Apr 102014
 

Many years ago when I did press photography, I always carried a notebook and pen with me on photographic assignments. It was a requisite that the name and address of any person photographed be noted down for the purposes of the photo caption.

I carried this practice over into my photography on vacations abroad. Those notes tended to be about buildings and places rather than people.

I don’t know if it was a function of age or sheer laziness but when I moved to America, the notebook and pen rarely accompanied me on my photographic safaris.

I am fortunate that I have a good memory but with the passage of time precise details of a photograph become a little bit hazy. I do well to recall the location of a particular shot these days.

I was reminiscing on trips made during happier times the other day and leafed through the wallets of prints that recorded visits to Memphis, Vicksburg, Rosedale and Jackson, Mississippi; a trip to San Antonio and New Braunfels in Texas; a Saturday afternoon visit to Hillsboro, Texas; and a trip to New Orleans that featured a visit to a bayou and photos of gators.

Looking at some of the shots, I didn’t have a clue as to the identity of the subject but thanks to the Internet, and Google Maps, I was able to discover I had photographed, in Jackson, Mississippi,  the Lamar Life Building, the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol Building and Old State Capitol Building.

Now all of those buildings are landmarks and fairly easy to identify.

But what about a less grand building in the small Texas town of Hillsboro, such as the one below?

Gebhardt Bakery building on E Franklin Street, Hillsboro, Texas.

Minolta XD-7, Tamron 70-210mm f/3.8-4 Adaptall 2, Fujifilm 200 Speed. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I readily admit that it is not the best shot ever taken and it did cross my mind as to why I bothered to take it. Looking closer, the building does have a Historic Marker sign and the metal lion heads that form part of the support of the verandah are quite unusual and attractive.

But what was the building?

I went into Google Maps and called up Hillsboro, Texas. I recalled that during the visit, I didn’t wander too far from the Hill County Courthouse. So I zoomed the map in that location and then went into Street View and followed a route around the courthouse.

Nothing similar to the building in the photograph appeared.

I ventured down East Franklin Street and at found what I was looking for. The building at 119 E Franklin Street turned out to be the Gebhardt Bakery, the first bakery in Hillsboro.

According to the Historic Marker:

In 1901 German native Charles Gebhardt (1874 – 1920) established Hillsboro’s first bakery. He moved his business to this building after it was completed in 1905, using the second floor as living quarters. The brick commercial structure exhibits influences of the Romanesque and Italianate styles and features arched second-story windows; decorative brickwork in the cornice, and corner turrets. The bakery building later was used for millinery and barber shops.

The photograph was taken in 2002 and before the days of Google Maps. It was interesting to discover that the tree in my shot no longer exists. I used my Minolta XD-7, known as the XD-11 in the United States, and a Tamron 70-210mm f/3.8-4 Adaptall 2 lens. The film was likely Fujifilm 200 Speed.

I find myself consulting Google Maps a lot these days when filling out the file information for images in Photoshop, often it is to get the street name but sometimes it is to identify buildings.

So yet another activity becomes reliant on the Internet and Google.

Reproducing the print for this blog also proved something of a challenge. I do not possess a scanner. I often rue the fact that I did not switch to digital photography sooner. However, with hindsight, I am glad I waited until I did given the improvements in digital camera technology that have occurred in recent years. I would have spent a lot of money on something that would now be an expensive paperweight. I am not one of those people wealthy enough to keep buying a camera as each upgrade is made. Thankfully, the technology has plateaued these past few years and unless, you absolutely must have the latest bells and whistles, the camera you bought in 2010 will still do the job.

I am still shooting with my Canon 40D, which launched in 2007. I know I am a bit behind the technological curve these days but I accept the camera’s limitations. It still produces the goods as far as I am concerned.

I used the Ricoh GR to produce the photograph above in digital form. It was hard to get the GR to focus when filling the frame with the print but I pulled back a little and the focus locked on. A little tweaking in Photoshop CS6 and the use of the Perspective Crop tool gave me a result I was pleased with.

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Dec 032011
 

Dark Entry Creek, St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The photograph above serves as an allegory of the early part of my week. I had a sunny disposition but it was under threat from the looming clouds.

The clouds in my case were my Mac Pro dying, a credit card transaction being refused and the temporary loss of my Internet access just as I was about to upload my entries for a photo contest.

My Mac Pro will be five years old next week, with a PC I would be braced for things to start going wrong but not with a Mac. You can imagine my shock, not to say disbelief, when it died. It would begin to power up but then stopped and the screen remained black.

A few procedures aimed at restoring an ailing Mac all failed. The Mac message boards provided no instant solutions, in fact they compounded my concern with mention of logic board failure. Logic boards do not come cheap and it looked as if I was facing a bill in excess of $1,000.

The one ray of sunshine amidst all this gloom was the presence of an authorized Apple repair shop only four miles from my home. I called Mac + PC Tech Pro and was told to bring my Mac in. I figured I would not only be facing a large bill but also the loss of the computer for several days.

The deadline for the photo contest was Wednesday. Sorting through all my photographs for suitable images and getting them ready for submission looked to have been a wasted effort. It probably was a wasted effort in terms of actually winning but that is a totally different issue.

In the middle of the afternoon, Jake at Mac + PC Tech Pro called back to say that testing of my Mac had revealed that the memory boards were shot and one stick of memory had failed. He said he had everything in stock and I could pick my computer up in 30 minutes. The total bill was going to be several hundred dollars but a long way short of the $1,000 I thought it would cost.

Anyone in the Jacksonville area who has a problem with their Mac should contact Mac + PC Tech Pro. You are treated like a customer rather than a number by the helpful staff. I highly recommend the company and the service it provides.

The return of my Mac also meant I would be able to submit my photographs a day before the closing date.

On Tuesday, I found that AOL had decided to change the inbox of my e-mail. They call it a unified inbox. I call it a disaster. My inbox had e-mails going back to 2009. I much preferred the old system of new mail and old mail being kept in separate inboxes.

My first attempt to switch back didn’t work and I contacted the online help service. I was being given instructions on what to do when the phone rang. It was the fraud protection unit of my credit card company, asking about a couple of recent transactions. They kept referring to today (Wednesday) when the transactions had taken place the day before.

I had decided to take up Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal on upgrading Photoshop to CS5 but my credit card company had refused to authorize the transaction. When I pointed out that I had made the transaction and made it in good faith, I was told I would have to reorder from Adobe.

“Just a minute,” I said, “yesterday was the last day of the special discount. You can telephone Adobe and put it straight.”

Moments later, I had Eric from Adobe on the line informing me that they had no record of my order placed on Nov 29.

“Excuse me, Eric,” I said,” but how is it that I have record of the order in My Adobe.” I read out the details including the order number and ended, “If I have a record of the order and you do not, I think something must be dreadfully wrong with your computer system.”

“I am going to transfer you to someone else,” Eric said sheepishly.

I was put through to a sales associate who could not have been more helpful. I got the Black Friday deal discount during which he happened to mention that the billing address on the initial order was an address in Morrisville, North Carolina and different from my shipping address in Jacksonville.

Now I could understand why my credit card company had refused to the let the order go through.

A Google search revealed the Morrisville address was vacant office premises. I contacted my credit card company with this information and also Adobe. The former assured me everything was all right with my account, the latter were not the slightest bit concerned that a bogus address had been attached to my credit card while placing an order.

With that problem sorted, I turned my attention to uploading the competition photographs, a task I had intended to start some two hours earlier.

I clicked the computer mouse and noticed that all my e-mails were grey, gray for American readers. I clicked the mouse again and nothing happened. Glancing across at the modem, I saw that all the lights were out save for the power light. Great! It was beginning to look as if I was destined not to enter this competition. I unplugged all the leads to the modem and waited for a minute, plugged them back in again but the modem remained dead. I tried a second time and got the same result. I had no recourse other than to call AT&T – that paragon of timeliness and efficiency.

I gathered together the information in order to contact AT&T, knowing full well it would be at least a day before anyone could come round to investigate the problem. With that thought in mind, I decided I needed a cup of coffee and a cigarette to calm me down.

With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs back to my office. I was in a state of disbelief at the events that had befallen me. Then at last, a piece of good fortune struck. From the top of the stairs I could see the modem and all its lights were lit up.

“You shall go to the ball, Cinders!”

I spent the next hour uploading my photographs. I am officially an entrant in the contest. The blue skies came back.

My upgrade to Photoshop CS5 should arrive next week along with a Mac OSX upgrade to Snow Leopard. I hope the learning curve is not a steep one and I can quickly get back into my workflow and make use of the new features the upgrade brings.

I am back on track.

St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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May 202011
 

The death of an aunt back in the UK has brought a sad end to an activity I have engaged in for nearly 50 years, namely letter writing.

My first written letters as a child were to distant relatives, of which my aunt was one, thanking them for Christmas and birthday presents.

I grew up with handwriting. It wasn’t until I reached the age of 21 that I first used a mechanical device to record the written word – an Olivetti portable typewriter. I later graduated to a Brother electronic typewriter with a word processor facility.

In 1994, I bought my first Apple Mac computer, a G3, and handwritten letters became few and far between. And then came the Internet and e-mail.

Since moving to America, the only handwritten letters I wrote were to my father and my aunt. Both were too elderly to embrace the technology of computers.

I corresponded every three weeks or so with my father; twice a year with my aunt – birthday and Christmas time. It was an arduous task, not in terms of finding things to write about, just the sheer mechanical act of writing. After 30 minutes or so my fingers would begin to ache, necessitating a break that sometimes interrupted the flow of the letter. I would then spend time trying to pick up the thread of my thoughts.

Another problem was that my brain always seemed to be about three words ahead of my hand, which often resulted in illegible words or a word in the wrong place. Not one for sending letters with words crossed out, I would start that page again on a fresh piece of paper.

Basically, what I could have effortlessly accomplished on the computer, writing an e-mail, took me three or four times as long in a handwritten letter.

People used to say to me, “Why not write the letter on the computer and print it off?” For me a typewritten letter is the kind of thing one receives from the bank or some other business entity. These letters were personal and I liked to retain the personal touch.

My father died in March and, with the passing of my aunt, I can now hang up my 30-year-old Sheaffer fountain pen for good. Writing with a ball-point pen, or Biro as we British would say, was never an option — my handwriting turns into an unreadable scrawl. The fountain pen enabled me to cling on to the last vestiges of legibility. There is no point in spending all that time and effort on writing a letter if the person receiving it cannot make out what is written.

Handwriting will now be relegated to jotting the odd note or two on the notepad I keep in front of the computer screen, usually the price of some camera that I cannot afford or its specifications as compared to a similar camera. But in the days of cut and paste, even these notes are becoming fewer.

I suppose I can say that I am doing my bit to protect the environment by reducing the need for paper.

Have a good weekend, y’all! I hope it contains the sentiments of this message I saw this morning on an object outside a junk antique shop on Park Street, Riverside, Jacksonville. The image was captured with my Ricoh GRD III.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.