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How To

Dealing With Multiple White Balance Settings in Lightroom and Photoshop

German Baptist Deaconess Home and Hospital Society (formerly) ©Rena Katinas

I walk past what was once the Baptist Girls Home pictured above, most evenings. The stair entrance is painted mint green and the combination of it with fluorescent light gives it this sickly green glow that I wanted to document with a photograph in case someone had a sudden case of good sense and changed the color/lighting combination.

Once I brought the image into Lightroom 3 for development, I realized I had two different light sources in the shot and each had a different white balance setting. You can see in the set of photos below, that neither white balance in the left and middle image works on a whole. Even though I like the green in the Tungsten (left) version, it’s not a true color representation of the subject. The fluorescent version (middle) is right on the money as far as the stairwell and wood door are concerned, but it throws the color of everything else completely out of wack. Normally I would go to the Hue/Saturation/Luminance panel in Lightroom, to deal with off color, but I wanted to work on the wood door without affecting the brick’s color. A HSL panel within the Adjustment Brush would be a really nice thing right about now! There isn’t one, so the next best thing is Layer Masks in Photoshop.

White Balance from left to right: tungsten, fluorescent, and tungsten/fluorescent combined

I put the Tungsten version on the topmost layer, including a layer mask  and the Fluorescent version below. After I removed most of the door and stairwell in the layer mask, I realized that I had forgotten the third light source, the street light behind me and the bottom step which had a mix of all three light sources. Using a brush set at 10% opacity, I was able to decide the light source percentages for each plane of the lower half of the steps and the sidewalk, by selectively painting back into, or removing from the mask layer of the channels palette.

Mask in channels palette

Once I put the almost final image in this post, I noticed three blue shadows, that must have something to do with the change in color space from Photoshop to the browser window, so I’ll have to figure out what’s going on there. Bottom line, it would be nice if there were a way to have multiple white balances along with Hue/Saturation/Luminosity, using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom, but thank goodness for my old friend, Photoshop’s layer mask feature until then!

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Converting bin/cue to iso in OS X

Today I found myself with another pair of those darn .bin/.cue files that Apple’s Disk Utility won’t open, burn or convert. In the past I’ve always had to go through a number of steps to convert and burn using Toast, which is fine, but kind of a pain that I choose not to engage in any longer. After reading through articles, forum and comment threads I realized I could’ve ditched the Toast method years ago, using bchunk and Terminal, egads!

I don’t consider myself to be particularly “tech-ie”, I use the terminal for very basic tasks when my Mac refuses to cooperate any other way (eg. CD/DVD’s that won’t eject, Trash that never wants to leave, etc.) I deal with .bin/.cue files rarely, so I thought it would be a good idea to write down the following steps in plain English for the non-techies out there. Also by the time I’m confronted with a pair of .bin/.cue files again, I’ll have probably forgotten the commands.

If you’re new to the Mac or never used the terminal and you’re scratching your head because you’ve a .bin/.cue file you want to open, this should help:

First off, in order for this to work, you need to have your Xcode Developer Tools installed. You can find them on your Leopard (or Tiger) Installation disc or you can download it free, directly from Apple’s Developer site: http://developer.apple.com/mac/ but you will need your Apple ID. If you’re running Leopard and not Snow Leopard, be sure you download the correct version as the most recent Xcode is only compatible with Snow Leopard. (I followed the steps below running 10.5.8 on an Intel, but this should work on 10.4 and on the PPC as well.)

1. Xcode Developer Tools should be installed.

2. Download bchunk from (just right click and download/save file): http://jamesnsears.com/code/bchunk.zip

3.  If your Mac hasn’t unzipped the file automatically, extract the .zip file by double clicking it and copy it to your home folder:
/Users/[your username]

4. Go to your Applications/Utilities folder, open Terminal and type (you can copy and paste):

sudo cp bchunk /usr/bin/
sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/bchunk

After I did this, Terminal asked me for my administrator password, go ahead and type it in and hit Return/Enter.

5. Copy your .bin and .cue files to your home folder (where bchunk now also resides), and in Terminal type:

bchunk input.bin input.cue output.iso

In place of input.bin and input.cue type the names of the .bin and .cue files you want to convert)

6. You’ll see your .bin file convert to an .iso file in the Terminal window and you’re done. You can mount the .iso onto your Desktop now, or burn it in Disk Utility/iTunes or Toast depending upon what kind of files are enclosed.

Thanks to Gavin McLelland’s post: http://gavin.mclelland.ca/2007/10/04/convert_bincue_to_iso_on_mac_osx/ and James N, Sears for compiling bchunk so I didn’t have to: http://www.jamesnsears.com/


Let’s Make Kourembiethes, The Right Way!

My father taught my mother to make these cookies when I was about 7 and since then, the memory of my mother making what must of been at least a thousand of these cookies every December to give as gifts to every friend, relative, co-worker and teacher is pretty much burned in my memory for all time, as I was always roped in for clove and powdered sugar duty.

I have seen variations of this recipe that call for salted butter, eggs or granulated sugar… those recipes are for a different cookie, no matter their claim to be kourembiethes or greek shortbread. If you don’t believe me, just ask my dad, he’ll set you straight! I should warn you that it is never advisable to tell a Greek man that his mother’s recipe, or anything having to do with his mother is wrong. If you go to a greek bakery, this is the crescent shaped cookie, covered in powdered sugar. Some bakeries will add a touch of rosewater, which is acceptable, but I prefer them to be flavored with just brandy.

The beauty of this cookie is the simplicity of it’s ingredients and it’s deceptively subtle taste: it is dense yet melts in your mouth at the same time. Eggs will only make them heavy, salted butter is NEVER used, as salt should be nowhere near this recipe and granulated sugar is just too sweet and weighs down the butter.

I should also note, that I use a fork, not a mixer for this recipe. I’ve tried using an electric mixer and I found that the cookie dough turned out slightly too “airy,” the dough should be soft but still somewhat stiff. So if you must use a mixer, only use it for the butter, and make sure you scrape all the butter off of the blades and back into the batter. My grandmother in Greece didn’t use an electric mixer and this is her recipe, so…

I usually buy a few pounds of unsalted butter when it’s on sale or from Aldi and throw it in the freezer and then make half batches whenever I’m in the mood. The following is for a half-batch, you may double the ingredients if you like, which then makes about 72 cookies.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 oversized shot glass of brandy (maybe a jigger and a half, don’t be stingy)
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • big pinch of baking powder (maybe an 1/8 tsp)
  • whole cloves
  • 1 cup powdered sugar for dusting
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

    Take 2 1/4 cups of flour and a big pinch of baking powder and sift it into a small bowl, set aside.

    Cream the butter with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. Add the vanilla and again mix it very well. Add brandy in small amounts, and mix completely after each addition. The more brandy that is added, the more it wants to separate from the butter, so I generally add it in 4 or 5 passes before all the brandy is added.

    Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing well with a fork or wooden spoon, after each addition until all the flour is incorporated. Towards the end, use your hands once the dough is stiff.

    Roll batter into balls the size of small walnuts and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Now, if you want to make crescents, turn your small walnut into one. I personally am too lazy to sit around making crescents, because if they do not turn out perfectly shaped I become obsessive about making them perfectly shaped, by which time the dough becomes too warm from handling, harder to shape and it will make the cookies spread in the oven, which you do not want.

    Place the cookies at least an inch apart, I usually just cram the whole batch on one cookie sheet, as these cookies should not spread if the dough has not been over-handled and you used a fork instead of a mixer. Press one clove in the center of each cookie and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. If you crammed all the cookies on one sheet like I do, you may want to give it up to 5 more minutes in the oven–but keep a watchful eye one them. When they are a very light golden tan, they should be ready.

    Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes and move them to a few large plates with a spatula. Sift powdered sugar over the cookies, while they are still very warm and don’t be stingy with the powdered sugar. Also don’t just plop the powdered sugar on top of the cookie, or it will not stick properly.

    Kourembiethes are perfect with either greek coffee or regular coffee, after dinner. One last note, warn people there is a clove in the center so they don’t accidentally swallow it.