How to develop C-41 color negative film at home →

April 13, 2015 |

If you’re into film photography but can’t find a laboratory that will process color negative film for you, you may want to look into processing it yourself at home. Luckily, this article by Sam Agnew has everything you need to know. Via The Phoblographer.

It may look daunting at first but don’t be discouraged. All it takes is some basic equipment and you don’t even need a darkroom. Other than the temperature-sensitive nature of the process — all liquids must be kept at precisely 40 degrees Celsius — it really is pretty simple. And as a side benefit, it will be a lot cheaper than having a lab do it for you.

I myself did it for the first time last week, except with black and white film. There are a few differences: temperatures are lower for black and white — around 20C — and the whole process takes quite a bit longer, but in essence it’s the same thing.

I’m very happy with my results, and I fully intend to keep doing it from now on — but more on that later.

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Fleeting beauty: What Japanese culture teaches us about the cherry blossoms →

April 13, 2015 |

Lovely piece by Diane Durston for the Washington Post:

The Japanese words “wabi” and “sabi” express the rather complicated feeling we have for this kind of simple beauty; a loveliness that is all the more precious because of the realization that nothing lasts. They describe the quietly moving beauty of a handcrafted bowl that has been handed down in the family for generations—you feel the touch of the hands of everyone who has cared for it over time. It may no longer be a perfect bowl, and you understand that, like the cherry blossoms, it won’t last forever, but that is what makes it all the more exquisite. As Leonard Cohen said, “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

The cherry blossoms are a yearly event near and dear to my heart. My hometown, Plasencia, is located right in the heart of Jerte Valley, one of the world’s leading cherry producing regions.

Every year around April, when the cherry trees blossom in a spectacular coordinated display that paints the entire valley white, thousands upon thousands of tourists gather to witness this magical sight.

For a few precious days — the full bloom rarely lasts more than three days — we are reminded of how beautiful our planet can be, and how fleeting beautiful things are.

Photo credit: “A Flood of Cherry Blossoms”, by Miquel González Page.

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Josh Ginter gets down to work →

April 11, 2015 |

Fantastic, brutal and completely honest piece by Josh Ginter on how — and more importantly, why — work has been keeping him away from The Newsprint lately:

Over the past few weeks, work has equated to progress. Movement, in a forward direction. Acquisition of skills. Patience in acquiring those skills. And a work ethic I never thought I would enjoy.

Progress is addicting. Growth is addicting. Accomplishing goals is addicting. My only regret is the amount of dust collecting on my camera.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and in those moments, the only way I’ve found to move forward is to keep your head down and keep pushing as hard as you can, for as long as it takes. And the thing about putting in the hours and working your ass off is, things usually get better a lot sooner than you thought they would.

Hang in there Josh, and don’t worry about your camera. It’ll be right there waiting for you — along with the rest of us.

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HBO reveals first teaser of True Detective’s Season Two →

April 10, 2015 |

It looks good. Very good:

My first impressions are twofold:

  1. I like the new cast, particularly Rachel McAdams as the female lead, and I’ve had a soft spot for Kelly Reilly ever since I first saw her in The Spanish Apartment. The male characters are also well cast in my opinion. I’m not so sure about Taylor Kitsch, but I’m a huge fan of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn.

  2. That’s all well and good, but we were promised a new season featuring two female leads, and in the end we got three male and one female as the lead characters — Kelly Reilly was cast in a supporting role, apparently. I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad, but I was already expecting a different type of story and to be honest, I was quite excited about it.

But like I said, it looks very good. I can’t wait.

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iMore’s ultimate guide to Photos for OS X →

April 10, 2015 |

Fantastic, informative guide by Rene Ritchie, as ever:

From magic wand, to basic color, light, and black & white tweaks, or full, granular control over exposure, saturation, intensity, and more. You can also rotate, flip, crop, and straighten, remove redeye, touch up blemishes, and more. Photos for OS X has everything you need to make your pictures look exactly how you want. What’s more, all the edits are non-destructive, so if you don’t get something perfect the first time, you can change it again whenever you like, or even go right back to the original. Combine that with the large screen, and editing photos on the Mac isn’t just easy, it’s accessible to everyone.

And if you’re also interested in the cloudy side of things, don’t forget to check out his equally impressive guide to iCloud Photo Library. Great stuff.

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Mom’s powerful photos of her daughters show ‘Strong is the New Pretty’ →

April 10, 2015 |

What a beautiful and inspiring story by Rebekah Lowin over at For years, photographer Kate T. Parker had been taking pictures of her daughters as they grew up, doing what most kids love to do, when all of a sudden a powerful idea emerged:

A mother, wife, and commercial and fine-art photographer, Parker has also been an athlete her entire life. “I grew up playing sports, and the girls I emulated were the girls that were really strong and confident,” she says. “They didn’t have the time to worry about how they looked, and so I came to understand that their worth was determined by something different, something stronger.”

That personal history might explain why “Strong is the New Pretty” feels so intensely powerful: It’s authentic. When her own girls, Ella, age 9, and Alice, age 6, started to show an interest in taking names on the soccer field and stomping around in mud puddles, Parker wanted them to understand that they, too, should value personal character and strength over any societally-established beauty norms.

As she puts it, “This kind of girl — who has dirt on her shoes and doesn’t want to put a bow in her hair — she’s beautiful, too.”

They are beautiful, and strong. So often those two go together. This is what growing up should be like for every kid.

Via Lauren Laverne.

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The new MacBook: There’s a lot hanging on that keyboard →

April 10, 2015 |

The reviews of Apple’s new MacBook are out and it seems that, predictably, its most polarizing feature is also one of the most frequently used: the keyboard.

In order to create a much shallower keyboard for their thinnest laptop yet, Apple invented a new “Butterfly mechanism” that supposedly gives keys more stability, even with off-center hits. This, however, comes with an important trade-off: much-reduced key travel.

If you’re at all picky about your keyboards, you’ll know that key travel is an incredibly important usability factor, perhaps much more important than key stability itself. Therefore, the question is, did Apple achieve the right compromise between the two in this keyboard?

Christina Warren, whose excellent review of the new MacBook is the title-link for this entry, believes that, though it definitely wasn’t love at first sight for her, it is something she could get used to:

One consequence of the keys being so close to the frame is that the low amount of travel did make the typing process a bit more… painful. I don’t suffer from carpal tunnel, but I did find that extended periods typing on the new MacBook keyboard tired my wrists a bit more than a traditional keyboard. Take breaks if you’re going to be writing on this thing all the time — at least until you “break it in.”

The thing that was harder to get used to was the size of the keys: They’re now bigger. Apple made the keys 17% larger than standard MacBook keys.

This made my first few hours typing on the keyboard a bit difficult as a touch typist because I consistently felt off by a letter. In time though, I got used to the new keyboard.

Still, if you use other keyboards — or have used the standard Apple keyboard for close to a decade (as I have), it’ll take some adjustment.

That doesn’t seem too bad but on the other hand, Jason Snell does not count himself among fans of the new keyboard in his extended commentary at Six Colors:

I go into a lot more detail about this in the review, but in the end I’ve got to say that I’m not a fan of the new keyboard. Apple played the other enhancements that the keyboard offers, such as increased stability and wider keys, as attempts to offset some of the costs of the reduced key travel. That makes me hopeful that Apple sees this keyboard as what it is—a pretty serious compromise in order to get the computer thinner—rather than some breakthrough new keyboard that will be replicated on every other Apple keyboard in the next year or two.

If you don’t type a whole lot, or very fast, you may not care about the substantially reduced key travel. And you can get used to it. But it’s just a tiny step up from typing on flat touchscreen glass. I managed to score almost 120 words per minute on TypeRacer on the MacBook keyboard, but I didn’t enjoy it. If you’re someone who notices when a keyboard feels different or weird, you will notice this keyboard. If you’ve never really understood why people write about keyboards, you probably won’t care—but why are you even reading this section?

It’s an interesting contrast, to be sure. Also, don’t forget to check out Jason’s full review of the new MacBook at Macworld.

If you were planning to buy a new MacBook but had any doubts about the keyboard whatsoever, it appears to be one of those features you should personally try before committing to purchase. So before placing your order, my advice would be to stop by your local Apple Store to see how you like it.

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On cameras, smartphones, smug superiority and the geek’s pissing contest

April 09, 2015

Richard J. Anderson published a very interesting essay today on how in certain online circles, particularly in the tech community, we geeks tend to over-emphasize the importance of owning high-end items like fancy cameras and the like, to the detriment of other perfectly adequate alternatives:

There’s nothing wrong with liking the crazy, fancy stuff us geeks like. We can’t control our obsessions, but we can control how we communicate them to others. Smug superiority gets us nowhere. The elitism that too often creeps into any discussion of our obsessions is maddening to hear, even by some of us who share the obsession.

He makes a great point, and it’s true that there’s a lot of misplaced “ownership pride” in our online community and sometimes, unfortunately, there’s not enough common sense to recognize that for many, many people, having the fanciest camera or the latest iPhone is little more than a waste of perfectly good money.

He also makes a great point on the matter of taste:

In response, for geeks “better” is about less quantifiable things, like taste. While I’m probably the last person who would recommend a Samsung phone, I’m not about to bash the taste of a Samsung owner. When certain tech pundits—Jim Dalrymple and John Gruber especially—start calling people who buy certain products idiots, or claiming a covered micro-USB port on the back of a smartwatch is a mark of bad taste, they’re losing the thread. It’s not that Samsung customers are idiots, or the designer of the Sony Smartwatch has no taste, it’s that their priorities are in a different place.

Agreed. The differences between an iPhone and a high-end Android phone today are largely a matter of personal preference and yes, taste. I also agree that dismissing a rather large group of customers who keep buying — and loving — their Samsung phones as being tasteless is not particularly constructive, or even rational.

Today, both smartphone platforms are excellent and while I still prefer the iPhone, I have no qualms about recommending an Android phone to somebody with a different set of priorities than mine. Heck, there are actually several cool features I wish the iPhone had that are commonplace in Android, so it’s not like there’s a universal, objective criterium by which the iPhone is unquestionably better.

So in general I agree with Richard, and I quite enjoyed the essay. However, I do take issue with his use of cameras as an example, and I believe it’s a flawed argument in several ways:

When I see a piece on cameras, I just zone out, and it all becomes a sea of meaningless technical terms: mirrorless micro four-thirds full-frame DSLR with pancake lens at f/32 aperture… whatever. The camera on my iPhone 5S is more than good enough for the few photos I take of my life. I have to wonder if the geek obsession with high-end cameras is, in part, because point-and-shoot digital and smartphone cameras have become good enough for the average person.

I understand this completely, as I felt exactly the same way until just a year ago. In fact, for the two most important trips I’ve taken in my life — to Australia and Brazil — the only camera I took with me was my iPhone 4S. Think about that for a moment. This is a camera that is so grossly outdated by today’s standards that nobody in their right mind would recommend it as an acceptable choice for documenting a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And yet, when I look at those pictures now I’m perfectly happy with them, and I recall the great moments I lived in those trips just fine.

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. January 8, 2012. Picture taken with an iPhone 4S

That said, if I were to take those trips today, would I take my iPhone 5S — a clearly superior model in every way — as my only camera? No way in hell.

It’s not that the iPhone camera isn’t good enough for documenting memories — it actually excels at that. I’m perfectly happy to capture moments with my phone, and in fact I do it every day. In a pinch or when an unexpected photo opportunity arises, a smartphone will do but when there’s time to think, compose and create an image, I rely on my camera.

Friends you haven’t met yet

“Don’t forget that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet”. Porto Alegre, Brazil. December 27, 2011. Picture taken with an iPhone 4S.

The reason for that is something I’ve discovered over these past twelve months. It’s actually the same reason why I sometimes obsess over fancy cameras and lenses on this very site: as it turns out, I love photography.

I don’t mean that the intensity with which I love photography somehow justifies my obsession, that it’s OK for me to do it because I love it more than you do. Nothing like that. What I mean is that I probably think of photography in a different way than you do. To me, a camera is not just a memory-making machine: it’s a creative tool. It’s not just about capturing moments, it’s about creating the images I see in my head, much like a painter creates an image on an empty canvas.

I love photography as a creative outlet. Using the right tools, the tools that give you control over the end result, is an absolutely essential part of the creative process, and that is true for any creative discipline, including photography. Unfortunately when you’re talking about tools, going into technical details is sometimes inevitable.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be “the best” camera, either. All it takes is a minimum of manual controls — ISO, aperture and shutter speed — and, depending on your preference as a photographer, the possibility to use interchangeable lenses. That’s it.

My Olympus E-M10 was never the best camera in the market in any measurable way: it isn’t the fastest, nor the best built. It doesn’t have the largest sensor, or the best low-light performance. But it does have the right combination of features for my skill level, it allows me to pursue my creative goals, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

As for regretting the future quality of your pictures, there’s also something else I disagree with:

When I read articles defending the purchase of fancy cameras, there’s a recurring mantra of “you’ll regret it when your kids grow up and all you have are cell phone pictures.” I don’t know about other people in my age group, but I remember growing up with albums of badly exposed 35mm prints from point-and-shoot film cameras. My parents didn’t mind, and I doubt the parents of most other people my age minded either.

As I said above, I’m still perfectly happy with the many pictures I took with my iPhone 4S as my main camera, and I believe he’s correct that this “you’ll regret it later” argument is deeply flawed. Unfortunately though, I can’t help but feel this example is flawed, as well.

As far as “badly exposed” images go well, that’s unfortunately a matter of the human operating the camera. But beyond that, the comparison is flawed because 35mm film cameras from 30 years ago, even point and shoots, offered much better performance than any smartphone available today — and they still do.

Granted, if you look at some 30-year-old prints today, most of them will look like crap. The cheap prints that were typically done in bulk 30 years ago left much to be desired in terms of quality, but if you were to redo those prints using a high-end optical printer, or scan those same 30-year-old negatives today, you’d be surprised at the amount of detail that’s in there.1

Photography reached the pinnacle of optical performance sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s and the industry has mostly been reinventing itself since the switch to digital. Even today we’re still playing catch-up to what medium format film has been able to do for over 40 years. Heck, some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken were shot with a 34-year-old, fully manual 35mm film camera, and I wouldn’t trade it for a smartphone in a million years.

Debod Temple, Madrid

Debod Temple, Madrid, Spain. February 2015. Picture taken with a Canon AE-1 Program 35mm film SLR.

That said, would I criticize someone for believing their smartphone camera is good enough for their needs? Absolutely not. But if they enjoy taking pictures and the creative process that goes with it, I wouldn’t tell them that there’s no point in ever buying a dedicated camera, either. And I certainly wouldn’t tell them that their smartphone camera won’t limit their creativity in any way, because those things are simply not true.

Smartphone cameras have become incredibly capable in the last few years, but they’ll never be able to get around the optical laws of physics, and photography is an area of life where size truly matters. Sensor size, to be precise. A 35mm film negative is the same size as the full frame sensors available in high-end professional DSLRs today. That size difference grants them a distinct set of advantages as far as performance and control over depth of field go that are simply impossible to achieve with a smaller sensor.

While it’s true that for the majority of people smartphones are an increasingly capable choice, there will always be plenty of legitimate reasons to buy a dedicated camera. And if you enjoy photography as a creative endeavor — beyond merely capturing memories for future reference — it not only makes perfect sense to invest in more capable tools, it’s actually indispensable.

Finally and as far as pissing contests go, I have no interest in those. Richard is right, and we should all try to keep other people’s values in mind instead of trying to impose our own. I’m well aware that most of the photography talk I do around here will be lost on many potential readers, and I’m perfectly OK with that, just as I’m OK with others disagreeing with me. I try not to judge anyone based on their choices as consumers — or anything else, for that matter — but if I’ve failed to do that here, I apologize. And if you’d like to share some of your own views on the matter with me, feel free to send them my way.

  1. It’s been estimated that, in order to capture the same amount of detail as a 35mm film negative, a digital sensor would need to have about 175 MP, which isn’t happening anytime soon. Not to mention medium format film, of course, where the difference is just ridiculous.

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Scotch Whisky 101 - A Beginners Guide →

April 08, 2015 |

If you get tired of all the Apple Watch reviews, or if you just need a drink afterwards, allow me to point you towards this excellent primer on Scotch whisky by J. A. Shapira over at Gentleman’s Gazette:

I can tell you right now that if your first experience with Scotch is trying a 25 year old Lagavulin straight up, you’ll probably never try it again. When you’re selecting your first dram whether it be purchasing a bottle or trying it at the pub, choosing a Scotch will make or break your relationship very quickly. This isn’t a spirit you guzzle for the fun of it like you did tequila on spring break. For one, it’s just too expensive and second it’s not intended for that. Do you really think that the crafter spent years perfecting a whisky so you could down it like jello shots? Of course not.

That’s a phenomenal point. I’ve been extremely cautious in my own introduction to single malt Scotch whisky, in part because the first one I ever tried was a heavily peated Talisker, which left such a terrible taste in my mouth that after that I couldn’t get anywhere near a whisky glass for years.

Luckily, this time around I’m taking my time, slowly working my way up and letting my palate become accustomed to the stronger drams. After a few months, I’ve even been able to drink Talisker again and appreciate it for the excellent single malt it is.

Strongly peated whiskies like Lagavulin and Talisker are still not my cup of tea and I doubt they ever will be, but at least now I can enjoy one on occasion without making silly faces. And I definitely enjoy more lightly peated single malts like Oban, which has become one of my favorite drams.

Most importantly, now I know which whiskies to go for and which ones to avoid when I’m out drinking with friends, and so I’m able to enjoy them much more. That’s a measure of progress, and that’s how you want to approach these things.

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Here’s a chart of every Apple Watch review worth reading →

April 08, 2015 |

The review embargo for Apple Watch was lifted today, meaning the entire Internet is buzzing with tons of brand new Apple Watch reviews.

Even though we all new this was coming, I’m still genuinely surprised by the sheer volume of work that’s been published about such a small device. All in all, we’re talking about many tens of thousands of words to read, which to be honest is pretty intimidating. Luckily, Raymond Wong of Mashable has compiled this handy chart for your convenience.

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