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  Not just in Western North Carolina - All over the world !!!

Film fading fast
Posted: Sunday, Jan 22, 2006 - 11:41:08 am PST
The Daily Inter Lake, Montana

Local labs increasing focus on digital photography

Film or no film -- that's the question that has been revolutionizing photography for the last decade.

Every year, more people choose the latter, causing a huge shift in the way photo labs and camera stores do business. Earlier this month, Nikon announced plans to discontinue almost all of its film cameras to focus on digital models.

Local photo businesses aren't exempt from the change, either.

"Our roll count has drastically gone down," said Kelley Hatfield, manager of Burch's One Hour Photo Digital in the Blue Cow building on U.S. 93. "It's just amazing."

"As far as a camera store goes, they're phasing out an awful lot of what we do," agreed Joel Brann, part owner of Photo Video Plus in Kalispell.

Instead of rolls of film, people can bring in memory cards to have photos printed. To accommodate these photographers, photo labs must have the right equipment to meet the growing digital demand.

"The labs that are staying in business really have had to adjust," Brann said. "If they haven't adjusted by now, they're probably going to go out of business."

Brann and others in the industry have adjusted by following the rapidly changing trends in photography. This has included watching the demand for slide film decrease dramatically.

"I would guess slides are down 80 percent probably," Brann said.

Sometimes the quickly shifting industry affects stores' big purchases. About seven years ago, Brann and his partner Paul Menssen bought machines to develop prints and write negatives to a CD. Then, it was brand-new technology.

"All the equipment is basically out of date now," Brann said.

Vendors also have to offer more digital cameras. Photo Video Plus sells about 30 digital cameras for every film camera, Brann said.

In December, they sold only four or five film cameras the whole month, Brann said, bringing the ratio closer to 40 to 1.

Most people have switched to digital for the sake of convenience, Brann said. Instead of developing an entire roll of film, photographers can choose which pictures, if any, they want to print.

"People are perceiving that digital is the way to go," he said.

The problem for photo labs is that at-home printing technology is increasing as rapidly as the cameras.

"We thought it was kind of scary at first because you see advertisements for printing your pictures at home," Hatfield said. "But people found out quickly that it's way more expensive to print them at home than to go to a photo lab."

This is because ink cartridges and special photo paper are so expensive, she said.

"It's so easy to just come here," she said.

Brann believes the benefit in bringing photos to a lab is in the quality.

"We can make a better print than you can at home," he said.

Hatfield agrees that quality is much better when customers bring their memory cards to a lab. Labs use the same printer for digital prints that they use when printing rolls of film, so the quality is identical.

"Customers are just amazed," she said. "They say, 'Wow, it's a real picture.'"

Those "real" pictures may still differ in quality from film photos, as people continue to debate whether film cameras take better pictures than digital.

Technique plays a large factor in this, Menssen said.

You can toss any image into a computer and fix it, he said, but an underexposed or overexposed digital shot will still look poor.

"The digital shot that was exposed well and then printed well looks very nice," he said.

"I think it's easier to take better pictures with digital," said Burch's owner Bob Burch. "I guess my take is that with a good quality camera, I've seen some pretty magnificent images.

"I think (digital) is a good thing from a picture-taking standpoint."

Brann disagrees.

"Film is still better in my opinion," he said. "There will be people who debate that."

Regardless of how good the shots are, there are more of them, thanks to digital cameras.

"The neat thing about it, the good thing, is there are more photographs being taken now than there were with just film," Brann said.

continued above


More photographs doesn't necessarily mean more prints, however. Because people can choose which photos they want printed, they are more likely to pick only a few pictures or simply store those pictures on their computers.

This is a trend that will continue with the increased popularity of camera phones. Conversation is no longer the sole function of a mobile phone. Now they can be used to listen to music, surf the Internet and yes, take pictures.

"I assume that that'll be a pretty big player shortly," Menssen said.

Right now, camera phones aren't making much impact on business, he said, because the images they produce are of such a low resolution that they don't print well.

Hatfield agrees.

"I haven't seen a good picture yet," she said.

This will not long be the case, though. Phones with chips of five megapixels or greater -- enough to easily print a high-quality 8.5-by-11 inch photo on a home printer -- are available outside the United States.

"We are not necessarily taking away from the ordinary digital camera but making picture-taking an experience that more people will do," said Camilla Gragg, communications manager with Nokia. "More people have cell phones in their hands than they have digital cameras.

"It's kind of opening it up to a broader audience. You might not have your camera with you, but you are probably going to have your cell phone."

Camera phone users tend to take "random" or "spur of the moment" pictures, according to a study released by Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. Inc. in September 2005.

All those random moments add up, and nearly half of the 400 camera-phone photographers surveyed wished they'd printed those pictures. The study also said that people who did print them took almost twice the number of photos as camera phone owners who didn't print their pictures.

Even with digital's incessant increase, photo labs haven't quite lived out their usefulness.

"We expect film to be around for a while," Menssen said. "(But) at some point people won't be processing film anymore. I don't know if that's two or three years away or 10 years away, but it will happen

How to Buy the Right Digital Camera

When buying a digital camera there are many things you should consider. First you should understand how a digital camera works. What you are using your digital camera for will help you decide what features to consider and how much you should spend. I am here to educate you and help you decide.

Let's start with understanding how a digital camera works. A digital camera uses semiconductor chips instead of conventional film. It's usually a Charged Coupled Device (CCD). When your shutter opens, light strikes the CCD, temporary electronic changes to the CCD and converted into computer language and recorded on either internal or removable memory. After which the images can be viewed on a small screen located on the back of the camera. Later, then of course downloaded to a computer. Did that make sense? It probably didn't if this is your first time buying a digital camera. Let's move on.

Today there are endless cameras to choose from. You obviously have a price range in mind. If you are mainly using it to exchange snapshots over the internet or for creating quick and simple advertising, don't expect to spend more than $500.00. If you want some control over creation and images, expect to spend between $600 and $2000, especially if you want to make prints on a printer capable of "photo quality" reproductions. If only the ‘best will do' for you than don't expect to spend anything less than $5000.

You also have to consider what features you would like. The heart of the camera is the CCD. The larger it is, the more pixels it contains. As expected, the more pixels, the more it costs. If you just want to email your mom 500 miles away a snap shot of a 3 x 4 of your first born, a CCD with about 640 x 480 pixels will do. If it's a 5 x 7, than do not settle for less than 1280 x 1024 pixels. An 8 x 10 demands about 2000 x 1500 pixels. Also important things to consider are memory, types of flashes, and ease of download.

Depending on what you plan to use your digital camera for will depend on how much you will spend. Keep the previous and following advice in mind before you leave to purchase your first camera and maybe it will be your last.

A.Start out with the least expensive camera that will do the job today.

B.Make sure that the camera you are purchasing is compatible.

C.Ask if the camera you are purchasing can accept an external power supply. Digital cameras eat power faster than your car. You don't want to spend endless amounts of time sitting in line buying batteries for your camera.

D.See if the software that comes with your camera has a photo-editing program.

E.Lastly, ask your friends, neighbors, relatives how satisfied they are with their cameras.

Author: Kathleen Wade

Kathleen Wade

This article courtesy of
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  From The American Journal of Photography Vol. 1, No. 16 (15 January 1859) pp. 233-237. 

   There never was anything like it. True, a multitude of "types" and "graphs" have been brought out since then, and glass and paper and iron and leather and divers vehicles have been covered with impressions, and I have seen them, but nothing ever filled my eye so completely as that first daguerreotype.

   For hours I have held it, carefully noting all the soft minutiae of light and shade: and still the little rough-edged silver tablet was a joy forever, discovering some merit of complete similitude hitherto unnoted; it seemed inexhaustible, yielding new pleasure as often as consulted.

   A small and pleasant village in central Indiana was the locus of this primitive achievement; the time I think, the fall of 1842. Seth, my coadjutor and compeer in the enterprise, and myself were denizens of a cosy Law Office, in the second story of an unpretending building, where we tumbled the musty tomes of legal lore, hoping in good time to make lawyers of ourselves. Seth was an artist, that is, he had wielded a pencil in his day and produced some landscapes, and even portraits which were not without merit; at least, so said the knowing ones, who pronounced him a genius undeveloped, and bewailed his aberration in reading law. At one time he had tried his hand at farming, being beguiled by the smell of new-mown hay, or more probably by the per-diem to the harvest hands, (for Seth was poor.) But that was only a temporary expedient, and he did not take kindly to association with those "whose talk was of oxen." I may mention that he afterwards turned up at New Orleans, where he verified the predictions of his quondam friends, by making a sensation in the way of landscapes and of portraits, and so the world lost a poor lawyer and gained a reputable artist.

   Having an eye out for the new and curious, I had seen some time before intimations in the public prints of a wonderful French discovery in the art of portraiture, whereby it seemed quite probable there was a royal road to drawing and picture-making; and indeed, that the time was not distant, when one might look in a mirror, and leave his image sticking there. But as greater marvels have in like manner been announced and never heard of afterwards, I was disposed to regard this new wonder as belonging to the same class, until I saw another account of the mystery, and this time coupled with the more tangible statement, that the images of a camera obscura were made permanently visible, and giving a kind of outline of the method.

   Seth and I talked over the new discovery for several days, determining, if possible, to verify our deductions by a practical test, and with a view to elicit all the paragraph contained, and to obtain a more complete clue to the modus operandi, we tried our hand on interpretation, and by dint of different emphasis and modulation, we thought we could more completely evolve the seeming mystery. The result of this unfledged exercise of legal acumen was, that silver plates properly exposed to the vapors of iodine, and thus coated with a thin film of a yellow or golden color, became sensitive to the action of light and received the image, which could be made visible by the fumes of mercury, and rendered permanent by a wash of salt and water. There was allusion to the employment of hypo-sulphite of soda, but as this was an unattainable salt in that region, it was not to be thought of. One great obstacle in the accomplishment of this and similar enterprises in an out of the world place like that, lies in the difficulty of obtaining suitable instruments wherewith to operate. The chemicals, the mercury, the iodine and the salt were at our command, but Seth's rather abrupt inquiry as to where in thunder we should find the tools and traps to work with, was quite pertinent. However, genius overcomes all difficulties. After another day's consultation, we brightened up our optics, consulted the authorities with a view, as Seth expressed it, of "understanding the principle on which it works," and set about building a camera obscura. It was easy to see how it might be done if we only had the lens, but a plano or a double convex was scarcely to be hoped for in that locality. The possible union of two watch crystals, with water or alcohol interposed, was debated, but after an examination of a score or two of glasses belonging to a friendly jeweler, we relinquished that idea. Our next endeavor was to obtain a large sized sun glass. The general introduction of lucifer matches had rendered this article obsolete, and so we asked everybody if they knew of anybody who was the owner, in fee simple, of an old-fashioned sun-glass. Here fortune favored us, and after a few inquiries and considerable negotiation, we succeeded in dispossessing a boy of a veritable sun glass, for a sufficient consideration.

   The rest was easy of accomplishment, and with the judicious employment of pocket knives, tacks, paste, and the division of labor, a cigar box was soon transformed into a camera. Our sun glass was mounted in a paste-board tube, and made adjustable. The rear end of the cigar box being left open, we made a frame to fit, over which we pasted a paper rendered semi-transparent by an artistical application of a tallow candle. This was our " ground glass." Another frame, or rather a combination of frame-work and a flat piece of cigar box, served for a "plate holder," and was nicely adapted to take the place of the ground glass when removed. A "slide" was not thought of, and as to the "chemical focus," we let that take care of itself, for the excellent reason we did not know of its existence. With a quill and the contents of the ink bottle, we blackened the inside of the camera, tube and all. So far, all was right. After a few trials, we succeeded in so adjusting our tube as to obtain quite a respectable view on the ground glass. Now for a plate. This, which we had deemed to be a matter of small moment, proved to be most difficult.

   From preliminary experiments on small pieces, we felt certain we could precipitate a metallic coating of silver from the nitrate, on a copper plate, by the use of moist cream of tartar. But after preparing a copper plate of suitable dimensions, we found we could not produce a coating thick enough to bear the required polishing. A day of repeated trials and failures settled that. We therefore, at the suggestion of our friend, the jeweler, undertook to beat out a five-franc piece. This time we had the tools, and by repeated annealing and persistent hammering, we ultimately succeeded in obtaining the wished for platitude, and the head of the citizen king was extended to hydrocephalic dimensions. Then the polishing was long and tedious: but pumice, scotch gray and rouge did the business. So, after two or three days' labor, we were the proprietors of a complete daguerreotype apparatus—that is to say, of a camera obscura, plate, the requisite chemicals, and two tin cups, to be used respectively for the iodine and mercury.

   On the morning of a clear, cloudless day, we set about the first experiment. We called into requisition all the old coats, pantaloons, cloaks, &c. about the establishment, to darken the three windows of our office, leaving an accessible place in one corner of the single back window, whence we proposed to aim our camera. We were much pleased to observe that, the picture on our ground glass was much more distinct than before, though Seth still objected to its being upside down. Our plate being well polished, and affixed to the plate-bolder by a few tacks, we inverted it over tin cup No. 1, containing the iodine. Not daring to admit sufficient light to determine when the gold color was produced, we concluded to make it a question of time. We accordingly exposed it five minutes, and then carefully removing the greased paper frame from the camera previously adjusted, we placed our plate in proper position in its stead, at the same time removing the blacking box cover from the end of the tube. Then came an anxious consultation as to the time required for exposure. Seth thought ten minutes sufficient I, fifteen; and we finally compromised on twelve, and at the expiration of that time we removed it (carefully covering it with a hat to preserve it from any light,) and placed it over tin cup No. 2, containing the scrapings of a piece of looking-glass, gradually heated on the stove. After the plate had "stewed" as long as we thought best we admitted a little light; Seth, raising it up cautiously, took a judicious peep, and protested the picture was there. Well, we removed it—took out the tacks, placed it in the salt and water a few moments, let in more light—when lo! our plate was as clean and well-polished as at first, without a trace of anything. This was a great disappointment, but we immediately set about a new trial, and with no better success. The third time we substituted real quicksilver for our looking-glass scrapings, and warmed the iodine that it might vaporize more readily. Hitherto our great anxiety had been to exclude all light, presuming very naturally that a plate sufficiently sensitive to receive the impression, must necessarily be destroyed by contact with any light, however feeble, Entertaining strong suspicion that hitherto we had. had no iodine on the plate, we ventured this time to admit sufficient light to show us that we had succeeded in producing the desired golden hue. Once more the plate was in the camera, and for twenty minutes we sat down and calculated chances. It was a long twenty minutes, but it ended—our tin cup was again heated up with the real mercury, and iodine on the plate to a certainty.

   A regular built picture, by jingo 1" said Seth, as we slipped it into the salt water and admitted the light. Sure enough, there it was. The iodine was slowly clearing off; and as more light was admitted we saw our miniature landscape—that old shed, with its water-stained shingles in the fore-ground, the barn yard and its carts and wagons, and even those horses—a little misty, to be sure—but that white horse was unmistakable. The building in the distance—the church and its steeple, and the leafless trees. There was a dim, hazy look about the horizon, and a sad want of what I have since learned to denominate "aerial perspective;" but Seth said that softening down of the harsh lines was decidedly artistical. To me, it seemed a realization of what I suppose everybody has thought of—the skilful combination of all the elements of that delicate frost work which we see on the windows of a cold morning into the perfect semblance of a real and familiar scene.

   After repeated rinsings we dried it on the stove. I confess there was quite a crystalization of salt on the surface, and some streaks, but still there was a picture—to me an inexhaustible source of wonder and admiration. Afterwards I progressed somewhat in the art; adopted new improvements, and took likenesses of learned lawyers, with numberless imposing looking volumes piled on the table beside them sentimental young ladies with guitars in their hands, and beautiful boquets in the back ground; matronly ladies, with pocket handkerchiefs of table-cloth dimensions; children, with staring eyes and cork-screw faces, and love-sick swains who persisted in sitting with a huge hand placed over the region of the heart, and who brought back the picture after a few days because the heart was on the wrong side.

   All these, of course, I admired exceedingly—but still, I repeat, there never was anything like that first daguerreotype!







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