Jun 15, 2006

A Visit to the Adobe Lightroom Engineers

The Offices of Adobe Minnesota.

After a recent Epson Print Academy event in St. Paul, Minnesota I had the chance to hook up with some of the Lightroom engineers at Adobe’s offices in Arden Hills just outside of Minneapolis.

As you might know, I rode my motorcycle to Minneapolis. On the left, George Jardine (another bike rider) and Tom Hogarty (Lightroom product manager) admire my bike parked outside the hotel. On the right, George engages in one of his famous yawns. He travels a lot and his body is never sure what time zone it’s in.

We were driving to Troy and Melissa Gaul’s house for Sunday night dinner. Here’s Melissa out front picking flowers as we drive up.

This is Melissa’s electronic cello, I’ve never heard her play but Troy says she’s “not bad”.

Ah, here’s Maggie the growling attack dog. Troy just kept telling us to ignore her and she would forget about us. She did eventually but she sure sounded vicious.

Sitting around the kitchen left to right is; Troy Gaul, Mark Hamburg and Tom Hogarty. I believe there was wine. Right George?

Sitting down to a spaghetti dinner.

George seems to have over eaten (he loves spaghetti). I don’t know who he was talking to. On the right, what do geeks do after dinner? Gather around in the computer room of course.

George wanted Troy to check on a bug…

Nice screen Troy, Lightroom looks really good on a 30″ Cinema, huh? Not sure why it wasn’t full screen though.

The next morning, I parked my bike out front of Adobe’s offices.

Adobe MN doesn’t have a real receptionist. Somebody (usually with the least tenure) must man the call button to let people without badges in. Hey, this is a high security area…it’s protected by Pinkerton!

Troy comes to let me in.

Typical “walking down the hall” shot.

Here’s Troy in his office. Pretty clean by engineering standards.

Here’s Troy’s SPAM Award of Excellence (left), and no, I don’t know what it means. On the right is Troy’s first computer.

Typical engineering requirement-goofy toys (left) and on the right, the tangled result of a recent computer upgrade.

The MN folks stuck us in an empty office to drop computers, check email and otherwise kill some time before meetings.

Here’s George editing some shots in Lightroom. The shoot was of extreme sports in Moab, Utah that George art directed…can’t remember who the shooter was.

Left, Mark takes in caffeine, right, Tom hangs at the white board. Yes, I’ve obscured what’s on the white board. And yes, I also had my morning 4 shot grande mocha from Starbucks-there was one just down the street.

Then it was off to the meeting in Frostbite Falls, a conference room with high tech communication gear that can connect the engineers in San Jose and Minnesota for weekly video teleconferences.

Mark always keeps his eyes on me cause he knows I shoot from the hip (left). On the right I get a close up of Bob Pappas.

Melissa apparently didn’t get Mark’s memo warning about the way I shoot – she made a funny face and I got it!

So, the meeting was pretty important.. I was dis-invited (meaning they had to talk about stuff I shouldn’t hear, but of course, I found out anyway but I’m sworn to secrecy).

Then I was out in the hall again stalking the offices for photo-prey.

I actually found a map of the floor-which was really useful since I kept getting lost.

You might wonder about calling a conference room “Frostbite Falls”. Well, Adobe has a tradition of naming their conference rooms. I think in San Jose, it’s type faces. In Seattle I think it’s state parks and in Minnesota, they all voted to come up with frozen tundra of the North type names.

My fav? Ice Palace. Of course, I was there on a really nice sunny day in May. I can just imagine how dreary it can get in January.

I had to do the obligatory kitchen shot. I am fixated on the fact that Adobe always has nice, (well pretty nice) well stocked kitchens with free soft drinks. All the diet Coke you can drink! But everybody is expected to clean up after themselves, otherwise the Curmudgeon will tell on ya.

Oh, photo-prey. It’s Tim Gogolin, one of the Lightroom engineers. I snuck up on him.

I promised that I wouldn’t show what was on his computer screen – he was writing code. See Tim, you can’t see what’s on your screen in this shot, right?

Here’s Julie Kmoch, one of the Photoshop engineering managers. Nice office Julie-very clean…nice toys.

Here’s Dave Polaschek who’s actually on Photoshop development working on printing from Photoshop. No toys Dave?

I didn’t get a shot of Jeff Tranberry who works on Photoshop QE. Every time I went by his office he was out. Sorry Jeff, but here’s a plug for Jeff’s Adobe Blog, check out Jeff Tranberry’s Photoshop Crawlspace

It’s pretty cool really, software engineering can really take place anywhere-there are Photoshop and/or Lightroom people in San Jose, Seattle, Minnesota, Michigan, San Francisco, Toyko and even India. The software builds churn out 24/7/365 (although I’ve been warned to stay away from Sunday nite/Monday morning builds-not sure why).

There’s an unwritten rule that software engineers simply must have “playtime”. So, here’s the pingpong table (left) and some engineer types actually playing. So, do banks off the walls count?

They also have Foosball…but I really must say their gamestation on the bigscreen TV needs some work. It’s currently just a tangled mess of cables.

White board humor-One Adobe (to rule them all) obviously a reference to Lord of the Rings.

Yeah, if I lived in Minnesota, I guess I would wish to be in Hawaii too. Not sure what the 2/20/2020 date is, maybe it’s the ship date of the Windows build of Beta 3 of Lightroom?

After the morning meeting we all hooked up in the lobby to try to decide what to do for lunch. We didn’t go to Lindy’s in Arden Hills this time. The menu is steak, steak or chopped steak. Take your pick-it’s VERY Minnesotan…

A lot of Lightroom engineering talent in one single elevator – there should be a rule about that. Mark says there’s a rule that he and Thomas Knoll can’t take the same commercial flight together.

We made the tough decision – where to eat, but the decision regarding how to get there was still up in the air.

Once they decided, the boys of Lightroom take off.

Think of the theme, Hey Hey, we’re the Monkees, and people say we’re monkeeing around. Ok, don’t.

Mark and Tom got to ride in Troy’s convertible…

Pretty snazzy ride Troy, I got to sit in the back seat of Melissa’s stationwagon.

Lunch? Fuddruckers-a burger chain with pretty darn good burgers – goofy name though.

Unfortunately, there are -ALOT- of menu choices.

Ok, another roadblock – what to eat.

And they are still deciding.

George got a chicken salad (sorry about the light hair shot George, maybe some shoe polish?) but Tom got a burger.

Quick as a bunny, Tom grabbed my camera and shot off some images of me. Hey Tom, that’s really not allowed dude.

A pleasant lunch in the dappled shade – primary topic of discussion? At my table it was game development and programing in Lua. Oh joy, geek talk….yeah of course we also talked about Lightroom.

Back in Frostbite Falls, the team members gather for the afternoon meeting. I was dis-invited to this one too (but I still found out what they were talking about-still top secret!).

But make no mistake about how many people both in Minnesota, San Jose and elsewhere are toiling on the product now called Adobe Lightroom. It’s a big crew and growing. Jeesh, even Bruce, Shantanu and Johnny have their names on the B3 splash screen. I guess Mark forgot to put my name in yet…

For further information about the Lightroom story, check out my PSN story The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story which was posted on January 9th-the day that Lightroom was publicly announced.

11 Responses to “A Visit to the Adobe Lightroom Engineers”

  1. RR Says:


  2. Rob Keijzer Says:

    Not boring. But, in spite of rumours that there aren’t any, there are lenses having a focal length above 16 mm!

  3. Jeff Schewe Says:

    Jeeesh RR, I’ll be sure to issue your refund check for your subscription ASAP…

    Rob, actually, I was shooting with the 10-22mm Canon lens on a Digital Rebel. You think I should pop for a longer lens? I’ve actually shot a lot with my 70-200mm IS but not so much on the Rebel, more on the 1Ds MII, the 70-200 on the Rebel is kinda hard to shoot-the lens weights a lot more than the camera. I tested the 70-300 DO but didn’t like the look of the DO.

    When I’m shooting candid snaps, I always go for the WA look. . .makes people look funny.


  4. David White Says:

    Ship date of Windows Beta 3 – 2/20/2020? Suspicions confirmed. ;-)

  5. KeithR Says:

    Living in and traveling around the Twin Cites area, I often find myself driving past the Adobe offices and wondered what goes on in there. Lately, when ever I’m in the area, driving by the offices, I have found myself yelling out “Release the Light-room”. I’m a windoze user.
    I’m sure they told you that the “Frostebite Falls” was named after the home town setting of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon. Trivia for your next EPA seminar!. By the way, I was one of the attendees that “won” one of the prints you made here in Minnesota. Thanks!

  6. Claudio Says:

    I really enjoy having a “sneak peak” at the people and the places that make up the Adobe.
    Robert Scoble, using video and blogging over at Channel 9, was able to give Microsoft a face and to create a connection between users and developers, these photo essay achieve a similar goal.
    Many thanks.

  7. johan Says:

    Nice Audi he is driving, and nice articel with pictures aswell. :-) Is it an Audi A4 or S4? Looks like an A4. Did’t know they used germen cars in US. ;-)

    Very intressting and funny articel to read.

  8. heathrowe Says:

    Nice walk-through Jeff.
    It’s always interesting to see the the top guns in their element.

  9. John Waller Says:

    They obviously like their Legal input. Gets mentioned twice in the splash screen :-)

  10. Jeff Schewe Says:

    LOL. . .

    When I put the extended splash screen together, I left Legal in twice. Not their fault, completely mine. So I corrected it-thanks for pointing it out!

  11. kool002 Says:

    Well covered tips, Thanks for the info and oh the screen Troy has I liked it.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.