Monday, January 14, 2008


We'll be moving over the next few weeks. This past weekend, Amy and I found a suitable apartment to live in during the home remodeling which could begin on February 4, provided the permit process goes smoothly. Our temporary digs will be located five blocks west of downtown Fullerton, meaning that we'll be able to walk to church, the train depot and the library.

It also means that the Unauthorized Observer will have tunnel vision for a few weeks, while we get ourselves situated.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mama don't take my chromosomes away*

*As someone claims to have misheard Paul Simon's lyrics in his song "Kodachrome." 
The Death of Digital                          The Future of Film

For some shooters, it's that personal…using language borrowed from the gun lobby, one will say, "I'll give up my (insert favorite film here) when someone pries my cold dead fingers from around it." Actually, I prefer "When Ektachrome is outlawed, only outlaws will have Ektachrome." But I think you get the idea. Not every photographer has jumped onto the digital bandwagon as readily as I have.

I labored happily in old-school black and white photography for over 30 years. I loved the process of developing my film, filing the negatives (well, not really), putting one in the enlarger, making test prints and two hours later coming up with a print that did what I wanted it to do. Then it was washed, dried, mounted, spotted, matted and hopefully sold to an appreciative client. I loved all of it. I just couldn't keep doing it.

Having worked in the graphic arts industry scanning film into digital separations, I had a front row seat to see the progress that digital photography was making vs. professional film photography. For the longest time, it was no contest, but gradually, we'd see digitally generated images that were getting better and better. 

In 2004, I found myself out of the printing business and self-(un)employed as a photographer and graphic designer. My studio partner loaned me his Canon D60 one day and I was blown away by the results. Soon thereafter, I bought a 10D and paid for it with the first job I used it for. Furthermore, as a graphic designer, I appreciated the fact that I wasn't going to have to scan any film (or pay to have it done). Image quality? Even using a $150,000 drum scanner like I'd used previously, a 35mm slide would be hard pressed to match the image quality from that now-obsolete camera.

This created a dilemma for my personal photography. It seemed like I had three options.
  1. Continue to use black & white film, even though I no longer had a darkroom.
  2. Make black & white images from my digital equipment.
  3. Make a clean and colorful break.
The first wasn't an option. It may be one someday, but I rather doubt it. I've had so much success scanning my old black and white negatives and printing them digitally, that I'm satisfied that I don't think I'll ever go back to the darkroom.

The second bothers me. It just doesn't feel right. So except for certain commercial applications, I won't be doing this. Often I look for ways to incorporate my old monochrome style into my chosen new medium, but I've always considered photography to be at its best when done in a straightforward way, and simply ripping the color out of an image doesn't seem straightforward to me at all.

Number three was the sharp left turn to the path I now travel. Actually, at the time of the switch, I was itching to do more color work anyway. After three years, I have few regrets. Well occasionally, I'll look at one of my old prints, or more likely, a friend's new silver print and feel a wistful tug. But generally, I just try to move forward and do the best I can with what's in hand.

Having said that, I'd like to clear something up. For my brothers and sisters who still use film and enjoy doing so, you have my best wishes. I don't consider you a Luddite, or technophobe or backwards in any way. I have no need to convert you to my way of doing things, or even convince you that my way is better. 

The year 2008 will be one of learning how to handle disagreements.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Weather

Storm damage in Fullerton
We were all on "Storm Panic 2008" here in Southern California this weekend. A genuinely nasty storm swept down the coast and hammered the northern and central portions of the state with 100 mph winds, driving rain and heavy snow in the Sierra. But like anything (or anybody) that comes our way, it mellowed out considerably once it arrived. Last night there was some wind and some rain, but nothing of Biblical proportions. As you can see from this photo of my knucklehead neighbor's "compound" across the street, we lost a few palm fronds, but were otherwise unscathed.

Perhaps it was in 1982 that SoCal weather became a joke when KNBC hired stand-up comic, Fritz Coleman as an on-camera weather personality. Or it might have been 10 years earlier when KABC hired Dr. George Fishbeck to do the weather segments. Dr. George, as he was affectionately called, had a "face made for radio," classic funny nose & glasses, bow tie, wild gesticulations and a schtick that everyone loved. In his defense, he was a genuine meteorologist and introduced the term "marine layer" into the southland vocabulary. But he raised the ante in this town and forevermore, the citizens demanded that the weather be entertaining.

Now, we get our weather from Jackie Johnson who is entertaining only in a salacious sort of way. As one local blogger said, "Do you ever get the feeling that Jackie Johnson is just going to stop mid-sentence and say, 'Hey! My eyes are up here!'" Often while the news is on, I'll hear Amy say from the other room, "What's Jackie wearing?" Usually, all I can say is, "you'll just have to come see."

To be honest, the weather here rarely matters. By everyone else's standards, it's nearly always comfortable. Unless it involves fire.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

First Night

Last night, the city of Fullerton put on its 17th annual First Night in Fullerton event. I attended the first one which occurred only two weeks before I moved to the city in January of 1992. The entire downtown area is closed to vehicular traffic and  a number of entertainment venues are set up throughout the area. Our church is located in the downtown area and always donates the use of the fellowship hall to host one of the performing acts and also sells food from the kitchen to help raise money for the hot meals which are served to the hungry every Wednesday evening from that same kitchen. 

This time, Amy and I got wind that our daughter Emily was headed for the karaoke stage around the corner on Harbor Blvd. Emily takes after her Mother in that she doesn't mind grabbing a microphone and singing in front of an audience. 

Until now, I've seen this happen in church or in one of her school concerts which are both venues guaranteed to have a sympathetic audience. Not that this girl needs one as things turn out. Several of the preceding acts consisted of 2 or 3 of her petrified schoolmates or older, highly lubricated divas from one of the bars along the street. Emily had them cue up Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy," took her turn solo and just owned the place for the next three minutes.

Reminded me of Belinda Carlisle if you ask me.

For most of the others attending the event, the evening's highlight was the fireworks show scheduled for the stroke of midnight. Since Southern California was experiencing a "wind event" (in the current parlance of weather service), the fireworks show was somewhat subdued. The big aerial items stayed in the can this year and we all settled for some smaller, noisier ones. Still, there's something about big noisy fireworks that makes for a good way to bring in the new year. And during the last seven times, it's been nice to lean over and give Amy her first kiss of the new year.

This morning, the winds continue. Downtown Fullerton, the scene of last night's festivities is a deserted ghost town. The town plaza's main stage where rockabilly / country artist James Intveld held forth just a few hours earlier still has a few lights on, but now the only sounds come from the winds howling through the palm trees.

From me and my family to you and yours, I wish you a "RAEY WEN YPPAH"