A New Project

Bonsai Cedar – Delaware Watergap, PA © jj raia

Most often, photographic projects involve creating new images that have some common thread under a particular theme or umbrella. It could involve processing a series of photos using a singular or similar technique, or it could center around a specific subject; there are many avenues to approach the idea of a project. Knowing I would be inside for several weeks without much to do, I decided to finally tackle a new photography project. You might think it would be something to look forward to doing, digging in full bore, with excitement, enthusiasm, and a renewed sense of photographic purpose; but you would be sadly mistaken. It is something I’ve been putting off for at least 10-15 years, dreading the monotony of the gargantuan task that I would embark upon, and figured if I didn’t tackle it now, with the expected uncommitted block of time, it would never get done. Of course, the world would continue to move forward if I chose not to attempt this project, but it really, really needed to be done; at least in my mind of practicalities, so I forged ahead. Unlike most projects, there was no creativity involved in this non-artistic endeavor, but rather the simple, monotonous, manual labor necessary in keeping my photo libraries from the gilded, pre-digital age of photography, in some semblance of order, severely lacking for 30 years, now.

Autumn Blueberries — Pinelands National Reserve, NJ © jj raia

In a recent post, there was a brief mention of how each chrome strip of processed film (15 or 30 images per roll) was cut into individual frames (not the bad ones though, they went right into the trash), placed in a clear interlocking plastic sleeve with identifying label attached, containing a specific number, subject (title?), location and year, and then slipped into a clear plastic page that held a dozen images, which was added into a very large binder which slipped into its own case to protect the chromes from light degradation and dust. It was all neat and tidy and in numerical order when initially done, but over the years, the whole thing became entirely unruly, and fell apart. Since the main photographic focus early on was the landscapes of New Jersey, I was lucky that quite a bit of work was used by the state department of environmental protection and their magazine NJ Outdoors. So if they needed images of winter, or lakes and rivers, historic buildings, or whatever, I would rummage through all the photos, place the appropriate ones into more pages of 12, and snail mail in a submission in hopes they would select some of them for publication. Of course, that would leave empty slots in pages, and to maintain some order in the library, it would require diligence on my part to return each photo back into its original slot when they were finally returned. But somehow at birth, I never received the diligence gene, and more often than not, those empty spaces in those pages remained empty, making it more and more difficult to find specific images as the years went by. Additionally, submissions were also made to calendar publishers for specific states or nature in general, some wanting mostly vertical images, some wanting only landscape orientations, and others squares, so it was a continual process of lifting photos from increasingly empty pages, and searching through previous submissions that were a mess!! And within a short period of time, any concept of numerical order or collections of specific states had totally disappeared, and sorting through them became a nightmare.

Hidden Alcove — Adirondack Mountains, NY © jj raia

When the switch was made to digital, all that nonsense was left behind, and for the most part, those binders remained closed; until recently. That’s when I decided to remove every individual image from the pages (somewhere in the vicinity of 7-8 thousand), put them all in numerical order, separate the in camera duplicates (generally +/- 1/2-stop) from the originals, separate the verticals from horizontals, and place all the originals (3859) in numerical order into the individual slots in the pages with all the verticals and horizontals grouped together so full sheets could be viewed more easily on a light box. Then a listing identifying the state locations by ID Number was compiled to easily locate images of specific states within each binder. All the duplicate images were rubber banded in groups of one hundred by ID Number and placed in numerical order in a separate box.

After nearly two weeks of tedious sorting, the consolidation resulted in the elimination of 316 of the original 619 pages, most of which had been filled with duplicates that were now relegated to a single box. The reasoning behind having these “duplicates”, if the case should ever arise, and it often did, was the ability to submit the same image to multiple publishers simultaneously, since they were held for consideration for long periods. Digital has now made that all unnecessary since files, instead of actual chromes, can be emailed at any time to anywhere! Or they can reside on an internet sharing site to be seen by prospective publishers with higher resolution versions available if any selections are chosen.

Young White Birch Stand — Delaware Watergap NRA, NJ © jj raia

I’m glad that chore is behind me and now will attempt to resurrect the film scanner that has decided to quit connecting to the computer for some unknown reason, in hopes of digitizing more of those older images like the ones included here from the early 1990’s. After having gone through each and every one again with fresh eyes, I noticed quite a few might benefit from today’s processing software, and all the possible improvements they might impart into that old film. After all, back then, I didn’t own a split-ND filter (I used a black card instead), didn’t have the ability to merge differing exposures for the sky and land, much less anything resembling HDR. There was no focus stacking or selecting the better parts of several frames to be combined into a single frame. Digital photography has allowed for so many more possibilities to create an image of your choosing, unrestricted as it was with film, and I thank those responsible for these photographic advances. We have to remember that long ago, those advances had yet to reach the possibility of color!! All this current technology should be embraced and look forward to more advances in the future!! It strikes me a bit funny though, to see some You Tube photographers who relish in the process of using film with view cameras, and all the added encumbrances that entails, only to mention that they’ll make a determination on the possible success of a particular sheet of film “…after it’s been scanned!” But I suppose we all share a love of, and commonality in our photographic pursuits, no matter the method. Getting back to the project, now that all those chromes are neatly, and in precise numerical sequence, stored among all those clear plastic pages, snug inside the binders and protective sleeves, I can sleep much more deeply knowing those binders are safe and will probably not see the light of day again… unless I get the scanner to work or buy another; and then, never see the light of day.

Tree Tops & Sky at Dawn – Troy Meadows, NJ © jj raia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s