Ruminations on old photographs and Halloween.

When my mother moved in with my sister one of the things she gave me was a big blue plastic container full of photos. I was digging through it to see if I could find any Halloween related pictures from when I was a kid. As I searched in vain for anything that might be interesting, two things occurred to me.
The first was that we live in an amazing time where practically everyone has a device in their pocket capable of taking not only crystal clear photos of whatever happens to be catching their eye, but crystal clear video too. Most of the photos I found of me as a kid are badly faded despite having been kept in boxes for most of their existence. In fact, the further back the photos went — quite a few of them are actually my grandparent’s albums full of people I haven’t a clue as to who they were — the worse that problem becomes. The lack of resolution becomes apparent too. The ones that survived the best, oddly enough, are the Polaroids that developed instantly, but they’re surprisingly dark compared to the faded traditional shots on film. 
The second was I can now see why none of my relatives became professional photographers. (My niece being excluded as she’s an excellent photographer, but has had the benefit of growing up just as digital cameras became ubiquitous.) I have a shitload of photos of random things where it’s not clear just what it was the photographer was trying to capture. A not particularly impressive hill with trees on it here. A random trailer someone in the family most have owned there. Lots and lots of pictures of people — some I barely recognize, some that may as well be extras in a movie — many of which only manage to capture half a head and an elbow that might not belong to the head in question. To be fair, alcohol has never been a stranger to my family tree and it’s entirely possible whoever was taking the pics at the time was more than three sheets to the wind. 
Alas, I didn’t find any adorably cute pics of me in grade school wearing that terrible store bought Spiderman costume with the plastic mask that had edges sharp enough to cut steel. So I’ll have to reuse something I know I’ve posted in the past.

Here’s me as a senior in highschool going as… fuck if I know what it was supposed to be. You can’t see it in the photo, but I had spread liquid latex all over my face while squinching it up and then blow drying it so it had this weird pattern to it. Then I put on silver facepaint, a robe with a hood, and my walking stick I picked up at a Renaissance Festival and that was it. Tah-dah!

Worst. Halloween. Costume. Ever.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Today’s Now I Feel Old Moment: Kids React to an Old Camera.

It’s easy sometimes to forget that I’m nearly 50. That there are children alive today who have never known the trials and tribulations involved in taking candid photos of your birthday or vacation that I had to endure in my youth. Things like having to buy a camera and then having to buy film and buying flashcubes and then not being able to see how the pictures turned out until after having paid to have them developed. Kids like these kids:

My first camera that I actually owned myself was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 10 first introduced in 1972. I doubt I got one that year as I was 5 years old, but I somehow ended up with one eventually. Not sure if it was new or a hand-me-down from a relative, but it was my first introduction to taking pictures. Back in 1972 it was “less than $28”, which works out to about $160 today. It was a pretty easy camera to use in part because there wasn’t a lot of options to fiddle with. The biggest choice was whether or not to use a flashbulb and the second biggest was whether or not to use the flashbulb extender thingy to avoid giving your subjects red eye.

Things like loading the film was ridiculously easy as you can see here:

Bonus points for the commercial featuring Dick Van Dyke.

I think the most amazing thing about the 110 format is that the film stock is still being produced and some companies are still making cameras that use it. Apparently the flaws of the format that were an annoyance back in the day are now sought out by artists looking to add character to their photographs.

Anyway, watching the kids trying to use an older 35mm camera had me feeling old and crotchety so I thought I’d share the pain.

A question for you photography and textiles types.

OK I need some help here in regards to white balancing digital cameras. This is job related, but due to the NDA I can’t go into too many details. Suffice it to say that we currently white balance digital cameras using a large piece of white foam board (20” by 30”) and we currently white balance each camera individually. We want to be able to white balance two cameras at a time, but that would require double the white foam board and it has to be able to fold down the middle without having an obvious seam as that stops the white balancing from taking place (no, I can’t tell you why). It also helps in storing the white balance sheet as we would fold it up to put it on a cart.

We’ve tried using white paper, but that invariably creases when folded thus ruining it for the purpose of white balancing. So our next thought was to use some form of white cloth. The question is: is there any kind of cloth out there that won’t develop a serious crease that may interfere with a white balance? Is there anything that photographers make use of that may work in this instance? Any suggestions you guys have would be much appreciated.

Zach’s back with a photo blog.

I was once a huge Japanophile being very heavy into anime and manga and just being fascinated with the country itself. I even entertained for awhile in my younger days the idea of moving there and becoming an expatriate. As I grew older and actually learned more about the country and its culture I realized that I’d probably make a pretty lousy expatriate in part because I wasn’t motivated enough to actually learn Japanese no matter how much I kept telling myself I was going to do so and being able to speak the language would be only one of many hurdles I’d have to overcome.

Still the country captures my imagination and there’s more than a few blogs in my RSS reader that are written by expatriates living in Japan. One of the folks I used to read quite often was a fellow who went by the nickname Zach who as I recall did a lot of work in Japanese to English translations, but he shut his blog down awhile ago. Now he’s back with an all new photo blog called Zach awry in Japan and he dropped me an email to let me know about it. Here’s one of my favorites which I hope Zach won’t mind I’m reproducing here:

© Zach awry in Japan. Click to embiggen!

I wish I could shoot such amazing photographs. Photography being another thing I keep telling myself I’m going to learn how to do properly some day.

Anyway, his new photo blog is just getting started and I’m looking forward to seeing more small peeks into a life I once thought of trying to live myself. Good stuff. Go check it out.