From its opening in 1928 – an assembly of existing roads and trails – through its decertification as a highway in 1985, Route 66 represented American travel like no other road. From the Windy City to the City of Angeles, it was the freedom of the open road. But after it was replaced by the new interstate and left to history, citizen groups formed to protect the still passable portions of the highway and preserve that history for future generations. This is a look at what is along the Mother Road.

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The nothing to boom to bust cycle that mining towns in the western United States went through in the late 19th and early 20th century is nothing unique. Some went through the cycle faster than others but few can match the speed and spectacular cycle that was Rhyolite, NV. The community went from nothing to the third largest community in Nevada and back to nothing in under 20 years and the ruins left behind are spectacular both for the area and for the time.

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It was where the copper ore was but it really was in the middle of nowhere. When they first found it, there was no railroad in the area, no town, nothing. But in just a dozen years there was a town big enough for a car dealer and a thriving lumber yard. Then there was a train that connected it to the outside world. But just over 20 years later- after a war and the Great Depression- there were few people left and then even they left…

 

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Pearce, Courtland and Gleeson, all towns in southeast Arizona, came into being after the discovery of gold, silver or copper. All three went through the nothing to boom then bust cycle. Courtland and Gleeson ceased to exist after the bust while Pearce managed to survive to the present day. This book tells their collective story and what was left behind after the mining played out. Each community had it’s unique character and each contributes to the history of the region.

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It was years after the ‘coming soon’ sign went up that the construction actually started. It started without any public announcement, once it started, it seemed to take on a life of its own. Steel frames and block walls filled the area. The desert landscape was forever changed by the construction- open desert, home to all manner of critters, was replaced with a man-made home to retail. What was really important was not the change but the changing.

 

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Part of the 3-2-1 approach to setting a backup plan in motion which is referred to in a previous article is to store one set of backup photographs off site - most conveniently using an online storage service of some kind. Many services offer a free plan that is often so restrictive in either the size of the digital real estate or in the size of the files that can be uploaded or in the frequency of uploading that they are simply impractical. These free plans are often simply come-ons for the paid plans.  And paid online real estate comes with it's own set of covenants, conditions and restrictions. With few exceptions, it also comes with a monthly tariff that while initially wholly affordable comes around every month and, when viewed over a year, can be - well - surprising. And then there is the constant pressure to upgrade to the next level of service...

There are a couple of truly free services out there but again they come with a host of CC&R's.

If you don't mind the restrictions put on using a particular service, go for it! But if you have concerns, there is an alternative to the off-site component of the plan... 

While the "1" in the "3-2-1" plan is usually thought to be moving photographs to an off-site location and more specifically to an online storage site, it can also be interpreted to mean storing the photographs to a location that is "out of harm's way". 

Consider, for a moment, that interpretation as it applies to an online location. The move certainly protects the photographs from fire-and-flood perils but opens them and you to all manner of other hazards. Sites are compromised with regularity and while your photographs may remain safe, your personal data may end up in the hands of those with nefarious intent. With any breach, your photographs may end up being used for any purpose and you may never know. 

And then there is the take-over danger where your friendly, convenient and affordable storage service is bought out by a bigger player in the market and you are now faced with changed policies and-or increased fees. And beyond that, you have precious little time to find another service provider if you don't agree to the new way of doing things or the new pricing. And-then -and-then there is the prospect of your service provider simply going out of business and the scramble that ensues...

There is an alternative... or an additional solution... using a external USB hard drive and small fire resistant and waterproof safe. 

External hard dives up to eight terabytes are readily available from a number of suppliers including Amazon and discount retailers like Target and Walmart. Small fire-resistant and waterproof safes are readily available through a variety of suppliers for the size needed (relatively small) and are also extremely affordable. If you chose to go this route, you can backup all of your photographs - jpegs, tiffs, bmps and raw - on the same drive. (Be aware that some online services allow only jpeg backups!)

Like anything else, you have to do your research - just make sure the safe you select is rated for digital media and store it as low in the home as you can - if you have a basement that would be ideal. Some recommend storing the drive in a plastic bag to assure that it is not impacted by any moisture. If you have a damp basement that might not be a bad idea.

Of course having both an external hard drive backup and an online backup covers as many bases as possible!

     

One of the goals here is to de-emphasize the technical and concentrate on the storytelling capabilities of photography. But sometimes tech issues have to be addressed so here goes-

And before getting into this, it really does not matter which format you use* as the important thing is the final photograph and how it fits in the storytelling. But...

It seems that we are getting into an era of ‘format-shaming’. “You aren’t a real photographer if you’re not using camera raw...” OK, we have heard this “you’re not a real photographer...” before. It was used against 35mm film, auto exposure, auto focus, poly contrast paper, ttl flash, etc., etc. It may have originated when the mechanical shutter was developed.

The target this time is the JPEG format. The camera raw crowd will loudly claim every problem they can think of with the format. Some have even referred to it as an “inferior format” which is a bit of a stretch as JPEG is the only universally accepted and used photographic format.

It would seem that a big part of the problem is that JPEG is a “lossy” format and when folks hear that- well it’s just a turn-off. Often they don’t understand what the “loss” is or how it’s determined, they just object to the “loss”. While JPEG is “lossy” when looking at the data that makes up the photograph, it is visually lossless when the photograph is viewed – provided the variables in the format are applied appropriately.

There are some issues with JPEG – mostly complaints about artifact creation. And this is generally argued when a JPEG file is zoomed 300 or 400 percent. JPEG compression can be highly user controlled although a number of manufacturers allow setting the compression or quality level only. If that quality component is kept consistently high (at 85 or above**) and you limit the number of editing sessions for the same photograph to two or three, there is no problem visually. And remember that any editing session for a camera raw file is, by definition, limited to one session and one session only as the edited image can't be saved into the original format.

To be fair, both camera raw and JPEG formats have their advantages and disadvantages and neither is superior to the other. They are different and have different uses.

Again, there is no right or wrong here. It is whatever fits your style and your ‘workflow’.

But if we must...

You use JPEG if...

  • your photography is pretty clean, that is you subscribe to the notion of “get it right in the camera” and don’t do a lot of cropping.

  • you generally don’t do a lot of post processing – that is you don’t subscribe to the motto “fix it in the post”.

  • you generally get the lighting in the photograph right and don’ play with ‘re-exposing’ it in your imaging software.

  • you post photographs to any of the online photo sites (Instagram, etc.) from your phone or a WiFi equipped camera.

  • You make smaller prints. These are generally considered to be 14”x11” or smaller.

You use camera raw if...

  • your approach to photography is that the photograph captured in the camera is simply the basis for creating a final image in the software.

  • you tend to use a lot of cropping and/or resizing the image larger.

  • you do a lot of post processing and/or ‘re-exposing’ in your processing software.

  • You make huge (read: poster size) prints.

Again, there is no right or wrong here, it is simply choice made based on your approach to the medium.

*Please see the piece on archiving photographs as the file format used is very important there.

** Some Adobe products us a 1 – 12 scale for the JPEG quality setting so you should keep the quality at 10 or above.

You can download the entire text of Photography (Fully Realized) in a single PDF volume by clicking here.

The shirt-pocket challenge section of Photography Fully Realized concentrated on using a compact camera and, it seems, gave short-shrift to smartphone cameras. And it seems that the section dealing with those cameras was somewhat disparaging. That was certainly not the intent. The smartphone camera is certainly a viable choice for this approach and, in many cases, will give superior imaging results when compared to a compact. The smartphone camera is certainly more convenient than carrying around a dedicated camera and. for most of us, it is always with us.