Tuesday, October 13, 2020

What's worth keeping?


We're moving to Boston.  Long story.

As with any move, we're going through and weeding out material possessions we don't need anymore.  And that goes for the archives as well.  When I was younger I felt that old images, like fine wine, might become more valuable over time, and therefore it was imprudent to throw old pictures away, even when they didn't "make the cut".  You never know about the future.  That's a foundational principle of stock photography.

I benefitted from this philosophy a few times.  

The Goodyear Blimp hasn't looked like this in decades.  At the time I took the picture, though, it was nothing special.

And who in their right mind would ever take a picture of a phone booth?  Surely these will be around forever!

Will this image from the Welcome Home Desert Storm Troops Parade from 1992 become more valuable over time? 

How about this image from the 1994 Northridge, California Earthquake?

How about this picture of actor McLean Stevenson and sportscaster Scott St. James I took at a celebrity golf tournament in 1986?

Here's where the image appreciated in value.  The infamous "CCCP" initials in the Kremlin building (left) are gone now (right).  It's as if the letters were Photoshopped out, but in real life. :-)

Another example where keeping photos that didn't make the cut saved me.  Here's a picture I took during "Bubble Festival" at the local science museum:


Great shot, right?  I wanted to use it for the cover of the RX100 VI book (since that's the camera I used to take that picture), but there was a problem: The book covers are vertical, and this is a horizontal composition.

Good thing I didn't delete my rejects.  I found this image:


I darkened it, rotated it a bit, and then put it below the black banner, fooling your brain into thinking it was all one image:


Tricky, no?  Now that you know what I did, you can see some proportion problems and evidence of the clone stamp work I had to do too. :-)

So you can see why I kept everything; because you just never know.  After 40 years, though, you tend to have a slightly better idea of what's NOT going to appreciate in value.  That's why for the last month I've been going through bin after bin of the archives, digitizing and purging the physical artifacts.  (Or in some cases, just purging.)  All the pictures I took in my first trip to Israel in 1978?  Gone.  All the pictures from the Namibia trip that never made the final cut?  Tossed.  You get the idea.  I filled five large trashcans with stuff.  

Some jewels surfaced, like these videos of Professor Freeman Dyson giving lectures at JPL when he was a visiting scientist.  (Or me during that same era talking about how I was able to make a crappy IBM PC behave like the expensive graphics workstations to visualize spacecraft data in real time.)  (Or this, documenting the children's play I wrote the music for back in the day.)  

Rightly or wrongly, I still keep negatives.  Mostly because they take up little space; and because they've been proofed and organized; and because scans from negs are of infinitely better quality than scanning prints (see example below).  Plus, a few times a year I tend to dive in to digitize a particular image from an event which has suddenly become relevant.  (Like when I dug up those substandard images of Siegfried and Roy a few months ago after Roy died.)  

Negative Scan vs. Photographing a print.  Which do you think is better?  (Click on image to make it larger.)

Images of family members are a different story.  This is probably the first time in history when people are flooded with too many images of their family and times together.  Even images that never get "picked" for sharing with others have value to me; they jog a pleasant neuron when they come up on my screensaver.  And disk space has never been cheaper, so the motivation to purge digital files is weak.

So what's worth keeping?  After the agonizing process of throwing away perfectly good images (knowing I had better ones already scanned), after analyzing everything I threw away, I concluded that shots that document your surroundings (building interiors, quaint architecture found in travel) have significantly less value than photos of people you are close to, and the closer they are to a classic snapshot (faces placed according to the rule of thirds, good light, natural expressions).  Better still are classic snapshots that serve also as an environmental portrait - documenting a person in the environment in which they thrive.

Capturing a genuine expression can trump non-ideal light.

Another lesson I am constantly reminded of is the importance of curating your work - pick your best ones as you shoot, label and save them in a special area so you won't become overwhelmed when it comes time to choose good ones of family members or events.  And get them in printed form, like photo books or pictures on the wall - as many photographers have pointed out over the years, a photo doesn't mean anything if it's sitting on a hard drive gathering dust.  A printed picture is forever; whereas an instagram picture is something like 0.8 seconds.  (Which is ironic insight given just how many physical images I've been getting rid of...)

(I wonder if Steve McCurry has this problem.)

In the Pipeline

Fujifilm X-T4 is now Finished and available in all formats!  
Sony A7S III - Hopefully by December, but the move will delay the release.  It will be a majorly different book considering the new menu system and more advanced video features.  Pre-order yours at a discount.  
Olympus E-M1 III - First part end of October; final book in December.  You can pre-order this one at a discount too.
Sony A7C - Haven't received mine yet; can't speculate.  But I'll be writing about it.

Virtual Photo Club Talk

I've now done about a dozen virtual Photo Club talks over Zoom, and they have been a hit!  The most popular talks (by far) have been my lecture and demonstration of wireless flash, and also my RAW vs. JPG sermon which changes a LOT of people's minds regarding what they thought was true.  I can do this for your photo club too!  Have your club president get in touch with me.  Gary at Friedman Archives dot com .

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

More things digitized.  Carl Sagan was president of the Planetary Society in 1989 when Voyager 2 did its flyby of Neptune, the last planet for its scheduled journey. Dr. Sagan threw a "Goodbye Voyager" party at JPL, hired musician Chuck Berry (who did the duck walk), and gave everyone who worked on this project a commemorative coin. Mine is number 881 out of 5000.

36 comments:

  1. So where’s the long story about the move? Why Boston?

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    1. The short answer is "Nobody in Orange County, California is taking the pandemic seriously, and since Carol and I are in the 'most vulnerable' category we feel our lives are at risk if we stay (even though we've hardly left the house since March). We have another set of grandkids in Boston so that's an obvious choice.

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    2. Gary, I am from Argentina and I have to thank you for your blog and suggestions. Enjoy your grandkids in Boston. With love from south america. claudio

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  2. Glad to hear you're moving to my neck of the woods, Gary. When the pandemic clears, I owe you a drink for all the years of insight you've offered.

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    1. Thanks! I could use a drink or two right now, actually.

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  3. I love Boston. Been to many years since I visited.

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  4. What is happening with the Olympus EM1iii book?

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    1. Pretty sure I mentioned it in the "In the Pipeline..." section.

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  5. I totally understand about being in the "vulnerable" category. Luckily I've been able to see my two grandchildren every week but always at a distance. Little one will be 2 yrs old in two weeks and I haven't been able to hug him since March. Project on my list is to go through my old photos, slides and negatives and digitize them but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe I will now. Good luck with your move. New England is great but cold in the winter.

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    1. You sound a lot like me. Yeah, it's cold but so is most of the world.

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  6. Have a GREAT TIME in Boston! Good Luck with your move. I want to use a company to digitize me photos. Dod you have a suggestion?

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    1. I don't. I know Costco offers that service but can't vouch for their quality since I've never seen their output.

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  7. Thanks for sharing "life" with us! I appreciate your writing style and personal attention to uplift even the occasional camera buff like myself. Your attitude of "you can do this!" has always energized me to experiment with your suggestions. Hopefully Boston will only strengthen your unbridled passion toward fulfilling your life-long ambitions in photography. We'll be praying for a successful move!

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    1. Thanks for your encouraging words! They come at a good time. :-)

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  8. You will enjoy New England. You might have considered Portland ME as Maine has done a good job of keeping Cpvid-19 under control. I am writing from Mid Coast Maine.

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  9. Have fun in Boston. I hear it's cold up there. Though I have a lot of family there, so I guess there's a reason to stay there. Best wishes on the move. I think the NE will do you good (as long as family is there). And it's closer to Nova Scotia.

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  10. Unfortunately Corvid19 has adversely affected most of the world, but here in South Africa we have had our share, and for once in our lives, we seem to have been luckier that many countries.
    Our authorities jumped on the pandemic as it got started and implemented swift action which has saved many lives. The importance of face masks and social distancing has been critical to that success.
    RE: Sony A7Siii. I have traditionally been a stills photog, but the pressure to shoot video has been growing, so when the Sony A7Siii was announced, I dived in!
    I received mine last week and have been trying to get my head around the whole concept of video, keeping in mind that logically, I see it is really a fast frame rate (I also shoot the Sony A9ii) speeded up, and editing is more like batch processing, but a whole lot more complex, than using Light Room to process individual frames. *I will probably go with Premier Pro, as I am familiar the Adobe editing software, but I know it's a lot more complex than LR :-).
    I have booked your eBook on the A7Siii, and can't wait to read what you say.
    You have helped me so much all the way through my Sony journey (Since mid 2017) when I switched from Canon after 19 years.
    As I am a wildlife and surfing photog and use long lenses, I will be shooting wildlife in the wilderness areas, mainly with long lenses, but with a little twist! I will be shooting stills and video, side-by-side on this locally made equipment http://www.gimprogear.com/product/double-pano-head.
    Thanks so much Gary...Keep up the awesome work Bud. :-)

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story and kind words, Tim!

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  11. Hi Gary, I clicked the link for the pre-order E-M1 III book and the camera shown is not E-M1 III. The camera shown is an E-M10. Please clarify. Thank you.

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  12. Hi Gary
    Always enjoy your posts, and good luck with your move to Boston.

    Just wondering if you did a review of the A7R4. I did a search but didn't come up with anything.

    Regards
    Vi

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    1. Well, I DID write a book on that camera... I suppose that counts as a "review". :-) Here: https://friedmanarchives.podia.com/the-friedman-archives-guide-to-sony-s-a7r-iv

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  13. I'm a firm believer of never ever get rid of any photo of any kind. I've been taking photos since my college days in 1968 and have never thrown any away (although some disappeared through 3 moves and a divorce) and I am glad I kept them. It's not about the value but the memories.

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    1. No argument. That's how I felt up until about six weeks ago. :-)

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  14. Gary -- Greetings from NJ and Welcome to the east coast!!...Boston is a great city and NE is beautiful. Lots of photo opportunity... Don't forget to visit Cape Cod for the most beautiful sunsets and that spectacular "Cape Light"

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  15. Anything that is site-specific in terms of architecture and city Street view.

    But did you know that library‘s all over the world contain photographic collection that have never been investigated because there are so many of them?

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    1. I did not! I suppose the universe would thank an organization that would digitize and put all of those online for research and historic purposes.

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  16. Fantastic piece of info.

    I concluded that shots that document your surroundings (building interiors, quaint architecture found in travel) have significantly less value than photos of people you are close to, and the closer they are to a classic snapshot (faces placed according to the rule of thirds, good light, natural expressions)

    I am reaching the same conclusion and feeling that all those pictures of nice places I took instead of enjoying a bit more the visit are not worth the effort.

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    1. Well, I probably should have clarified that further. When you're documenting something (for an assignment, for example) it makes perfect sense to take those shots since they can give readers a feel for the place. So there's value. Absent an assignment, the value drops a little.

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  17. Welcome to New England Gary! Sounds like you'll miss our foliage season, but there's always next year. Now you'll be closer to some of my favorite locations...Adirondack Park in NY state, Cape Cod, New Hampshire's White Mountains, and coastal Maine. Yes, I'm mostly a nature photog. Constantly refer to your e-books for my Sony A77II and Sony RX10IV cameras, so thanks for them and good luck on your cross-country move. BTW, all of the NE states have relatively low Covid rates right now and masks are worn everywhere.

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    1. Yes, that's one primary motivation for exiting California. My wife and I will no doubt be visiting every place you mention and then some.

      Although I grew up in California I have seen fall foliage twice (example: http://www.friedmanarchives.com/balloon-and-red-leaves-different-crop/ ) :-)

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  18. When my mother died, I had the responsibility of going through her many photo albums. My rule #1 was that if I did not know who any of the people in the picture was, it got tossed.

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    1. A lot of people do that. If you have the time, though, a compelling argument can be made to put them online so others might be able to find and identify them in the future. I make the case in this blog post: https://friedmanarchives.blogspot.com/2018/07/what-to-do-with-old-family-snapshots.html

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  19. Hi Gary, This is not related to your post, but I have always trusted your advice and insight -I have been following you and reading your e-books through five Sony cameras since 2010. I am considering switching from A-mount to E-mount; I currently use the A99ii. I enjoy astrophotography, and I'm wondering if the A7Siii would be a good camera for that purpose? I keep hearing that it is a great video camera, but I'm more interested in low light photography than video. My second interest is sports, so I'm considering the A9 because it is a great sports camera (and there are pretty big price breaks right now!) How do you think the A9 would do for astrophotography, especially compared to the A7Siii?

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    1. An astrophotographer friend tells me that the A7S series is great for stars but awful for planets since the planets can get lost between pixels. So it depends on your goal. The A9 is overkill for most kinds of sports shooting (its claim to fame is a near global shutter when shooting in silent mode, which is great for golf tournaments but most others don't need it), and cameras like the A7 III can focus just as quickly in most situations. Any modern E-series camera can focus track better than your A99 II.

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  20. Thank you, Gary! Always appreciate your sound advice

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