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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

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.

A few basement darkroom test print strips. I’m able to steal a few minutes in the darkroom now and then.

What I saw somewhat recently #69: September 17, 2020

Camerajunky on being crazy enough to shoot film

Camerajunky (whose real name I cannot find, so perhaps this is likely on purpose):

Of course there is also the fact that to get from the decisive moment to a print or even to a digital file, there is a lot of work involved. Prepare, shoot, make notes, develop,make notes again, scan, process digitally, catalog, select in multiple rounds, archive, print, publish online.

The entire post does a good job of articulating all of the things we film shooters think about. Is all of this work worth it?

For me, the work is definitely worth it.

Photography blogs in OPML

Back in August I linked to Jim Grey’s list of photography blogs. At the time I subscribed to nearly every single one with an RSS feed. He has since updated the list a bit so I urge you to check it out.

I’ve created an OPML file of my photography blog subscriptions which includes most of Jim’s list and a few other blogs. I plan on adding the updates Jim has made to his list. This should make it really easy to subscribe to them all in one shot*.

Feel free to update the OPML on Github with more URLs and submit the edits.

/* If you’re on the Mac, and don’t currently subscribe to blogs, I suggest NetNewswire.

Untappd hits 10

Untappd, the app that helps me track the beers I’ve had, liked, disliked, etc. is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

I signed up to Untappd in 2014 and used it for a little while but then kept forgetting to. But then, a few years ago, I decided to give it another try. The app had improved dramatically. In fact, the entire beer industry had changed also. Beer was getting pricey and having an app to help make some decisions has been a real help.

The app has features that allow you to follow what your friends are having. Which is important if you know the taste of your friend. For instance, I know if Friend A likes something I will too. But I also know if Friend B likes something I can be confident that I won’t. It also makes it easy to find beers at local stores or restaurants that you may want to try. And it is slowly replacing Google Maps for me for finding new breweries to visit.

Untappd helps me make decisions on what to buy at the store. The type of beer we drink (primarily hazy New England Style IPAs at the moment) are not cheap. So rather than spend money guessing if I will like a beer Untappd can give me some insight before buying. I’ve found myself buying a completely different pack after reading some reviews on Untappd.

Its a great, great app and service and I recommend it to anyone that likes beer.

Oh, my trick to remembering to check-in a beer before I drink it is, of course, photography related. I quickly snap a photo of nearly every new beer I have and I add it to Untappd. I also try to have some context in the photo so that I can remember where I was and the time I had when I had the beer. Here are a few photos I’ve added.

🍻 to Untappd.

Jack Baty gives up on Lightroom

Jack Baty:

I’m here to tell you that I can not make it work for me. There’s too much overhead in having to decide what to add to a synced collection and when. And where to keep any synced originals? Do I do that in both apps? And so on. I seem to end up with duplicates for no reason I can fathom. I’m constantly moving images from the automatic synced folders to their proper place in the filesystem. It often feels like the worst of both worlds. I’ve seen people do it. I’ve watched the videos and read the blog posts. I’ve tried, but nope, it’s all too finicky for me.

I hit a similar corner with Lightroom Classic when I was trying to make it work for me. As an app, photo editor, and manager it is very good. But it is tied to Adobe CC which for me, is a long term deal breaker. And I could not figure out the best way to manage my files for some reason.

I’ve been slowly piecing together my own solution, as you all may know that read this blog on the regular, but it isn’t something I can really share with anyone else.

My current workflow consists of a script or two on my Mac to move files from my digital cameras, film scans, drones, and other devices into their appropriate places and backups and cloud services, combined with two libraries in Photos for Mac* (one for personal photos, one for hobby projects) where the libraries are on my hard drive and the original files are on external storage.

It is working fairly well. But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. For instance, to edit a photo I have to jump through a fiery hoop or two in order to not end up with a bunch of duplicates. I don’t know how to solve this problem yet but I plan on doing so.

Back to Jack. I’m with him. Some of these apps, especially those he mentions, are almost paralyzing in their commitment levels and features. I just wish all of this photo management was so much easier.

* which I have some issues with.

Photography isn’t my job

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s the saying, right? What can also happen, though, is that by doing your hobby as work you can suck all of the joy out of that hobby for yourself.

I make some money doing photography. But, by and large, my photography is for me. And I plan on keeping it that way. If someone wants to pay me to take a few photographs – great. That helps me to justify buying photographic equipment for no other reason than to learn how to use it. However, because I have other means to make a living I do not have to do any photography I don’t want to do. I’ve turned down several jobs simply because I didn’t want the pressure, or the project didn’t interest me, or the pay wasn’t good enough.

A recent post on the Flickr blog by Lou Noble of The Photographic Journal had me nodding my head in agreement. Here are some bits of it.

You can enjoy taking pictures, making art, engaging in the act of creation, as something totally separate from work, separate from stress, maybe even separate from other people, if that’s your thing.

And

The notion that we have to turn every skill and talent into something that generates revenue… I’ll tell ya, it ignores a crucial aspect to healthy living: joy.

And

Not everything has to be a job. Not everything has to result in getting paid. Most of my favorite things do not give me money.

Very true. I hope to continue making photographs for me. To continue to improve in my photography to the point where I feel like I’m making great photos. And I don’t mind earning a few dollars here and there while I learn. But other than that, photography isn’t my job.

My first darkroom print. Lots to learn but definitely a photographic milestone.

An entirely new chapter in my photographic journey begins. I picked up nearly all of the pieces I need to build a full darkroom in my basement.

Sunlit seems like an excellent way for me to quickly post status updates that include photos to my blog from my phone. Something I wish I could do a lot more often than I do but WordPress simply isn’t good at it. Excellent! Well done Manton.

Marcus Peddle on Flickr

Marcus Peddle:

Creating portfolio pages is a hassle on WordPress even though there are a number of photography templates. Adding photos is time consuming and I am rarely happy with the layout. Making albums and browsing on Flickr, however, is easy. I can make an album in just a couple of minutes and the layout is automatic and pleasing.

I totally understand this perspective. The easier it is to publish any type of media on any platform the more you’ll do it. It is precisely why Instagram exploded. It was, and remains, one of the quickest and simplest ways to publish a photo from your mobile device to the world.

WordPress has made huge strides in the last few decades to make it easy to publish words, photos, audio, etc. (as I have done on my personal blog) but it is far from simple and light years from simple on mobile*.

Flickr, on the other hand, is a good balance between simple and feature-rich on all platforms. The iOS app is very good in my opinion and the desktop/web experience is robust.

It is why I’ve re-upped my long lapsed Flickr Pro account. I want to support Flickr’s ability to stay in business. I’m hoping to publish more film photos there for interacting with the film community that exists on that platform.

* Meaning, WordPress on iOS is still almost useless to me.

I do not like Reels

Instagram has been the place that Facebook jams all of its cloned-app-features into for the last few years. When it copied Snapchat it jammed all of the features into Instagram. And now, as it clones TikTok, it is jamming those features into Instagram as well.

The Snapchat-like features are easy enough to ignore if you don’t like them. Stories can be muted by long-pressing on a Story and muting the user altogether. Simple. (Btw, I happen to like Stories.)

Reels, on the other hand, cannot be ignored as easily. When you open Explore/Search/Discover (or whatever it is called on Instagram now) you’re presented with a video that takes up around 1/3 of your phone’s screen and is usually some young teen girl “dancing”.

I do not like Reels. And I wish they could be turned off.

John Gruber:

But there has to be a limit to how much Facebook can cram into Instagram before it bursts at the seams, and Reels feels like too much. TikTok just doesn’t feel Instagrammy at all, so I don’t think the problem with Reels is execution, I think it’s just the basic idea of using Instagram to host Facebook’s TikTok clone. It’s a bad fit, and Facebook doesn’t have the taste to know it.

The medium of Reels may very well be fine. And Instagram’s execution of creating and sharing that medium may very well be better than TikTok’s (I don’t know) but their use by the community is simply not for me. And the fact that IG forces us to see them stinks.

So, with that I’ll likely be sharing less on Instagram. If you’re reading this you likely subscribe to my blog already (thank you). I’ll be sharing my public photos here and perhaps Flickr.

Yes, I’m old. Get off my lawn. I just mowed it.

What I saw somewhat recently #66: August 18, 2020

Great list this week. See other lists.

I wish somehow these lists were exhaustive and complete but they simply aren’t. There are so many great things I stumble across day-to-day and file away to get to. And I get to some of them. And I remember some of them. And these are those items.

Nick Clayton on his pandemic photography experience

Nick Clayton, in a beautifully written and photographed post on Casual Photophile:

Walking with a camera is a moving meditation in which paramount importance is placed on being present in your surroundings. Each camera setup comes with a different way of seeing, as it were.

And:

I won’t lie, early on in the shutdown, with no real end in sight, I had a flask with me more often than not, and returned home with it empty. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed, and sometimes I experienced a bittersweet combination of both. I thought about people I miss, and in my isolation the gap between those who were alive and those who were gone closed just a little – they were, in effect, equally accessible (or inaccessible).

Go read the entire thing.

My favorite #bisect photos from Micro.blog

This month Micro.blog is having a photo challenge to help spur some posts and creativity from the growing community there. When Jean asked for recommendations I threw bisect at her and she accepted it as one of the themes.

I thought I’d cull some of the posts as favorites.

The first photo is just beyond the scope of anything I thought someone would do with the theme.

w4ner takes it to 11
Grapevine leaf by Sam Grover
Grass and concrete by Bharath M
Cacti wall by Colleen Juri
Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness landslide by Ryan Mikulovsky
Bisect by Pratik Mhatre.
Bisect by Tor Einar Samdahl
Bisect by Joel Hamill

I should just include them all but I wanted to select just a few that I appreciated the most.

Marcus Peddle on using film or digital

Marcus Peddle, remarking on making Jim Grey’s aforementioned list of film photography blogs:

I’m honoured, but slightly embarrassed because most of my photography these days is digital. Still, a photo is a photo, right? I hope you won’t be disappointed by the paucity of film photographs if you came to this website by following the link from Jim’s list.

I understand Marcus’ humble acknowledgement here but it is crappy that anyone should defend what they choose to shoot photos with. A photographer should be able to use whatever tool she/he would prefer to use for any given project or at any given moment and they should never have to apologize for it.

His point is more so that he made a list of film photography blogs and isn’t sharing much about film photography lately. But, you can still read between the lines when he says “a photo is a photo, right?”. Right!!

Personally I use a myriad of “cameras”. A incomplete list of cameras that I currently use regularly are a drone, my iPhone, the Canon AE-1 Program, my now 14 year old Canon Digital Rebel XTi DSLR, an ancient Ansco Speedex, paper negatives shoved into just about any contraption I can find, MY BEDROOM, point and shoot cameras, and many many many more.

I hope everyone on that excellent film photography blog list does the same and shares what they make.

I need to share more photos and will soon.

Joseph Irvin on blaming your photo gear

Joseph Irvin:

Here’s a photo I took on a $3 roll of consumer film I picked up at my local grocery store, shot through a Pentax body that I paid $5 for at a garage sale, mounting a $25 lens from ebay. So never mind not having the top-of-the-line equipment, use what you have and stop making excuses.

“Use what you have and stop making excuses.” – Joseph Irvin

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.

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.

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.

Importing tens of thousands of photos into Photos for Mac, on a maxed out 16-inch MacBook Pro, cripples the machine. It is nearly unusable. Closing the app doesn’t help because it has background processes when the app is closed.

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.

Over the weekend, Emulsive published my guest post in their 5 frames series. Subscribers to my blog will recognize the photos.