Adobe Lightroom and got pretty good results. Then tonight I was taking some indoor shots in low light and the photos were just unreasonably red. Yeah, there was some red light in the club where I was dancing, but not that much red light. So I finally started fiddling with the camera to see what was wrong. Of course, it was the most obvious thing: the white balance was set to a preset value instead of to automatic. How it got set that way, I don't know. To be honest, I don’t even know how long it’s been like that.

Well, the very first photo I took after setting the white balance to automatic was simply amazing. Not only was the color spot-on perfect, but the camera picked up light and color that simply weren’t visible to the naked eye. Despite having been taken in a poorly lit nightclub, the photo looked like it had been taken during daytime at a café or restaurant. Of course I took a bunch more photos once I got the settings right!

The silly thing is that I took dozens of photos before bothering to check the settings. Yeah, they can be fixed in the computer, but it requires a bit of guesswork and the results are often inconsistent. Next time, I must remember to check the settings before I start taking pictures.


Sacuye’s first salsa social of 2008

_MAL1508.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Last night was Sacuye’s first salsa social of the year. It was a lot of fun to dance with my friends, many of whom I had not seen since October or earlier, including Katja (above), who favored me with several fun dances.

I took a bunch of photos with my new favorite setup for indoor dancing photos: D300, 14-24mm lens, and SB-800 with diffuser dome, mounted on a Stroboframe. I shoot wide open at f/2.8, in manual mode with a 1/60 s shutter and with the flash biased -2.0 and pointed up at the white ceiling. I'm very pleased with the results. All 33 photos are online.

_MAL1608.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

My favorite photo of the night was actually a quick one I snapped as Johan, Janaki and I were waiting for the subway.


In the groove

_MAL1372.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Now it’s beginning to feel like climbing again. After a couple of months in Austin, I had lost a bit of my strength. I’m proud to say that I’m now almost back to where I was before my trip to the States. It helped too, no doubt, that I got a full night’s sleep last night. Alex had been trying his usual annoying tricks, meowing and clawing papers in order to keep me awake an get attention. But last night I had finally had enough, so I locked him in the kitchen.

This black problem that had vexed me for weeks, and that I first managed to solve with Rami’s advice last week, was actually quite easy tonight. It’s amazing what a good night of sleep can do.

I climbed tonight with Elin, her sister and her sister's boyfriend. It was nice to see them. They usually only climb at Karbin, which is a bit out of the way for me.

Oh, and guess what? On my way into KC tonight, I bumped into Helena, a girl I met on the slopes at Kittelfjäll a few weeks ago. Apparently, everyone is a climber in this city these days.

Here are all the photos from tonight. By the way, these are the first photos I’ve taken with my new D300, which arrived yesterday. It’s amazing, and represents a bigger improvement over the D200 than I had expected. I’ll have more to say on this topic once I’ve had more time to play with the new camera.


Six of my photos published on steelydan.com

_MAL1615.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

A colleague and fellow Steely Dan fan brought this to my attention. The webmasters at steelydan.com have added some of my photos to their collection of photos from the band's Heavy Rollers 2007 tour. I counted a total of six of my photos there.

In return for allowing the band to use my photos, I got a promise of a VIP pass to their next concert in Stockholm. Here's hoping it happens soon!


Sunday brunch at Café String

_MAL7447.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

This morning I awoke a bit earlier than usual for a Sunday, and took the subway down to Södermalm. I walked from Medborganplatsen to Café String, a nice little place on the corner of Bondegatan and Nytorgsgatan. I have had a standing invitation to join a bunch of climbers for their weekly brunch since back in October, but this was my first time to attend. It was a bunch of friendly folks from Karbin, including Pete (in the center of this photo). Udo, Sara and Elin came too, as well as a few other folks whom I met for the first time today. The atmosphere was laid-back and relaxing, and the coffee was strong. The brunch included sandwiches, cereal, juice, and even ice cream with fruit: not a bad spread for only 65 SEK. It was an enjoyable way to spend a sunny Sunday morning.

Here are some photos from the brunch.


Saturday afternoon at KC

_MAL6797.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Saturday I biked to KC for a bit of climbing with Emma & Henrik. I brought my 70-200mm lens and had fun capturing some photos from the top of the tall wall there. Photos taken from above the climber are often the most interesting, because the face and hands — usually the most interesting parts of the photo — are clearly visible.

I also saw Miranda’s sister Josefin there. I imagine Miranda and Kalle are back in Lund now, resuming their studies this week.

After climbing with Emma and Henrik on the tall wall, we all did a bit of bouldering. It was then that I ran into Stefan & Anja, two regulars from Karbin. They're both excellent climbers, and it was fun just to watch them and to see how they approach each problem.

Speaking of Karbin, the results from boulder open #60 have been posted. I finished 16 out of 40 problems, placing 23rd out of 50 participants. Not bad, but I'll have to get back in shape if I'm going to place in the top 10 again. Actually, I think the problems must have been harder than usual this time around. Dan S. completed just 26 problems, and he’s a lot better than I am.

After bouldering for a while, I joined Daniela, Robban, Kjell & Maja for a bit of Thai take-out food. I hadn’t eaten a proper lunch, so the meal was tasty and welcome.

Here are the 14 photos from the evening.


New winter tires

_MAL6685.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Friday I gave my new winter tires a proper test. I rode up the hill overlooking Brunnsviken’s Northern shore. I rode over snow and ice, and actually found that it was easier to bike on ice than snow. Snow tends to get kicked out from under the tires like dirt, whereas ice stays in place and provides a solid surface for the tires to grip.

The tires are Nokian Extreme 294s, and I picked them up at an Extreme Mountain Sports store on Cape Cod last Summer. I bought them for 75 USD apiece — on sale because there was no snow in Massachusetts at the time, and these two were the last pair in stock.

Here are a few photos of the new tires.


Thursday evening at KC

_MAL6659.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Thursday after work I took my first spin on my new winter tires, and made it safely to Klättercentret without slipping so much as one centimeter on the snow and ice. I met Emma and Henrik there, as well as my new friend Anna whom I met at Karbin at the boulder open a couple of weeks ago, and lots of other friends I had not seen since October.

I wasn't really feeling in top form, but even so, I somehow managed to complete a couple of quite tricky black-graded bouldering problems. I also started on one on the upstairs bouldering wall that is quite vexing. It'll probably take a while for me to tackle that one.

Emma kindly took some photos of me doing this fun problem of pink-colored holds. There are twenty-seven photos from the evening.

Happy New Year 2008!

_MAL6437.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I had a great time celebrating the arrival of 2008 with Stina and friends up in Kittelfjäll.

The snow wasn’t very good this time around, but we found what snow there was and made the best of it. And as always with Kittelfjäll, the best part was all the friendly people. Because it’s small and out-of-the-way, Kittelfjäll attracts a slightly more serious bunch of skiers. It’s a cozy and friendly atmosphere where people relax and make friends easily. A case in point: I met Stina in the hotel sauna at Kittelfjäll one year ago.

I made lots of new friends this time too. For example, I met two girls there named Elin & Åsa. It turns out that they climb at Karbin here in Stockholm and we have lots of friends in common. I also had fun getting to know Mister Kittelfjäll himself, Carl-Johan, or “C-J” as he‘s known to everyone. C-J is the quintessential lover of life: gregarious and charming.

I’m already looking forward to returning to Kittelfjäll in week seven!

I posted nearly 200 photos from the trip to a new photo set on Flickr. Take a look!