There are quite a few fantastic toys keeping me busy these days. First there’s Timothy Farrar’s FFDD5 set of scripts and actions for the digital darkroom. I’m experimenting with simple sets of 3 bracketed RAW exposures and blending them into an HDR digital negative that I can then develop to my taste. The results are much more natural-looking than with Photomatix, for instance. And for inspiration, I go browse through the Farrar’s stunning photo galleries.

Then there’s Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, released as a beta version (now v.4) to the public for testing. Lightroom combines in one single interface the functions of Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, as well as my Canon Digital Photo Professional. It is aimed entirely at digital darkroom work and even though it  doesn’t yield the same results as using FFDD5 or working with masks, it’s a great way to develop RAW pictures fast and very efficiently. The interface is slick and intuitive, and the program seems pretty stable despite the beta stage. A very complete panoply of settings are applied via easy-to-use sliders and the results are displayed in real time. Cool and complex toy.

My desktop and Windows now have a new look. It’s called BricoPack Vista Inspirat 1.1 and it looks really, really slick! The kit is an alternative skin for Windows XP, supposedly based on the upcoming Windows Vista. In any case, between this pack and the included software (of which is Stardock’s ObjectDock, but I already used my own free version of it), my computer looks and feels almost like a Mac…

And finally, there’s the new baby. But birth was a little difficult, so I’m not quite ready to talk about it. Soon, though. Soon.