I got an email from Cousin Margaret yesterday with a quick note and an attachment. She’s making big life changes and planning a move, and has thus cleaned out her family house and sold it. Among the many papers and boxes left to her by her parents, she gifted me a box of cameras, all of which are amazing. But in going through some of those papers recently, she and her partner came across a piece of paper documenting where the Zeiss twin reflex came from: it was one of four captured items her father brought back from Germany in 1945. Wow. Thanks again Margaret!
I still have yet to put film through it—and there’s half a roll left in the Yashica—but I think next week we might take a trip into the local park and recreate some of our pre-cancer family photos from 2017.
I love you, blondie. Happy birthday!
I’d hoped we could do something a lot more interesting to celebrate, but as with everything else, COVID has put the kibosh on that. So we have steamed crabs on our menu for tonight, with a scratch-made German Chocolate cake for dessert.
As of today, I’ve digitized 184 albums from Rob’s collection, for a total of 39GB of music. I had to dissect the first player because I could not get the motor to work for love or money; it just sits and makes a screeching noise and no amount of cajoling will get it working. Because the carousel spins 360˚ all the way around the unit, there are sections where plastic shields cover the CDs inside and it’s impossible to put them back in place once they’re pulled out. Rob tossed all of the plastic cases and kept the sleeves inside CD binders, but I don’t have those here, so I’ve got to find another way to store them once I’ve pulled them out. I think I’m going to find a 3/4″ dowel at the Lowe’s and build a quick spindle to store them vertically in a stack, because that’s the only way I can keep them organized once they’re out. 165 is less than half the capacity of the first unit—they take 400 discs total, and there’s another unit sitting on the floor that’s equally full.
The next chore will be to replace the duplicate files in my collection with the newer, better quality files (these are in .m4a format, which is lossy but an improved format from .mp3). I’ve got a number of incomplete albums that suffered from a strange glitch iTunes had back in 2004 where it dropped the first track on each album I ripped, so I have to find those and update them as well.
The photo project has concluded, and after a week and a half’s painstaking manual work I’ve sorted through the folder year by year to organize everything by Month/Day. This served to allay many of my fears that I’d lost entire months of photos, because of the fucked-up way iPhoto and Aperture catalogued things. As I stepped through each folder I found folders of photos that belonged in subsequent years, and as I slowly moved things to where they should be it became clear that I hadn’t lost anything. I also weeded out gigabytes of duplicate images that had been spread out among the folders, which freed up a bunch of space.
Next up is installing a small SSD boot drive in the spare slot above the DVD drive, so that I can keep all four internal slots free for data. I’m going to try to trick it to load 10.11 so that it’s running a somewhat more up to date OS. (I’m running 10.11 on a MacBook Pro through deception that is the same generation as the tower and is arguably less powerful).
Along with a fancy camera, there’s another tool that’s equally important for any photographer: photo processing software. In my early days of shooting I used Photoshop exclusively, and fixed and saved photos one at a time. In the mid 200’s, Apple and Adobe came out with products that were designed to catalog and process photos in batches, so that a photographer could download a couple hundred shots from a camera and quickly browse through them all for the best picks.
Apple’s Aperture was a great product during the years they supported it. From a UI/UX standpoint, it was incredibly intuitive to use as a beginner, and only offered tools as the user gained experience. I used it happily and built several fast, powerful workflows to process photos—especially handy when I was shooting daily. It was discontinued in 2015 and I used it for several years afterward until I was forced to switch to Lightroom. I had nothing but praise for the frontend of the application, but but the filing job it did behind the scenes was so fucked up I’m only now digging out of the hole it put me in.
Two weeks ago I bought an enormous 8TB NAS drive for our basement server and consolidated all of our photos to the new drive. This included an existing 4TB photo drive and two external drives I’ve had bumping around my desk for three years (shame on me). Most of that work involves manually moving photos into properly organized folders. This is, in practice, as boring as it sounds, and should have been done years ago.
See, the way that Aperture did things for a while was to dump photos into a dated folder not based on the date the batch was taken but the date it was imported. Sometimes it split photos up, out of order, and put them into subfolders with long date-stamped names—sometimes 30 or more folders in one main folder, and most often empty. Later, after an update, it stuck random photos in successively named folders called “Roll XXX”, with no connection to date or batch.
What I want is to catalog photos by each year, month, and day they were taken so that I can see a photo from a particular batch without depending on photo processing software, and so that I can tell immediately if I’ve got multiple copies of a photo on the same drive (something else Aperture liked to do). There were a couple of cases where I had five or six copies of the same batch of photos for no reason.
So, I’m going through each year’s folder and splitting out the months and days and re-filing everything, and it’s taking forever and giving me carpal tunnel syndrome as well as a satisfying sense of accomplishment, because when this is done, I’ll have a real sense of what’s here and what’s missing—and then I can go and look for the missing files in my binders of DVD backups.
Sadly, two of my beautiful Chef’s Choice tomatoes developed blossom end rot over the weekend, so I have to use my spray and hope I can save the rest of the fruit. Clearly there’s more research I need to do on what needs to be added to the soil to prevent this; it’s been a year-over-year problem that I haven’t licked yet. The other plants look extremely happy, however, and there are dozens of cherry tomatoes growing ever larger on the vines. I’ve been extremely aggressive at pruning the plants back this year, so walking in to the greenhouse and seeing 1/4 of the volume of plants vs. last year is still surprising.
My Fuji XT-10 apparently doesn’t like my new iPhone for some reason—or from what I’ve been able to find out, the Fuji app on the phone doesn’t like to talk to the camera. My iPhone 6 worked fine, albeit slow, but I could at least fire up the wireless connection on the camera and quickly transfer images to my phone. From what little I can glean, Fuji doesn’t seem to give a shit, there are issues with iOS 13, and there’s no telling when it’s going to be fixed.
Here’s your humor for the day:
A giant box was delivered via FedEx on Friday, containing a kit with everything I’d need to digitize slides. I ordered the baseline gear required: a Nikon D500, a 40mm macro lens, and the slide carrier kit, and set it up in the den on Friday night to start fooling around with it.
In about five minutes I was oriented with the camera and set up live view with the viewfinder, but on the first night I stuck with autofocus to see how good it would be. The results were OK; I’d say about one half of what I shot was in clear focus, but the other half was not. The color varies from slide to slide, mostly because Dad was switching film stock pretty regularly—the Kodachrome stuff is rich and clear, some of the Fuji is washed out or shifts to yellow/green on the color wheel, and there are other nonbranded film stocks that veer towards muddy grays and blues.
This makes processing it challenging, because my intent is to always bring each photo back to a normal white balance and exposure—and with Dad shooting a manual camera, the exposure could be all over the place. It’s amazing what kinds of detail I can pull out of a dark slide transfer when it’s shot in RAW format; I’ve been able to resurrect some shots that would ordinarily be past saving. In the 80’s, before he bought a newer Minolta, he was having problems with the light meter on his Konica, and I remember him grumbling about some of the slides we got back before he got it fixed. And, his insistence on either using a giant blinding light bar or facing subjects directly into the sun messed up some otherwise good pictures.
Sharpness is also a challenge, so last night I switched to shooting using manual focus and Live View on the camera to zoom in and correct the shot before hitting the shutter. This resulted in better, clearer pictures, and they were much sharper that was I was getting applying software fixes in post processing. The shots are all 20MP in size, which gives me plenty of data to clean up dust and scratches—and some of these are in rough shape.
I’ve made it through four carousels and a binder so far. I’d estimate that’s about 600 slides of an estimated 4,000, and I’m going to redo half of the 600 now that I’ve got a better focusing system in place. I have to adjust the lighting as well—I’ve got a better, brighter photo bulb I can use to bring out more detail.
Seen on the way to snowboarding last week: Darth Maul really wants me to pray on the subject of facial tattoos and long-haul trucking, apparently.
Thus begins Day Three of self-imposed quarantine at home. Normally I would pooh-pooh the hand waving and sensationalist headlines and continue on with life as normal, but because my blood cell counts are still below normal we’re not taking any chances. We’re stocked up on perishable goods and supplies for a two-week shut in, but we’ll wait and see how long this thing drags on. WRI has been awesome in supporting our individual decisions on remote work, and I’ve been making ample use of teleconferencing software to join meetings. I’m also trying to get the Annual Report laid out between meetings, which is much easier to do when I’m not at my desk and being pulled away for this or that.
PetaPixel just ran an article about digitizing slides and film with the Nikon adapter I’ve been looking at, and it got me to thinking: I’m trapped at home, what better time to try this out? I’m not going to shoot all 4,000 of the slides we’ve got, but I know 1 in 4 are probably worth digitizing. So I set up a rental for a 7-day span starting over the weekend to get to work.