Menu

Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Audio: Mistakes have been made (special episode of the podcast)

Recorded January 27, 2021.

In this special episode of Photowalking with Colin I cover some recent mistakes I’ve made with film and in the darkroom. It seems we (the collective we) mainly share our victories online. I wanted to be sure to share the losses as well.

Om Malik compares the iPhone to the Kodak Brownie

Om Malik:

Prior to the Brownie, a photo trip to capture a far-flung environment was an expedition that often involved porters, mules, and explosions. The adventurous photographer would need to carry heavy gear, lots of toxic chemicals, and the patience to deal with an inexact process. Contrast that with the Brownie: a box measuring roughly five inches on each side. After it came along, it was almost as if anyone could take pictures anywhere.

I’d be surprised if you are reading this post right now and haven’t already read Om’s post. It has been linked to by many before I had the chance to. I shared it on Twitter. But I’d be remiss not to include it on my blog.

His post is great. I was delighted to learn about Bernice Palmer’s photos.

I developed a roll of color film on Sunday that ended up being completely blank. Odd thing was even the exposed strip at the end didn’t develop. It was completely clear. I’m guessing my chemicals are bad? Frustrating not knowing for sure. See also.

I shouldn’t share my film negative scans at all. I should only scan prints I’ve made in the darkroom. That’s the true photo.

The best of 2020 as told by me

I didn’t want to get too deep into 2021 before I compiled my best of list for 2020. I usually begin to compile this list somewhere near the beginning of December and publish it before the new year starts – but I didn’t get that chance this year.

The most difficult part about making this list each year is the fear of leaving some one or some thing out. I compile it based solely on memory. Maybe for 2021 I’ll keep a running file of things that delight me and review that near the end of the year. Perhaps I’ll simply pull from my links that I publish here somewhat weekly. I think it is time for a change to this format. But, for now, here is this years totally random pulled from memory list.

You can review other years I’ve made similar lists in 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018, 2019.

Best Blog: Kottke.org

I’ve been subscribed to Jason’s blog for decades. Kottke.org made last year’s best blog runners up list. And it should likely be in that list in perpetuity. I’m giving Kottke.org the award this year because of how many times I linked to it from my blog and the amount of content I enjoyed on it in 2020.

Runners up: Julia Evans, Ton Zijlstra, Dan Mall (I like what he’s doing with his week notes)

Best (new to me) Blog: All film photography blogs.

Rather than a single winner in this category this year I’m going to highlight the dozens of film photography blogs that I subscribed to this year and have gleaned a lot of insight and enjoyment from. I would like even more (especially those covering the darkroom) so if you have suggestions please send them my way.

Best Twitter account: @pinot

The amount of content Pinot W. Ichwandardi puts out on Twitter is really amazing. He takes older tech and makes contemporary art with them. Some things seem like an incredible amount of work. What a fun account to follow!

Runners up: @3eyedmonster, @FlakPhoto, @cabel.

Best place: Home

We bought a house this summer. And we’ve really enjoyed being here. We’ve done a lot of renovations and yard work already with more planned for this year. I’m very grateful we found this place during such a hard time.

Runners up: The only places we went this year; Georgia, Virginia, and the Finger Lakes.

Best book: Contact by Carl Sagan.

I liked the movie. In fact, I watch it at least once or twice a year. But I hadn’t read the book until this year and I’m glad I did. My new computer is now named The Machine as a result. I think I’ll read it again in a year or so.

I read at least 6 or 7 photography-related books this year and perused about a dozen more. So this kept me from my now not-so-normal reading schedule. I’m hoping to pick up the pace a bit in 2021 but, like I said last year, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Runners up: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline.

Best hardware: Canon AE-1 Program from 1984.

Last year I noted that a film camera would likely be the winner this year and I was right. While I’ve been able to shoot with a wide variety of cameras this year the Canon AE-1 Program has stood out as the most fun to use. It was also a gift from my brother-in-law who bought it new in 1984 and kept it in very good shape. I’m thankful for his generosity as I hope to have this camera for many years to come.

Next year I hope to list a medium format camera that shoots 6×4.5 but I don’t own one yet.

Runners up: The Canon Rebel G (a very inexpensive and solid film camera), and my Beseler enlarger that I’ve been making many of my prints from.

Best desktop app: NetNewswire.

I use this app almost every weekday to keep up with all of my interests. It is a fantastic break from the pall felt within social media apps.

Runners up: Silverfast 8, Simplenote (still hanging in as my go to note taking app despite so many incumbents), Zoom (unsure how I can’t mention this app this year), 1Password (for the Apple Watch integration).

Best mobile app: Untappd

I mentioned Untappd in September. I’ve had the app installed for years and didn’t really lean into utilizing it until a few years ago. I’m very happy that I have. The more you use the app the more useful it is to you. But it also has several features that you need to remember to use in certain circumstances. If you’re into beer, and even moreso if you have specific tastes, I highly recommend investing the time to using the app.

Runners up: Pocket Casts, Chess, Flickr, Walmart (for curb side pickup).

Best podcast: The Large Format Photography Podcast

I’ve learned a lot from LFPP. It is laid back and my style. I also help manage the Flickr Group.

Runners up: Vision Slightly Blurred, All Through A Lens, ATP (I’ve listened to more episodes this year than previous years).

Best browser: Safari

Firefox has won this award multiple years but this year I’ve switched to Safari. I’m giving it this award based on the fact that it is more of a Mac app than Firefox, it is fast, and it keeps your privacy as its main priority. I do miss Containers however. I don’t know what the future of Firefox looks like but I’m thinking 2021-2023 will see massive changes at Mozilla.

Best YouTube channel: ScreenCrush

OK, hear me out on this one. I watched The Mandalorian on Friday mornings at around 6-6:30am. I believe Disney published them at midnight. By the time I was done watching the episode I was able to log onto YouTube and see the episode broken down, explained nearly frame-by-frame, with clips from old movies, past Star Wars films, etc. I still do not know how they did it so fast.

Runner up: The Dark Shed, Rolf Nylinder, Rainfall Projects, Nico’s Photography Show, ILFORD Photo, Borut Peterlin.

Film cameras in TV and movies

Mike Eckman:

If you’re like me, it is exciting to see an old camera in a movie or television show set in the past.

I’ve been known to pause to figure out the camera from time-to-time. I often remark that I wish there was a list of TV shows and movies that feature analog cameras. Now there is. At least the beginnings of one. Someone should turn this into a wiki.

Tonight I developed my first roll of film since the roll I lost. Feels good to see properly exposed negatives hanging to dry.

Black Women Photographers

Laura Beltrán Villamizar, writing for NPR, describing the website Black Women Photographers:

Her site, Black Women Photographers, is a forum where members can celebrate each other’s work. It’s also a platform both to elevate the work of Black women in the photo and documentary industry as well as to help financially support photographers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. And it’s a database, so editors and curators can reach out to new talent and expand inclusive hiring practices.

The “her” in that quoted bit is photographer Polly Irungu who started the site. It is a great site to browse. Bookmark it. Use it to be inspired by great photographers. Use it to find the next photographer for a gig.

Understanding ProRAW

With iOS 14.3 and the new iPhone, Apple has introduced an updated RAW image file format spec that extends on the already robust editing capabilities of RAW. They call it ProRAW.

Ben Sandofsky, of Halide, goes long on explaining how digital image sensors work, what RAW is, and how Apple has extended that spec and why with ProRAW in Understanding ProRAW.

I appreciated this bit:

Remember old film cameras? Their photos also had to be developed from a negative.

Remember? I used one today Ben!

It is a worthy read if you’re into this sort of thing. I have an iPhone 12 Pro Max and plan on using ProRAW when the situation warrants it. In fact, with what will likely be one of the biggest snowstorms of this winter headed our way I have some ideas. I’m glad Ben took the time to explain exactly what the main benefits are.

Jack Baty’s bad film experience

Jack Baty, 11 years ago:

I ran out of film while on a deserted island. I set the ISO incorrectly on my OM-1, overexposing the roll by 2 stops. I opened the bottom of the Leica M7 before rewinding the roll. I had only a 28mm prime lens with me when what I needed was a telephoto. I was in fading light with nothing but Fuji PRO 160. Walgreens scratched one of the negatives during processing. The lens hood I used caused terrible vignetting. And so on. Oh, and I left a roll of exposed film in the pocket of a pair of shorts. it didn’t survive a trip through the laundry.

I’m glad Jack shared this link with me. He may not know it, but it makes me feel better about my little mishap. Someone always has it worse. (Sorry Jack).

While I am upset that I lost 30 frames from two different photo excursions – one to the NY state border where I shot photos of bridges, and several frames from the waterfall and of a friend – I am trying to focus on the fact that I enjoyed the experience even if I lost those photos. Both days were lovely days and I really had a great time. I’m choosing to focus on that.

Made my first 11x14in print last night. It is from a 6x6cm negative I shot the day before. I’ll share a digital scan of the negative as well.

An 11x14 print of a waterfall is soaking.

Lost 30 frames of film due to the camera not advancing the film. C’est la vie.

A diagram of my current photo storage footprint. Not the process, just the storage. I’m hoping to detail the process in a future post.

The story of the Studebaker darkroom print

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have seen that I was in the darkroom this weekend.

In March 2020, I purchased this Ansco Speedex from a local hip shop On&On. Around that same time a family member gifted me some expired Kodak Tri-X that he’s had frozen since 1982. A few weeks later, on a rather rainy afternoon, I set out with the Speedex and an umbrella to expose some of my very first frames of medium format film. That same evening I developed the film in our apartment kitchen sink and scanned the negatives the next morning. Which I published to my blog.

Here are a few photos from those days in March.

The Ansco Speedex the day I bought it – March 2020
The Ansco Speedex, with Kodak Tri-X expired in 1982 – March 2020
The camera under the umbrella – March 2020
An iPhone shot of the Studebaker laying in state – March 2020
The developed negatives – March 2020
My original digital scan from March – March 2020

Now, in December, we’ve moved to a new home and we have room in our basement for darkroom equipment. On Saturday night, after many weeks of practicing printing, I have learned enough to make this frame-worthy print for our bathroom.

The enlarger on the floor (low ceilings in basement) – December 2020
The print in the fixer- December 2020
The finished print- December 2020

This print was a bit challenging due to the negatives being a bit flat. It may not appear to be flat given the digital scan – but that is very easy to compensate for digitally. This darkroom print needed a number of areas to be burned (which I’m still learning how to do). Expired film generally makes you work a lot harder for good results.

I’m super stoked. I love the provenance of these film projects. They are more than just photographs, they are our history.

What I saw somewhat recently #72: December 3, 2020

I haven’t made one of these lists in a little while, opting instead to publishing far more status updates to my site that include links. I go back and forth in my head all the time which I prefer.

“If you’re too punk rock you’ll never get anything consistent and if you’re too technical all your pictures are boring.” – Nick Brandreath on LFPP #41.

It was nice to hear my voice on Episode 30 of All Through a Lens. Thanks to Vania and Eric for playing it!

This Monument 2 private photo storage device has me intrigued.

Get 25% off Flickr Pro by using code BREAKINGUP25 at checkout. Flickr made this code for those switching from Google Photos. I’ll have more to say about the Google Photos news soon.

A reminder for myself as much as anyone else; stop worrying about what your photographs look like and worry more about what is in them.

I’m deleting 100,000+ photos on Google Photos by hand. My method is to search for a month (say, March 2019) and then select all (select first photo, shift click last photo) and hit the Trash can. GP was my tertiary cloud backup anyway.

Last night’s darkroom session was a success. Made a few prints I’m happy with and had a good beer. Was able to review the dried prints over coffee this morning.

Jack Baty on being burnt out of film photography

Jack Baty:

The trouble, I’m finding, is that I don’t really like the results I’m getting. I’ve shot maybe 20 rolls of film this year and a couple dozen large format negatives. Not a ton, but I’ve gone through them and there are only a handful that I really like, and most of those I only like because of their filminess.

Lots of people feeling a bit worn on the film photography process lately. At the end of the post Jack says he may just need a break. I totally get that. It is totally cool (and sometimes beneficial) to take a bit of a break from any creative endeavor.

I also think many people are just generally creatively burnt out because of 2020. Think of all the fuel we generally put into the creative tank when we’re traveling, getting together, going to events, etc. This year we’re relying on the internet for inspiration – which is all well and good but a poor substitute for the real thing.

If you’re reading this and you feel burnt out, it is OK to take a break. Even a long one. Try something completely new like painting. Or, don’t try to output anything at all. Eventually the creative geyser will build up pressure once again and you won’t be able to stop it from bursting out of you in whatever form that takes.

Om Malik: Why bother with film?

Om:

One aspect of film that I have personally found appealing is the restrictions it imposes. Film photography is about constraints. It limits the frames at your disposal. It limits the capability of the sensor (aka the film.) And in most cases, it limits the choice of lens and equipment. Such constraints tend to ultimately free you from choices that come with digital photography. 

And, ultimately:

I am not sure I have the patience or desire to go through being exclusively on film again. It is not worth the time. At least, not for me. After all, I am not selling a story. I am not pushing content to my followers. I barely share photos. I make photos because they allow me to escape reality and enter into a dreamscape. In this place, for a few brief moments, ugliness stops. And magic unfolds.

I appreciate Om’s perspective. And I’m glad he tried and benefited from using film. We had a nice conversation on Twitter last night about it.

What I saw somewhat recently #71: October 22, 2020

Gorgeous pinhole photograph by Michael McNeil in Ireland

Michael McNeil:

It’s the first time I’ve used this film, so it was all a bit of an experiment.  As usual, I did no research before I went out.

I appreciate how he detailed the struggle and sort of out-of-control feel that pinhole photography can be. Regardless, stunning result.

If you own an Epson scanner you may be able to get Silverfast SE (a much more robust and quicker scanning software) for free. Get your serial number and go here.

Photographing an abandoned Silk Mill in Scranton – September 2020

Recorded in September 2020.

Holy cow a new episode! Finally. Sorry for the wait for those that are subscribed to the podcast. I’ve recorded dozens of episodes that may well never see the light of day – I sort of explain why in this episode.

These images were taken on Ilford’s HP5+ film using the Canon AE1-Program, developed, and enlarged into prints by me at home on the same day. I set out to this location (which was quite the place in the early 1900s) with the express purpose to create some well-balanced and properly exposed negatives so that I can test and learn in my darkroom with confidence. Some of the frames, I believe, meet those goals while others were over-exposed.

Please enjoy the episode, subscribe if you’re not already, and enjoy also just a few of the scanned negatives below.

5×7″ print on Ilford’s paper
Handful of prints, drying

I have tons more photos to process from this day. Hopefully I’ll spend a rainy (or, soon enough snowy) day finishing up this batch.

We need to disincentivize dangerous photo ops

Dangerous photo ops are all the rage on social media. Countless stories over the last decade or so have hit the news about someone trying to get a selfie on a rock ledge, on the balcony of cruise ship at sea, or hanging one-handed from an under construction skyscraper hundreds of feet in the air – only to end in tragedy.

I won’t link to any of these and no one else should either. In fact, if you see a photo that appears to endanger the photographer, unwitting participants, or animals both wild and domestic – I’m urging you to report or flag the photo rather than liking or sharing it.

I’ve been meaning to write this short post for a while. I usually feel the urge each time I read when one of these unfortunate and altogether avoidable horror stories occur. I read one this morning that, thankfully, didn’t result in anyone’s untimely death but definitely put them at serious risk simply for a stupid viral photo op.

Perhaps if we swing the pendulum the other way just a little bit, these will be slightly less popular than they are, and a life or two can be saved. Unfortunately, I’m not naive enough to think these wanton endangerments of life simply for likes on social media will cease.

How to move referenced originals in Photos for Mac

Warning!! I’ve only just hacked this solution together and I don’t fully understand the ramifications of my actions yet. If there are any, I will update this post.

First, a bit of context on how I use Photos for Mac (Photos).

I do not allow Photos to store my original files within its “package”. I have my reasons. When I import photos I check the box labeled “Keep Folder Organization”. This way, I can keep my photos in a directory structure of my choice rather than how Photos chooses to organize them.

I wanted to take one of my photo libraries (I have two) on the go with me on a portable external hard drive that I can keep in my bag. After much searching I could not find anything that explained how to move my original photos from one external hard drive to another and have Photos recognize this change.

So finally, I had a few moments to spare, and I figured I would dig under the hood of Photos to see how it kept the references to these files and see if I could update those references to the new location.

Photos uses a SQLite database to store much of the information it needs to do what it does. Things like facial recognition, album names, keywords, etc. are all stored in a heap in this database. In a few locations, it turns out, it also stores the path to each individual original photo in your library.

So far (one night, as of this writing) this solution has seemingly worked for me. I will continue to play around with the results to see if I can uncover some adverse side effect. Until then, here are the steps I took to move an entire original photo library onto a portable external hard drive.

Photos’ SQLite database viewed in Sqlitebrowser
  1. Make a copy of your .photoslibrary file. Just in case.
  2. Copy all the original photos from one drive to the other. For me, this was simple. I keep my photo library originals in separate directories so I can copy a single directory and grab them all. For me, this was /Volumes/Hard Drive 1/Carbonite Photo Storage/Photography Projects/ to /Volumes/Hard Drive 2/Photo Archive/Photography Projects/
  3. Open the Photos.sqlite database found within the Photo Library package contents. Secondary-click on your .photoslibrary file, select Open Package Contents and navigate to database/Photos.sqlite (I used Sqlitebrowser)
  4. Update the ZNAME and ZVOLUMEUUIDSTRING fields in the ZFILESYSTEMVOLUME table. To get the new values, open the System Information app on macOS and find the new values for your hard drive under Hardware > Storage. I could not find ZVOLUMEUUID anywhere so I left it as-is. No idea if this will come back to bite me.
  5. Update the ZFILESYSTEMBOOKMARK table with the relative paths to the originals. To do this, I ran the following SQL – UPDATE ZFILESYSTEMBOOKMARK SET ZPATHRELATIVETOVOLUME = REPLACE(ZPATHRELATIVETOVOLUME, 'Carbonite Photo Storage', 'Photo Archive')
  6. Update the ZGENERICASSET table with the new paths for all photos on the ZDIRECTORY field. To do this, I ran the following SQL – UPDATE ZGENERICASSET SET ZDIRECTORY = REPLACE(ZDIRECTORY, 'Hard Drive 1/Carbonite Photo Storage', 'Hard Drive 2/Photo Archive')
  7. Save the Sqlite database file.
  8. Open Photos!

One way to tell if this worked for you is to open Photos, choose a photo from your library, and select “Show Referenced File in Finder”. This will open a Finder window with the selected file in its location. If it opens to the new hard drive you copied your originals to, it worked.

I’m going to be using this library a fair bit in the coming days and so I hope that if there are any issues with this approach I will find them quickly and can update this post. See also the comments in case others try this and leave some feedback.