Analog Man Revisited

Did you ever buy a piece of technology that you regretted not that much later? Something that became obsolete long before it became a piece of junk? Maybe it was a Betamax video recorder, or a boom box, or an 8 track player. For me, it was my Nikon F80 SLR.

I had been using Nikon SLR cameras for about 20 years when my eyesight got so bad I couldn’t focus my tank-like FE any longer. That was in 2002. So I replaced it with the easy to use, lightweight, autofocus and autoexposure F80. In those last days of film the most popular prosumer Nikon was the F100, but that cost 3 times as much as the F80 and I didn’t think I’d need the extra features.

I picked up a nice stable of autofocus lenses to go with the camera body and figured I’d be set for a couple of decades. Digital imaging was out there of course, but it was very expensive, rather primitive, and nowhere close in quality to color film. I figured I could just shoot analog, and scan the negatives if I needed any digital files.

Well I was totally out to lunch – buying into a relatively good film system just as digital took off and left my plans (and camera) in the dust. It took me 15 years to catch up to the same level of digital quality. I used the film system for about 4 years – culminating with a couple of cruise holidays in 2006. Then I succumbed to the inevitable and the F80 went to the top shelf of a bedroom closet.

In 2010 I discovered some neglected Fujicolor 400 film in that closet and pulled out the F80 for a last hurrah. Analog man rides again! Above you can see 15 month old Teddy.

Here’s how the house looked then. The trees have certainly grown.

And here is magnificent Sammy – age 11 and before his hyperthyroidism sapped his health and strength.

In 2010 things were changing in downtown Almonte too. Here an antique shop has replaced a pharmacy and a furniture store is going out of business after 56 years. To the right a brand new pedestrian mini-mall is taking shape. Out with the old…in with the new. Sorta like photography I guess.

Today I was rummaging around in the closet and rediscovered the F80 with its lenses. On a whim, I popped in a couple of long-forgotten CR123A batteries and switched it on. The camera sprang to life. I had a roll of absolutely ancient Fujicolor handy so I loaded it in and the autoadvance wound forward to exposure #1. I went out front, focused the camera on that now big Linden tree and pressed the shutter. I heard that lovely “thunk, whirr.” Analog man is back again.

I suppose when the weather improves I’ll head out and finish shooting the roll. heaven knows where I can get it processed now. But for just a moment I was transported back in time…hmmm.

The Joy of Cataract Surgery

I had my surgery a couple of years ago, and I have to say it changed my life.

Maria is going through the same process in late January 2020, and with any luck, she’ll be done by the end of February.

It’s not really a joyful experience, but I cannot think of any surgical procedure that combines minor risk, quick execution and mind-blowing upside as this one does.

The wait times are a bit longer now as the demand increases with the aging of the OK Boomers. I had to wait about 6 months from referral to getting the surgery done; Maria was expecting an 11-month wait to see the surgeon, but that was cut down to 8 months because of a cancellation.

Maria and I both chose to go with the Tecnis monofocal implants. These are a slight premium over the standard spherical lenses that are covered by our hospital insurance. However, they provide much improved contrast for night driving.

I have astigmatism, and I did not choose the very expensive toric lenses since – although they might have corrected the defect – I would still have needed eyeglasses to read. I decided to just tough it out and wear glasses all the time. Maria doesn’t have astigmatism and she’s already seeing better than I did. To get 20/20 vision I had to wait until I had both eyes done and then got my eyeglasses from the optometrist.

Maria is scheduled for her second surgery at the end of February. The only disadvantage is the long series of eyedrops you have to put in the surgically corrected eye. She’ll just finish eye #1 and then it’s on to the second eye.

If she’s anything like me, she’ll hardly be able to wait until the second eye is fixed. When I had one eye seeing the proper colors, I was acutely aware of the problem with eye #2. Everything I saw with that Eye seemed dim and yellow by comparison.

Well, I held off posting this on the blog until Maria finished her second surgery yesterday. She has been to the surgeon’s office today and all is well. When she finishes the eye drops in a month or so she’ll be good to go. Then she’ll know about what sort of glasses she’ll need.

We are grateful that the weather was good. We had sunny days for her first eye surgery and today a major snowstorm is forecast – but we got into the surgeon’s office and back home before the snow started. You never know at this time of year.

Leadership Through Quality

Total Quality Management Principles

Some 30 years ago I was selected to join an elite team whose task was to introduce Total Quality Management to the Lipton Canada organization. This initiative was spearheaded in Lipton by our president Jim Benson – a truly great man, worthy of our respect. I made the mistake of telling him that his support would be critical for the success of LTQ (that was what we called it.) His response was to nominate me for the team.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a better group of people – ever. They came from all regions of Canada and many different branches of the company. We worked as teams of two – my partner Del Tupaz later went on to head up Coca-Cola in Nigeria. Quite a guy.

LTQ or TQM was a popular 80s and early 90s program. It primarily focused on the customer and how to meet that person’s requirements – at the lowest cost and getting everyone in the company involved. It stressed the fact that we all have customers. Some of the customers might be within the organization, but we had to do our best to meet their needs.

Other important facets in TQM or LTQ included:

  • working to prevent errors and defects, not detect them later
  • plan, do, check, and act cycles
  • make decisions based on facts (we provided some basic paper and pencil tools to do this, as computers were not on everyone’s desk back then)
  • strive for continuous improvement

We had a series of 8 talks that were given to everyone in Lipton, beginning with management and staff and later on to the factory employees.

Well, we had great fun designing and delivering the talks. I still believe in the principles. But did it work?

Sadly no. There was a fail because we could never convince the rank and file that the upper management would “get it” or buy-in. I believe Jim Benson did, but he was transferred to the US before the program ended.

Then a new program emerged called “re-engineering” or as we preferred to call it “salami slicing.” This initiative was basically improving shareholder value above all – cost-cutting, robotics, process simplification, outsourcing, automation. That was the story of the 90s and it killed a lot of the LTQ philosophy on how people made a difference.

Even the Lipton organization as we knew it disappeared into the Unilever company.

In addition, the ISO standard programs came out in the 90s and these provided a certification important in trade and commerce. A lot of focus was diverted to ISO rather than the fuzzier LTQ.

I still have Facebook friends who were on the original LTQ team, although many of them have hung up the uniform as I did. I also have the LTQ manual and materials in the basement somewhere, and there are times when I wonder if we could have done more to make it stick.

I hate to admit it, but many of my skeptical colleagues were right. A great idea tuned out to be just another flavor of the month. Pity.

A Photography Course

I was pleased to hear recently that an ex-work colleague had purchased a new Canon mirrorless camera and was taking a photography course. Not only is she getting in on the ground floor of future technology, but she’s taking the road less traveled when it seems that everyone is using a smartphone.

It also makes sense to learn about digital photography from the ground up, learning the theory as well as the practicum.

As for me, well I did take some university courses in physics so the optical part of photography was never foreign to me. As for the practical part, I learned a lot from my Uncle Howard. He was the master of the 35mm Kodak Signet manual rangefinder, and Kodachrome 64 color slide film.

Granted a lot of my and Uncle Howard’s experience doesn’t apply anymore, but he did teach me to make the most of available light, watch out where it’s coming from to avoid or compensate for backlit subjects. Also to be careful about image composition, get the right camera angle to avoid a telephone pole growing out of your subject’s head. And don’t be afraid to try a different way of doing things.

Lynn mentioned that her instructors encouraged her to switch off the camera’s auto settings and learn from scratch. I can vouch for this approach – after all my first serious camera was totally manual except for shutter speed. It made for some clunky photos at times, but that is how you learn.

But I have to confess that more often than not I let a modern camera make some of the optical decisions. A tiny travel camera does not have a lot of manual settings that I can fiddle with – especially aperture – so I just put it in Program mode. I do not turn off autofocus or optical stabilization since the camera sees better and compensates for my shaky hands. I just try to put it in the best location for success. Like a Bernini fountain in Rome.

This is a scanned print from a film photo taken in Brussels in 2002. I was smart enough to see the bright background and fill in with the camera flash. Uncle Howard wouldn’t have had this luxury, so he would probably have chosen a better camera angle.

Another scan – this one of a color slide from 1984. I remember having to get down in the mud to take this one. This is with my old Nikon mostly manual camera.

Uncle Howard used to say he learned photography from the “School of Hard Knocks.” I guess I was pretty much the same type of student.

More Geeking It Up

When I got my F80 film SLR in 2002, I also got a couple of cheap plastic Nikon zoom lenses – a 28-80 and a 70-300. Later on, I got a fast 50 1.8 “prime” lens. Then over the years, I collected some other used primes – 24, 35, 85. These were all great optics.

The 28-80 went onto a small very light low end Nikon N55 SLR that eventually ended up with my son-in-law. I replaced it with an earlier generation Nikkor 35-80 lens. This one had more metal in it and was a bit better quality. I found that for most of my film shooting I could get by with two lenses – the 24mm and the 35-80.

Well that was then, this is now. My current D5500 digital SLR has its own DX lens system with optical stabilization and in-lens autofocus. These are the everyday lenses I use now, But I still have the 6 older (now manually focused) lenses gathering dust in the closet. They work well on the digital camera so I’ve been experimenting with them recently.

Above is a grandfather clock shot with 35-80. I stopped it down to F11, and focused manually without using the camera flash. The film sensitivity was insanely high. I don’t think I’d want to use it this way, frankly.

Here’s the 35-80 with the camera flash. Still a high ISO sensitivity but a bit better.

Outdoors it’s a bit more satisfactory.

Another 35-80 snapshot outdoors. The DSLR sees the 35-80 as a 50-120 zoom.

Speaking of zooms this is the 70-300 film lens at maximum. This would be equivalent to a 450 mm magnification on a film camera.

The 70-300 is rather a nasty lens to use on the D5500. It must be focused manually, it’s rather soft when at its largest aperture, the focus ring is tiny and fiddly and it has quite shallow depth of field. It probably should be used on a tripod.

So have I learned anything from Geeking It Up part duh? Probably the cheap film zooms should be left in the closet. I can get much better results from the DX zooms that were designed for the camera.

The film primes are a different story. They are light, fast and feature great optics. They are well worth a spin in and around Almonte, if you don’t need wide-angle.

I am thinking right now of a weird photo kit with the autofocus 10-20 DX zoom and a manually focused 35mm prime from 1990. Just for fun of course.

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