Sending Photos Before the Internet

Last week’s post about using the iPad to work up and send photos prompted me to dig out a few old photos and share with you how it was done in the early 1980s at the SF Chronicle when we were on out of town assignments. Remember this was before digital cameras and even before Photoshop. 
Sometimes getting the pictures back to the office was more of a challenge than the shooting, especially if the assignment was a daily one. 
If there was a friendly non competing newspaper office nearby then the job was an easy one. Just swing by and use their darkroom and photo transmitter. Easy! Most of the time however, this wasn’t possible. So, we had to lug around with us a portable darkroom and photo transmitter. This also meant that we had to find a suitable room that we could make lightproof. Not as easy as it sounds! Usually the motel bathroom was the best choice. Most were windowless or just had a small window to tape over and water was convenient for the chemicals. We carried with us plenty of duct tape and the lightproof paper that came wrapped around the photo paper. Worked perfect for making a room light tight. The portable enlarger was usually set up on the toilet seat and the developing trays set in the bathtub. This usually worked out pretty well.
Here’s a photo of Art Frisch and me in a motel bathroom working on some photos. This was in 1981 and we were covering a series of protests down at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant near Avila Beach, CA. Note for this setup, we used a makeshift shelf for the enlarger and I sat on the toilet! Since we were covering a 2 week long series of protests, we brought a Kodak Ektamatic printer which produced dry prints in just minutes rather than taking the time to use trays.
For transmitting photos back then, we used a rotary drum scanner that scanned the 8×10 inch photo and sent it over a phone line. Took 8 minutes for a black and white photo if all went well. Unfortunately it didn’t always go well and we would have to resend the photo if there were any hits to the image caused by a poor phone connection. This would cause a line through the image which in pre Photoshop days was impossible to correct.
We also used another clever method to get the images back to the paper. If a convenient airport was nearby, we’d find the next flight to SF and beg a passenger to carry our bag of unprocessed film with them, asking them to leave it at a predetermined airline counter where we would have a runner pick up the film and bring it into the office. I actually did this a few times although it could never work these days especially after 9-11.
And this was way before my time at the Chronicle but certainly a very clever solution. The ever-resourceful photo staff at times used carrier pigeons to take film back to the paper. I think this method was used during the historic Beatles concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.
Anyway, that’s how it was done in the “old” days. Much prefer these digital days when all that’s needed is a laptop (or iPad) and a camera. Photos in my editor’s hands in minutes anywhere there is a cell signal. No lugging around a darkroom kit (or a messy bird cage) or begging airline passengers!   
Chronicle photographer Lacy Atkins and I work up our photos on our laptops at an Oakland Raiders game recently. Thanks to technology, between the two of us, we were able to edit, process and send over 50 photos in less than 2 hours. Gotta love technology!

Sling-O-Matic™ Series from Think Tank

SANTA ROSA, CALIF – Think Tank Photo introduces the Sling-O-Matic, the photo industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to change which
shoulder the bag can be worn on.


This innovation is the solution to the problem inherent with sling bags: they are designed to be to worn over one shoulder only. With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers.

Check out the new bag range at

New Firmware Update for the GoPro HD Hero

GoPro, the Half Moon Bay, CA company that produces the tiny, GoPro Hero 1080p HD video camera just announced a firmware update with some great new features. My favorite among them is the One Button Mode. Now when you turn the camera on, it will start recording right away. No chance of messing up any of the settings with an inadvertent push of a button.
The other feature I’m excited about is Live Feed Out. To keep the size of the GoPro at a minimum. the designers left out a viewfinder or LCD screen so there was no way to accurately set up your shot. Now, you can attach an external monitor to the GoPro. This of course means that you’ll probably want to buy their HD Skeleton Housing since the current mounting case does not have cutouts for the cables. Haven’t had a chance to try this out yet as I’m waiting for the HD Skeleton Housing which is not available yet. But when it is, I’ll attach it all to my Marshall field monitor and let you know how it works out on location. 
Another nice feature is the Live Feed Out Display which will show you you battery life and recording status when your GoPro is hooked up to a live feed field monitor.
The other two features of this firmware are the Upside Down Mode which will help if you need to mount your GoPro upside down,  eliminating having to rotate the files later.
And finally, new PAL 25/50p support. Helpful if you are recording for broadcast in most countries outside the US.
Come by Camera West and check out this fun camera.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.2

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3.2 update includes these enhancements:

• Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Panasonic DMC-LX5, Sony NEX-5 and Pentax 645D
• Numerous corrections for issues introduced in Lightroom 3.0
• Direct publishing to Facebook and over 120 new lens profiles

See the Lightroom 3.2 ReadMe file for additional details.