Commentary # 6 ~ July 2007
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Websites, Workflows, and Waffling - Is Windows or Mac OS Better?

July 2007

- by Craig Wassel

Readers of my previous commentaries like "Only the Journey Matters" (link) know that I do not have name brand allegiances that I shout from the mountaintops. Photographic equipment facinates me, but spending hours debating about which brands or models are superior does not.

Just like I am asked questions about what photo gear I use, people ask who designed and maintains this website. The answer? The only thing I don't do myself is the hosting. Everything else for better and for worse, from the logo and graphics to the layout, is entirely my creation and mine to manage. The "for better" is that surely I have saved an enormous amount of money doing it myself, and that I have 24/7 control. The "for worse" is that web design is not my vocation, and I often think about the photographs I might have made if I was out shooting instead of inside working on the site. After all, although I am passionate about having a good website, my passion is not site design itself. It is photography.

Many who learn this site is 100% home grown then want to know what software I use, and that eventually leads to the question of computing platform. For me, the answers about the site, computers, and software are inseparable. Since it serves as one way to display my portfolio, this site is an integral part of my entire workflow.

If you surf the sites of some renowned photographers (I don't count myself among them) and look for information about their workflows, you will find the majority of them use Macs. This is because image processing software like Adobe Photoshop tends to run better and faster on the Mac platform. I don't understand why this continues to be the case in the era of high powered PC processors, RAM, video cards and monitors, and much improved Windows operating systems that are far more stable than in the past. Maybe it has to do with the fact that PhotoShop was born on the Mac platform and then translated for PC.

Now before you begin thinking that this commentary is about how you are foolish to use anything other than a Mac if photography is your passion, read on. EVERYTHING you see on this website - from code to the graphics to the Flash content to the digital photography and all the way through to the scanning of slide & print film - was done on PC platform.

That was a quick "about face", wasn't it? Do I have a fear of committment, or am I just preparing for a career in politics? No, not at all, but while I am at it let me flop again with a very short story.

While at a shoot a few months ago a guy approached me who had an interest in photography. After a few minutes he noticed my Mac (yes - that's right - a Mac) sitting on my display table that was running a slideshow of part of my portfolio. He groaned and said among other things, "man, I feel sorry for you". I lightly chuckled, pulled out my Windows laptop, and showed him the very same slideshow using a PC application.

Alright, so I said that Macs run the likes of PhotoShop better than PC's and are better suited to photography, that this site was built entirely on a PC, that my primary workflow is Windows based, and that I also have and use a Mac. What gives?

What gives is that I have a workflow for both. What also gives is that like with cameras and gear, spending hours debating which platform is superior does not fascinate me either. So why is my primary workflow on Windows? Read on, if you please.

If today I were given a Hasselblad H3D-39 - a $32,000.00 camera - it would probably take me a few months of shooting to feel as comfortable as I am with my current equipment. From a specifications standpoint, the Hasselblad is superior to what I use (note that I have not even thrown what that brand is at you), but I am not familiar with the controls of the Hasselblad or how it responds in different shooting conditions, etc. Just a few weeks ago I was reminded how important it is to not only be an experienced photographer, but to be completely versed with the equipment I own. I was making photographs of a spectacular sunset. In the midwest, days ending in this burst of color are less frequent than in some other parts of the country, so it's more painful to miss one. I was shooting with a camera I have had for quite a while, and for whatever reason I decided to try settings I had never used before, and different from what I routinely use in that kind of light. When I later saw how the camera responded to my change, I kicked myself. A perfect sunset over a calm lake is not the time to alter a proven shooting routine, and the result was photographs that look good at first glance, but fall annoyingly short of what I anticipated and envisioned when printed large (link).

The same goes for how I look at PC vs. Mac, and why my primary workflow is currently on Windows. Computers run software, but it is people who create websites, workflows and photography. I can create and maintain this website on a Mac, but not as efficiently as I can on a PC because I am more versed and PROFICIENT on Windows. Notice that I am pointing out my own present shortcomings, and not those of any platform. So although I know Macs are better suited for photography and graphics work, I am not fully leveraging that right now because of a gap in my own familiarity and comfort zone.

The limitations are in myself, and not in Mac OS. I continue to use Mac OS and learn more each week because I am interested in continuing to diminish my limitations.

To put a finer point on it: if believe that the photographer is more important than the equipment, then I also believe the photographer / site designer behind the keyboard is more important than the computer and the OS. As I stated earlier, site design is not my vocation, nor has it ever been so. I have never even attended one hour of formal training in site design or even in any kind of visual art. I have simply taught myself how to do things I want to be able to do. Further, this entire site was built and is maintained on a laptop, and I estimate 90% of everything here is done while riding the train to and from work.

This website (and its photography) was considered good enough to appear in Shutterbug Magazine's "Web Profiles" (link) in February 2007, but I have no doubt an experienced full time professional web designer proficient on a Mac would create something superior. The superior creation would have nothing to do with the computing platform though, but would be the result of the superior proficiency of a professional web designer.

In a final bit of irony in timing: I stepped away from writing the last part of this commentary for a day because I could not write a good closing. Then as I sat on the train today two men across from me provided one on a silver platter. They were discussing their mutual love for a particular computing platform, their mutual disdain for the other platform, and the mutual humor they found in others who use it. I almost laughed out loud as I immediately recognized this closing they unknowingly gave me. Notice again I have not named brands, nor even told you what I overheard these two gentlemen do for a living so as not to tip you off to their allegiance. If you are wondering why, then you have missed the whole point of this commentary.

It all comes down to whether I spend my energies debating about equipment and specs and computing platforms, or whether I invest my passion in my photography. I believe if I invest my passion in life long learning and in pursuing and capturing the extraordinary, then that passion will be evident no matter what platform I use.

It's that simple.

"There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are."

~ Ernst Haas ~

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Spider Lake Sunsets

" . . . The same goes for how I look at PC vs. Mac, and why my primary workflow is currently on Windows. Computers run software, but it is people who create websites and workflows. I can create and maintain this website on a Mac, but not as efficiently as I can on a PC because I am more versed and PROFICIENT on Windows. Notice that I am pointing out my own present shortcomings, and not those of any platform . . . "

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