Friday, March 23, 2012

LF - Layton 45A

Update April 16, 2012.--This week the check arrived and was deposited. Mr. Layton is working to get an update to people on the history of the production of the L-45A and when it might be produced and available for sale. Many of us look forward to that opportunity, to own and use a really great camera. We can hope.

Update April 4, 2012.--This week the registered letter arrived. He had moved but none of any public records reflected this move, so the letter took a bit longer to get there. He replied he'll refund the deposit and plans to resume the work on the production of the camera, but no date was set for when. For now it's the old adage, "The check is in the mail."

Update March 23, 2012.--This week I sent Mr. Layton letter (yes, registered signature required) with a choice of refunding the deposit or sending one of the prototypes as the production camera. He once said he had made three for demonstrations and testing, and offered one until the production version was available. I'll keep you posted.

Update March 13, 2012.--Using a Web archive Website I found Mr. Layton's former Website for the L45A 4x5 camera. The Website isn't complete as it only has the shell and word content with some images, but it shows what he intended to produce.

Original Post.--Well, it seems Mr. Layton, who won an innovative design award for his then new L45A 4x5 camera (above) in June 2005 and promised first delivery of the camera to customers who paid deposits in December 2005, has opted to quit work on the production, reported at about 95% complete and has decided not to communicate with the depositors.

Ok, I'm not saying this is or was a scam, it wasn't. He had very good intentions of building the camera and worked to that goal, as noted was almost complete with the first 10 or so cameras, but then a series of problems occurred which derailed the production, and as now, no one knows anything except Mr. Layton.

Efforts by several photographers who know him or have met him say the interest is still there. I am one of the depositors (fall 2005) but after 6 years all I have is a series of old e-mails with explanations and promises, but not word when the cameras will be produced let alone delivered.

But I still want one of his cameras. It's still innovative for its design and function, and while some are comparable, none match it. I just wish he would say something. I've discovered while he occasionally active on some photography forums he doesn't have a Website anymore and while I think I have an address for photography studio, I can't confirm it to send a registered letter.

If anyone knows him or knows of him, he lives and works in Norwich, Vermont, please let him know customers with deposits are waiting for news and preferably a camera. The checks are waiting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Apple App Store Bug

I've discovered Apple's App store has a really big bug, a really big nuisance and frustration for people who buy applications through the App store. And that is once you buy the app, you can't completely remove it where Apple and the App store doesn't know you bought it. You can hide the app by "removing it" but that only hides it from the list, it doesn't remove it from your account.

You can go to your account and "Reset" all the warnings about buying and downloading apps, but it doesn't remove the flag for an app you bought but don't want anymore for whatever reasons, which in my case I transferred it to the company's Website, when there is an update available for downloading.

The truth is I don't give a flying .... about this one app in the App store anymore and I'm angry Apple doesn't give buyers the option to just forget this app by completely removing it from the store. Not hide it, but just completely erase it from Apple's memory. Why they don't have this tool or function baffles me to give buyers more control of their account.

It's like Apple doesn't trust you to say, get rid of this app from your account. What store would do that, simply let you decide to forget this product? Until they do have this option, the only choice is simply ignore the warnings about the update, but then Apple should at least have the option to ignore an update or set your copy to current.

Or as often happens, there is a way and I have overlooked it or haven't found it. Ok, enuf said this morning on this topic. For now at least. I'll go refresh my coffee now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Advice on LF

Occasionally I read from someone who decided to get into Large Format (LF) photography, meaning cameras larger than medium format, "Like Duh?", which has long been consider 6x6 or 2 1/4 photography with twin lens cameras or the type made famous by Hassalblad. LF cameras were, and still are, mechinical and the process mental, especially before light meters.

What distinguishes LF photography is that historically it used, and still uses, sheet film, from 4x5 to as large as you can make sheet film (16x20 is more the practical limit from the past) which has been standardized at 4x5 and 8x10. The intermediate size, 5x7, is disappearing as it's not a common format anymore.

Anyway, back to the topic. When I read these from these guys, and yes, so far they're all guys, to hear it was an impulse buy when they saw a LF camera in a shop or on-line, or decided to try it out and buy a LF camera package from someone offering a "great" deal. Well, the problem is they didn't do their homework and suddenly they realize they're in over their heads.

Not just for the camera gear they bought, which is usually just old and occasionally good, and always well used, but for the process of shooting large format, such as using sheet film and understanding the process of taking a photograph with a LF camera. A little homework and they would and could have saved their money.

Large format photography isn't something you jump into on a whim. First, it's guarranteed you won't be able to resale your stuff unless it's a collectable, has some historical value, or is in excellent shape, and all of their purchases never fits into either of those catagories. So, it's likely they now have stuff they're replace if they stay in LF photography and collect dust in a box somewhere if they don't stay.

So, after working in LF photography for the last 4+ years, here's my advice.

Do not get into Large Format photography

Ever! Never get into it as it's the endless deep hole you'll eventually regret the loss, and really waste, of time, energy and money. Really. Do I regret getting into it? No, I don't for one basic reason. I spent a year just reading and doing homework on the whole thing about LF photography and equipment.

I knew what I was walking into for time and energy, and while I've regretted spending money on lenses I haven't used for a camera that was never made (long story) and will buy another one for these lenses, I've never regretted the time and energy. In part because I like the work and in part because I want to research the early photographers in Mt. Rainier NP and see if I can locate where they took their photographs to get a new one.

I say don't get into LF photography not just because of the equipment, but because of the film. It's not cheap to buy and not cheap to process, even if you process your own black and white sheets. You're not afforded many mistakes as a sheet of 4x5 film can easily run $4+ for the film and processing. Mistakes add up fast.

And mistakes is what you'll make a lot of if you're not experienced or knowledgeable about the basics of photography to work in LF photography. There's nothing automatic about these cameras, unless you have gobs, meaning tens of thousand of dollars, for digital equipment (cameras, backs, lenses, etc.), and it's all mental, especially when it comes to the exposure.

This is where the only digital technology which helps, a good light meter. And yes, add that to the expense. Don't use digital camers as film and digital aren't the same and digital light meters in cameras aren't the real world you see for film. Guessing is not for the beginner, see comment on mistakes above.

In the end, if you don't have the time or energy to work in LF photography, and don't have the motivation to stay in LF photography, don't bother, just keep using your digital camera and be happy. Do not get into it as an impulse, walk away, but then if you're are interested and are thinking about it, do your homework. first.

There are some good Websites, some great books, and some ordinary (me) to great photographers shooting large format. There's no loss of information, avail yourself to it first, and then wait. The equipment won't go away, there's a glut of it in many countries, but your interest may, and likely will. Learn what it takes first. You can take photography classes at community colleges.

In short, get your feet wet without buying equipment which is likely to be resigned to the basement storage. If after a year or so, you're still learning and working in LF photography, then look for something you'll use the rest of your life. LF equipment lasts a lifetime - why there's a glut of it in the used market, it doesn't get obsolete, so you can take the time to spend wisely.

And no I don't regret the still unused lenses, I will have a camera to use them in the near future, but remember even the cameras last a lifetime, so don't buy one you'll replace. You don't need extra cameras. Use what you have and only have what you use. After that, enjoy it, it's a great way to do photography and it's always fun seeing a really good 4x5 slide.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who We Need Now

I can only say that in these times and events the one voice we need more than any, the one person we need standing up for all of us and the one woman we need to represent all women is Barbara Jordan. I remember her on TV with the Nixon impeachment hearings and listened to her other speeches and interviews.

All you have to do is listen to her 1976 Democratic concention keynote speech or her opening speech on the Nixon impeachment hearings, found here. She is the one person, the one woman but more so the one voice we need to speak for all of us. She is missed more than ever. Her words and her voice, words spoken with such power, clarity and sincerity.

She is what we need now and sadly missed.

Hands Off My FEHB

To the Tea Party and those you elected to Congress. Yes, you Mr. Rand Paul.

Hands off my health insurance!!

Remember that slogan from 2009? This is to the Republicans who are offering the Health Care for Seniors Act which would merge Medicare into the Federal Employees Health Benefit program. It's a dumb idea and would only make the FEHB enrollees, which are all of the active and retired federal employees, and yes members of Congress and their staff when they are in Congress, pay more for the Medicare receiptants.

Initially they, the Republicans, estimate it would add $30 per month to our premium, but realistically closer to double that, and considering my premium has gone up 50% in 3 years, thanks to the Healthcare Reform Act, and yes, this law didn't and doesn't help us since it excluded us for the most part.

Right now enrollees in the FEHB program are eligible for Medicare when they reach the eligibility age and have the option to make their FEHB plan their primary or secondary care, meaning Medicare can be their primary care and FEHB their secondary, but not decrease in FEHB premiums but just adding the Medicare premiums, or not take Medicare and just keep their FEHB as their sole health insurance.

I plan to choose the latter, ignore Medicare as I'm happy with my FEHB, which for everyone's information is a plan overseen by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the Federal government, which determines a base coverage and allows all the private insurance companies to offer plans fitting the base or adding more with additional premiums. Right now there are on average 20-25 companies offering 50+ plans in every state with 20+ national plans covering all states.

It's a program which offers middle-of-the-road plans at affordable prices. My premium for Blue Cross/Blue Shied is $190 per month for just me with a 20% deductible and a co-pay. It's advantage is that it's accepted by the larger providers and many smaller one who opt into the program (you apply and accept the terms of payment under scrutiny of OPM, meaning fraud is rare).

Merging Medicare enrollees into the FEHB only hurts the lower grade active employees and retired employees living on their now fixed annuity, myself included, no thanks to the President and Congress. Adding the increased premium takes away the money they need to live and pushes the higher grade employees and retirees closer to just surviving.

The FEHB program is made up of about 8 million enrolless, half active employees almost all of whom are healthy people and half retirees, many of whom are healthy with only a small proportion incurring higher costs to the insurance companies. It's a profitable program for the companies.

Adding all the nearly 30 million Medicare enrollees would swamp the FEHB, the vast majority of whom are incurring higher costs for their healthcare because of age, long standing medical conditions and other health problems or issues. As noted the average cost for enrollees is 3-plus times the amount they pay in. This is the reverse for FEHB where most pay considerably more into their insurance over their 30-40 year career.

It's like putting an anchor (Medicare) in a rowboat (FEHB). Or more so the Titanic (FEHB) hitting the iceberg (Medicare). You can bet the cost would be born by the FEHB enrollees and number size of fraud cases would increase substantially, just look at the news of Medicare fraud cases (including the company owned by the governor of Florida for $1 billion).

It's not right or fair. And while the Tea Party, including the sponsors of this bill (Rand Paul) who yelled, "Hands off my health insurance!" during the debate and fight over the Healthcare Reform Act in 2009, they don't seem adverse to going after someone else's health insurance, so to them I say loudly and clearly.

Hands off my health insurance!!

You know the tune and tone. It's the same you spouted in 2009. So do what you believe and said.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Canon 5D Update

I bought a Canon 5D in January 2007 along with a few lenses and a motor drive, and over the years added a EOS 1N body, some lenses, a flash and other equipment. I've been using it very happily. Recently I started going through the vast collection of Minolta manual focus camera gear to sell, see description of the collection I'm selling. Maybe.

So what's new other than anything? I decided to get some adaptors. First I bought a Minolta MD lens mount to Canon EOS lens mount to use any of my Minolta lenses on my two Canon EOS cameras. Why? Well, the suite of Minolta lenses is vast from 16mm to 800mm along with both macro and micro lenses and bellows. It expands my use of the two camera tremendously.

Second I bought a Tamron Adaptall-II to EOS lens mount adaptor. This is for the Tamron 300mm f2.8 lens with both 1.4X and 2X teleconverters and the whole filter set. I love this lens and it's not in the set of equipment for sale. I just wanted to see if I could make it work with the two Canon cameras. Now I can.

So, that's the small update, and the fun begins.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Application Updates

I have too many applications. Some of them because I like to test or play with them and if they're affordable I'll buy them to use for awhile and decide which are long term ones to use and which are ones to just park. I realize all applications companies have trial periods, usually 2 weeks to a month, but I often take longer to evaluate them.

Also, I'll find another application which is better or I like more and will park the other one for occasional use. What this means is that I collect them, some of which overlap in use, functions, tools, etc. and keeping them updated can be time consuming, or was until MacUpdate created its Website to track and display them. That helps a lot but still you have to scroll through the list of the daily updates.

Well, they offer a subscription service and a desktop application for doing just that, tracking updates for your applications, all for $20 per years. Easy and affordable? Well, maybe the latter. The former, however took awhile to set up as it scans all your applications (in the applications folder(s)) and wants to check all of them. And that's when the work begins.

First, they're good enough to put an apple symbol of those purchased and updated through the Apple store, but some companies offer the applications there and their Website so you have to check which of yours is updated where. You can use the list of purchased applications in the App Store.

Second, though, you have to consider other ways you get automatic update notices. For this both Apple, both OS-X and Apple applications and the App store, and Adobe do this for you with their updater. Apple has the menu option, the App store its update tool and Adobe has it with their applications, but not all, such as Flash variations, but most and you can check their Web page for which verifies which version of Flash is installed.

So that means you have skip Apple, Apple's App Store, and Adobe. After that you have to skip any previouse versions you keep but isn't updated anymore as it was upgraded, eg. Adobe Creative Suite 3 and 4 applications, Lightroom 2 and 3, etc. And you have to skip applications you stopped upgraded because you didn't want to buy the upgrade for the future updates.

For me it's application I didn't use very much and didn't want to pay the company for the upgrade. I just never got around to removing these applications (AppDelete is a good application for that if you're interested), but sometimes I do upgrade and often the upgrade looks for previous versions in the installation (eg. Adobe), so keep out of date applications isn't such a bad idea.

Overall, though, I give this application a decent mark. It takes work to setup, and once done, you still have to use the information with discretion as I've often found their information on Adobe updates to be wrong and they often show Apple App store updates days to a week or more before the App store has them available.

I mostly use them for that what they do best, inform. I don't use their automatic or manual updater, but use the applications or the application's Website to download and install the update. But for what it does for me, it's worth the subscription. On the other hand, I tried Tri-Edre's CheckUpdates application, and in a few words, save your money.

It has some good features but the drawbacks and work are not worth the effort or the price. It scans your applications folder, but only displays predefined groups of applications, theirs and one other company. You have to add all the individual ones you want it to check, but it's the process to add them that makes their application too much work. You can use the applications faster and easier than their application.

That's because you literally have to tell the application where to find the latest version, which means where on what Web page, and where to download it, which many applications don't have a Web page but use the applications itself. They offer search tools, but I couldn't get any application to work in the list, but then I suspect I'm missing something in the understanding or process.

Anyway, it's not worth the money in my view if you have to add all the applications individually. That's a great feature once done but it's a huge amount of work and you have to monitor changes to those two URL's. It's one neat feature is a menu bar indicator. That I like. I'll play some more with it and maybe change my view somewhat, but for now, no. Now if MacUpdater had this feature.

Rule One with Photographers

Well, actually two rules rolled into one, which is basically do not talk technology, meaning about photography equipment or gear or about computer systems, with photographers. Every one of them has their experience and everyone has their advice if you ask them. In three words, "Don't ask them." Yes, find someone, even a photographer, you trust, do your homework, and then use your best judgement and go with it.

The reason is that arguments since the beginning of photography are all alive and well and batted around so often to the point you give up and hit the back button to get away from it and them. Except for one group who seem more reasonable but not necessarily less ready to engage in the endless argument, and that's large format photographers, but then many of them are curmudgeons and don't care what you ask or think, let alone say.

You can almost name the argument, Canon versus Nikon, Leica versus everyone else, highend cameras versus amateur brands and models. zoom lenses versus fixed focal length lenses, ad naseum, and with computers it's still the same, PC versus Mac's, highend or consumer models, Adobe Photoshop versus all the rest of the photo/image editors, printers of any brand and model, papers, ad naseum.

And most of all, don't ask for critique of your images. You'll get a boat load of technical advice and a smaller boat load of composition and color advice, but not one really helping you. In the end it's all opinions, although often based on experience and knowledge, but still opinions, so produce the images you like and leave everyone else's opinion to themselves. Don't ask.

I've found the best advice on images and prints are people who want my prints and photo cards, the clients or customers. If they like what you produce, then keep going. If they don't, do it for yourself. Screw the world. That's what photography is about, what you like and want to do. Nothing more and nothing else.

So, that's my advice, don't ask. And only ask and then listen when you have a problem and want ideas of what to do better or solve a problem. Make it you against all the rest of the photographers. Take from them what you like. Learn from them what you see. And then be yourself and do your own work. And then don't ask or tell.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Apple Pulled a MS Stunt

I noticed Apple updated their Safari browser, the main browser I use, using only Google's Chrome and Firefox incidently and a few other only a few times a year (and wonder why I still have them). Well, if you look at Apple's forum, this was a step backward and when I tried to use the autofillin to log into some forums, they bounced my userid or password and wouldn't recognize it when typed in manually.

Yeah, it's a "Huh?" Well, I decided to use the Time Machine and go back a day to put the old (5.1.3) version back, but the restore in Time Machine said couldn't do it because Safari is a part of OS-X and can't be replaced. Now that's a, "WTF!?" Really, that's the kind of shit Microsoft pulls with their operating system and applications, not Apple.

So, the result is that Apple has released a bad version which users don't like and can't change. Isn't that what Microsoft users bitch about? And now it's Apple? Makes you wonder sometimes when you begin tweaking things, you forget the effect it has on everything else, no matter how small. One little ghost in the machine and the machine doesn't work right anymore.

Now the question is when Apple will release Safari 5.1.5 to repair the damage done?

PS. When I tried to add the photo with this blog entry, it wouldn't display the image I uploaded. So it doesn't play well with blogger either.

Update.--There's more than one way to skin an operating system. If you're like me and have routine backups on other hard drives, which the backup makes a complete copy of HD and a clone of HD every night, you can simply copy and rename the old version copy and put it in the applications folder and use it, leaving Apple's broken one sitting there being useless until they fix it.

Update II.--In addition to breaking the browser, they broke one of my favorite extensions, the "Close All Tabs" extension, the "Snap Back" being the other one. I haven't checked all of the extensions (not all enabled), but breaking this one really pissed me off as they have this option in the menu with the option key but it's not as easy as the button on the tool bar.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let Me Ask You

Listening to the Republican presidential candidates, they are quick to point out President Obama's mistakes and failures with the economy, jobs and the cost of living, and they'll always tell the voters it's all his fault. But let me ask you, if they think the President can't do the job, do you really think they could do the same or better?

Think about it, they don't tell you what they can do better, they don't tell you where and how the president has failed, and they don't promise you that they can succeed, or at least say you can hold them accountable if you elect them and they fail. That's what they hope you don't see or ask, they don't have answers.

So I'll ask you, do you really believe they can do better? Did former President Bush's passionate conservatism work? Did he create jobs, improve the economy and help people? The history is there, the facts are known and the reality is ever-present today. And that was under a Republican president for 8 years.

So let me ask you, do you think a republican can do better, do you think they can be better, and do you think they'll make your life better? Has anyone of them actually have a record which shows they have done what they promise?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sorry Rush

Sorry Rush, your words of apology didn't change your heart or your mind, and I doubt it changed your mouth. An empty apology is just that, empty, meaningless words meant to appease your advertisers and network bosses, and not Ms. Fluke or anyone offended by your attack on her and your words of hate against women. Nothing changed beyond appearances, and certainly not you. You can talk all you want about being and feeling sorry, it doesn't change the words you spoke. It didn't change you and it doesn't change us.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Charter Schools

I was watching to Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC this morning, really more listening since the TV is in one room but I split the sound to the office, after all they're just talking heads, about her piece on charter schools. I thought the story and discussion was disingenuous at best and biased at worse because she didn't present and they didn't discuss the fundamental arguments for public schools or against charter schools.

To begin with I went through my first 8 grades in military public schools on bases or posts, but then I went to a public junior high and high schools in my 9-12th grades. I'm for public schools. I'm for finding and providing all the necessary funds for improving the schools, paying teachers and providing better security for a safer schools.

The facts using test scores don't prove charter schools work. The host showed that 43% of charter schools aren't better than public ones and 37% are worse while only 17% are better. And that overlooks the obvious facts. One, charter schools cost more, or at least for the parents who pay even with tax credits. And two, charter schools siphon off the better and best students from public schools.

The problem with public schools is several fold but mostly it's the lack of money to accomplish what we expect and want from our public school system. And more often than not the school boards and the politicians short-change the public schools to simply prove they're failing while giving funds or tax credits to charter and home schools.

Then she had four guest, three of whom charter school their children as does Ms. Harris-Perry to discuss the issue. Like we expect an honest case to be made for solutions to public schools with 4 of the 5 against public schools. Yes against because while they may voice views to help public schools, they choose with their money, which clearly shows they're biased against public schools.

So why not fix the problems of public schools? The argument has been made that all these years of trying, it's failing, but that's only because they barely tried, especially in school districts of lower to low income home, in areas of gangs and high crime rates, in areas of racial minorities. In short, they never tried beyond words.

The vast majority of charter schools are in middle to upper class, white districts where parents can have and afford choices. If they tried charter schools in other districts, they'd only duplicate what public schools do, as we see from the 37% failure rate of charter schools in better neighborhoods.

And let's not forget all charter schools are new where all pubic schools exist in districts with buildings and facilities long overdue for renovation or replacement, which only drives up costs used to further charter schools. If charter schools had to build similar campuses without endowments or foundations to fund them or moderatly to very wealthy parent to pay the tuition, we'd see the cost of charter schools match public schools.

And let's not forget charter schools aren't union, don't pay high salaries, don't provide retirement and other benefits found in long standing public school teacher contracts. Public school districts have pension plans charter schools don't have to pay into for their teachers. See the number adding up against public schools.

So, let stop blaming public schools, blaming teachers, blaming students and blaming parents. Let's just stop blaming and start fixing. Forget using test scores except to ensure students are learning. Forget pinching pennies and making schools and teachers political fodder. Forget making comparisons of unequal datasets of students and test scores.

Rather than talking about, especially blaming, school districts, schools, teachers and students, let's start fixing it. If those who espouse charter schools are the way, why not make public schools better than charter schools. And then what would the arguments sound like for charter schools? Like we would care?

If we don't, what's the future for students, the future generation of this country? Do we care? Or is it the charter school proponents don't want us to care to keep weakening public schools for advancing charter schools? Is that our future, for profit education? For profit school districts? And if you can't afford it, tough?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Please Apple

While I argued I'm not especially looking forward to Apple's new operating system, OS-X 10.8, Mountain Lion, I have to say yes I will likey install it later this year, once Adobe and the third party application software companies announce updates to work with it if it didn't already.

After all, quite a few applications had issues with Lion and I had to wait for them to develop Lion compatible versions before upgrading. But that's not what I want to ask Apple to do. Last May the rumor had spread Apple was considering dropping future development of the Mac Pro. Not like this computer is popular, but it is useful for a small market that isn't available else where in the computer market.

I've had Mac Pro's since 2006 when I bought my first, a G5 PPC (yeah, 3 months before they introduced the Intel chip version), and now I have a last model (2010) Mac Pro. Why do I need one that isn't available in other Apple computers, like iMac's? Well for one it house 4 internal hard drives, up to 2 Terabytes each - mine are one 1 TB HD's. It has tons of input/outputs on the computer and the monitor.

Currently I'm running three external HD's (two for backup's and one scratch HD), two scanners and two printers, and in everyday use it isn't even working hard. It has 16 GB's memory and I routinely run between 10-12 GB with the 40+ applications and files and more on occasion. And with all that, it just keep humming along.

And today it was announced the new Intel chip could upgrade Mac Pro's into the future generation of powerful professional computer for those who needs it. I hope Apple changes their mind and reinvests in the Mac Pro for the market of user who need or want these high end computers, especially to offer upgrades for 2010 models.

I would upgrade, and that's my, "Please Apple, keep investing in current and future Mac Pro computers. Keep the small market of users as customers. Don't force them into making iMac's work which won't because the designs don't fit the needs and interests of professional users."

It's not about the mass market. It's about the niche market you have long supported. Keep it up. Please.