Ironic that a column on New Year’s resolutions would run in February, especially when one of the top commitments is “Don’t Wait, Do It!” But in my defense, my excuse is golden, since the January edition of Lifestyles was a long-overdue calendar. So with that perfect segue — on with the new year before us.
This one is for the benefit of you, dear reader. Years ago, in the long-gone age of film, I found the value in being organized. Part of this was working for a newspaper where dozens of rolls of film were shot every week. And on those dozens of rolls were dozens of assignments. And in those assignments, hundreds of people.
Without a system of organization, these negative files would be virtually worthless. “Oh gee, I remember shooting that ... sometime last year ... I’m sure those negs are somewhere ...” doesn’t quite cut it on publication deadline.
It is even more crucial to be organized with digital files.
With my name appearing under images almost daily in the U-B, I’ve become a natural go-to for people in the community with questions about photography. Probably none is more common than “How do I find my vacation* photos on my computer?” (*baby, soccer, dog, grandparents, moose, etc.). My first response is always, “Well, where did you save them?”
In the future, I’ll dedicate a whole column to this issue, but for now, let me recommend becoming proactive with your images this year. Take control of them. Don’t let your computer automatically do the download. Have a specific space on your hard drive dedicated to photos, and always put them there.
In that place, create logically named folders.
In those folders, create a logical name for each image in the download.
Virtually all image download apps have these options. If yours doesn’t, find one that does. It is so important to take control.
Digitize the past
A recent find of a treasure trove of wonderful old family negatives — great stuff! This discovery coincides with a growing enthusiasm to make our newspaper’s photo archives (from before the switch to digital in 2001) useful in this age of electronic media.
So on a personal level, I am resolved to begin the process of converting family negatives to digital files in 2017. On a professional level, it is a little more complicated, since we are talking decades of daily shooting by multiple photographers — with motor drives! We’re talking hundreds of thousands of shots. Doable with diligence and time, but daunting nonetheless.
I am researching best practices for conversion, but have pretty well decided I will be shooting the negatives with a digital camera, macro lens and a diffused strobe or lightbox for backlight. This will give me supersharp, high-res RAW digital files that I can easily convert to positive images with Photoshop or other software.
I figure with this setup I can shoot several dozen negs during the course of a good movie with my baby in the living room and “work” them later on my laptop. (Using a film scanner is an option, of course, but shooting at 1/250th of a second is faster, and the optics of a Nikkor macro lens is WAY sharper than any affordable scanner.)
I’m thinking this also will be the worthwhile subject of a column later in the year, once I work out the bugs.
Shooting the present
This one is the easiest of all. I’m very blessed to be working in a profession that is both vocation and recreation. I truly love photography as much today as I did when I started as a naive intern at the Tacoma News Tribune in 1981.
The excitement back then was going out and figuring it out on a daily basis. Today, I’m much more relaxed because I’ve pretty much figured it out. The excitement now is finding new things to shoot and new ways to stretch myself.
I love variety, even beyond the natural variety newspaper work offers. So when I’m not shooting for the Union-Bulletin and Lifestyles, I’m freelancing for wineries, businesses and brides in the area. And when I’m not doing that, I’m out with my cameras, shooting whatever sparks my interest on any given day.
Honestly, I make this resolution every year, because it guarantees I’ll keep at least one all year long. (Wink, wink.)
Don’t Wait, Do It!
Even enjoying photography as much as I do, I sometimes find myself getting lackadaisical about seeing potential photographs and taking the time and “risk” to make them actual photos. I can also get into “someday” thinking: “Someday I’ll have to stop and shoot that,” or, “Someday I’ll have a little more time to try that.”
I rarely ignore a clear “Now that’s a photo!” opportunity, but I often get lazy about the situations that just have “potential.” I think we all do. When the sky holds the promise of a sunset or rainbow, it’s too easy to sit around and wait for the possibility to become reality — and then, often, it is too late.
Great images generally require anticipation and preparation. So my “Don’t Wait, Do It!” resolution means get after it! If the sky looks promising, drive to a spot where a beautiful image can be made, and be there when the time is right.
But just pointing your camera at a stunning sky is not enough. Get to where there is a true, clean composition — free of random tree branches, power lines and rooftops — and wait for the right conditions. This very often is the difference between an amateur snapshot and a work of art.
So there they are, my four 2017 photo resolutions. I hope you’ll join me in a truly photogenic new year.
If you have questions or suggestions for future photography columns, email