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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”…



A Visit to Adobe

A visit with the Photoshop engineers at 345 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA. June 16 & 17, 2005.

When you visit Adobe Systems, Inc. visitors are allowed to park in the underground parking lots. The image on the left is the main door from the garage to the lobby. If you get off on the first floor, you’ll be on the ground floor with the main entry doors. As is fitting for a company built largely upon type, type is a reoccuring theme in the decor.

I had a few minutes to kill before my appointment so I decided to grab a few shots outside. The shot above is looking North at the 345 Park Avenue address. On the left is the West Tower and on the right is the East Tower. Just barely visible between the two towers is the newest 3rd tower called the Almaden Tower–where the “suits” (executives) work.

On the sixth floor, there is an open air courtyard between the three buildings that has a boccie ball court as well as a basketball court. On both the 14th and 15th floors are walkways that connect the three towers.

First time visitors might be surprised to learn that the Adobe Towers are in a direct line with the runways of San Jose airport. On most days, planes fly directly overhead–and I mean DIRECTLY OVERHEAD– on their way to land.

More about “da plane, da plane” later, but I must say that once inside, you never ever hear the planes. Yes, from 10 West, the Photoshop floor, you can sure see them really well, but the soundproofing inside the towers is very good.

Back inside and up the staircase (or elevator) you’ll find the main second floor reception.

Here’s the main entry to the reception area and security. Visitors must sign in and be “escorted” into the upper floors. Even though my badge always says Escort Required, once past security, I usually have full roaming rights. However, it’s not a good idea to get into it with Adobe security–they don’t care who you are or who you know. In fact, I was snapping some shots of the lobby and the security guard said “no photography”. Ok, so I just lowered the camera, didn’t look through the lens and kept shooting, covertly. Jeeeze, I hope I didn’t get those guys into any trouble. :~)

I was early and unfortunately, all the engineers seemed to be in the same meeting–I called about a half dozen of them but I had to wait a few minutes to get my escort. The reception lobby is pretty hightech with a lot of glass and stone and leather. There’s an interesting display of backlit screens with product designs and several with video against the wall.

Finally, somebody answered their phone and Chris Cox came down to escort me to the 10th floor. My first visit was supposed to be with John Nack, but he had been in the same meeting with everybody else. Here’s John in his office (right).

John, who was recently promoted to Senior Product Manager for Photoshop likes flags-such as the “Don’t Tread On Me” first used by the Continental Navy in 1775. A variation of the Gansden flag this variation was used as the U.S. Navy Jack. Not sure why a kid from Galena, Illinois (John’s hometown) is into the Navy Jack, but he seems to like flags.

Here’s John posing with the Big Box, a promotional over-sized Photoshop CS2 package. It’s only incidental that I posed him as though he’s “carrying Photoshop”. But with little prompting on my part, he struck his famous “kiss the bicep” pose. More about that later.

Just down the hall is Julieanne Kost’s office. I snuck up on her and snapped a shot before she realized who I was. Fortunately, Julieanne was happy to see me.

Next was a snap of Joe Ault. Joe chased me with his CD Sword, actually, it’s a prop left over from a party.

In the far Southwest corner of the 10th floor is the official Photoshop Lounge. They used to have big bean bag chairs but it seems some decorator has gotten loose and made things a bit more “formal”. The chairs are comfy though. I suspect the chaise lounge has been “sleep tested” by at least one engineer during the Photoshop CS2 GM rush.

Just down from the lounge on the left is the office of Chris Cox. You’ll note Chris’ taste in decoration-a kernal convolution chart, a gamut map and pictures of birds. Chris is actually an avid and rather talented photographer, among a variety of other hobbies.

Chris knew I was there–he didn’t even turn around when I snapped the first shot. He just said “Hi Jeff”. So, I did a close up of his door knob toy. I also asked Chris to double check to make sure there wasn’t any top secret hardware laying around that I shouldn’t photograph (there often is) but after a quick check he said the coast was clear.

My next shooting victim was Russell Williams. The first shutter release made him turn around and the second release caught a really good “deer caught in the headlights” look.

Russell is now the Co-Photoshop Architect having earned the title when Mark Hamburg left the Photoshop team (Russell shares the title with Scott Byer). Russell is also a talented and avid photographer who traces back to the old “film days”. Now shooting digital.

Next, I snuck up on Seetha–caught him pretty good as well.

But Seetha surprised me by jumping up and yelling hello. Seetha, whose full name is Seetharanan Narayanan (hence Seetha) was the number 3 engineer to work on Photoshop after Thomas Knoll and Mark Hamburg. So Seetha has been there a long time-and still loves working on Photoshop (although with his stock options, he could probably retire to a tropical island somewhere).

Just down the hall is Scott Byer’s office (Co-Photoshop Architect). With all the commotion that Seetha caused, I didn’t sneak up on Scott. Scott’s office is the closest to the Photoshop Lounge-I wonder if that means something? You’ll note that Scott is partial to LCD screens, a lot of them!

I caught Seetha just outside of Joe’s office talking about a “new feature” that he wanted to work on. He immediately started drawing it out on Joe’s whiteboard (all the engineers seem to have them). With both Joe’s encouragement as well as mine, he went to pitch the new idea to Russell Williams. What’s the new feature idea? Can’t tell you. . .top secret (I even had to pixelate the whiteboard so nobody could see anything) but it’s pretty way cool and something Photoshop users have wanted forever! We’ll see if it gets into the “next version”.

Just down the hall is Jeff Chien. Jeff was “caught”! Jeff, along with Todor Georgiev, has been responsible for some of the real math heavy techie things like Smart Sharpen and Reduce Noise. They also worked together on the Healing Brush.

Sarah Kong didn’t want me to take a sneaky shot of her so I did a nice pose. She’s one of the few “Women of Photoshop” in the engineering department and also has the cleanest office (much cleaner than most of the guys–except Marc Pawliger).

Within the labyrinth of the Adobe floor design is a popular place-the kitchen. Free soft drinks and coffee–the caffeine helps!

Here’s a collage of just a few of the magnetic letter phrases the Photoshop team has spelled out.

Speaking of lunch, it was time to go out the front door, head up Park Ave and go to lunch.

John Nack had set up lunch with the “Bridge Builders”, the engineering team working on Adobe Bridge. They always like taking me out to lunch because it’s a perfect excuse to expense the lunch–a customer meeting, don’t ya know. :~)

We had settled on Gordon Biersch a brewery restaurant a short walk from Adobe. Around the table from left to right is; John Nack (at the head), Christoph Moskalonek, Arno Gourdol, the Bridge Engineering Manager, Marc Pawliger, Jason Graham, Cris Rys and on the far right, Gunar Penikis, the Bridge Product Manager.

I got Arno Gourdol, Bridge Engineering Manager, to put on his shades and look too cool! Cool!

Back at Adobe, I wandered over to the East Tower and hunted down Russell Preston Brown. I didn’t sneak up on Russell. In fact, at times, he just hangs out looking through his office door as though he’s a cat waiting for a mouse to walk by.

After enticing me into his office, he pounced with his Godzilla attack toy!
Notice that snarl? It’s all bluff, he’s really just a tame little pussy cat.

Back over in the West Tower, I stalked Marc Pawliger, the Engineering Director on Photoshop. Marc, it seems, likes to have a ball, a real ball–to SIT ON! He claims it’s very comfortable and eases the strain on his back.

Marc has one of the big offices (he’s a director, ya know) and loves his toys but keeps a pretty clean office.

Some of Marc’s toys from his extensive collection.

Adorning the 10th floor are a variety of things hanging on the wall. In fact, I even have a framed print hanging. But this was an amusing poster I saw that pulled quotes from various statements made during the Photoshop CS2 Press Tour. Notice that little tacked on note?

I did and shot a close up. But, when I told John I was going to put that note and a picture of the bicep kiss in my story, he got real nervous and confessed: seems that John penned that little “quote” himself and added it to the other quotes as a joke. He figured that everybody would know it was a joke, but apparently many people thought it was real! So I had to promise to retouch out the editor’s name and publication but told him he would have to live with what he’s done. Now, as to the bicep kissing, I still don’t get it. I know John’s nickname is Tiny Elvis (but I don’t know where that comes from either) so I’ll just have to do some investigative reporting and track down the origins of both of John’s little secrets. Stay tuned for the full story.

I found another picture tacked up on the wall. A shot by Russell Williams taken at the Photoshop CS2 shipping party. Seems the party was on the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz via the Roaring Camp railroad. They took the train from Felton to Santa Cruz. The dress-up was part of the “hang out and amuse the corporate picnickers” stuff they have at the railroad station / park. It was a “dress up for an old-time photo” thing. The photographer wasn’t working, but they opened the costume shack for them and all of the marketing and engineering managers on Photoshop got all gussied up in costume. From left to right are; Dave Story, Sau Tam, David Howe, Kevin Connor, Maria Yap, Julie Kmoch, Jackie Lincoln-Owyang, Andrew Coven & Marc Pawliger. David Howe is the one with the parasol and dress. Yes, there’s a story there about Dave. . .

Just down the hall is the Photoshop War Room–Top Secret! I’ve been in there, but no photos allowed–seriously! This is the room where the future of Photoshop is decided.

Here’s Todor and Jeff hanging out in the hall (left) and Gwyn Weisberg, one of the product managers (right). To talk to Todor and Jeff is an exercise in, well, extreme mathematics. They are brilliant guys, but they both have pretty thick accents, Todor sounds Russian and Jeff sounds Chinese. But when the two of them talk to each other, it seems magic happens–it’s just that most of the rest of the world couldn’t understand what they are saying (even without the accents).

Choosing to keep his office on 10 West (instead of the Almaden Tower) the “big guy” on the 10th floor is Bryan Lamkin, Senior Vice President, Digital Imaging and Digital Video Business Unit at Adobe. He’s a big guy in person too–he’s one of the few people at Adobe a lot taller than I am. Must be 6’4″ or 5″. Bryan started at Adobe as the first product manager of the Windows version of Photoshop, version 2.5.

Since I was there on a Friday, of course I had to go down to Cafe Adobe for the Friday Beer Bash.

The Friday Beer Bash is hosted by different groups within Adobe each week. It’s free beer and snacks for anybody around late Friday afternoon.

Lynn Shade (left) and Chris Cox are “hangin’ out”. Chris may look like he’s drinking beer-he is, root beer.

Ok, it isn’t chic, it’s geek food. But the beer is pretty good, and it’s free.

Which can “facilitate” some pretty, uh, energetic discussions and debates.

Here’s Seetha making a point, with Marc reacting with sceptism, but it’s all in good fun.

Spent bottle cap still life #1.

Left, Scott is getting small, center, Cris Rys is getting tall and Lynn looking happy.

Best T-Shirt seen? Cris Rys’ “Adobe Merging” T-Shirt commemorating Adobe’s pending merger with Macromedia. UPDATE: I’ve received a correction, Lynn Shade emailed me to say “the “Merging” t-shirts were made 3 years ago when our Pro UI Team “took over” the Consumer UI team — the Consumer UI guys made that shirt. Which was pretty funny.” Thanks for the correction Lynn. Ironic that I assumed it was related to Macromedia and it wasn’t!

Here’s the backside.

Da plane boss, da plane! Ok, it isn’t exactly fantasy island, but there sure are a lot of planes flying overhead, and rather close as well.

They’re pretty hard to ignore when you’re outside on the patio.

At one point, I was going to do a bit of “Photoshopping” to make the planes appear even larger. But I really didn’t need to.

Even with a 10-22mm wide angle lens, I was able to capture some rather close shots of the planes.

As the beer bash wound down, Seetha went in to put on his bike riding gear-including his iPod. Seetha was boogying down and singing out loud, loudly!

Which I’m sure to Seetha sounded groovy, but Chris had a slighly different reaction.


So, that ends a typical Friday with the Photoshop engineers. They are a solid family (mostly) of like-minded and dedicated individuals hellbent on making Photoshop the best it can be. But, they also like to have a good time while working. It’s been my privilege to go visit them often over the years, and it’s always a treat to hang out with them (and bend their ears to try to get stuff into Photoshop). It should be noted that there are far more people working on Photoshop than pictured here. To those people, sorry you weren’t around. In the near future I’ll try to visit Adobe in Seattle and Minneapolis and do some additional head hunting.

Thanks guys!

Click here to see the PSN article that introduced the feature story.