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.

Still no Moon Colonies

Here’s how I was marking the occasion, 48 years ago:

Shot off my parents’ B&W television

While we’ve done amazing things with remote sensing and with robotic exploration, we haven’t done much more with manned exploration. Given the success of the robots, we couldn’t have gotten that much information for the same money with men. But as somebody who grew up on “the conquest of space” it’s still a major disappointment.

I have several rolls of such shots. They’re all Kodak Tri-X, bulk loaded, shot with my mother’s old Bolsey 35 I believe (I didn’t get my Miranda Sensorex until December of 1969). Developed with stainless steel tanks in a dish pan down by the laundry sink, contact printed in the waterless darkroom the other side of the basement.

The white bands diagonally across many pictures shows that the shutter speed of the camera wasn’t well-enough synced to the scan rate of the TV. The TV scan rate would be extremely accurate or the picture would be complete hash, so the shutter was off.  This was a leaf shutter, not a focal-plane shutter, which affects the symptoms.

This was roll 108; I started the numbering system at 100 to make room for filing older negatives as I found them and organized them.  This was so long ago that the negatives were in glassine sleeves.

Glassine sleeves!

A few of the individual photos:

Synchronicity

So, as you may have noticed recently I got a copy of Jerry Stearns’ old Mpls. in ’73 t-shirt from the surplus archive collection. It was in good enough shape that I scanned it, and gave a passing thought to maybe doing a modern edition—if I could get the various people involved, whoever they were, on board.

So I ran into Jerry Stearns early at Minicon, and confirmed that he thought it was a good enough idea. Also that the artwork was by Ken Fletcher (it’s not signed). And, even more useful, Jerry had with him a collection of paper prints from the same screen.  Those are much higher resolution, not as distorted, and much easier to scan.

The best scan seems to be the red channel of a 48-bit color scan of the version with blue ink on orange paper (contrast!).  With a bit of cleanup it currently looks like this:

Red channel from blue on orange paper print

So, I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s fun to work the scan and see what I can get. I guess I’d better talk to Ken soon!

Score from the Minn-StF T-Shirt Collection

I got possession of one of the spares of the shirt with this on it last night (the Minn-StF archives kept the best copy and however many copies they thought they needed). I had one of the original ones, back in the 1970s, but wore it out long ago. It was one of my favorites.

This particular one also has “Video Services” on the back, so I’m particularly happy to get this one now (a year ago, in time to wear in Kansas City, would have been even better, but I don’t think we knew we even had these in the t-shirt collection back then).

This may have been the first local fannish t-shirt; I don’t remember Minicon shirts before this for example.

They were made by local fan Jerry Stearns (now of Great Northern Audio Theater), as I remember it silk-screened by hand at home rather than through a commercial producer. I don’t know where the artwork came from; it doesn’t seem to be signed. Does anybody remember that?