Annoying Aspects of Modernity

My primary camera came back as “beyond service life” and hence unrepairable.  Even the guy at the camera store was surprised, he had to look up when it was released (it was announced in February of 2012).

Olympus OM-D EM-5 “beyond service life”

Meanwhile, I could easily get a Leica M3 (made around the same time I as) or a Nikon F (about 5 years newer than the Leica) repaired. Of course those two are special cases, they’re both regarded as important classics. And, being old-school completely mechanical cameras, the parts they need can be manufactured pretty easily today, without any help from the original manufacturers.

This was my only video camera and my primary still camera (though the D700 still does a much better job on roller derby and in dark bars and music circles).

I’ve been playing around in my head with where to take the camera collection from here, given that both sides (this Micro Four Thirds body and the lenses for it, and my Nikon D700 and those lenses) are getting old by modern standards (the D700 is even older, having been released in July of 2008; I’ve already had one autofocus system repair). This is rather financially constrained, among other things.  (Some of the Nikon lenses I’m using I bought in 1981, and they still work fine, and still could be repaired though perhaps not by Nikon themselves.)

I think it’s time to abandon flappy mirrors; they’re a silly idea in digital cameras. However, full-frame sensors do seriously better in low light than smaller ones (no smaller sensor has yet matched the specs of my 2008 D700 full-frame sensor), and DSLRs have better auto-focus for tracking and fast action than any mirrorless (except possibly maybe the hugely expensive top-of-the-line Sony A9, which doesn’t take any of my lenses). And there aren’t many full-frame mirrorless lines; there’s the Sony, and a Leica (which makes the Sony look cheap).  But the state of the art in sensors and electronics is advancing constantly; while no smaller sensor has caught up to my D700 yet, they’re close, and no doubt will catch up soon. Of course today’s full-frame sensors are five generations (or some such) better, and still well ahead, but at some point something becomes “good enough” and it’s not worth paying hugely for small improvements for most kinds of photography. Nikon is allegedly about to release their own mirrorless full-frame system, but how well it will work with old Nikon lenses is anybodies guess. For that matter how well it will work at all is still up in the air.

With financial constraints, concentrating back into one system is nearly certainly the way to go, and for cost and flexibility the Micro Four Thirds seems to be the best choice starting from where I am.

Have to think about it; I wonder what I’ll actually do—and when?

Choosing Photos

I’ve spent a lot of my life picking photos—the ones to keep, the ones to print, the ones to give a client, the ones to put online, the ones to show friends. All sorts of different constraints and considerations apply. (To confuse things, this process is sometimes called “editing”; traditionally a photo editor at a newspaper, or highschool yearbook, is responsible for selecting the photos to publish.)

I found some years ago that housemates looking over my shoulder often want me to display a larger percentage of the photos I shot than I generally do. I, on the other hand, think I ought to be considerably more selective than I am for the snapshot album exhibits.

So, here are some examples and thoughts on the question, based on part of one roll I scanned this last week. The photos are from Keycon 7 (1990), in Winnipeg.

I’m discussing these as snapshots (pictures of people you know) or photojournalism (snapshots of people you follow at a distance), not as art!

I’m going to show you the contact sheet, and then the ones I scanned, and for a few of those explain why they don’t show in the final collection, or why they do. (The scan decision was made with this article in mind; I scanned some just so I could exhibit them in this article.)

(A “contact sheet” used to be made by putting the negatives on a sheet of photo paper in the darkroom, putting a sheet of glass over them, exposing for a measured time using the enlarger or some controllable light source, and then developing the sheet of paper. This gave you a nice index of all the negatives on that roll on one sheet, all at the same exposure so you could predict exposures for later pictures once you’d made a good print of an earlier picture. This so-called contact sheet is a scan of the negatives in their Print File archival storage page on a flatbed scanner with transparency capability.)

What’s on this roll

We’ll just go through them in order. I’ll be identifying them by the negative number, which you can see below the photo in the edge printing (also above, except on the first row where it was cropped off).

#14

This one is mediocre, but I ended up including it. Nobody shows their face that well (the two at the edges are both looking quite a bit down, and Geri in the center is looking sideways. Also Peter on the right isn’t at all interacting with the other two. Still, they’re all in focus and decently exposed.

#15

Didn’t scan this at all. Ruth is half behind the head of hair in the foreground. There really doesn’t seem to be much point to this photo as it turned out. Probably I didn’t see the foreground person coming.

#16

This is a bit sketchy technically; underexposed, and I haven’t manage a great job on color correction. However, the two people in back are clearly interacting, plus what makes it, the person sitting on the floor smiling up at the camera.  This ends up being a semi-decent picture.

#17

Alternate version of 16; the lighted wand in the back is interesting but doesn’t really communicate anything. However, the great expression in the front is missing, so this was not the one I chose.

#18

The flaw here is the person in yellow in the background. They’re too hidden to contribute anything, but the bright yellow and enough face to get your attention are still there. However, the three in front are great; Geri’s eyes are closed, but she’s so clearly laughing hard that’s okay, and the two flanking her are clearly engaged. This is pretty decent.

#19

Wanted a photo of Dave Clement, and this one is decent, but Nate’s eyes are closed, so the photo as a whole doesn’t do much good. If photos of Dave were seriously rare I’d just crop this down or something, but while I don’t seem to have another on this roll, I’ve got hundreds through the collection as a whole; not rare. I scanned this so you could see for sure Nate’s eyes are closed, I could tell from the contact sheet.

#20

Best one so far, I think. Fairly nice of both Kara and Ruth, and they’re clearly having an interesting conversation as well as eating dinner. Distracting background, but the flash exposure has brought the foreground up enough that the background is rather suppressed, and that’s generally unavoidable in snapshots anyway.

#21

This could have been interesting, but my timing was off, so the guy on the chair completely disappears behind his arm.

#22

Missed this one first time through, but it’s actually quite nice, and shows us who the person on the chair in the previous shot was.

#23

No scan, no hope. Victor’s hand blocking Beth’s face, Polly a bit out of focus.  Again, if Victor was a terribly rare find I’d use this in some way, but he isn’t.

#24

Ruth getting something out of a bag. Fairly nice.

#25

Mostly bad. Victor could probably be extracted if pictures of Victor were rare, but we just dealt with that above. Beth is interacting with the person behind Victor’s hand, and that person is, um, not looking their best in this shot. No point in this one.

Whinging About Dirty Negatives

Every time I scan a few rolls of my old photos, I’m reminded what the most important message I could send myself back in time is: Get a water filter!

At least, I think that might be what the underlying problem is. I have vaguely similar amounts of junk on films I developed in my home darkroom, in the Photo Coop darkroom at Carleton, and in the Alumni Office darkroom there. I’m not really sure, though.

Here’s a bit from a 1973 roll of Plus-X:

Lots of white mess!  Much of it elongated, but not precisely parallel to the edges of the film. The full-size image is my full scan resolution for that bit of the film.

So, what’s my real problem?

  • Too much Photo-Flo?
  • Not enough Photo-Flo?
  • Wiping film with fingers instead of sponge?
  • Dirty water?
  • Storage since then?
  • Angered the gods?

It’s basically simple in Photoshop to use the healing brush to eliminate most of this. It’s not fast and it’s not very interesting, but it’s simple.   I mean, I can easily spend 45 minutes cleaning up one shot in this sort of condition.  And unfortunately it’s slower and less simple, and less good, in Lightroom.