Archive | January, 2012

Understanding the Histogram!

30 Jan

From the Prinsendam off the Coast of Chile!!!


Hello all!!!  I don’t think a day goes by on this job that I am not asked, “What is this and why is my camera showing this?” and it’s generally followed by, “How do I get rid of it?”  Well that is easy enough.  Most cameras have a button marked with “DISP” this is the display control and it will rotate through screen options.  If your camera does not have a “DISP” then look for a “Info” button or Nikons might uses the center of the Directional pad as a display option button.  Now to answer the “What is it” question.

That graph you are seeing is called a Histogram. 

Well as I define it and most simple definitions define as is in reference to photos is:

image“A histogram is a visual representation of the quantities of values in a photo relative to the whole.  The height of the line or peak is an indicator of the amount of that value contained in that image.  The highest point represents the greatest quantity in an image.  Gaps and low point mean that little or no values are contained in that shade of grey or value.”




Let me explain that too.

A value is a shade of grey including pure white and solid black.  You use the term value because we are talking math here.  It’s quantifiable percentage of the image.  Now as far as photography, or additive synthesis, is concerned you can not express color in pure white or black, as white is the sum of all colors and black is the absence of all light and color (it’s the opposite of what they taught you in school with colors on paper or using pigments, that’s subtractive synthesis).  So that means to express color and detail you can only do it in a shade of grey.  Notice that there are 3 vertical lines that run through the histogram, those represent the quarter values. 25% grey (Highlight Tone), 50% grey (Mid-tones), and 75% grey (Shadow Tone).  Now how to put that to use using Windows Live Photo Gallery!

In my classes I use one image in particular in our Creative Photo Editing class.  Let me step you through what I do.  I always start talking about this image by asking, “Is this picture a good final image?  Do you like it?  And do you think it could be better?”.


Inevitably most people are quite pleased with the way it is.  We can talk ourselves into many things.  So I follow with, “Do those look like rain clouds to you?  Let me ask another way, What color or shade should a fluffy white cloud be to you?”.  Of course the say white.  I’ll then follow as, “What color is our cloud?  Bear in mind the area around the image is pure white”.  The reason I mentioned that we can talk ourselves into things is that we know that is a white cloud so we see a white cloud, but it certainly not.  And if you were to read the histogram you could see that.   

Let’s read this histogram together so you can see how to read your own better.  Remember practice make perfect and experiment.


Starting in the bottom left, the shadow end of the histogram (remember the far left edge is black), you will see a small wedge of information.  That corresponds to the center of the flower.  Which I find far to dark.  It is hard to see and feel the texture in an object that dense or dark.  We will fix this in a minute using the Shadow Adjustment Slider you will see directly above the histogram in the Exposure adjustment pane.


Next you have the highest spike in the histogram and corresponds to the sky.  The greatest quantity of a value in the image which is the sky.  Which I might add should not be so low in value.  The sky is almost as dark a blue as a shadow. 


Following that the is the 3rd highest peak of data in the histogram and that is the dark or shadowed area of the yellow petals.  Then there is a little up and down play and simply that is the stem and the transitions between values.  Nothing really definable. 


Lastly we have a small rise around the 25% mark and then the 2nd highest peak.  These refer to the backlit portions of the yellow petals and most important the not-so-white fluffy white cloud.  Now remember that the far right hand side of the histogram is pure white.  Looking at the histogram you can see that our cloud is around 14% grey.  Now that is not white enough for a sunlit white cloud.  It should be white.  Now I don’t think that it should be pure white.  It needs a little grey so we can feel the roundness of it. 

So this is how I correct this image using the histogram as my guide.

First, in the bottom left and right corners there are two little tabs.  They can be slid left and right to set the black point and importantly for this image, the white point.  See, you can tell WLPG where you want white to start in the image.  It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around at first but practice and it will make more sense with time.  Now I slid the White Point set tab next to the where the cloud info starts in the histograms.  Again I don’t want to touch the info and “Clip” image data.  I don’t won’t a floating piece of paper in the sky.  I want a clean bright cloud that feels round and soft.  You will also notice that the sky and the sunlit petals have brightened a little too but that the shadow area has not been affected.


Time to fix that blocky dark center.  This doesn’t have to much to do with using the histogram to “fix” Image other than using it to note that what we determined to be the center of the flower is in the lower half and black sections of the histogram and that is far too dark to exhibit good detail.   So this is how you fix it.


With the shadows opened, you can now have a sense of texture in the center.   Also note that the sky has brightened and now looks a true sky blue.


So a side by side comparison.  You judge which you like better.

Before –




Now to use the one on your camera that brought this whole topic up.  You can use it to see if you are losing detail in your sky or that you shadows are all blocked up by looking at the Histogram and seeing where your values are.  Now, I have heard a lot of people say there is a perfect shape to a histogram, that all the data should peak towards the middle….  Now that has to be one of the most useless statements I have ever heard.  Disregard it entirely and anyone who tells you otherwise is one of least creative individuals or at least one of the most poorly informed and lacking in logic individuals to speak nothingness aloud.  Question, now that you know how to read a histogram, if you make a photo of snow, which we all know to be white, where should the info in the histogram be?  Yes that’s right in the white and highlight section of the histogram.  Now go shoot something!!!!!!!!!!!!


– Will Bossen

Techspert – MS Prinsendam


Help! My Camera died…

23 Jan

Good Day to you all!

This is Techspert Mollie here blogging from the Ms Zuiderdam! We are currently sailing through the Panama Canal on a wonderful mid 80 degree day! Not a cloud in the sky and Gatun Lake is sparkling!

Since I have arrived on the Zuiderdam, I have been getting quite a few questions about battery issues with digital cameras. Therefore, I thought I would dedicate this blog to all of those camera owners out there that seem to run down their batteries before their Shore Excursions even begin! So here are some tips to prolonging your battery life so that you do not miss an opportunity to capture a picture!


The most battery life is used when your screen in turned on. Every time you open up your camera to review or delete pictures, or even navigate through your settings/menu, you are using up power. Try to avoid doing this when you are away from your charger or if you forgot spare batteries.


Since digital cameras allow us to take multiple photos as well as store them, it is a smarter idea to wait until you can plug your camera into an AC adapter before you manage the pictures. That way you won’t drain the battery by looking through or editing your pictures through your camera. It may seem easier to delete, crop, or view your pictures in your camera, but it will leave you with a lot less power then if you waited to do so with an adapter.


This tip goes hand in hand with the others, but just to keep in mind, anytime you are accessing your memory card, meaning, previewing photos or videos in your camera just to look through them, you are draining your battery as well.


Keeping the same types of batteries can help conserve power in digital cameras and other devices as well. This is because the performance of older batteries will not be as good as the new ones and will deplete much faster.


Letting batteries completely run out of power before recharging them can actually help them last longer and increase their performance. Sometimes people forget that just because your batteries are holding enough energy to run your camera, it doesn’t mean they are completely out of power. Sometimes when your camera says to “check your battery power” and then shuts off, sometimes means you still could turn your camera on a few more times and squeeze two or three more photos out of your camera before it is permanently dead.

Hopefully this can help add some battery life to your camera. This is kind of a strange thing to blog about but I know that the worse thing ever is when you are about to take a picture and you see that the battery is on its last leg. I recommend that you follow this few helpful tips so that your battery power works to its full potential!

Keep on snapping those pics!

-Techspert Mollie

Ms Zuiderdam

Creating a Windows 7 System Image

20 Jan

     Hello Folks,

     Kristin here, reporting from the Digital Workshop aboard the Zaandam on a lovely day in Hong Kong, China overlooking the beautiful Victoria Harbor. Hope everyone is doing great and that this New Year is treating you well so far. 

     The Windows 7 comes with so many new and interesting features that I could talk all day about but one of the features that I think deserves more attention than it gets is the easy Windows 7 System Image. What is a system image you may ask? A System image is a backup of all the drives and programs that your computer requires in order for it to work. An easier way of describing it is that it is an entire copy of your computer at that moment in time. It includes your Windows operating system, your system setting, programs, files and data. You are going to need to save this on to an external hard drive, you can use a DVD or CD but in my personal opinion it can be a little bit bothersome and you may have to use many DVD’s while with an external hard drive or flash drive you save the system image on one drive.

Creating a system image

Follow these steps to create a system image:

  1. Click Start , and then click Control Panel .

  2. Under System and Security , click Back up your computer .

    The Backup and Restore Center opens.

  3. Click Create a system image .

    Figure 1: Creating a system image

    Backup and Restore Center

Make sure you have your hard drive plugged in.  From then on just follow the instructions that will be prompted for a successful system image.


After that has been completed, to restore your computer from that back up. Follows these steps:


Restoring the computer from a system image

Use the following steps to restore the computer from a system image:

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel .

  2. Under System and Security , click Back up your computer .

    The Backup and Restore Center opens.

  3. Click Recover system settings or your computer .

    Backup and restore

  4. Under System Restore, click Advanced recovery methods .

    Advanced recovery methods

  5. On the Advanced Recovery Methods page, click Use a system image you created earlier to recover your computer .

    Restoring from a system image


We can never be too careful with our important information such as pictures, financials and just daily life activities.  Remember to always back up your data though periodically because a system image does the entire system at that one point.  So if you haven’t done a system image in about 3 months and all of a sudden your computer malfunctions, you won’t be able to retrieve the date from the past 3 months.  This is a great in case of emergency task that will allow you not only to back up your data, but the ENTIRE system as well.   Hope this helps.


Cheers from the Zaandam,



Flash Drive Frenzy

20 Jan

Good day to you all!

Techspert Tom here, blogging from the ms Westerdam. This week we were at wonderful ports of call: Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Barths, and the always gorgeous Half Moon Cay. Being from Boston, MA, I love the Caribbean…Anything to get away from the cold and snow! Anywho, this is what I have for you today.

Throughout my days at sea, a lot of guests have asked me how to transfer their pictures, or edited pictures from the computer onto a Memory Card or a Flash Drive. Unfortunately, you can not put the pictures you have edited from Windows Live Photo Gallery DIRECTLY to a flash drive or back on your memory card from the program itself.

Once you edit your pictures, you have to find them in your computer and manually ‘drag and drop’ them into your flash drive or memory card. (For this example, I’ll put editing pictures from my computer onto a memory card)

Once you completed your editing in Windows Live Photo Gallery, the thing to make note of is that your pictures are actually stored in your “Pictures” folder in your computer. The pictures are not within the program itself, again they are located in your “Pictures” folder.

So what you have to do is open your “Pictures” folder and that can be located in the Start Menu.


Once the “Pictures” folder is open, we want to use the snapping feature of Windows 7 to make this process easier.

To use the snap feature, you need to click and hold on the ‘Title Bar’ of the that windows and move your mouse to the left side of the screen until your arrow actually hits the edge of the screen.

picture_fs snip_snap

Once your mouse hits the edge of the screen, you will see a transparent window pop up, vertically maximized but exactly half of your screen size and then you can release your mouse, snapping your window into place!


Now we need to open your “Computer” folder, which is also conveniently located within the ‘Start Menu’. Once the “Computer” folder is open, we need to gain access to your Memory Card or Flash Drive. I am moving my picture onto my Memory Card (please note that your Memory Card may have a different name than mine). Once you find your Memory Card or Flash Drive, double-left click on your device to open it up.


And again, I would snap the “Computer” folder to the right side of the screen, just as we did for the “Pictures” folder so we can easily drag and drop our edited pictures onto the Memory Card.

The hard work is over. All we need to do now is to either find the folder where we edited pictures or you can individually transfer one picture at a time. I am going to transfer an Edited Pictures folder. To do so, I need to left click and hold on the “Edited Pictures” folder, and then move my mouse to my Memory Card on the right side of the screen.


Once I release the mouse on the Memory Card folder, a progress window will give you an estimated time of how long it will take for the pictures to copy over.


Once that completes, your Edited Pictures are now onto your Memory Card or Flash Drive!


And that is how you move your Edited Pictures, or any pictures, files, documents from your Computer to a Memory Card or Flash Drive. I hope this helps!

Thanks again for reading and I hope to see you all on your next cruise!


Techspert Tom

ms Weseterdam

HOTMAIL – Do you know your way around?

10 Jan

Writing from the ms Maasdam here in the Caribbean port, Phillipsburg in St. Maarten – I’m your Techspert Elza.

Many of us have a Hotmail email account but how many really knows what this email account has to offer?!

Along with the benefits of using your Hotmail email account for emailing, instant messaging etc…… You can use your Hotmail email account in conjunction with the Windows Live Essentials 2011 software that is 100% free to download from

However, let’s have a look and see what Hotmail has to offer on a different note in the Inbox.

For one you get an email account completely free with one very easy signup procedure. As an added bonus you even get some free storage space online which is known as the Skydrive (Cloud) with a current allocated space of 25GB. Very exciting, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.


What does it allow us to do?!

· Be organized – create folders

· Create Rules to manage our emails

· Categorize our emails

· Quick views for quick access to certain information

· Calendars – create multiple calendars and share them with friends, family and co-workers.

· Skydrive – create and organise files and folders

· Skydrive – share files, folders and images

Well I think that in itself is already more than enough to convince me that this is a great product a lot more than just the usual. However, I want to get a closer look at all these features.

Let’s start.

To begin with, let’s sign up and in to our new account which we will refer to now as our “Windows Live ID” The page to go to:


Once we are logged into our email account there are some great features within Hotmail that you can use to keep yourself organized. Let’s have a quick look at some of them.

In our inbox we have a very simple menu layout with a few dropdown options.


Now one of the features that caught my eye was the “Sweep” option. When I selected this, I discovered a few great organizing tools on the menu. Definitely no excuse not to be organized with your emails!


One of the two things that stood out for me here was the “Schedule Cleanup” and “Manage Rules” option.


Schedule Cleanup will allow you to keep all the most important and or latest emails from a sender and or delete an old message that is just taking up unnecessary space in your inbox. You could even ask this tool to move messages to a folder once older than a certain amount of days.



Manage rules is another great way to be organized within your email account. You can create these little rules so that certain incoming mail could be redirected to a specific folder that you want to file them in.


Click the “New” button and the following window should appear on your screen.


Once you’ve made your choice as to what you would like to do with these incoming mail, just click on the save button and you are ready to go.


Of course if that is not enough we can even categorize our emails.

Select the emails you want to apply a category to. We already have some general categories in place, however you do have the option to create new ones and manage them.


Select “Manage Categories


Select “New Category” and give your category the desired name you want.  Check the box at the bottom to display this in the columns in your inbox.


Once you’ve started assigning these categories to your incoming mail you will find on your left one of the sections will be “Quick views”. Easier than this it cannot get – just a single click on one of these categories and you will see all your emails listed in a jiffy related to that category.



Of course none of the above would really matter if you did not have the ability or option to create folders to place your emails in. Select the “Move to” dropdown menu and select “New folder” at the bottom of the list. Give your folder a name and really even though I want to write more on this that is all there is to it.


Now I do believe I also mentioned the Skydrive when I started my blog. This is even better and more exciting than what I’ve just shared with you. However, all good things has to come to an end here but please keep watching the space for more on these exciting features that is on offer for you to use by Microsoft and no better deal than it being all for FREE.

Happy blog reading until next time! Winking smile

Your Techspert

Elza Visser

ms Maasdam

SkyDrive Calendar

5 Jan

After reading several posts and attending may of the Holland America Digital Workshop classes you have probably heard SkyDrive mentioned several times. The benefits that are always mentioned are storing your photos and backing them up so you never lose them. Which are very important benefits that  you should take advantage of, however there are a few other ones that aren’t as dominate but that are worth mentioning.

If you use the Windows Live SkyDrive there is a feature included which I find extremely useful. The SkyDrive provides the ability to create calendars which you can either keep for your own personal use or share them with family and friends. For example my family, like most of yours, are all very busy with their own schedules and agendas. Trying to get together throughout the year is always a struggle. It’s hard to know what is the most convenient time for everyone. The Windows Live SkyDrive makes that a whole lot easier. Here’s how!

First my family all signed up and created a Windows Live SkyDrive account. Once you create your account and you sign in the next step is to create your calendar and share it with your family and friends. Here are a few quick and easy steps you can follow

1. After signing in move you cursor over the “Hotmail” icon on the top of your screen. A pop down menu will open up and you will see the option “Calender” come down. Select on that.

2. Once you open up your calendar page then go ahead and select on the “Add New Calender” option on the left-hand side of your screen.

3. You should then see a page like the one below load onto your screen

4. Then proceed to fill out the information that it asks for ( name of calendar, description, color, sharing, etc)

5. While you are filling out the information you can select on the “Edit Sharing” option and add those individuals email address’ with whom you would like to share with.

Once your Calendar is created you can always go back and add or remove people with whom you would like to share with. You can always go back and add more things or simply delete the Calendar in total if you ever wanted to .

Adding your own personal calendar, family calendar, work, friends, birthdays, “whatever you would like” calendar onto your SkyDrive you will be able to stay up to date with other people’s lives as well as your own!!

SkyDrive has many other features as well, this is just one that I found very useful in my everyday life and I hope you will as well!!

Techspert Erin

MS Statendam

Is Your Wireless Router Secure?

2 Jan

If you have a wireless router in your home or office, be sure to set up the security features that are available. If you don’t, you may risk unauthorized access to your Internet connection or, even worse, unauthorized access to your computers.

Here are some simple steps you can take to secure your wireless router:

First, change the administration password. To access the configuration of your router, run a web browser such as Internet Explorer and enter the address of the router in the address bar at the top of the browser window. The address can usually be found on the bottom of the router and looks something like this:

You can also check the documentation for your router to find out more about how to configure it.

The first thing to do is to change the administration password. The default passwords for various routers are widely known and changing it will prevent someone else from getting in there and taking control.

Then, there are three easy things you can do to prevent unauthorized access to your router, computers and Internet connection:

Set up a pre-shared key
This is simply a password that you enter into the router configuration screen. Then, any device that is to access that router, and everything else connecting to it, must be configured with that password.

Enter the MAC addresses
Every wireless device has a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address. It looks something like this: 00:21:91:ff:33:c4. If you enter the MAC address of authorized devices into the router configuration, only those devices can access that router.

Turn off the broadcasting
Once you have your wireless devices set up, you can tell the router to stop broadcasting itself. This makes it invisible, but your authorized devices will still be able to access it.

One more thing to consider is turning on the router’s hardware firewall. Your Windows 7 computers have an effective software firewall to watch for suspicious network traffic, but you may have other devices such as a tablet or digital video recorder that connect wirelessly to the Internet and that do not have firewall protection. The router has a firewall that can be activated to protect those other devices.

John Busey
ms Ryndam