October 25, 2020

Very expired ektar 25

I have lots of film stored in my fridge. Some of it is very old. I’m determined to shoot it rather than throw it out, so I ran a roll of Ektar 25 through my Nikon F100.

Let’s just say the results were less than stellar.

To be fair, this roll had expired nearly 25 years ago, so I wasn’t expecting much. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was that someone had already exposed about half the roll. It wasn’t me. I wondered why the number 13” was written on the leader. Now I know. They’d exposed 13 frames and then removed the roll from the camera.

The thing about shooting film is that even disasters like this can be interesting.

Film Photography
October 24, 2020

Using the Skier Sunray Copy Box 3 for digital film scanning

I hate scanning film negatives. Especially color film negatives.

Scanning software is universally atrocious to use. Getting good color from scanned film is such a hit-or-miss (mostly miss) proposition that I’d largely given it up.

Many people are moving from using film scanners (flatbed or dedicated) to scanning” with digital cameras. I’ve been skeptical of this, but ever since the introduction of Negative Lab Pro it’s become more interesting. NLP makes it easy to get decent color from a digitally scanned negative.

To scan film using a camera, you need a copy stand to hold the camera, a lightbox or other bright, even light source, a macro lens, and something to hold the negatives.

I’ve been using my Fuji X-T3, 7Artisans 60mm Macro, Kaiser Slimlite, and the MK1 from Negative Supply. This all worked pretty well, but was limited to scanning 35mm film. I also shoot 120 and 4×5. Putting together a kit for every format using the pricey Negative Supply gear would run me well over $1,000. More like $1,699 for the pro kit.

I started looking around for something a little more reasonable and found the Skier Sunray Copy Box 3. The kit for 35mm, 120, and 4×5 costs $299, so I took a chance and ordered one.

My scanning station looks like this…

Sunray Scanning StationSunray Scanning Station

Skipping to the chase, the Sunray box works great. The light source is ridiculously bright, allowing me to stop down and keep a fast shutter speed to avoid any shake. The holders are easy to handle and do a good job of keeping film flat. I was able to digitize a roll of 35mm film in less than 10 minutes.

My workflow for this is a little convoluted, since I use Capture One Pro for editing but NLP requires Lightroom Classic. I import the scans” into Lightroom, crop, and convert in NLP, save TIFF copies of the edited RAW files, then move them into my C1 library for finishing. I’m still working on making this more efficient, but I’m getting the hang of it so it gets easier every time.

If you are looking for a (relatively) inexpensive way to scan film negatives using a digital camera, the Skier Sunray Copy Box 3 is a very good option.

Film Scanning Workflow
October 24, 2020

Roam and TheBrain, together

Where should I keep my notes, TheBrain or Roam? I decided earlier this year to use Roam, and was confident in that decision until TheBrain version 12 added backlinks.

Now all bets are off.

With proper backlink handling, I’m considering bringing private notes back into TheBrain. I love the Plex and how it enables me to quickly gather context about a topic simply by looking at it. I already have thousands of inter-linked thoughts in my Brain and finding things there has always been fast and easy.

But I still love publishing to my public Roam database, so where do I write about something that might just as well be public? For example, I would like to keep notes about this blog, but where?

How about both!?

I sometimes forget that TheBrain includes a nice built-in (webkit-based) browser, accessed by simply attaching a URL to a thought. This means I can drag any page from Roam into a related thought in TheBrain and it gives me the best of both worlds. The screen shot above shows an example. The Plex on the left shows all my links in TheBrain, and the notes pane on the right shows the page in Roam. I can edit the Roam content right in TheBrain, but I can also link private thoughts or take private notes in the Notes pane, like this…

TheBrain Notes paneTheBrain Notes pane

This is good.

Roam Tech TheBrain
October 23, 2020

The iPod Classic (revisited)

GQ told me that Now Is a Great Time to Go Back to an Old iPod and I believed them, so I bought one.

iPod ClassiciPod Classic

This is a 7th-gen iPod Classic fitted with a custom board and 256GB flash storage. I got it from PiratePTiPods on Etsy.

I admit it was a bit of an impulse buy, but after a week of use I’m glad I have it. I’ve loaded it with a bunch of my favorite songs, and have not yet run out of things to listen to.

Loading songs onto it hasn’t been my favorite pastime. I use Roon rather than Apple Music so I had to fire up Music and drag-and-drop songs into the app, then tell the iPod to sync.

On the other hand, it’s wonderful to use. I really like being able to just reach over and play/pause/skip or change the volume without looking up from whatever I’m doing. Touch screens are no match for that click wheel when it comes to actually controlling music. And of course not having the device send me notifications every two minutes is nice, too.

Wired headphones are required, but this is preferable because I own pretty good ones. The best part is that they don’t have to pair or charge. Also, unlike every pair of AirPods I’ve owned, they always work.

This may be just a fun bit of nostalgia, but it’s a nice-sounding, pleasurable, fun to use bit of nostalgia.

Apple Gear Miscellaneous Music
July 30, 2020

Cheating with digital

Photographs should not be significantly altered in post. It’s cheating. This is how I feel. I suppose if you consider yourself a digital illustrator” rather than photographer, then sure, but otherwise, it’s cheating.

And oh my how easy it is to cheat these days. Here’s an example. I took the following photo yesterday during a walk at the beach with my daughter.

Ok, I lied, the photo I actually took was this one…

Pretty similar, right? Except that my photo had no birds in it, and the sky was dull and boring, as far as skies go.

It took me about 4 clicks in the latest version of Luminar to replace the sky with something slightly more dramatic and to add a few birds, just for the hell of it. The result is the same” photo but just jazzed up a little, right?

No, it’s not. It’s cheating and it’s not what happened. My goal when taking photographs is to record things I’m interested in or to show how I see things. I realize not everyone feels this way, but cheating like I did here ruins the photo for me. Yes, if I were scrolling through Instagram I’m sure I’d prefer the altered version, but it’s not how I want to do things.

It’s so tempting, though! If it only takes a few clicks to go from decent to Wow!, why wouldn’t I? I’d like to make the slippery slope argument here. I mean, just look at how awesome this sunset photo is!


But, you know, some hard-working photographer somewhere is spending days getting to beautiful places and waiting long hours for just the right moment. Then, finally, the light and sky and everything comes together for the shot. By cheaply and easily altering my images, I diminish the work done by those who are out doing it for real. It feels wrong. It feels like cheating and I want no part of it.

July 27, 2020

Re-retiring the old iPhone SE

I’ve only had it out again for a few weeks, but I’ve already put my beloved iPhone SE back in the drawer. As much as I love its size, shape, and Touch ID, the little SE doesn’t fit as well into my life as well as the X. Its battery only gives me about a half-day of use. It doesn’t fit in my car holder. It’s a lot slower, and the camera is much worse. I could probably take care of most of these if I tried hard enough, but I’d just be swimming upstream.

Apple isn’t going to make another small phone like the SE. I’m better off moving on. It’s disappointing, but fine. It’s just a phone.

Apple Hardware
July 26, 2020

The MyHeritage Photo Enhancer

I ran one of my favorite found negatives through the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer and I have to admit it’s pretty impressive.

Before and afterBefore and after

The photos are enhanced using this specialized technology and are not manually retouched in any way. The technology infers what the original faces may have looked like by bringing blurry low-resolution or low-quality photos into clear focus.

The process focuses on faces in the photos and leaves the rest alone. It’s worked amazingly well on the handful of images I’ve tested. I want this for all of my very old negative and photo scans. Unfortunately, it requires a subscription to MyHeritage, in which I’m not interested.

The technology behind all this is licensed, so it must be available elsewhere. If you know where I might find it, drop me a line.

Photography Analog
July 21, 2020

Cameras I’m using and cameras I want

Here are the cameras I use regularly enough to claim that they are being used”, in order of most-to-least used.


  • Ricoh GRIII
  • Leica Q
  • Fuji X-Pro2
  • Fuji X-T3


  • Leica M6
  • Fuji Instax SQ6
  • Leica M3
  • Hasselblad 500C/M

Obviously, this list is way too long for anyone claiming to be a serious hobby photographer: It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer, blah, blah…”. On the other hand, it’s a fine list for someone—me, for example—who enjoys photography but really likes cameras.

The past few months have seen me shoot very little film, but I must admit that the Leica M film bodies are so wonderful to hold that I pick them up and shoot a frame or two of whatever just for the tactile pleasure of it. They really are more to me than just cameras. They feel astonishing and could be the most beautiful man-made objects I’ve every used.

And yet, I mostly grab the little GRIII. I’m kind of in a digital mood lately.

What if I could have that Leica M feeling, but with digital? Good question! That’s what I’ve been wondering! :). So right now the camera I want is a Leica M10. Or specifically, the M10-P. I don’t want the new M10-R because, well, there’s no used market yet and who needs 40 megapixels? I don’t.

I can’t stop thinking about it. I already have the 35mm Summicron ASPH which is my favorite small-format lens of all time. Wouldn’t that be a wicked combination? I had an M8 years ago and that camera sucked. Chunky, slow, terrible in low light, and needed a filter so the blacks didn’t go all magenta on me. From what I can tell, the M10 is finally there. It’s a true M camera, but digital.

On the other hand, there’s the Leica SL2. In-body IS, wicked-good construction, world’s greatest EVF, damn good video (the M10 doesn’t even have video), and the option of using fantastic auto-focus lenses or my M lenses with an adapter. It’s a huge beast, but I kind of want one.

Then there’s Linhof 4x5 Master Technika. Of course I wouldn’t get a new one, at that price. I still enjoy making 4x5 portraits, but my 1950s Crown Graphic is beat to shit and doesn’t really spark joy”, as they say. I think the Linhof would.

I can only have one of the above, and probably shouldn’t have any, but I’ve found myself trolling eBay and the other usual outlets. I can’t wait to see what I do.

Shopping listShopping list

July 19, 2020

Big Sur beta issues

The macOS Big Sur beta has been stable overall, but hasn’t been without issues for me on the 2017 iMac. I’m keeping a list here.

  • Emacs crashes on launch. I’m using emacs-plus. I’ve tried all the usual fixes but no luck.
  • TiddlyDesktop crashes on launch, which means I’m editing the wiki in Firefox for now
  • Chronosync won’t read it’s own sync files
  • Lightroom Classic works but is so slow that it’s unusable
  • Google Backup and Sync (used for Google Photos) crashes on launch
  • I can’t change my desktop background to the Big Sur default image (acknowledged in release notes)

Some of these are known issues. Some could be just me. Other than Emacs not launching in a GUI, I don’t regret installing the beta, yet.

Added later:

  • My menubar items are all white, making them hard to read in light mode. Had to switch to dark mode, which I dislike.
Apple macOS
July 18, 2020

I miss Ruby on Rails

Me wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) RailsconfMe wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) Railsconf

I shipped my first Ruby On Rails app—an ecommerce website—in 2007. I had been writing PHP apps for a few years and working with Rails was a revelation. In fact, I was half finished writing that ecommerce site using PHP when I discovered Rails. I was so sure about Rails that I convinced the CEO to let me trash the PHP version and start over in Rails. It was worth it.

A few years later I drifted from writing code into more of a project management role. Of course I still work with developers every day, and have watched them chase newer, better” technologies for years. They seem to have collectively decided that a full-on JavaScript stack (Node/React/Vue/Nuxt/etc) is where we should be. Is it though?

I’ve been itching to write some code lately and found my chance in a Rails app we’d been working on for years. I wanted a small change to the way something worked in the app, so I cracked my knuckles, ran docker-compose and friends, made the changes, submitted a PR and Bam! my work was in production. Rails worked much the same as it did when I was using it regularly. That was comforting, given the rapid change and deprecation I see everywhere else.

It felt really good. It also made me think about Rails again. It made me think about monoliths vs microservices. I wondered why I became infatuated with microservices along with everyone else a few years back. I think that maybe it’s because splitting apps into a bunch of services provides us the opportunity to play with something new without needing to toss the entire system. As fun as this can be, it probably isn’t the best approach for most teams.

I guess what I’m learning is that I kind of miss Rails. I lament that we were, collectively, so eager to find something new that we forgot how easy and productive it is to build stuff in Rails. I read about the HEY Emal app stack and was reminded how refreshing it would be to work with a stable, (relatively) simple stack like that.

Yes, I know there are a shitload of Rails apps still out there, and more being built all the time, but if you follow current development events, the mindshare has moved on. I wonder if it was a mistake.

This is just me wondering what I should do about my recent urge to build something. I could, as I mentioned recently, go with something crazy like Clojure. Or, I could do what everyone else is doing and dive into JavaScript. Or… I could put on my old, comfortable Ruby on Rails T-shirt and perhaps actually get something done.

RubyOnRails Programming