Like Spotify Rewind, Apple Music has a look back tool called Replay. My 2023 list includes lots of Lana Del Rey, Beatles, Death Cab, Wilco, Dylan (Time out of Mind re-release plus other really great, more recent, songs) Arcade Fire, Moondoggies, Neil Young, and King Gizzard. Also a fair amount of Philip Glass and Max Richter. And the soundtrack to the Succession seasons by Nicholas Britell.
I’m making my way through the second season of The Bear. I usually watch two or three episodes in a row but episode 6, The Fishes, was so exhausting and overwhelming that it was all I could take in one session. That cast. Just incredible TV.
I’m also liking the soundtrack to the show. An old song that I listened to back in the day, by the Motels: Total Control, popped up in episode 5. I haven’t heard it in decades. It’s a great song with a nice saxophone solo and now it’s in my head. That’s a good thing, I guess.
There’s a fresh warning from technology leaders about the impending demise of mankind from AI. But on the other hand folks like Tyler Cowen believe that artificial intelligence will usher in a golden age of civilization. Both sides make good points. I’m not sure what to believe. The stakes are high and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in the discussions so far.
All that aside, but also AI-related, I’ve been using the new Photoshop AI generative fill feature. It is absolutely amazing on a technical level. But the implications for photography as we know it are massive. I won’t be using it for everyday processing, and if I do—for some sort of special project—I will label the image as altered by AI. But not everyone will do that. Who knows how it will all work out.
I suppose I could ask an expert, so that’s what I did; I asked ChatGPT. Here’s what it had to say on the subject:
Al-powered retouching has revolutionized the world of photography, offering enhanced efficiency, consistent results, and increased accessibility. However, the implications of using Al in photography retouching go beyond the technical aspects. It is vital for photographers to navigate the ethical considerations and preserve the authenticity of their work. By using Al responsibly and mindfully, photographers can leverage this technology to unlock new creative possibilities while maintaining the integrity of the art form.
Ok, then. Kind of upbeat, even considering the source. Let’s see how that ‘maintaining the integrity of the art form’ thing pans out over time.
I spent a good part of my youth on the island and I remember well the cold spring weather. It was always about ten degrees cooler than in Boston where we lived. In the 1960’s my father bought a plot of land on Nantucket, about a mile out of town, and in his spare time from his job in the city, he took the ferry over and built a small cape, the first of several houses he constructed on the island. I was lucky to have been able to spend much of my teens and early twenties there during the summer and also over a few cold, very quiet winters helping out with the construction.
Nantucket had a big tourist economy in those days but the island itself was a working-class place. Carpenters, fishermen, TV repairmen, scallopers, plumbers. Those were the people that we knew. In the summer we also got to know some of the rich kids who came in from New York. Kids whose parents were from publishing and finance. We all got along around the bonfires at the beach parties (just like in Jaws) or at the Chicken Box or Prestons. Nobody put on airs. And there were also the famous people. Ringo would tie up his yacht near Straight Wharf. Fred Rogers and the Stillers shopped at the First National, where my sister sold them fruits and veggies. All regular people. No one made a fuss.
But Nantucket has changed since those days. Big money took over. Many working class families have been priced off the island. The merely rich have been pushed out by the mega-wealthy. The old hardware store is a boutique selling designer bags. Land Rovers outnumber Jeeps. Money permeates the place.
So my trip to the Daffodil Festival was both nostalgic and sad. It was great to walk around my old haunts but the island I knew is long gone.
I was disappointed to read that DPReview is shutting down. Their gear reviews were always comprehensive and well organized. You could drill into the details or jump ahead to the conclusion. A must check before any camera or lens purchase. I hadn’t realized that Amazon had purchased them back in 2007. And now, along with the layoffs, Amazon apparently sees this as another cost cutting move. Too bad.
We spent a month in Lisbon this winter, staying in the Amoreiras neighborhood. The vibe was friendly and relaxed. Lots of great restaurants. Reasonable cost of living. Nice weather. I would recommend it. Oh, and I brought my camera.
I’ve written in the past about the cameras I use for travel and landscape. Generally, I’d use one of the Leica SL’s along with the 24-90 Vario-Elmarit zoom. That setup can handle pretty much any situation as long as there’s sufficient light. I might also throw an L-mount 50mm Summilux into the bag as well for those low light situations. Those are two heavy lenses. And then there are the accessories, batteries, filters, etc. All this is starting to weigh me down as I get older, especially if I want to be reasonably quick on my feet all day and be able to climb or squat for vantage.
So on a recent month-long photography trip to Lisbon and Porto — both notoriously hilly cities — I reassessed my setup, aiming to downsize. I decided on a Leica M-11 and the new 35mm close-focus Summilux, which luckily became available just a week before I left. One camera. One lens. Hopefully a good setup to do some street photography, too.
I usually shoot street with a 50mm but I was open to trying something new with the 35mm.
With the 50mm, my default setting is to open up to f1.4 and zone focus to isolate the subject. That’s always been the style I aim for. It’s a distinctive look. If I need to open my depth of field I would jump up to f5.6 for that scene and then reset back to f1.4.
With the 35mm I reversed things. This approach was more scene-specific rather than subject-specific. This time f8 was my default and I jumped down to 1.4 only when I wanted to isolate a subject or needed more light. A more traditional street photography approach.
This worked well in the alleyways and small streets in and around Lisbon and Porto. I was happy with the images I got. Some were shot wide-open but most were full-in-focus street shots. Every once in a while I came across an irresistible landscape (or cityscape, as below) and this lens and camera combo rose to those occasions as well.
I”m still heavily invested in the SL ecosystem of cameras and lenses, and I still love 50mm, but I have to say the M11 and new 35mm Summilux are just fantastic (and light) photographic tools.
When I get restless I usually grab a camera and head off to one of the many trails in the area. I never really worried about ticks. But apparently sometime in early December I was bitten by a deer tick and infected with something I had never heard of: babesiosis. But I had no idea.
After several days of weakness and high fever I checked in at the local clinic where they advised me to wait and see if it went away on its own. It didn’t. I finally saw a doctor who immediately honed in on babesiosis. He drew some blood and recognized the signs of the parasitic blood infection. It was severe enough that he told me to head right to the ER where they confirmed the diagnosis, admitted me and pumped me with antibiotics over three days. Then another week of home care with more antibiotics. Not a fun month.
Anyway, something to think about when walking on the trails here in Massachusetts, even in early winter.
Boredom is a great motivator. I had a few days with nothing to do so I decided to completely reorganize my photo files. With hundreds of thousands of images scattered across multiple drives and Lightroom catalogs, I thought it might be a good idea to finally deal with the duplicates and reorganize and consolidate the whole collection.
After reducing the number of duplicate images I managed to break all the photos down to two Lightroom catalogs, one as the main working repository and a second as a syncing Lightroom catalog, which I would use to publish images on the web. The latter required that I rebuild all my online collections, which is about 95 percent done as of today.
I also needed to rebuild my WordPress photo index page, used to access the online collections, so I did that too, with new image collages and lots of big type so that it works on phones. There are just a few minor tweaks left to go.
So that’s how a little boredom one afternoon prompted a long, involved, but ultimately needed project.