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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

A list of film photography blogs by Jim Grey

Jim Grey:

It’s time for my annual list of film photography blogs! A great joy of film photography is the community of people who enjoy everything about it: the gear, the films, getting out and shooting, and looking at the resulting photographs. Lots of us share our adventures on our blogs.

I am so very happy this list exists. So many great, active blogs by photographers focused on so many different things. I’ve subscribed to nearly every single one that has an RSS feed.

Thanks to Jim for putting this list together.

Tim Bray on blogging

Tim Bray:

But aren’t blogs dead? · Um, nope.

Also, this bit:

Since most of us don’t even try to monetize ’em, they’re pretty ad-free and thus a snappy reading experience.

I’ve successfully monetized niche blogs in the past that made enough for a few incomes.

I’ve only tried to monetize my personal blog a few times over the last few decades of writing it. Each time didn’t really pan out. I cannot recall any singular month where my personal blog scored more than just a few hundred dollars per month. So I gave up. I’m so happy I did. The experience of both writing and reading my blog is better as a result. I do not plan to ever try to monetize my personal blog ever again.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok

Microsoft:

This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.

I cannot tell if this is a bad decision or a great decision by Nadella.

I’ve already said that I believe Satya Nadella is the best CEO in Microsoft’s history. So I’m willing to concede that he can see this move, and its implications, with a wider perspective than I can – but I’ll just briefly comment on the good and bad.

The bad first. TikTok comes with a huge amount of baggage. Its ties to China, the issues with its algorithm, and its apparent – and obvious – promotion of “pretty” people over “ugly” people. Perhaps the first move by TikTok to eliminate some of this was this transparency push?

The other baggage is that the platform, young though it is, is being used as a political tool already.

The good is that TikTok is obviously the next “Story” platform. Or, perhaps it is already the “Story” platform. What SnapChat stole from others, Instagram and Facebook stole from SnapChat, and now TikTok is the latest place for mostly short entertaining ephemeral content.

TikTok could, however, have some issue monetizing. SnapChat has. It is clear SnapChat will never become Facebook. By Instagram implementing Stories even better than SnapChat did they squashed nearly all of their growth. Instagram could have done the same thing to TikTok but I believe the talent has left the building over at Instagram.

I’ve seen a fair number of social platforms come and go. Most do not make it. And a lot of times it isn’t because they ran out of money – though that is the reason a lot of the time. Many times it is because building a platform that takes off like a rocket ship and immediately comes under intense scrutiny is very difficult to navigate. Platforms become known for the users and content they attract.

Microsoft would be an excellent partner for TikTok. They have the platform figured out, security*, privacy, etc. they are well known for, and their reputation inside of the US may help bolster TikTok’s reputation.

However, they have zero experience running a social network at scale. Remember when Balmer was thinking of buying Twitter? Though I don’t think they would have been under Microsoft. To wade into the mire that is social networking on the internet – while it has been massively profitable for Facebook – is fraught with peril I think.

I’m beginning to ramble. Again, I cannot see if this is a great move or a terrible one by Nadella. However, as CEO of one of the largest companies in the history of mankind – this is what he’s paid to do. A few years from now we’ll see whether or not this was a mistake.

* By security I mean that Microsoft is very good at its services business being secure. The most secure businesses and government agencies rely on a ton of Microsoft software and services. So they’ve proven that ability many times over.

What I saw somewhat recently #65 – July 28, 2020

  • Papyrus SNL – This skit recently came back to memory during a meeting at work.
  • KEKS Lightmeter – I have a few cameras that I need to use my iPhone to meter light with. I think I’ll be ordering one of these.
  • WindowSwap – See the view’s of others from all over the world.
  • Gigaleak – What a smorgasbord for gamers!
  • If birds had arms… – 🙂
  • 8×10 My First Exposure – Jason Kummerfeldt’s parody about large format photography. Pretty on point.

What I saw somewhat recently #65: July 16, 2020

Unfortunately I haven’t published one of these lists since April. I enjoy looking back at the archives so I need to post these regularly more-so for me than for you!

This list should be three times as long. But I didn’t keep good records.

Decentralizing all of my data

A few days ago I came across Ton Zijlstra’s post about trying out Obsidian. I didn’t have the time to read it just then so I quickly stored it in Unmark (shameless plug alert) to read later.

After reading his post I realized he is attracted to Obsidian for the same reasons that I was to give it a try. It stores your notes in a format that keeps the data local, readable, and accessible to any text editor. I really like Simplenote but it only stores notes in Simplenotes cloud service and not as local files (although, it did before Automattic acquired the service many years ago).

As the capabilities of cloud services get more and more robust I find myself drifting back to the early days of my computing where I wanted complete control of all of my data. Even though I can have all of my data accessible from any device, anywhere in the world, doesn’t mean that I want to rely on those services to provide me that data. And, I certainly don’t want the data to be locked into any single app.

Web 2.0 addressed this issue by pushing for accessible APIs that allowed data to be imported or exported in a variety of standard formats. Which is great! However, I find that it is the storage that should be standardized and not the method by which you can move data around. And text notes are just one example. I’ll give another example in a moment.

Zijlstra links to another one of his posts regarding “networked agency” that leads to a super interesting post by Ruben Verborgh titled Paradigm shifts for the decentralized Web.

I need to spend more time digesting Verborgh’s post (which I somehow missed when he published it late last year). However, the principles that are mentioned within it really land with me. One that stands out:

As apps become decoupled from data, they start acting as interchangeable views rather than the single gateway to that data.

This is exactly what I want for so much of my personal data. Any note taking app should be able to read notes written in any app – making the app’s interface simply a view into my note data. Like email. I can choose any email app for any email address. And switch whenever I want.

I’m currently working at building the very same capabilities for my photo library. In the past, I’ve written about why Photos for Mac isn’t a good long term storage solution for our photo libraries. As I write this I’m creating a set of tools and a workflow for my photo storage that allows me to store my photos in a readable format and structure while retaining the ability to use an app like Photos for Mac as a view into that library.

I still have more work to do, and I plan on writing a post sometime in September on what I’ve made so far, but it is a challenge to be sure. My overall goal is to have a photo library that does not require an app, but that an app enhances the experience of browsing my library. And, that all metadata related to a photo (EXIF, tags, faces, etc.) are stored within the file itself and not only within a photo management tool’s database. This will not be easy but I’m determined.

Notes and photos are not the only data that I wish I had in a standardized readable format. My links from Unmark are important to me. Unmark can already import from a variety of services and formats, and it can export into a JSON file. But I’ve recently started working on an export process for Unmark that will spit out a standardized HTML file so that people can export their links to be ingested in any browser or app they desire. This is, of course, the Web 2.0 approach.

I’m glad I read Zijlstra’s post. It has reinvigorated me to continue my effort to decentralize as much of my personal data as possible.

A tweetstorm about Photos for Mac

I’m old, so I can still call them tweetstorms rather than threads.

I just posted a tweetstorm regarding Photos for Mac on Catalina. I posted it there because I’m sort of hoping that a few Apple people are still lingering on the WWDC hashtag.

Here are my tweets:

  1. I have the second-best computer you sell, and facial recognition is going on weeks to make a dent in my photo library.
  2. How can I gracefully quit ‘photoanalysisd’ when I want to unmount an external drive? Getting sick of “Force Ejecting” (though I do love how that sounds like a Star Wars reference)
  3. Is there any way to ask Photos to start its processes again after mounting an external drive?
  4. Why would Photos just stop “thinking”? How do I “jiggle the handle”? Notice CPU usage. The app is open and in the background – should be using 100% of CPU to work. (See Figure 1)
  5. I created a Smart Album to find unnamed Faces. Maybe you can add this directly to Photos as a feature? It makes it much easier to find photos that have faces but Photos doesn’t know their name. (See Figure 2)
  6. I’d like an option to delete a photo from the hard drive when I delete from the Library. Is this possible and I’m simply missing it? As of right now, I have to “Find referenced file in Finder” and delete both in Finder and in Library.
  7. Can I move a Photo Library from an external drive to the local drive and all of the references will stay in tact?
  8. The Places feature works on individual people or if I search for a location but the map feature under Places in the sidebar shows no photos at all.
  9. Can you add progress indicators throughout the app? Importing shows progress, but it’d be nice if facial and object recognition or other tasks gave some indication of “doneness”. As it stands, it appears as though Photos is broken. But I know it isn’t. It’s just “thinking”.
  10. Exporting original photos should retain all metadata (unless specified to remove in preferences).
  11. Bonus: Adding descriptions or keywords, etc. should be stored directly on the file itself. It can be stored in the Photos database too. But storing on the file itself makes Photos for Mac “future proof” a bit.
Figure 1
Figure 2

Who knows. Maybe someone will read those tweets.

Steve Benjamins on Spotify

Steve Benjamins, in a post showing how he makes some money via Spotify for streaming his music:

Every Monday my music gets a spike in streams on Spotify. You could set a watch to it— it’s that consistent:

What makes Monday so special?

Well every Monday Spotify sends out a new Discover Weekly playlist. Discover Weekly is an algorithmic playlist— which means its personalized with songs Spotify thinks the user would like.

I’ve written a lot about how good Spotify is here on my blog. If you haven’t tried it, or if you’re into Apple Music or Amazon, I urge you to try it. These playlists that Benjamins mentions are extraordinarily good. They are eerie. They are magic.

It is no surprise to me that these playlists make a big difference to smaller artists getting recognition, more fans, and some streams. Almost every day I’m exposed to music I would have likely never found otherwise.

I’m spinning some of Benjamins’ music today just to help him out a little. Good stuff. Great to work to.

/via Ryan Singer.

WWDC 2020 wish list

I see some wish lists for Monday’s WWDC being published so I thought I’d take a moment and jot down just a few from the top of my head. I decided to jut let my mind riff for a while to see what it would come up with.

  • Allow default app choosing on iOS – This one will be here in perpetuity I suppose. Being able to choose email, calendar, browser, RSS reader, audio player, etc. etc. seems long long long overdue.
  • Bug fixes, speed improvements, and UI consistency in macOS – I don’t have any specific bugs, or areas of macOS that I’d suggest need to be faster, but it’d be great to see Apple recognize that macOS needs tightening up at every level. Having a release that focuses solely on making everything about macOS work more reliably, faster, and with a more consistent UI throughout would harken back to the days of the original Mac on the painstaking attention to detail.
  • A complete re-think of iPadOS multi-tasking features and gestures, UI – Adding pointer support to iPad was a big deal for many (though, I still haven’t gotten it to work at all). However, multi-tasking on iPad – though it works – is undeniably bad and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of iPad owners don’t even know they can do it.
  • LOTS more iCloud storage – And features so I can leave One Drive behind in the coming years. In fact, I’d add to this the ability to transfer data to/from other cloud services (One Drive, Dropbox, Creative Cloud, etc.) without needing to download/upload. Just click a button and it happens behind the scenes in the cloud.
  • Built-in support for Electron – Apple will never ever do this. But what is a wish list without a few off the wall wishes? I’d like to see macOS have low-level support for Electron because, let’s face it, it isn’t going anywhere. By “support” I mean that it’d allow for the apps to be much faster, use far less memory, and be much smaller since Electron libraries/dependencies could be always available right on the Mac.
  • Force developers to show all apps installed that support sharing – I don’t exactly know how to word this list item. But I have an example of what I mean. Open the YouTube app, and tap a link in a description of a video. You’re given a few choices of what app to use to open the link: Chrome is one (which I don’t have installed on iOS because why would anyone ever?) and Safari probably because Apple is forcing them to. But they do not show Firefox, which I have installed and use as my primary browser on iOS. Apple should force developers to either just use the default browser (like most apps do) or show all apps they have installed that support the action.
  • More Home Screen customization options on iOS (like, being able to move icons wherever you want)
  • Always on Display on iOS (for any hardware that can support it)
  • Just buy 1Password and build it right into macOS / iOS
  • Add an option to Photos for Mac to leave all photos exactly where they are, and, when imported, file them exactly how I’d prefer (YYYY/MM/DD). Also a local backup option rather than just iCloud.
  • More comprehensive EXIF editor – Either built into Finder (which would be great) or at least into Photos
  • Podcast audio editor – Podcasts have seen a surge this year. Garage Band can be used for this, but a lighter weight app built specifically for editing podcasts would be pretty great.
  • Better window management in macOS on laptops – When I connect, disconnect my external displays (which is every day to and from work to home) every single window seems to forget where I put it. I know there are third party apps (and I’ll likely buy one soon) but this seems like macOS should have this built in.
  • Menu bar icon hiding – Just a simple button that would take all the icons in your menu bar and put them under one icon. Again, I know there are third party options but why? This seems like a no-brainer.
  • A Bluetooth innovation that would make it much more reliable – No idea what form this should take and I know Apple has their own standards for this… but somehow I’d like to see Bluetooth simply be more reliable in every way.
  • Zero game demos – This, also, will never happen. The game market is simply too lucrative not to have a slot on the keynote. However, I don’t want to see a single game demo.

I could likely come up with more but I think if I got any one of these things I’d be happy. Apple has delivered some great stuff over the last few years but overall their attention to detail has been slipping. I’d like to see that return and with it my confidence in them on the software front.

Adobe’s Photography app updates

Big updates across all apps and services from Adobe coinciding with their 99u event. Notably, Creative Cloud went from 100GB to 1TB with no additional cost. I wish Apple would do something like that.

Here is a list of the updates to their photography apps. I really like this Versions feature in Lightroom – I just wish it was built for Lightroom Classic.

Experiment fearlessly with your edits. Create different edit treatments on the same image. It’s great for when you want a B&W version and a color version, for example, or when you want a variety of different crops for publishing to different social media sites.

Export Presets

I have several export workflows in Lightroom Classic for use on my web site, on Instagram, etc. Mostly the differences are the size of the images (e.g. uploading a huge image to Instagram does no good, but uploading one to Flickr is great). However, I’d love to have multiple crops of the same image readily available for print and social.

I doubt Lightroom Classic will continue to get as much attention as Lightroom itself. This is why I’m thinking of building my own photo management app for the Mac but I’m terrified of the rabbit hole I’d be jumping in.

Stolen by Adrian Brandon

Adrian Brandon:

This series is dedicated to the many black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police. In addition to using markers and pencil, I use time as a medium to define how long each portrait is colored in. 1 year of life = 1 minute of color.

Touching project.

/via Andy Baio.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro

I was going to wait a little bit longer before writing my review of this new computer, but Michael Tsai recently published some of his thoughts on it and – after writing a post in response to his experiences I realized it was turning into a bit of a review – so now this post is a review.

If you read Michael’s post you might come away thinking he doesn’t like the computer. I don’t think that’s the case. I just think he is pointing out the things that stuck out to him the most and usually the things we don’t like are the ones we remember more readily.

To cut right to the chase, I really like this computer. It has the potential of surpassing the 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina as my favorite Mac of all time. But I need a bit more time with it before I’ll know that.

The great things about this new computer are the speed and memory, the larger screen, and the sound.

The good things about this computer are Touch ID (makes using things like 1Password so much better), the large trackpad, and the hopefully reliable keyboard.

The bad things are the fact that it is all USB-C and the rather useless Touch Bar (more on this later).

Now, to Michael’s experience.

Michael on Touch ID:

I’ve always had great experiences with Touch ID on iPhones, but the Touch ID key on the MacBook Pro barely works.

I don’t have this experience at all. I’ve added two fingers to Touch ID (since my laptop is on my left at home and on my right at work) and I’ve never once had it error. Yet.

I’d suggest Michael consider re-entering his fingers again (or perhaps adding the same fingers he already has) or consider returning the computer. 50% is just not good enough. Something must be wrong.

Michael on the included power cable:

The included charging cable is gross, sticky, and leaves a film on my hands, like the AirPods Pro.

I have never had this issue with a cable from Apple. It makes me wonder if some people’s natural skin oils or whatever react to Apple’s cables and some do not? This may sound odd but I had a music teacher that couldn’t use brass instruments because brass was allergic to him. The trumpets would have holes in them if he used them.

I do appreciate his links to USB-C cables and chargers that he uses as I will likely buy both of those products through his links for my travel bag.

Michael on the aluminum case:

The bottom front, where you lift the display, still has very sharp corners, which once caught on my hand and drew blood.

I cannot find where he’s speaking about. There is no area of this case that I find “sharp” at all and certainly not one that could draw blood. Unless I threw it at someone! I’d love to poll 10 owners of this laptop to see if anyone else has thought the case was sharp?

Michael on the Touch bar:

The Touch Bar is more annoying than I expected, and I plan not to buy another Mac that includes one.

I don’t know if Michael remembers or not, but 4 years ago we agreed on the Touch bar’s potential. We both felt that it was underwhelming but perhaps, in the future, it’d be useful.

We are now in that future. And the Touch Bar, for me, isn’t particularly useful except in very specific apps. First, I use an external keyboard for about 90% of my computing. Second, the Touch Bar isn’t ingrained in my brain to reach for. I wonder if I learned to type on a keyboard that had a Touch Bar would I find it indispensable? A quick search of YouTube shows a lot of people that get use out of it.

Where I have found the Touch Bar useful though is in Adobe apps. Using Premier for a project yesterday, a few common tasks I have while editing a video were available on the Touch Bar. So I switched to the built-in keyboard for a bit and it really did save me a lot of mousing. Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. are similar. So perhaps for apps that have an enormous number of features and menu items the Touch Bar can really be put to good use. It becomes buttons that replace keyboard shortcuts.

Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to contrast some of his comments with my experiences. It shows you that two people can buy the same product and have a different time of it.

Lastly, here are a few things that Apple could have done to make this the best Mac of all time (for me). A USB-A port, a card reader, added MagSafe to USB-C, and made the built-in camera just a bit better. That’s about it.

Oh, one last thing. The price. Mine was over $4,000. That is not a trivial amount of money and the most expensive Mac I’ve owned. However, most of my Macs have lasted at least 5 years. I use my Macs for both professional and personal use. Paying far less than $1,000 per year of use for how much I use the computer is a no-brainer. This laptop would be worth it at double the price. Don’t tell Apple that.

Why I used Migration Assistant to move to my new Mac

This isn’t a tutorial. If you’re in need of one and you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog of jumbled thoughts on a variety of topics, sorry. You’ll need to go back to Google and try again (though, really, you should be using Duck.com).

I recently upgraded to a 16-inch MacBook Pro (review forthcoming) and had the opportunity to use Apple’s built-in process for moving from one Mac, or Windows computer, to a new one – Migration Assistant.

I’ve upgraded from one Mac to another (at my best count) 6 different times. Once I used Migration Assistant. All other times I didn’t. Since I only seem to buy new Macs twice a decade on average, I figure these moments are a good opportunity to start with a clean slate on my computer.

Doing so is not very easy. Though, I will say, moving from one computer to another is easier than it has ever been thanks to password managers, cloud services and storage, and a variety of other reasons. I remember in the 90s it taking about 3 or 4 days to feel as though you were back up and running. Then in the 2000s it would take me about a full long day or two. Most recently, without Migration Assistant, it would take me a full day. This latest move took me about 2 hours.

The reason I decided not to start from scratch was that I didn’t want to lose my current productivity level. Though I’m usually up and running within a few days, I feel somewhat hamstrung for at least a few weeks. Each time I open an app it requires new permissions, or whenever I pick up an old development project – with its myriad of dependencies – I have to relearn what I need to get it to run*.

So, fearing that I would lose momentum I decided to try Migration Assistant. My plan was to use it to migrate from my 13-inch MacBook Pro to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and be up and running in the same day with every single app, preference, setting, dependency, file, password, and even session. My fear this time was if Migration Assistant did a terrible job at this, I’d have to format the computer and start over from scratch.

I’m happy to report though, that it went pretty smoothly. There were one or two apps that simply wouldn’t open (Visual Studio Code being one that comes to mind). So I simply trashed the app and reinstalled and it worked. I don’t know if it had to do with Migration Assistant or another issue but that was a simple enough fix.

Other than this one hiccup, I didn’t skip a beat. I never once went back to the old Mac and ended up formatting it the same afternoon that I received the new one. And with the added horsepower of this new Mac I feel even more empowered than I did prior to the move.

I do, however, have two suggestions to anyone using Migration Assistant… Do not use WiFi to make the transfer. I don’t even know why it is an option. I have a modern wireless set up in my home – it is very, very fast for most things – yet Migration Assistant simply would not work over WiFi. From what I could tell, the process would have taken multiple days. It seems impossible. So my only guess is that it simply doesn’t work. Apple should remove it.

If you cannot directly connect your two Macs because you do not have the right cables, consider recovering from a Time Machine backup using Migration Assistant (like I did). It only took about 90 minutes. To do this, you just need to make sure you back up your old computer right before making the jump.

I hope this new Mac lasts 5 years or so (unless the rumored switch to ARM is simply too enticing to wait). When I do switch to a new Mac, though, I won’t hesitate to try Migration Assistant again.

* This too has been dramatically improved with things like package managers and Docker.

Taking another social media break

Jake Dahn:

In many ways it feels like the more “information” I consume, the more burnt out I become.

And:

Ideas feel different, though. When I consume a new idea, I fall into a natural optimism where I can’t help but be motivated to remix the idea into something new.

Please read his entire post for the context of these statements because they are not entirely related to what I’m about to write.

When the pandemic hit we immediately instituted some rules for taking in information. We limited ourselves to just 30-minutes of news per day so that we were informed but yet not overwhelmed. After a few weeks, we began to skip days and most weekends since much of the information being shared by news outlets and authorities were mostly the same day-to-day.

I believe this helped us a lot.

Lately, though, I find myself consuming more citizen journalism via social networks than in recent memory. Like Jake, I can feel it drain on me in a variety of ways. I can see my capability for long form reading, focus, and deep thought lessen the more tiny bits of information, video clips, etc. that I take in. Consuming social media has always had that effect on me which is why I’ve taken extended breaks.

Jake’s post is a good reminder for me to take care of myself by limiting the amount of time I take in this type of information. I believe it is important to be informed but it is also important to be cognizant of your own mental health.

To that end, I’m taking another social media break. I’m unsure how long. Likely until I feel a bit better and I notice my mind settle and my ability to focus return a bit. I’ll still write here (in fact, that may increase as a result of this break).

I also have an idea of how to separate my subscriptions in NetNewsWire to allow me to still read some of my favorite web sites and publications (which provide me with inspiration) without getting too much news or short form bits.

PHP turns 25

PHP turns 25.

I’ve said that I agree that PHP is pretty bad. However, I still use it regularly, it has allowed me to make some incredible things, and made me a ton of money over those 25 years.

/via Michael Tsai.

Make RSS more visible

Marcus Herrmann:

Personal website owners – what do you think about collecting all of the feeds you are producing in one way or the other on a /feeds page? You can put your blog feed there, but also RSS generated from your Twitter account (via RSS Box), Mastodon updates, or even the starred items of the feeds you consume (if you happen to use Feedbin).

I have my subscribe page. Which sort of lends to the purpose Marcus describes. However, it didn’t specifically promote RSS itself, and it wasn’t found at the /feeds URL. Now it does and is.

I won’t be adding any additional network activity to it.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Chris Coleman has a blog

Chris Coleman:

Eventually I ran out of steam, life changed a bit, and the vacuum that this site filled in my day was filled by other things. I was 23 when I started this site. I’m 41 now. A lot has happened in 18 years, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a long time has passed.

Also, hot on the heels of my previously published post about blogging’s heyday, comes this quote from Chris:

Running a blog was different in those days. Everyone benefited from the fact that the internet was a much smaller place. Real social media was still a few years away, and dominance by the big players was even further out. People I had never heard of would add my site to the sidebar of their sites. I would usually not reciprocate, but it was nice to be recognized, and it made it possible to build an audience of regulars.

He understands the old days are gone. And the future starts now.

These are the bad times, but good things are happening.

Welcome back Chris.

I too miss the old days of blogging but they are never coming back

TTTThis:

When you search for blogs now on you see things like ‘Top 100 Blogs.’ ‘How to Make a Successful Blog.’ ‘Most Powerful 50 Blogs.’ But what you really want is 10,000 unsuccessful blogs.

Much of the linked piece is likely to be taken as hyperbole but it is mostly true-ish. It is true that it is harder to find smaller blogs via Google these days. And even truer that you no longer stumble across blogs. Unless, of course, you browse something like Micro.blog and follow link after link after link to find stuff. But even then, it is a lot of work.

It reminds me of Brent Simmons wishing there was a blog search engine. There really should be because Micro.blog doesn’t even seem to be trying to fill that role.

I’ve written about blogging’s past, present, and future so many times I’ve lost count. So I don’t have too much to add that I haven’t already written; save this.

Back when blogging started the internet was smaller. So the blogosphere felt bigger. While today, the internet is much much larger. So the active blogosphere – while likely relatively the same size as it was in 2003-2007 – simply feels a lot smaller. I suppose it depends on how you keep count. Social networks now feel so much bigger in both scale and impact. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great blogs being created every single day.

It sort of reminds me of music genres. Classical, Punk, Hip-hop. Each have had their time. It doesn’t mean that they no longer exist. It also doesn’t mean that there isn’t new material being made every day in each genre. But, they’ve had their time and their impact. And each gets replaced by something different. Something new.

I’m no longer waiting for the good old days of blogging to come back. I think that was a feeling that simply can no longer be replicated.

/via Colin Walker.

Micro.blog for Teams

Manton Reece:

Today we’re launching a new feature on Micro.blog: support for multi-user blogs, so your whole team can write posts on a shared blog. We think it’s going to be great for small companies, families, and schools, with everything from shared photo blogs to podcasts.

This is a big update.

You may remember that I try to hold an interview with Manton Reece re: Micro.blog each year. Here is 2018, 2019. This year we couldn’t make it work. We tried for months. But he’s simply too busy – and now we can see why.

You may remember one of my questions of Manton in 2019’s interview mentioned “From an outsider’s perspective, I don’t know how you’re able to do as much as you do!” . Somehow Manton maintains Micro.blog’s code base, the server-side infrastructure, the iOS and Mac app, an additional photo-sharing app, customer support, billing, more than one podcast, his own personal blog, etc. And these are just the things I know about. I think we can all forgive him for not having time for an interview.

I wasn’t exaggerating with that question, I honestly have no idea how he does it.

My first contact print

Contact print

Above is my first ever contact print. A contact print is when you lay a negative (film, paper, tin, glass) onto photo-sensitive paper and shine light onto it to expose the paper. You then develop that paper into a positive print (or what you’d think of as a normal photo).

This is a milestone in my film journey. I’ve been trying to build enlargers with household materials over the last few quarantined weeks without any real success. In fact, I might just give up on it altogether until I get my hands on a real enlarger (which I think I have one in my sights).

Here is how the story of the above photo began.

We are in quarantine. Are you? I bet you are. Well, we’ve been in quarantine now for over 2 months or so. And that has led me to do all sorts of at-home photography projects such as my bedroom camera obscura.

Last night I got the idea to finally try my hand at making a contact print from a paper negative. I didn’t want to use the negatives I had created with the camera obscura so I thought of creating many smaller sized negatives using some old cameras I have laying around.

So step 1 was to create some cardboard templates for the focal areas for the cameras I was going to use. In my case, I chose three cameras. A Baby Kodak Brownie, a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition, and a Canon 650 35mm film camera. I chose the Brownies because they’d give me a relatively large negative (about 48mm x 23mm) and I don’t have any film that can fit into them. I chose the Canon 650 because it is a fully manual film camera that wasn’t currently loaded with any film and I can control the shutter speed.

The Baby Brownie, Canon 650 and the cardboard templates.

Now for the hard part. Rather than wait until dark (I don’t have a darkroom yet unless I create one), I decided to cut the photo paper in my changing bag. This means that I had to cut the paper blind by feeling the templates. Doing anything blind is harder than it seems it would be.

My cuts weren’t very straight, but by putting the cameras into the dark bag I was able to load the cameras with their single-shot paper negatives.

I then ventured outside our apartment to quickly take advantage of the fading light.

First, I took a photo with the Baby Brownie which ended up coming out under exposed. The photo paper is rated at about ISO 12 from what I’ve read so I thought the relatively slower shutter speeds of the Brownies would be to my advantage – but I guess I needed them to be just a bit slower. My guess is that they come in at around 1/50 or 1/60 and I really need 1/15 for this. Here is the negative and photo I took with the Baby Brownie.

Under exposed Baby Brownie paper negative
Digital positive created from paper negative
The Baby Brownie and the paper negative

Black and white photography continues to amaze me at how much information is stored in even under or over exposed negatives. This tree was in full sunlight when I took the photo and yet it came out with a very moody feel.

Next, I shot the Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Edition – a fun looking camera that I got from a friend.

Better exposed Brownie negative
Digital positive Brownie from paper negative
Brownie Holiday Flash Edition with paper negative

This one of the apartment building came out far better exposed – but still under exposed. Again, though, you can see a lot of information is retained in these negatives despite how hacked together they are. And also despite the fact that this is photo paper and not film.

Last is the paper negative, digital positive, and contact print I created using a photo I shot with the Canon 650. I was able to meter the subject using an iPhone app, control the shutter speed (unlike the Brownies) and so the result is far better. That is why I chose this negative to create a contact print from – even though the size of the negative is smaller at just 35mm.

Canon 650 paper negative
Digital positive from paper negative.
Contact print made from paper negative
Canon 650 with paper negative and positive contact print

For the photo nerds out there, this shot was taken at f/5.6, 1/15s, and the paper is ISO 12. I developed all of the paper using Kodak D76 in my bathtub all for roughly 2 minutes or so.

I made the contact print by laying the negative on top of a fresh piece of photo paper and using my iPhone’s flashlight for about 10seconds to expose the positive. I then developed the positive in the same solution for about 2 minutes. I think I can do much better next time by making a contact print at a much larger size – say, 5×7″.

I’m definitely going to be doing more of this. Perhaps directly from negatives. But almost certainly using larger paper negatives rather than these small ones.

Seeing photos become “real” right in front of your eyes is a real treat.

What I saw somewhat recently #64: April 30, 2020

Are you enjoying these links? I know I am.

Light week. Mostly because I’ve been very busy both professionally and on my photography.

Photographing the same location over and over

I’ll likely touch on this topic in an upcoming pandemic powered Podcast episode.

Albert Dros, 2017:

Sometimes the area where you live would not be motivating to photograph because you see these things everyday. However, when I started photography I began to see the world (and my home area) in a different way. I started to look for compositions everywhere and I now have a bunch of spots that I’d like to revisit. I am always surprised that these spots almost never look the same.

Being in quarantine has certainly limited me in the area I can cover in my photography. But I’ve made more photographs that I’m proud of in the last few months than I had in the previous year combined. They will all slowly trickle out onto this blog in the coming months.

I am finding myself shooting the same location, like this tree, or the same subjects, like birds, over and over and over. But guess what? I’m getting better and more confident at it. In the last several weeks I haven’t missed a single exposure or messed up a frame entirely. I’m pushing the shutter with confidence and that has only happened due to repetition.

An interview with artist Marc Taro Holmes

Late last week I published an interview with Marco Taro Holmes, one of the original members of Urban Sketchers, on my now 10-year old web site The Watercolor Gallery.

It was a pleasure to interview Marc and a lot of his answers epitomize the reason I built The Watercolor Gallery in 2010 – to inspire and motivate other artists regardless of their medium or tools.

Here are a few pull quotes from the interview that I believe should inspire anyone that wishes to be creative.

You have to completely understand your own process before you can teach it to someone else right? So it’s incredibly educational to be a teacher. I know a guy who calls teaching ‘Aggressive Learning’.

And:

I feel like art in our society got off on a wrong track. We don’t look at sport, or music in the same way. Art is often considered ‘inspiration’. or ‘a gift’. We don’t think that way about anything else that involves training your body to perform complex tasks. Dance, Piano, Yoga – a Martial Art – all these things all involve coaching and self-training programs. And competitions. Score-keeping. Practical ways to motivate yourself and improve your abilities.

And:

Focus on skills first. Invest in yourself. If the work isn’t there, nothing else matters.

And:

And you know – it’s perfectly fine not to live from your art. Some of the greatest artists and writers in history have been office clerks or postal workers.

And finally, on blogging:

It’s a terrific vehicle for organizing your thoughts – but it’s also that guy who stands over your shoulder and pressures you to keep working! To deliver something for the audience. I love that boost to my motivation. It was fuel for the fire to keep learning about art, and keep sharing what I learned.

Stop by the site and read the entire interview. But also stop by Marc’s blog.

Repost: Brent Simmons on what happens after a pandemic

👉 Brent Simmons:

I keep thinking how the 1918 pandemic was followed by the Roaring Twenties.

What I saw somewhat recently #63: April 23, 2020

A few links to expand (or shrink) your mind.

  • WildEarth Live Safaris – Two 3-hour safaris live broadcast on YouTube daily. I’ve watched one completely through and plan to watch more of them. They are relaxing and informative.
  • 98.css – CSS stylesheet to make all HTML elements styled as if they exist within Windows 98. Fun.
  • Planet of the Apes by Folio Society – All-new illustrations and typographic work for the classic Planet of the Apes book. Very tempted to pick this up.
  • Rt.live – A web site tracking the effective reproduction number of COVID-19 by State by the founders of Instagram.
  • Sounds of Heritage – A YouTube channel dedicated to a single artist, single camera, and the sounds of heritage. Love this.
  • Cirque du Soleil – Speaking of YouTube, Cirque du Soleil is uploading a new 1 hour special every week. Apart from attending one of these, this is the next best thing on your living room TV.

What I saw somewhat recently #62: April 17, 2020

A few things I bumped into recently:

Instagram’s TOS

Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter, regarding Instagram’s TOS:

The language is typical of many photo sharing sites (including PhotoShelter), so in that sense it’s unremarkable. The company needs the ability to redisplay images, and wants to be able to have, for example, an image appear in the app, within an Instagram Story, and on the website without having to regain consent each time it comes up with a new feature.

The post I pulled this quote from does a good job framing the issue with Instagram’s TOS and the Mashable case.

I don’t know why it is ever surprising to anyone that if you upload content of any type to a free platform that you likely relinquish some or all of your rights to it. If you don’t like that, get a web site.

Wolfram Physics Project

Stephen Wolfram continues to make me feel lazy:

Today we’re officially launching our Physics Project. From here on, we’ll be livestreaming what we’re doing—sharing whatever we discover in real time with the world. (We’ll also soon be releasing more than 400 hours of video that we’ve already accumulated.) I’m posting all my working materials going back to the 1990s, and we’re releasing all our software tools. We’ll be putting out bulletins about progress, and there’ll be educational programs around the project.

They are attempting to find the fundamental theory of physics, is all. See also.

Creating a bedroom camera obscura and making a paper negative

I’d been wanting to make my own camera for several months. Something simple like a shoe box pinhole camera. But then quarantine happened and I stumbled across Brendan Barry’s YouTube video about turning a room in your house into a camera obscura – and making a paper negative and positive print.

I thought with the quarantine and all that I had the time to figure this out on my own. So I decided to turn our bedroom into a camera obscura and, hopefully, make a paper negative from it. It turned out to be the most educational photographic experience I’ve had to date.

By blowing the scale of the camera up to a room-size, you learn how each individual piece of a camera plays its role. Reading or watching a YouTube video about how a camera works is not the same as making one yourself. Everything is exaggerated. The size of the lens, aperture, distance to the film, etc. This way, you can actually see how each of these things impacts the overall result.

Due to quarantine delaying some deliveries, and the lack of resources we have by not allowing much material to enter our home, it took me about a week from start-to-finish to get a paper negative that I thought of as “good enough” to move on from the project and give my wife our bedroom back. I could definitely see doing this project again, or at a smaller scale using a box.

Here are the steps I took and a few things I learned along the way. This is, by no means, a how-to blog post. For that I urge you to watch Barry’s video linked above.

I started by using a cardboard box to block the window in our bedroom. I was surprised at how difficult this turned out to be. Light is extremely good at finding its way into and around objects. This was in and of itself a lesson. If I were to do this again I’d start with a larger piece of cardboard that wouldn’t rest inside of the window frame but would, instead, rest upon it – covering the entire window. Ideally I’d also have black gaffer’s tape, some sort of foam seal that I could use in odd areas, and other materials. But, I was working within my constraints.

The window, boarded up, and mostly light leak free

I cut out a rather large aperture in the cardboard to begin with, like in Barry’s video, and for the life of me I was never able to find a focal length that worked with this set up. By large I mean a few inches in diameter. It might have been due to the fact that Barry was using a large magnifying glass as his lens and I wasn’t in the beginning. The moment I created a much smaller aperture, around 3/16″ or so – was when the world came into focus. It was still a little fuzzy, but it was in focus enough to be passable for a few digital captures.

A simple aperture projected directly onto a diffuser.
Black and white digital capture, flipped.

After playing with several different set ups and attempting many different apertures – I decided to grab a simple 2x lens filter from a 35mm camera and place it in front (on the subject’s side) of the aperture. Boom. It made an immediate and marked improvement in the focus. I believe it was at this point that it really dawned on me, I was actually building a camera. On a camera the order of elements is glass lens, aperture, some amount of distance, film or digital censor. I don’t know why it took my brain this long to lock into that concept but once I did things really began to speed up.

I employed several different types of “canvases” to project the image onto. I started with a light diffuser – which worked great to show the scale of the projected image. I could make the image as big as I wanted to. But then I eventually built a simple “stage” using a tripod and a white scanner bed cover. This too reinforced the notion that the surface upon which you project the light impacts the overall look of the image greatly. With the diffuser it was, well, diffused. But on the canvas it was much sharper.

The lens. Which sat in front of the 3/16″ aperture.
The canvas.
Using my iPhone, I captured the forward-facing side of the canvas
A digital capture, flipped horiz and vert.

With this set up; a 2x lens filter, 3/16″ aperture in cardboard, 8×10 white surface about 10″ from aperture – I was able to produce a sharp enough image for my liking. Now I all I needed was a way to capture the image without using digital (though, this was fun too as I created several exposures using my iPhone).

I have a bunch of film laying around and I almost considered throwing a few rolls of medium format 120 into my changing back and “building” a film surface to use. Perhaps by taping a few sheets together I could make a large enough negative. But I figured that’d be a huge waste of film. Even of the expired film I have. So instead I decided to follow Barry’s direction in his YouTube video and buy some Ilford Photo Paper (I used 5×7″, he used 8×10″) to create a paper negative. I thought it’d be fun to develop a paper negative since I had never done anything like that. So I picked up some paper, a few developing trays, and researched how to use the chemicals I already have (in my case, Kodak D76) to develop the photo paper immediately after exposing it using my bedroom camera obscura.

And that is exactly what I did. After 4 exposures on 2 separate days, here are the results.

First two: Day one, Second two: Day two.

I could go on and on about why the first two look the way they do and why the second two look the way they do. But rather than bore you, this is the short of it; on the first day I was using my iPhone’s flashlight option inside of a red transparent folder. It didn’t work. It exposed the entire paper so the whole exposure looks washed out. The second set I did completely blind. Which makes the composure not-so-great but the contrast much better.

The bedroom darkroom
Day one exposures hanging to dry
Day two exposures hanging to dry

Ironically, the exposure I did first – 4 seconds – was the very best shot I took. I just ruined it with the iPhone flashlight. Here is what a digital positive of that looks like.

A digital positive, made from a 5×7″ paper negative

The second-best exposure is this 3 second (it was much brighter day) exposure. It is blurry because I was hand-holding this in the dark. I should have been more patient. You can even see my finger marks from where I was holding the paper.

Blurry, due to motion.

This was a really, really fun project. I learned an awful lot. Thanks to Brendan Barry for helping me via Instagram Direct Messages to make tweaks to my set up.

What I saw somewhat recently #61: April 9, 2020

Some links for your edification: