Using jAlbum for photo galleries

The jAlbum UI

I’ve been a Flickr user since 2004 and a SmugMug user for nearly as long. For some reason, I prefer looking at my photos via online galleries rather than, say, my Photos library, and both Flickr and SmugMug have helped me do that.

I’ve also kept standalone static web galleries for the odd side project, such as a memorial to my dog Leeloo. Recently, I’ve been creating more of these, so I started looking for easier or better ways of generating static web galleries from a selection of photos. There are what feels like a thousand options. Everything from giant GUI apps to the nerdiest little command line utilities.

After looking around a bit, I’ve settled on jAlbum. I didn’t expect to like it. After all, it’s from that time (2004) when software was named so that everyone knew what it was written in. And I developed an allergy to Java not long after that. Go figure!

jAlbum is surprisingly robust and capable, while still being simple to use. The defaults are mostly fine, but it lets me tweak the dickens out of it, should I want to.

I’ve only spent the morning with it, but I have created some initial galleries at I think it already looks fine, and I haven’t even begun to tweak it.

jAlbum has built-in (S)FTP capability for automating the process of getting everything out to my server, but it doesn’t support ssh keys so I can’t use that. I’m instead using rsync via a tiny Makefile, so all I need to do is type make and the changes are deployed.

Leica SL2

The Leica SL2 felt inevitable. After an almost accidental[1] run with the Panasonic S5, which I didn’t enjoy at all, I tried going back to the Fuji system. I’ve always liked Fujifilm cameras and their classic control layout. I purchased a new X-T5 and a few nice lenses late last year, but it didn’t grow on me. The X-T5 is a great camera and I had nothing to complain about. Except it just didn’t give me The Feels. Not the way, say, a Leica does.

I decided that I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I was back with Leica for my digital camera. My heart wanted me to buy another M10-R but we all know how that turns out[2].

A project I’ve had on the back burner for a couple of years is shooting formal portraits of my extended family. I’d like to get started on that, so I thought I’d move toward a more flexible mirrorless system and decided this was a good time to move to an SL2.

I’ve owned the lower-resolution SL2-S before, and it was fantastic. At the time, I was more interested in digital black and white, so I traded the SL2-S for a Q2 Monochrom. That was fun for a while, but this time I need to be more practical, so I opted for the 47 Megapixel SL2.

The moment I picked up the SL2 I knew I’d done the right thing, and promptly forgot about the price. The SL2 is dense, heavy, solid, and feels perfect in hand. And most importantly, it gives me The Feels.

I no longer have any native Leica L-mount lenses, but I do have a couple of very good Sigma lenses: The 35mm f2.0 DG DN “Contemporary” and the amazing 85mm f1.4 “Art” lens. I also intend to spend a lot of time with my Leica M lenses mounted via the Leica M-Adapter L. The SL2’s viewfinder is second to none and, with focus peaking, makes using manual focus lenses as easy as it gets.

Now it’s up to me to go do something with it.

Sold: Leica M6

Long story, short, I sold my precious Leica M6 (Classic). I could no longer justify having two modern Leica M cameras, so I decided to keep the beautiful MP and pass the M6 on to someone else. I’m sure I’ll regret this. (It’s the second time the camera has been sold, but the previous buyer returned it, for spurious reasons). Onward!

Here’s the final frame I shot with the camera:

Self-portrait in mirror

Are there really only three things to photograph?

There are always cameras loaded with film scattered around my house. I don’t go out much, so sometimes I’ll pick up a camera and take a random photo just for the feel of it and to use up some film. These photos are almost always one of three things: Myself, my dog, or my desk/workspace.

Case in point, I recently finished the roll that’s been languishing in the M6 by taking the following mirror self-portrait.

Self-portrait in mirror. Leica M6/50mm Summilux/HP5

I actually like the photo. It’s playful and well-executed overall. But the rest of the roll? It’s chock full of shitty mirror self-portraits and random dog and workspace photos. I really do need to get out more.

Things I can’t quit: Film photography and Emacs

I know that film photography and Emacs are completely unrelated, but I have been thinking about both of them quite a lot recently.

Since moving back to shooting film in 2003, I have regular thoughts of switching to all-digital again. It’s just easier. I have rooms full of “stuff” in support of film photography, and things would become so much faster and easier without all of that. A nice digital camera, a good RAW editor, an inkjet printer, and some hard drives, and I’m all set.

And yet, I still enjoy shooting film and have found it impossible to quit. I like how film looks, I enjoy working in the darkroom, and I love my Leica rangefinder cameras. Having binders full of negatives sitting on my shelves is a comfort to me. They’re real, you know? I prefer real things.

In a completely different arena, I would like to stop using Emacs for everything. The great benefit of Emacs, that it can be anything and do everything, is for me also its greatest drawback. I can’t stop futzing with it. And I can’t stop trying to use it for freaking everything all the time. I just need to write stuff and keep track of some tasks. Why then do I use it to read email, RSS feeds, Mastodon, and whatever other things I can shoehorn into what should be a simple text editor?

So, I frequently fire up Obsidian, BBEdit, Logseq, Roam, iA Writer, TheBrain, Tinderbox, and oh right, none of these does the things Emacs and Org-mode can do quite as efficiently and with so much flexibility. After a few days away, I end up back in Emacs and farting around with capture templates or trying to decide between Denote and Org-roam.

The truth is that I’ll probably always shoot film and I’ll probably always use Emacs. I just wish that I could convince myself of this, then move on and actually do something creative or useful with them.

2023-Roll-101 (Stylus Epic)

The little Olympus Stylus Epic is fond of missing focus and flaring. I also seem to have some kind of leak. But, it’s still a great little camera to have in my pocket.

Photo wall

I hang random prints on these magnetized strings in my office. If I were to worry about order, or frames, or any kind of formality, nothing would end up on the walls. I love the chaos.

The “photo wall” in my home office.

Print your photos!

Contact Sheet: Josie

I adopted Josie years ago. She was a sweetie but was incapable of being around other dogs, and my life at the time involved being around other dogs. We found a new home for her with a lovely woman who enjoyed dogs but had none. What she did have was 5 acres of land and immediate love for Josie.

Josie contact sheet. Tri-x, shot with the Hasselblad.

I recently ran across the above contact sheet taken shortly after bringing her home. I love medium format contact sheets, since they make a fun polyptych. I often make a second contact sheet expressly for hanging. Sometimes I make a third and cut the small images out for my journal.

I could cheat with digital photos and make something similar, but it’s not the same.

You’re Pointing Your Camera the Wrong Way

There is no simple way to banish the ennui of our age, but maybe it would help if we stopped looking at our own faces and turned instead to documenting the vanishing natural world in all its manifestations.

Margaret Renkl, NYT

I love self-portraits but I hate selfies.