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What’s Old?

Whenever I update the What’s New? page, I delete entries that are no longer new (i.e., more than a year old) and move them to this archive. That keeps the What’s New? page to a reasonable size, while maintaining a complete history of this Web site for anyone who might be interested. I can’t imagine why anyone would actually be interested in such a thing, but here it is.

Since this archive goes back to 1999, some links and other things mentioned in old entries may have changed, moved, or disappeared. I’ve removed outdated links and annotated some entries to indicate where things have moved, but I’ve otherwise left the original text unchanged. I add the annotations when I archive the entries, so in time the annotations may themselves become outdated.

Newer Entries

26 December 2007

A new Travel Photo Essay on Venice and Naples (California). At the beginning of the 20th century, two unrelated real estate developers transformed two pieces of swampland into their versions of Venice, Italy. The “canal district” of Venice, south of Santa Monica, is really most notable for its colorful history (and its colorful founder). It’s charming and quaint, but what’s left of the canals is merely decorative. Naples Island in Long Beach is much more “Venetian,” with European-style narrow alleyways and a functional circular canal that leads to a boat harbor. While neither is anything like an authentic reproduction of La Serenissima, they’re both hidden gems of the Los Angeles area and are well worth visiting. There are 16 new pictures, one of which is the 900th image on this Web site.

24 November 2007

With the once-mighty dollar swirling down the toilet and air travel a more frustrating ordeal than ever, discovering places you’ve overlooked in your own home town is a very attractive travel option. For my autumn vacation this year, I took day trips from home to some places in “Los Angeles and Vicinity” that I had never visited— or hadn’t visited in decades— despite living here my entire life.

From a photographic perspective, this was surely as satisfying and exciting as any “trip” I’ve made. And I barely scratched the surface. But it wasn’t an enjoyable vacation. “Los Angeles” is a far-flung collection of places scattered in all directions. Exploring it means long drives on the nation’s most congested roads, which seem to be clogged at all hours; and there’s no practical alternative to driving. For future local vacations, I’ll reduce the nerve-racking commute by choosing specific areas to visit and staying in hotels there.

Last month’s Travel Photo Essay on San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, was the first installment of my recent adventures. The current installment is about Griffith Park, featuring the renowned Observatory that reopened a year ago after a six-year overhaul. In addition to the 18 new pictures, four pictures I took in 1997 at Griffith Park’s Travel Town Museum (formerly on the Fine Art 2 page) have a new home. I have moved six other Photo Travel Essays from the California page to a new Los Angeles and Vicinity page. And on the Fine Art page there’s also a new “artsy” picture I took on the island of Naples in Long Beach.

To avoid offending the Guardians Of America’s Religious Values with a generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” I’ll wish you (in chronological order): Happy Hanukkah, Io Saturnalia, Blessed Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and/or Happy New Year. And remember that prints of my pictures make excellent gifts!

31 October 2007

In honor of Halloween, Samhain, and autumn in general, here’s a pumpkin still life. I saw this appealing array yesterday while walking along the Rivo Alto Canal on the island of Naples in Long Beach, California. An upcoming Travel Photo Essay will feature Naples along with Venice, the other little bit of Italy in Los Angeles.

30 October 2007

I added a new Travel Photo Essay page on San Pedro, the Port of Los Angeles. The brightly painted shipping containers, ships, and associated port machinery provide many interesting photographic opportunities. These are the first subjects I’ve run across that consistently exceed not only the sRGB gamut but Adobe RGB as well. In plain English, that means psychedelic colors so intense that monitors can’t reproduce them correctly. My favorite of the sixteen new pictures is an “artsy” close-up of an oil tanker that looks like one of Mark Rothko’s abstract expressionist paintings.

30 September 2007

A very rare early autumn storm last weekend scrubbed away the usual smog and haze from the skies of Southern California. I took advantage of the clear sky and paid a late-afternoon visit to Point Vicente Park, which reopened in July 2006. The resulting update to the Palos Verdes Peninsula 2 page includes six new pictures. I also added two new pictures to the Palos Verdes Peninsula 1 page.

10 September 2007

Ever since they acquired the Paint Shop Pro image editing program, Corel has released a new version every September. This year’s model is called X2. My review of Paint Shop Pro gets quite a lot of visitors, so I’ve updated it to discuss the new version. As with Corel’s previous September releases, this is unfinished “beta” software. The release notes list 35 “known issues” (i.e., new bugs), along with 70 “product improvements” that look suspiciously like fixes for bugs in the previous version (none of which are related to the unfinished color management system and incomplete plug-in support that made me drop Paint Shop Pro in favor of Adobe Photoshop). The “finished” software should get released as a large patch in a few months. Also consistent with previous Corel releases, the new features in this one are rather unimpressive. But I do have to mention one that represents some marketeer’s truly brilliant inspiration: Thinify™, a tool that’s supposed to make people look thinner. Never mind the “known issues”; Thinify™ should guarantee record sales! Will the next version perhaps add a specialized version of the tool just for women, Thin-a-Thigh™?

I have also updated Avoid Flying Whenever Possible. Just in time for the 6th “anniversary” of 9/11, the Homeland Security Department Inspector General has issued a report about the latest serious flaw in the Transportation Security Administration’s airport “security” system. The TSA makes long lines of passengers stand shoeless at screening checkpoints, confiscates contraband sunscreen and water bottles according to screeners’ capricious interpretations of ridiculous rules, and requires checked bags to be unlocked because their million-dollar high-tech scanners can’t distinguish books from bombs. But after passengers go through all those hassles and restrictions, cargo loaded beneath their feet receives cursory screening at best. The Inspector General concluded that the TSA’s utterly inadequate system for screening cargo “increases the opportunities to put explosives, incendiaries, and other dangerous devices on passenger aircraft.” Combine that with flight delays, lost baggage, and utter meltdown of “customer service” the airlines inflicted on miserable travelers this past summer, and “wretched” seems an inadequate description of the air transportation system in the United States.

Finally, a small cosmetic enhancement throughout this Web site: “typographer’s” quotes and apostrophes. While it’s not a revolutionary breakthrough in a league with Corel’s Thinify™, the “curly quotes” should make the text look just a little better than the old "straight" quotation marks.

5 August 2007

An update devoted mainly to reviews and commentaries. I completely rewrote the review of iCorrect EditLab Pro, the color-correction plug-in I’ve been using since 2002. I made various minor updates to other reviews, mainly to keep the prices and links current and describe some improvements in new software versions. I’ve brought the section on ISO 400 color negative film up to date, updated Avoid Flying Whenever Possible to include the latest improvements the airlines and the TSA have made to air travel, and made a few revisions to Ted Tries a Cruise and The Joy of Solo Travel? in response to comments I’ve received. And I’ve updated the Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) article with new information from correspondence with readers who have used the Nikon Coolscan 9000 scanner and the GEPE “13 x 17 Pocket-Instamatic Anti-Newton” slide mounts.

Nearly all the pictures on the Scenery page are new and improved scans. I’ve added one new picture, Afternoon Surf, to the first Fine Art page. [“Afternoon Surf” has moved to the Travel Photo Essay about Rancho Palos Verdes, California, where I took the picture.]

16 June 2007

After years of resisting my parents’ suggestions that I try a cruise, the time was finally right to test the waters. In May I took a four-day cruise from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico (by way of San Diego and Catalina Island) on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas. It didn’t require flying, and the price was reasonable despite a “single supplement” that doubled the cost. That hefty “supplement” is the standard penalty cruise lines impose on solo travelers. It’s a major reason why I’ve avoided cruises.

I had a reasonably good time, although certain things weren’t quite what I expected. I’ve written an illustrated article about my experience as a first-time solo cruiser: Ted Tries a Cruise. But anyone contemplating their first cruise— or anyone considering this very popular Southern California “sun and shopping” vacation— should find it informative even if they’re a couple or family. And for those of you who have told me that they would enjoy my Travel Photo Essays more if I wrote first-person accounts of my experiences and feelings, I’ve finally written one.

Besides the illustrations in the article, I added some new pictures to the San Diego and Catalina Island pages, as well some “artsy” images on the Fine Art pages (my two favorites are Monarch and Countess and Prow).

25 May 2007

I have updated my review of the Pantone huey colorimeter to discuss the hueyPRO, an enhanced version for “advanced” users. The hardware for both monitor calibration tools is apparently identical, so Pantone sells a software upgrade that converts the original huey to a “PRO.” I bought the upgrade, so I can provide a detailed comparison along with some information about the upgrade process that Pantone neglected to document.

So what does the upgrade get you? The short answer is “the ability to profile, calibrate, and install color correction for two monitors.” I think the other features really are more cosmetic than substantial. My review has recently received many “hits” from search engine queries about the hueyPRO, so I hope this update is a helpful resource for the digital photography community.

18 April 2007

Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table has been on the Web for eight years. It’s exciting to look through the log summaries each week and see so many people from all over the world visiting my site, along with the astonishing variety of search queries that lead them to its pages. It’s even more exciting when some of those visitors order prints or image licenses!

For its eighth anniversary, I have given the entire site a face-lift— at least for some visitors. I’m now using the new fonts Microsoft introduced with Vista and Office 2007. I think they offer a fresh and distinctive look. If you don’t have those fonts, everything will look pretty much as it did before; the old fonts remain alternate choices on the CSS style sheets. I have more information about the new fonts, including a way for Windows users to get them free from Microsoft.

There are many substantive changes as well. I have completely redone the Yellowstone Travel Photo Essay (just in time for those of you who might be making plans to join the park’s summertime hordes). Yellowstone had been a brief appendix to the Grand Teton page ever since this Web site first “went live” in 1999. I can’t remember why I originally only included eight pictures of Yellowstone. But I think it might have been because I was just getting started with scanning and digital processing, and I wasn’t up to the challenge of getting good results from those slides. As part of a continuing project to replace my earliest scans, I added twelve more pictures of Yellowstone to the new versions of those original eight slides, and put them in a completely new Travel Photo Essay. I’m quite happy with the results, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

I have also made new versions of all the pictures on the Hearst Castle page. I’ve replaced various pictures on a several other Travel Photo Essay and Scenery pages, including the two pictures of the Grand Canyon. Technically-inclined readers might be interested seeing in a comparison of those old scans with the new versions. I’ve made a special Then and Now page with side-by-side comparisons and discussion of four pictures.

Finally, there are numerous updates to the Commentary pages and Links and Reviews. Notable changes include a substantially revised and expanded survey of digital cameras, the addition of Microsoft’s brand-new HD Photo to the Bestiary of File Formats, an extensive update to The Joy of Solo Travel?, and a revised Adjust Your Monitor page. I’ve updated the article on legacy film formats to reflect the current availability of 110 film, and to report the death of the 126 Instamatic cartridge at age 44. Ferrania has just discontinued the only film still available in that format. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Now that I’m done with all those updates, it might be time to think about going out and taking some new pictures.

4 March 2007

I have updated the La Purisima Mission Travel Photo Essay with new, more vibrantly colorful versions of all the pictures. I also added one previously-unpublished picture and made some improvements to the text.

Several pictures in the Sedona Travel Photo Essay also are new versions, demonstrating that even recent digital pictures can benefit from improved post-processing. I tried out my then-new Canon Digital Rebel XT on the Sedona trip in May 2005, and originally processed those pictures with the now-discontinued RawShooter Essentials and Paint Shop Pro 8.1. When Adobe issued Camera Raw version 3.7 last month (with a new user interface intended as a transition to version 4 in the upcoming Photoshop CS3), I tried it out with some of the raw files from Sedona using my current workflow. I liked the results enough to replace the older versions.

I have also revised and updated the Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) article. I’ve added more material about scanning negatives, including information from some readers who have bought the rare 16mm negative holder for Nikon’s expensive Coolscan 9000 scanner.

2 February 2007

Happy Groundhog Day, Candlemas, or Imbolc! Continuing with the gold mining theme, I’ve added a new Travel Photo Essay on the Kennedy Mine and its distinctive tailing wheels. This is another former “mother lode” mine in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California. A picture of one of the tailing wheels had been on the Fine Art page for some time. I made a new scan of it, and added seven previously unpublished pictures plus a “bonus” picture of the nearby Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park.

I have also updated the review of Paint Shop Pro to bring it up to date with a recent major patch (a 116-megabyte download) to PSP XI. Although I no longer use PSP very much, the review page gets quite a few visitors.

1 January 2007

Happy new year! Some of the pictures on the Scenery and Fine Art pages are scans that I made in 1999, soon after I started this Web site. I have gradually been replacing those pictures with new scans, as my “digital darkroom” and techniques have improved since then. The Fine Art page included two pictures I took at the Empire Mine State Historic Park, site of a large gold mine that operated from 1850 until 1956. It’s in northern California near Sacramento. While reviewing the original negatives, I found several other rather nice pictures I took there. The result is a new Travel Photo Essay on the Empire Mine.

24 November 2006

When I visited Lake Tahoe in October, I was lucky enough to enjoy both peak fall color and the season’s first snow. In keeping with the lake’s absurd division by the California/Nevada boundary (an unintentional accident of history), I’ve divided the resulting travel photo essay into separate pages for Lake Tahoe, California and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Including three pictures added to the Scenery page, there are 37 new pictures, one of which is the 800th picture on this Web site (if anyone is counting).

I have updated the Palos Verdes Peninsula 2 page to reflect the long-delayed reopening of Point Vicente Park and its expanded interpretive center. I have also substantially revised the Avoid Flying Whenever Possible commentary section, in part to include recent “improvements” to airport security. That section used to be called “Why I Avoid Flying.” But I started flying again last year, so I decided it needed a new title.

To avoid offending the Guardians Of America’s Religious Values with a generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” I’ll wish you (in chronological order): Happy Hanukkah, Io Saturnalia, Blessed Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and/or Happy New Year. And remember that prints of my pictures make excellent gifts!

18 September 2006

I made several improvements to the “look and feel” of this Web site. Each Travel Photo Essay page now includes a navigation menu at the top. The graphical titles on those pages are also new and improved. I had originally intended to use PNG files for these titles, since PNG’s “alpha channel transparency” allows smooth, polished lettering over the black background. But I discovered that Microsoft’s Monopoly Standard browser does not implement this feature, which works perfectly in Firefox, Opera, and Safari. So I had to turn everything into GIF, which isn’t quite as good. (If this is meaningless, see A Bestiary of File Formats for an explanation.) The upcoming version 7 of Internet Explorer (bundled with the upcoming Vista operating system) is supposed to fully implement PNG. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to camp out at your local computer store the night before Vista finally goes on sale (which many people actually did 11 years ago when the much-delayed Windows 95 came out).

I also updated the review of Paint Shop Pro for the just-released version XI. There’s actually not that much to update, as this seems to be a rather insignificant upgrade that adds a few unimpressive features but does nothing to fix the shortcomings of the previous version. Corel’s most noteworthy achievement with this version seems to be that they got it out the door a full month before Adobe was scheduled to ship Elements 5.0.

And finally, a new picture, Flower and Railing, on the third Fine Art page. [“Flower and Railing” moved to the Travel Photo Essay on South Bay piers in Los Angeles.]

4 September 2006

I overhauled the Death Valley travel photo essay. I made all-new scans of the original Fujichrome slides, added two new pictures, and rewrote the text. The previous versions of those pictures were some of the oldest scans on this Web site, going back to 1999 and using my old Hewlett-Packard Photosmart scanner and its crippled native software (before I discovered Ed Hamrick’s superior VueSmart scanning software, now called VueScan). The new versions of the pictures are much more colorful, vibrant, and exciting.

I also updated my discussion of the Canon Digital Rebel XT camera, and the more general article about digital cameras, in light of the announcement that the Rebel XTi (400D) is replacing the XT. That camera hasn’t shipped yet, but everything I’ve read about it suggests that its improvements offer users even better value for money.

9 August 2006

I added two new technically-oriented commentary articles. The first, DNG: Archival Solution or (Compact) Flash in the Pan? is about Adobe’s attempt to promote a standard format for digital camera raw files called DNG. It may or may not offer significant advantages over the current proliferation of different file formats for each camera. The companion article, A Bestiary of File Formats, discusses the various file formats (other than raw camera files) commonly used for digital photography.

I’ve also made minor updates to the E-Mail and Privacy page (mostly to update the section on avoiding spam) and the popular Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) page (in response to questions I’ve received lately about flatbed scanners). There are improved versions of several pictures on the Scenery page.

22 July 2006

The most significant change to this Web site is invisible. I have moved it to a new hosting company (which sells storage space and Internet connectivity for Web sites). I had hosted this site with PowWeb for over five years. They were recently bought out by Endurance International Group (EIG). EIG is an investment holding company that specializes in acquiring hosting company “properties.” Having acquired a “property,” they lay off its staff, close down its facilities, “migrate” all the users to EIG servers, and turn it into one of the many brand names under which they sell the same hosting services. I was having a series of problems attempting to “migrate” this relatively straightforward site. Perhaps because PowWeb is EIG’s largest acquisition to date, their overwhelmed staff were giving me more frustration than support.

After reading horror stories from former customers of other hosting companies that had been assimilated into EIG’s “family of shared-hosting providers,” I decided that the best “migration” for me would be to a new hosting company. In the process, I learned more about the Web hosting industry than I ever cared to know. One thing I learned is that nearly all of the many Web sites that purport to offer reviews and ratings of hosting companies are little more than advertisements. The people who run those sites are resellers or “affiliates” of hosting companies. So their review and “rating” of a company often reflects the commissions they receive for signing up new customers rather than the quality of hosting. There are a few exceptions, particularly WebHosting Talk, a forum site I found extremely helpful.

I chose HostGator for the Virtual Light Table’s new home. They have an excellent reputation on the legitimate host review sites and forums. I switched the domain record to the new host on Friday night, 14 July. The transition looks to have been seamless; but I’m making the appropriate offerings to propitiate Hollerith, deity of all things cybernetic. (Hollerith the deity may or may not be related to Herman Hollerith, who pioneered the “do not fold, spindle, or mutilate” punched card and founded what became IBM.)

As for visible updates, I added one new picture, Kuau Sunset, to the Maui Coastal Highways page. This was one of those cases where having several different converters for raw camera files was very helpful. Adobe Camera Raw, my main raw converter, produced visible artifacts in the bright sunlight surrounding the clouds. So I was very disappointed that the picture was unusable. But then I read a forum post suggesting that Canon’s Digital Photo Professional might handle the overexposed highlights better. Sure enough, it did. But I still don’t like its user interface.

There are also a number of revisions to the Links and Reviews and Commentary pages. The most significant is a long-overdue overhaul of my digital cameras survey. I removed the link and review for the SmarterNR noise reduction plug-in, as its author’s Web site seems to have disappeared. I also revised The Joy of Solo Travel? and moved it to its own page.

1 July 2006

Aloha! I’ve completely redone the Maui travel photo essay, and added a second essay devoted to Maui’s scenic coastal highways. There are 41 new pictures and eight “remastered” old ones.

I’d be the first to admit that the old Maui page wasn’t my best work. In 1982, when I first visited Maui, I was still using my Pocket Instamatic 60. The Kodachrome 64 slides from that trip were the last pictures I took with the camera. They came back from the Kodak lab with a note that 110 slide film was being discontinued. Although I had a decent 35mm SLR for my second visit in 1988, the weather was so consistently overcast that I got few usable pictures. So the old page was something of a placeholder using the pictures I had available, until I could someday get back to Maui. I was finally able to do that this past May. I enjoyed nice weather, although I do wish there were a practical way to get to Hawaii without the unpleasantness of flying. I’m rather pleased with the new pictures, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

I also made some minor updates to the Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome) article. The changes mainly incorporate improvements Ed Hamrick has made to VueScan since I wrote the original article.

Finally, while working on the new Maui pages I discovered an excellent Hawaiian dictionary Web site that can search five dictionaries and two gazetteers. I always find the origins and meanings of place names fascinating when I travel, so I included them in the new Maui photo travel essays. I also “retrofitted” my other Hawaii pages.

Some Hawaiian place names have no known meaning, and others have multiple or contradictory meanings. So I sometimes had to pick and choose, or reinterpret the literal translations. An example of reinterpretation is Mauna Kahalawai, the name of the ancient eroded volcano that forms West Maui. Neither gazetteer has an entry for it, but one dictionary defines kahalawai as “[t]he mixing of two unlike substances so as to make a third unlike, as paints of different colors.” I was amazed that a supposedly “primitive” culture had a word for an abstract concept that needs 18 words to describe in English! Even better, kahalawai perfectly describes Maui itself: two geologically distinct islands conjoined in a unique and diverse whole. Since I couldn’t work the literal meaning into my text, I chose synergy as a concise equivalent.

18 April 2006

Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table has been on the Web for seven years. It’s exciting to look through the log summaries each week and see so many people from all over the world visiting my site, along with the astonishing variety of search queries that lead them to its pages. It’s even more exciting when some of those visitors order prints or image licenses!

I have added a new image to the collection of higher-resolution sample pictures for download as wallpaper. It’s a specially cropped version of Sedona Cloudscape. I also have a new wallpaper edition of Teton Window, to reflect the version I’m now offering as prints or for licensing.

25 March 2006

I’ve reworked the Oahu (Waikiki) Photo Travel Essay page with all new scans, including two new pictures. The old versions were some of the first scans I did for this Web site back in 1999. The new scans are significantly better and more vibrant.

10 March 2006

I’ve updated the Catalina Island Photo Travel Essay page with 19 new scans of the pictures, including five pictures that were previously on the Fine Art pages. I also revisited the review of Paint Shop Pro now that Paint Shop Pro X has been out for six months. Regrettably, Corel hasn’t made much progress toward fixing its problems. And I added to my review of RawShooter Essentials a brief comparison of the new “2006” release with Adobe Camera Raw 3.3. [RawShooter Essentials “vaporized” when Adobe bought its developer. I replaced the review with a brief discussion of that demise.]

Finally, I made some revisions to The Joy of Solo Travel? in response to some comments I’ve received.

4 February 2006

Added a new Photo Travel Essay on the Las Vegas Strip. It includes 26 new pictures, along with the usual irreverent commentary. In case you’re curious, I lost no money during my year-end holiday trip to “Lost Wages,” as I didn’t gamble at all. That’s an admission I make with neither pride nor shame; gambling just doesn’t interest me. There’s plenty to do in “Vegas” even if you don’t gamble, although the executives of the corporations that own the casino/hotels surely wouldn’t approve of my saying that.

Also, I have some assorted updates to the Commentary pages.

30 January 2006

I have a new review of the Pantone huey, an $89 colorimeter that promises an affordable, simple entry to the world of color management. Since there’s rather little information about it on the Web beyond rehashed versions of Pantone press releases, I hope my review will be helpful. I think the huey is a good deal, although I have some reservations about its “dumbed-down” software. There are also other minor updates to the Links and Reviews pages.

New pictures are coming soon!

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