So This Happened

In response to yesterday’s bout of Apple-induced Robopsychosis, last night Ben told me to charge my camera battery. “You’re going to need it tomorrow.”

I pressed him until I got an answer to what he had planned. “We need a day away from computers.”

And so we took a little road trip to Sedona. (I charged my camera’s battery, but didn’t take it; all these were shot with my iPhone.)












We didn’t really do much, but it was nice to get out of the blistering heat for a while and away from our laptops…

My First Camera

It originally belonged to my mom. She gave it to me—or should I say she allowed me to start using it when I was 13 years old. It used large format 620 film, something that was becoming harder and harder to find even back then, but which had the potential for producing some amazing photos—even if you were limited to a maximum of 8 shots per roll. But I didn’t know or care anything about that. I was just beginning to get into astronomy at the time, and what fascinated me the most about this camera was the fact that you could leave the shutter open indefinitely, allowing you to create photos of star trails. Of course, it involved a lot of trial and error and I never really did succeed in getting the effect I wanted from those pictures, but it planted the seed that was to grow into a lifelong love of photography.

I still have the camera, even though it hasn’t been used for at least thirty years. It was supplanted by a Pentax 35mm in the 1980s and that was replaced when I went digital about ten years ago. I’d imagine I could get some nice coin for it now, but I can’t seem to part with it—not just because it belonged to my mom, but also because it has so many good memories attached.

My Flickr Has Become Unmanageable

I’ve been using Flickr for the last twelve years or so. It started out as as a way for me to showcase and share my “serious” photography—i.e., only the images I’d shot with my DSLR.

But then a couple years ago I dumped the entire contents of my Instagram account in there along with photos I’d captured on various phones and even uploaded a large but undetermined number of scanned photos from my days of shooting film.

In short, it had become a hot mess.

I knew that by throwing the phone and Instagram photos into the mix there would undoubtedly be duplicates created, but I kept trying to convince myself that there would only be “a few” and their presence in the collection would concern no one other than my own anal-retentive self.

So of course I had to do something about it.

And it turns out that thanks to a few different online scanners, I learned there were significantly more than just “a few” duplicates in the collection. In some cases, there were multiple copies of the same photo. Unfortunately, while the various scanners were able to identify the duplicates, they were powerless to actually tag the photos for later removal. I don’t know if Flickr’s APIs changed after the services went online or what exactly happened, but the scanners (all of them) were unable to actually apply the tags so I could easily locate the dupes and delete them en masse.

Adding to this nightmare was the fact that the number of albums I had organized my photos into had become unwieldy and the groupings no longer made any sense. Initially I had organized everything by type, i.e. “Denver Downtown.” But then, in order to easily share newer photos with friends and family via links, I started dumping photos into event albums, i.e. “Phoenix Downtown 11-12-2015.”

Friday afternoon I discovered a very easy way to download everything in my Flickr account. You head to your camera roll, highlight the photos and videos you want, click on Download, and Flickr will spit out a Zip file. (Flickr says this function allows you to “download thousands of photos and videos at once,” but in reality it limits each individual zip file to approximately 500 images and will create multiple Zips.) I had my camera roll set up to show everything by date taken, so it was a simple matter to highlight each year’s worth of photos into a single (or in a couple cases, multiple) Zip files.

Once I did that, I unzipped the files and ran the lot through PhotoSweeper to cull the duplicates (there were approximately 300 out of 4300 total photos). I then made a copy of the “clean” set of photos onto an external hard drive just in case and I went back to Flickr and used the same process to highlight the photos again. This time, instead of choosing download, I selected delete. Within a very short time, my Flickr page was a blank slate.

Since there was also no logic to the way I had initially named my photos, this process gave me the opportunity to assign some consistency to the new, duplicate-free collection of photos. For the sake of simplicity, I named everything YYYY-xxxx, where YYYY was the year and xxxx was a sequential number starting at 0001 for the first photo shot that year. At some point after everything is uploaded new (it should be finished by the time I publish this post) I’ll go back and add something more descriptive in the description field of each image, but with 4300 photos, that isn’t going to happen overnight.

I also realize that this purge has probably broken hundreds of links on this here website thingie itself, because for a while I was merely linking images to Flickr to conserve disk space. But at this point I just don’t care. My Flickr account was a disaster and needed to be cleaned out.

I still don’t have any idea how I’ll ultimately organize the photos. By Event or by Type? Events nested by Type? Do I even bother putting things in albums any more?

Then And Now

Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue just south of Monterey Way looking north.
Top: Late 1960s/early 1970s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road just east of Central Avenue looking west.
Top: Late 1960s. Bottom: 2016. Indian School Road east of Central Avenue (about 100′ further east than the picture above) looking west.
Top: 1950s. Bottom: 2016. Van Buren and Central Avenue looking southeast.
Top: 1960-something. Bottom: 2016. Central Avenue at Polk looking north.
Top: Early 1970s. Bottom 2016. Indian School Road at Central Avenue looking south.
Top: 1960-something. Left: 2016. West side of 7th Avenue just north of Heatherbrae looking north.
Left: 1960-something. Right: 2016. The Professional Building at Central Avenue and Monroe. The building sat empty for many, many years, but was recently renovated and is now the Hilton Garden Inn.

…and Circles













…and sadness.

From the AZ Central Archives, 12 March 2010:

When Circles Records & Tapes closes its doors Saturday, a sentimental chapter in the lives of many Valley residents will also come to an end.

For 38 years, Circles has stood at Central Avenue and McKinley Street in downtown Phoenix. The neighborhood may have changed, but the store always remained devoted to pleasing people who cared about music.

“Record stores almost used to be kind of a cult thing,” said Angela Singer, who started the store in 1972 with her husband, Leonard. “People would go in and look at the album covers and read the liner notes. They would come in and just browse, which doesn’t seem to be what people want to do today.”

The world has changed since the Singers first got into the record-store business. The couple’s entry into the world of music happened in a roundabout way. Leonard owned Associated Distributors, a wholesale company that sold automobile accessories.

In the mid-1960s, that included tape decks, though few were manufacturing tapes. Leonard stepped in, signing deals with such labels as Motown and Atlantic to produce cassettes and 8-tracks.

By 1968, Associated Distributors boasted more than $2 million in annual sales. Circles opened as not only a record store, but as a way to distribute the Singers’ products.

“People were excited when we opened because there really wasn’t anything like this in Phoenix,” Leonard said. “It was something different.”

Tower Records had yet to arrive. Mass-merchandisers such as Borders and Best Buy didn’t exist. Circles, with its knowledgeable staff, deep catalog and late hours, was unusual and exciting.

“This was a music lover’s paradise,” said Rick Nuhn, who worked at the store when it opened. “At the time, this was the only place where you could pick up a lot of the records we were selling.”

The Singers staffed the store with people who knew music. It was Nuhn’s first job after graduating from Washington High School. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he hosts a syndicated radio show and works as senior director of promotion for the Concord Music Group.

“The ’70s were a different culture,” he said. “You’d go to Circles and talk to someone that you thought was cool to find out about cool music. “People can do that today through blogs and the Internet, but it’s not the same kind of connection.”

Industry leader

Circles gained local prominence and became an industry leader. In the days before Nielsen SoundScan tallied music sales, a select group of record stores would report top sellers to Billboard to form the magazine’s charts. Circles’ weekly reports tallied Phoenix’s hottest hits.

Recording artists often visited to sign their latest albums. One-hit wonders like Redbone (“Come and Get Your Love”) stopped there as did country stars like George Strait and Lyle Lovett. Angela Singer remembers a vivacious young Bette Midler meeting fans. Barry Manilow was there, as was Arthur Fiedler.

So many celebrities appeared that the Singers can’t remember them all. They used to have artists sign a door, but it was removed a long time ago – now tucked away in an upstairs storage room. It bears signatures of such acts as the Isley Brothers, Eddie Rabbitt, Michael Franks and David Gates from Bread. Bruce Springsteen’s signature also stands out.

“Oh, yes!” Angela exclaimed, her memory jogged. “He was here. He was quite pleasant, as I recall.”

Valley disc jockey Steve Goddard recalled escorting Natalie Cole to the store in 1988, when she was riding high the on the charts with “Pink Cadillac.”

“She was just delightful,” he said. “But that’s the thing with Circles: I’ve got so many memories there. Some are big ones like that, and some are just me getting excited at finding something there I couldn’t get anywhere else.”

One of Goddard’s favorite parts of the store was the “Wall of Hits,” in which every record that was on the Billboard Hot 100 occupied a spot.

“I’d go in there once a week with my list from Billboard, and I’d get every record that I was missing,” Goddard said. “It was awesome.”

All genres welcome

The building, a sprawling 36,000 square feet, is as distinctive today as when it was built in 1947 as an auto dealership. A huge front window curves around the side of the building, a reminder of days when it revealed the latest Studebakers.

Life-size posters used to fill the window; in the ’70s, one could see images of a beaming Helen Reddy or a brooding Patti Smith.

That was another thing about Circles: It didn’t matter what kind of music you liked. The store aimed to make everybody feel welcome.

“That was intentional,” said Nuhn, who once got an autograph from pianist Van Cliburn during a visit. “It wasn’t someplace that was trying to be hip. It was just about music. It didn’t matter what you liked. We would help you.”

The store stocked Latin albums in the ’70s, before they were easy to find. It carried polka music, religious tunes and became known as a haven for R&B fans. The selection of classical and jazz discs was equally extensive.

“Going to Circles was one of my favorite things to do,” said Sonia Moreno, a federal employee who shopped at the store since it opened its doors. “If you loved music, it was the place to be. You could find anything there, and if by some odd chance you couldn’t, they would order it for you.”

A digital demise

In recent years, the music industry has undergone massive changes. Tapes disappeared, and vinyl was turned into a cultish item when the compact disc took over. Now, CDs are giving way to digital downloads as chains such as Tower and Virgin have disappeared.

“We probably should have closed a long time ago,” Angela said. “It was just hard. We had employees that had been with us for years. You know people depend on you, and you don’t want to say goodbye.”

The Singers, who own the building, are hoping to sell it. The building will be vacant until it is sold.

The store remained devoted to its original goal. It sold a few music DVDs and some accessories as CD wallets, but it never strayed far from the original concept. It didn’t sell books or magazines or paraphernalia; it was always centered on music.

But as popular discs could be had cheaply at Walmart or Target, as well as online, it became harder to compete. And if you didn’t feel like getting dressed, you could download any number of songs to your computer. Circles became a dinosaur in the world of music retailers.

“Most music stores today do not sell exclusively music,” said James Donio, president of the National Association of Record Merchandisers, an industry group. “Because of the sheer dint of economic realities, they began diversifying more than a decade ago into doing other things.”

Revolver Records, just blocks from Circles, opened in downtown Phoenix last year. Co-owner TJ Jordan said the store has a different mission from Circles.

“I really love Circles because you could go in there and browse,” Jordan said. “But, if you deal with younger kids, these aren’t people that are used to going in and browsing. They have it all at their fingertips.”

That’s why Revolver emphasizes vinyl albums and used CDs and DVDs and relies heavily on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Circles didn’t focus on used products and never had a Web site.

“In reality, as great as Circles is, it’s just hard to have a record store like that in this day and age,” Jordan said. “It was more like something you’d see in the 1990s.”

The Singers seem to see the truth in that. Leonard said that once the store sells, the two plan to travel. Angela is active in the local arts scene. But he said their days in the music business are behind him.

“The business is so different than it used to be,” Leonard said.

“We sort of stumbled into this industry,” Angela added. “But, all the way through, we loved what we were doing.”

Experimenting With Infrared

Ben’s aunt takes a lot of pictures, so I wanted to get her something photo-related for the upcoming non-denominational winter holiday. I don’t know if Jody was even aware of the technique, but something I have always been intrigued with was infrared photography. I first ran across some examples of it it as a kid in the owner’s manual of my mom’s old Kodak Tourist Camera, and the white foliage and nearly-black skies fired my imagination. But back in the days of film, I never had the wherewithal to actually find the film, buy the necessary filters, and then locate a shop that could develop it. The results could be stunning, but seemed more trouble than they were actually worth.

All that changed with the advent of digital photography, requiring little more than a special filter and engaging the manual settings on the camera.

So I went ahead and ordered the filter for her, thinking it would be a fun diversion for her photos. It arrived today. It’s not the size my camera needs, but I decided to test it out as much as I could to see just how involved the whole process would be. No use giving a gift that would be too much trouble to actually use.

It was a lot of trial and error, but I finally got a decent shot. I had to set the camera to record in black and white (if I didn’t want pink-tinged photos), manually set the exposure time and aperture, and then use a tripod since the required exposure lengths were well beyond the hand-held, point-and-shoot range—making it completely unacceptable as a gift for Jody.

But I’ll have to admit the results were certainly interesting!

So I’ll be returning this one for a general-use polarizer (something she also doesn’t have) and then get my own IR filter to experiment with further.

My Favorite Example…

…of mid-century multi-family residential building in the entire valley, Phoenix Towers.

My mom’s long-time employer owned one of these condos from the 1960s until her death. I’d only visited once, but I was impressed by the design as well as the incredible view she had.

I’d been itching to get out and take some photos, and since the weather has been gorgeous lately I had no excuse to stay home. I also wanted to check out the camera on my new phone (since it was basically the only reason I upgraded) to see if I’m at the point yet where I can ditch the DSLR.

The results? Damn good, I will admit. Perfect for 90% of the things I photograph. But am I ready to ditch the DSLR yet? Not yet, but I think we’re getting close.

Squee!

As a child who grew up in the 1960s and being enthralled with the Apollo moon landings even then, I think I just orgasmed.

NASA has made their entire raw, unprocessed Hasselblad Apollo image archive available to Flickr. Conspiracy theorists and alien artifact hunters are undoubtedly going to have a field day. As for me, I just think they’re beautiful.

A small sampling of the hundreds of photos posted (warning: some of them are quite large so be patient while they load):

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment Endless Road Construction

New Mexico really needs to change its state motto from Land of Enchantment to Land of Endless Road Construction.

I can’t recall a single trip through the state over the last fifteen years where we didn’t run into major road construction of one type or another. The place is obviously mainlining federal highway funds.

That being said, the place is still incredibly beautiful.