Thinking about digital photography for a bit

Shaking off this latest cold has been difficult. It lingered more than I thought it would. A lot of people seem to have had a wave of something spread throughout town. That mental dullness that comes from having a cold easily defeats the need to write. Even some of the output that has occurred has been left to the false start bin which in my case is just unpublished prose. It will sit in a word processing document from now until the time that cloud storage ceases to exist. Remarkably large amounts of data have been stored in terms of pictures, documents, and other nonsense on cloud servers. Sometimes I end up wondering what will happen to all those pictures. For the most part even well kept photo albums from the past only last for so long. We have surprisingly few photographs in our possession from before 1980. People certainly did take photographs with film based cameras and had them developed at these little stores that no longer exist for the most part. 

You got an envelope with pictures and the now exposed film back at the end of the process. Today none of that waiting really exists. Some people do use instant film cameras and a few people have these little portable printers to be able to give somebody a physical copy of a picture. Presumably the vast majority of photography today is just digital. It’s probably in the neighborhood of around 99% based on the rise of the smartphone and its promise of AI assisted quick and easy digital photography. I’m not saying that nothing is getting printed these days. People certainly print photographs and share them or maybe display them on a wall, desk, or shelf. Presentation and sharing just account for a very small amount of the totality of photographs taken these days. It is something that changed. My personal photo albums of which I have 3 of them in my office go from 1996 to around 2004. One of them is just basically high school to the start of college. 

All of those pictures in that first photo album exist from mostly disposable cameras that I carried around in my backpack. Over time all the photos the camera was capable of taking which I remember as being around 24 the internet suggests actually included 27 based on a couple quick searches. Either way it was a process of rarity not a bulk creation of content. Almost all the photos are staged in some way and you can tell the people in frame are looking back at the camera. I’m not even sure at this point if I had gone back and digitized all the photographs in the albums. At one point, I do recall purchasing a nice flatbed scanner which was probably used for that purpose. 

You may well remember that my first digital camera was an HP PhotoSmart C200. I spent a few minutes on eBay this morning looking at them, but buying a 1 megapixel camera just does not seem very practical. It would be an outright act of nostalgia. Some of the listings came with the camera and the box. I used to carry that camera and a set of backup batteries. It makes me want to go back to using Flickr again and sharing random photographs of things. Please keep in mind that very few of my photographs turned out to be amazing works of art. Anything amazing contained within the collection of photographs was happenstance not an intentional act of photography greatness. Over time, people started really just sharing the best photographs on Instagram and that platform took off to the size of billions of users.

Working with all that leftover data

Yesterday I was wondering about just deleting my data archives. Over the last 20 years I have accumulated so much data. Sure most of it is backed up to the cloud and the writing part of it is a very slim section of the overall data. I was considering just wiping it all and starting over. My thoughts then drifted to a few thoughts about what I might miss after that great data purge. I might need my writing archives, photos, and videos. Maybe keeping all my photos and family videos would be a good thing to actually complete. From what I know all 3 sets of that data are backed up to a couple of clouds and I have alternate copies. I’m not sure why I went to all of that trouble to keep all of that data. We used to print our favorite photographs and share them in books with people. Nobody is going to want to look through 20 or 30 thousand digital photos. They are not even shared online anymore. At one point, all of my digital photos were posted on Flickr or just shared in an online directory. I have considered bringing back a digital photograph section of my weblog to share content. I’m not talking about sharing all my photos this time around, but it would be good to share the ones that people might enjoy or use as a desktop background.

That grinding sting of rework

Self censorship can create a sense of hesitation to publish or even cause people to suppress content entirely. Writing a page of prose and giving it one quick editorial review is all that happens before I click publish each day. That is pretty much it. Things boil down to a three step process: 1) write it, 2) read it, and 3) publish it. That is one of the things that my morning writing routine reinforces. Really trusting my ability to create content and stay focused drives that process forward each day. Getting passed the grinding sting of self censorship can be a very difficult process. In this case, you have to both be confident in your ability to produce prose and in your ability to edit it and publish in one quick pass. Most of the content you read here on this weblog is just lightly edited before publication. I check for blatant things, but nothing gets a ton of rework, editing, or revision. This is mostly about the act of being creative and thinking out loud within the confines of the written word. My efforts in the moment are locked into the process of writing and I slowly work from the top of the page to the bottom of the page. I have been doing that and not letting go of that process until it is complete for the last 10 days or so each morning. That is the key to getting into the habit of starting the day by writing. 

All right, I have to admit that a couple of sentences just got deleted, but they were a false start. They just had to go and things needed to move on from that derivative nonsense. I don’t consider trimming out a couple sentences of a false start to be an act of self censorship; it is really just a bit of editing in the moment. You have probably been writing and produced a sentence that just did not work and either needed to be rewritten or had to vanish from the screen and forever be banished to the scrapheap. Strangely enough I’m not sure if that act of hitting delete really needed three sentences of coverage today, but that happened and it is where my thoughts in the moment focused. During that whole time the music selection algorithm of my Pandora station was streaming really well picked songs. Sometimes that algorithm really strings together songs in a well matched series. Other times it is all over the place, but today was one of those days where it worked remarkably well. Compared to the quality of my prose today the streaming algorithm is winning the quality output battle. 

My screen just exited the Windows 10 night light mode. Apparently, daybreak was 06:05 hours this morning. That feature really is rather useful and appreciated. Earlier this week I took a little bit of video while waiting in a parking lot of a rainstorm. Initially I was just trying to capture the audio of the really heavy rain from inside the car. Yesterday I used a photo that was taken looking out from the sunroof into the falling rain as the featured image. It was one of those rare photos that when you look back at it you think that it could very well be a desktop wallpaper. Every year I probably take two or three photographs that could be a Windows desktop background. This photograph is one I might just try to add to that service as an option. Right now my desktop background is set to an image of Tony Stark in the background and Iron Man in the foreground. It is probably from when the Avenger’s Endgame movie came out. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the desktop background image. Most of the time I have two things open each taking up half of the screen divided vertically. Later today I’ll see how hard it is to upload things to the Microsoft desktop and let you know how that process went.

Rain on a window

Sharing a photo of a Denver sunrise

Earlier this morning I managed to snap a picture of the sunrise. It was fantastic and majestic (dare I say fanjestic?). The camera on my Google Pixel 3 XL does a pretty good job of capturing a moment, but it does not produce the type of depth and detail that a really amazing full size camera captures. Those amazing machine learning algorithms over at Google Photos did some magic to the base photograph. One of the photos shared below is stylized and the other is an enhancement. Both of the modifications look pretty darn good in my opinion. It is amazing to see what the machine learning algorithms are able to accomplish with a photograph. The real question is if the algorithm could be extended to make a decision about quality vs. numerically better. The algorithm that did the enhancement was designed to move the image from the original to something that would be considered enhanced. It was able to complete a transform that is numerically accepted as an improvement or at some level at least an acceptable alteration. None of that effort relates to a judgment of quality. None of it helps determine or explain why that transform improved the image.

Google stylized this photo of a sunrise in Denver
Google auto-enhanced this photo of a sunrise in Denver
The original photo of a sunrise in Denver