Sunday, December 25, 2016


In looking at a photo done on infrared film recently, I remembered that I had done a little digital infrared work a long time ago using a Nikon Coolpix 5700 and a Hoya infrared filter. I searched back through my archive at photobucket and found a couple of the shots. The pictures were made thirteen years ago before I switched back to film photography.

Mexican Elders and the Robledos Mountains

Elephant Butte Dam

Friday, December 23, 2016

Free and Easy

Mostly, I'm still making photographs with my collection of ancient analog film cameras. Like everyone else, however, I ultimately end up with digital images and display them on line. I'm mostly happy with using the big image sharing sites like Google's Blogger and Yahoo's Flickr. Occasionally, I yearn for a way to have more control in how the images are displayed.

 I got interested recently in exploring the possibilities for on line slide shows and decided to see what kind of free web hosting might facilitate the endeavor. I googled up a ten-best list of current offerings and came across What distinguished that one from the rest was an apparent lack of any constraints on access or capabilities.

It took me about five minutes to create an account and do the initial setup for a basic web site that could host the simple scripts for creating on line slide shows. Had I the ambition, there is no reason the site could not have supported an elaborate web site, a big database application or a WordPress blog. The dashboard features excellent file management and editing utilities which makes script hosting and debugging very easy. The slideshow scripts I link to from my photography blog seem to be running faultlessly. (At least they were until my cat tipped over my keyboard and deleted everything from the server. I have restored most of the lost files.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Photography in the Twenty-First Century

I performed an impromptu social experiment recently.  I want ot share some of the details and a bit of analysis as I think it provides a useful answer to the question of what to do with one's photographs.

We recently hosted an informal holiday get-together of neighbors at our home, scheduled to begin at 10:00 am.  While straightening up the house that morning I decided on something of a whim to incorporate a slide show into the proceedings.  I selected a show that was already prepared and on line, a group of pictures made in our neighborhood over the past eight years.

Click image to view the Old Town folder at Google Photos.  To view the images there as a slide show, click the three-dot "More Options" icon in the upper right and select "Slide Show".

Before our guests arrived, I started the slide show running on my laptop, and then broadcast it via wifi to our flat-screen television located between the pellet stove and the piano in our living room.

The slideshow was running when the first guests arrived.  I made no announcement or reference to the show and there was no sound from the tv receiver -- just the fifty or so pictures being displayed with about a five second delay for each shot.  I don't think anyone gave much thought to the changing photo display initially; it just seemed a part of the decor.  Eventually, someone asked if those were my pictures (yes).  Later, I was asked about the location of a shot showing some empty planters in a garden (the courtyard behind the art museum).  Additional comments were made about the photography over the next three hours the gathering lasted, but the display did not interfere in any significant way with the group's ongoing conversation.  Some people looked at the changing pictures often and other only occasionally, but I think most people saw most of the pictures as they were displayed in a continuous loop.

One of the salient features of my experiment was the contrast it provided to countless slideshows I sat through in my youth.  Most people whose personal history extends back into the era of film photography will have similar memories of sitting in the dark with a wheezing slide projector throwing images on a white screen, often accompanied by some narration about a recent vacation trip.  Sometimes the shows were entertaining; more often they were stoically endured.  If the audience was composed of family members or close friends, there might be some talk and banter about the pictures, but there were not many opportunities for deviations from the script.

The things that most distinguished the old-style slide shows was that they had a very linear character, and they demanded the undivided attention of the participants.  The same can be said, in fact, about most other ways in which still images are offered up for observation.  It takes some willful preparation, some time commitment, and possibly some money to go to a photography exhibit, to read a book or to watch a program about a photographer's work.  The informal exhibit I mounted in our living room required none of those things.  Rather, it allowed for multi-tasking and gave the choice for participation to each individual member of the assembled group.  In other words, it was a photography exhibit that was consistent with behavioral norms and expectations of the digital age, a Twenty-First Century slide show.

Although the slide show I presented was informal, it nevertheless required some preparation.  The subject or theme in this case was easy to relate to for the guests -- they all lived in the area and had at least some familiarity with the places depicted.  That contributed to the viability of the continuous, non-linear presentation; it really did not matter much if their attention strayed at times away from the flow of images.  I could have chosen other subjects for such an exhibit from among my collection of photos which includes thousands of images.  It would have been fairly easy to assemble forty or fifty portraits; pictures of cats, cars, color shots, black and white images, what-have-you.  I think the thing to keep in mind is that you are a photographer, but you can also choose in this streaming digital age to be an archivist, a curator, and an exhibitor.

I have used several photo sharing services over the years and some of them provided a way to assemble and display slide-show presentations on line.  I use as a place to display what I consider my best photos, but I don't like it as a general purpose image management tool.  For that reason, I chose in this instance to use Google Photos for assembling and presenting my on line exhibit.

I accessed my Google Photos slide-show with my laptop running the Chrome browser which can "cast" anything displayed in the browser via my home wifi network to my television receiver to which I have attached the little Google chromecast device.  The chromecast gadget plugs into one of the HDMI ports on the back of the receiver.  On mine, there is a button on the back of the set with allows changing the tv output to HDMI from the cable or antenna.  Some other sets will allow that change to be made through the setup menu.  At the moment, you can pick up one of these digital streaming devices for about $25.  All of this can be accomplished quite quickly and easily these days.  Large flat-screen tv receivers and home wifi networks are everywhere, and you can even do it all on the fly with a tablet, or even just a cell phone and a portable wifi hotspot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

real news

Big Media continues to keep the country focused on the antics of the Trump circus.  There are, however, alternatives which provide perspective on real problems and point to real solutions.  One of these is the on-going work of Thomas Piketty in compiling comprehensive data on income inequality and drawing rational conclusions from that data about how to turn around the country's destructive trend lines which have been going in the wrong direction since the 1970s.

Piketty, along with colleagues Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman recently published a paper with a focus on those issues, “Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States”.  An overview of the paper is available at the web site of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Here are a couple excerpts:

"...To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more. This ratio of 1 to 81 is similar to the gap between the average income in the United States and the average income in the world’s poorest countries, among them the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Burundi..."

"...Policies that could raise the pre-tax incomes of the bottom 50 percent of income earners could include:
  • Improved education and access to skills, which may require major changes in the system of education finance and admission
  • Reforms of labor market institutions to boost workers’ bargaining power and including a higher minimum wage
  • Corporate governance reforms and worker co-determination of the distribution of profits
  • Steeply progressive taxation that affects the determination of pay and salaries and the pre-tax distribution of income, particularly at the top end"
Update:  Some additional information on the trajectory of inequality in the U.S. is presented in an article by Ben Casselman at the 538 site.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Joining the Resistance

I recently read one of Jean-Paul Sartre's early novels, Troubled Sleep.  It is about the defeat of France by Germany in 1940.  The French were totally dispirited, and pessimistic about their future.  Many tried to escape the German onslaught by fleeing to the south.  Others simply surrendered to the events of the moment; some choosing death, others accommodation.  It all seems rather familiar.  Fortunately, however, we have the advantage of hindsight and are able to look beyond France's low moment to what transpired over the next five years.

Once past the initial period of shock and grief, many French people, including Sartre, were able to pull themselves together and begin to work toward the day of liberation, no matter how distant that goal may have seemed at the time.  Their efforts were certainly encouraged by the increasing resolve of the Allies to confront the German aggression, and the combination ultimately triumphed in what seems now a relatively short time, though not without great sacrifice.

So, what I am suggesting as a possibility is to follow the advice of Bernie Sanders: to band together and fight.  As he says, there really is no other choice, and there are many precedents which point to the power of the people to resist an oppressive regime, regardless of its perceived strength at the moment.

A consensus is developing rather quickly around the most effective ways to organize a response to an aberration of democracy in which the winning party falls short of a majority by over two-and-one-half million votes.  First, old alliances and their leadership must be rejected.  Second, whatever is going on at the national and international level, local initiatives can still prevail to produce progressive results.  A useful perspective on these possibilities appears in The Nation under the title,  ‘All Resistance Is Local’: A Plan of Progressive Action for the Trump Years. The implication of The Nation article is that people need to look closely at their own communities to see clearly what are the main obstacles and opportunities for effective citizen action.

New Mexico is a good case study; the economy is in shambles and the State ranks near the bottom among the States on nearly every important metric including employment, health and education.  The Republican governor has lost all credibility and the Dems have retaken a congressional majority, though they have not really shown an awareness or the determination to take the kind of initiatives needed to turn around the state's sorry condition.  There are, however, great and obvious opportunities available.

For starters, New Mexico has a lot of sunny days.  A right-of-way for power lines to support renewable energy distribution has recently been established, and there is no good reason not to move away from fossil fuel production which has kept the state riding a boom and bust rollercoaster.  A move away from corporate favoritism in the taxation regime may have to wait for the governor's exit in two years, but her failed education secretary will be jumping ship before year's end, and local school districts will have a clear opportunity to assert their authority.  Minimum wage initiatives have had some success already, and more progress in that direction seems very likely.  New Mexico is one of the states that has benefited most from health care reform, and its citizens are not likely to easily accept the destruction of Obamacare.  New Mexicans currently have access to medical cannabis, and the tax and entrepreneurial advantages of recreational approval are easy to see just across the northern border.  So, no shortage of things to do, and no time like the present to start.