December 30, 2020

Who should I let manage my photos?

I have for many years kept my photos properly named and in a dated folder hierarchy on my hard drive:

/2020/12-December 2020/2020-12-02-Alice.dng

This requires that I import my photos from a card, then add metadata (Title and Caption), then rename them with the capture date and title, then put them into the proper folder, where they live forever. Whew!

Another step later in my process is to burn” a copy of each edited RAW file to a JPEG that lives right beside the original. I also create a copy of the best photos in my Digital Print Archive”. The DPA is swept up and uploaded to Google Photos, Flickr, and my Synology, automatically. This gives me ways to share and organize them later. It also provides the content-based search and face recognition that is so handy.

It’s a good system. Solid. Future-proof. Backups are a known quantity.

But I’m tired of doing it. I’m tired of copying, moving, renaming, archiving, burning, etc. Basically I’m tired of managing everything myself. I edit my RAW files in Capture One Pro and deal with culling, naming, and distributing using Photo Mechanic. They’re great apps, but expensive and so flexible that I spend way too much time tweaking my process.

Some days, today for example, I’m tempted to import everything into the new Lightroom and let Adobe take it from there. This battle has been raging for a few years now and I cannot for the life of me settle it.

The truth is, Lightroom can be configured to keep all of the original RAW files on a local drive, in dated folders, automatically. This helps alleviate my fear of going all-in with cloud storage. I can’t rename files from within Lightroom, but at least I know they’re there. I’ve tried importing, culling, renaming in Photo Mechanic and then importing into Lightroom, but if I’m going to bother with all that I should just stick with C1.

Lightroom isn’t even close to Capture One on features, power, or flexibility. But it syncs my photos to all my devices, including my iPhone photos. I don’t have to do anything. That’s a huge benefit. 90% of my images can be processed just fine in Lightroom. If I want, I can always process the other 10% using Capture One (or Photoshop, I suppose).

This post is just me trying to talk myself into yielding to my lazier tendencies and moving everything to Lightroom. I’m still noodling on it, but don’t be surprised if there’s a new post soon about how I switched to Lightroom (again). Maybe then I’ll spend more time photographing and less time playing with my editing workflow.

(UPDATE January 3, 2021: Here’s the answer )

Photography Workflow
December 27, 2020

The Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH

I recently bought a used, 5-year-old Leica SL . I didn’t buy any new lenses at the time, as I wasn’t sure I’d even like the camera. Turns out I liked the camera very much, so I ordered a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 zoom. I figured the zoom would cover my bases but I also bought the Leica M-to-L adapter so I could use my Leica M lenses.

The M lenses work flawlessly on the SL, and are even easier to focus on it, given the super bright EVF and focus peaking. M lenses are wonderful, but they are manual focus only. I was using the Sigma zoom a lot and falling for the convenience of auto-focus. This got me thinking about prime lenses for the SL. I prefer primes in almost all cases and so the research began in earnest.

The Sigma zoom is fine, but I really wanted a Leica native SL lens. And I wanted a prime. But what focal length should I get? Since I can only afford one lens (by afford” I mean sell off most of my other gear to pay for it), I opted for the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH . I can never decide which length I prefer, 50mm or 35mm, but I went with the 35 because I feel it’s just a tad more flexible.

I must admit that hearing Peter Karbe, Leica’s designer of the M and SL lens lines, say that the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm is his favorite Leica lens and that it might be the best lens Leica has ever made helped push me over the edge. You can listen to Peter go into glorious technical detail about the SL lenses for like an hour and a half in this video.

The lens arrived a few days ago and so far all I can say is that my first impressions are that it has easily exceeded my high expectations. It’s beautiful, and the construction and feel of it are just wonderful.

The SL lenses are significantly larger than the M lenses I’m used to. Here is a photo showing the size difference between the tiny, jewel-like Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH and this new 35mm f/2 SL

Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH vs the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 SL ASPHSummicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH vs the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 SL ASPH

A nice feature of the SL lenses is close focusing distance. The SL lenses are more useful close up. For example the SL can focus down to 27 cm while the Summicron-M can only get to within 70 cm. That matters a lot more often than one might think.

Getting closer with the SLGetting closer with the SL

What about image quality? Good question. I don’t know much yet, as I’ve only been plinking around the house. What I do know is that the few images I’ve taken have looked fantastic. Most decent modern lenses make great images, but I have convinced myself that the files coming out of the SL with the APO-Summicron are somehow even better. To my eyes, they are noticably, meaningfully better, and that’s the only criteria I need.

Is the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm ASPH worth $5,000? Of course not. No one needs a lens like this. I certainly don’t. I mostly take photos of my dog or selfies or family snapshots, so there’s no point trying to justify the cost other than to say that it might be the best lens I’ve ever used. It feels fantastic. It looks fantastic, and, combined with the SL, it makes fantastic images and I’m very happy with it.

Gear Leica Photography
December 10, 2020

The Leica SL2-S = Instabuy

When I bought a used Leica SL(601) recently instead of the newer SL2 , it was mostly because I didn’t want to spend $6,000 on a camera that I wasn’t sure I’d love. But it was also partly because I really don’t need a 47-megapixel sensor. Who’s got the time and space to manage 80MB per image photos?

I’ve had the SL for a month and that’s long enough to know that I love it. It’s big but not too big. It’s an absolute tank, build-wise, and it’s fast and fun to use. I’m happy. I can shoot my M-mount Leica lenses on it and am finding it even easier to focus them on the SL than I do on the M10-P. So everything’s good then. I wish it had IBIS, though.

And then, just this morning, Leica announced the SL2-S . The SL2-S is, from my standpoint, an updated SL that adds everything in the SL2 except the giant sensor. The SL2-S has a 24 Megapixel sensor, which is a sweet spot for me. It also improves focusing, low-light capabilities, and of course includes IBIS. In other words, it’s exactly what I wanted in the SL2. And to top it off, it’s more than $1,000 cheaper than the SL2.

Apparently the SL2-S is being marketed as a hybrid still/video powerhouse. I guess the video features are great, but I don’t care as much about that. I care about speed, handling, image quality, and reasonable file sizes. Proper video is a nice bonus, though.

I’ve already sold my beloved M10-P and preordered an SL2-S. I have no idea when it’ll arrive, but I can hardly wait.

Leica Photography
November 24, 2020

Daily minutiae and record keeping

mi·​nu·​tia (noun) — a minute or minor detail—usually used in plural

I like the word minutia”. I’ve been thinking about the various little things that happen throughout a typical day as daily minutiae. Things like Paid the gas bill” or Had a minor headache” or Changed oil in the car”. It’s all trivial and boring, but I find that I value having a record of these things.

But where to record all of this minutiae? If you know me, you know that I can never settle on one single note-taking app or system. Looking for a better way” is what I like doing, even though it becomes frustrating when I deadlock over the decision. And I’m deadlocked right now about where to keep records of the minute or minor details” of my day.

It’s not a problem of not having a good place to keep things, it’s that there are too many good places I could keep things. Here are the current contenders.

Tinderbox

Oh my, how I love Tinderbox . It’s one of the most powerful and flexible note-taking tools available. Tinderbox is where I started recording the day’s minutiae back in 2006. I maintained a Daybook file for years and it was wonderful.

But at some point things like iOS and Linux became interesting to me, and since Tinderbox is unabashedly Mac-only, I drifted away from it. Lately though, I’ve removed iOS and Linux from the table and that puts Tinderbox right back in the running.

Day One

Day One is a fantastic journal app for Mac and iOS. I’m not consistent with it, but I do try to record one or two entries with photos each week. I love the book printing features. I’m just not sure it’s suitable for all the little bits and bobs of the day.

TiddlyWiki

Ah, TiddlyWiki . Hidden beneath your cute name is a very capable and flexible tool for keeping notes. Add to that the fact that it’s all done in a single, free, local-first HTML file and you’ve got a strong case for use as a place for record-keeping. Of course I use it for my public wiki at rudimentarylathe.org

Roam

A late-comer to the game, Roam Research is amazing and game changing. I’d say it has single-handedly re-invigorated the entire genre of note-taking apps. It took many of the ideas of Org mode and TiddlyWiki, added proper outlining, and mashed them up into something new and very cool. Roam is almost a perfect solution for recording minutiae. Except that it costs $15/month and is entirely cloud-based and proprietary. See, the thing with record-keeping is that it’s meant to be useful not just right now, but forever. Roam is fantastic for the now, but is risky for the longer term. This may disqualify it.

Org mode

As wonderful and powerful as Org mode is, I think my years-long fascination with Emacs may be coming to a close.

TheBrain

TheBrain was not a consideration for note-taking prior to the recently introduced version 12. With TheBrain 12, notes are not only a first-class citizen, but they offer many of the features of Roam (minus outlining).

Is that a great list or what?! Can you see why I might be struggling with which to choose?

I’m currently thinking of going with either Tinderbox or TiddlyWiki.

For the past few days, I’ve been putting everything into my Rudimentary Lathe TiddlyWiki . It may be a bit too much information to share publicly, but I’m interested in the whole public self-modeling” thing right now, so it works as part of the larger experiment. TiddlyWiki is also the only valid contender that is free and readable, as-is, forever. By forever” of course I mean for a long time”.

Using Tinderbox would be ideal. It’s a great outliner, and I love outlines. Beyond that it pays dividends with fancy maps and summaries so with a small amount of extra work, I get fun and useful output. Tinderbox is not free, however, but it is not (yet) subscription based. I’ve been using it for more than a decade, and the author doesn’t appear to have any intention of stopping development any time soon. Also, I usually export my notes every month to PDF files, so that gets me the necessary permanence.

I’m going to use both for a while, side-by-side, and see if the choice becomes more apparent.

Writing
November 22, 2020

TiddlyWiki is more fun than Roam

I fell in love with TiddlyWiki almost exactly 2 years ago . I wrote in it almost daily until late August, 2020 , when I moved full-time into a public Roam database.

Roam is great and I love it. I’ve tried everything else, and nothing beats Roam for easily taking, linking, and re-using notes. I’m still using a private Roam database for work projects and CRM-type stuff, and it’s great for that.

Roam is efficient, fast, clever…and boring. Easy isn’t the same as fun.

TiddlyWiki is fun. It’s playful. I can’t really explain it, but creating new tiddlers” and messing around with customization and finding new organizing principles is actually enjoyable in TiddlyWiki. I am probably one of only a handful of people who actually prefer the separate view and edit modes.

So, I’m going to return to using TiddlyWiki instead of Roam for my daily notes and scraps. My wiki is still at rudimentarylathe.org , which is a thousand times more fun as a URL than https://roamresearch.com/#/app/jackbaty am I right? I expect Roam will offer custom domains at some point, but so for they don’t.

I feel that TiddlyWiki’s local-first, single HTML file, free and open-source approach is better suited as a place to do public self-modeling” for the long term.

Plus, it’s more fun. I hope to see you there !

TiddlyWiki NoteTaking Software
November 13, 2020

My new (5-year-old) Leica SL

When I first saw the Leica SL, I was amazed by its brutalist audacity. Coming from the M series, this was not what I pictured when thinking Leica”.

Leica SL, the brutalist beautyLeica SL, the brutalist beauty

And yet the SL appealed to me immediately. It was powerful, flexible, beautiful, and very, very expensive. In fact, it was so expensive that I eventually stopped thinking about it. Then, when the SL2 came out last year it all came rushing back.

So, after five years, I bought one.

This came only a month after I purchased my dream digital camera, the Leica M10-P . Why would I do that? Well, as much as I adore the M10-P; its size, classic design, build quality, and optical rangefinder, I’m finding that I struggle with focusing. Rangefinder focusing has, for years, been my favorite way to manually focus a camera. Snapping those two offset squares together was fast and accurate, regardless of lighting. My eyes must be getting old because I now have trouble doing it.

When talking about the SL, people tend to talk about three things: Size, price, build quality, and the viewfinder.

One of the first things people mention is the price. OK, sure, when new, it was crazy expensive. Fine, but I paid only about 1/3rd of the original price, so let’s move on.

Leica doesn’t build cameras to a price point. They build them to a standard. A very high standard. This, then, is part of why they’re so expensive. And the minute you pick up the SL you can feel it. It is a brick. Solid, heavy, dense, and confidence-inspiring. Machined from solid blocks of aluminum, the camera feels amazingly well-built. Every control feels precise and just right. I value these things highly in a camera.

The SL is weather sealed, which is important to me, even though I rarely find myself needing it. I can’t explain it, but knowing I can use the camera in freezing or rainy weather is comforting, even if I hardly ever do it.

How about that electronic viewfinder? The internet was right, it’s awesome. For a long time, I was dead set against using an EVF. Then, they got better. And better. The EVF on the SL is so good that I barely notice it’s an EVF, except that it shows exact content and exposure of the image I’m about to make. It’s great. I thought the viewfinder on the Leica Q was good, but this is even better.

An EVF like the one on the SL makes manual focusing easy. This is awesome because I have a few nice Leica M-mount lenses that work perfectly on the SL using an adapter. Using M lenses on the SL seems to be as popular as using native lenses. After a day of testing, I can see why. The big, bright viewfinder and focus peaking is a combination practically purpose-built for it.

Let’s talk about the size. The SL is a big, heavy camera.

Here it is next to the M10-P

Leica SL and Leica M10-PLeica SL and Leica M10-P

No doubt about it, it’s big, but put an M-mount lens on it and things get much more manageable.

SL with adapted Summilux-M 50mmSL with adapted Summilux-M 50mm

For me, there are two modes when it comes to taking photos; I’m either out specifically to take pictures or I’m not. If I’m out to take pictures, the size of the camera does not matter. I might feel differently if I was into street photography or planned to hike miles uphill for landscapes, but I normally do editorial” type photography or portraits. Camera size isn’t a meaningful factor for me. If I’m not out specifically to take photos, I put the little Ricoh GRIII in my pocket.

Aside from my focusing problems with the M10-P, I bought the SL because I wanted something more flexible. And I still wanted a Leica, for all the reasons above.

Sometimes, I want more than what the M cameras can do. You know, fancy things like focus automatically and use zoom lenses. For this, I bought one autofocus zoom lens, the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 Art lens and it seems fine as an all-purpose lens, especially considering the cost compared to the other options.

For specific things like portraits, I may consider one of the 85mm or 105mm L-mount options by Panasonic or Sigma. The Leica SL lenses are still way too expensive to consider, as lovely as they may be.

I’ve only had the SL for a couple of days, so it’s too soon to tell how well it will work in real life, but so far it’s everything I expected.

Prepare for an onslaught of dog photos, self-portraits, and snapshot of random objects around the house.

Alice, unimpressed by my new cameraAlice, unimpressed by my new camera

Leica Photography
November 10, 2020

Am I losing interest in shooting film?

Film photography is a lot of work. Not so much the actual shooting part, that’s work no matter what the medium, but lately I find the rest of the process (developing, scanning, storing) to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Thing is, I enjoy spending time in the darkroom, processing film. It’s meditative; the perfect hobby for an introvert. I have various wonderful old cameras, which are often reason enough to shoot film. But is it worth the trouble?

If forced, I must admit that I like being seen as a film photographer.” It makes me feel like I’m in a group separate from the masses. I like being an outlier.

The trouble, I’m finding, is that I don’t really like the results I’m getting. I’ve shot maybe 20 rolls of film this year and a couple dozen large format negatives. Not a ton, but I’ve gone through them and there are only a handful that I really like, and most of those I only like because of their filminess.

By filminess” I mean grainy, blurred or otherwise odd in some way that screams I’m not an iPhone photo!” Is that really the characteristic I’m going for?

I look at a lot of film photographs on social media. I’ve begun noticing that they’re often not very good. Aside from the fact that they were made on film, they’d be entirely forgettable. A lot of the images look like nothing more than an excuse to use a cool camera or a way to finish the roll.

In fact, this attitude is what I see in my photos, and I don’t like it.

As usual, I’m overthinking things, but the infrastructure I have amassed in order to ease the process of shooting film is ridiculous. If the results were better, I wouldn’t mind. I’m tired of getting to the end of the long, sometimes tedious and difficult process only to look at the images and think, meh.”

Film photography is a wonderful hobby, but maybe I need a little break.

Film Photography
November 1, 2020

Manual Schmanual

I’ve prided myself on my ability to shoot a Leica M3 or Hasselblad 500C/M with no meter, no auto-focus, and no auto-exposure. Who needs it? Real photographers certainly don’t! Plus, being fully mechanical means that the cameras require no batteries and should be repairable forever. It’s a badge of honor.

Except, and maybe I’m getting lazy in my old age, I’ve grown to like letting the camera do at least some of the work. In fact, I prefer it. They’ve gotten pretty good at it and if I’m honest they do things better than me most of the time.

I guess it depends on the camera. For example, the big 4×5 cameras are slow, deliberate beasts, so having to adjust things just so is part of the experience. On the other hand, when just walking around with a digital or 35mm film camera, I want something fully automatic. Since most of the time I’m in walking-around mode, this means that most of the time I want to let the camera do the work.

The realization that I now prefer automation came to me after I bought the Leica M10-P. The Leica of course has a meter and aperture-priority exposure. But it needs to be focused manually. When I must manually focus, I love using a Leica’s rangefinder, but unless I’m range-focusing in bright light there’s no way I’m faster at it than I am with a modern auto-focus camera. Also, it takes two hands and sometimes it’s better when I can just lift a camera to my eye and press the shutter.

Manually focusing a camera is a pain I simply don’t feel like dealing with.

So, I’m finding that although I have my dream camera available, I most often pick up the little Ricoh GRIII. The Ricoh is much faster to use and, honestly, the images are comparable to the M10-P (shhhh, don’t tell anyone).

The same thing has been happening with film cameras. I stopped using the fully manual, no-meter-having Leica M3 and M4 and started using the M6. I wanted a built-in meter. Even more surprising is that lately I’ve been grabbing the big old Canon EOS-1v or Nikon F100 instead. Those cameras don’t have anything approaching the soul or joy of use of a Leica, but I kind of just want to point and shoot and move on, ya know?

I don’t know if this slow drift away from manual cameras is just a mood swing or if it’s permanent, but it’s changing how I think about shooting.

Misc Photography
October 31, 2020

A variety of 35mm SLR film cameras

Here are my remaining 35mm SLR film cameras. Clockwise from front-left, they are.

Film camerasFilm cameras

Canon AE-1 Program. An AE-Program was my first real camera. I received one  from my parents as a graduation gift. Today, though, it’s my least favorite. It just doesn’t feel good to use.

Nikon F100. This might be the single greatest deal there is when it comes to film cameras. These are semi-professional, high-end cameras that sold for around $1,400 (In 1999 dollars. One would cost more than $2,100 today). These can now be found for under $300. Great cameras.

Canon EOS-1v. The 1v was the best film camera Canon ever made. Or will ever make. It’s a solid, water-resistant, workhorse brick of a camera. I think if I were forced to keep just one SLR this would be it (with the F100 a close second).

Nikon F3. In production for nearly 20 years, the F3 is was a professional staple for as long as any camera I can think of. Mine is in great shape and works well, but I’m not in love with it. I can’t put my finger on the problem, but I never seem to reach for it other than to be sure and run a roll or two through it each year.

Olympus OM-1n. What a wonderful little jewel this is. And by little I mean little. Just look at it compared to the others. My copy is interesting because it came in a box of gear I bought on Craigslist. It was all dented and bent and basically unusable. The guy I bought it from said that it had literally fallen into a volcano (he was a geologist). I had a local camera repair shop attempt to fix it, and they did. It works great still today. The OM-1n has one of the biggest, brightest viewfinders I’ve ever used. I love it. I wish it didn’t use mercury batteries, though. I’ll never get rid of this one. I used to have a couple of the later OM-2ns and often consider picking up another.

I’ve been thinking of selling some of them. Instead, I’ve been loading them up with various films and shooting with them. It’s been so much fun that I’ve changed my mind and I’ll be keeping everything. At least for now.

35mm Film
October 25, 2020

I threw a singe strobe off to one side. It’s a little hot. It’s no picnic learning how to light things while using large format film cameras. The feedback loop is slooooow.

Shot with: Wista 45DX | Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm | Ilford HP5+ 400 @ 320

Scanned with Fuji X-T3

4x5 Film Self-portrait