We still get lovely sunsets here on the western edge of Zionsville overlooking the highway and the Toyota dealership. Lately, they’ve been more subtle than striking. Here are all of the ones I photographed since last time I shared these. See my sunsets tag for more.
We’ve had several lengthy discussions in the comments here about which is the best way to make sure your archive of photographs survives the ages: digital files or prints.
I think it’s a tempest in a teapot, because it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone will care about our photographs a generation from now.
You might be able to make some of your photographs last. Print them, frame them, and give them away as gifts. If you’re able to find or make a market for your work, sell some of your prints. People tend to keep the art that hangs on their walls.
But that will likely represent a small fraction of your output. What about the thousands of other images you’ve made in your lifetime?
The sad truth is that you are almost certainly not the next Ansel Adams, Henri Carter-Bresson, or Annie Liebovitz. It’s unlikely that someone will discover your work one day like it’s a treasure trove, a la Vivian Maier.
Even if your photos feature generations of family, soon nobody alive will remember the people in them. Your children, if you have any, might enjoy keeping a small selection of family photos after you die. If you’re lucky, your grandchildren will want a couple of them.
Because most your images are unlikely to survive the generations, I claim that it doesn’t matter how you keep them. Store them as digital files, as prints, or both. You just have to be intentional about it and do the requisite work.
“But file formats will become obsolete!” That’s a specious argument. The JPEG has existed since 1992; the TIFF since 1993. Because technology changes incredibly fast, any digital format that survives 30 years is essentially permanent. Software will be able to display and manipulate our photographs in their current formats until after we all die.
Even if JPEG and TIFF were superseded, there will be software that lets us convert our files to new formats. It will be a boring job, but we will be able to do it.
Your bigger worry by far is a hard-drive crash. A good backup practice can eliminate your risk. I back up to an external hard drive and to a cloud storage provider. Every time I add, change, or remove a file, software on my computer instantly doubly backs it up. When my main hard drive failed a few years ago, I lost no files. Also, your backups make it easy to move your files when you buy a new computer, as you must every so many years.
You will also want to add notes to your photo files to remember key information about them. I store camera, lens, and film, as well as a description of what and/or who I photographed. At least on Windows, you can do this right from the operating system, no special software necessary. It’s easy, but tedious.
You will also need to create some sort of system for storing and searching your photos. I store mine in folders by year, and then by date/roll of film. I should have started using Lightroom or a similar program to tag them all from the beginning so I can search them and find individual images. I didn’t, and now I have an enormous job ahead of me someday.
If you choose to print your photos, you will want to choose a good-quality printer or printing service so the images last. Inexpensive prints, such as those from the drug store, are likely to fade sooner. You will want to write details on each photograph, and then store them in acid-free boxes, probably separated with acid-free interleaving paper.
You probably won’t print everything you photograph, as storage will soon become a problem. For this reason, I print and store only the small fraction of photos I like the most.
Because a flood or a fire would destroy your prints, consider printing doubles and storing the copies at a different site.
Passing on your work
After I’m gone, I hope that my children will keep at least some of my printed photographs, maybe even frame one or two of them to display in their homes. Printing and storing only my favorite work will make it much easier on them to do this — they will pick through a few hundred prints, rather than tens of thousands of digital files.
I could also store my favorite work on a thumb drive or special external hard drive for that purpose. Make it two, with one stored offsite, in case something happens to the first one.
But whichever I choose, I have to keep after it, and make sure the chosen images make their way into my children’s hands after I go.
This may not be the most useful post in the world, because who other than me regularly shoots these two cameras? Who knows, maybe this post will end up ranked #1 on Google for “Canon PowerShot S95 vs. Apple iPhone 12 mini” for the five people a year who might do that search.
But on my Ride Across Indiana, I sometimes made a photo of something with both cameras as I thought I might want to use the image for that night’s blog post and to share with friends on social media. I didn’t have any way to get photos off the S95 and into my phone.
Every digital camera makes decisions in its software about how to render a scene. It’s fascinating to me how differently these two cameras manage the light.
In each of these pairs, the Canon S95 photo is first. I’ve done light post-processing on all of these photos but they are not substantially changed from how they came from the camera. Sometimes I tried to zoom the iPhone and the S95 to the same extent, and sometimes I didn’t.
I notice three main differences: the iPhone tends to pull out shadow detail to the point of flattening scenes, the iPhone over-sharpens everything, and the S95 is far more likely to blow out highlights.
1: Old alignment of the National Road west of Dunreith
2: Indiana Statehouse.
3: My bike by an abandoned bridge west of Plainfield.
4: Rising Hall in western Hendricks County.
5: Old house in Putnam County.
6: Bypassed US 40 bridge, Putnam County.
It’s great to have a capable camera in my pocket all the time. But I think I prefer the S95 shots every single time.
I wish I still had my old iPhone 6s — I don’t remember its camera doing such aggressive processing.
In 2012 a friend gave me his Nikon N65, the first auto-everything SLR I ever owned. I was suspicious of all of that automation at the time (read my review here), but after awhile I came to like it and have owned and enjoyed a number of similar cameras.
The N65 came with a couple of lenses, including a 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor. Nikon sold those by the bajillion, often mated to an SLR body in a kit.
To my surprise, I came to really like that 28-80 and I used it a lot on the one Nikon AF body I kept, the N90s (review here). It also worked fabulously on the Nikon Df DSLR I bought this year! Here’s a sample photo from that combo:
This lens is plenty sharp, albeit with some barrel distortion at the wide end. Every now and then I catch a little light vignetting. But Photoshop can correct all of that.
This lens’s one flaw is its build quality. Its body and mount are plastic; the lens weighs next to nothing. Not long ago I did something stupid: I picked up a camera this lens was mounted to by the lens itself. The focus ring twisted a little, something inside went crack, and the lens would no longer focus. It had seized up hard.
Fortunately, replacements are inexpensive on the used market. If you trust the wild west of eBay, you can get them for 20 bucks, sometimes with an SLR body attached!
I wanted one with a warranty in case something was wrong, so I shopped UsedPhotoPro. There I found the similar 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor lens, for just 30 bucks shipped. D lenses all have aperture rings, where G lenses do not. That means I can use this lens on a wider range of Nikon bodies! The D version seems to be a little better built than the G version, too.
But my lesson is learned: no more picking up a camera by its lens!
Speaking of drug store film processing, I had my first ever roll of film processed at Hook’s Dependable Drug Stores. This chain was an Indiana institution for many decades, until consolidation began to happen in the industry. It sold to Revco in the late 90s if I recall correctly, and Revco sold to CVS.
I found this commercial for Hook’s photo finishing online. It’s from 1980.
Despite whittling my collection down to about 50 cameras, I still have more than I can use. I hate to see good gear just sit on the shelf, so I’m parting ways with more cameras. Read all about them on my For Sale page, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
Kodak Retina IIc
Kodak Retina IIa
Sears Tower Flash 120
I have described these cameras as accurately as I can. But because things do go wrong, I warrant my cameras for 60 days against serious defect that I didn’t disclose in the listing.
To read more about these cameras and to buy a camera, click through to my For Sale page.
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