Mark Hamburg’s Going Away Party

Posted By Jeff Schewe

Mark Hamburg, founder of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and former architect of Photoshop is leaving Adobe for a post at Microsoft. Mark, who was the second engineer hired to work on Photoshop after Thomas Knoll, has been at Adobe for over 17 years. He joined Adobe in the fall of 1990–the year Photoshop 1.0 shipped.

He left the Photoshop team after Photoshop 7 shipped and spent time in Adobe’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG) where he worked on a “sandbox project” originally called PixelToy which was later renamed Shadowland. Adobe changed that name to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom when it was released as a public beta in January, 2006. See the PSN story The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story for more info.

Since Mark has been a good friend and co-conspirator over the years, I decided to use some miles and fly out for his going away party at Adobe last week. Mark’s last day at Adobe was Wednesday, April 23, 2008.

Mark’s office was littered with boxes–it’s unclear if those were his new packed boxes or left over from the recent move to 10 West. The Lightroom team was recently moved onto the same floor as the Photoshop team (I guess in an attempt at “togetherness”). Right: Mark explains that he needed to work on one more Lightroom 2.0 bug before going to the video conference with the Minnesota team, his last such conference.

Here we are in one of Adobe’s video conference rooms on the 8th floor. On the screen is the Adobe Minnesota office’s Frostbite Falls conference room. See this story about the Minnesota office on PSN titled A Visit to the Adobe Lightroom Engineers for an explanation of conference room naming.

The two teams, one in San Jose and the one in Minnesota, reminisced about working with Mark. Some of the stories were funny, some poignant and some were melancholy–but all were good natured.

In an ironic twist, Minnesota actually had some pretty good wine while San Jose only had beer to toast with. I say ironic because most of the time the drinks of choice would be reversed (since Mark and George are a bit wine snobbish).

I lucked out and got a Pilsner Urquell…

Mark and Kevin Conner (right) joke about “life with Mark”. Kevin stated his most memorable aspect of Mark’s career was his pure refusal to accept anything but the best. Mark joked that it was “never too late to change a feature”.

My main comment represented the general consensus of the alpha testers who have worked with Mark over the years; “Be careful what you wish for because you just may get it”–and Mark will make it completely different than you thought it would be.

The last goodbye from Minnesota wishing Mark well.

Mark’s last walk down the Adobe halls (on his way to his Adobe HR exit interview).

We walked out of 345 Park Avenue on the way to the Paragon restaurant where Mark’s going away party was to be held.

VP of Engineering for the Digital Imaging Group, Winston Hendrickson (left) and Kevin Connor, Senior Director of Product Management for the same group (right) hosted the party (and paid for the first two rounds–well, I think they paid for every round actually–there were a lot of rounds).

Here’s Kevin saying a few “words” about Mark’s tenure at Adobe…

…and Mark listening carefully.

Kevin presented Mark with a going away present. A 3D print made by Russell Brown.

On close inspection you can see it says “Mr. Microsoft”. But the 3D part actually shows more…

Here’s the 3D arrangement of image planes (below) showing that Mark is actually holding a sign saying Mr. Lightroom that turns into a sign saying Mr. Microsoft. With fire below of course.

Another parting gift was a guitar (I believe from a Photoshop World keynote or party) signed by the “Photoshop World Dream Team” instructors including Scott Kelby, Dave Cross and others.

If you don’t know, Mark is a bit of a guitar buff (spending a lot more money on guitars than camera equipment).

Winston said a few words, claiming he will always go down as the guy who was Mark’s boss when Mark left Adobe.

Bryan Lamkin, former Senior VP of Adobe’s Creative Solutions Business Unit, showed up to say a few words as well. Bryan retired from Adobe in March of 2006 (see the PSN story)

Sean Parent (center in red: researcher at Adobe Systems and manager of the Adobe Software Technology Lab) recounted the time he had spent working with Mark on Photoshop, including the time he wrote a script on Mark’s computer to turn every iteration of the word Photoshop to be spelled PhotoShop (the intercap was a pet peeve of Hamburg’s).

Russell Brown also talked about the importance of Mark’s contributions to Photoshop.

Mark didn’t seem to mind all the attention.

But Mark’s son Gavin didn’t like so much attention–people with cameras…

Gavin decided to hide.

Gavin was pretty much done (he was hungry). Here is Ann, Mark’s wife getting ready to go to McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant for a last supper.

Kevin was melancholic. Obviously Adobe would have preferred not losing Mark, but Mark had already “made his mark” at Adobe and was looking for a new challenge. Mark on the other hand characterized his departure as the scariest thing he had ever done (and mentioned something about RAIN).

At the restaurant, Winston points out that Mark was missing. Seems the long goodbyes took a long time. Finally Mark showed up.

Zalman Stern (from the Camera Raw team) pours some wine for Ann. I think George picked the wine (he usually does, otherwise he tends to complain about the wine).

Mark was eating oysters (left) while Gavin got his fav grilled cheese.

In a more serious moment, Winston wishes Mark well.

Mark’s now defunct Adobe ID–pretty well worn out.

The next morning, Mark and Ann were due to fly up to Seattle to start house hunting. The prospects were daunting–Mark noted that Seattle had just had snow the previous weekend (April 19/20) and that housing costs in Seattle weren’t a lot cheaper than San Jose. And there’s this thing called “RAIN” up there…

As for Mark leaving Adobe, I wasn’t surprised. Mark had talked about leaving the Lightroom team after 2.0 shipped for the last few months. He felt he had pretty much done what he wanted to at Adobe: 11+ years on Photoshop and almost 6 years on Lightroom. And while Mark is a brilliant coder and conceptually creative in the digital imaging/processing realm, he felt a strong pull to do something completely different. For somebody like Mark, there are really very few options; a startup or going someplace where there are few if any limits. He was heavily recruited by Microsoft and given an unbeatable opportunity to work outside his normal digital imaging field. Mark was invited by David Vaskevitch to come lead a team working on the future of OS User Experience at Microsoft.

This is the way Mark phrased it:
Now, given that I find the current Windows experience really annoying and yet I keep having to deal with it, this opportunity was a little too interesting to turn down. I can’t imagine doing serious imaging anywhere other than Adobe, but, I needed to do something other than imaging for a while.

Mark is leaving the Lightroom team at a time when 2.0 is pretty much done except for the bugs (which Mark was literally working on his last day) and the future of Lightroom is really no longer in doubt. The team that Mark has helped assemble for Lightroom’s development and engineering will now actually be able to step out from underneath Mark’s rather large shadow and take Lightroom where it needs to go.

The raw processing pipeline that Lightroom uses is in the capable hands of Thomas Knoll, Zalman Stern and new hire Eric Chan (and a few others). So there will be no let down there. And Mark has long been gone (but not forgotten) when it comes to Photoshop (although the Photoshop team aways seems to get Mark to try to “explain his code” when they come across something he wrote).

The one thing I noted was the gracious manner in which Mark left and the way everybody at Adobe honestly wished him well. Yes, there was a sense of melancholy and a degree of sadness at Mark’s leaving. But no bridges have been burned and Mark will always have a home at Adobe (hey, Adobe even has a Seattle office if the Microsoft thingie doesn’t work out).

Good luck Mark and best wishes. To Microsoft I’ll only say “be careful what you wish for, you just may get it”…

:~)

 

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