The kinds of portraits I prefer…Judith Joy Ross, for example

I recently read Joe McNally’s book, The Real Deal: Field Notes from the Life of a Working Photographer . While I found his anecdotes occasionally interesting, I didn’t really enjoy the book. I think this was because I don’t much care for McNally’s photographs. Here’s one of his portraits.

Photo by Joe McNally

There’s no question that McNally is a talented photographer with a powerful work ethic and serious technical skills. His portraits, however, leave me uninspired. You know the style. Creatively lit with a handful of Speedlights, carefully arranged backgrounds or sets, wardrobe and makeup people, etc. The kinds of photos that get a shit ton of likes. This style is not for me.

Now, Judith Joy Ross , on the other hand, makes deeply moving, personal portraits while wandering around with an 8×10 view camera. I wasn’t familiar with her work until recently. I mean, just look at these…

Photo by Judith Joy Ross
Photo by Judith Joy Ross
Photo by Judith Joy Ross

Simply fantastic work. I just ordered her new book: Judith Joy Ross: Photographs 1978–2015 .

Comparing film and digital: Mom

I had lunch with my parents recently and took a few photos with both my film and digital cameras. I shot about the same number of photos with each camera, with close to the same number of “keepers”. Which do I prefer?

Here I’m showing one of each, digital and film, of my favorite from the visit.

Film: Leica MP (HP5 Plus)
Digital: Leica M10-R (B&W conversion in Silver Efex)

I prefer the film image. I manipulated the digital shot in Silver Efex Pro and added a bit of grain to try and get the look I like, but I still prefer the film image.

The difference might be partially due to using the 50mm Summilux on the MP. It’s my favorite lens. The digital shot was with the 35mm Summilux. Also a great lens, but lacks that certain “something” of the 50.

I don’t think the lens difference explains it, though. A large part of what makes me prefer film photos is just knowing they’re film photos. That means something to me, and influences how I respond to an image. One could probably use a decent HP5 preset on that image in Lightroom and I wouldn’t be able to tell it from a film photo in a blind test, but I don’t view my images that way. I know how they were made, and it matters.

Additionally, I can make beautiful silver gelatin prints of the film photo in my darkroom. That’s important, too.

I’ll probably always shoot both film and digital, but more often than not I prefer the results I get from film.

Some unremarkable pens the Internet made me buy

I’m an impressionable young man, and when I notice someone on The Internet raving about something, I want to feel that way, too. I often order whatever that thing is, only to be disappointed. For example, here are a few of the pens I bought after being told how remarkable they are. They’re not that remarkable.

Publishing portions of my Org-roam database

I’m trying something new.

I’ve become a pretty heavy user of Org-roam  for personal notes. I put nearly everything there now; technical notes, contact information, project notes, vendor info, etc. These notes are all nicely linked and backlinked and live in my main ~/org directory so I can easily find things right within Emacs.

A portion of these notes might be useful to other people. So I’m exporting the shareable notes from Org-roam as Hugo -compatible Markdown files. This turned out to be surprisingly easy. You can see the results at https://notes.baty.net and the details of how it works makes a good example.

I’m sure there are a dozen ways to do this, but this seems to work quite well.

Aligning comments in Emacs

I want my per-line code comments to line up nicely, so I’ll often add a bunch of spaces by hand to make things just so. I realized that, being Emacs, there must be an easier way to handle this. Of course there is.

Continue reading…

Configuring the org-download save directory

When I drag and drop an image into Emacs, I want the attached file to end up in ./img/YYYY/. This is how I tried configuring org-download in my setup (I use Doom Emacs):

(setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1)
(setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1)

For some reason, org-download-method was being reset from 'directory to 'attachafter loading, and this broke things. I thought maybe I needed to set the variables afterorg-download was loaded, so I did this:

(after! org-download
  (setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1))

That didn’t work. At startup I was seeing this error:

Error (org-mode-hook): Error running hook “org-fancy-priorities-mode” because: (void-variable org-download-image-dir)

Huh. I guess not everything can be set after org-download, so I tried only setting org-download-method

(after! org-download
  (setq org-download-method 'directory))

This worked. The other settings are done in the (after! org block.

It feels like I have to fight Doom too often, but the details and refinement of Doom is worth the trouble.

Feelings about the Leica M10-R

I’m feeling twitchy about owning the Leica M10-R .

The M10-R is an astonishingly good camera. World-beating build quality, timeless design, and a fantastic 40-megapixel sensor, all in a small, beautiful package.

Still available new in 2022 for an eye-watering $8,995 (I bought mine used), the M10-R is also a ridiculously expensive camera. Buying one is a big deal and a significant investment.

I am fortunate enough to also own Leica M film cameras, and being able to share lenses between those and the M10-R is very handy. And OMG those Leica lenses! The control layout and handling are the same as well. It’s like having both a digital and film platform for using 70 years of tiny, wonderful Leica lenses. I can carry a full film and digital arsenal with 2 bodies and lenses in a tiny bag.

So, why am I feeling twitchy?

I worry about having such expensive, relatively delicate equipment swinging about around my neck. It makes me nervous. It’s hard to relax and make photographs when I’m so worried about losing or breaking the camera I’m carrying.

Unlike film Ms, digital M cameras depreciate steadily in value. Not as quickly as other digital cameras, perhaps, but still, the trend is downward.

But mostly, I feel guilty having such a fine camera because I’ve barely used it. I’ve been shooting mostly film for the past month or so, leaving the M10-R idling in the bag. I can justify the expense for something I’m using all the time but to have the M10-R sitting in the bag “just in case” is hard to stomach.

Still, I love the camera and I’m keeping it. At least for now. I know me, and I know that the digital-film pendulum will swing back the other way soon enough, and when it does I’ll be glad I have the M10-R.

I love this boring photo of a lamp

My wife bought an awful, kitschy plastic lamp and set it on one of the floor speakers. I, of course, balked.

That was a week ago and somehow the lamp is still there. I hate the lamp, but I don’t mind the light that it throws against the wall, and my wife loves it and thinks “it’s adorable”. Who am I to judge?

I took a photo of it. It’s just another boring snapshot by a film photographer looking for excuses to finish the roll. It’s exposed the way I intended and it’s composed nicely, but it’s not a great photo. I love it anyway.

I love the photo because it makes me smile. It makes me smile because I love my wife and it reminds me of one of the many reasons why. That’s the best kind.

Adding an RSS feed to my wiki

TiddlyWiki is a single static HTML file. It does not generate an RSS feed of new entries. It doesn’t generate anything.

I treat my wiki at wiki.baty.net more like a blog than a wiki, so not having an RSS feed feels like an omission. Most of the time I consider this to be a feature. I like that I can write any old nonsense and it doesn’t actively go out and bother anyone. It’s my little secret, that you can read if you want.

On the other hand, I find it annoying when I’m interested in someone else’s writing and they don’t provide any feeds. So, I’ve decided to make it easier to follow me. I suppose if you deliberately subscribe to the wiki’s feed, you want to be bothered by the stuff I write there.

My solution is based on this article . The short version is that I created a new tiddler named “RSS Feed” containing the following:

This tiddler runs a filter finding the last 10 tiddlers tagged with Feed and renders them as RSS-formatted XML.

Extracting the rendered text from that tiddler out to an RSS file is done using my Makefile using the TiddlyWiki node.js module . The command is as follows:

tiddlywiki --load index.html --render "[[RSS Feed]]" "rss.xml" text/plain

This generates a file at ./output/rss.xml containing the rendered RSS text/xml. Later in the Makefile, I rsync rss.xml up to the server along with the rest of the wiki files. Here’s the complete Makefile:


.PHONY: checkpoint deploy

        tiddlywiki --load index.html --render "[[RSS Feed]]" "rss.xml" text/plain

        git add .
        git diff-index --quiet HEAD || git commit -m "Publish checkpoint"

deploy: build checkpoint
        git push
        @echo "33[0;32mDeploying updates to $(TARGET)...33[0m"
        rsync -v -rz --checksum --delete --no-perms $(PUBLIC_DIR)index.html $(SERVER_HOST):$(SERVER_DIR)
        rsync -v -rz --checksum --delete --no-perms $(PUBLIC_DIR)output/rss.xml $(SERVER_HOST):$(SERVER_DIR)
        rsync -v -rz --checksum --delete --no-perms $(PUBLIC_DIR)files $(SERVER_HOST):$(SERVER_DIR)

All this means is that you can now subscribe to the daily posts at wiki.baty.net using the following URL: https://wiki.baty.net/rss.xml .

The odd thing is that I normally create each daily post first thing in the morning and update it throughout the day. I’m not sure how different RSS readers will handle this, but it’s a start.

I haven’t added the discovery links yet, but should. I also don’t think the RSS tiddler needs all those non-breaking spaces so I may play with that later.

Update March 11, 2022: Saq Imtiaz sent a link to his experimental plugin for generating RSS and JSON feeds . Worth a look!

Fiber-based silver gelatin prints are a wonderful PITA

I hate making fiber-based silver gelatin prints in the darkroom. But I love having them to hold and to hang.

Fiber-based papers have this deep, magical sheen, and the surface is smooth yet has a distinct, subtle texture that is missing from resin-coated (RC) papers.

Compared to RC papers, fiber-based paper takes twice as long to process. It requires additional washing and optional toning steps. It eats up fixer and takes more trays than I have comfortable room for. It must be washed for up to an hour. And then there’s the curling, so I have to press the prints under heavy books for a few days before I can do anything with them

Just look at this example. It’s ridiculous.

A recently-dried fiber darkroom print.

I gave up on fiber a few years ago, but have been having second thoughts. A fiber print feels so good in hand. Heavy, smooth, and solid, somehow. And there’s no escaping how great they look. I’ve been asking myself if maybe it’s worth the trouble after all. I made a few prints this week and yes, it is definitely worth the trouble.

A recent print of a favorite negative. On fiber.