Tales of shooters, gray cards and photo fixer

Remember that knob?
Remember that knob?

The first time I saw a digital camera was in 1994, and I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Mt old warhorse was a Canon AT1, built like a tank and nothing on it was automatic. Adjust the shutter speed, adjust the aperture (we called it the f-stop), focus by hand and shoot.

Using real film, developed by myself in some bathroom somewhere if it was in black and white.

I learned how to turbocharge the film and to cut down my processing time. I could burn a roll of film and get a halftone suitable for newspaper publication within 20 minutes of tearing the film out of the camera. I used to be able to look at a print and tell you what kind of film was used, what the film speed was and what light settings the photographer used.

Which camera produced this photo?
Which camera produced this photo?

So this digital camera, well, it was a nice but expensive toy. The camera looked like one of those you used to get with a subscription to Sports Illustrated, and the quality was almost as good.

What intrigued me, though, was the thought I could come back from a photo shoot and have a print within seconds instead of 20 minutes. Too bad the quality wasn’t there.

Listen, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally consented to having my pictures go on disk instead of good ol’ Kodak paper. I do remember I still wanted the negatives, and the person developing the pictures looked at me kinda funny.

Now you can shoot pictures with your phone — what kind of Communist foolery is that? But look at the two photos with this blog and tell me which one came from the old Canon and which one was shot by a phone. I double-dawg dare you.

Film junkie tries to adapt

I’ll admit, although I love all manner of tech toys I’m sometimes slow to adopt. But making the transition was inevitable, I think. You’d have to hunt around in pawnshops or thrift stores to find an old film-burner. I know WalMart doesn’t have those.

Okay, smart guy. Camera phone or film burner?
Okay, smart guy. Camera phone or film burner?

Honestly, I’m amazed there are still places where you can process your film. But that’s by machine. No little guys hanging your wet prints on a clothesline under the glow of a red light. No comforting smell of D-76 developer and fixer.

The only reason these photo-processing places exist today is for us old geezers who refuse to die.

Last I looked, Eastman Kodak was going belly up. Too bad. That was the best company for all your photographic needs. Forget Fuji, Kodak was the real deal.

I used to drive by the old Eastman Kodak plant in Kingsport, Tennessee and I always had to roll the windows down to catch that wonderfully acrid smell of processing chemicals. It really transported me. In a nostalgic way, of course. It’s not like sniffing glue or anything.

Have to admit, there are advantages to going digital. The photo is ready right now and I can paste it into this blog without a lot of extra work.

(Note: No trees were harmed in the making of this publication, but a lot of perfectly good electrons went to waste. But I digress.)

Some glitches with digital photography. My Android phone has about a full-second delay between hitting the shutter release (a.k.a. “pushing the button”) and the camera actually taking the picture. Any good shooter will tell you how useless that is with moving subjects; a lot can happen in one second.

My Android doesn’t take very good pictures. For that I use an old retired phone, one with much faster responses and better color saturation.

Okay. I admit it. I still miss my Canon. Had it for more than 25 years and it still took great pictures.

But now there’s at least two generations of photographers who don’t know what a shooter is. Don’t know what a gray card is for. Wouldn’t know how to load exposed film into a developing tank using just your jacket to protect the film. Never used Ansel Adams’ zone system. Don’t know how to set a camera so you can take pictures of a moving car — while driving.

I miss those things. But I’m getting along pretty well with my camera phone even with the inherent glitches.

Quiz answer: I took the top photo (of the ocean and land mass with my old AT-1. The bottom photo (with the flowers) was with a smartphone camera.


What say you? Are you an old shooter? Do you remember your first time with a digital camera? Where can a guy get a film-burner around here? Please share.

 

Google Reader marked for death, news junkies flee

rss icon
If you see this on a website, you can subscribe. I’m just not sure where now.

I think I cried in my coffee when I heard the news. I think. I know my mind went utterly blank. What am I gonna do now?

But the news: Google Reader is shutting down!

It’s all part of search giant/Internet gadfly Google’s spring cleaning. In the past that company scrapped Google Buzz (which needed killing because it was a total cluster), Google Wave (did anybody use it?) and iGoogle (which I kinda liked). Usually they cut products hardly anybody uses. There was speculation it might kill Feedburner, but that hasn’t happened yet. But that forced me to make a few adjustments and I’m glad I did.

But Google Reader. That one hurts. According to plan, its execution date is July 1.

To those who don’t know about such things, Google Reader is the RSS reader to end all RSS readers. Sometimes literally. As soon as Reader hit the scene, some (such as Bloglines) pretty much bit the dust. Netvibes is another that I question whether it’s even relevant. Feed Demon, a software-based (as opposed to Web-based) RSS reader, is either dead or dying.

OK, some of y’all may not know what this RSS thing is, so pull up a chair and I’ll give you the story. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, ranges all over the Internet and pulls articles from all your favorite sites. They’re then put into your reader, and you can go from there. Most sites (including mine) are set up so you can subscribe in an RSS reader.

Think of RSS as a gigantic newspaper where you set the editorial policy.

You choose your feeds, they load any new copy into your reader, and off you go. From there you can send news items, save them, share them, bump them over to Evernote or Pocket, or put them on your to-do list. I save many links in my to-do list (in my case ToodleDo), building a pool of ideas for blog posts. I send wacky news items to my brother, and you can bet I saw those in my RSS feed first.

Since about 1995, Google Reader was the big one, and many of your smaller readers — including those on cell phones — are built as little more than a front end for Google Reader.

What’s a news junkie to do?

Admittedly, RSS has a high geek quotient and it’s not all that popular with your average Joe Mouseclicker. But to news junkies like me, it’s a wonderful timesaver.

Or a wonderful time-suck, depending on your perspective.

newspapers in a pile
RSS is like reading a whole bunch of online newspapers without having to surf for them.

Being a person with a serious news addiction and some decent chops in technical matters, of course I swear by RSS feeds. I’d tell you how many feeds my Google Reader pulls in every day, but then you’d tell me I have a major problem. I’m in denial and need counseling. You’d shake your head and try to hook me up with a 12-step program.

Newsoholics Anonymous, anyone?

My name is Eric, and I’m a news junkie (applause).

Anyway, I’m frantic right now. OK, maybe not frantic, but kinda concerned. Yeah, that’s it. Concerned.

Since I heard the news I’ve been weighing some RSS options, and most are found wanting. I’ve tried Feedly (too slow and not good for offline reading on my phone), the Thunderbird mail program (I’d rather gargle razor blades), Flipboard (beautiful, but won’t work with a marginal signal), and a bunch of pretenders. On my Android phone, where I do most of my news reading, I’ve tried numerous options. Most either drain the battery, make it run hot enough to blister my hand, gobble up tons of memory or serve as a front end for … Google Reader.

Already I think this is gonna end badly.

Folks tell me RSS is dying and Twitter is the new way to grab news, but I can’t see it. Even with a third-party program like Hootsuite it’s still way too disorganized. Twitter’s signal-to-noise ratio renders it useless. I guess Facebook can be sort of an option, and I might consider it if I didn’t despise that medium so much. I want to know the news, not what my friends are having for dinner (unless there’s an invite there somewhere).

Google-fied and frantic

This also makes me a little nervous. I use Google for so much of my work. Gmail. Google Drive (formerly Docs). The search engine. Google Calendar. Google Voice. Google Reader. Google Analytics. My Android phone, which is a Google brand. Occasionally Google Plus. Shoot, I’m totally Google-fied.

I mentioned Feedburner. I used that extensively, but when I saw that might not have long to live I took to managing my blog’s RSS feeds myself and went to MailChimp to send posts by email. I’m glad I did that, though I’m still a little chary about crapping up your email box like that. But if you want to subscribe to my stuff, that might be the way to go, hint hint.

(Note to self: Set up The Column on MailChimp, like I did with my flagship blog, creative&dangerous.)

With Google’s propensity for cutting services, you can almost set up a “dead pool” and pick what’s next to go. Maybe win whatever’s in the pot if you guess right. Hey, this might be a good office pool once everyone’s done with March Madness.

I don’t see Gmail going anytime soon. Nor Google Drive or Google Plus. That company invested too much of its reputation for those three. However, I am shifting most of my email traffic to my own Web domains and looking into other, in-the-cloud office options.

In truth, the Google project that would kill me is if Google Voice feels the nip of the executioner’s blade. So the fact Google killed off its Blackberry version in the latest sweep gives me pause.

Now, I use Google Voice as my business line, and it feeds directly into my cell phone. I also give that number to people who are not in my inner circle because it’s easy to screen calls with it. Shoot, I can make certain phone numbers go away if I needed to. If you’re hounded by bill collectors or the law, Google Voice may be your best friend.

But Google Voice going into a horrible death spiral hasn’t happened yet, and it may not. With Google, however, you never know. Not after Google Reader.

Meanwhile, I must find some alternatives to feed my news habit. It’s like my morning coffee; I get evil unless I’ve had my fix.

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What say you? What do you use to read your news feeds? I’m talking about online and anything that’ll work with Android. Help a brother out.