Old School vs Today and About those Servers…

I’ve had some fascinating discussions over the last couple of years with fellow photographers and a common theme has emerged to me.  I come from the world of 35mm and in the last couple of years, have “re-inserted” myself into the world of Digital Photography.

Background for me – “back in the day”, I was a VERY serious amateur.  SLR with motor drive, spare bodies, literally every lens from 17mm to 200 mm. All Canon back then.  Canon F1 to be precise.  I also owned a camera store, had my own darkroom, did some freelancing that encompassed a bit of photo journalism as well.  For a period of about 5 years, I was in deep, so to speak.  I stayed in the business for several years after, but I went from this “mom and pop” environment to being a senior buyer for a BIG chain back then and that was when the decline in picture taking started to slow down, in one sense.  You see, other things started to creep in there.  We started a family, and the focus shifted, of course, to kids Smile  But then, I got into the “technology” business, computers if you will, and for all intents and purposes, I literally dropped out of the photo game.  Now don’t get me wrong – I didn’t stop taking pictures, just took fewer of them Smile  Up until a couple of years ago (has it been that long already….) I really didn’t do much in this area.  THEN…a trip to ‘Vegas renewed my interest.  The trigger – my pointy shooties didn’t do what I wanted them to Sad smile    Fast forward to today – since then, I’ve acquired this “collection” (literally), of equipment.

Today – past experience with SLR’s and 35mm film brought to light a couple of things for me on this phase.  First, I didn’t want to play in the world of DSLR’s right away.  My “today” world, revolved around commuting as part of my daily life and the sheer bulk of a DSLR was simply out of the question to me.  Have I ruled it out – no.  It’s “out there” Smile  I do have a couple of Compact System Cameras though.  Consulting has been good for me, and it’s given me enough extra income that I could afford to “play” a bit and take a another run at this – sort of.

What I”ve Noticed

I have a lot of friends in this area of photography after all these years, and one of the key things I’ve really noticed, was that if one of “immersed” in the world of 35mm, a lot of time was expended back then about getting the right shot the first time.  Back then, though, compared to today – film was not cheap, so one had to not only envision the shot ahead of time, but all the technical things – exposure, depth of field, composition, correct film for the shot, etc. all had to be thought of before the shot was even taken.  We didn’t have software – we had a processing lab that returned your pics and if one was lucky enough, you could rent time at a color lab to do your own work. 

Digital photography today, to me, has sort of eliminated the “art” or the “craft” to a certain extent.  What I see a lot of, is take the shot, fix it in software.  BUT in saying that – credit where credit is due – digital cameras have never been more affordable.  The software, in it’s own right can do some remarkable things.  For all intents and purposes, the editing software is today’s “darkroom” and it’s also affordable. 

Even phones have cameras now and it’s allowed photography to be available to literally everyone.  Kudos!!  BUT.. the underlying question to me, and this is more for the the so-called “serious” photographer – is why the heavy reliance on software.  Equipment is the easy piece – the “art” isn’t so easySmile  I look at it like this – if you don’t have a good base picture, software isn’t going to help.  If you have a good base picture, why do you need software?  What do I mean by software?  Well – this would be the editing software – LightRoom, PhotoShop, etc.  We could even push this boundary a little further by saying, unless you area very serious amateur or pro, why would one want a DSLR?  Or for that matter – a new category out there – the Compact System Camera.  The travel camera, for all intents and purposes will actually do more for literally hundreds of dollars less, and still deliver a 11×14 – IF you ever need one that size Smile 

In chatting with a lot of people who have DSLR’s that are NOT in the serious category, one of the things I’ve heard the most, is “the extra resolution when I crop”.  My response has always been – why aren’t you getting the right shot so you don’t have to crop – and I get the most confused looks Smile  Or even more startling – when I show my stuff on my iPad and the find out that I’m shooting with a pointy shooty Smile  The other one I hear a lot of, of course, is using software to “fix it up” later.  I gotta admit, though, sometimes you do need software or back in my day “in the darkroom” to do adjustments.  BUT in saying that, the bottom line – learning the “art” has a big payoff in the end – better photos, for for that matter – stunning photos!!  You see this from the pros or the serious amateurs – each shot you see “grabs” you.  Amazing – WOW – and on and on.  To me – two things differentiate that great shot from the not so great shot.  First – anticipating the “moment”.  That in itself only comes from experience, lots of experience. You know what the shot is going to look like.  Sure you can get lucky every once in a while – all of us do – but to do it consistently – now THAT is the differentiator.  Second – knowing the technical “pieces”.  In other words to put it simply – exposure.  Auto modes are pretty good these days, but you know, if you “know” ahead of time what needs to be done, the pic has a better chance of getting there Smile  Knowing when to over and underexpose a shot can save a lot of “software” time and may even eliminate it.  Knowing “how” your camera will render the shot (as opposed to film from the old days) will also save time in the darkroom.  Envisioning the shot and getting it – also saves you cropping time.  Knowing how to blur out that background, or at least control it.  The other big factor for me here – I don’t have that much time to play in the software Smile  And more important – I don’t WANT to spend that much time there to begin with.  I am, however, doing more with software as I get a little more advanced in things I want to do. 

When I looked at software for editing, I took a hard look at what was out there.  I didn’t just go out and get LightRoom or Adobe Photoshop which appear to be among the standards out there.  I looked at it from my side of things.  What were MY requirements?  I look at it as sort of an Analysis thing – I’m a Business Analyst Smile  Pretty simple actually – the ability to crop, some base color correction, perhaps some effects stuff, and most important – easy to use.  At this stage of the game, RAW was and still is not in the equation so not important but nice.  Good red-eye correction.  I also wanted 2 licenses but not necessarily the same product.  I wanted a slightly more complex one for my desktop machine and a simpler one for my travel notebook. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time learning it (I quite simply don’t have that time to begin with), so easy to use.  I wanted something that I could “grow into” as well.  Sooo… I started to look and settle one Corel Paintshop Pro X5 (then upgraded to X6 recently) for my desktop and Corel Photo Impact X3 for my notebook.  I got lucky and Corel had a sale on both products and I got both of them for under $100 CDN Smile  More important – once they got installed, I was using them with little or no learning curve. Now don’t get me wrong here – my wife has Adobe Photo Shop Elements for her stuff and she hardly uses it.  AND she does take a lot of photos for her volunteer work.  Usually, all she does is crop and a bit of red-eye correction Smile  A bit of exposure correction and sometimes some color correction. Her BIG camera is a Panasonic FZ50 (10 megapixel, 12x Zoom) an older DSLR like unit and her small camera is a Pentax P70, I think.  Her stuff is published in newsletters and has been for several years now. 

Anyway – I got both of these late last year just before leaving for our Hawaii trip and so far, all is goodSmile  My time is still a little crunched but slowly but surely, I’m learning as time permits.  ‘

 

Another thing that I’ve noticed.  The interpretation of “serious” Smile  I’ve seen a lot of people who own DSLR’s and they consider themselves a “serious” photographer.  When you see their photos, in reality, a pointy shooty probably would have sufficed.  Maybe it’s an ego thing Smile  I dunno…  To me, the interpretation of a serious photographer or at least a serious or advanced one, is one that studies the “craft”.of photography.  They produce stuff that goes beyond the casual snapshot.  They want that “perfect” photo.  That takes a lot of work.  In the world of digital, I’m still a bit of a newbie in one sense.  BUT then again, I don’t have an urge to “get there” either Smile  I don’t want that perfect picture, I want a picture that represents what I saw in that moment.  I know what I want to see in that pic and strive for it. Maybe one day… but for now, being able to get that shot is the most important. 

For me, as much as I would LIKE to have a DLSR and probably could have bought one with the money I’ve spent, I still don’t own one.  Why?  I quite simply wouldn’t have it with me all the time for starters and also, I’ve found that for what I do, I wouldn’t take enough photos that merit that level of shooting.  Don’t get me wrong – I take an average of 500 photos a month, but the majority of those are in the category of “snaps” – the casual shot so to speak.  I also think there’s this underlying thing of wanting to look like a “pro” Smile  To each his own. I’m at that point where I pretty well know the shot I want, able to get it,  I know a lot of folks who’ve gone out and spent a lot of money on a camera only to have it sit in a closet.  To make it worse, if it’s in the closet, it also tends to be forgotten, and you end up using your phone Smile  Well, at least you got the “memory”.  Also, did you remember to charge the battery?  Smile 

Now, in looking at some of these cameras – WOW!!  Has technology come a long way in just the last couple of years.  My first quasi travel camera was my  Panasonic SZ1 – 16 megapixel and 10x zoom.  All my other pointy shooties were in the 3x and 5 times zoom.  The key key key reason for getting this one was simple – it had a 24mm (35mm equivalent) lens.  For my real estate stuff – it was perfect for this type of shot.  I used to do a lot in the architecture and landscape area when I was in 35mm and I found that 24mm was “my place” for this type of shot.  28mm and 35mm were simply not wide enough.  I’ve gotten a lot more gear since that time, but the end result is what matters.  Most folks just get one camera and it’s used for everything.  I decided to approach things based on very specific things.

As I’ve mentioned before, everything I’ve been doing is based around mobility.  More important, what ever gear I have has to fit in my commuting daypack along with the rest of my work gear.  One daypack.  That means small.  Sure I have more advanced gear for the times when size isn’t a consideration but the primary focus is mobility.  For instance – when I’m attending some social event and I’m asked to take photos.  I can take my GX1 with both zooms plus a couple of travel cams in a pretty small bag.

Computer Stuff

I’ve been in the technology side of things for a long time, and I don’t know about anyone else, but when it comes to photography and data for that matter, that backups are normal for me.  Generally speaking, most of us have computers in todays world and we use them to transfer our photos, etc. to our hard disks.  Many simply don’t think of backing up or archiving, I’m thinking Smile  I’ve lost enough data in my time that I’m almost paranoid when it comes to this.  In technology, it’s a given that eventually, something is going to fail.  Your hard disk for example – when it goes, sometimes you can get your stuff back, sometimes you can’t.  Technology is at the point where you can actually use “cloud services” to store your stuff.  Wild stuff.

I learned the hard way, that keeping data on your PC is not necessarily the best thing.  The biggest concern here, is if the system board goes.  Your data/photos are still there, but it could be a pain getting at it.  More important here – do you have a second PC?  If not, do you have some sort of external storage?  Let’s look at it this way.  In today’s world, if you have internet access, and most of us do, you probably have a home network of some sort that ties you to the internet.  Network storage devices are cheap enough now that quite easy to add one into your home network.  AND, they aren’t very hard to install – very much so a plug and play.  OR the other option is one of those USB drives.  They can be had for a song.

We have two offices in our home.  One in the basement/recreation room and last year, we converted a bedroom upstairs to another office.  Mostly for convenience of access.  For general email, etc, it was simply easier to be upstairs than to go downstairs.  Everything for our upstairs is wireless.  We have a laser printer upstairs for memos, etc. but our office downstairs is mostly for accounting and color printing.  The PC downstairs is used for both accounting and printing. I have two servers attached to our system there.  One is used as a backup device.  In fact, it only gets turned on when I do backups Smile  Both of these servers can be accessed from literally any PC in the house.  BUT, in saying that, they are only on when we need to use them.  One of things that popped up as I entered the digital photo stuff, was that I wanted to have something with a larger screen to things including image processing on, upstairs.  BUT, we had very limited space to work as well.  My solution was to get an HP TouchSmart All in One type PC.  In retrospect, I wish I had got the the Lenovo one, but it was $500 more at the time, and I just couldn’t justify it.  This one works fine though.  For the most part, this one is used for  emails, and work related things, but the other side of it, was that I wanted the bigger screen to simply get more screen real estate.  It’s got a 27 inch display, and so working with my mindmaps, etc. this is a gorgeous machine to work on.  It has an AMD A6 (equivalent to Intel i%) with Windows 7 64 bit. The software I use, takes advantage of the 64 bit, so all is good.  Storage – this PC came with a 1 TB drive!!!  BUT to be safe, I attached an external 1 TB drive to it.  Access is just as fast with the external drive as the internal drive in most instances (USB 3.0), and more important, it’s external.

I use this external drive mostly as dedicated storage.  So what the heck does that mean?  Well, there are work related things that I simply don’t need to transfer to the main server.  I also use this drive for doing a bit of a pre-sort and editing, if required, before moving them to the main server.  Depending on what I need to do at the time, I may use the internal drive, but not that often.

I also have notebooks Smile  One for my consulting and one for blogging/journaling and image transfers when I’m on holidays.  For shuttling those pics, I have a Seagate Slim Drive.  In many instances, I take photos during noon hours at work and like to look at them on my Zenbook which is my work machine.  The Zenbook has very limited storage with it’s SSD, so the external drive was the alternative here.  My travel notebook is a Lenovo U410 – slightly larger display, and every so slighly heavier, but the larger screen is nice when I’m on holidays.  Very compartmentalized.  Juggling stuff is sometimes a hassle, but it doesn’t happen that often either.  Now bear in mind here, that this has taken place over a period of 3 years or so.  I didn’t just go out and get all of it at once.  This simply came from a need as it arose. 

What I’m getting at here, is that you have some sort of a backup in place.? 

I’m sure that if one is “into” photography a bit, you have multiple cards for your camera.  Have you ever had one die on you?  I have.  Ugly if it’s an important event or worse – you FORGOT to offload that card.  Sure there are recovery programs for the card but you know what?  I found out the hard way (thank goodness I had offloaded most of the photos on that card), that information is stored “differently” than on a PC.  The recovery might not be as clean as you think.  To make it worse, some of the programs (I have a couple), recover differently so I’ve found you can’t just use one program.  The big thing here, is that IF you happen to delete photos directly one the camera, and who doesn’t, it’ll overlay onto another photo.  UGH…..   I’ve recovered other peoples card no problem, but then again, you could tell they simply take photos and don’t always delete themSmile 

Maintenance

Computers, actually hard disks, especially in Windows, need to be maintained.  I don’t know how it is with Apples OS, but in running an optimization utility on my iPad, I’ve found that optimizing stuff keeps everything running smoothly and lasting longer.  Windows writes information to a disk as it finds space.  What that means, is that if you’ve deleted stuff, it’s going to re-use that space the next time it writes to disk.  This is one of the things that causes your machine to slow down over a period of time.  “Defragging” as the term implies, puts all those data files back into a sequential order.  What you may not know, is that it’s possible for a say, a photo, to be stored in several different sections of the disk.  It’s not one contiguous file.  Sooo… when the PC goes to display the photo, it’s got to stitch all back together.  Much easier if it’s one file Smile  Depending on how much you use your PC, you may have to defrag every once in a while.  Defragging can also suck up a lot of time – I normally run this when I know I’m not going to be using my PC for a bit.  With the amount of data I have on my HP, for instance, it takes just under an hour.  My Lenovo has a 750 GB hard disk, and I’ve got a lot of data on it, takes just over an hour. 

So.. in the BIG picture, it’s not just about taking pictures, per se Smile  I’ve found that, in reality, when you combine image processing stuff, and the things we do with computers these days, a lot of time can be spent there.  OK if you are learning about technology, but are you learning anything about photography?  Smile  For me, I learn by taking lots of pics in lots of different spaces and studying what others have done.

Onward…hope this gives some insight…..

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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