Welcome to the first installment of Your Memories, a column dedicated to taking, preserving, and enjoying photographs.
Over 100 years ago there were two choices to preserve what one saw, either as a work of art or as a rudimentary photo. We have come a long way from there with our disposable cameras. Many of us still still paint or draw, but I think that we have all taken at least one picture in our life. More than ever those pictures are becoming a lifestyle, a mode of expression, a way of capturing what we think, and conveying it to all around us.
To launch this column, I felt the need to talk about storing and saving our precious memories. Too many times we have gotten used to accepting what we have. What my grandfather did and what I do are two different things. I wear a seatbelt in my car he didn’t. Keeping pictures dry is the first thing in the list. The basement is not necessarily the best place for the family albums. Moisture in any form is not good for any paper let alone pictures. We see this at the studio regularly.
Paper damage ensues quickly. Then your pictures start to look like the rolling hills of Ireland. Then 3 things can happen. Mould in the form of little spots. The emulsion (chemical layer that is fixed to the photo paper) can start to pull separate in small pieces looking like white flecks. Discoloration in part /or in whole of the picture. The fix for these problems using the current level of technology is to replicate, restore, and re-output the image. Time, patience and cost can all factor in to how you do this.
Age is one of the other factors that play a role. Even if properly stored the picture is often still deteriorating. The chemical agents used in the past are not stable and continue to develop the picture leaving a silvery sheen that eventually cannot be copied or reversed as it reflects light like a mirror. Even the best techniques are challenged. To date, the solution is to get them copied to save them.
Light becomes a factor when you display old pictures. Luckily most are stored in family albums well away from this problem. Next time we look at framing them to protect them. Then what is the next issue. It happens to be that old family album. In the manufacture of paper, glue and ink, acid is used to breakdown fibers to produce the end product. This is great as cost goes, yet for preserving your memories it is not so good. The effect is the same as if you left one of our great local papers near a window for a week. At the beginning the paper plays chameleon and changes color to a wonderful shade of yellow. Then the damage continues. Paper becomes brittle, cracks can form as the acid literally burns its way into the image. After time passes the picture become impregnated with the vile substance. Then there is no way to stop the process except to copy it. The papers and glues can show that they are acid based, by burning away to that yellow color. The best way to prevent this now is to talk to the people that want to help you preserve them (scrapbook instructors, historians, artists, photographers) and have help in identifying products that are a little more expensive, but better for your memories. Read the labels and look for good quality acid and lignin free products. They have no chemicals to leach into your pictures. Style albums such as magnetic page albums that we all loved have proved to be especially destructive as the acid does two things. One, being on both sides of the picture accelerates the destructive process. Two, then it permanently glues most photos in place making them at one with the album. It is important to remove them from these as carefully and soon as possible.
I encourage you to pull out your memories. Re-live them. Bring them back to life. Take a couple of minutes and check them so the next generation gets to see them.
We welcome all to our camera club. For more info or topic suggestions, please contact me!
Now having talked about preserving it is time to talk about travel and how it is best to travel with your camera. It is funny how we seem to perceive cameras as we do cell phones or electronics in general. In the past cameras were mysterious and you had to take special care when using them. Now they are an everyday item that familiarity has bred comfort. Paying a little attention to travel needs can make your camera survive the trip instead of being damaged. Bag it! What a 20 dollar camera bag! This can save your camera from impact. Impact you say? Yes falling off the table or being thrown on the bed after a long day can count. There are all sorts of protective armor available in the form of rubber or silicone skins. The camera is not identified as a piece of electronic gear in our minds anymore. It is seen as a piece of plastic. The circuit boards are still fragile. The more you protect them the longer your camera will last. They are also equipped with motors for the lenses. The lenses are also prone to damage. Take up the habit to shut down the camera so the lens is retracted so it is in the safest position.
The next items are batteries. Make sure you have adequate amount batteries. This can mean having 2 or more sets of batteries. The average person thinks that the investment is well worth it once they realize that it helps them get 100% of the use that they paid for out of them. What happens is that you are able to discharge them to the lowest levels then recharge them fully. This is important. A battery is not without memory it has a low memory and a life of on average 1000 charges. The more you charge the faster it gets there. Topping the batteries up for dancing once in a while is not the end of the world, yet as a habit, it can quickly kill. Make sure that you have adequate memory or film. The problem is that we do not always have time to clear it or find more.
Most problems are digital are when we encounter people that want more pictures on the same amount of memory. This does not work, as the quality loss is horrible for the gain of a couple of hundred shots of mediocre quality. The scouts teach planning ahead. I feel that it is good advice as most orders take 2 weeks to get.
Lets say that the Sahara desert is part of your excursion (sorry, a beach down south). The dust and grit that gets under your nails is fatal to your camera. The cheapest solution to all those problems is the famous locking seal baggy. They also take up almost no room in your bag. They seal out any stuff that can damage your camera. The other solution is buying a case for your camera that seals it versus the elements.
You only get one shot to get your memories. Make them good.