Category: Looking Back to the Future

Old Pictures near the Cowpasture River

Well, these aren’t too old.  I took them in April 2016 while my brother and I visited the Cowpasture River area in Virginia.

I spent some time yesterday when it was raining going through some older pictures stored on a hard drive.  I wanted to see how they looked using this style of processing.  By the way, we got almost 4.5 inches of rain yesterday and last night.

Labor, Income, & Tax Changes Needed

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Canon is building a new automated facility in Japan for the manufacture of cameras and closing other out-of-Japan manufacturing facilities that are labor intensive.  In the past, we in the United States and other countries like Japan moved production to countries where labor was cheaper.  Now Apple is going to build new automated manufacturing facilities in the United States.  In addition, robots have been displacing labor in all kinds of manufacturing and distribution facilities.

In the United States of America, we rely upon taxing the income of labor to support our society, our infrastructure, our government, to pay for the cost of disasters, etc.  All of these costs have been going up and are on the verge of exploding due to decaying infrastructure, climate changes, etc.

After inflation, the income of laborers and those who are most likely to be replaced by robots have been stagnant on a per person basis for the last decade, while costs for most things have been increasing.  I think we have a problem.

How are people going to make a living?  How are we going to be able to pay for the rising cost of health care?  How are we going to be able to tax incomes to cover the costs of social services, infrastructure, social security, etc. when we have no income?  It is impossible unless we radically alter our taxation model.  We need to develop different taxation and income sources if we are going to improve, or even maintain, our infrastructure and living standards.

We have a choice.  Either we go back to subsistence living like we did in the distant past, or we change our political, cultural, and economic structures now.  Think back to how we made pictures in the past.  Cameras won’t revert to film, but our available cash to buy future cameras might be nonexistent if we still want to eat and have shelter.  They will be priced far above our ability to afford them.  We might already be seeing the results of our changing abilities to afford luxuries.  The sales of cameras have been declining while their costs have been climbing.

We may be lucky to afford a smartphone that will replace our computers, cameras, telephones, post office, entertainment, credit cards, local banks, etc.; but that would also mean fewer jobs available to provide individuals with income.  No income, no taxes, no police or firemen or roads or bridges, and no money to buy the basics.  Where will this downward spiral end?

Subtle Changes

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I have become dissatisfied with the direction that my photography and blog have drifted; therefore, I am considering some changes.  I am still thinking about what I like.  For example I like the above image, but I’m not sure of why or what it means.

I am still trying to narrow in on my purpose for pursuing photography as a hobby.  As a former engineer I had a goal or purpose for what I did.  I was use to having a particular viewer in mind and an intent for every PowerPoint slide (picture in this case) I made.

So far, one change I have in mind for my blog is to be more selective in the pictures I show.  I have tried to produce images that people living around me might like; but, I am going to stop doing that since so few of them view my web site.  I am also going to stop trying so hard to post regularly and often.

You should note in the above that I have used the word “I” a lot.  I hope to bring both my pictures and my blog back to being a clearer representation of what I like and believe with less regard for others.  In addition, most of the changes will probably be in how I think and approach photography and any changes you see in my blog might be subtle and slow to arrive.

Empty Seats, Empty Pockets

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Empty seats … a view of the future.

I’m always looking to get a better camera and lenses but since I don’t have an immediate need and the future looks bleak, I decided to leave the charge card in my pocket for a while.  I’m thinking that my next camera might be my last and I want to get the right one.  My decision to at least look now is driven by this month’s sales.

Japan is in big trouble.  Their debts are still growing and their government is continuing to spend a lot more each year than comes in as revenue.   The U.S. and Europe are “small potatoes” in comparison.  To try to change this situation, the Japanese are trying to print their way out of debt.  One immediate result of this is a change in the value of their currency and a temporary ability to reduce the export cost of cameras; but it won’t last and I don’t know how much they will drop the prices before it ends.

Japan needs to sell more and more bonds and keep the interest costs from rising at the same time.  Since their own people will not be able to buy these bonds (they are getting older and cashing in bonds to live on), it means the rest of us will have to buy them, and that won’t happen without an increase in interest.  The normal way out would be to increase productivity and grow their way out, but their population is aging fast and they don’t have natural energy resources so they can’t grow, and have actually been shrinking.  Many economists think that they will eventually crash and burn, so it might be a good idea to get a good camera soon since you probably won’t be able to later.  There will probably be a massive domino effect.  Their economy will crash; then U.S. and European economies will crash.   When this happens there won’t be lower cost cameras to purchase, and most of us won’t be able to afford them anyhow.

Change or else Decay

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In the months following my arrival in Hanover I walked many of the streets and took lots of pictures and was enraptured by all the older buildings which had lots of character.  I had then planned on going back and taking more pictures of them during this past winter when the leaves were off the trees, but didn’t because of the colder weather and some problems that I had with holding a cold camera.

Lately I have been reviewing some of my past photography projects while I have been thinking about making some changes in my photography and blog.  Many of the features that I had found in the older sections of the town fit right into one of my earlier photography projects associated with decay, entropy, and change.  I’m now considering whether I wish to continue that project but to do it in warmer weather this summer.  If I do, I would like to put more of an emphasis on “change” rather than “decay” but have had difficulty figuring out how to depict change pictorially with current pictures.

As I was researching ways of depicting change, I ran across a recent blog article on “Change or Decay” which had a picture of an old decaying plant building.  The following is a quote from the article.

“There are civilizations, just as there are people, and religions, who get stuck; caught defending the rightness of what they know instead of continuing on the steady path of growth and change.  And, like this plant, which made propellers — or stores that developed film, or rented videotapes –getting stuck, not changing, often results in decay…”

I really like, and believe, what this quote says, but I’m still not sure about continuing my old project.  If I decide to write about change, I could use some of the pictures of the older, decaying buildings to illustrate them; but those types of pictures don’t really appeal to me, so I’ll keep looking for other ways to change my photography and blog.

Photographers Have Options for Reducing Weight

In this past year I have read many blog articles about how some photographers no longer like to carry big heavy DSLRs when they are out walking and/or just shooting for their personal pleasure.  They are suffering from having carried heavy camera bags their whole life.  Their backs are giving out.  All of them are getting older, just like all the rest of us, and it seems that many are making a change in their cameras as they age.  Some replace their big heavy DSLRs with smaller, lighter, mirror-less compact system cameras such as the Sony NEX or Olympus or Panasonic micro 4/3 system cameras while others keep their big DSLRs for their business use, but get lighter cameras for their personal use.  In all the cases that I have read about, they put the emphasis on downsizing the camera; but, I would like to make an observation that there are other variables in the equation for reducing the amount of weight carried.

I speak from experience.  As I started having problems carrying my Pentax K-5 and lenses, and eventually had back surgery, I made the decision to sell my DSLR system and replace it with something lighter.  I tried many micro 4/3 cameras and lenses.  I found they reduced the amount of weight that I was carrying around but they also decreased the quality of my pictures in low light situations and created adverse problems for me with camera ergonomics … a case of arthritic fingers vs. small buttons too close together.  Since I did not like the negative aspects of the downsizing route that I had taken, I went back to a K-5 DSLR camera as well as lenses for it, and sold all of my other cameras.  I decided to make other changes to reduce the weight and increase the quality at the same time.

I agree with many older photographers that it is necessary to reduce the total weight of the gear that we carry with us … it is just a fact of getting older, especially for those of us with back problems.  But I decided to keep the advantages of my DSLR and to reduce the weight in other ways.  I’m in the process of using my heavier, longer zoom lens less and less and using prime lenses more and more.  As I mentioned in my last article, I added a Pentax 21mm prime lens to my set of options.  If I find that I can’t carry my 55 – 300mm zoom lens as much as I did (was on my camera the majority of the time), I will also change what I photograph as well.  It might mean fewer pictures of wildlife.  I hope to primarily use my 21mm, 35mm, and 50mm prime lenses and change the type and style of my photography to fit that choice of lenses.

I haven’t had an opportunity to really try my new 21 mm lens, but I did take one picture with it yesterday when I made a quick trip to a market.

Hanover Market

Hanover Market

The lighting in the market wasn’t the best so the above picture was taken at an ISO of 400, f/4.5, and 1/50 sec with the 21mm lens.  I’m thinking that this lens will make a nice travel lens since it is light-weight, very small (only 1 inch long), and makes for a more discreet camera-lens combination for carrying while touring.  One advantage of the lens is that it also gives me nice depth of field coverage and it crop-zooms fairly well as noted in the following crop from the center of the above picture.

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In addition to having smaller, lighter gear to carry, it also allows me to carry it in a smaller, lighter bag as I make another change.  I have found that having a strap on my camera creates problems.  In the first case I decided that carrying a camera on a strap around my neck or over one shoulder was one of the problems relative to my back pain.  In the second case, I found that the strap attached to the camera lugs also occasionally got in the way of my hands … even when using a wrist strap.  The solution that I’m now trying is neither a neck, or shoulder, or wrist strap.  I have gone back to a system that I tried two years ago in which the camera is attached to my camera bag by a tether.  It is the system as shown in an earlier blog article (click here).  The picture in the article shows my older K-7 camera but the size is the same as my current K-5.  I’m also using the same bag as shown, but I might try some other bags before I deem the one shown as my preference.  It will depend on how many lenses I take with me.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that all the photographers complaining of the weight of their system only talked about changing cameras … not lenses; but I don’t think that means that they haven’t also changed lenses.  Several photographers have switched from their heavy DSLR cameras to cameras like the Fujifilm X system.  Since these cameras currently don’t have long zoom lenses available yet, it either means that the photographers didn’t use long zoom lenses before or else they have also made a change in focal range as I am trying.

In reality, photography isn’t any different than other aspects of life.  As we get older we have options relative to reducing the burdens on our life.  Photographers can change cameras or they can change lenses, or/and they can change what they photograph.  All of us, photographers or not, will have to make similar changes in our lifestyle to reduce the impacts of our non-sustainable lifestyles.  We will all end up making changes and downsizing.  We will have to cut back and do less with less.  It’s time to make changes while we are able to adapt.

Good Luck in the New Year

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Sunrise Dec-31-2012

Someone once told me that if I didn’t have something good to say that I shouldn’t say anything; so, for now, I’m not going to tell you what I think about the state of the economy, the effectiveness of our politicians, the changing climate, the non-sustainable use of our resources, greed, lack of concern for future generations, etc.  I’ll just say good luck and plan for changes … it’s not too late to adapt.