Technical difficulties

2008-02-10

in Geek stuff, Photography, Rants

Nothing photographic is my friend these days. The camera I sent back to Canon for repair (because it had a defective battery hatch when I bought it) seems to have come back with a new fault: it eats through batteries in minutes, managing at most five photos before giving out. Some brand new alkaline AAs I put in weren’t sufficient for it to take a single photo. If this doesn’t magically clear up in the next day or so, I suppose I will have to mail it to Canon for another repair.

Compounding the trouble, iPhoto deleted several thousand carefully tagged and sorted images from my library; more than a year’s worth of photography simply vanished. I do have a backup on an external HD (quite current, thanks to the Time Machine feature in Leopard), but I doubt it will be easy to recover them while maintaining the tags and folders.

It’s almost enough to make a person go back to rolls of T-max, binders full of prints, and hours spent in the dark room.

[Update: 11 February 2008] In the end, iPhoto’s little hiccough seems to have cost me every photo I have taken since leaving Vancouver. It was pretty easy to recover the older ones archived by Time Machine. But the photos exclusively on my hard drive just seem to have vanished without explanation. Disk Utility found no problems with the disk or with disk permissions. Once again, the importance of backups is demonstrated.

On the camera front, it seems to be responding well to newly charged Ni-MH cells. Probably, the earlier issue was the result of rechargables losing amps while my camera was off getting repaired, combined with a pack of bad alkalines I purchased.

[Update: 12 February 2008] I was wrong. My camera told me that the batteries were dead after 11 photos. When I put the batteries in the charger, they were ready in the time in took to brush my teeth.

Conclusion: the camera must return to Canon once more, with a slightly more subtle but equally crippling issue to be resolved.

[Update: 10 April 2008] iPhoto failed catastrophically again. Thankfully, I was able to fix it using yesterday’s backup.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

tlaing February 11, 2008 at 4:28 am

There is something to be said of having the photos you care for printed en mass. For small (4 by 5) prints, the cost can be quite cheap (19 cents per print, perhaps less if you shop around).

Photographic paper today is quite stable and will likely last well long enough for the photos to still be meaningful later in life. If is not even neccesary to put these photos in albums, they could be merely boxed, sealed and stored, to be accessed later if the electronic copies fail.

R.K. February 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

It eats through batteries in minutes, managing at most five photos before giving out. Some brand new alkaline AAs I put in weren’t sufficient for it to take a single photo.

That seems unlikely. It is hard to imagine what would burn through the batteries so quickly. Probably, there is just a faulty voltage sensor.

Milan February 11, 2008 at 9:59 am

Tristan,

I would definitely get a few hundred 4 x 5 type prints made, if only I could have them done at the correct aspect ratio. I really don’t want them cropped or printed with black spaces.

R.K.,

That does seem probable. These additional camera problems are a big pain.

megan February 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

It might also be the batteries. We ran into this at Venus Envy occasionally. You never know how long the batteries have been sitting around in some warehouse, or maybe got overheated in shipping, or whatever. I would buy a few packs at a few different places before deciding it’s the camera.

Milan February 11, 2008 at 10:53 am
Milan February 11, 2008 at 10:54 am

Megan,

That’s what I am hoping, though I also noted very poor performance with my rechargable batteries in the first days after I got it back.

Hopefully, this was a combination of (a) the rechargables discharging while the camera was off getting repaired and (b) a bad batch of alkalines from the news agent in the Rideau Centre.

tristan February 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I can’t vouch for them, but costco upon specific request had no problem producing 75 or so pictures at the correct aspect ratio. I had to explain it to the guy working there, but the photos came out brilliantly.

Milan February 11, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Tristan,

As I asked before, how was that done?

The places I have asked said they could print them with bars on either side, then cut those off, but it would cost extra and the edges would be somewhat imperfect.

. February 11, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Truth is in the eye of the beholder

PETER WAYNER

New York Times

January 31, 2008 at 3:49 PM EST

When Carlo Baldassi came home from vacation and looked at a picture he took of his girlfriend on the Charles Bridge in Prague, he was torn. She looked beautiful, but the proportions of the picture were all wrong. It seemed tight and constrained, and it would not fill his widescreen monitor.

An artist is never satisfied.

Baldassi may not have an official title of an artist — he studies computational neuroscience at the Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation in Turin, Italy. But he could fix the problem with some automatic photo-editing software he was writing with several friends. With one click, the tool stretched the uninteresting parts of the landscape — the water and the hills — while leaving the face of his girlfriend just as it was. The result was, he thought, more open and panoramic.

“Reality is a lie,” Baldassi said.

Automated tools like Baldassi’s are changing the editing of photography by making it possible for anyone to tweak a picture, delete unwanted items or even combine the best aspects of several similar pictures into one.

The tools are giving everyone the ability of the Stalin-era propagandists, who edited the photographic record of history by deleting people who fell out of favour. Software like Photoshop from Adobe Systems opened the process for millions of graphic artists, but it was never cheap; the professional version of Photoshop sells for about $650.

Anon February 15, 2008 at 12:25 pm

The electric current generated by a battery is produced when a connection is made between its positive and negative terminals. When the terminals are connected, a chemical reaction is initiated that generates electrons to supply the current of the battery. Lowering the temperature causes chemical reactions to proceed more slowly, so if a battery is used at a low temperature then less current is produced than at a higher temperature. As the batteries run down they quickly reach the point where they cannot deliver enough current to keep up with the demand. If the battery is warmed up again it will operate normally.

One solution to this problem is to make certain batteries are warm just prior to use. Preheating batteries is not unusual for certain situations. If the battery is already warm and insulated, it may make sense to use the battery’s own power to operate a heating coil. It is reasonable to have batteries warm for use, but the discharge curve for most batteries is more dependent on battery design and chemistry than on temperature. This means that if the current drawn by the equipment is low in relation to the power rating of the cell, then the effect of temperature may be negligible.

On the other hand, when a battery is not in use, it will slowly lose its charge as a result of leakage between the terminals. This chemical reaction is also temperature dependent, so unused batteries will lose their charge more slowly at cooler temperatures than at warmer temperatures. For example, certain rechargeable batteries may go flat in approximately two weeks at normal room temperature, but may last more than twice as long if refrigerated.

Anon February 15, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Batteries don’t like cold temperatures. If you’re working outside in the winter or shooting in some other cold environment — hey, you never know when you may want to take pictures inside a walk-in freezer — keep a spare set of batteries in a pocket so your body heat will keep them warm. (NiMH rechargeable batteries respond better to cold than NiCad rechargeables, by the way.)

Anon February 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Here’s an Ottawa photography blog you might like, called Watawa life.

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