The closest thing to time travel

Discussion in 'Photography' started by richardsfault, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. There is an amazing digital revolution going on in the world of
    photography. Digital cameras get most of the attention, but they are
    only half of the story.

    The closest thing to time travel that I have ever experienced was the
    scanning of old film images from almost-forgotten periods of my life.
    This was especially true for slides that had until now only been held
    up to light to look at, and B&W negatives from a college photo class
    that were not among the handful that were printed.

    There is something emotionally-riveting about seeing an old image come
    to life on a modern-day CRT. It gives you no choice but to confront
    the past and evaluate where you have gone since then.

    Before we spend all our time re-taking everything with our new digital
    cameras, have we given thought to old work that is worthy of new life?

    I worry that there is an incalculable amount of precious film images
    fading away that would be of great value today if scanned. This every
    bit as much includes the work of casual snapshooters as well as
    photographers. I have learned that even the most mundane old images
    are fascinating today, such as insides of stores or parking lots full
    of cars. Imagine the value of an old Kodachrome slide from the 50's
    showing a parking area full of new-looking classic cars. After a good
    scanning and a little Photoshop, it could be a work of art. The
    possibilites are endless.

    It often seems to me that companies like Kodak have missed the boat by
    not educating the public about this and using their resources to offer
    good scanning at a fair price.


    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 24, 2004
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  2. Don't - else you'll waste your time capturing crappy photos when you could
    be out doing something useful...
    Dominic Richens, Jul 24, 2004
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  3. richardsfault

    D.R. Guest

    Good point. It's just like how one guy said on this ng that every photographer
    should at least once see the magic of an image appearing when printing your own
    photos the old fashioned way.

    Whether describing images, cars, scotch whiskey or amplifier tone, the "vintage"
    look, feel, sound, taste, is something magic and to be savoured.

    I say that old images are valuable and should be archived properly. With
    digital, you would no doubt press the shutter button more often rather than risk
    wasting film. That way you might capture more special photos and worrying to
    much about the old images. Also, the chances are greater of people not having to
    try restoring your future photos in 100 years from now. Could transfer to the
    next technology when it happens much easier than with film.
    D.R., Jul 24, 2004
  4. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    While this is nice, scan only those that are close to being lost, or
    need serious repair. The best thing to do is to use archival methods of
    preserving the negatives and slides that you have. Digital media has
    not yet become as dependable for archiving images. You can, but it's
    not a matter of scan, save and forget. See this article:

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  5. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    Probably because the article was published in late April.

    Originally, the technology was tested and the lifespan was based upon
    accelerated ageing life testing techniques. It was probably
    overestimated, or the testing may have been partially flawed. I think
    "lied" is a bit strong.

    Today, however, some discount manufacturers have found cheap way to
    produce this media, and their materials are good for a couple of years,
    at best. Instead of using metal that is burned in (pitted) by the
    lasers, they use material with dyes, which fade quickly.

    Here are a couple of other references:

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  6. richardsfault

    Mike Kohary Guest

    Capturing history is incredibly useful, and poignant to boot. For some of
    us, it's an endless fascination.

    Great post, Richard - I'm with you on this. I too get a feeling out of
    scanning my old photos, something that adds up to much more than nostalgia.
    I find myself scanning old photos that my dad, mom, and grandparents took,
    and prints that are much older, showing my family several generations back,
    at places that don't even exist anymore. Seeing myself as a child in my old
    hometown, which now looks much different, really brings me back. I have
    several boxes worth of this stuff, and I can't stand the idea of letting it
    rot. I'm maybe 1/3 of the way through it all, but in the next few years I
    plan to capture it all. If nothing else, my own children will surely
    appreciate the effort, and hopefully their children as well.

    Mike Kohary, Jul 24, 2004
  7. It's a pay site that only teases you with the first few sentences.

    Could you post the entire article in text format?

    What I was able to read concerned me. Have we been lied to about the
    50-100 year CD-R lifespans?


    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 24, 2004
  8. Ever Decreasing Circles

    21 April 2004
    Are we putting too much faith in the ubiquitous "recordable CD", or
    CD-R? It is undeniably one of the most useful means of storage around,
    offering an inexpensive way to save digital photographs, music and
    files and costing less than 50 pence per disc.

    If you check the claims made by some manufacturers of popular CD-R
    brands, you will see that some make bold claims indeed. Typical boasts
    include: "100-years archival life", "guaranteed archival lifespan of
    more than 100 years" and "one million read cycles". One company even
    says data can be stored "swiftly and permanently", leaving you free to
    bequeath those backups of your letter to the electricity company to
    your great-great-grandchildren.

    But an investigation by a Dutch personal computer magazine, PC Active,
    has shown that some CD-Rs are unreadable in as little as two years,
    because the dyes in the CD's recording layer fade. These dyes replace
    the aluminium "pits" of a music CD or CD-Rom, and the laser uses that
    layer to distinguish 0s from 1s. When the CD is written, the writing
    laser "burns" the dye, which becomes dark, to represent a "1" while a
    "0" will be left blank so that if the dye fades, there's no
    difference; it's just a long string of nothing to the playback laser.

    So have you already lost those irreplaceable pictures you committed to
    the silver disc? PC Active suggests we should forget CD-Rs as a
    durable medium, after its own testing found some with unreadable data
    after just two years. "Though they looked fine from the outside, they
    turned out to be completely useless," wrote the technical editor
    Jeroen Horlings, who had tested 30 brands in 2001, left them in a dark
    cupboard for two years and then re-tested them in August 2003. Of the
    brands tested, 10 per cent showed ageing problems. And it wasn't just
    Horlings. After seeing the results, shocked readers contacted the
    magazine with their experiences.

    Recordable DVDs are not off the hook either. The "dye chemicals" in
    write-once DVDs are similar to CD-R, though recording density and disk
    construction differ. "We're in the process of testing DVDs and we're
    sure that the same problems will occur," said Horlings, who plans to
    publish his findings soon.

    Gordon Stevenson, the managing director of Vogon International - a
    company specialising in data recovery - is familiar with these
    shortcomings thanks to the experiences of his customers, one of whom
    commissioned Vogon to retrieve pictures of his second honeymoon from a
    failed six-month-old CD-R. "The dye layer was fading," Stevenson says,
    "but we were able to recover most of the disk. But these claims [of a
    100-year archival life] are unhelpful and misleading. If you're
    spending 20p on something, you probably don't expect it to last 100
    years," he says.

    In the wrong conditions, such as sunlight, humidity and upper surface
    damage, your CD-R will slowly turn into a coaster. "CD-Rs should never
    be left lying in sunlight as there's an element of light sensitivity,
    certainly in the poor quality media," says Stevenson. "I wouldn't rely
    on CD-Rs for long-term storage unless you're prepared to deal with
    them as recommended."

    Such views are echoed by the National Archives at Kew. "Generally
    speaking, we don't recommend CD-Rs for long-term storage," says
    Jeffrey Darlington, a project manager at the Archives' Digital
    Preservation Department. "We don't regard CD-Rs as an archival medium.
    Most of the CD-Rs on the market are not of archival quality." Instead
    of CD-Rs, therefore, the National Archives tend to use magnetic tape
    rated for a 30-year life. Also, they are careful to copy, check and
    re-copy to avoid losing information and this is also a useful strategy
    for CD-Rs. "If you keep doing that so the CD-R is never more than
    physically three to five years old, you'll be safe enough. A hundred
    years sounds pretty unlikely," says Darlington.

    Not all optical media is vulnerable. The rewritable variants (RW) use
    metallic materials that change the phase of the light, rather than
    light-sensitive dyes. Commercial magneto-optical and ultra-density
    optical systems are different too. Stewart Vane-Tempest, the optical
    product director at Plasmon, the archival specialists, has first-hand
    experience of unreadable CD-R media. "Some dyes are very robust, but
    others not," Vane-Tempest says. "The one thing they have in common is
    susceptibility to environmental conditions. I do a lot of digital
    photography and pay top price for media. If I have anything important,
    I generally make a couple of copies. I've not used CD-Rs for long-term

    Vane-Tempest also offers a tip. Blank CD-R disks have a code that your
    CD writer reads to find the best writing strategy. If this isn't in
    the CD-writer's inbuilt software (its "firmware"), the default may be
    a poor compromise. Vane-Tempest says that some "less scrupulous" Far
    East companies have been using other people's codes, with deficient
    results. However, there is a way around this which is to find out
    which brands suit your writer and ensure the firmware is up to date.

    While such matchmaking is useful, there's no way to assess CD-R
    longevity at home. All you can do is check periodically. As for
    whether manufacturers are guilty of using finger-in-the-air methods,
    Kevin Jefcoate, the marketing and product management director at
    Verbatim, says: "It's a bit more than guesswork because there's a lot
    of scientific evidence to back it up."

    The answer, Jefcoate says, is to use a climate chamber to accelerate
    the ageing of the organic dye. Using a relationship between chemical
    reaction rate and temperature, 100-year lifetimes may be argued for
    normal conditions. Jefcoate adds that he has never known users to
    complain of age-related failures? "We haven't had anyone complain
    that, after three to five years, it hasn't worked." It's easy to blame
    budget CD-Rs when things go wrong. Novatech's purchasing and product
    manager, Kriss Pomroy, suggests users buy a small quantity for testing

    The PC builder sells unbranded CD-Rs sourced from a Far East
    distributor that buys over-production from well-known factories. Are
    we saving pennies and taking risks? "No," says Pomroy, "You can get
    problematic batches, but that's as true with branded media." The
    company now sells two-and-a-half times more unbranded write-once DVDs
    than CD-Rs.

    The world's No 1 supplier of CD-Rs, Imation, talks of "saving precious
    digital photo memories" - exactly what many people think they're
    doing. Semar Majid, its technical marketing executive, hasn't heard of
    any ageing problems. "Optical media should last between 30 and 200
    years," he says, "but it's dependent on storage conditions and how you
    handle it." He suggests transferring important photos to DVD, and
    keeping on moving to new formats.

    Another big maker, TDK, takes a cautious view with DVDs, claiming only
    a 70-year lifespan. "This does not mean that DVD is more fragile or
    unstable in time compared to CD-R; this is only because of the shorter
    experience that we have in manufacturing and testing this relatively
    young technology," says the TDK product manager Hartmut Kulessa. There
    have been no complaints about ageing failures.

    As the oldest CD-R is barely a teenager, there are no definitive
    answers either. But perhaps the last word belongs to Jeroen Horlings
    at PC Active. "We see a lot of manufacturers and they think that
    quantity is more important than quality," he says. "The problem will


    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 24, 2004
  9. richardsfault

    Mike Kohary Guest

    It's the dilemma that keeps rearing its ugly head. ;) I still maintain
    that digital is the archiving medium of the future, in spite of the current
    flaws and risks inherent in modern storage media. Why? Because you can
    always transfer your files from media to media if necessary, but the huge
    (and I mean HUGE) plus is that the files themselves, assuming they're kept
    safely, never deteriorate. Ever.

    Film, on the other hand, deteriorates, no matter how carefully you store it.
    It is a physical media that has a certain lifespan, and there is no way to
    transfer it from media to media in order to preserve it forever. Except
    with digital conversion. :)

    Mike Kohary, Jul 24, 2004
  10. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    Well, now, that's the problem -- keeping the digital media from
    deteriorating, and having equipment that will read it.
    Not necessarily true. Many are discovering, the hard way, that their
    CDs and DVDs are not archival, and become unreadable in as little as a
    couple of years. This is what the article points out. I have
    experienced some loss of data in as little as one year. It also applies
    to floppies and hard drives, to some extent.

    The trick is to find something that will last 50 - 100 years, and we
    will still have to have faith in the claim, then hope for the best.

    Of course, I'm not going to try to tell people what to do, but only
    point out things to watch for.

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  11. Exactly, Stan. I can't find my links, but they reiterate the findings. CDs
    need TLC -- no light or heat. But even if they were readable in 100 years,
    what will you read them on? Yank out your burner and hope that in the year
    2050 (or even 2005) the operating system (BillgGversion3K) will recognize
    your burner? I have some great stuff on 5-1/4 floppies. Too bad I can't find
    such a drive. Used, maybe.

    I lost a lot of scans of borrowed family photos when I clicked "ok to
    continue?" during installation of a CD Creator update, then my mind said,
    "Did you see what the fine print in the last screen said? 'CDs recorded
    under previous versions of this software may not be readable'" and sure
    enough, Windows reported "0 bytes" when I tried to open those files. I'm
    using the CDs as coasters until I decide if I want to reinstall the old
    version. Nah...........
    Larry CdeBaca, Jul 24, 2004
  12. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    Another quirk to watch for -- some cd burners and software don't handle
    multi-sessions as well as I would like. Sometimes the previous session
    data is lost, and almost always the second burn session leaves me with
    truncated file names, which my cataloging system can't tolerate.

    So, now, I just copy my archive cd to my hard drive, add my new files to
    that directory, and then burn a new cd to replace the old one. The old
    cd gets saved, along with any previous cd's that I re-did. I may have a
    lot of cd's containing duplicates of many files, but it's better than
    having none.

    Technology is great, but it's like having a pet rattlesnake.

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  13. richardsfault

    Lunaray Guest

    I agreee with you, I've been time-tripping for the past three months
    scanning my old b&w negatives and color slides, most of which were only seen
    on a contact proof sheet, or held up to a light. I've had many surprises
    when I found details that I didn't know exist, or had been forgotten about!
    Lunaray, Jul 24, 2004
  14. Maxim: data expands to fill available hard drive space.

    Maxim: even hard drives fail
    Corollary: especially if the data = irreplaceable images!

    Maybe we should commercialize the technology that made the metal disk that
    left our solar system on a space probe a few years ago... "Alien" cultures
    will have the reverse of our problem -- they will find this ancient disk,
    then try to figure out how to read it.
    Larry CdeBaca, Jul 24, 2004
  15. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    That could work. How much do you think it will cost? :)

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  16. richardsfault

    Stan Guest

    Just as another after thought, did you think to try to copy your cd to
    your hard drive using the DOS copy command? (assuming that your version
    of windows still supports DOS commands - I'm still running W98).

    It goes like this:

    copy e:\*.* c:\folder

    In this case, "e" is the letter or your cd drive, and "folder" is the
    name of the folder on your c drive that you would like to copy to.

    I'm assuming that your bottleneck is the cd burner software and the cd
    file structure that it expects to see. If you can use the DOS copy,
    once the image files are on your hard drive, your graphics program
    (Photoshop, or whatever) should be able to open them.

    * * * To reply, remove numbers from address.

    Stan, Jul 24, 2004
  17. In USA dollars or Third World? B^)

    Manhole covers cost something like $800 if made here in the U.S. India makes
    them for less than $100, which includes the cost of shipping the metal,
    fabrication, then shipping the covers back.
    Personhole covers? What are they called in UK?
    So, yes, it could be done. But then that would pop the bubble on planned
    obsolescence/guaranteed manufacturer's profits, wouldn't it?
    Larry CdeBaca, Jul 24, 2004
  18. Scanning is very time consuming, and can appear to border on the
    obsessive to those unfamiliar with the process.

    Activity does need to be prioritized, but be careful about making
    crap/good decisions. This is especially true with never-printed
    negatives that you may have if you did your own developing and
    selectively printed. (In my case college photo courses 23 years ago).
    I have diiscovered treasures in seemingly crappy negative frames, two
    of which were partial last frames. This is my favorite example,
    showing my wife and I when we were still dating in college:

    For me, that was a priceless image that I had never seen until now,
    and I can offer no better reason why scanning old films is worthwhile.

    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 25, 2004
  19. I learned the hard way to always verify the just-recorded CD-R against
    the source data. Unsually this is a built-in option.

    In many cases, the bad CD-R is a result of corruption at the time of
    recording, and not deterioration of the media.

    In my case, it ocurred over a range of dates when I had installed a
    newer burner in an older PC. Once the burner was moved to an
    even-newer PC, the problem went away.

    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 25, 2004
  20. According to an old joke, the aliens sent a return message stating
    "Send more Chuck Berry"!

    Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I think it's all...

    Richard's fault!

    Visit the Sounds of the cul-de-sac at
    richardsfault, Jul 25, 2004
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