Whenever I update the What’s New? page, I delete entries that are no longer new (i.e., more than a year old) and move them to this archive. That keeps the What’s New? page to a reasonable size, while maintaining a complete history of this Web site for anyone who might be interested. I can’t imagine why anyone would actually be interested in such a thing, but here it is.
Since this archive goes back to 1999, some links and other things mentioned in old entries may have changed, moved, or disappeared. I’ve removed outdated links and annotated some entries to indicate where things have moved, but I’ve otherwise left the original text unchanged. I add the annotations when I archive the entries, so in time the annotations may themselves become outdated.
I’ve revised my reviews of Focus Magic and Topaz InFocus, plug-ins for Photoshop that can significantly improve the sharpness of images. I had previously criticized Focus Magic for its developer’s excessive delay in updating it to be compatible with current versions of Photoshop and current Macintosh computers. But the developer recently remedied that problem. I also made several “behind-the-scenes” editorial corrections and improvements to other pages.
I’ve made a new version of Flag Reflections, which is featured on the home page. I originally took it in the Naples area of Long Beach, California in 2007. The new version takes advantage of significant improvements in Photoshop’s processing of raw files since then. I’ve also made a larger version of Horton Plaza Windows (taken in San Diego), also on the home page, to make it consistent with the other pictures on the home page. And there are updates and corrections to various pages.
I’ve reworked the Travel Photo Essays on Maui and Maui’s Scenic Coastal Highways. I made new versions of all the pictures, and added ten new ones. I took advantage of improvements to Adobe Camera Raw, the Photoshop tool that converts raw files to images, along with tools and techniques I didn’t have when I originally processed the digital pictures of Maui in 2006. I also made new scans of the slides I took in 1982 and 1988.
Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table has been on the Web for fourteen years. It’s exciting to look through the log summaries each week and see so many people from all over the world visiting my site, along with the astonishing variety of search queries that lead them to its pages. It’s even more exciting when those visitors order prints or image licenses!
Transcending the Familiar, my new illustrated article, originated in 1989 with a photography class assignment: Shoot an entire roll of film— in those days that meant 36 slides— within 30 meters of where I lived. The purpose was to practice “seeing pictures” in ordinary, familiar things. But the real lesson was that, to paraphrase a National Rifle Association cliché, “cameras don’t take pictures, photographers take pictures.”
The exercise opened my eyes to artistic possibilities. (The article includes three of the slides from the original assignment.) That’s why I returned to it periodically, though I found it more practical to expand the original 30-meter radius to places within walking distance. Sometimes it was a way to test a new camera, lens, film, or software tool. Other times I explored something I had seen while driving or walking. And occasionally I did it just for its own sake, for its creative opportunities.
Over 24 years, those pictures became an eclectic collection. (Of course, the majority of them ended up in the trashcan or, later, in my computer’s bit bucket. Critically winnowing the most worthy pictures is as vital to the creative process as taking them.) I put some of them in the Fine Art section, since they qualify as “artistic” or abstract images.
“Transcending the Familiar” includes 36 of those pictures— a virtual roll of film, taken within walking distance of where I’ve lived. Twenty of them are new. Most of the sixteen pictures previously on the “Fine Art” pages are new versions. Besides presenting some images that I hope you’ll enjoy, I describe the exercise and use the pictures to illustrate some related ideas and techniques that I’ve found particularly useful as catalysts for the creative vision that can “transcend the familiar.” I hope it gives you some ideas (and perhaps inspiration) for taking better pictures.
I’ve also significantly revised the articles on Wide-Gamut Monitors, Color Management, and Browsers and What’s the key to taking great pictures?. There are minor updates and tweaks to several other pages, including the review of Notepad++.
I’ve added a new illustrated article about the construction of a Tibetan sand mandala last December at Pacific Unitarian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The monks of the Drepung Loseling Phukhang monastery make annual tours, constructing sand mandalas around the United States. This was the final stop on their 2012 tour. Witnessing the construction (and ritual destruction) of a sand mandala is a special experience. If a sand mandala tour stops anywhere near where you live, it’s worth a trip.
Although I’ve been taking most of my recent pictures with a Canon PowerShot S100 compact camera, photographing the sand mandala called for an SLR camera kit. The existing light inside the church sanctuary hall required ISO 400 or 800 settings that yield subpar image quality with a small-sensor compact camera. Flash would have been an inappropriate alternative. (A single on-camera flash would have given unpleasantly harsh lighting. I was also afraid it would disturb the monks. The latter fear turned out to have been unwarranted— the monks were so intently focused on their sacred task that they didn’t even seem to notice the flashes of other people’s compact cameras.) The ten pictures I selected for the article used long and short focal lengths that are beyond the range of the S100’s lens. The S100 does many things well, but not everything.
I’ve updated the articles on Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) and the Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources page to include some new products. I’ve also updated Ted Tries a Cruise, to clarify some things that had become outdated and confusing since I wrote it in 2007.
I’ve added a new Travel Photo Essay about Los Angeles City Hall, the iconic 1928 tower that played cameo roles in various television series in the 1950s and 1960s. The page also includes two controversial modern government buildings across the street from (and connected with) City Hall. The 1920s and 1930s Landmarks page for Downtown Los Angeles included an earlier, much shorter section on City Hall. I’ve replaced it with four new pictures of the Los Angeles Times Building, also across the street from City Hall. All the additions add up to 17 new pictures.
Rather than generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” I’ll specifically wish you and yours (chronologically): Happy Hanukkah, Io Saturnalia, Blessed Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, and/or Happy New Year!
I’ve added a discussion/review of the Plustek 7600i film scanner. I’ve also added some new pictures scanned with the 7600i:
The pictures of the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro, California are new versions of the four I originally made in 2002, plus two new ones.
The first three pictures in the Buildings and Architecture section of the Fine Art page are of the Spanish-style arcade in Ojai, California. The first is a new scan of a slide I took in 1989. That picture has been on this Web site since 1999. I took the other two pictures of the arcade twelve years later. They haven’t been seen before. (Also on the Fine Art page is a new Cubic Reflection, taken this month without the use of film or a scanner.)
This page will show you some examples of why I have an ongoing effort to make new versions of pictures I scanned from film a decade (or more) ago.
And finally, as we head into the Holiday Season, please keep in mind that prints of my pictures make excellent gifts!
Happy Halloween, Samhain, All Saints’ Day, or Reformation Day, as appropriate! (While it’s not new, this pumpkin still life is seasonally appropriate. I took it in 2007 on Naples Island in Long Beach, California.)
I recently spent another weekend in Downtown Los Angeles. I enjoy going there because there’s so much to explore (and to photograph), and also because it’s one of the few places in sprawling, automobile-addled Southern California that’s easily accessible by mass transit and walking. It’s almost like visiting a real city! I’m still working on the pictures I took, but I have a few updates for now.
On the Little Tokyo page, I have a new picture of the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial, which was being refurbished the last time I visited; the Friendship Knot; and the rooftop garden at the DoubleTree Hotel, which has been renamed since the last time I visited.
On the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels page I have two new pictures of the former Saint Vibiana Cathedral (in Little Tokyo). The new picture of the Cathedral’s bell tower takes advantage of the unusual diffuse clouds in the sky that day. There’s also a picture of the former altar, inside what is now a privately-owned space for weddings and events.
In July, my nine-year-old Canon FS4000US film scanner reached the end of its life. I have replaced it with a Plustek 7600i Ai. I’ll have more to say about the new scanner in the future. Its full optical resolution is 7200dpi, but 16-bit files at that resolution from 35mm film are unwieldy to work with in Photoshop. 3600dpi is really more practical for 35mm slides and negatives.
The 7200dpi resolution is useful for 110 film, as it provides more pixels than the 4000dpi Canon scanner. Those additional pixels are helpful for cropping and editing, but I’m not convinced that they carry significant extra detail. I scanned several 110 Kodachrome slides as a test, and added one of them, a scene in the Scottish Highlands, to the Europe Through the Front Door collection. The reduced-size image won’t show the performance of the scanner (or that of the Pocket Instamatic 60’s lens), but it does show that the current version of VueScan renders Kodachrome slides much better than the version I used with the original “Front Door” collection in 2004.
I have also used the new scanner to replace a number of pictures I originally scanned between 2001 and 2003. In particular, the pictures of the Palos Verdes Peninsula that I shot on film are all new versions.
As my contribution to the hype surrounding the launch of Apple’s new iPhone® and iPod®, I have added four new pictures to the Wallpaper Download page. They’re vertical images in versions optimized for the new 5th generation iPhone and iPod, as well as for earlier editions of these popular devices. Here’s an opportunity to beautify both your smartphone screen and the display on your desktop or laptop computer.
I’ve also updated the articles on Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) and A Bestiary of File Formats, and added a second high-contrast black and white abstraction of manicured bushes to the second Fine Art page. [I later moved this picture to Transcending the Familiar.]
I have reorganized the Travel Photo Essays about the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a scenic coastal suburb of Los Angeles. The main page contains an introductory essay, and a menu for the revised Travel Photo Essays on Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, the iconic Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes Estates, Cherry Blossoms at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Rolling Hills Estates, and travel notes for visitors.
The Palos Verdes Estates page has four new pictures of the Mirlo Gate Lodge Tower. Seven of the pictures on the Rancho Palos Verdes page are improved versions made from digital camera raw files I took in 2005 and 2007. For reasons I can no longer remember, I converted the original version of Licorice Moss at Point Vicente into simulated infrared black and white. The new version restores the original color (and texture). The new version of Sunset at Point Vicente #1 takes advantage of improvements Adobe made to the Camera Raw raw converter in Photoshop since 2005, which allow a more natural and dramatic rendition of sunsets and other scenes that have a wide range of bright and dark tones. I’ve also added a higher-resolution version of this picture to the collection of Wallpaper downloads.
I added four new pictures to the second Fine Art page. Three of them are studies of a brightly painted fire hydrant and sprinkler control pipe (#1, #2, and #3) in the Still Life and Miscellany section of the Fine Art pages. That’s an “artsy” (and pretentious) way of saying that on my daily early-morning walk I pass an interesting-looking fire-control device outside a building. It’s usually overcast or foggy when I take my walk. But on one clear morning I brought my camera to photograph some details of the device in dawn lighting that intensifies the brilliance of the red paint. The Web versions of these pictures don’t fully capture the intense color, as it’s outside the gamut of the standard sRGB color space. (Here’s an explanation of what that means.) The fourth picture has no color at all. It’s a high-contrast black and white abstraction of some manicured bushes, which I also saw during my morning walk. [I later moved all these pictures to Transcending the Familiar.]
And finally, I updated the Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources page. A company called Lomography is attempting to resurrect the 1970s-era 110 (“Pocket Instamatic”) film format that Kodak officially killed in 2009.
I reworked the Travel Photo Essay on Mission San Juan Capistrano. That was one of the first places I visited with my new digital camera in 2005. The new versions of the pictures, processed with my current software and techniques, have much more vibrant color and “snap.” I seem to have done a good job of winnowing the pictures in 2005, as I found only one new image to add.
I’ve completely redesigned the Scenery, Fine Art, and Europe Through the Front Door sections. These “gallery” pages of thumbnail images originally had a fixed format appropriate for the 1024x768 (or smaller) CRT displays that were commonplace when I first set up those pages in 1999. The new design configures itself according to the size of your browser window, and includes captions for each picture. The Fine Art gallery has a new picture of the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, now closed and scheduled for demolition.
I also updated the article about Wide-Gamut Monitors, Color Management, and Browsers, and made some cosmetic improvements to the home page.
I’ve added a new Travel Photo Essay on the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, with nine new pictures. There are also three new pictures of Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is across the street from the Music Center.
I’ve reworked A Nice Day in Old Québec. The pictures are all new scans of the negatives, and significant improvements over the ones I originally made in 2001. You can see an example of the improvement here. This is the latest installment of my ongoing project to update the oldest scans on this Web site.
I’ve also revised and updated the travel notes about visiting the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a scenic coastal enclave southwest of Los Angeles; and Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources.
There are six new pictures:
RAT Beach, just north of Malaga Cove in Palos Verdes Estates, is the southern end of the string of beaches on the Los Angeles coast. I also have a new picture of the colonnade at Malaga Cove Plaza, which replaces a similar but inferior picture I took in 2000.
An interesting double facade reflection on the building where Corporate Head is installed.
And finally, a picture of last Sunday’s partial solar eclipse, as seen from (cloudy) suburban Los Angeles.
I’ve added a new technology article, Raw Demystified. It explains raw files, something many digital camera owners find baffling. I describe exactly what raw files are, and discuss when they might be useful even for people who are happy with the regular JPEG files they get from their cameras.
I’ve also expanded and added nine new pictures to the Travel Photo Essay on the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles. I made a day trip to Downtown Los Angeles last month, and enjoyed much better weather than I had when I first visited the Cathedral last year.
And I’ve made an improved version of Aliakmon Abstract, one of the featured pictures on the home page of this Web site. It’s a detail of the colorful hull of an oil tanker I saw in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles. The article on raw files explains the reason for the new version.
Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table has been on the Web for thirteen years. It’s exciting to look through the log summaries each week and see so many people from all over the world visiting my site, along with the astonishing variety of search queries that lead them to its pages. It’s even more exciting when those visitors order prints or image licenses!
For this lucky anniversary— and just in time for family vacation planning— I have overhauled my Travel Photo Essays about southern Utah. The two original “Utah Parklands” pages were published in December 1999. As I was still defining what this Web site looks like, those pages had a format I never used again. There are now four separate Travel Photo Essays on Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks. A new introductory page includes eight pictures of places outside the parks. I made new digital versions of the original Fujichrome slides, plus 24 new ones. They’re a big improvement over what I did in 1999, with much more vibrant color. (This page has some examples of how my film-scanning tools and techniques have improved over the years.)
I also recently replaced my year-and-a-half-old Canon Powershot S90 with its new successor, the S100. Both of them are “high-end advanced digital cameras” that provide most of the control of a full-sized DSLR— a “digital single lens reflex” camera with interchangeable lenses— in a small package that’s particularly suited to the travel photography I do. Both fit in a shirt pocket, weigh 200 grams, allow full exposure control, have excellent image-stabilized lenses, and can create raw files When used with respect for their inherent limitations, they’re capable of image quality approaching that of a DSLR.
The S100 has a new 12-megapixel sensor, fixes some troublesome ergonomic flaws in the S90, and adds a bunch of new bells and whistles. But for me, the one genuinely compelling reason for the upgrade is the greater range of the lens. The S90’s lens is equivalent to 28-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. The S100 expands that range to 24-120mm. That’s a significant improvement in wide-angle capability, and a less significant but still very welcome extension at the long end. The added versatility makes it closer to the (unattainable) dream of a DSLR that fits in a shirt pocket.
I first tested the new camera on a clear spring afternoon at Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes Estates. That set of test images yielded replacements for two pictures I had scanned from film years ago, plus three new pictures. A wide-angle shot of the iconic Neptune Fountain demonstrates the camera’s wide-angle extension. Three pictures of details of the plaza’s columns and arches, brickwork, and Neptune Fountain demonstrate the improved telephoto capability. To echo nearly all the reviews, it’s an even better version of a great camera.
I’ve added a new Travel Photo Essay on Crossroads of the World, a delightful relic of the 1930s in Hollywood. It’s unknown to most visitors, despite being two blocks away from the tourist-swarmed Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. Originally an outdoor shopping mall, it’s now a city block of “unique offices” in Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and ersatz international styles.
When I visited on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in January, the Hollywood & Highland Center and the surrounding block of Hollywood Boulevard were jam-packed. (Are there really that many people who have “use it or lose it” vacation time from work to use up, as I did?) But I had Crossroads of the World all to myself.
I rode Metro Rail to get there, as it’s a short walk from the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station. That’s much easier than driving. On the way, I stopped at Union Station— another building from the 1930s in the Streamline Moderne style— and took some new pictures that I wasn’t able to take when I was last there in 2010. I’ve added them to an expanded essay on Los Angeles Union Station.
I’ve also updated my review of PaintShop Pro to include the new X4 version.